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-I'l B R.AFLY 

OF THE 
UNIVERSITY 
or ILLINOIS 

Tom Turner Collection 

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OTTO BABENDIEK 



OTTO BABENDIEK 



By 
GUSTAV FRENSSEN 

Translated by 
HUNTLEY PATERSON 




GEORGE G: HARRAP y COMPANY LTD. 

LONDON BOMBAY SYDNEY 



First published 1930 

by Gkoroe G. Harrap & Co. Ltd. 

3S— 41 Parker Street, Kingsway, London, W.C.a 



Printed in Great Britain by Wyman & Sons, Ltd, 
London, Fakenham, and Reading 

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CONTENTS 

CHAPTER PAGE 

;^i. Early Days 7 

en 2. My First Journey 26 

c ,3 3. Hard Times 40 

'^ 4. I Make New Acq,uaintances 58 

■=3: 5. I Get into a Scrape 75 

6. I Gain a Friend 89 

tij 7. Auntie Lena and her House 105 

Sc 8. New Experiences 124 

, 9. My First Party 139 

10. Pleasant Memories 157 

.11. Home Again, and the Betrothal 174 

• 12. The Green Wood Warps Badly 187 

.13. The Sky is Overcast 203 

~; - 14. Love 218 

>I5. A Difficult Negotiation 233 

; 16. Evil Days 245 

-.,17. A Double Farewell 262 

i;i8. My Wedding 276 

-19. Gesa Goes Sailing 293 

^*20. A Visit to Stormfeld 309 

21. I Visit Hans 326 

22. I Go into Society : Almut 338 

5 



6 OTTO BABENDIEK 

CHAFTBK PAGE 

23. A Difficult Interview 351 

24. A Small Sail on the Vast Ocean 364 

25. No Warrior and yet at War 379 

26. I AM Made Prisoner and Escape 390 

27. An Eventful Week 406 

28. A Journey and a Memorable Meeting 418 

29. The Crash 428 

30. Fritz Hellebeck 440 

31. The March Home 449 

32. A Hard Day 460 

33. The Return of the Warriors 468 

34. The Solace of Work 479 

35. Aunt Sarah Hands me her Gold Chain 492 

36. The Huntsmen Seize their Quarry 513 

37. Unexpected Visitors 527 

38. Conclusion 545 



OTTO BABENDIEK 

CHAPTER I 

Early Days 

I WAS born on the west coast of Schleswig-Holstein, at a 
spot where the high ground stretches right up to the sea, and 
probably the first sight that met my eyes, when I looked across 
the road outside our house, was the vast sweep of waters 
beneath our windows. For our village lay in a fairly high 
and exposed position upon a group of liills. The houses were 
scattered about without any semblance of order, as if they had 
been washed up by the storms and left to stand where chance 
had dropped them. 

Our litde village was called Stormfeld; and I always think 
it was well named, for I can hardly remember a day entirely 
free from a blustering wind. 

The house in which I was born was small and low-ceilinged, 
with a roof of large Dutch pantiles. It consisted of two small 
rooms and a kitchen, occupied by ourselves and my father's 
assistant, and of a blacksmith's forge — a fairly large and lofty 
place, the floor of which seemed to sink down on one side. 
It was always smothered in coal-dust, littered with scraps of 
iron of all shapes and sizes, and very dark except where the 
fire glowed about the bellows. In the darkest comer a special 
staircase, with very small shallow steps, which my father had 
made on purpose for me, apparently under the misapprehen- 
sion that I should remain a child or a dwarf all my life, led to 
an exceedingly small, low-ceilinged rc)om, on the outside of 
which, above the large doors of the forge, there was a litde 
balcony. My father was a visionary, especially in regard to 
me. I was his only child, and he loved me more than anything 
in the world. He was convinced that I should one day do 
something great, and he had the strange notion that a balcony 
was the best and most edifying adornment for a respe(5table 
house, and that I could do nothing better than stand on it 
as often as possible. But in building it he forgot that the 



8 OTTO BABENDIEK 

perpetual clouds of smoke and steam that issued from the doors 
of the forge and smothered the balcony made it as a rule quite 
unusable. However, he was delighted with his handiwork. 
How well I remember his cheerful, keen young face and his 
long fair hair as he looked up from his work on a wagon, a 
plough, or a horse to catch a glimpse of my tiny figure, perched 
up there in the smoke, which always made me cough a little 1 
I can only hope I went up there often, and always looked proud 
and happy, so that he got all the pleasure he deserved. . 

The family of Babendiek had long resided in these parts, and 
had a strange and marvellous history. My father, who was 
deeply interested in everything connefted with the spirit 
and soul of man, carefully investigated all the old family 
legends, and was always very happy and proud when he 
discovered anything fresh. 

He knew that about a hundred and fifty years back a branch 
of the family had migrated and settled in one of the small 
towns on the west coast, where it had risen to a position of 
honour and importance. But all connexion with tiiis branch 
had ceased at least seventy years before his time. One day, 
however, while reading the newspaper, his eye happened to 
catch the name of Councillor Mumm of Ballum, deputy mayor 
of the town and a well-known art connoisseur. And on 
examining his family records my father came to the conclusion 
that this man must certainly be a distant relative. He had no 
idea what a deputy mayor, still less what an art connoisseur, 
could be; but no doubt he regarded him as an exceedingly dis- 
tinguished and imposing personality, especially as he was 
conneded with the arts — and his fancy inunediately began to 
spin golden threads between this great man and myself. 

Pursuing his inquiries further, he discovered that another 
member of the family was a dean of the Church, living in a 
large village in Holstein. And once again my dear father's 
mind was filled with the most wonderful visions and plans. 
A dean! 

For the first three years of their married life my parents 
remained childless. When, however, in the fourth year, I 
began to announce my arrival, my father's imagination imme- 
diately conjured up the most glorious future for me. He was 
quite certain that the child would be a boy with no ordinary 
career before him; the only doubtful point seemed to be 



EARLY DAYS 9 

whether I should be a great scholar, a great inventor, the first 
man to fly to Mars, or what. I lost my father too early to be 
able to form a just opinion of him, but I don't believe a greater 
visionary ever lived, with an imagination more full of bright 
and airy fancies. 

He had evidently long made up his mind to ask our distant 
though distinguished relatives to be godfathers to the child 
he was expefting, probably with the mystical idea of setting 
the bright light of a loftier calling before me at the very dawn 
of life. But he did not dare to explain this to my mother; 
for, with all her kindness, her nature was more sombre and less 
sanguine than his. Once when he hinted at the idea, she 
looked at him with her clever, dark, supercihous eyes and told 
him to drink a glass of water and go to the do<Sor. But she 
did not really mean to be hard. 

So my father had no alternative but to discuss the question 
with his assistant, Engel Tiedje; and with this name I come 
to one of the leading charaders in my story. Engel Tiedje 
was bom in a workhouse somewhere, but as he never said any- 
thing about it I don't know which it was. He had been a 
straight, sturdy child, with very short legs; but the tale went 
that, as a lad on a farm, he had been put to excessively heavy 
work, with the result that he was deformed for life. Later on 
he had become a blacksmith, and, as this strenuous work had 
bent him more than ever, he was now no taller than a boy of 
twelve; but he was very broad, his back was badly humped, 
and his mighty arms reached almost to his knees. In his great 
broad head, with its wild shock of hair, sunk deep between 
his shoulders, two small dark eyes gleamed shyly. He had 
worked for years with various other blacksmiths, and had been 
with my father ever since the latter had taken over the village 
forge. He loved my father's sunny, imaginative nature, while 
for my mother, who for three years had been head of the village 
school and had read all kinds of old books on healing and 
magic, he had the profoundest respe^. 

My father therefore discussed the matter with him. As he 
was already in failing health, he merely plied the bellows, 
handed Tiedje the tongs, and performed other light duties, 
while his assistant hammered the glowing iron with his mighty 
arms. He spoke in low tones, wondering what the little 
Chrisdan child that was expeded would look like, saying that 



lO OTTO BABENDIEK 

every human soul bom into this world was divine, and that its 
parents, relatives, and friends should regard it as a sacred duty 
to guide its feet along a pure and sinless path. Engel Tiedje 
nodded at each word his master uttered. Their thoughts 
soared higher and higher, and it would have been no matter 
of surprise to either if the crooked old black door had flown 
open of its own accord and a heavenly host had entered to 
inquire whether the expeded child had yet arrived at the 
smithy. Stirred and inspired by their lofty thoughts, the two 
discussed the letter which was to be written to the great 
councillor of Ballum and to the dean; and when they were 
more or less agreed on all points, my father leant across the 
blacksmith's bench, and in low tones took turns with Engel 
Tiedje in composing the letter. But he kept a somewhat 
anxious eye on the kitchen door; for on the other side my 
mother was preparing the evening meal. 

Owing to my father's limited experience in correspondence, 
the letter, which was couched in the phraseology of the Bible and 
of an old guide to letter-writing, began by reviewing the some- 
what legendary origin of the Babendiek family, including its 
name, proceeded to show its relationship to Councillor Munun 
of Ballum, and the dean who lived at Buchholz, and invited 
them, on the strength of this relationship, to be my godfathers. 
But in anticipation of his hopes, my father aAually described 
me, though I had not yet been bom, as a fair-haired, intelligent 
child, with the loftiest aspirations. He said that he certainly 
did not expeft them to come all the way to the forge, which he 
confessed was a humble and modest abode, mentioned the 
balcony on which he was still working, and signed himself 
the happy father, Hermann Babendiek, Master Blacksmith of 
Stormfeld. 

This letter, which, owing to the conditions under which it 
was written, had become rather grimy, was carefully placed in 
an envelope and consigned to the chest of drawers in Engel 
Tiedje's room, so that my mother should not see it. Engel 
was to drop it in the post on the day of my birth. But the two 
scribes were so proud of their composition, and referred so 
repeatedly and enthusiastically to its possible success and its 
bearing on my future, that Engel Tiedje, too impatient to 
wait, and forgetting that I was not yet born, posted the letter 
three days after it had been written. 



EARLY DAYS II 

But no sooner was this done than the two men began to feel 
terribly guilty. All their ambitious schemes suddenly looked 
like being shattered. What if I were not a boy? Would I 
be born in three days or three months? They even began 
to doubt whether I should be born at all, and grew almost sick 
with fear. They ceased to mention the letter, could not look 
each other in the face while at work, and, trying to behave as 
if nothing had happened, hoped from hour to hour with 
beating hearts that I might make my appearance as soon as 
possible. 

Ten days after the posting of the letter Steenkarken, the 
nearest small town, held its annual fair, and my father, who 
was accustomed to attend with a cart heaped up with every 
kind of iron implement that country people could require, 
macjb preparations to go. 

My mother reminded him that her hour might come while 
he was away. But he could not resist the attradlions of the 
fair, especially as his uneasy conscience about the letter also 
probably urged him to seek distraftion. So he harnessed our 
neighbour's pony to his cart and drove away. Engel Tiedje 
returned to the forge, thrust a bent ploughshare into the fire, 
and, also wishing to silence his uneasy conscience, whistled the 
air of some popular ditty quite out of keeping with his nature. 
My mother cleared the breakfast things away, sat dowTi at the 
window for a while, as she often did in the morning, and 
glanced at one of her books of old cures, spells, and magic 
nostrums. She had inherited both her interest in these 
mattejTS and the books relating to them from her grandmother, 
who had hailed from the marshes, and although she was still 
a young woman her advice was much sought after by our 
neighbours. 

As she sat there she suddenly felt that her hour was at hand. 
I believe she must have been somewhat unpradical, for she 
had failed to warn either the midwife or any neighbour that 
she might need help, and was obliged to drag herself to the 
kitchen and to the door leading to the forge. 

Engel Tiedje Was busy in a corner looking for some imple- 
ment. She told him to fetch the midwife, and then dragged 
herself back to her bedroom, undressed with difficulty, and, 
getting into bed, waited for help to come. 

As it happened the midwife was not at home. Like almost 



12 OTTO BABENDIEK 

everybody else in the village, she had gone to Steenkarken 
Fair. 

When Engel Tiedje returned from his frtiitless errand, 
desperate and at his wits' end — "my eyes were upside down in 
my head!" he used to assure me — he found a fine large 
carriage standing in front of our door. A fat coachman sat 
on the box, and inside were t\yo young women. One was 
tall, dark, and stiff, and the other was round, very fafr, and 
very lively — "all milk and blood." The dark one remained 
seated in the carriage, but the fair one stepped out and with 
an attora<Sive air went up to the door of the house. 

Engel Tiedje knew at once what this meant, and the little 
presence of mind he had left immediately vanished. Giving 
the carriage as wide a berth as possible, and looking up at the 
sky — "as if I were trying to catch swallows. Otto" — he 
endeavoured to get back into the forge, where, as he subse- 
quently related, he intended to hide under the bench. 

But at that moment the pretty fair woman saw him, and, 
turning towards him, asked him in her beautiful, provocative 
voice, " Hi, little man ! Here ! Are you the master ? " 

Engel Tiedje was so shocked by the suggestion that he 
dropped speechless upon a carriage frame lying in front of the 
forge. Then in anxious tones and with a catch in his breath 
he replied that he was not. 

" Well," exclaimed the fair one, " I must honestly confess I 
am thankful for that!" 

" I say . . . Lena! " expostulated the stiff dark woman. 

" Oh, Sarah, for heaven's sake let me say what I want to ! 
Where is the master, then, my dear friend? " 

Engel replied that my father was at Steenkarken Fair, and on 
being asked where the mistress and her child were he sank his 
dishevelled head so deep between his broad, round shoulders 
that he suddenly looked as if he had three heads. " There was 
a little mistake," he said, " about that letter. . . . The child 
is not there yet; it is only going to be bom now." Where- 
upon, as though he had done with the world, he dropped on 
to the shaft of a wagon close by. 

The pretty fair one opened her fine fiery eyes wider than 
ever, and, clasping her hands in front of her, exclaimed: 
"Well, if that isn't enough to give one the pip!" 

"Isay . . .Lena!" 



EARLY DAYS I3 

" Oh, whatever 's the matter, Sarah ? If anything could give 
one the pip, surely it's this. . . . The child is not even bom 
yet!" 

"It is scandalous 1" cried the ^11 dark woman, who had 
remained stiffly seated in the carriage. " It is unheard of ! 
I'll stop here. But please be quick, so that we can drive on ! " 

" I'll go in," said the fair plump one, and entered the house. 

Engel Tiedje remained seated on the shaft, and continued 
to run his eyes over the carriage until he gradually summoned 
enough courage to let them rest on the proud and stately 
lady inside. 

Meanwhile the fair one had entered my mother's room 
and found her in bed. My mother — oh, my dear mother! — 
she was as sincere and simple as an ear of corn in the cornfield, 
or a meadow by a stream. But with all her simple truthful- 
ness she was full of dark shadows, and behind her fancifiilness 
ambidon secredy swayed her mind. So when the young 
woman came in — "all milk and blood," as Engel Tiedje 
afterwards described her — and looked at her vwth those 
large fiery eyes, my mother, who was apt to be somewhat 
cold and suspicious, inmiediately warmed to her and recovered 
her good spirits. With a slighdy embarrassed though kind 
and intelligent smile she told her visitor of her predicament, 
and asked her what had brought her to the forge. 

After casdng an inquisidve glance roimd the small dark 
room, which was so bright and clean, and then at the book 
my mother had been reading, she turned to her once more. 
" I am Lena Bornholt," she said, " wife of Professor Bomholt. 
But," she added, with a broad, kind smile, "that is neither 
here nor there, for I do not matter. But outside, in a 
fine large carriage, which we hired in Steenkarken, is the wife 
of Coimcillor Mumm, with the christening present. But I 
see firom your face that you know nothing about it. Your 
husband has made a nice mess of things. He wrote to Coun- 
cillor Mumm about a child with fair hair. And it has not 
even arrived yet." 

I take it that when my mother heard this my birth was 
delayed by an hour at least; at all events, she lay still for a 
while, and shook her head. Then in her short, quiet way 
she said: "Those two must have made that up in the forge. 
What a couple of fools ! " 



14 OTTO BABENDIEK 

" I have already made the acquaintance of the assistant," 
said the fair one. " A man rather like a pantechnicon." 

My mother protested quickly that her husband was quite 
different — "a very smart, slim man" — ^and added that she 
would be only too glad if her child — but here she stopped. 

The fair plump one looked at her with her fine eyes and 
said: " What were you going to say, my dear? You can tell 
me everything." 

" My husband," replied my mother despondently, " is a 
very good-looking man, but he is delicate. I don't think he 
will live long. As for me . . . you know, my mind is none too 
healthy. I am constantly fretting over all kinds of dark 
thoughts. I feel miserable and wretched and cannot think 
of anything else. It is quite possible that I too will go over 
to the other side . . . suddenly . . . yes, it is possible. . . . 
If my child is to be healthy, he must have his father's cheerful 
spirits and my body. But how can I hope that things will 
turn out so well?" 

Before my mother could say anything more, the lady in the 
carriage called out, " Lena ! " And the fair plump visitor left 
my mother, opened the window, explained my mother's con- 
dition, and said she could not leave her alone. 

" I can't wait any longer," said the stiff dark one. " I'll 
drive on." 

" Then I'll tell your husband and everybody who is anybody 
in Ballum." 

"Lena! "cried the other indignantly, but somewhatanxiously. 
" Please take care what you say." 

" Very well," replied the fair one, " but wait ! " Whereupon 
she left the window and returned to my mother, and spoke 
encouragingly to her about my future. 

Half an hour later my father arrived with the midwife from 
the town. Somehow or other he had heard what was hap- 
pening at home, and, leaving his cart in the charge of a neigh- 
bour, had found the midwife and brought her across the fields 
home. He was extremely embarrassed and confused when he 
saw the fine carriage at his door; he deeply regretted the hasty 
letter, and, making a silent and polite bow towards the vehicle 
and its occupant, went to my mother's room with the midwife. 

A few minutes later he reappeared in the doorway with the 
lively fair one at his side. "Look, Sarah," she exclaimed. 



EARLY DAYS 1$ 

" this is the father ! Doesn't he look fine ? Ton my soul, if 
I hadn't a husband already, I could marry him on the spot! " 

"Lena— reaUy!" 

"Oh, Sarah, why on earth shouldn't I say what I think?" 
Once more she gazed on my father's spare, attractive form. 
" He is a little pale about the nose," she observed, " but just 
look how beautifully his hair Ues about his temples ! " 

My father's pale Frisian face was framed by very thick, 
wavy hair, which he fastened up with a fillet of ordinary 
thread, to prevent it fi"om falling over his eyes as he worked. 
He was wearing the fillet at that moment. I can well imagine 
that with the twine aslant across his narrow brow, his face a 
little bit flushed from his walk, and his expression of shame 
about the letter, he must have looked extremely taking. 

But the terrifying dark lady in the carriage hardly looked 
at him, and only said : " I wish you would stop all this nonsense, 
Lena! Gome along, jump in, and let us drive on." 

The fair one objefted that the Councillor had sent them to 
deliver a christening gift. 

" But there's no child there ! " retorted her stiff companion, 
pursing her lips. 

The fair one replied that the child would be there in a 
moment, and then, leaning towards her, she said in a whisper 
which my father overheard: " Or do you find it so difficult to 
part with the gift?" 

This suggestion seemed to impress the stiff lady, and with 
lips still pursed she thrust her hand into her pocket and 
pressed a small piece of paper into my father's hand, saying in 
a haughty, careless manner: "This is from Councillor Mimun 
of Ballum for the child, because you wrote saying you thought 
he was a distant relative of yours." 

My father thanked her. The fair lady repeated her good 
wishes, the stately dark one gave a little bow, and the carriage 
drove away. 

My father returned to the bedroom, but was immediately 
sent away by my mother, so he went to sit beside Engel 
Ticdje outside the forge. In later years Engel Tiedje often 
used to declare that he knew nothing of what happened in the 
following three hours. But just as the sun sank into the sea 
by the side of the church the midwife appeared and told 
them they might both come in. 



l6 OTTO BABENDIEK 

So they both went on tiptoe and stared at my mother and 
me, as we lay in bed in the light of the stars. Then they sat 
opposite each other at my mother's sewing-table, and remained 
thus for an hour or more. And it was only when my dear 
mother and I had fallen asleep that my father thought of the 
little piece of paper which the lady with the large head had 
pressed into his hand. Whereup)on he took it from his waist- 
coat pocket, opened it, and found a large gold piece, with a 
smooth narrow rim, and strange lettering upon it. 

He thought it looked like a fine old coin, and after gazing at 
it joyfully for some moments handed it to Engel Tiedje. The 
two men continued to hand it backward and forward to each 
other for some time, without saying anything, for fear of disturb- 
ing our slumbers; then they laid it in front of them on the table. 

The table was highly polished. My mother kept every- 
thing as clean as a new pin. In the fitful light of the stars 
the small, bright surface looked like a great broad sheet of 
water, like the sea at night. And in the middle of it, like a 
round golden islet, glistening in peaceful mystery, lay the coin. 

And thus they sat all through the night, contemplating the 
golden islet, and listening to our breathing. And from out- 
side there came the soft, heavy murmur of the waves. 

• • • ■ • 

What is the first thing I remember ? Is it a hiunan being, 
an objed", or an event ? I think it must be all three. 

I can see myself squatting on my heels on a chair at the 
window, with some one behind me holding on to me so that 
I should not fall, while I look at the ice-ferns on the window- 
pane and scratch them with my little finger. I am a very 
lively and insatiably inquisitive child. I try to sec more and 
more of the world, and refuse to be satisfied until, looking 
sideways, I discover the church, surrounded by trees blown 
crooked by the wind; and, beyond, the undulating expanse of 
the sea. And now I can hear another voice behind me. It is 
my mother's voice. She is chiding — probably because we two 
at the window will catch cold. She picks me up and carries 
me away to the stove. 

The light of day is pouring into the room, and the wind is 
blowing against the tiny window . . • the wind is always 
blowing. My mother is leaning over me. I seem to re- 
member that it was always so, without any night between. 



EARLY DAYS l^ 

She was very much concerned about me, and was always 
watching me and attending to me. As my father had a bad lung, 
she was afraid I might have inherited his weakness. Hoping 
it would help me to grow up strong, her passionate mother's 
love prompted her to let me have the breast as long as possible. 
Even when I was able to walk and could climb on to a chair 
I still drew my strength from my mother. And from the way 
she put her arm about me and snuggled up to the httle arm I 
put round her neck, I felt how much she loved me. She said 
very little to me, and I was not allowed to move anything in 
the room or smear it with my fingers. Everything was in the 
most perfeft order; everything was bright. And my mother's 
dark hair was the brightest of all. 

From time to time strange people entered the room and 
consulted my mother about swellings, warts, and rashes. And 
my mother used to consult her books and tell them what to do, 
and they would thank her and go. When they had gone she 
took a duster and wiped the cluiirs where they had sat and 
the floor where they had stood. 

At times a farm wagon would pass the house with a long 
black box on it; occasionally the box was a short one. And 
behind the wagon came other wagons with men in high hats, 
or there might be only a few solemn people on foot. The 
churchyard lay at such a wide angle from our window that 
we had to press our faces against the panes in order to see what 
went on there. But my mother never stirred from the spot, 
and looked fixedly at what was taking place. I seemed to feel 
that at such times she was unusually solemn. Truth to tell, 
she was always solemn. She never laughed. But when we 
were watching one of those processions she seemed to be par- 
ticularly solemn, and would talk a great deal. She spoke of 
dying and of graves and death with a certain eagerness, as if 
it gave her a curious pleasure to discuss these matters. Only 
many years later was I to hear of the melancholia that afilided 
my mother's family; and of how her father, her father's brother, 
and other members of her family had ended their lives by their 
own hand, and of how she too was stricken with that malady, 
so common along our coast. 

Although it must have been about this time, it seems to me 
to have been much later that I began to be aware of the 
sound of heavy blows and the ring of metal coming from the 



l8 OTTO BABENDIEK 

Other side of the wall, frequently interrupted by the notes 
of a bright and merry song. When the singing was par- 
ticularly loud and cheerful, my mother would rise from her 
work, go to the kitchen, open the door, and in her serious, 
rather cold voice cry: " Songs in the morning, tears at night! " 
Now and then, from the diredlion of the sounds, a man used 
to appear, wearing a large leather apron, which made a 
slapping sound as he walked. His face was sooty, sometimes 
quite black, but all the same it seemed to me to be full of light 
and good cheer, because the eyes that peered out of the black- 
ness were so bright with love and happiness. Aslant across his 
fine brow I saw the fillet that held up his thick fair locks. 
This man used to take me in his arms and carry me through 
a door and up some steps. We went out on to a little balcony; 
he showed me the glittering sea and said a good deal that I 
did not understand. 

Then I remembered that my mother must have been 
afraid to let me go down into the forge, for she kept me out of 
it as long as possible. A day came, however, when some one 
opened the door for me — the door against which I had prob- 
ably been beating with my fists — and I fell down the three 
steps leading to the forge, into Engel Tiedje's arms. He lifted 
me from the sooty black flags and comforted me, and this is 
my first recoUeftion of him, though as a matter of fa<5l I must 
have seen him every day at meals and on Sundays. He took 
me into his arms and called me " little prince," and put my 
arm round his large, dishevelled head, which, sunk deep down 
between his shoulders, seemed ever so far away. Holding me 
with his left arm, he plied the bellows with his right. The 
fire flared up. I seem to remember that he made it flare up 
more than necessary. I stretched out my arms to the fire, and 
he spoke — probably to warn me that it would hurt me. And 
he laughed up at me, with his broad, sooty face surrounded by 
his dark, shaggy hair. And thus, if my memory is corred, I 
made friends with him. And oh, how badly was I one day 
to need his friendsliip ! 

Henceforward I was always either in the forge or else 
playing in the street outside. Again and again during the day 
my mother would fetch me back into the house, brush my 
clothes and wash me, and shake her dark head at me. But I 
could not endure the loneliness of her life, and always con- 



EARLY DAYS I9 

trived to return to the forge. But not without genuine 
qualms. How I used to stumble over ploughs and plough- 
shares, harrows and cart-wheels, and stagger about amid 
forests of horses' and peeisants' legs! Sometimes I fell — 
indeed, I would fall a hundred times a day. But my father, 
or Engel Tiedje, or one of the peasants always picked me up 
again. Sometimes the peasants set up an outcry about 
me. " For God's sake don't let the kid get all over the place 
like that!" But my father loved to have me by him, and 
Engel Tiedje was if possible even better pleased. And thus I 
was always in the bustle and stir of the forge, which seemed 
to me a world of vast dimensions. 

About this time I began to hear my father cough more 
frequently, and I noticed that he did not work and that his 
wan face grew thinner and paler than ever. And a strange 
well-dressed man came to the house, at whom I was never 
tired of staring. He tapped my father's chest and asked 
him all kinds of questions, and then talked in low tones to my 
mother in the kitchen. When my mother told me he was the 
dodor, I asked her why she had stopped scolding my father. 

She was silent, and I was afraid that, as often happened, I 
would obtain no reply to my question. But after a while she 
exclaimed: " One does not scold a sick man! " 

I don't know whether it was during this illness of my 
lather's or during a later one, but one day — it was in the 
winter — I went to sit with Engel Tiedje in the forge. I was 
not at school yet, but I had learnt to read with my mother, 
and I was reading to Engel Tiedje the story of a journey to 
the South Sea Islands. With an air of great importance I had 
asked him what I should read to him. As he knew how fond 
I was of this story, and also that there were only two or three 
stories I could read, he had chosen A Journey to the South 
Sea Islands. 

But when in the course of my reading I paused to make a 
remark and looked up at him, I saw that he was crying, and 
was wiping the tears away with the back of his hand. 

I was surprised that he should cry because the girls and boys 
in Samoa were separated and put in houses apart, but I 
timidly refrained from saying anything, and, turning to my 
book again, I continued to read. I read how the natives dived 
into the sea for fish and coral, and how, when they returned 



20 OTTO BABENDIEK 

home, the girls sat round a large dish chewing a certain root, 
and spitting the juice of the root into the dish. 

But as he still continued to cry, I thought it very strange 
that he should be so sad simply because young girls spat into 
a dish, and I said: " Engel, why are you crying? " 

He started, and quickly brushed his tears away. ' ' Was I cry- 
ing. Otto, my son? . . . Well, fancy that ! I didn't know I was! 
But what you have been reading has been dreadfully sad! " 

I felt highly honoured that my reading should have moved 
him so much, and continued reading louder than ever. But 
when I looked up again I saw that he was still crying. I also 
noticed that his mind was far away, thinking of something 
quite different. His eyes were turned towards the kitchen 
door, but when I followed them all I saw was the three horse- 
shoes nailed above it. Behind the door, however, I could 
hear my father coughing, and suddenly, for the first time, it 
struck me how weak and tired his cough sounded. Then I 
softly closed my book. 

While I sat there looking at Engel Tiedje a fair-haired 
man, whom I had not seen before, entered the forge from the 
kitchen. He was of medium height, spare, thin, and puny; 
his face was bony and bloodless and his lips thin and pale. 
His eyes were as expressionless as they were cold. 

Suddenly I found myself alone with this man, who pro- 
ceeded to inform me that he was my Uncle Peter. 

I stood up and said that I had heard about him, and that I' . 
was pleased to see him. This was a barefaced lie, for I did not 
like the look of him at all; but my mother insisted on my 
always being polite. 

He sat down opposite me on a cart-axle, rubbed his bony 
hands, blue with cold, and smiled at me in a way that 
instantiy repelled me. And thus he remained for some time, 
smiling and staring at me. 

On my asking him why he had not been to see us before, 
he explained that there had been a quarrel, but that a little 
while ago my father had written him a letter full of affedlion. 
He also told me that my father's condition was serious — indeed, 
since the previous day it had become very serious. Then, 
saying no more, he looked round the forge, and, tapping the 
floor with his feet, began to whistle in a most ghastly manner, 
apparently having forgotten all about met. 



EARLY DAYS 21 

As he was beginning to make me feel uneasy, I asked him 
where he Uved. He replied that his home was at Steenkarken, 
and that I was going to live with him. When I protested that 
I was going to remain with my parents, he replied: "What if 
you have no parents?" 

With a horrified frown I stammered that I should always 
have my parents. He gave a knavish cackle, which suited his 
dried-up features admirably, and asked me whether I did not 
know that my father was seriously ill and would die. 

I do not think these words affedled me much. Children do 
not grasp the meaning of such expressions. My one thought 
was how to contradift and resist him. I protested that my 
mother would not die. I felt instindUvely that although her 
form was spare, she was physically sound. 

"Do you know," he said, with a certain relish, as if he 
thanked God that it was so, "that there are seventeen dis- 
eases of the body — one of which, consumption, your father 
has got, and I don't think he will ever be up and about again — 
and seventeen diseases of the soul? People won't believe it; 
but it is so. And your mother is suffering from one of these 
diseases." 

When I asked him which, he replied with gusto, "The 
rope!" 

" The rope?" I repeated in astonishment. 

Yes, I had heard aright, and he explained to me that it was 
a very common disease in these parts, and might be given other 
names, such as despondency, or, in Latin, melancholia. 

I asked him whether people ever died of it. 

He slapped his bony thigh, and showed his dirty yellow 
teeth, the hungriest part of this hungry-looking man. 
"Priceless!" he exclaimed. "Of course one can die of the 
rope, and that in a few seconds. And remember, she 
casts longing eyes at it — ^at the rope, I mean ! Just as her 
father and her father's brother did before her. Yes, it's the 
truth. And surely one may speak the truth! " He laughed 
a hard laugh that came like a shrill, unpleasant croak from his 
scraggy throat, and then, shaking his finger at me, forbade 
me to say anything about it to my parents. 

I did not in the least understand what he meant, but I 
wanted to change the conversation, which was making me 
uncomfortable. I probably also wished to impress him; for 



22 OTTO BABENDIEK 

I was a vain little boy. They had spoilt me so much. " I am 
going to the granmiar school soon," I said. 

" Quite so ! " he replied. " And you are to live with me. 
Your father has just begged me to take you in. Where else 
could you go, in {&&.? Your father can't afford to pay much 
for your keep, so you are coming to me." He smiled so un- 
pleasantly that I had to turn my eyes away and let them 
wander about the forge. He did likewise, and again began 
to whistie in his ghastly way. 

I remember no more of the conversation, but I do recoiled 
that Uncle Peter went away. His seat was empty and his eyes 
no longer wandered round. But I occupied my usual place, 
and how plainly can I see myself sitting there! My hair, 
which was very fair, was unusually soft, and so long that 
it reached right down to the collar of my jacket. My head 
was not exadly big, but it was well developed at the back, 
which made it striking. My dark blue eyes were not large, 
but they were deep set, and their expression was serious 
beyond my years. And thus I sat and talked the matter 
over with Engel Tiedje as he thrust the points of a harrow 
into the fire, and I asked him whether he believed my mother 
was ill. 

He either pretended to be surprised, or aftually was, and 
repeated my question while I blinked up into his huge face. 
Then, assuring me that my mother was the cleverest person 
in the whole parish, he asked me how I came to ask such 
a question. 

As Uncle Peter had forbidden me to say that he had told 
me, I lied and answered that it had sometimes struck me that 
she was unwell. After a pause, as I was still puzzled, I added : 
"Engel, tell me — ^have you ever seen Mother with a rope?" 

He was dimnibfounded, and asked me what on earth my 
mother could want with a rope. 

"But I happen to know," I said, with precocious gravity, 
"that she casts longing eyes at one." 

He ground his teeth and renmrked that I had evidently got 
my information from Uncle Peter. "Yes, yes," he added, 
"Almighty God created men and He also created owls, 
believe me ! And this Uncle Peter is one of the owls." 

I said this might well be. But where else was I to go if 
my parents were to die ? God forgive me ! I said this with- 



EARLY DAYS 23 

out tears and even without sadness. But I was only a little 
boy, and could not grasp the meaning of my words. And had 
I not been taught diat dead people go to God in great glory? 
"I may not be very fond of him," I said, "but surely it is nice 
of him to let me live with him when I go to the grammar 
school? And I'm sure he'll always keep me and give me 
enough money for my schooling." 

Engel Tiedje raised his eyebrows so high that they vanished 
under his bushy locks, and his eyes gleamed large in his great 
sooty face. "Yes, yes," he said. "But we have money our- 
selves. Otto, my boy. We have the house and the meadow 
which we have let out for grazing. That will pay for a lot of 
schooling. Besides, I shall always be here." 

I expressed my doubts as to whether the money would 
suffice; but he reminded me that there were always my 
godfathers to turn to. 

I had already heard of my two godfathers, and had often 
discussed them with Engel Tiedje. I had come to the con- 
clusion that I could rely on Dean Eigen of Buchholz, who 
had but one granddaughter, and although neither of us knew 
much about him we were both firmly convinced that he would 
help me if the worst came to the worst. I believe Engel 
Tiedje was even more firmly convinced of this than I was. 

"It is a great pity," he said, "that your real godfeither, the 
councillor, is dead. For, you see, his wife is a stiff, unbending 
creature." And he proceeded to repeat the story about the 
carriage. 

"Her name is Sarah Mumm," I observed pompously, 
"and it was she who gave me that gold coin which is in our 
cash-box. And she has a thick chain of pure gold round 
her neck." 

"Yes," he said, "that's all quite true. And she had the 
little plump thing with her. What a creature! Otto, my 
boy, she was a devilish little thing, with her large eyes that 
peered right into your face ! Lena was her name. That's all 
we know about her, alas ! But I assure you that if we both 
went to Ballum, and asked for a certain plump little person 
called Lena, we should find she was as well known there as a 
spotted dog. Anyone would tell us about her!" 

A few months after this conversation, when my father had 
recovered once more and got back to work, I heard him and 



24 OTTO BABENDIEK 

Engel Tiedje discussing Uncle Peter over the anvil, and Engel 
warning my father against letting me fall into his hands. 
"He's no good," he said. 

And then they begjm to discuss my godfathers, and Engel 
Tiedje urged my father to drive over to visit them. My father 
was doubtful, chiefly because he probably knew how opposed 
my mother would be to the idea. 

I don't know how my father ultimately prevailed on my 
mother to give her consent, but I certainly have a vivid 
recoUeftion of my mother telling me that I was to go with 
my father — a possibility that had never entered my head. 

When I heard this I was so beside myself with joy that 
all the objedls in the room seemed to spin round me. "The 
Gold Lady is the most important," I said to Engel Tiedje in 
the forge, and I believe I thought she not only had a gold 
chain and gold clothes, but also a gold nose. 

Engel Tiedje dropped his hammer on to the anvil and 
became absorbed in the subjedl. "You must be very nice to 
her. Otto, my boy," he said. "You must look straight into 

her face with your fine blue eyes and you must say " He 

stopped. Then he added hesitatingly that although he did 
not beheve what Uncle Peter had told me about my parents 
it might very well happen, and that was why I was to speak to 
her. When I was alone with her I was to tell her that I hoped 
she would take charge of me if I were left an orphan. 

He brushed a hand across his eyes and gulped, and as he 
turned away I saw his broad shoulders heaving. 

When I think how calmly and smugly I used to discuss 
the possibility of losing my parents, who were so loving and 
kind to me, and surrounded me with every proof of their wann 
affedlion, my eyes sting even now. 

The day of the journey came, and I remember standing in 
the bedroom ready for my father long before daybreak. I can 
still see my mother examining my new suit and stroking it 
with her hands ! She had made it herself and was not quite 
satisfied with her work. It evidentiy looked a littie bit 
awkward and stiff. Then my father came in. How vividly 
I remember him ! His face looked pinched and pale, and his 
long, thick hair lay becomingly about his brow. Then he 
went out again, and once more I was left alone with my 
mother, who looked out of the window and cried. I could 



EARLY DAYS 25 

not see her face, but I knew from her attitude that her black 
thoughts had got the upper hand. 

Then, suddenly convulsed by a storm of tears, she muttered : 
"I am of no use in this world, my child! It would be far 
better if I were in the churchyard. My darling, darling child ! 
Promise me you will visit your parents' grave once every year ! " 

I nodded sadly. 

Holding a light in one hand, she led me to the front door 
and opened it, and, walking away in the darkness at my father's 
side, I turned round and saw her standing there. ... I see 
her as plainly as if she were still there ! . . . Oh, if only she 
were still there! 

Before we turned the comer of the neighbouring farm we 
both looked round again and saw the hght still at the door, 
but we could not see her any longer. 



CHAPTER II 

My First Journey 

My father and I mounted the gig, and Engel Tiedje, with a 
lantern in his hand, stood close by. The horse constantly 
threw up his head, and tugged at the reins, and I heard my 
father say to Engel Tiedje in his weak head voice: "Get back 
to the house quickly, Engel, and keep a sharp eye on things!" 
And again: "Keep a sharp eye on things, my dear fellow! 
You must not let her out of your sight." 

I had made up my mind to ask my father what Engel Tiedje 
was to keep a sharp eye on; but what with the horse whizzing 
us forward through the darkness — or so it seemed to me — I 
forgot to do so; for I doubted whether all our wild swaying 
and lurching could possibly end happily. Gradually, how- 
ever, as we did not seem to meet with any disaster, I gained 
confidence, and ventured from time to time to take my eyes 
off the horse's head and to glance quickly at what lay on either 
side of the road. 

It must have been midday — for we had driven twenty-five 
miles — ^when we stopped at a river, which seemed enormous 
to me, and my father, pointing to the town on the other side 
of it, said: "That is Ballum." 

My father must certainly have been hail-fellow-well-met 
wherever he went, and must have liked to talk to every one, and 
I marvel now when I remember that he did not enter into 
conversation with the gigantic ruddy-faced ferryman who 
conveyed us across the stream, but remained silent on the box of 
the gig. Being an inquisitive child, I got down, and followed 
the ferryman as he walked backward and forward on the ferry. 

Even when I was only a child there must have been some- 
thing about my eyes which attraded people's attention and 
made them speak to me; for when the ferryman saw me 
following him about watching him he exclaimed, in deep 
tones: "A regular little Paul Pry, and no mistake!" And he 
laughed uproariously at his own remark. 

26 



MY FIRST JOURNEY 27 

Not knowing what a Paul Pry was, I thought there must be a 
bird of some kind on my shoulder, for he seemed to be looking 
at my shoulder as he spoke. So I said: "I haven't seen it." 

He laughed uproariously again, throwing his head back, 
and I saw his red-gold beard shake. "I mean you," he 
explained. "You are the Paul Pry." 

"Because I am so small?" I inquired, still at a loss to 
imderstand. 

"So small," he repeated, and raised his first finger, which 
was huge enough in all conscience, to show how small I was. 

I can't remember at which inn we put up in Ballum, but 
I know that we walked up an avenue of limes towards a stately 
looking house and that my father held my hand very tight. 
After ascending some steps, my father opened a door which 
had a massive bronze handle, and we entered a lofty old hall, 
surrounded by white doors with gilt mouldings. But instead 
of the tall dark lady covered with gold whom Engel Tiedje had 
led me to expe<ft we saw emerging fi:om a passage at the back 
an extremely rotund and by no means young woman with 
remarkably strong, short arms. My father had a moment's 
conversation with her, whereupon, to my surprise, he seized 
my hand again, went towards the door, and we were outside 
again. It appeared that Frau Mumm had been living for the 
last year in Hamburg with her children. My father coughed 
a great deal as he explained this to me, and, while I noticed 
how feeble and dry his cough sounded, I could not help 
feeling he weis also sick at heart. 

We must have stayed some time in Ballum, but the next 
thing I remember was that we were once again on the road 
in our gig, driving through villages, and woods, and across 
moors. I must have fallen asleep when, to spare the horse's 
legs, my father turned into a cart-track across some fields. 

I awoke to find a finger tapping the tip of my nose. I 
fancied it was Engel Tiedje, and was just going to scold him 
and brush his hand aside, when he laughed and said, "Otto! 
Otto!" I was surprised that his voice should sound so clear 
and sweet, and looking up I saw a little girl of about my own 
age, with fair curly hair cut rather short and a face as radiant 
as the sun. I particularly noticed the beautiful warm light 
in her eyes and the tender lines of her mouth. 
I was lying in a white bed in a bright, low-ceilinged room ; 



a8 OTTO BABENDIEK 

but, taking everything for granted, I asked no questions. In 
any case my little friend gave me no time to do so; for she 
pulled me out of bed, helped me to dress, and, leading me 
through a hail, which with its many yellow cupboards looked 
very stately, took me to a room, where we sat down at a 
table, and a rather cross woman, whom she called Frau Trina, 
poured milk into our cups. 

I now learnt that my father had gone for a long drive with 
the litde girl's grandfather. "Grandpa drives round the 
country every day," she explained, "visiting churches or 
schools, and you can imagine how pleased he is to have some- 
body in his carriage with him. Does your father mind 
tobacco-smoke ? " 

I said I hoped not, and added sententiously that as he 
was a blacksmith I trusted he could put up with a little 
tobacco-smoke. 

My little companion informed me that she was Almut 
Eigen, the dean's grandchild; and, as I felt quite at home, and 
knew that my father was safe, I gave myself up entirely to my 
lively little friend, who prompdy took charge of me. 

We left the house and went through a large garden into 
a wood with trees that looked gigantic to me. I had learnt 
from Engel Tiedje that a wood was a place full of mysterious 
animals, where strange things happened, and I wondered what 
we should do if the trees suddenly took it into their heads to 
lie down. 

Overpowered by this thought, I dropped on the grass, and 
allowed my little friend to walk on. For a while she did not 
notice that I was not at her side, and continued on her way 
singing in the most delightful way. 

Suddenly, seeing that I was not near her, she turned round, 
and, guessing from my expression what was wrong, ran back to 
me, took my hand, and did all she could to comfort me. 

I wandered spellbound by her side, as, laughing and skipping 
about, she led me farther into the wood, the depths of which I 
continued to scan with great suspicion and anxiety, while she 
pointed out the pine-cones, the toadstools, the deer-tracks, 
and the squirrels. 

At last we reached a narrow path through the wood, and 
in front of us we saw a dilapidated peasant's cottage, sur- 
sounded by trees, which she called "the hunting-box." I 



MY FIRST JOURNEY 29 

was frightened and stopped short, but she ran towards it, 
pulling me along with her, and as the door was open we 
entered. 

When I had satisfied myself that there was nothing in the 
hall or the three rooms, which were all quite empty, to arouse 
my suspicion, I recovered my courage a litde — probably 
because I now found myself safe within four walls. Suddenly, 
with her eyes sparkling, she suggested that we should go to 
see Hans. When I asked who Hans was she led me to one 
of the lowest windows, which was thick with dust, and pointed 
to something in the distance. Looking out I saw a large break 
in the trees, and far away on the other side of it a substantial 
farmhouse. 

"That's where Hans lives," she said, in a sweet singsong 
voice, as though she were speaking of her mother, her home, 
or some one she dearly loved. Evidendy her whole life was 
centred here. 

We left the tumbledown old cottage, and when we could 
obtain a clear view to the east she pointed with her little hand 
to some broad green meadows in the depths of the valley. 
"All those meadows belong to me," she said. "I inherited 
them from my grandmother." 

We had covered about half the distance, when she told me 
that Hans was already a big fellow and could drive the plough 
alone. Then, suddenly turning her head, she tolled "Hans ! " 
lustily, and ran across the fields, dragging me along with her, 
towards a ploughman. When he saw us coming he pulled 
up his team. But she continued to call his name at the top 
of her voice, always in the same beautiful singsong tones, 
making two syllables of it. 

I shall never forget how the great clumsy youth of fifteen, 
in his grimy stable-boy's clothes, bent down and stretched 
out his huge brown hands, hardened by frost and work, to 
clasp her tenderly in his arms. "So it's you, little Almut, 
is it?" he said. 

He was very friendly to me, and let Almut tell him who I 
was and how nicely I had played with her. But I felt that 
I was nobody, and that his eyes and mind were all for her. 
His face was large and plain, rough-hewn and unfinished- 
looking. Simplicity, not to say stupidity, was stamped on 
every feature, particularly on his lai^e mouth, which was 



30 OTTO BABENDIEK 

quite shapeless. But an intelligent, kindly soul peered through 
his dark eyes, which were unusually deep-set. 

He put us on his horses and led us towards the farm, and the 
two of them spoke about Fritz. He had written and would 
be home from school in a month. 

"Fritz is my brother," he said proudly, turning his wooden 
face to me; and in the slow singsong tones that loneliness 
breeds he added: "There's a lad for you! The best-looking 
lad in the whole world. Isn't he, Almut?" 

But she merely let her little hand drop on his cap, and with 
touching gentleness said: "But you are Hans!" 

"I am the block of wood, Hans Hellebeck, that's what I 
am, and nothing more," he replied; and, turning to me, he 
added: "I must tell you that I am only his half-brother . . . 
his elder half-brother." 

Her happy face turned mutinous. "Ah, but he's not as 
nice as you," she said. 

He protested in astonishment, and repeated that Fritz was 
the finest boy in the land. 

"That's not true," she rejoined. "He's not nearly as nice 
as you are." 

He retorted by pronouncing a panegyric on his half-brother, 
and explained that Almut was to have him as a husband 
because he was so fine. 

"Yes, yes," she said, very gravely, "we've settled all that. 
But you must always stay on the farm. You mustn't go away 
and marr^' some one else." 

He agreed, and declared that a man like himself, a clod- 
hopper with a mouth like an oven door, would never marry, 
but would remain with them, and tend the cattle and look 
after the farm while she and Fritz went travelling. 

When we reached the farm a very tall, stately woman with 
beautiful grey hair came to the door. My little friend in- 
formed me that she was Hans' mother; but he correfled her, 
and said she was not to say that. His own mother had died at 
his birth. The woman was his stepmother. 

She came slowly up to us, and immediately overwhelmed 

us with kind and flattering words, which seemed to pour with 

wonderful ease from her lips. " Isn't he a pretty little fellow ? " 

she said, looking into my face. "And what clever eyes he has! 

'm sure you're very clever at school!" 



MY FIRST JOURNEY 3I 

I told her that I did not go to school yet, but that my 
mother had taught me to read. This provoked a fresh 
avalanche of compliments. And on hearing from Almut that 
I was kind and friendly, she concluded by saying: "Yes, that 
is most important. One must be kind to everybody. Isn't 
that so, my darling, sweet little Almut?" 

My litde friend seemed accustomed to the woman's ways 
and did not even listen. But I devoured her with my eyes and 
ears, and, as she led me by the hand, her whole personality 
and particularly the soft bloom of her face filled me with 
admiration. 

We entered a large room with good, bright furniture, and a 
maid brought oxu: meal. Almut ran out through the hall 
and shouted to Hans that we were all at table, and he came 
in wearing a somewhat better-looking, though badly fitting 
jacket. Behind him came an old farm-hand, a tall, thin, 
clean-shaven man, with straw-coloured hair, slightiy grey on 
the temples. One of his eyes was closed, as if it were asleep, 
but the other was set deep in his head, and looked like an old 
trapped fox peering out of its bony hollow. Almut informed 
me that he was Soren the farm-labourer. 

During the conversation that ensued the woman managed 
to repeat that one must always be friendly to everybody, and 
she appealed to Hans to confirm the sentiment. "Isn't that 
so, my dear good old Hans?" she cried. And, answering the 
question herself, she added: "Yes, my dear, good old Hans 
thinks I am certainly right about that." 

I remember that I did not take my eyes off her — in the first 
place, because she was extraordinarily beautiful, and, secondly, 
because her fulsome flow of compUments was something 
entirely new to me. But I also had time to observe the others. 

I am not sure that it was adiaally on this first day of our 
acquaintance that I noticed both Hans and the man Soren 
constantiy looking at the woman as if they had a question, 
a request, or a suspicion to lay before her, and that I thought 
her exaggerated garrulity and friendliness might be due to her 
need of concealing something; but I certainly noticed that 
Hans and littie Almut never ceased to be one in spirit, and 
were drawn to each other as if by a magnet. I observed this 
more particularly when Frau Hellebeck produced a photo- 
graph of her son Fritz, which she had received from' him that 



38 OTTO BABENDIEK 

morning, and handed it to Almut, with all manner of 
encomiums upon his beauty. 

Almut passed it on to me, and I saw the pidure of as well 
set up and handsome a boy of thirteen as you could possibly 
imagine. His features were noble, and his bearing seemed a 
perfed blend of calm steadfastness and undaunted courage. 
It was impossible to conceive of a more striking contrast to 
his half-brother. They were like Jacob and Esau. 

When I handed the photograph to Hans, he again praised 
his half-brother as enthusiastically as he had done in the 
fields, and finally, appealing to Almut, he exclaimed: "Come, 
Almut! Just see what a fine fellow he looks!" And as he 
looked at me with eyes full of enthusiasm, his face seemed to 
reveal all the bestial stupidity of an idiotic old sheep. 

Frau Hellebeck patted him on the back. "Dear, good old 
Hans!" she exclaimed, looking at us with great emotion. 
And, suppressing a tear, she turned to Almut and added: 
"Almut, my pet, when you and Fritz are married, you must 
always be kind to dear good old Hans!" 

A moment later I saw little Almut cling with such fervent 
ardour to Hans, declaring that she would marry Fritz only on 
condition that Hans always remained with them, that I ven- 
tured to ask why he could not marry her himself. 

The beautiful woman laughed loud and heardly at this 
suggestion, and patting her stepson on the back as if he had 
been a horse or a dog, exclaimed: "What a funny idea! 
What ? Our good old stick-in-the-mud Hans, our dear, good 
old house-dog Hans, marry beautifiil, beaming Almut Eigen?" 
After continuing in this strain for some minutes, she at last 
assured us that Hans would never marry, but would always 
remain at home to look after the farm, so that the beautiful 
birds Fritz and Almut might be free to fly round the world. 
And she appealed to Almut and to her "dear, good old Hans" 
to correift her if she were wrong; which of course they did not 
do. 

As evening fell we were waiting somewhere in the garden, 
when we saw an old closed carriage rattling unsteadily towards 
us. A big fat man was sitting on the box, enveloped in a thin 
cloud of smoke. At first I thought that his round red head 
would soon be on fire, but then I noticed that behind him, 
on the roof of the carriage, there was a chimney, from which 



MY FIRST JOURNEY 33 

a thin blue column of smoke was issuing. The carriage 
stopped, Almut sprang on to the footboard, and opened the 
door. Through the smoke I saw my father, his eyes bright 
with joy, and I fear also with fever, and beside him a clean- 
shaven old man with hair reaching down to his shoulders, 
puffing vigorously at a long pipe. We clambered in and found 
the two in earnest conversation. At least, my father was not 
saying much, although he evidently wanted to speak again and 
again, in an effort to change the subjeft. But every time the 
dear invalid — for he was very ill, and therefore much concerned 
about me — tried to lead the conversation round to me, the old 
dean, who seemed hard of hearing, paid not the slightest heed, 
but continued his story, which appeared to be about his 
student days, while my father, with eyes strangely bright and 
restless, listened patiently. 

We stayed three days at Buchholz, and every day was exaftly 
the same, even to the evening meeting with my father, when 
he returned with the dean and tried in vain to interrupt the 
old man's endless account of his student days and to lead the 
conversation round to me. 

On the third day, when I had begun to feel much more at 
home, I ventured boldly to ask Hans a question in his step- 
mother's presence. "When did your mother die, Hans?" 
I said. 

Slightly perturbed, he replied that she had been dead a 
long, long time. But Frau Hellebeck quickly joined in and 
explained how wise it was of Hans and his father to have 
fetched her to the farm, and asked her dear good old Hans 
to correal her if that were not true. 

"And then your father died too?" I inquired, thinking of 
what I had been told about my own parents. 

He looked dreamily at me. "Yes, six years ago," he 
replied, in his lonely, singsong voice. Then in answer to a 
further question he added: "He had been in bed three days 
with inflammation of the lungs — it wasn't serious at all. I 
remember q'uite well he was rather lively and spoke to me — 
but on the following evening he died." 

His stepmother slapped him on the back. "Oh, you dear 
good old Hans," she said compassionately, "don't go on 
brooding over all that again ! " 

"I wouldn't brood over it," he replied, in his attradive 



34 OTTO BABENDIEK 

voice, "had I not lain awake longer than usual that night, and 
heard a sound like an ox trying hard to get its breath. That's 
what it wjis like." 

"Your poor dear father was very ill, my dear good old 
boy!" said his stepmother. 

"Yes, but that's just what I can't see," he protested. "He 
didn't look as ill as all that. I always fancy it's just pos- 
sible some one may have done something to my father." 

Was I wrong in thinking that in the boy's eyes, as he 
uttered these words, there was a look of searching cunning, 
and that a shudder went round the table which caused the 
woman and Soren to wince? I don't know. But I remem- 
ber that the farm-labourer rose from the table and left the 
room, while Frau Hellebeck, patting her stepson firmly and 
emphatically on the back, added the word 'stupid' to her 
usual torrent of flattery, and asked him to tell her who could 
possibly have done anything to his father. 

He said he had lain awake and heard his father groan every 
time he moved in bed. But it was not serious. Then he had 
heard a footstep. It was neither the dean's nor the doctor's. 
It was soft and swift, and it went up to his father's bed, and 
then his father spoke no more. 

. I remember seeing Frau Hellebeck stoop down and pat hini 
on the back, assuring him that he must have heard ghosts; but 
was there not some embarrassment, some uneasiness in her face 
as she spoke, which set my childish mind working? 

I remember no more about that day. But early on the 
morning of the fourth day my father and I were again sitting 
in the gig and the horse was pulling at the reins. My father 
made one more eleventh-hour attempt to speak about my 
future. He said that we were all mortal, and that it was 
possible I might lose my parents. But the old dean inter- 
rupted him again with a story about a schoolmate of lurid 
memory. I don't know what my father thought of the story ; 
I imagine he was surfeited with the old dean's reminiscences. 

When at last we reached home I said, "Father, what is that 
light?" 

"That is Mother," he replied. 

"But why is the light in the forge and not in the bedroom ? " 

"Yes," my father replied, "I was wondering about that too," 
and I noticed that as he spoke there was a quiver in his voice. 



MY FIRST JOURNEY 35 

But when we drew up to the house we saw Engel Tiedje's 
broad squat form. He was swinging a lantern, and as he raised 
it aloft, he said very seriously: "All's well, all's welL" 

In his weak sick voice, which I still seem to hear with emotion 
after all these years, my father cried : " God be praised ! " And 
there was a prayer in those words which for fervour and depth 
I have never heard equalled. Then my mother appeared at 
the kitchen door, and came out to the gig and lifted me down. 
But as she was not very tall she had to reach out a great deal, 
and I was very proud at having been perched up so high. 

I don't know whether my father had caught cold on this 
journey; but, in any case, he became rapidly worse after we 
got back. His bright singing ceased, he coughed incessantly, 
and when worn out by work and short of breath he was obliged 
to sit down; the green fillet across his brow stood out crudely 
from the deathly pallor of his skin. 

One day he and Engel Tiedje were talking over their work. 
They did not know I was close by, watching the neighbour's 
farm-boy pushing barrow-loads of dung from the stables; and 
I heard my father say that, although he was glad to have learnt 
a trade, he found it liard to take up the hammer again after 
having spent three days in the company of teachers and the 
dean. Then suddenly, as he tiumed his glance to the neigh- 
bour's farm-boy, whom I was watching, he added : " Oh, my 
dear, dear Engel, save my child from the dung cart! " 

My poor dear father! I wonder what thoughts passed 
through his head about me at such moments ! How lonely he 
had always been ! I believe he deliberately kept aloof from 
me in order to avoid infeding me. He did not even have this 
one pleeisure — poor man! Thus my real associate was Engel 
Tiedje; he it was who provided the environment of my child- 
hood. I told him everything. And, as something seemed to 
prevent me from discussing the details of our journey with my 
father, I described the whole experience to Engel Tiedje. He 
was enthusijistic. He saw me as the dean's successor, and, 
looking straight into my eyes, drew a brilliant pidhire of my 
future. 

About this time my mother had a spell of deep despondency 
that lasted for weeks, and she paid hardly any attention to me. 
The dark brown furniture in our rooms, which usually shone 



36 OTTO BABENDIEK 

SO brightly, grew all tarnished and dusty, and Engel Tiedje 
did all the housework during the night, before the peasants 
came with their horses and ploughs. I don't believe he ever 
went^to bed. One day, just after he had given me a bath, I 
asked him why he had no wife and children. It was quite 
plain that he did not relish the subjed, but he replied that he 
had had a wife and that she had run away. When I asked 
him whether I could go and fetch her back, he exclaimed in 
alarm: "For heaven's sake, Otto, my boy!" And he ex- 
plained to me that he was frightened of her. "Otto, my boy, 
she is a baggage!" 

As I had never heard of such a creature, I felt extremely 
sorry for him, and asked him how he had come across her. 

"She was always coming to my forge with her warming-pan 
to fetch away red-hot coals — that's how it was," he replied. 

In answer to further frightened inquiries from me, for I 
was feeling very much afraid of her, he admitted that it had 
all happened in my father's forge, and that it was not precisely 
wrong of her to come as she did; for, after all, " why should not 
a mad young woman come twice a day to the smith and com- 
plain of her cold feet or her pains, and zisk for hot coals, and 
have a few minutes' chat with the assistant ? But she used to 
complain that the coals I put in her pan were not hot enough, 
and said she must make them red. And then she would sing 
and dance about the forge, and set the whole place, including 
our customers, on fire. It was as if the devil himself had fallen 
down the chinmey and squatted on the coals. Oh, she was a 
regular baggage. Otto, my boy!" 

Full of uneasy curiosity, I asked him what she looked like. 

" She had a head like a bright little copper saucepan. Otto," 
he replied, "and she was always boiling over. . . . Oh, yes, 
she is still alive. How could she help being alive ? She was 
seventeen then, and it is only seven years ago." 

He also told me that she was in service somewhere in 
Ballum, and I exclaimed, for it occurred to me that I might 
be going to Ballum again. 

When I was sent to school the reading lessons I had had 
from my mother and the odd pieces of wisdom I had picked 
up from her mysterious little books made me stand out 
from the rest of the village children, and while my queer 
fantastic knowledge alarmed my teacher it inspired my 



MY FIRST JOURNEY 37 

schoolfellows, as it did Engel Tiedje, with the most exaggerated 
rcsped for me. 

"Otto," said Engel, "your father has been able to spend 
four whole days cooped up in a carriage with a dean who never 
stopped talking about schoolboy escapades and student rags. 
If I had had to do that I should have gone mad 1 And as for 
your mother, she can see under people's skins, which no one 
else in the village can do, and she can also cure warts by 
merely stroking them with her firm little hand. But you can 
do more than either of them." 

I accepted his praise with great pride, and we felt more 
than ever united — he with me because of the great things he 
saw in the future, and I with him because he was such a daring 
believer in my powers. 

In the spring, about a year after I had started school, my 
father fell ill again. And this time it was serious. At first 
he used to sit in the parlour near the stove, while I sat opposite 
him at the round table, which did not seem to me as bright as 
in former days, and gravely tried to build houses with coloured 
paper. During the whole of my schooldays I always preferred 
a thousand times to indulge my imagination oi" do something 
with my fingers rather than pore over my lessons. And I 
now think with some bitterness of my father looking on and 
probably wondering what good such profitless pastimes would 
be to me. 

After that he took to his bed, and looked very pale and 
coughed a great deal; while my mother, with a solemn face, 
moved hither and thither, fi-om the kitchen to the bedroom, 
and back again, taking care of him, and giving him as much 
help and comfort as she could. This kept her so sad and 
busy that she could not attend to me, and I was constandy 
with Engel Tiedje in the forge. 

One morning, when my mother and I were at breakfast and 
Engel Tiedje was already in the forge. Uncle Peter came oi 
the scene again. Thrusting his lean form through the door, 
his puny womanish face wreathed in smiles, he held out his 
flabby bony hand to my mother and myself, saying something 
foolish and laughing a hollow laugh. Then he went up to my 
father's bed. My father with great difficulty supported him- 
self on an elbow, and talked to him for a long while in low 
tones. They were discussing the house, the debts, and the 



38 OTTO BABENDIEK 

grazing field at the back of the house, and they settled that 
Engel Ticdje should carry on by himself. Then they talked 
about me, and, in his feeble voice, my &ther informed me that 
for a small weekly sum Uncle Peter had undertaken to let me 
live with him while I attended the grammar school, and that 
Engel Tiedje would pay him out of what he earned by the 
forge and the grazing meadow. 

Afterwards, when Uncle Peter was in the forge, inspefting 
and examining everything, I thought I should like to hear him 
speak again and find out more about him, although I did not 
really like him. At last he asked me what I intended to study. 
As I had never heard of studying for any calling except that 
of the Church, I replied with great firmness that I should 
probably be a clergyman. He agreed, but warned me that in • 
that case they would tie me to ihe sail of a windmill, and I 
should be whirled round and round, preaching all the while. 
They would do that, he said, to make sure they would not 
have to sit with their eyes glued to the pulpit all day. I was 
frightened, and said I was not at all sure whether I should like 
this calling after all. Nevertheless, I wondered at the change 
in his voice since he had left the bedroom. It was noticeably 
easier and more cheerful; only many years later did I learn 
that it was the voice of irony — a. tone I myself never used and 
but rarely understood. He then suggested I might be an 
Arctic explorer, a ventriloquist, or even a catcher of grass- 
hoppers, and as he spoke his mirth increased so much that I 
was seriously afraid he would fall off the bench on which he 
was sitting, though I marvelled at the number of funny 
callings there appeared to be. 

Suddenly he got up and went to the garden, and I followed 
him. I tried to put my hand in his, as I should have done 
with Engel Tiedje or anyone else, and wondered why he did 
not take it. He examined the garden, and then went over 
the grazing field, which my father had let. He appeared to 
measure it with his eyes, and was angry when I could not tell 
him how much my father got for it. Suddenly, after looking 
at me intently for a moment, he asked me whether I coughed 
at all. 

I shook my head. 

"Why don't you open your mouth?" he asked. 

I turned my back to the wind and replied that nr.y 



MY FIRST JOURNEY 39 

mother had told me to keep my mouth closed against the 
east wind. 

"On the contrary!" he exclaimed. "You must harden 
yourself!" 

When I replied that even the doctor had told me to keep it 
shut, he said that was all wrong, and that if I did not harden 
myself I should fall ill and die. So, turning to face the 
wind, he began to sing in his squeaky woman's voice, bidding 
me do likewise: "And such is life, and such is life!" which 
I afterwards discovered was his favourite song. 

I cannot remember how or when I saw my dear father for 
the last time. Some one led me by the hand; I think it was 
an old widow, who was our neighbour. But when I heard 
the sound of heavy, laboured breathing I grew frightened, 
and another hand led me out of the room. I hope whoever 
did this has been rewarded by God, for that hand enabled me 
to retain a pidure of my father which, though pale and 
exhausted, still bore an expression of peace and happiness. 

Presently one of those black boxes stood before the house, 
and I suspeded, though I did not acSually know, that my &ther 
was lying in it. Whereupon a number of men appeared in 
long black coats and black hats. At first I thought they 
were strangers, but, to my surprise, I ultimately found they 
were neighbours. They carried the coffin and we walked 
behind, I bearing a wreath. Engel Tiedje remained at 
home, because he feared for my mother s reason, and Uncle 
Peter walked at my side. But he did not hold my hand. 



CHAPTER III 

Hard Times 

The following morning, as my mother was too deeply dis- 
tressed to look after me, Engel Tiedje brought me my best 
clothes and told me that I was to go with Uncle Peter to 
Steenkarken at once. 

I was highly delighted — ^so much so, in fad, that I fear I 
made it rather difficult for him to dress me. I was all eager- 
ness and expeftation, and left my father's fresh grave and my 
dear mother in her bottomless dejeftion with an astonishingly 
light heart. I remember that I was not a little surprised when 
Engel Tiedje began to speak of the possibility of my getting 
into trouble in some way, and I replied that I did not know 
what he meant. How could I get into trouble, seeing that I 
should be with Uncle Peter, who was always so jolly, "much 
jollier than you"? 

He suggested that it was always possible for a man to change, 
and as he appeared to be pondering deeply what we should 
do if Uncle Peter were to change, I proposed various plans. 
But he rejected them all, and said the best thing would be for 
me to send him a postcard. He had adtually prepared one for 
me and hidden it in the lining of my jacket. Then he pro- 
duced a little packet, opened it, and showed me a small 
old-fashioned box, containing two gold pieces, telling me to 
be sure I got the right change if I ever paid for anything 
with them. After which with great pride he showed me the 
post-card. It was covered with writing, but a space had been 
left between the words at one spot, while on the back it bore 
his address. The writing read : " I am prepared to supply you 

with rod-iron at low prices. Hanemeyer and Co." 

I was to hide this card and, according to the extent of my 
misery, was to fill the space with the word 'thin,' 'medium,' 
or 'thick.' 

j^Then Uncle Peter appeared, and all three of us started off. 

40 



HARD TIMES 4I 

I don't think I saw my mother at all that morning. My 
companions each carried one of the two parcels containing my 
scanty belongings, and I walked between them. After dis- 
cussing the cost of my keep, which Engel Tiedje was 
to send him quarterly, my uncle became very jolly and 
whistled and sang, and told us stories of his travels as an 
apprentice. I was very happy, and thought it a wonderful 
adventure. On reaching the pine plantation on the crest of 
the hill Engel Tiedje had to turn back, and we said good- 
bye. 

How vividly I remember the change that suddenly came 
over my uncle! Not the very moment that Engel Tiedje left 
us, but quite soon afterwards all his good spirits vanished. 
He stopped singing and whisding, and with features more 
pointed than ever looked straight ahead. When I ventured 
to speak to him he did not answer, but simply looked coldly 
at me, gave me the two parcels to carry, and pushed me 
forward to make me walk faster. I was somewhat taken aback 
by this sudden change, but soon forgot it, and with a parcel 
under each arm trotted at his side, with my eyes full of the 
novel scenes about me. 

Thus we went on for an hour, until at last I felt tired, and 
tearfully told him so. Without moving a muscle of his face 
he told me to sit on the wall; he sat down too, and looked 
for the food which we had brought with us. But he could not 
find it in either parcel, and said I must have dropped it; 
then, looking angrily at me, he gave me a violent blow on 
the head. 

Never in my life had I been beaten, and once when I had 
witnessed a beating I was so frightened that I had run home 
crying. And now I was undergoing this terrible experience 
myself ! I screamed in horror, and flung myself on the grass 
and cried. For a while he took no notice of me; then he made 
me get up, and we went on. 

He had reluctantly taken a few coppers from his pocket, 
and was turning them over and over in his fingers as if he 
were trying to make them more, cursing and groaning in a 
most terrifying manner. When a little while later we reached 
a village he seized me by the ear and forced me to look 
up at him. His thin vacant face was full of bitter hatred and 
maUce. In his cracked voice he told me to go in to the 



42 OTTO BABENDIEK 

village and find the cheapest inn, and woe betide me if it 
proved too expensive! 

I went ahead through the village, feeling terrified. As far 
as the church I saw no inn at all; but there was one just 
beyond, and the host, a broad, fat man with a jolly face, was 
standing at the door. I was naturally trustful, and believed 
that good will went a long way; so going up to him I explained 
that I had lost the food we had brought with us, and said we 
should like something to eat and drink, but that it must not 
cost too much, or my uncle would be angry. 

Setting me down on the bench by the door, he was asking 
me all kinds of questions, when my uncle came up and sat 
down beside us. The landlord then went inside and fetched 
us bread and coffee, and we regaled ourselves, while he stood 
in front of us, sunning a fine piece of bacon in the spring sun- 
light, and observing us closely. My uncle was still turning 
his coppers over and over in his fingers, and, when we had 
finished, he asked the landlord in his squeaky voice what he 
owed. "Well," replied our host with a nod, "you see, you 
two are rather a queer couple. If I charged you a shilling it 
would not be too much, would it? At the same time I'm so 
taken with the youngster that I feel inclined to make him a 
present of a shilling. So we are quits, and you can put your 
measly coppers back in your pocket." 

So we went on our way, and I grew more and more 
exhausted at every step. But as my uncle made me walk just 
in front of him, and every now and again gave me a push from 
behind, I constantly had to trot to keep pace with him. And 
to this day, whenever I see a child walking beside a thoughtless 
adult and having to trot every few steps, I cannot help recalling 
my agonizing walk across Bunsoh Heath. 

I must have dropped asleep at intervals on that breathless 
journey, for suddenly I found we were in a low-ceilinged 
room where an old woman was lying in bed. She was my 
grandmother. When she heard that her beloved Hermann, 
my father, was dead, she burst into tears, and called me to the 
bedside to have a look at me. She was almost blind, but 
declared that I was like her son Hermann, and proceeded to 
pray for me. The room was poor and very bare, and I noticed 
that in a corner my uncle was silently helping himself to 
the poor old woman's black bread and butter, and stuffing 



HARD TIMES 43 

sandwiches of it into one of my parcels. Meanwhile he cx- 
plsiined how he had taken pity on me, and hoped that God 
would reward him. He also complained of the small sum 
he was to be paid for my keep, and, to my surprise, men- 
tioned a sum that was half of what he had settled with Engel 
Tiedje. 

Again and again, as he spoke, my grandmother exclaimed: 
"Yes, yes, your words are all very fine; so were your father's 

. , . but afterwards " At last, probably in response to his 

incessant complaints, she pulled an old purse out of her 
mattress, and handed him three or four marks — possibly all 
the poor woman had — and then after she had given me her 
blessing we left. 

Outside I heard a faint laugh as he once more proceeded 
to push me in front of him, as if I were a barrow or at best a 
goat ; and at the end of a quarter of an hour we entered a 
crooked little low cottage, which, from the smell of leather and 
pitch about it, I knew must be our destination. 

I was shoved into a small room, packed with furniture, in 
which a large bed and a desk were the objefts that particu- 
larly caught my eye. From its musty smell I gathered that 
it was the best room. Beyond this we entered a small, 
almost unfurnished closet, containing an enormous easy 
chair and a table; my uncle informed me that this was 
my room. 

I was dead tired, and as I saw no bed I asked where I was 
to sleep. 

"Here, of course — ^where else?" he replied, pointing to the 
easy chair. "You must tell your friends that you sleep in the 
bed in the next room, but I could not always be making it for 
you. You are small and the chair is a big one. You'll find 
a blanket under the seat." Then pulling it out he laid it on 
the chair and left me. 

Dead tired though I was, I was so deeply stirred by all I 
had been through that I could not lie down, but sat for quite 
a long while on the table. In any case the easy chair was so 
dilapidated and torn that, far from tempting me, it made me 
shudder. Its cover was hanging in festoons, while its stuffing 
and springs were oozing from a hundred rents. At last, how- 
ever, nature got the upper hand, and it seemed as if the chair 
were aftually beckoning like a friend. So, overcoming my 



44 OTTO BABENDIEK 

repulsion, I curled up in its lap, pulled the blanket over 
me, and very soon I was wafted^back to the forge and Engel 
Tiedje. 

What a change in my little life! I awoke and looked 
incredulously at the table before me. How could my mother's 
table have come to look like that! Then, all of a sudden, 
I remembered where I was, and I believe my expression 
altered from that moment; for I acquired a look of deep, 
terrified earnestness, and secret, eager searching, far beyond 
my years. 

Having dressed myself, I went to the workshop, where my 
uncle was sitting with the apprentice. The latter's name was 
Paul Sooth. Thin and spare, he had a small round head on 
a long thin neck, and large round eyes, which always looked 
sad, not to say horrified — the more so because his dark hair 
was stiff and stubborn and stuck out in all diredions as if it 
had been glued. With his eyes riveted on his work he never 
looked up; and for a day or two I thought him dumb. In 
order to make sure, I asked him one day, when my uncle was 
out of the room, how he was. Whereupon he looked at me 
with his large, sad, horrified eyes, and said: "I — oh ... I? 
Oh, I see things very black." Then he relapsed into silence. 
Only now and again, when he made a mistake and my uncle 
gave him a blow on the arm, did he wince and utter a faint 
"Oh!" 

Taking my place at the dirty table in the corner where the 
couple had already breakfasted, I would pour myself out some 
very weak coffee, and partake of bread and dripping. I could 
not help wondering why there was always so little there; for 
although I got something to cat I never felt satisfied. Then I 
would go to my wretched little room and contemplate the 
great easy-chair, or else look out into the garden, until I heard 
my uncle's squeaky falsetto voice calling me. Passing through 
the room between, I used to linger as long as possible on my 
way, and was able to take such thorough stock of everything 
in that most hateful of all Sunday parlours that I remember 
every detail of it to this day. Then my uncle would send me 
to the scullery behind the workshop and set me to peeling and 
washing potatoes. Our dinner consisted chiefly of potatoes, 
a scrap of bread, and a minute speck of bacon, and when it was 
over I had to wash up. Not a word was spoken by any of us, 



HARD TIMES 45 

and the moment I had done washing up my unde cried: 
"Now kick out!" 

In the afternoon I would wander about the streets, and, find- 
ing my way down a narrow alley, take my stand by some tall 
railings and gaze at the large two-storied building where in 
the following week I was to go to school. This I did again 
and again. 

As long as we were alone my uncle Peter never addressed 
a word either to me or to the apprentice, but the moment 
customers appeared he would laugh, joke, and sing, and 
become quite talkative. As a rule he began to sing or warble 
the moment he heard the front door open. For a while I 
imagined that the mere opening of the door, by letting in the 
fresh air, made him more lively, and I would open the door 
from time to time, in the hope of improving his spirits. Then 
thinking it might be the effed of the jolly people who came in 
and always greeted him with some sort of banter, I went up 
to him one day and addressed him in the same bantering tones. 
But this experiment failed also. He looked coldly and angrily 
at me and was silent. It took me a year to discover that 
sullen and angry taciturnity was natural to him, and that he 
assumed the attitude of jolly banter for which he was known 
throughout the town only to gratily his womanish vanity, 
and because it paid with his fellow-townsmen. 

To my surprise, on the afternoon before the school opened 
he went with me to call on the headmaster; but he probably 
did so only because it flattered his vanity to have a nephew 
at the grammar school. The headmaster was an old white- 
haired man, of fine build, though slightly bent, and with a 
face so noble that he was like what I had always imagined 
God to be. 

The first thing about him that astonished me was the way 
he constantly stuffed lumps of some black powder into his nose. 
I had never seen anybody do this before. And what puzzled 
me most was that he did not seem to do it for pleasure, because 
he pulled such a wry face all the while. 

When my uncle had greeted him and introduced me 
most humbly, I gazed at him with my large eyes, quite 
ready to believe in him and resped him like a god. He 
did not take any notice of my uncle, but looked only a 
me as though I were a calf with five legs or some other 



46 OTTO BABENDIEK 

monstrosity. "Otto Babendiek," he repeated, "I don't under- 
stand." 

My uncle was highly amused; his arms and legs twitched 
and he was about to break out into his favourite ditty, "And 
such is life . . . and such is life," when, pulling himself 
together, he urged me to explain matters. 

But I did not know what was wrong. Surely I was Otto 
Babendiek ! My eyes began to fill with tears. 

The Almighty — but I shall not call him that any longer — 
the headmaster, seemed to be thoroughly enjoying my dis- 
comfiture, and still looking at me with a gloomy and 
angry expression, he said: "Well, is it beginning to dawn on 
you?" 

I repeated my name. 

"Appalling!" he exclaimed, and wriggled as if he were 
confronted by some God-forsaken idiot. I began to suspeft 
that the old man was pulling my leg, a proceeding hardly in 
keeping with his snowy locks and my tender years. In my 
heart of hearts I began to despise him, but as I knew I was in 
his power I did my best to solve the riddle. 

"Otto Babendiek?" he shouted. "What do you mean? 
What have I to do with Otto Babendiek?" 

I replied that I wished to become a pupil at his school. 

"At last!" he cried, his expression growing calmer. "So 
what you mean is : ' I am Otto Babendiek, who wishes to become 
a pupil,' or, in participial form, ' I am the boy calling himself 
Otto Babendiek, who wishes to become a pupil'?" 

As my uncle had no intention of speaking again, and was 
nudging me, I was obliged to venture another shot; so I asked 
when I should come to be examined. 

He had settled himself in a chair in front of his desk, and, 
stuffing some more powder up his nose, had apparently 
forgotten all about me. 

So once more I had come to a full stop ! 

My uncle laughed softly, and a<5lually sang the first line of 
his song; while I, once more on the point of tears, wondered 
how I could re-fi"ame my question. 

After a while, the old man, looking blankly at the wall in 
front of him, observed: "A nice business it would be if every- 
body wanted to be examined separately . . . just imagine 
what it would mean!" 



HARD TIMES 47 

My uncle urged me to have another shot. 
At last in a trembling voice I asked: "When must those 
boys come who wish to be examined for admittance into the 
first form?" 

"Boys wishing to be examined for the first form," he replied, 
still looking blankly before him, "must present themselves 
in the first form room at eight o'clock to-morrow." 

And then we were allowed to go. 

As we were descending the stairs, my uncle looked at me 
out of the corner of his eyes and said: "Did you cough last 
night?" 

Possibly owing to the emotions provoked by what I had 
been through, I was looking rather frail. But I remember 
his question well, for I probably gathered from his tone of 
voice that he had some secret reason for asking. 

I was tired out, and for the first time, I believe, repaired 
without hesitation to the dilapidated easy-chair. In any case, 
I was curled up in it, when suddenly, through the open 
window, which was high up in the wall, there appeared the 
spare form of the apprentice. In the twinkling of an eye he 
had sprung up and was sitting on the window-sill, looking 
down on me, and addressing me. As during all these days 
nobody had spoken to me — least of all a friendly word — I was 
overjoyed, and looked gratefully up at him. 

Turning his little round head with its sad eyes towards me, 
he asked me whether I felt any qualms about the morrow. 

I was surprised that one who had hitherto been so silent 
should open the conversation in this way, and I replied that 
I hoped all would go well. 

"Oh!" he said, with a shake of his little head, "poor thing, 
don't you believe it!" And he proceeded to tell me that, in 
the first place, there were two peasant louts who came every 
day during term time to take their midday meal with my 
uncle. When I confessed that I knew nothing about them, 
he replied sadly : "That's just it, you don't know what you're 
in for! Your uncle talks a lot of twaddle to them, because 
their people are rich, and they sometimes bring him a littie 
bread and bacon. They do just exaftly what they like, so you 
can imagine how the louts torment me!" 

He explained that they bullied him, pulled his stool away 
when he was going to sit down, and so on, and declared that 



48 OTTO BABENDIEK 

he was often tempted to stick his cobbler's knife into their 
stomachs just to see what was inside them. 

I asked him what he knew about the school. 

" Well, in the first place," he began, " there's old Nick." 

When I asked him whom he meant, he replied, "The 
headmaster." 

I was shocked to hear the old man called such a name. 

"Old Nick," he added, "is mad." 

"Surely not!" I exclaimed with bated breath. 

"Mad!" he repeated, pointing at his brow a finger black- 
ened by pitch. "And the second master is always three sheets 
in the wind." 

When I asked him what this meant he looked at me with 
his sad eyes, and explained that he was always drunk. "After 
a good drink," he proceeded, "his hand trembles, and he can't 
aim straight. But when he is not quite drunk — whiz!" and 
he spat in his hands and struck out with his arms. 

As I gathered from his doleful expression and from what 
he had already told me that the other teachers were probably 
not up to much either, I did not wish to hear anything more, 
and asked him how he liked his own trade. 

He did not like it at all. In fadl he loathed it and wanted 
to run away and become a confeflioner. He looked so un- 
happy that I was filled with pity for him. He told me that 
his mother had had heaps of children, though nobody knew 
anything about his father. And now that his mother was 
dead he was at the mercy of the "clodhoppers" who were 
rearing his brothers and sisters, and who treated him with the 
utmost meanness, not even allowing him pockets to his 
trousers or shirts of adequate length. But his worst grievance 
was that they had apprenticed him to my uncle. 

"To your uncle, the greatest scoundrel in the town," he 
added. "I say it, although he is your uncle! What do we 
have to eat? Nothing but potatoes! And just look at this!" 
And pulling up his dirty sleeve he showed me innumerable 
little pinpricks all over his arm and elbow. "That's what he 
does, when we are at work, with his awl. Without a word — 
the dog ! At least seven times a day. . . . What do you say 
— shall I run away to Hamburg one night?" And he de- 
scribed a detailed plan of flight. 

I applauded his idea and said that in his place I should 



HARD TIMES 49 

certainly do so. And I was not lying, as the sequel will 
show. 

Allowing his sad eyes to wander over my poor room, he 
shook his head and in tones of deep despair said it ^ would be 
impossible. The clodhoppers would communicate with all 
the mayors and police of the country and he would be caught 
and brought back. And when he thought of that he saw 
things very black indeed. But he was seriously contemplating 
setting fire to the house, and reminded me that I could easily 
escape by jumping out of the window, and then there would 
be an end to hunger and pricks from the awl. 

When he mentioned the pricks with the awl again — ^as a 
matter of faft I had seen what happened without really taking 
it in — I was in a mood to agree with everything he said, 
and thought it only right that he should bum the house 
down. 

But this idea too he abandoned, saying he was not crafty 
enough, and would be sure to be caught. He thought it 
would be better to write to the clodhoppers to tell them how 
matters stood. In fad, he had a letter already drafted, and 
pulUng it from his pocket, he showed it to me. 

After reading the letter, I urged him most emphatically to 
send it, and at first he resolved to do this; but in the end he 
decided to think it over a little while longer. Whereupon, 
hearing the front door open, he slid down from the sill and 
vanished. 

I fell asleep and dreamt of my parents and of home, and of 
litde Almut, who I believed had a place in her heart for me, 
although I knew she was going to marry Fritz and was fonder 
of Hans than of me. 

On the following morning I woke to find myself once more 
on my ragged litter, which I was to show to no one, and 
remembered that my uncle had forbidden me under threat of 
punishment to take anyone to my room. If I received visitors, 
I was to take them to the best room, with its musty 
smell, where the luxurious bed and the large desk stood on 
show. 

• • • • • 

The next day the first sight that caught my eye was two big 
boys reining in their horses beneath my window. 
One was short, fet, and slow; the other tall, thin, and fair. 



50 OTTO BABENDIEK 

The latter had a tame jackdaw, which perched now on his cap, 
then on his satchel, and anon behind him on his horse's back. 
They dismounted, led their animals to a little shed, and went to 
the workshop, where they devoured their rich sandwiches, 
while my uncle, Paul Sooth, and I consumed our frugal meal 
of potatoes. The fat, easy-going one, who bore a striking 
resemblance to his plimip chestnut horse, chewed away, 
staring stolidly in front of him. He hardly spoke at all, and 
when he did so it was only to scoff at one of us three, or to 
laugh at some remark of my uncle's, or of his tall thin friend, 
and to assure us on this first morning of term that he did not 
care a rap for the school or anybody in it, and was only going 
to stop until he had been confirmed. The other boy, the fair 
one with the jackdaw, attraded me very much, and I watched 
him surreptitiously, almost devouring him with my eyes. In 
the first place I was puzzled by his relationship to the jackdaw. 
Without his uttering a word, or, as far as I could see, making 
any sign, it seemed to do exadlly what he wished. Although 
I did not feel I liked him, I could not stop looking at him, for 
the greeny grey eyes in his thin face had a curious squint, 
which seemed to be refleded in his mind. Although he looked 
just a young daredevil of a schoolboy, he spoke with the wisdom 
and dignity of an adult, and while he treated his companion 
more or less as an equal, or at least as a grown-up son, he 
addressed my uncle as if the latter were his great-grandchild. 
As for me, he vouchsafed me not a word — I might have been 
a baby in long clothes, or a tadpole. Yet I thought he ob- 
served me with a certain not unkindly interest. 

Presently the two boys got up, threw their satchels over their 
shoulders, and left the house, without acknowledging my exist- 
ence by a word; and with my heart full of dread I followed 
some distance behind them, going out alone to meet my 
unknown and apparently terrifying fate. 

For three or four days — it may have been weeks — I was in 
a state of utter bewilderment, bewilderment so complete that 
I still cannot understand why I did not come to grief. Strange 
streets, strange spaces, staircases, passages, and rooms! One 
of the latter full of extraordinary glasses, instruments, and 
pidlures ! A large hall fiill of hundreds of new faces ! And the 
teachers all oddities, with one of them drunk on the first day! 
Over and above this, my first encounter with Latin! I fency 



HARD TIMES 51 

I felt everything more keenly, more intimately, and more 
deeply than the others, and was therefore more timid and 
easily frightened. Whereas outwardly I appeared quite calm 
and colleded, I was as terrified and excited as if I were standing 
on the edge of a volcano. Never have I suffered such tortures 
of suspense and anxiety. As a child of not quite ten years of 
age, I had suddenly been flung from the quietest of seaside 
villages into this broad torrent, which I believed to be as deep 
as it was broad. 

In this sea of strange faces where were the timid eyes of a 
bewildered youngster to rest ? I sought and sought, and was 
overjoyed when among the bigger boys of fifteen I espied the 
tall, thin figure and small freckled face I had already seen in my 
uncle's workshop. The apprentice had already told me that 
the big boy's name was Baile Bohnsack. 

In the big boots I had brought with me from my village, and 
my coarse woollen home-made suit, I stood a lonely little 
figure apart. But I was ambitious, and longed to be noticed 
by the bigger boys — quite a laudable aim. And, strange to 
say, my wish was fulfilled. Two or three of the bigger boys 
and some of the masters came up to me, and began asking me 
where I came from, where I lived, and who had made my 
jacket, which was cut so outlandishly in the small of the back. 
I felt they were making fun of me, though not unkindly. 
There was something in my face and in my deep-set, dark blue 
eyes — a certain precocity perhaps — ^which attradled people and 
made them wonder what sort of answers I would give. I 
looked apprehensively up at them, and answered timidly, but 
with profound sincerity and truthfulness. I have never had 
any inclination to scoff or mock, and at that age I could not 
have possessed any sense of hmnour. Even now I can see 
nothing funny about myself as a small boy with trustful, 
earnest eyes. 

Even Balle Bohnsack noticed me occasionally, and gave me a 
friendly nod — ^winking condescendingly, it is true; but it was 
kind of him. Once he came up to me and told me in a grand- 
fatherly way to "spit in the old man's face" — he meant my 
uncle. But though I knew the advice to be well meant, and 
was grateful to him, I had not the smallest intention of follow- 
ing it. There was one proud, good-looking boy who for a long 
while never noticed me, and I hju-dly expeded him to. He 



UBRARV 
UNiVERSnfVnriiriMn»» 



52 OTTO BABENDIEK 

was well dressed; his figure was slim and aristocratic, and the 
clear eyes in his handsome face looked with calm assurance 
on the world. I found myself constantly staring at him, but 
though I seemed to know his face I searched in vain for any 
recoUedion of having met him before in my short life. 

I could see no reason why he should notice me or speak to 
me, for he looked so serene and self-sufficient. But one day 
he did address me — probably he had noticed how timidly and 
reverently my observant eyes rested on him. Laying his hand 
on my shoulder, he asked me whether I was happy at school 
and found the work easy. His other hand was in his jacket 
pocket, and I heard him jingling some coins. Gazing into his 
proud, classical features, I felt so overjoyed I hardly knew how 
to answer. Henceforward the days on which he spoke to me 
were always red-letter days in my life. I did not know his 
name, nor did I care. Besides, a bell rang and we all had to 
return to our class-rooms. 

How vividly I can see myself sitting at one of the desks. 
How anxiously and cautiously I observed the masters, and what 
extraordinary ideas I formed about them! The headmaster 
came in. For some reason which I could never fathom — 
probably because he liked to flaunt his senile folly before the 
smaller boys — he sometimes gave our form a lesson. I believe 
we all knew that he was mad; but it only made it the more 
appalling to be in his hands. How frightened I was! 
How terrified ! I did all I could not to attraft his eye, so as 
not to provoke one of his insane questions, and wondered why 
such a post had been given to him of all people ! Our Latin 
master was a pedantic woebegone creature; all he could do was 
to spout Latin quotations or give vent to spiteful and angry 
remarks. Our scripture master was consumptive; it was 
dreadful to see him retire to a comer and expedorate, and then 
strain his sick lungs to propound his hollow learning. He was 
also very ugly, and used to lean over us to see whether we tried 
to cheat by using cribs or notes. I was terrified of him; but 
it was his ugUness much more than his illness that frightened 
me. As for our mathematics master, I need only say that he 
always got dead drunk every night — at least so my friends 
assured me — and came to school in the morning with a flaming 
face and dishevelled hair, and gradually worked himself sober 
by thrashing us in rows at a time. 



HARD TIMES 53 

My uncle was never more cheerful or full of song than when 
the two "peasant louts " were present, though he kept a sharp 
eye on their sandwiches, and quickly seized and devoured all 
they left behind. He never dreamt of giving Sooth or me 
a crumb. As long as they were eating — ^and I had never seen 
anybody eat with such appetite — they left us in peace; but 
when they had finished they occasionally talked to us, Balle 
Bohnsack opening the conversation in his usual grandfatherly 
manner. 

One day, beckoning me with a wink, he stood me, as he 
often did, between his knees, while his jackdaw, perched on his 
shock-head, seemed to be building a nest in his hair. Gazing 
at me with his dull-witted eyes, he questioned me about my 
home and my people. I noticed a faint pressure of his knees 
when I informed him that my father was dead. In reply to 
his questions, I told him all about the forge and Engel 
Tiedje. My heart beat with rapture when he praised 
the latter, and called him "a fine old cock," which I 
gathered from the gravity of his expression was meant as 
a compliment. 

I can see myself now, standing reverendy between his knees, 
as if they were the knees of God, and looking straight up into his 
face with my grave, melancholy eyes. The great coarse fellow 
seemed to understand what I was feeling, and though rough, 
was not unkind. It passed his comprehension that anyone 
who was not forced to do so should dream of attending the 
grammar school. When I told him that I wanted to learn all 
I could, he burst into a torrent of abuse of the school, and, 
while the jackdaw appeared to be making arrangements to 
lay an egg in his hair, assured me that he would rather be a 

night watchman in his native village than go to that 

school. He said all this without any sign of emotion, and in 
such grandfatherly tones that I could not help believing 
him. 

My uncle could not bear to see us talking in such a 
friendly way, or to be left out of the conversation. He 
was eaten up with envy and malice. In his thin bleating 
voice he interjeded his own remarks, giving a comical 
description of his talk with me in the forge, and saying that 
I was still hesitating whether to be an Arctic explorer or a 
ventriloquist. 



54 OTTO BABENDIEK 

Balle was amused; but when my uncle saw that things were 
going smoothly for me he was furious, and his arms and legs 
twitched. "He looks small and delicate," he piped in his 
falsetto voice, "but I tell you he's as tough as he can be and 

as cunning as a fox! And good reason for why His 

mother " 

I guessed what my uncle was going to say, and suddenly for 
the first time in my life was tortured by the fear of being made 
to look ridiculous. Turning pale, I gazed imploringly at 
my uncle. "Please, Uncle Peter, don't tell them!" I begged. 
He was highly delighted at my discomfiture. "Why ever 
not?" he exclaimed. 

Again I pleaded with him, calling him "dear Uncle Peter." 
Whereupon Balle clinched the matter for that day by saying: 
"He's really terrified, and you ought not to tell. Hold your 
tongue, you old beast!" 

But my uncle now knew my most sensitive spot. I some- 
times wonder why he did not thrash me oftener, 
though God knows I gave him littie enough cause. But 
though the pricks on Sooth's arm seemed to indicate the 
contrary, physical torture may not have appealed to him. 
At all events, he was certainly a past master in the art of 
spiritual torment, and knew no pity. 

The other youth, the fat one, constantly referred to my 
secret, and urged my uncle to reveal it. Between his mouth- 
fuls he would dig my uncle in the ribs and mimible, "Do tell 
us!" And my uncle would begin to say something hinting 
at its nature. 

Thank God, I have never experienced such torture since ! 
Proud, sensitive atom that I was, my life became an agony of 
dread, which found its echo even in my dreams. Maybe I 
suffered more than I need have done, becatise it made not only 
me but also my mother appear ridiculous, and she was a saint 
in my eyes. For weeks I endured this torture. Meanwhile 
I had been fiilly initiated into the life of the school, and knew 
what it would mean if my uncle divulged my secret. 

One day when the fat youth and my uncle were tormenting 
me as usual Balle curtly told them to shut up ; but although 
my uncle deemed it advisable not to continue, he sold my 
secret to the fat youth for a few pence. And I remember 
how, on the following morning at the beginning of recreation, 



HARD TIMES 55 

the news spread over the playground. There was a regular 
uproar. At least fifty boys coUeded round me, staring at 
me and telling each other in our dialed: "Look, there's the 
chap who had his mother's breast until he was six vears 
old!" 

Some felt my arms, and marvelled that I was not stronger. 
Others asked me whetfier I could get on without mother's milk 
yet, or whether the school kept a wet-nurse or a goat for me. 
One or two of the bigger boys came up and, looking at me in 
astonishment, declared that I was a prodigy, and that they 
had never heard of anybody being so spoilt. Then, shaking 
their heads, they passed on. 

The excitement lasted for days. Even the good-looking boy 
saw me standing in the middle of the howling throng, and I 
noticed that when he looked at me he turned quickly away 
and began to talk to his comp>anion. But I was not surprised. 
It never occurred to me that he ought to stand up for me. He 
was big and rich, handsome and smart, and I was only a little 
boy and the son of a blacksmith. Nevertheless I felt depressed 
— not because he had ignored me, but because life and the 
world should have forced him to do so. In vain did I search 
for Balle Bohnsack. Did I expedl him to help me? I don't 
know. But I longed to see his slim form, his small, sallow face 
and his squint, and to hear the sound of his calm, superior 
voice. But he was nowhere to be found. Eventually his 
fat friend informed me that he had been bitten in the face by 
a pet fox, and could not come to school. 

So when I got back to my room I brought out the card Engel 
Tiedje had put in my jacket and resolved to send it to him, and 
tell him that I wanted to give up school and become his appren- 
tice. However, I did not do so, but instead wrote on a card, 
" I have no wish to live," and, laying it where my uncle would 
see it, I left the house. I wanted to frighten him. I wanted 
to relieve my mind. The boys had only been teasing me, 
but for one of my tender age it had been a cruel ordeal. I 
stood outside the house, and watched my uncle pick up the 
card and read it. He laughed silendy. Had he engineered 
the whole thing to make me so miserable that I would put an 
end to my life? It never occurred to me that it was the 
thought of inheriting the house and the land that was giving 
him so much pleasure. I was too young to know anything 



56 OTTO BABENDIEK 

about the ghastly depths of his soul. Yet I was not angry 
with him. I merely thought he was possessed by some evil 
spirit, and pitied him. 

At last, three days later, Balle turned up again. His nose 
was enveloped in plaster, his hair was all dishevelled, his 
clothes were untidy and his leggings covered with mud. The 
boys went up to him and asked him about his wound. If 
any other boy had come to school looking as he did he would 
have been mercilessly chaffed, but he settled the whole matter 
at once by saying in his deliberate way, with a grandfatherly 
wave of the hand, "Oh, it's nothing!" 

Then they told him about the joke they had had at my 
expense. We all stood round him — about thirty of us — I 
looking anxiously up into his face. He did not move a muscle, 
but dropping his usual dialeift, replied slowly: "I say, you 
fellows, you mustn't do that! You see, every time you tease 
him about it he thinks of his father and mother, and his 
father is dead, while his mother — well, she's queer. . . . No, 
you mustn't do that." 

These few words from Balle put an end to the whole business. 
After this Balle would lay his thin, freckled hand from time 
to time on my shoulder, and talk to me in his grandfatherly 
way, while I beamed with joy. For the first few weeks I 
only listened, but gradually I plucked up courage, and began 
to ask him all sorts of questions, which he answered with 
his usual grown-up calm and dignity. One day he told 
me about his father's farm and his people. I was walking 
along the road with him as he led his horse. And he discussed 
his future. 1 thought he wanted to be a lion-tamer, 
because he was so clever with animals; but he assured me 
that his ambition was to be a clergyman. Knowing what a 
poor scholar he was, I ventured to remark that he would 
not find it at all easy; and this he was quite ready to admit. 
I stammered that he would have to preach sermons. Again he 
agreed, but said he would buy three books of them, and run 
through them once every three years, and then start again. 
For a moment I imagined he was wondering whether it would 
not be better to choose another calling, and I gathered 
from his mutterings that he was hesitating between that 
of a lion-tamer and a cattle-breeder. But at last he re- 
marked emphatically, with a slow significant shake of his 



HARD TIMES 57 

eighteen-year-old head: "No, my boy, it'll have to be a 
clergyman!" 

So saying, he swung himself into his saddle, and made an 
almost imperceptible movement with his shoulder. I swear 
he Viid not utter a sound, for I wcis on the alert; neither 
did he glance at the tree where his jackdaw was perched. 
All he did was to make that faint movement with his shoulder, 
and the jackdaw flew on to the horse's croup, and he rode 
away. 



CHAPTER IV 

/ Make New Acquaintances 

I CANNOT remember how or when it was, but one morning 
learned in the playground that the proud, handsome boy 
whom I secretly admired so much was Fritz Hellebeck ! 

Oh, if only I had never seen him ! If only I had never 
seen him! 

I remember feeling very proud of having visited his home 
and family and at liis having spoken to me once in the 
playground; and the fad that he had not stood up for 
me when I was in trouble never, as I have pointed out, 
struck me as anything else than natural and proper. I never 
dared to address him, but followed him about and gazed at 
him, hoping that one day he would notice me again. I 
also hoped I might hear something about my little friend 
Almut and his half-brother; but my one desire was that he 
should become friendly to me. As a child I was inclined 
to hero-worship, and God knows I thought him a hero. 

One day, when school was over, I saw him walking ahead 
of me, and made up my mind to run past him and look at 
him, so as to catch his eye if possible. But I had to wait a bit, 
for he had a schoolfellow with him, an enormously fet, fair- 
headed boy called Dutti Kohl, an effeminate creature who 
was generally disliked. Dutti usually put his arm round the 
shoulder of any boy he happened to be walking with; but he 
did not dare to behave in such a familiar way with Fritz 
Hellebeck. All the same they were an ill-assorted couple, 
though I believe it was this very fad that gave me the courage 
to address my hero. 

As soon as Dutti Kohl went Into his father's shop I ran up 
to the handsome youth and with beating heart asked for news 
of his friend Almut and his brother Hans. 

He was surprised that I knew his peopltfrfB^d put his hand 
on my shoulder, and while it rested there I was in the seventh 
heaven. He recognized me as the little blacksmith's boy 

58 



I MAKE NEW ACQUAINTANCES 59 

about whom his mother had written to him, and overcome 
with joy I told him about my visit to the dean. 

"I know," he replied, jingling some coins in his pocket as 
we went along; "little Almut wrote and told me all about it." 

We talked about his people, and when we reached my street- 
door he let his hand drop from my shoulder. With a smile in 
his fine eyes, he was about to walk on, when he hesitated and, 
eyeing me slowly up and down, said spontaneously: "You may 
speak to me whenever you see me, and walk with me." 

I was proud to feel that I belonged to him, and looked up 
at him with infinite respeft. Little idiot that I \vas, I never 
missed an opportunity of going up to him in the playground, 
so as to show every one that I knew him. If I met him alone 
in the street I would walk with him. But our conversation 
never turned for long on my affairs; he soon direfted it upon 
himself, and generally ended up with some self-conceited 
boast. He talked cleverly, leaving a great deal to be implied ; 
but that is the impression I obtained. He used to tell me that 
his farm consisted of hundreds of vjJuable acres, that his 
mother had money to invest, and that the farm would be even 
larger when he married little Almut, as he intended to do. 
Incidentally he would mention the handsome monthly allow- 
ance he received from his mother, adding that he was hard up, 
all the same, because his expenses were so heavy. Then he 
would discuss his schoolfriends and the girls with whom he 
used to go out for walks and drink chocolate — they all had 
extremely wealthy or distinguished fathers. I noticed that 
he never mentioned Almut, except to boast about the acres 
she would bring him, and that whenever we met a girl, even 
if she were only eight years old, he would pull himself up and 
look extremely dignified. I did not understand that it was 
only the infinite reverence and devotion he read in my eyes 
that made him tolerate me as a listener; for I was spell- 
bound by his handsome personality, his fine, confident voice, 
and his aflable manner to everybody. He struck me as the 
incarnation of all that was fine in body and mind, a youth 
who was entitled to 'talk big' because he was big; and I loved 
him without criticizing him. 

One day when I was passing my uncle's house with him he 
suddenly took it into his head to walk in, casually remarking 
that he wanted to see how I lived. Of course I took him into 



6o OTTO BABENDIEK 

the best room, as my uncle had bidden me, and he installed 
himself comfortably on the couch. 

He talked to me about his mother and the letters he received 
from her. " My mother is doing all she can for me at home," 
he observed. "She's got everybody in leading-strings . . . and 
all for me! I really don't know what she wouldn't do for 
me!" And when, to please him, I referred contemptuously 
to Hans, he added: "Did you know that all our property 
comes from Hans's mother? But my mother got round my 
father to leave the largest and most valuable part of the farm 
to me before he died. And I bet you," he continued with a 
smile, "that my mother will manage to get the bit that still 
belongs to Hans for me as well — you know, the tumbledown 
house in the wood, and that field on the slope." 

"You'll get that, anyway," I observed, "because your 
mother told us that Hans would never marry." 

He gave a sly, knowing smile. "Oh, well," he said, "she 
tells him that because she is a very clever woman. She twists 
them all round her little finger." 

"But you have power over men too, just like your mother!" 
I exclaimed, eager to plezise him. 

He seemed delighted, and, passing a hand through his hair, 
put the other on my shoulder. "Do you know," he said, 
"if I liked, I could make appointments with seven girls every 
evening, and, what's more, they would all come." 

"But you love Almut most of all, don't you?" I asked. 

"Yes, perhaps," he rejoined carelessly. "But that's another 
matter. A hundred and seventy acres is not to be sneezed at, 
my boy! My mother and I often talk about it." 

I was overwhelmed by the thought of such wealth, and, 
remembering ugly fat Dutti Kohl, I could not help asking 
him why he associated with him. 

He protested that he did not precisely associate with him. 
"I sometimes condescend to put up with him," he explained, 
"because his governor occasionally lends me money." 

I showed my astonishment. He proceeded to inform me 
that, although his mother gave him a large allowance, there 
were times when he needed a little more. "Besides," he 
added, "it is amusing to go to a fellow like that." And he 
then told me that Dutti Kohl's father ran a moneylending 
business in addition to his glassware shop. " Funny people !" 



I MAKE NEW ACQUAINTANCES 6l 

He stood up as if to go, but proceeded to wander round the 
room examining everything. On reaching the desk, he lifted 
its rounded top with the assurance and idle cxuiosity of a well- 
to-do young man, and exclaimed when he saw a pile of three- 
mark pieces. Counting them with careless ease, and finding 
there were eleven, he weighed them in his hand, returned 
them to their place, and closed the lid. Whereupon he 
left. 

All this time I was leading a wretched existence. I never 
felt sadsfied. Sometimes I found a litde bread and some 
butter in the parcels of underclothing Engel Tiedje used to 
send me; but the moment they arrived my uncle would come 
into the room with the large bread-knife, and, pretending that 
he was short of butter, he would take a large portion or the 
whole of it away. Winter was approaching, and besides being 
always hungry I began to feel miserably cold. I used to wrap 
the old grey blanket round me as far as it would go, but I 
could only get warm when I made it into a sort of sack. Cir- 
cumstances also compelled me to be careless about my person. 
For weeks I never took off my underclothes, and felt desper- 
ately uncomfortable. When I told my uncle that I felt the 
cold, he asked me whether I was coughing; and when I told 
him that I was not, he seemed to lose all interest in the matter. 

School was the terror of my existence. I was bowed down 
with a feeling of purposelessness and misery, and was in a con- 
stant state of fear. My p>articular bane was the headmaster, 
who behaved kindly if somewhat oddly to all the well-to-do 
boys, but had nothing but spite and insults for the poorer ones. 
How he used to scoff at my village clothes — probably because 
he knew that he wounded me most by making fun of my 
poverty and consequendy of my |}arents ! 

When school was over I had to go home and do all the 
washing-up for the day at the scullery sink at the back of the 
workshop. As soon as customers came in I had to stop at 
once, and not make a sound, and the moment I had finished 
repair to my room on tiptoe. If I dropped anything, or took 
too long, or if my uncle happened to be in a bad temper, he 
would strike out with his bony claw-like hands, not caring 
where he hit me. A walk in the streets, alone or with a 
schoolfriend — more often than not in the diredlion of Storm- 
fcld — brought my day almost to a close; and I would return 



62 OTTO BABENDIEK 

home, learn my lessons, and go in search of my share of our 
scanty supper, to which, by the by, I was never called. 

There were happier intervals when Balle Bohnsack took me 
between his knees and talked to me in his strange way, with 
his jackdaw perching on his shoulder and imitating the 
expression in his master's eyes to a nicety. Fritz Hellebeck 
too was always friendly to me. Sometimes he would turn up 
quite unexpededly, and bursting into the best room, would sit 
and talk, enveloped in the incense of my admiration and 
respedl. Before he left he always opened the desk, which I 
never dared to touch myself, and would pick up the pile of 
three-mark pieces, let them lie aslant in his hand, and count 
them. The number was different every time, and he would 
conmient on how extraordinarily careless Uncle Peter was 
with his money. 

One day as I was crossing the market-place I heard Dutti 
Kohl's heavy, shufHing footsteps behind me. To my astonish- 
ment he flung his fat arm round my shoulder and dragged me 
into his father's shop. Grateful though I was for any sign of 
friendship from an older boy, I could not help shuddering at 
the contad of his flabby body and his great fat hand. 

On the other side of the counter, which was full of fancy 
goods, two country servant-girls were haggling over a vase 
of silvered glass. To my surprise, Dutti immediately took 
part in the discussion, and addressed the girls as if they 
were his own age. I sat down shyly on the edge of a chair. 
Presently, when the girls had finished their business, they left 
the shop, the prettier of the two blushing deeply at all the 
compliments she had received. Dutti and his father then 
sat down in front of me on the sofa, and old Kohl imme- 
diately began bewailing the stupidity of his customers. " It 
is really sad, Dutti," he said, " to see people throwing away 
their hard-earned money so light-heartedly ! " 

I was surprised, for only a moment previously I had heard 
him waxing most eloquent in praise of his goods. But I 
did not reveal my feelings. 

"No," he went on, " there is no end to their carelessness!" 

"Yes," Dutti agreed, with the same grave and distressed 
expression, "it's shocking! How can such girls ever come to 
any good?" 

" It is terribly sad," said his father, shaking his head, " that 



I MAKE NEW ACQUAINTANCES 63 

people should let themselves be fooled like that! When I 
am no longer of this world, Dutti, mind that it does not happen 
to you." Whereupon he began questioning me about Helle- 
beck's farm, which he had been told I had visited — ^asking me 
how many horses, cows, children, etc., there were on it. And 
was it true that Fritz Hellebeck was going to marry a very 
rich girl ? 

With eyes shining guilelessly I readily answered all his 
questions, telling them all about Almut, how old she was and 
in what Arcadian surroundings she lived. I was surprised 
to see that, although they listened intently, they showed no 
enthusiasm. On the contrary, when I had finished, all old 
Kohl said was: " We must be careful; it would be better not 
to give him any more." 

I paid no heed to the remark, and left the shop in high glee. 
I was delighted at having been able to sing the praises of people 
who, in my opinion, not only lived in Paradise, but lived 
together in paradisiacal peace. I was so happy, in fad, that 
it did not occur to me that I had been pumped, nor did I notice 
that Dutti's fat arm was about my shoulder as he led me to 
the door. 

After that the podgy youth would sometimes put his fat 
arms round me on the way to or firom school, and, hugging 
me to him, lead me along. Sometimes when a schoolfellow 
passed he would hug me more tightly and whisper: " Do you 
know, I could do for him if I liked! — Debts!" There was 
something stupefying and overpowering about him. I could 
not resist walking with him and listening to him. Occasion- 
ally he would stop a boy in the street and tell him that he must 
pay up or he would report him. When the boy anxiously 
begged for time he would let him go. Then, hugging me to 
his breast, he would say : " I must be hard, mustn't I ? Other- 
wise they would be too careless, wouldn't they? Don't you 
think I'm right? Tell me, don't you think so ? Oh, if only 
I hadn't such a tender conscience! But having a tender 
conscience I had to tell him." 

I don't know whether I believed his chatter. But his great 
arm was about me, I was caught in his fat muscles and his oily 
voice, and with a sort of faint &scination I kept still and 
listened. 

One day he discussed Fritz Hellebeck again, and asked how 



64 OTTO BABENDIEK 

much I thought he owed. I suggested a sum which seemed 
to me fabulous. He laughed, and hugging me tighter than 
ever mentioned a sum five times as great. "And all for wine 
and chocolate!" he exclaimed. 

Sometimes I would sit with him and his father and work 
with them. For, strange to say, neither of them knew any 
arithmetic. Division, above all, was a sealed book to them. 
But I knew how to do it. I sometimes suspeifled that Dutti 
only hugged me in his fat arm to lead me into the shop when 
there wVs division to be done; but I went all the same, for I 
spent some'^leasant hours behind the counter there. Without 
either home or parents I felt at ease among that litde circle of 
people who lived so peacefully together, and the large sand- 
wich I was given when I had settled the prices of the goods by 
division made up for the filth of the place. 

But my best friend, and the brightest light of my sunless and 
forlorn existence, was my fellow boarder, the apprentice. 

Throughout the week I belonged to the grammar school and 
my schoolfellows. But on Sunday afternoons I was Paul 
Sooth's friend, and we used to walk out into the country 
together. Leaving the house separately, we would meet at 
some spot outside the town, and wander away together — he 
fifteen, I ten. These were the happiest hours of my life, 
because he confided in me entirely and laid bare his soul. I 
even knew the entire contents of his pockets, and all their 
valueless treasures. Talking about his brothers and sisters all 
the time, he kept his eyes steadily on the ground, hoping he 
might find something to give them. He knew that in their 
native village they were living a life of misery and want, and 
his one thought was how to improve their lot, and gradually 
free them from their bondage. 

Whenever he mentioned the peasants of his native village, 
to whose care his brothers and sisters had been confided, he 
declared that he "saw things very black." He told me that 
once a farm-boy with whom they happened to be angry had 
been squeezed to death between a door and a wall, and spoke 
as if such things were common occurrences. And these were 
the kind of people for whom his brothers worked ! Then, 
referring to my uncle, he said: "You see, he'll prod me to 
death one of these days!" And once more he showed^me_his 
arm covered ^vith pricks. 



I MAKE NEW ACQUAINTANCES 65 

We concluded that there was nothing for it but flight, and 
discussed ways and means of getting to Hamburg and thence 
setting sail for America with all his brothers and sisters. But 
we both cheered up a little when he read me the letter 
of complaint which he intended to send to the Sheriff. 
When he thought how little effed it would probably have, 
however, he began to cry again, and rub his eyes, so that his 
face grew quite black from the grease and pitch on his hands. 
Then he declared that I was the only human being in the 
world. All the rest were beasts, and he "saw things very 
black indeed." 

Sometimes, quite of his own accord, he would begin to 
discuss my plight, and prophesy the blackest future for me. 
My uncle, he said, had no conscience, but merely a gap where 
his conscience ought to be. " You see," he concluded, " the 
time will come when he will set you down beside him at 
a last — and then ..." 

I replied that I hoped I should do better than that. But I 
was very much depressed notwithstanding. 

Towards evening we returned to the town, and reached the 
little row of cottages in which my grandmother lived. There 
were always a number of old women there, smoking long pipes 
and drinking coffee, while the smoke hung in clouds beneath 
the low ceiling. At my age I could certainly not have under- 
stood all that was said; but there is a strange mystery about 
such things. I am convinced that during those twilight 
hours, when I used to sit in my grandmother's room, with 
Paul Sooth asleep beside me, I absorbed much which rose to 
the surface of my mind in after-years when I began to write. 
My grandmother told me a good deal about her own youth, 
about my father as a boy, and about my uncle. She said the 
former had been a good son to her, but that the latter was 
utterly worthless. But as a rule she spoke in plain, unequivocal 
terms of people and things I knew nothing about — of young 
women's troubles and fears, births in and out of wedlock, the 
joys and cares of having children, and of money, marriage, 
life and death. 

Paul Sooth would sit asleep at my side, with his dark dis- 
hevelled head resting against the wall. But I sat with my 
large eyes and my mouth wide open, drinking in these sketches 
of life with insatiable eagerness, and when one of the old 



66 OTTO BABENDIEK 

women exclaimed, "Just look, Trina, how his eyes are starting 
out of his head," I shrank back abashed. 

I heard but little from home. An abyss seemed to cut me 
off. Engel Tiedje was either too shy to visit me or Uncle 
Peter had forbidden him to come. Yet I felt his love and care 
about me. Unfortunately his methods of communication 
were somewhat cumbersome. Not daring to send a letter 
through the post, he would scribble notes on scraps of paper, 
and entrust them to any carter or tramp who chanced to be 
coming to Steenkarken, with the result that when I was stand- 
ing in the playground, during recreation, one of these dreadful 
fierce-looking people would suddenly appear and roar out my 
name. All the boys would stare, and I used to feel terribly 
uncomfortable. However, I would run over to my friend's 
messenger, snatch the grubby scrap of paper from his hand, 
thrust it quickly into my pocket, and when I was at home by 
myself I would read what my dear old friend said, with my 
eyes blinded by tears. Only once did he appear in person, and 
that was on a cold, raw November day. One of his friends 
who had been to Steenkarken had told him I was coughing, 
and, terrified to death, he had set out immediately. After 
walking for four hours on end, there he stood at the railings ! 
I saw him, but pretended not to. Cowardly little wretch that 
I was, I took no notice of my best friend, the only friend I had 
in the world, in fadl, for my dear mother was queer. There 
he stood, as broad as he was tall, with his huge hat almost 
touching his great round shoulders, and his arms hanging 
down to his knees, while his heavy boots, pulled over his 
trousers, were covered with clay. In his hand he held a 
parcel. After a while Balle Bohnsack caught sight of him, 
and went up to him; after which he came back to me, and 
said in his quiet way : " Hi, Otto, don't you see the old pan- 
technicon over there? There by the railings." 

I pretended that I had only just seen him. " Oh, that's our 
old assistant!" I exclaimed, and we went over to him. 

Balle Bohnsack's natural manner soon put Engel Tiedje at 
his ease, and, gazing at me with his loving, thoughtful eyes, 
he asked Balle whether I was coughing. Then, shaking me 
by the hand, he went away. On turning round I saw that a 
whole crowd of boys had coUefted, with two or three of the 
masters among them. The headmaster called me to him, and 



I MAKE NEW ACQUAINTANCES 67 

asked in a voice loud enough for all to hear — he did this on 
purpose, for he thought he was being funny or clever — who all 
the people were who were constantly talking to me from the 
railingsi He thought they looked suspiciously like thieves or 
murderers. He had seen quite clearly the life-preserver 
under the coat of the last young fellow who had spoken to 
me, and also the child-murder scene tattooed on his arm. 
All this showed that my taste was atrocious and my circle of 
acquaintances deplorable. I replied gently and respedfuUy 
that my acquaintances were certainly neither thieves nor 
murderers, and that the short man I had just spoken to was 
our assistant. But in stentorian tones he declared that I 
ought to go to the doiSor at once, with a boy to escort me on 
either side; for I was obviously blind if I could not see that my 
friends were a set of knaves and cut-throats. 

As far as I remember I did not go to see my mother in 
Stormfeld for two whole years. Like a bird fascinated by the 
eyes of a serpent, I was held spellbound by the school and 
Uncle Peter, and did not dare to stir. 

Possibly he forbade me to go, hoping that if my mother 
never saw me she would succumb all the sooner to her 
melancholia and adopt the course which he regarded as 
inevitable. There may have been other reasons for my not 
wishing to go home. Possibly v/hen my father was lying in 
his coffin I may have seen a strange look in my mother's eyes, 
and, sensitive as I was, she became lost to me from that 
moment. In any case, I thank God that the pidlure my 
memory retained of her, after her death, was full of the loving, 
intelligent, and motherly expression which she always had 
before she fell ill. At all events, I spent my holidays in Steen- 
karken, and my uncle kept me busy cleaning the house, taking 
care to expose me to as many draughts as possible. But my 
chest was stronger than my father's. 

When I was not free for this task, a neighbour used to come 
in. She was a big, portly, unattached female, who was 
always extremely agreeable to us all, but Balle Bohnsack 
thought she was insincere. He called her "the treacle- 
barrel," and ironically urged my uncle to marry her. 
But my uncle hesitated. "No, no," he would reply, "there 
might be children!" And he dreaded children more than 



68 OTTO BABENDIEK 

anything. In vain did Balle assure him that she would have 
no children. My uncle did not like to take the plunge, but 
said he would wait another five years, when she would cer- 
tainly not be able to have any, and then he might perhaps 
marry her. And muttering something in his squeaky voice 
he doubled up, delighted at his own cleverness. 

In t^e course of the second year, when in the middle of the 
sumnwir holidays I was engaged in cleaning the house, a 
letter arrived from Engel Tiedje. 

He gave me all the Stormfeld news, told me about his work 
and about my mother and her persistent melancholia, and 
urged me to pay her a visit as soon as possible to cheer her up. 
He concluded with his usual confident prophecies about my 
glorious future, and once more implored me to come so that 
the sight of me might refresh my poor mother's soul. 

I showed my uncle the letter, which he read eagerly, and 
his cold eyes suddenly brightened. "Aha!" he cried with 
characteristic brutality, "she is casting longing eyes at the 
rope!" He reflected a moment, glancing at me once or 
twice, probably to see what I looked like, and what impres- 
sion his words had made. Oh, what a tragedy that children 
should be delivered up to the mercy of adults, whether good 
or bad, foolish or wise! 

At last, having apparently satisfied himself that my visit, 
especially if he accompanied me, would aggravate rather 
than improve my mother's condition, he declared, to my deep 
, regret, that he would go with me. But he warned me with 
threats not to make any complaints, adding that if I did 
I would only add to my mother's distress, as she could 
not possibly find anyone to provide for me as cheaply as 
he did. 

Love, curiosity, and imagination urged me forward on that 
journey — though I fear my desire to see Engel Tiedje, the forge, 
and the sea-front was greater than any longing for my mother. 
My uncle's presence, however, damped my ardour, for as he 
walked beside me with his cold, vacant face all the flowers 
seemed to wither, the birds to stop singing, and the sun to 
go out. 

When we arrived in the evening Engel Tiedje was hard at 
work outside. On seeing Uncle Peter, I could tell from his 
eyes that he was as bitterly disappointed as I had been, and 



I MAKE NEW ACQUAINTANCES 69 

he hardly greeted us. How differently he would have 
received me had I been alone ! 

Passing through the forge, I went in search of my mother. 
Uncle Peter wanted to come too, but some happy accident 
prevented him. So I went alone through the kitchen and 
timidly opened the door of my mother's room. 

She was sitting in her usual place by the window, staring 
down at the floor, as if she were counting the boards. When 
she heard me, she looked up, and I saw her give a frightened 
start, as if she had been caught red-handed, when all the while 
it was only her loving child ! 

I went towards her, full of anxiety, dread, inquiry, and love. 
When I came up to her I saw a look in her eyes that prevented 
me from jumping into her arms, so I held out my hand, and 
she took it. In a low, timid voice I said I had come to see 
her, and asked her how she was. 

But she left me standing before her, and repeated in con- 
fusion: "Oh . . . how I am . . . how I am. . . ." 

My heart was breaking. Suddenly I burst into tears, 
and, throwing my arms round her neck, I pressed my face 
against hers. Once more she shrank away in fear — shrank 
from the love of her child ! Then, laying a hand on my head, 
as it leant against her, she said, as if the matter were urgent: 
" You must be strong. Do you hear ? You mustn't follow in 
my footsteps. Not in my footsteps ! Now go — go to Engel 
and Uncle. I can do nothing for you." And as if she wished 
to shield me from the infedion of her melancholy, and resist 
the temptation to take me along her own dark and fearsome 
path, she pushed me away, saying in a flurried, frightened 
voice: "Go! Go!" 

It is impossible to describe what went through my childbh 
soul. My mother had given me a stone for my love, and I 
was too small to understand how ill she was. With my arms 
still stretched out to her, I took a step or two back, and looked 
at her in bewilderment. 

Then my uncle came in, and my mother started again, and 
I could see she was making an effort to pull herself together. 
" He hasn't been here for a long time," she said quickly and 
coldly, looking up at him. 

"He had to work," Uncle Peter replied. "Isn't that so? 
You had to work, didn't you?" 



70 OTTO BABENDIEK 

I agreed ; nor did I lie. 

My mother in a low, monotonous voice remarked that 
perhaps it was just as well, and that it was best for her to be 
alone. She seemed to regard her melancholia as a form of 
guilt or crime. 

Then I managed to creep out, leaving Uncle Peter with her. 
The bond between my dear mother and myself had snapped. 
I knew she was ill, ill, ill! But the memory of that day 
tortures me even now. 

I went to find Engel Tiedje in the forge ; but though we sat 
there for some time we could not talk properly, for our ears 
were glued to the kitchen door to catch a sound of Uncle 
Peter's voice. His presence in the house destroyed all the 
pleasure of this visit home. 

It was a miserable week. No matter where I went, or 
where I was, Uncle Peter cast a gloom over everything. 
Whenever he went to my mother, he always sat opposite her 
and talked. What did he talk about? He must have tried 
to blacken her leaden sky. He must have spoken of my father 
and of the possibility of my own death, and confirmed her 
belief that I was delicate and would die young. I don't 
maintain that he did all this out of malice prepense ; it was his 
nature. As soon as he opened his mouth a cloud covered 
one's eyes; when he looked up the sky grew overcast. 

Towards evening on the fifth or sixth day, just as he came out 
and joined us in front of the forge, I had a feeling that I must 
, overcome my fears and go at once to my mother. I was filled 
with vague qualms about her. But when I tried to pass by 
him he said it would be better to leave her alone. Then, 
taking up a position from which he could observe the whole 
house, he began to joke with the peasants in his squeaky voice. 
I remember that he kept his eyes constantly on the little path 
leading to our peat cellar, and that I wondered why he did 
so. But I could not see the path from where I was sitting. 

In the midst of the laughing and joking I found an oppor- 
tunity to walk casually past the front of the house, and cast a 
rapid glance up at the window. Yes, my mother was still 
sitting there, but on seeing my shadow she looked up, and her 
expression was strange, almost hostile. I was horrified. 
That could not be my mother ! 

My uncle called -me back. Once more I was obliged to 



I MAKE NEW ACqUAINTANCES 71 

Stand among the chattering crowd, and noticed that 
my uncle was still keeping a watch on the house. I was 
seized with unutterable fear, but was held spellbound by my 
imcle's eyes. I wanted to speak to Engel, and tell him to go 
to her; but he was on his knees absorbed in his work, and the 
sweat was pouring from his brow. 

At last my overpowering fear gave me courage, and darting 
through the forge and the kitchen I reached my mother's room. 
She was not there! I felt — nay, I knew — that something 
terrible had happened! But, strange to say, I did not fly 
screaming to Engel and tell him what I suspefted, or rather 
was certain of, but returned to the forge and sat for at least 
half an hour, pondering my trouble, a prey to the cruellest 
forebodings. Then, when all the peasants had gone, and 
Uncle Peter and Engel came in, I cried out in a voice that 
tore Engel's heart-strings : 

" Where is my mother?" 

He dashed past me, searched the whole house, and the lofts, 
and then, on going over to the peat cellar, found her — dead. 

And now I seem to remember that the scene suddenly 
changed. Uncle Peter left us. Complaining of a headache, 
he started off that night for Steenkarken. Then neighbours 
appeared, and talked together in hushed tones. One after 
the other they went over to the peat cellar and came back 
shaking their heads in silence. 

With my face buried in my hands I sat by the hearth, and 
now and again I felt a hand passed tenderly over my head. 
Then an old woman, who was our neighbour, came to fetch 
me, and I spent the next few days at her house. It was from 
her that I ultimately learnt that my mother had hanged herself. 

On the third day I began to feel so miserable and lonely 
that I told Engel Tiedje I did not wish to remain any 
longer at the old woman's house, but would prefer to go to 
Mamsell Boehmke, a fat little woman with a permanent 
smile on her shiny plump cheeks, who made a living by 
sewing, ironing, looking after the peasants' houses when they 
went on an outing, and cooking for them when they gave a 
dinner. 

But Engel Tiedje did not like the idea, and the anxious, 
hesitating expression I knew so well entered his eyes. Did I 
really wish to go to her — -to Mamsell Boehmke ? We discussed 



^3 



72 OTTO BABENDIEK 

the matter while he was digging my mother's grave. I 
did not ask him what he was doing; but insisted on finding 
out why he did not want me to go to Mamsell Boehmke. 
I was used to his gratifying my smallest wish, and could not 
understand. He refused to speak out, merely hinting that 
ever since he had got rid of the warming-pan fiend he had 
done with women. I gathered that he was afraid Mamsell 
Boehmke was trying to hook him, and I observed that as a 
matter of fa<ft I had noticed she had come to our front door 
three times on the previous day. 

"Yes!" he exclaimed, casting a frightened glance up from 
the pit. "She wanted some red-hot coals for her stove. 
That's how it always begins. That's how it began with her 
over there," and he pointed across country. 

When the grave was dug, we sat together for a while on the 
wall — ^it was a beautiful warm summer's day — and talked 
about our dear departed. 

When we returned home I repeated my wish to go to 
Mamsell Boehmke, and on perceiving his confusion, promised 
that I would see that she did not bother him. 

He shook his great dishevelled head and wiped the sweat 
from his brow. " It's a bad business. Otto, my boy," he said. 
" If we once start, there'll be no end to it. Small and round 
as she is, she's a dangerous creature." 

In the end, however, I had my way and he took me there. 
She received me very kindly, and with a blush on her shiny 
cheeks begged Engel Tiedje to be seated ; but, pleading urgent 
work, he managed to escape, and I was left alone with her. 
She reminded me of good, soft rich cake, and I sat in front of 
her while she sewed, watching her closely. When I had had 
enough of this, my eyes were attracted by a two-storied house 
made of black velvet, standing in the middle of her sewing- 
table, and she told me it was an exaft reprodu(Sion of the 
Town Hall of Liineburg. I thought it strange that the Town 
Hall of Liineburg should be covered with velvet; but since 
she said it was so, I believed her, and held the belief for years. 

Inside it I found the portrait of a fierce-looking man with 
a long, bushy moustache turned up at the ends, who, she 
proudly informed me, had once been her sweetheart. He was 
an artist — that is to say, a fire-eater and sword-swallower at 
feirs. But she could not tell me why he had not married her. 



I MAKE NEW ACQUAINTANCES 73 

or why he had been suddenly obhged to leave her to go on 
a journey and had never come back. 

"And when he left you, Auntie Sicne" — the children of 
the village all called her that; she was kind to thcm-T-^did he 
give you a souvenir?" I asked. 

She nodded. "And a little baby as well," she replied. 
"But that died." And two glittering tears rolled down hex 
cheeks. 

I tried to comfort her, pointing out that after all the Town 
Hall was a beautiful souvenir. She agreed, saying it was the 
finest thing she possessed, and whoever married her would 
have to promise to treasure it. 

As I thought the conversation was drawing dangerously 
near to Engel Tiedje, I changed the subjed by asking her to 
tell me about the artist. She did so, but eventually came to 
a point when she described him as having had a very broad, 
squat figure, adding that she liked men who were broad and 
squat, and had no wish to conceal her weakness. 

Again I felt that we were approaching too close to Engel 
Tiedje, and picking up a book which I found in the velvet 
casket I asked her what it was. She explained that it was an 
account-book, and that everything in life depended upon 
keeping good accounts. She knew, for instance, of a house, 
not a hundred miles from where we were sitting, where there 
was also an account-book, but it was an account-book in name 
only. If ever she had the opportunity — one could never tell 
— of getting that account-book into her hands, she would put 
it in order, and then that house would flourish, just as hers did. 
Suspefting that the book in question was one I had valued all 
my life, and that it lay inside the desk in the forge, I concluded 
that we were again approaching forbidden ground, and 
refused to go on. I even tried to be nasty to her and sulk. 
But she was so kind, giving me such a beautiful supper, 
and tucking me up in such a motherly, affe<Sionate way in a 
gigantic bed, that I could not do so. 

On the next day the funeral took place. I followed the 
coffin with Engel Tiedje, my little hand in his great big one, 
and the whole village seemed to be walking behind us. But 
I saw no clergyman and heard no bell tolling, and when I 
asked Engel Tiedje about this, he did not like to tell me that 
the Church denied these privileges to suicides. 



74 OTTO BABENDIEK 

My poor darling sick mother! If I had had my way — I 
who had seen her dear eyes look anxiously out into the night — 
I should have had all the bells in the land tolling to turn 
what seemed her shame into her honour ! 

I stayed two or three days longer in Stormfeld, but I left 
Mamsell Boehmke, and lived at the forge, talking to Engel 
Tiedje and having my meals with him, and even sleeping in 
his room. Once Auntie Siene called on us, and offered her 
help; but unfortunately just as she arrived Engel Tiedje hap- 
pened to be very busy with the bellows and the tongs, and 
made so much noise that" her voice was completely drowned, 
and she was obliged to retire in confusion. 

Then the holidays came to an end, and I had to return to 
Steenkarken. Engel took me as far as the mill on the crest of 
the hill, and there we took leave of each other. Not a word 
about Uncle Peter and my wretched plight at his house had 
passed my lips. He would not have known what to do. And 
so with a face calm and grave beyond my years I once more 
turned northward. 



CHAPTER V 

/ Get into a Scrape 

A FEW days after I got back Fritz Hellebeck came to call on 
me. It was just an ordinary visit, but it struck me that he was 
less confident and less boastful than usual. He seemed uneasy, 
and constandy lapsed into thoughtful silence. After we had 
talked for some time he asked me for a book he had lent me, 
so I went to my room to fetch it, and shordy afterwards he left, 
with the book under his arm. 

On the following afternoon a sixthrform boy appeared at 
my uncle's house. He was a short, bloodless creature with 
lifeless features and thin white hands that looked cadaverous. 
He was very unpopular because he curried favour with the 
headmaster, and was a sort of executioner-in-chief to him. He 
forced his way into my room, and I offered him a chair. But 
the wizened youth remained standing at the door, and, looking 
round the room, observed without a sign of emotion: "Your 
uncle has reported you to the headmaster for having stolen 
eleven talers from his desk. To avoid a scandal the affair is 
to be hushed up, and no one will know anything about it. 
But you must go away quietly ... on some excuse or other, 
and take to your heels." 

My God ! I can still see the wizened youth, standing there, 
with his vacant eyes, and his vacant soul, gazing round my 
room, as he pronounced sentence of death on a defence- 
less child. I beheve that while he was delivering his 
terrible message he was a<5tually examining the festoons of 
wallpaper which the damp had stripped from the walls. He 
even looked at one of the pidures, and remarked that it was 
spotted. 

I forget what I felt, thought, or did, when the world seemed 
to have burst above my head, leaving me breathless and 
defenceless beneath the fragments. I don't know whether I 
troubled to wonder who could have taken the money; nor can 
I remember whether it occurred to me that this might be a 

75 



76 OTTO BABENDIEK 

second attempt on my uncle's part to get rid of me. Did it 
ever enter my head that he might have put the money there so 
that one day in my poverty and hunger I might be tempted to 
take it, and in despair follow in the black footsteps of my mother ? 
Or that he himself might have taken the money, or my hero, 
Fritz Hellebeck ? I don't believe I thought at all. All I knew 
was that I was utterly defenceless. 

Frightened to death, I sat waiting in despair, staring in front 
of me and unconsciously moaning until dusk. Then my uncle 
came in, and sitting on the edge of the table looked down on 
me as I cowered in the chair that was my bed. His thin, 
pinched features glowed with a cold and cruel satisfaftion 
quite out of keeping with his lamentations at losing- his money. 
"Eleven talers!" he cried. "Fine old talers, hard-earned. 
Stolen . . . and by my nephew ! By my last remaining rela- 
tive, whom I had taken to my heart and home!" 

I said faintly that I had not taken them. I did not dare 
to say more. 

He opened his eyes wide and they were terrible to behold. 
I have looked into the eyes of lunatics and criminals and 
always found a vestige of humanity. Never since that day 
have I seen the eyes of a beast in a human face. 

"Who did, then?" he rejoined. "I perhaps? Do you 
wish to bring shame on my grey hairs? It would be just 
like you. Or Fritz Hellebeck, the richest, handsomest boy 
in the town? Who would believe you? Or Paul Sooth? 
But I can guarantee that he has never set foot in that 
room." 

Again I protested faintly that I had not done it. But I felt 
so solitary and helpless that my denials sounded timid and I 
could add nothing to them. 

He proceeded to asseverate passionately that he only wanted 
to help me, although I had stolen his precious talers. But he 
had turned the matter over in his mind again and again, and 
was at his wits' end. What did I propose? What had I in 
mind? Obviously I could not stay at the grammar school! 
My school-friends and the masters would all point the finger 
of scorn at me ! 

I said nothing; I knew he was right. 

He continued in the same strain, saying he had racked his 
brains to find a way out, but in vain. If I thought of appren- 



I GET INTO A SCRAPE 77 

ticing myself to Engel Tiedje was I sure he would have me? 
Has a thief the right to be sheltered at all? Besides, who 
would bring a horse or a plough to me ? It was also impos- 
sible for me to turn to my relatives in Ballum or Buchholz. 
Everybody would have heard of my disgrace. What hope was 
there for a boy of ten who was already a thief? If he himself 
had been guilty of such a crime — if one could imagine such a 
thing — he would not have been able to endure life a moment 
longer. He would have said good-bye to life altogether. The 
river Au would have provided the only escape, just where the 
sixth-form boys bathed, where it was deepest. That was 
where he would have gone in my place. But people were 
different! . . . He could not understand how I could sit 
there, not even crying! 

I listened without saying a word. God alone knows what 
I was thinking about! But I am certain now that he had 
expeded me to follow close in my parents' footsteps, and either 
fall a victim to chest trouble like my father, or to melancholia 
like my mother, and that it would do no great harm to hasten 
matters a little. But nature had been kind to me. I possessed 
my father's love of life and my mother's constitution. Thus 
I managed to escape my uncle's toils, in spite of all his broad 
hints, and, discovering a means of escape, I made my way 
into the outside world. 

My uncle left me, and I quickly turned my back on the 
house. Dusk was falling. I must have wandered about the 
market-place for some time, not knowing what to do. Then 
I ran into Fritz Hellebeck, walking with two girls and talking 
with great animation. He did not see me. But when I 
pressed myself on his notice, he threw back his fine head and 
greeted me in his usual friendly way, which always made me 
so happy. How strange and terrible that he should imagine 
he was conferring a favour on me — me, his victim — ^with his 
friendly greeting! Then he went on, jingling the money in 
his pockets — the money which . . . 

I felt I vranted to enter the Kohls' shop. They seemed 
different from other people, or possibly it was the warmth of 
their room that attraded me. As usual I found father and 
son seated at the table. They were busy counting petty cash, 
and exchanged a rapid glance which informed me that they 
knew all. Keeping his seat, Dutti put his fat arm about 



78 OTTO BABENDIEK 

me and hugged me tenderly, "Well, how are you, litde 
Babendiek?" he asked. 

I wanted them to talk about my affair, for I had come to 
this room, in which money matters were constantly discussed, 
partly in the hope of obtaining advice on that subjed. 

Dutti's father held forth as usual about the frivolity of the 
masses, who were always buying things they did not want. 
"But," he continued, "what I cannot understand is that 
certain people who have money, who I know have money, do 
not come to buy things from me. If they must get rid of 
their money and wish to be frivolous, why on earth don't they 
come to me?" 

I remarked softly that I had no money, and had never had 
any. Then, as Dutti changed the subjedl, I ventured to broach 
my question. 

" I have got into debt," I said in a low, timid voice, stand- 
ing with his arm still round me. "Can you lend me the 
money?" (I named the sum.) "I will give it back as soon 
as possible." 

Hugging me more tightly and affedionately than ever he 
replied that while it was true they lent money, and were 
quite willing to do so, they had to have some sort of security. 
Their honest Holstein consciences absolutely forbade any other 
method, much as they would have loved to help me. 

I was silent for a moment, hopelessly seeking a way out; 
then I asked gently: "Has Fritz paid his debts?" My objeA 
< in asking was to get him to back my own loan, if he had 
settled his account. 

Once more father and son looked at each other, and Dutti, 
who was the first to recover, said : " To be quite frank, business 
men do not reveal such things. Fritz Hellebeck's debts? 
Why should Fritz Hellebeck have any debts?" 

"He told me so himself," I replied in a faint voice. I felt 
certain that he had discharged his debt, and that they were 
convinced he had done so with the stolen money. But they 
argued that Fritz Hellebeck was more valuable to them than 
the youngster from the forge, and their one thought was to 
keep out of the distasteful business themselves and satisfy 
their feminine curiosity. 

They expatiated on the topic of honest business for a while, 
deploring their tender consciences, and Dutti hugged me 



I GET INTO A SCRAPE 79 

tighter than ever and rocked me to and fro. I wriggled out 
of his grasp, which nauseated me more and more, and, bidding 
them good-night, went out. 

As I was deliberating desperately whither I should turn, the 
headmaster, who was in the habit of keeping an eye on his 
pupils after dark, suddenly appeared and recognized me. 
Old and bent, he used to prowl about on his crooked legs, 
with the eager searching eyes of a hungry dog. His noble face 
was marred by those eyes, which were full of malice. He 
looked at me as though I were a cannibal with a bloody knife 
between my teeth. 

I believe he began by asking me whether the heavens had 
fallen in or whether the Danes were occupying Steenkarken. 

I plucked up courage to answer, "No!" 
He was silent, and the expression on his sullen face seemed 
to imply that, since these momentous and desirable events 
had not occurred, anything I might have to say was a matter 
of complete indifference to him. 

I told him everything I knew, assuring him that I had not 
taken the money, and hoping that the person who had would 
return it to its place within the week. I don't know why I 
believed this possible, but I certainly did so. 

His face grew gloomier and gloomier, and he looked away 
in disgust. Then, shaking with rage — he did this most con- 
vincingly — he implied that I was beyond the pale. He was 
evidently determined to woimd me in the cruellest, most 
deadly way. 

At that moment my uncle came up, and with an awkward 
bow entreated him not to speak to me. 

The headmaster pretended not to see him, and, looking 
across the market-place, observed in icy tones : " Superfluous 
remark ! The boy says that whoever has taken the money will 
put it back within a week. Ask him who that person is." 

My uncle put the question and I shook my head. 

"Rascal!" cried the old man. 

"That's just what he is," agreed my uncle. 

I repeated my strange hope. 

With another awkward bow my uncle informed the head- 
master that he refused to have me in the house any 
longer. 

"Superfluous remark!" exclaimed the latter, "He must 



8o OTTO BABENDIEK 

be told not only to clear out of house and school, but to get 
out of the town ! And this very day ! " So saying he pointed 
into the distance. 

I crept away and ran to my room. Soon after I reached it 
I was joined by Paul Sooth, who, as usual, sat perched on the 
windowsill. 

He asked me what was the matter, and thought of everything 
I could possibly have done. In any case, whatever it was, he 
said he was ready to help me, though he saw things very black 
indeed. 

I thanked him feebly, but protested that nobody could help 
me now. This made him think of worse crimes. Had I 
assaulted the headmaster, or the dean, or the sheriff of the 
district ? Anyhow, it did not matter — if I wished to fly, he 
would fly with me. 

Meanwhile I had been making a bundle of my small belong- 
ings. I tried to comfort him, assuring him that I had done 
nothing of that kind. When I was ready to go I looked up at 
the only friend I had, and asked him whether he would come 
with me. 

He turned a gloomy face towards me, and his eyes grew 
bright with fear. He said he had not given it sufficient 
thought; he must remember his brothers and sisters, whom he 
had to set free first. But he vowed that the moment the last 
of them had been provided for he would leave with a flourish 
of trumpets. 

I told him I was at my wits' end to know where to go. It 
was out of the question to return to Engel Tiedje and the 
village, where I had always been looked upon as a prince. He 
gazed sadly at me. There was only one thing for me to do, he 
said; I must become a farmer's boy in the country. It was an 
appalling fate, and made him see things exceedingly black, 
but what else could I do? With luck I might escape the 
brutality of the peasants; but my only hope of redress 
would be to appeal in writing to the sheriff". Whereupon, 
taking his own letter of complaint from its place of conceal- 
ment, he begged me to accept it, saying he could always draft 
another. 

This was a genuine proof of devotion, for that letter was his 
most precious possession. Thanking him heartily I put it 
*«n nay pocket. 



I GET INTO A SCRAPE 8l 

I then picked up my bundle, climbed out of the window, and, 
shaking hands with him, went away. 

I decided to go to my grandmother's, and tell her I had left 
Uncle Peter, and wanted to hide with her for a day. I wanted 
time to think out my plans. 

As usual, I found a nvunber of old neighbours smoking pipes 
round a table by the stove, but to my surprise I did not hear 
my grandmother's lively and occasionally spiteful tones, but 
only the monotonous voices of her visitors talking. 

As I stood hesitating in the doorway, one of the old women 
said: "Yes, my dear boy, to-night will see the last of your poor 
old grandmother." 

I gave a litde cry, and dropped alarmed and exhausted on 
a chair near the door. Paying no further heed to me, they 
continued to discuss my grandmother's life. 

I don't know whether my grandmother had really lost con- 
sciousness, but if she hadn't — ^and I don't think she had — she 
must have heard her own funeral oradon. Her old neigh- 
bours passed the whole of her life in review, entering into the 
smallest details, decent and indecent, and thoroughly enjoying 
it. I don't think I have ever heard a more honest and honour- 
able record. Meanwhile, in the dim light of the lamp, all I 
could see was my grandmother's profile, as she lay on her back 
in bed, and I marvelled at the purity of its outline. 

Presently they made coffee, and gave me a cup, which I 
paid for, as my grandmother had no money; after which all of 
them left except one, who remained as a watcher. And she 
and I slept with our heads on the table all night. I was 
awakened by the sound of a squeaky voice, and looking 
up found Uncle Peter standing by the stove, facing the 
bed. The old neighbour was still asleep. Then I heard my 
grandmother speak. It sounded as if she were delirious. 
Addressing my uncle she asked him for money and accused 
him of cheating her at cards. A moment later she was 
singing. 

At last the murmur of her voice seemed to bore him and he 
said : " It would be better if you talked about your own sins, or 
those of your grandchild here, who is a thief and has been 
expelled. But he was too much of a coward to go to the river 
where the sixth-form boys bathe." 

I looked anxiously at the dying woman's face, and devoutly 



82 OTTO BABENDIEK 

hoped that she could no longer understand her son's slanderous 
accusations. He was still standing by the stove, gazing quite 
unmoved at the bed. Suddenly her face began to twitch 
violently, and I stood up in alarm, and stepped back to the 
door, staring at the noble old features. 

I could see that my uncle was laughing inwardly as he 
watched his dying mother's twitching face, and I was so 
terrified that I was tempted to spring at his throat. Possibly 
if I had done so the coward would have been so surprised 
that I should have got the better of him, although he was 
three times my size. 

Dark clouds were sailing over the sky, and plunged the low- 
ceilinged room into darkness. It seemed as if my uncle, 
who had certainly never had the courage to look into his 
mother's honest, noble face when she was up and well, was 
unable to gloat sufficiently now that death was about to turn 
it to marble. 

I don't remember what I thought at the time about these 
two people, who were my next of kin. All I know is that I 
seemed to see a halo about the dying woman, and perhaps it 
was my loathing of the crooked, stunted, wretched specimen 
of manhood by the bed, and my childish dread of death, which 
suddenly made me jump up with a cry, leave the room, pick 
up my bundle, and flee from the house. 

> • • • • 

I stopped running only when the last of the little tumble- 
down cottages was behind me, and I was on the high road, 
which at this point was flanked by sparsely grown fields and 
bushy heath. 

I was a child with a lively imagination and had dark visions 
of specSres, robbers, giants, and witches. Moreover, I was 
miserable and utterly forlorn. I saw no prospedl of receiving 
hospitality anywhere, and Sooth's tales about the brutality of 
the peasants were not calculated to inspire me with confidence. 
So it was not surprising that in my desire to escape the things 
above ground I was prepared to join the dead in their graves 
or the witches in their dens, and that I even took a certain 
gruesome pleasure in the supposed proximity of these uncanny 
creatures. 

After a good hour's walk I reached the end of the heath 
and the dunes, and came to the marshes, which seemed to 



1 GET INTO A SCRAPE 83 

Stretch to infinity towards the west and south. At what 
seemed to me a great distance away I saw a number of scattered 
farms, and made up my mind to seek employment on one of 
them. So I continued on my way, and must have walked 
for quite another hour. It was marshy, waterlogged coimtry, 
and the farms stood in their own fields set well back from the 
highway. I wanted to call at each one I passed, but could not 
siunmon up the courage. Now that I was standing at the 
crossroads of destiny I felt incredibly faint-hearted. More- 
over, I was exhausted, for I had come a long way, and I had 
not been to bed all night. It must have been about seven 
o'clock in the morning. 

Sitting down on a stone by the wayside, I burst into tears, 
longing for the company of some kind man, Engel Tiedje above 
all. Oh, how I longed to be sitting on his lap, clasped in 
his great long arms ! My sobs must have gradually subsided 
and ceased, for I fell into a deep sleep. 

I was wakened by the sound of a trotting horse, a youth's 
curses, and the cawing of a jackdaw, and on looking up I saw 
Balle Bohnsack bending down over me. He was in his ragged 
leather jacket, sitting on hislean brown mare, with his jackdaw 
perched on the horse's black mane in front of him. 

I started up, and asked him what he was doing there. But 
in his grandfatherly tones he replied that he surely had a better 
right to put that question to me. 

Suddenly remembering what had happened, I lowered my 
eyes, and said nothing. I was ashamed of the suspicion under 
which I lay, and felt too agitated to speak. 

He looked at his watch, said he would cut the fii-st lesson at 
school, and asked me to tell him what was the matter. 

I told him everything. He asked me how I knew that the 
money had always been there. Again I lowered my eyes. 
God knows, I was ashamed to tell him, for I felt that my 
answer must imply a suspicion, and I would have given the 
world to mention any other name than the one so sacred to 
me. But I had to tell him. 

He gave a low whistle. I understood and blushed. 

He noticed the colour in my cheeks, and immediately 
grasped its meaning. 

I protested that I never said he had done it. 

" I don't say so either," he rephed thoughtfully. 



84 OTTO BABENDIEK 

I was overjoyed that he should believe me at once, as I felt 
he did, and I told him that in no circumstances could I 
return to Steenkarken, and as for home — my parents were 
dead. 

"I know," he replied; "but there's that pantechnicon 
Johnny who lives at your house." 

I said that I was too much ashamed, and, bursting into 
"^ tears, told him that I was afraid everybody, even in my native 
' village, would hear what had happened. 

He pooh-poohed this, and again asked me what I proposed 
to do. 

I told him I intended to seek employment on one of the 
farms in the neighbourhood. He whisded again, but agreed 
it was the best thing I could do, though I ought to let the old 
pantechnicon know as soon as I was setded. 

I explained that I was going to tell him I was no good at 
book learning, and that the dodor had ordered me to give it 
up and try living in the country for two years. 

He heartily approved. After a moment's thought, he sug- 
gested that if I wanted to be a farm boy I had better go to his 
farm, where he would be able to look after me, adding that 
although his parents were not much good Bothilde would 
help me. 

The offer revived my spirits a Uttle, and I looked up. He 
was still on his horse, and his jackdaw, which had flown to 
a tree, was awaiting his invisible signal to join him. He 
explained that Bothilde was his sister — "a great powerful 
wench," he said, "as fair as I am" — and pointing to a large 
farm in the fields he added: "Go and tell her she is to take 
you in, and ask no question till I return to-night." 

What are my earliest memories of life at the Bohnsacks' 
farm? I can see myself at dawn, sitting on the edge of my 
litter, gazing at the straw on which I had slept, with my red 
check rug behind me. My eyes closed, I would sway from 
side to side. If I fell back on the straw again, the farm labourer 
who shared my quarters, and was already pulling on his jacket, 
would call out, "Up! Up, Otto!" 

Then we would go into the fields and run through the mist 
for the horses. Fortunately I had been brought up wdth 
horses. At last I would catch two and lead them to the man. 



I GET INTO A SCRAPE 85 

who, heaving me like a sack of com on to one of them, would 
return to the farm with his batch. And as we trotted on — I 
anxiously holding on and terrified of falling under the huge 
hoofs below — I would gradually wake up and come to my 
senses. True, all my limbs felt stiff and bruised, and I would 
yawn all through the morning; but I would get through my 
long day's work somehow. 

I can also see myself working in the fields, and constantly 
turning my head towards the farm and the road, so as not to 
miss Balle as he galloped off to school, with his jackdaw flitting 
from branch to branch at his side. I gazed sadly after him, 
for I had no opportunity now for learning and reading, and 
was banished from the books in which I imagined — somewhat 
erroneously — all my earthly joys and hopes were centred. I 
was certainly allowed to attend the village school once a week, 
though only for three hours; but the whole time I had an 
agonizing struggle with my heavy eyelids, which were con- 
stantly drooping, and my head, that insisted on falUng forward 
on to the table. The master took no notice of me. But I 
tried to learn, though the teaching was so unintelhgent and I 
felt so tired that I always fell asleep. 

I can also see myself seated at the long table in the hall. 
At the head sat the fanner, big, dark, and taciturn, and by him 
his wife, who was just as tall, but thin and fair and always dis- 
agreeable. They were at loggerheads with each other and 
with the whole world. I kept out of their way, because I 
remembered what Paul Sooth had told me. Opposite me 
sat the two girls. Bothilde, the big, red-haired one, who was 
the daughter of the house, was always serious and said very 
littie, but the little round one was always laughing. I thought 
them both exceedingly beautiful, and my affeftions wavered 
between one and the other. On Sundays Balle was at home 
and sat by me. But he was dimib in his parents' presence, as 
was also his jackdaw, perched behind him on the back of his 
chair. 

But after dinner, when we went together through the 
wilderness of a garden to the hut where he kept his animals, 
he became himself again. Then with his pet fox on one arm, 
and the other ready to write, he would tell me the subjeft of 
his composition, and ask me to didate it to him. This done, 
we walked across the fields and through the stables, and I 



86 OTTO BABENDIEK 

listened to all his complaints about his parents, whom he 
hated. " They are regular ravens. As soon as their children 
grow up they throw them out of the nest. They have already 
turned out the two eldest, and they will drive me and 
Bothilde away too." 

What else do I remember ? I can see myself writing, with 
eyes blinded by tears, to Engel Tiedje, telling him that I was 
in the best of spirits, but that I had sometliing the matter with 
my lungs, which fortunately the dodor had discovered in time. 
I believe I adually told him that the dodor was a friend of 
mine, and that he had sent me to live on a farm in the country. 
I said I had obtained work, and begged him not to come to 
me, adding that I would go to see him in the winter. 

With beating heart I awaited his reply, which arrived 
a fortnight later. As usual, I felt qualms when I saw his 
handwriting. He pretended to be cool and coUeded, but 
in his heart of hearts he was a visionary and a prophet. Had 
not my father known it? And it came out in his letters, 
which also bore witness to the generosity of his great bashful 
heart. 

He sent me his warmest greetings for my eleventh birthday, 
recapitulated the circumstances of my birth, and spoke 
of my good angel. Auntie Lena, reminding me how she had 
come on the day I was bom with the dark woman, who had 
given me the old Dutch coin. He told me that every Sunday 
after feeding the pigs he always took the coin out of its hiding- 
place, examined it, and hoped that its brightness might lead 
me along the upward path. But the upward path was not to 
be found in the neighbourhood of a dung-heap ! He apolo- 
gized for mentioning this. Then, calling me his "son in the 
spirit," he said he was longing for me to pay him a visit, 
and looked forward to the talks we should have, on either side 
of the table, with the gold piece between us, while we gazed 
on its brightness, which was a symbol of the love that binds 
the world. 

What else can I remember? 

I cannot recoiled much about the harvests, except that they 
were accompanied by much sunshine and wind. I have a 
more vivid recoUedion of the ploughing season. Most of our 
land was used for grazing, for we had a large number of cows, 
and there were two particularly rich meadows reserved for 



I GET INTO A SCRAPE 87 

horses on the edge of the macshes. But we had a good deal of 
arable land as well. We used to plough this with teams of 
three to five horses, and I was always with the ploughman. 
We used to plough from dawn till late in the evening, and it 
was sometimes so cold in the morning that, try as I might, I 
could not get warm on the horse's back. 

But in spite of the cold and my intense weariness, I enjoyed 
it. I was proud to think that small as I was I could help in 
the ploughing. And what I liked most of all was that I was 
obliged to sing at the plough. I believe I had to sing from 
morning to night, and if I was silent for any length of time 
I heard the ploughman's voice saying, " Well, don't you know 
any more?" 

When we returned home at night how proud we felt ! 
How we cracked our whips ! And if no girl's face appeared, 
the ploughman would send me to the kitchen door, and I 
would call out in my clear, piping voice: "The ploughmen 
are here!" How proud I was then! I was a man! I was 
doing a man's work! The ploughmen were most important 
people. Their appearance at the farmstead meant a general 
festival. 

I got on well with the girls. They were offhand but never 
unkind to me. I used to watch both them and all they did 
with the deepest interest, and remember that they struck 
me as being great powerful giantesses, especially when they 
were washing and I saw their naked arms and necks. More- 
over, as far as I was concerned, they were the all-powerful 
custodians of such precious things as butter, apples, plums, 
and, at festival times, of raisins and currants. Once they left 
the tap of the beer-barrel on, so that all the beer ran away, and 
they were terrified of the scolding they would get from Frau 
Bohnsack. So they swore I had done it. I concluded that 
they must have some sort of right to tell such lies, and, hoping 
the woman would not bite my head off, I added my own lies 
to theirs, and explained how the accident had happened. She 
boxed my ears and scolded me, but I bore it all, and found that 
the girls rewarded me generously for my chivalry. 

Was I unhappy at this time?; I was certainly dead tired 
physically, for I never got enough sleep; but I was growing 
very fast. What distressed me most was the fa<S that the 
farmer and his wife were so disagreeable. But for that I was 



88 OTTO BABENDIEK 

SO comfortable and happy that for weeks at a time I was in 
danger of becoming completely adapted to my circumstances, 
and adopting the life for good. 

But I always recalled my father's wise words and his intelli- 
gent face. I also saw my mother, Engel Tiedje, Almut, 
her friend Hans, and by his side proud Fritz Hellebeck, with 
his books under his arm. . . . And my mind would go 
back to books ! 



CHAPTER VI 

/ Gain a Friend 

I T H I N K the ploughman must have fallen ill and died soon after 
Christmas, and I begged Bothilde to find somewhere else for 
me to sleep instead of the old straw-loft. Frau Bohnsack may 
also have wished me to change, so that I could sleep in the 
girls' room and put a stop to their pranks at night. At any 
rate, my bed was moved to the large room near the kitchen, 
where the two girls slept, and here the new ploughman, quite 
a decent fellow, would come of an evening to smoke. With 
him came a man called Dieter Blank, a litde fellow with red 
hair, whose eyes radiated the fire and energy of youth. He 
was in love with Bothilde, and his chair was usually drawn 
close up to hers. Sometimes other young folk came, as many 
as ten or twelve at a time. 

Dieter Blank, who hailed from the Schleswig moors, was, 
like most fiery people, a clever, agreeable fellow. He had 
more to say than anybody else, and I gathered that he used to 
play the violin at weddings and parties in the district, and that 
he drank a little too much as well. 

I used to go to bed dire6Uy after supper and Ue awake, so 
that I could watch the company. Each of them occupied a 
chair, and the men smoked, while the girls knitted, as they 
discussed the events of the day. Sometimes Dieter Blank 
would bring his .fiddle, and play, as I thought, extremely 
beautifully. 

How I came to be asked to tell them stories, I cannot 
remember. But in any case they used to invite me to do so 
every night, and, although at first I felt rather shy, when once 
I had got into a story the excitement would carry me away. 
As I sat up in bed, in the light of the fire, my one and only 
thought was to convey to my listeners as vividly as possible the 
piftures my imagination conjured up. But when the great 
room, which was never very well lighted, grew quite dark, I 
would suddenly have to stop, sometimes, to my surprise, before 

S9 



go OTTO BABENDIEK 

my story was finished. As a rule, it was Dieter Blank, who sat 
by Bothilde, who was the first to ask me to stop. And then I 
would do so at once and lie down. But I did not go to sleep, 
because I wanted to listen a little while longer. But, try how 
I might, I could no longer hear anything they said; for sud- 
denly they all spoke in whispers, and I fondly imagined it was 
on my account. Nevertheless, I could not help feeling aston- 
ished when, through the darkness, I could just manage to see 
that whereas a moment previously all the chairs had been 
occupied, suddenly every other chair stood vacant, although 
no one had left the room. And the people on the occupied 
chairs also seemed to have grown larger. I remember that I 
had the strangest explanations for this extraordinary pheno- 
menon. I also heard the girls giggle from time to time, 
and then suddenly grow angry. Whereupon a comforting 
murmur from a familiar male voice would reply. One morn- 
ing, while they were milking in the stable and I was grooming 
the horses, I questioned the two girls about this mysterious 
proceeding. 

Bothilde, who kept a straight face, replied with some hesi- 
tation that I could not have noticed the occupants of the 
empty chairs leave the room; but Dickje, the little fair girl, 
was immensely tickled. Resting her head against her cow's 
brown hide, she laughed until she cried. 

I was not a very good-looking boy, but I had a nice slim 
figure, and pretty hair which lay attradively over my temples, 
while my dark blue deep-set eyes had a pure, pleading expres- 
sion, which moved people's hearts. Moreover, I was eager 
to work and ready to please. Thus the two girls grew more 
and more fond of me. This was not surprising in Dickje, for 
she was a friendly creature; but even Botlulde grew attached to 
me. I felt rather shy in the presence of this great wench with 
her heavy movements. But I loved her all the same. 

Shortly before the harvest a curious thing happened. One 
mild still evening, when she was sitting alone at our bedroom 
window and the whole farm was quiet — I presume all the 
others were attending some festival — she suddenly got up, 
heaved a deep sad sigh, and to my surprise asked me to go out 
with her. Feeling highly honoured I walked eagerly beside 
her. We sauntered slowly across the first horse-meadow with- 
out saying a word, and when I glanced surreptitiously up at 



I GAIN A FRIEND 9I 

her powerful face, with its dark eyes and broad brow, I saw in 
the pale moonlight that she seemed to be scanning the distance 
for something. Then we reached a path through a cornfield ; 
the corn stood high and looked ghastly and white. She 
grasped my hand, and I was delighted. No woman had taken 
my hand in hers since my mother died. 

As we went on and it grew darker, she said 'calmly, " As your 
legs must be wet through with the dew, it won't matter if they 
get a little wetter." 

So saying she stepped with me into a ditch. I raised no 
objedion, and we went on walking, while the water, which at 
first reached up to my knees, was soon up to my hips. But she 
said nothing, though she was breathing heavily, as if con- 
stantly suppressing a sigh; and, still scanning the distance, she 
grasped my hand as if I were a help and support. Although I 
felt the whole proceeding was very strange, I imagined there 
must be some dark meaning behind it, and that it was not 
wrong, and I strode obedient and unquestioning at her side. 
We went to the end of the ditch; then, clambering out, she 
looked anxiously round. What happened after that I have 
forgotten. 

A few evenings later, when I was groping my way to the 
orchard to fill my pockets with apples, I heard her voice by the 
lilac-tree at the back of the house, and stopped to listen. God 
knows I was not moved by idle curiosity, or love of scandal; 
but ever since my earliest childhood I had always taken the 
keenest interest in everything human. She was talking to 
Dieter Blank the fiddler about a festival that v/as to take place 
shortly in a village some distance away. 

"So you mean to go!" she was saying, in her calm tones. 
"But when you see some girl or other, she will bewitch you, 
and it will be the old story over again." 

He assured her that he was not going. 

But she was certain he would go. 

"I see you don't love me," he said sadly, "and that's the 
whole trouble. If you were nice to me I would be steady and 
reasonable. I would let women and wine go to the devU and 
be faithful to you." 

Whereupon her voice suddenly changed, and she said in 
stirring tones of weak surrender: "But you know I'm mad 
about you." . 



92 OTTO BABENDIEK 

Even he was moved. "No, I didn't know," he replied 
softly, 

"Then you know now," she said, in the same stirring voice, 
and with a stifled sob, and the gentlest appeals, she implored 
him not to go to the festival. 

The humility in her voice frightened me so much — I re- 
garded her as a 'mighty princess — that at this stage I must 
have run away. 

I don't remember much about my journey to Stormfeld, but 
I know how I arrived. It was a dull, rainy day in Oftober, and 
Engel Tiedje was standing in the middle of a heap of ploughs 
and harrows in front of the great door of the forge. 

He started violently when he saw me, probably more on 
account of the expression in my eyes than because I had 
suddenly come upon the scene. 

I know I looked at him in mortal terror, trying to discover 
whether he knew anything about the alleged theft. But as I 
soon saw he was gazing at me in the same old affeftionate way, 
my face cleared, and I imagined he had believed my lie about 
my health, and knew nothing about the theft. 

It was only later that I learnt I was mistaken and that he had 
heard everything, even before my letter reached him. He 
had adually gone to Steenkarken and seen both my uncle and 
the headmaster, but he never for one moment believed in my 
guilt. He had also visited the Bohnsacks' farm, and spied 
round, but on finding that I was decently treated, he had 
been content to leave me there. I believe he must have 
obtained some of his information about me from Balle Bohn- 
sack, for the two always spoke of each other with the greatest 
interest. 

How delighted he was to see me! "God's truth!" he 
exclaimed tenderly. " My little boy ! Miracle of God ! My 
little Otto ! " Then he led me into the forge, and we sat down 
in our usual places, and were soon engaged in the liveliest con- 
versation. He thought I had grown, and expressed his delight 
that the danger was over, saying it was the stable air that had 
done the trick. He adted his part well ! 

On the following morning he took me all over the house and 
through the little garden. He evidently wanted to set my 
mind at rest by showing me that everything was in the same 
apple-pie order in which my njothc Uad left it. Apparently 



I GAIN A FRIEND 93 

he now had a horse and a cow, and tilled the little piece of 
ground we owned himself. As a further proof that everything 
was in order and well looked after, he took me to the forge and 
showed me the account-book and the records of his steward- 
ship. I glanced down the pages pretending to understand, 
and said that it seemed all right. But I believe I wondered 
even then how it was that, although he always had plenty to 
do and worked hard, he was always short of money. I am 
convinced that the six marks he gave me on the following 
morning when I left was the only money he had. In fa<5l I 
believe they were borrowed from the mason's widow, who 
did his washing, because I saw him run over to her rather 
awkwardly before breakfast. 

I had to be back at tlie farm by midday on the third day of 
my leave, and it was only at breakfast that morning that I 
screwed up courage to tell him that I should like to go back to 
the granunar school. My Uncle Peter was too wicked for me 
to return to him; and there were others in Steenkarken whom 
I hinted I never wished to see again. 

He was evidently acutely conscious of his inability to help 
me in the diificulties of life. We were silent for some time, 
while he rocked me gently in his arms. Forlorn little waif that 
I was this gave me an indescribable feeling of being loved, as 
though I were being rocked on my mother's lap again. At last 
he said hesitatingly : " I have thought over it a good deal. Otto; 
there are two things we can do. We might manage it our- 
selves, but we should have to raise a fresh mortgage." 

I had heard this word before in the twilight of Dutti Kohl's 
shop, and had gathered it was a troublesome business. I 
tried to explain this. 

He was at a loss for a reply, for he must have known that 
our litde property was already heavily mortgaged, and had 
been ever since my father's illness. At last he suggested 
that he might approach the dean, my godfather, on my 
behalf. 

I told him that he would certainly not succeed where my 
father had failed. He agreed, and, taking his keys from his 
pocket, unlocked a drawer in the desk and laid something 
wrapped in paper on the table. I knew it was the gold coin, 
and as we sat gazing at it he told me that he had been to 
Ballum to spy out the land. Frau Mumm, the lady with the 



94 OTTO BABENDIEK 

gold necklace, had returned to her house on the market-place 
with her son and daughter. The son was a hefty lad of about 
sixteen, and would make a good blacksmith's apprentice, while 
the girl, who was about my own age, was thin and gawky. 
With drops of sweat standing out on his brow, he added ner- 
vously that "she" was there too, and when I inquired whether 
he meant the warming-pan woman he nodded anxiously and 
said she was Frau Miunm's servant. 

What a calamity ! Why should that fiery creature be in that 
house of all places ! We were at our wits' end. At last he 
comforted me by saying that if I avoided the subjeft of fire and 
kept away from her when she was near it, I would get on with 
her all right. 

When I asked whether he had spoken to Frau Mumm, he 
replied that "the person" — his former wife — had come to the 
door just as he was looking at the house. Evidently that had 
been enough! And he had fled. 

He said that Frau Mumm was immensely wealthy, but as 
hard as nails. 

I asked him about Auntie Lena. 

"I have seen her!" he exclaimed, his eyes lighting up. 
" Her name is Lena Bornholt, and she has grown a bit fatter 
since we last saw her. I saw her walking with a gentleman, 
who turned out to be her husband, Dr Bornholt, professor at 
the grammar school at Ballum." 

"Did she recognize you?" I exclaimed eagerly. 

" My dear Otto," he rejoined, " would it have been a good 
thing if she had ? She can't have a very pleasant recoUeftion 
of hie ! How did I behave when she came here ? Rottenly, 
Otto, my boy, rottenly! Yes, you can say so to my face. I 
behaved rottenly!" 

As he had said it himself I was boimd to agree. "And I 
know now, Otto," he added — " I mean since I have seen her 
again, that we have two strings to our bow — the mortgage and 
Auntie Lena." 

It was nearly time for me to go. He went with me as far as 
the hill from which the brickworks could be seen. Then he 
handed me a small linen bag about the size of my hand, with a 
stout string to it, and told me that it contained the gold coin. 
I was to wear it round my neck, under my shirt, and I could 
see that he was struggling with tears as he fastened it on. He 



1 GAIN A FRIEND 95 

seemed to feel that he could do nothing more for me. It was 
his last hope. And for all his fond imaginings he must have 
felt it was a forlorn one. 

We said good-bye at the old deserted saw-mill, and he went 
back to work. 

• • • • • 

In addition to his other adivities, Farmer Bohnsack carried 
on a fairly lucrative trade in horses, and in the autvmui, 
direftly after the harvest, I was again obliged to scour the 
countryside. As a rule I set out long before dawn with the 
new farm-hand, who rode ahead of me with another string of 
horses; but as often as not I had to go alone. 

I remember many such rides, as I followed behind with my 
string of horses. As there was no light I could hardly see the 
moving mass a hundred yards in front, and when trees or 
buildings intervened I would peer eagerly through the 
darkness, listening for the clink of a chain or the sound 
of a horse's hoof ahead; whereupon I would put my team 
to the trot, until I could see the moving mass ahead of 
me again and feel reassured. And thus we rode, through 
sleeping hamlets, along lonely field-paths, over moorland and 
through woods. 

Balle told me that the man was always half-asleep on these 
rides. But I was never more awake. I would see the young 
swain standing in the shadow of a wall beneath his sweetheart's 
window, the fox creepihg away from the farmsteads, and the 
roe standing ghostlike in the twilight of the woods. I heard 
the note of the first birds, and as it grew light I saw the life in 
the cottages, and imagined the secret tears and laughter which 
the walls concealed. Then I began to feel happier; my anxiety 
grew less, my distress turned to calm wistfulness, and hope 
would gradually cheer my heart. 

But all too often sadness and despondency outweighed my 
good cheer. It was not that I was tired and felt the strain on 
my legs, which were too short to grip the broad backs of the 
horses, or that my arms ached from the constant pull of the 
halters. It was the facft that Farmer Bohnsack often sent me on 
these journeys alone that made my imagination play havoc 
with my nerves. 

Slow, cautious, and suspicious in other ways, Farmer Bohn- 
sack was singularly careless with regard to these excursions of 



96 OTTO BABENDIEK 

mine. He sometimes sent me on a three-hour ride all alone 
through the night with a string of valuable young animals, 
regardless of the difficulties I might encounter. More than 
once I had over a thousand marks in the breast-pocket of my 
jacket, and after my unhappy experiences I was terrified when 
I had this money on me. 

Once or twice — ^as I see now — I was in very real danger. 
One morning, for instance, feeling utterly exhausted, I left the 
farm at dawn with three horses. As I entered the high road 
to Friederichhof, which crossed the moor and was quite 
deserted, I saw two men standing at the foot of a fir-tree. 
They looked as if they had been waiting for me, and as I came 
up they approached me and began talking, telling me to dis- 
mount and have a chat. But I grasped my reins all the 
tighter. Then they asked me whether I could sell them a 
horse, and smacking one of the beasts on the thigh made it 
start. The blood rushed madly through my veins, but I pre- 
tended to think they were joking, and chaffed them for a while 
to try to gain time. But I felt as though I had been there for 
years, when suddenly a man leading a horse and cart loomed 
through the mist, and I was saved. 

On another occasion I had just been paid four thousand 
marks by some horse-dealers. As I was leaving the inn where 
I had received the money I heard the landlady exclaim what a 
fool my master must be. " It will get to be known that that 
child rides about with all that money," she said, "and then 
there will be trouble." 

Balle envied me these rides across country, and every evening 
he would take me to his hut near the orchard, where he kept 
his menagerie, and ask me how I had got on. One Sunday 
when his parents had gone to Steenkarken, as they frequently 
did, we were standing at this spot, when he again complained 
bitterly of not having been able to go on any of these excursions 
with me. 

I asked him why he did not wish to be a farmer. 

He was holding a young hare in his arms, while his jackdaw 
was cawing noisily on the roof of the hut. He shook his head. 
" If my faSier thought for one moment that I wanted to be a 
farmer," he replied, "and was casting covetous eyes on the 
farm, he would kick me out at once. He is ajdevil. He is 
treating his children just as he treated his brothers and sisters. 



I GAIN A FRIEND 97 

He was the eldest, and he chucked them all out. As for 
mother — well, she's right off her chump." 

When I inquired what he meant he replied, "Absolutely 
daft." Then he asked whether I could guess how she kept 
her face so white and soft. I had noticed it was peculiar, but 
had no idea what she did to it. 

"Face cream!" he cried. "And who pays for it? Oh, 
well, let's chuck it! But I'm thinking that one of these fine 
days my sister will put an end to their monkey- tricks ! " 

But his sister was so quiet and amenable, I protested. 

"Yes," he agreed, "outwardly. But inwardly she is the 
biggest firebrand going. If she ever sees through them Grod 
help them!" 

He again discussed his idea of being a clergyman and the 
three years' supply of sermons, and said that the only thing he 
was afiraid of was that his girl would not put up with the 
animals. 

"What girl?" I exclaimed. 

" Why, the ferryman's daughter," he replied. " You know 
the ferry to Ballum." 

I did not tell him that I knew both Ballum and the 
ferry, and he begged me, if ever his father sent me in that 
diredion, to be sure to greet Dina Busch, " from her young 
man." 

A few weeks later, on one of my horse-dealing expeditions, 
I chanced to find myself about an hour's ride from the ferry, 
and decided to take a roundabout way home, and pay a visit 
to ferryman Busch and his daughter. On reaching the spot, 
from which in the distance I could see the town of Ballum 
which my father had once pointed out to me so hopefiilly, I 
dismounted, and tethering my horse to a post sauntered past 
the ferryman's cottage. The two eldest children, whom I 
remembered having seen five years previously, were sit- 
ting in front of the cottage. They were a fresh, good-looking 
couple, and regardless of the cold afternoon wind were sitting 
there very simply and tidily dressed. The girl was knitting 
diligently. As she bent forward, I could see how carefully 
her hair was combed on either side of the parting, and her 
round fece glowed with health and cleanliness. But cleanest 
of all were her eyes, which seemed to look out upon the world 
as if it were slightly soiled. Her brother's head was bowed 



gS OTTO BABENDIEK 

over a slate, on which I could see row upon row of figures 
arranged with meticulous regularity. 

Evidently they were used to boys coming along with horses, 
for they hardly looked up. Although I was very shy, I screwed 
up courage to speak to her, and asked her whether her name 
was Dina. 

She nodded curtly. 

I said that I had come to bring her greetings from her 
young man. 

Letting her knitting drop into her lap, she looked up. 
"Gracious goodness!" she exclaimed, "what an idiot! He's 
mad!" 

Her brother appeared to be accustomed to these messages 
for his sister; in any case they did not interrupt his calculations. 

I asked her what Balle had done. 

" What has he done?" she retorted, as if she were surprised 
that I had not heard the tale of his misdeeds shouted from the 
housetops. " What has he done?" she repeated, as if it were 
quite sufficient for him to be merely himself. "There he 
stands, where you are now, his hair all dishevelled, his boots 
and breeches covered with mud, and his dreadful cap on his 
head, and tells me I am to be his wife!" 

She evidently thought him quite riiad, and, shaking her 
neat little head as if she had just seen a toad, declared that if 
she lived to be a hundred she would never have a civil word for 
him, and did not care "that" for him — "that" being the 
tiniest little bit of her liljde finger. So saying, she looked at me 
with such scorn and contempt that, somewhat perfidiously, I 
decided to stifle any respecfl I might still have felt for Balle, and 
in future to be more stand-offish with him. Meanwhile I 
assured her that I had only a passing acquaintance with the 
monster — ^which she said was something to be thankful for, as 
it would be a terrible calamity to be obliged to have anything 
to do with him. 

As I was now completely won over, I warned her that he 
was a pig-headed devil, and that having made up his mind to 
marry her things looked serious. 

She glanced up at me, and I could see that she doubted my 
sanity. At this point her father appeared. As it had rained 
heavily all night, he had put on his oilskins, and looked more 
like a walking mountain than a man. 



I GAIN A FRIEND 99 

He was very friendly, asked me about my parents, and was 
most sympathetic when I told him that they were dead. 

I said I had recognized his eldest child immediately. 

"Helmut!" he exclaimed, his eyes brightening. "He is 
going into the Guards. At present he is keeping the books for 
the dairy, and earns fourpence a day ! " And he gazed proudly 
at his first-born. 

When I asked about Dina he replied that she had nine 
people's stockings to dam, as her mother had no time, and 
laughed proudly. Then his wife appeared. She was a stout 
little woman, with a huge white apron, and was carrying a pail 
of milk. Sitting down by her children on the bank, she asked 
me where I lived. 

I was somewhat ashamed to confess that I lived with the 
Bohnsacks. 

She nudged Dina. "Your young man's people!" she ex- 
claimed. The ferryman roared with laughter. 

" He and Dina?" he said. " Why, Dina would sooner take 
a sweep!" 

" It's funny," observed her mother, " but there's something 
in your eyes. You don't look a bit like a stable-boy." 

" She knows a thing or two," said the ferryman, and pro- 
ceeded to tell us about a certain waiter in the second company 
of his regiment who looked extremely aristocratic, and 
eventually proved to be of noble birth. 

Frau Busch gave me a glass of milk to drink, and I mounted 
my horse and rode away. 

During the autumn I was sometimes quite alone with 
Bothilde. Dickje shared another room with the little maid, 
and the winter gatherings in my room had not yet started. 
Bothilde used to send me to bed early, but I could not, or 
would not, go to sleep, and used to talk to her as she sat sewing 
at the window. After a while Dieter Blank, the httle fiddler, 
would come, and Bothilde would get up and sit whispering 
with him by the stove. I kept as still as a mouse, listening 
eagerly for any light their conversation might shed on human 
life. Though they might begin with ordinary topics she 
always ended by imploring him to give up wine and women, 
and not attend any more festivals. " You are a farmer's son," 
she woiold say, "and should be above such things." 

She was a big, well-built girl, quiet and matter-of-fa«S, like 



lOO OTTO BABENDIEK 

many others in the neighbourhood. They were like lonely 
walled-in gardens; one could see only the topmost blooms and 
guess at the other fragrant flowers that filled them. I heard 
her imploring him in earnest, moving accents, full of kind- 
ness and love, to listen, and was genuinely delighted when he 
promised he would not go to some festival or other. But I 
felt certain he would do what she wanted. How could any- 
body resist such beauty and gentleness ! 

Occasionally, in the middle of some such scene, he would 
beg for a proof of her love. "Give me a proof!" he cried. 
" If you proved you loved me, I would stay at home ! " I did 
not quite see what further proof she could give; for she called 
him the most endearing names, and must certainly have 
fondled him. His continued pleading seemed to me incom- 
prehensible and distressing. Then she would call out softly 
to me, " Are you asleep?" 

More often than not I must have been asleep when she put 
that question. But if I was still awake it never occurred to 
me that she might have preferred me to be asleep — on the con- 
trary, I thought she was glad I was still awake. For she would 
come up to my bed and say: "Otto, there's a noise in the 
stable. It sounds as if the calves had got loose. Will you go 
and see ? But go quietly." Or : " Otto, it's raining hard, and 
I think I can hear an open window rattling in the attics. Will 
you go and see? But go very quietly." Or else she thought 
she had left the stable door open. 

I was only too ready to do anything for her! But how 
terrified I was, going to the top of the house in the dark! 
What visions I saw ! Not to mention the howling of the wind 
and the scuttling of the rats and mice. 

On one occasion the stable door really was open when I 
reached it, and as I caught hold of the latch to close it I heard 
a low cry and Dickje's voice saving: " Heavens, what's that ? . . . 
Who's there? . . . Isityoii?" 

I whispered that Bothilde had sent me to see to the door. 
When she had recovered from her surprise she called gently 
into the darkness, " Be off! " and as a man crept away she knelt 
down before me, to make sure it was I, and laughed herself silly. 

I asked in astonishment why she was laughing, and explained 
that as Dieter Blank was with Bothilde she could not come 
herself. 



I GAIN A FRIEND lOI 

This made her laugh more than ever, and when I said I 
must be getting back because Bothilde would be anxious, she 
held her sides and groaned as if she would really die of 
laughter, but tcJd me to stop a bit longer. 

I asked her who the man was I had seen slip away. 
"Oh," she cried, "he only came to help me shut the 
door." 

One evening when Bothilde and I were alone, and I was 
already in bed, the fiddler came as usual, and as I was curious 
to hear what they talked about I pretended to be asleep. They 
kissed each other, and she begged him not to go to the great 
fair that was being held the next day in a neighbouring town 
and was to last two days. " You'll only be tempted by some 
girl or other," she said, "and when you've had enough of love 
you'll drink." And he promised her. 

A moment later she told him that as she had discovered she 
could not rely on his word, she had made up her mind to let 
him stay at the farm during the two days of the fair, so as to 
keep him out of harm's way. 

He protested; but she took no notice, and, reminding him 
that these two days were the most dangerous in the whole 
year for him, she said: "Don't oppose me! It will be no 
good! I'll put you in the apple-loft, and keep the key in my 
pocket. I'll come and see you during the day, and be very nice 
to you." 

He agreed, because she did it out of love, he said. 
As a matter of fad, he remained three days and three nights 
in the apple-loft, and I was able to watch her. She was like a 
dove with her first nest of eggs. She had no thought for any- 
thing else. She took him his food secretly; she made signs to 
him from the garden under cover of the young plum trees; she 
stole into the garden with him at nightfall, and during the day 
tried, not altogether successfully, to joke with us in her usual 
way! 

On the evening of the third day she came up to my bed and 
begged me to see to the calves, as she was afraid she had not 
fastened the door properly. But as I was going through the 
scullery I suddenly saw a tall figure, with a snow-white shining 
face, and wearing baggy grey sailors' trousers, stretching out 
long bony arms to seize me. 

I gave a shriek of horror. As I was always on tenterhooks 



I02 OTTO BABENDIEK 

and expefting to see some terrifying vision, I fled shuddering 
to the wall. The apparition also shrank back terrified, but 
quickly recovering itself, seized me violently by the arm crying, 
"You little devil," and led me back into the room. 

Bothilde was there alone, at the window, which she had just 
opened; and at the same moment, roused by my shrieks, Balle 
and his father rushed in. 

The starlight flooding the room and the sound of her voice 
soon revealed the fadl that the apparition was Frau Bohnsack. 
Her gaunt yellow face was smeared all over with thick cream, 
which she put on to prevent wrinkles. 

Then, for some reason or other, probably because he had 
made a grimace when he saw her — his features were not 
always under control — Frau Bohnsack turned on Balle, and in 
a sudden access of rage shrieked: "Go! Clear out! Pack up 
your things ! Get out ! " 

Pale to the lips, and addressing his father, he stammered: 
" I need hardly ask what you have to say ! But I should like 
to know what you think?" he added, turning his small fair 
head to his sister. 

" You will stay here ! " Bothilde replied calmly. " You will 
remain here!" 

"Get out!" his mother shrieked again. "Get out!" 

Bothilde shook her head, and her beautiful eyes flashed fire. 
" If you drive us out of the house," she said coldly, " I shall go 
and stand at the cross-roads where the children pass on their 
way to school and tell them that when you were young you 
cheated your orphan brothers and sisters out of their land and 
money. I have taken the letters about it from father's desk. 
I shall also tell them how you water the milk every morning, 
and how you smear your wrinkled old face with the cream you 
steal from the dairy. I am twenty, and shall do as I choose. 
From this day on, father will be the first farm-hand, and you, 
Balle, will be the second. And the horse-dealing business, the 
Sunday excursions, your smooth face, and the grammar school 
— those are things of the past. I shall write to my eldest 
brother to tell him to come back — the second is no good. It's 
not very nice to have to talk to my parents like this, but it's 
the only thing to do." 

Standing between the bed and the wall, I watched this 
scene horror-struck — the tall, beautiful girl, usually so calm, 



I GAIN A FRIEND 103 

her eyes flaming as she lashed her parents with words too hard 
for lips that still burned with lover's kisses; the wretched, 
scraggy old woman, wiping the cream from her fece with the 
comer of her jacket, and cowering beneath her daughter's 
scorn like a skeleton about to collapse; and the great hulking 
man, who could boast loudly enough in the market-place, but 
was now standing pale and biting his lips like a nincompoop, 
by the side of the wretched wife, who had always trampled 
him under foot in his own house. 

The room must soon have cleared; for in a little while I 
had spread one of my large red handkerchiefs on the table, 
and was making a bundle of my belongings — my Sunday 
suit, my boots, and my washing materials. Then, sobbing 
violently, I snatched up my bundle, slipped through the large 
hall, and ran as fast as my legs would carry me. I am afraid I 
was a bit of a coward. I could not bear the unmasking of 
these souls, and felt I must leave a house where a daughter 
had thus himiiliated her parents. 

On my way out I caught sight of Balle standing by his hut 
in the moonlight. He had his fox cub in his arms, and was 
holding two young rabbits between his ankles. He was sur- 
prised to see me, and asked what I wanted. 

I told him I could not stay any longer, and was going home 
to Engel Tiedje. 

Laying a hand on my shoulder, he looked paternally 
down at me. "You're quite right to go," he said. "But 
see that the old pantechnicon arranges to get you back to 
your books." 

Sobbing more loudly than ever, I said I doubted whether he 
could manage that. 

As for himself, continued Balle, he saw now that he could 
never be a clergyman. Perhaps it was all for the best, as he 
doubted whether the triennial repetition of sermons would 
have been a success. Then he offered me his fox. 

I shook my head, saying I should not know what to do with 
it. Whereupon, taking hold of its collar, he dropped it to the 
groimd, and the animal scampered away across the orchard. 

This brought me to my senses. I had always dreaded the 
moment when I should have to take leave of my last great 
friend; but I gave him my hand, thanked him for his kindness, 
and left. 



I04 OTTO BABENDIEK 

On reaching the high road, with my bundle under my arm, 
I turned round to have a last look at the farm. I felt that in 
that house and on those fields which I had learned to plough 
I had picked up something useful that would stand me in good 
stead in life; but I was also convinced that it was high time to 
leave it. 

Then, putting my hand to my breast, I felt for the gold coin 
Engel Tiedje had given me, and went on my way. 



CHAPTER VII 

Auntie Lena and her House 

I T was the end of Odlober, and the weather was bright and 
windy. The fields were covered with stubble, and there were 
no cows in the meadows. The tall trees that served as wind- 
screens to the farms were already looking bare, and I could see 
the rooks' nests quite plainly. Far away across the moor the 
first streak of dawn appeared. 

As I feared, though quite unnecessarily, that some one from 
the farm might come after me I asked a farmer who was driving 
his cart along the road to give me a lift. He was known to be 
a surly customer, and I did not find it easy to ask him. How- 
ever, he nodded, and I clambered up into the cart beside 
him. 

At first he did not speak or pay any attention to me, but 
seemed whoUy engrossed in counting on his fingers. But 
when we did begin to talk we quarrelled, and it ended by his 
dropping me, without further ado, back on the road, and fling- 
ing my bundle after me. In the course of our conversation he 
asked me whether I had heard that he was a tough customer. 
And when I admitted that I had, he promptly told me to get 
out, and was soon buried in his calculations again. 

Picking my bundle up out of the dust, I trudged on, passing 
through two villages in the course of the morning. My 
objeft was to reach Ballum, where I hoped my luck would 
turn. 

But as I trudged along hour after hour, growing more and 
more tired at every step, I began to lose heart and to be filled 
with fear. My hopes struck me as fantastic and senseless, 
and my undertaking as absurd; and taking refuge from 
the west wind behind a wall, I fell a prey to the deepest 
despair. 

I must have remained there some hours. My hope and 
courage had vanished, and prompted by fear and homesickness 
I changed my bearings and tvurncd towards Stormfeld. . . . 

105 



Io6 OTTO BABENDIEK 

But 'turned' is not quite the right word; I felt drawn — no 
impelled — to that direftion. 

I took no notice of anything on the road — my one thought 
was the old saw-mill, which I could see far away on the 
horizon; and I made towards it, reaching it worn out and 
miserable just as it was growing dark. 

All this time I had been obsessed by an ardent longing to 
get home, to be near the grave of my parents, and to see the 
face of my best friend. But as I stood beneath the creaking 
wings of the mill and looked down on my native village I felt 
I could not return without having accomplished something; 
and, sobbing aloud, I sat down on one of the huge beams at 
the foot of the building. 

Suddenly I was overcome with unutterable weariness, the 
weariness of the labourer, which I had first experienced at the 
farm. Staggering up the decayed wooden steps, I groped 
about for a convenient flat siu^ace, knelt down, and with my 
bundle as a pillow quickly fell asleep. At dawn I awoke, 
and with one last look at my native village I turned north 
again. 

I should have reached my destination much more quickly 
if I had cut across country, and should not have needed to ask 
the way; for the towers of Ballum would soon have been visible 
in the distance. But I was only a silly child; moreover, I 
rather dreaded reaching my goal, and wanted to put it off as 
long as possible. So I walked for hours, taking the round- 
about route along the coast, until at midday, tired and hungry 
— I had not had a morsel to eat — I reached a great harbour 
lock. 

There I saw a fairly large boat full of sacks of flour, moored 
to the quay. The boatman was busy hoisting the sails. In 
the back of the boat sat a fat, fair man, evidently a baker and 
the owner of the cargo, while among the sacks of flour squatted 
four fat little boys, who seemed to be his children, eating their 
breakfast. 

Addressing him with some hesitation, I said I wanted to go 
to Ballum. 

"Then you can sail with us, if you like," he replied. "If 
we move up a bit, there'll be room for you." 

We sailed up-stream with the wind behind us. All I re- 
member about the journey was the wind, the flapping of the 



AUNTIE LENA AND HER HOUSE 107 

sails, the round white mounds of the flour-bags, the children, 
and the boatman at the tiller, taking the stumpy pipe from his 
stubbly moustache from time to time and putting his lips to 
the neck of a botde, from which he took long, hearty draughts. 
The baker's chief hobby seemed to be coUedling animals with 
odd limbs and members. He showed me a chicken with four 
toes on each foot, of which he seemed very proud. But I was 
much more interested in his children, who all looked very well 
and had intelligent eyes. I asked him their names; he did 
not seem to have heard my questions, but informed me that 
he had once had a deer with three horns. 

When I told him about myself and my strange quest in 
Ballum, he grew highly excited, and informed his children 
that I was a phenomenon quite as strange, if not stranger, than 
his four-toed chicken and his three-homed deer. 

We had sailed a considerable distance up-stream with the 
tide, when the boatman, who had been drinking heavily and 
cursing the mist, the wind, and the stream, suddenly an- 
nounced that he could not proceed any farther that day, but 
was going home to bed. And, turning a deaf ear to the 
baker's indignant protests, he steered for the quay and 
hove to. 

The baker went with his children to a farm close by to spend 
the night, or try to hire a conveyance, leaving me alone with 
the drunkard; and, as it had grown dark, I could think of 
nothing better than to follow this man to his home. 

He entered a tumbledown little cottage, and I stood 
desolate and forlorn on the mud floor of the front room, while 
he went to the back. Soon a woebegone woman appeared, who 
in hardly audible accents told me to come in. The drunkard 
sat down by the bed at the far side of the table, with his bottle 
before him, and smoked, ate, and drank, while his wife and 
children, all poorly clad, sat with their backs to the wall 
anxiously watching him. At last, when he had finished his 
meal, he stood up, staggered into the corner, flung himself on 
the bed, a*id immediately broke into loud snores. 

As soon as he was asleep the little group who were sitting 
dejedledly against the wall seemed to wake up. The mother 
and children began to tidy the room and lay the table; and, 
taking their places, began to eat, inviting me to join them. At 
bedtime some of them retired to a litde room adjoining, while 



I08 OTTO BABENDIEK 

the rest went to the front room. I was given the eldest son's 
shake-down. The last sound I heard was the mother praying 
in Low German for her children. 

The following morning I decided to continue my way on 
foot. I think I dreaded reaching my relations too soon. So 
I walked very slowly along the river bank, and at midday 
reached the ferry. Loitering on the dyke, where six years ago 
I had stood by my father's side, and only six months ago had 
come alone on horseback, I gazed at the river, the town 
beyond, and the ferry as it plied to and fro, and I spent the 
whole afternoon in this way, with my red bundle at my side, 
till at last evening fell. 

Looking round, I saw a little pedlar coming along, and 
thinking that I should like to hear the sound of a human 
voice again, and that he might have some food to share 
with me, I followed him. 

When he heard that I wanted to go to Ballum he told me 
I might still be able to cross, but in case there were no 
lodgings to be had, he advised me to go to a farm close by and 
ask for some straw and a blanket. 

As we drew near I saw that the farmhouse was a fiairly large 
rambling building, all the windows and doors of which were 
crooked, while the front door in particular hung all lop-sided 
on its hinges. 

" The most hard-working couple in all Schleswig live there," 
said the pedlar, and as he saw from my expression that I did 
not know whether his words were meant as a recommendation 
or not — for I had made up my mind to sleep on this side of the 
river, and, with courage refreshed, to go to Ballum the next 
day — he added: "They are two brothers, sheep-farmers. 
They are nice people and will give you a kindly welcome. 
But be careful: they are so energetic and will leave you so 
little peace that you'd better keep out of their way if you don't 
want them to knock you down in their hurry." 

I nodded my thanks, and made for the farm. Entering by 
the front door, which was open, I advanced cautiously across 
the hall, as I was afraid the inmates might dash past me and 
knock me down. Picking my way through a number of sheep 
that were standing and lying about, I went towards a fire 
burning at the other end of the hall. 

There, beside a chopping-block on the right of a crackling 



'i^ 



AUNTIE LENA AND HER HOUSE lOg 

fire of brushwood, sat two big bearded men, in grey shirts and 
breeches, eating bread and cold bacon in the most leisurely 
fashion, and drinking tea out of enormous mugs. They turned 
their huge dishevelled heads, looked at me, turned back to 
the chopping-block, and once more reached out, with incred- 
ibly slow and sluggish movements, to the bacon. 

I begged for a piece of bread and some straw for the 
night. They did not stir, but both pointed with a faint 
jerk of their knives to a place on the hearth which was still 
unoccupied. 

I understood; dropped my bundle, sat on the hearth, and 
partook of the bread and bacon that lay on the chopping- 
block. I remember to this day how much I enjoyed it, and 
how thankful I was to be under a roof, and to see that the two 
men looked extremely good-natured. At a sign from them 
I fetched myself a cup, and, after filling it up, replenished 
theirs as well. I was inclined to be awkward with inanimate 
objecfts; but with human beings I was always at my ease at 
once. 

At last one of them got up incredibly slowly and sauntered 
lazily out through the sheep. When he had gone his brother 
pointed at him with his knife and said in calm, sleepy, and 
somewhat contemptuous tones: "Do you imagine he'll shut 
the firont door when he comes back? It is the only thing he 
has to do the livelong day ! But he won't ! Night after night 
the door stops open. He's a nice fellow, I can tell you ! . . . 
Too lazy!" 

I agreed that it was a bad business, and asked him why he 
did not shut the door himself. He mumbled something — 
possibly that as his brother was the younger it was his duty to 
shut the door. Then he rubbed his knife clean on the hearth- 
stone and followed the other man out. 

After a while one of them came back — I was not sure which 
it was; but I assumed it was the one who had gone out first. 
After lighting his pipe, he made much the same remarks about 
the door as his brother had done. 

Again I asked why he did not shut it himself. 

He mumbled something in his beard. I believe he said 
that as his brother was the elder it was his duty to shut the 
door; but when I offered to do it he shook his head and said 
it was too heavy. 



no OTTO BABENDIER 

The other brother now returned and began to smoke. And 
there they sat, looking lazily round, first at the flies on 
the wall, then at the sheep, and anon at their pipes, which 
must have been in a pretty filthy condition, as they constantly 
failed to draw. 

After a while one of them observed — I could not tell which 
it was — that the front door must be shut. 

The other agreed, but neither stirred. Whereupon, with 
infinite calmness and deliberation, they began to argue in 
short sentences as to whose fault it was that the door had not 
been shut for the last ten years. They took each other to 
task, but without either excitement or spite — on the contrary, 
they were perfedly calm and serene, mumbling into their 
beards. 

In the middle of the argument there suddenly appeared 
in the doorway a woman of medium height with the most 
graceful carriage and figure, who with bare feet and the 
springiest steps I have ever seen picked her way towards us 
through the sheep. As she approached I thought her face 
was also marvellously beautiful, not to say majestic. But as 
soon as she was close up I saw that it was really brutally 
ugly, morbidly red, almost coppery, and that her eyes be- 
neath her black hair looked dull and bestial. Nevertheless 
her fine powerful figure and well-shaped red mouth made her 
not altogether unpleasant to behold. I was quick to recog- 
nize that there was something extraordinary both about her 
form and her personality, and began to devour her with my 
eyes. 

Taking a place on the hearth, she asked me all sorts of 
questions about myself, and, scrutinizing me with her 
dark little eyes lying deep in their sockets, she addressed me 
by the name she was afterwards to use again and again. 

"Where do you come from, little Twiddlums?" she 
inquired. 

I take it that this strange word meant " darling" to her dull 
mind, and that the trustful look in my eyes had suggested it; 
for my face was unusually childlike. 

I had meant to be cautious in my replies, but as she was so 
human and natural, and continued to question me, I told her 
I came from Stormfeld. 

Her wild face suddenly became violently convulsed and 



AUNTIE LENA AND HER HOUSE III 

confused, and assumed an expression with which I was des- 
tined to become familiar. Then, gently shaking her head, and 
looking perplexed, she asked me whether the blacksmith's 
forge was still there. 

When I told her it was, but that the smith and his wife were 
dead, she started. "Oh, young Babendiek and his clever 
wife ! " she exclaimed. "Nice people ! Nice people ! " 

She did not see my eyes fill with tears, and I refrained 
from revealing my identity, partly out of shyness and partly 
because I wondered what I should hear if I kept my i^me 
secret. 

Looking at me with sudden eagerness, she asked whether the 
short, thick-set assistant were still there. I replied that he 
was, and that he was running the forge by himself now. 

She said no more, but stood up and began putting things 
away and tidying up. 

The two shepherds had remained quite unmoved by her 
presence, apparently regarding her with the same indifference 
as they did the flies and the sheep. 

When she had rampaged about the place for atx>ut an hour, 
working with extraordinary zeal and efficiency, she sat down on 
the opposite side of the hearth, seized the poker, and turned and 
twisted it about in the fire, while the little flames licked and 
played round it. I have never seen the idea of "playing with 
fire" better illustrated. Then brandishing the red-hot poker 
before the two besotted giants, and beating time with it, she 
sang an absurd Low German love-song, her little eyes sparkling 
in the light of the fire. 

It must have been then that it flashed through my mind that 
she might be my old friend's former wife, now employed by 
Frau Mumm of the gold necklace; but perhaps the idea only 
flitted vaguely through my mind, when I remembered the wild 
scenes at the forge, so often described to me by Engel Tiedje. 
At all events, I was soon overcome by fatigue, and slept all 
night on the straw, close to the sheep, covered with a blanket 
the woman had drawn over me. "Sleep well, Twiddlums 1 " 
she had said as she paid me this last kind attention. 

I was a child and I did sleep well. 

• , ■ • • • 

On the following morning the shepherds left me to light the 
fire, m^ke the coffee, and see to the sheep and a few things 



112 OTTO BABENDIEK 

about the house, while they seated themselves comfortably by 
the hearth, smoking and arguing in a desultory fashion as to 
which of them was the lazier. 

Immediately after the midday meal I washed and got ready 
for my difficult undertaking. As there were no brushes for 
either clothes or boots in the house, I smoothed out my suit 
\vith my fingers moistened in water, and washed my boots 
under the pump. Then, taking the comb from my bundle and 
combing my hair, which reached almost down to the collar 
of my jacket, I was ready to set out upon my hazardous 
venture. 

I hurried past the ferry-house, so as to avoid being seen by 
Dina, whose tidiness and frankness had made a deep impression 
on me. Otherwise I felt far braver than I had done the day 
before. I was convinced, however, that the red-headed giant 
of a ferryman would recognize me, and I was not mistaken. 

I noticed how pityingly he looked at me, knowing I was an 
orphan, though he tried not to show it too much. But his eyes 
lighted up when he told me about his wife and children. He 
proudly informed me that Helmut was now studying physics, 
and that Dina was the cleanest and tidiest girl for miles around, 
adding that Balle Bohnsack was a filthy lout. 

In reply to a question I put to him he said he knew Frau 
Mumm very well. She was the richest and haughtiest woman 
in the town, and lived in a very old house on the market-place. 
She had two children — a. boy of about sixteen, who looked like 
a peasant and wanted to be an artist, and a daughter at school 
in Hamburg. But although they were very distinguished, 
Frau Miunm was not the leading lady of Ballum; the leading 
lady was Auntie Lena — Lena Bornholt, wife of Professor 
Bornholt, but known to everybody as Auntie Lena. 

How she came to be so, he could not say; but he imagined it 
was because she had a large heart and a great gift of the gab. 
"She twists every one round her little finger." 

I felt exceedingly proud and elated, and would gladly have 
continued the conversation, but the ferry had reached its 
destination. . Wishing him good-bye, I ascended the crooked 
street leading to the town, and reached the market-place. I 
recognized Frau Mumm's house with its dark brown front 
door, its brightly polished windows, and its shining brass 
handle. I must have stood gazing at it for fully an hour, 



AUNTIE LENA AND HER HOUSE I13 

remembering how disconsolately my dear father had once 
stood at that very door! At last I crept stealthily to the side 
entrance, where I could hear the clatter of clogs and the sound 
of some one at work, and, peering cautiously through the crack 
of the door, which was ajar, lo and behold ! there was my friend 
of the previous evening ! 

With her neck and arms bare she was standing over a tub; 
behind her in the scullery a bright fire was burning, the glow of 
which was refleded on her figure. She was working liard, 
and breathing heavily, and from time to time an impatient 
expletive escaped her full lips. 

As I was watching her, half hoping she would look up and 
give me an opportunity of addressing her, a powerful youth of 
about sixteen, with a broad, vigorous face, and exceptionally 
bright-coloured hair — ^it was really Ught auburn — ^appeared at 
the kitchen door, and stood looking down at her. His glance 
was calm and steady, and yet I had a feeling that he saw the 
figure before him with greater distindness and accuracy and 
more ardent love than anybody else was capable of. She took 
no notice of him — I don't think she even knew he was there — 
but went on working, or rather wrestUng, with the things under 
her hands, so violent were her movements. Suddenly his face 
changed and his whole body seemed suffused with wild joy 
and passion. And stretching out his arms, he cried: "I may 
be mad, but you knock everything in Ballimi into a cocked 
hat!" 

Then fi:om the other end of the house a voice shouted: 
"Eilert, are you hanging round Uhle again?" 

At the sound of this voice, which Engel Tiedje had so often 
imitated in relating the circumstances of my birth, I lost 
all desire to enter the house, and, turning tail, ran as fast as my 
legs would carry me down the first turning, I had suddenly 
made up my mind to go'^traight to Auntie Lena; she was my 
one and only hope. 

Following Engel Tiedje's diredions, I at last reached a large 
garden with a house at the end of it, while to the left, shaded 
by lime-trees, was the litde stream that ran through the town. 
Through the gathering gloom, I caught sight of two toy carts 
before the front door, and some schoolchildren playing, while 
in^the middle stood a plump woman of medium, height, with 
beautiful fair hair, a large aquiline nose, and heavy eyebrows. 



114 OTTO BABENDIEK 

She was joining in their game, laughing, scolding, and dis- 
tributing praise, all in the same lively, attradlive voice. 

I knew immediately that this was the woman who had 
once stood at my mother's bedside, and who had fired my 
imagination since my earliest childhood. So I stopped and 
looked at her, all the longing in my childish breast gushing out 
towards her in trustful hope. 

When the children had left with their carts, and she 
was standing alone on the doorstep, straightening her frock, 
with, as I thought, a very pleasing movement of her arms, I 
suddenly ran over to her, my heart beating furiously, and 
holding my gold coin up to her face, exclaimed: "Here 
it is, dear lady!" I don't know why I addressed her in 
these words, and I imagine I must have presented a curious 
speftacle. 

At all events, her eyes, which were large anyhow, grew 
several sizes larger, and making for a bench against the 
wall of her house, she dropped on to it, exclaiming: "But my 

dear boy But this is enough to give one the pip!" 

"But it really is the right coin!" I rejoined. 
She- turned her large, handsome head, round which there ■ 
seemed to be a perpetual glow, toward the door of the house, 
and in lively though somewhat plaintive tones cried: "Gosch! 
Please come here!" 

A rather thin, elderly, clean-shaven man with beautiful 
white hair came out in response to her call, and the lady, who 
had remained seated, pointed first at me and then at the gold 
coin I held out, and, still gasping for breath, challenged the 
old gentleman to tell her how she could possibly help getting 
the pip at such a sight. 

He looked down at me with some curiosity; then, taking 
the coin from my hand, observed in a strangely dreamy, 
thoughtful voice: "I haven't got my magnifying-glass with 
me, but it looks like an Arabian or Greek coin." And 
coming closer to me, he took hold of one of the buttons of 
my jacket and began to fiddle with it. 

"My dear Gosch," cried the lady, "leave that button 
alone ! When you twiddle a button about like that you drive 
me quite dotty ! I can see there's something peculiar about 
this Uttle chap, but what it is I don't quite know." 

"What is there peculiar about him?" protested the old 



AUNTIE LENA AND HER HOUSE II5 

gentleman. "Don't all kinds of people bring me coins .to look 
at, because they know I am interested in them? Surely by 
this time you know that I hope by some such discovery to 
prove that Pytheas really visited our coast on his journey 
north?" 

"Tell me, my dear," said the lady, turning to me, "what's 
all this about the coin, and what have you to do with it?" 

I began to stammer out my story, while the old gentleman 
once more began to twist my button as he examined the 
coin. 

But my narrative was constantly interrupted by somebody 
who wanted something from "Auntie Lena," as I will now 
call her — ^for she was known by that name throughout Ballum. 
First a boy came up and asked for a needle, then an old woman 
came to complain that her daughter was keeping bad company 
and she was afraid of the consequences, and so on. 

But Auntie Lena listened to me very attentively when she 
could listen, and once or twice, I believe, exclaimed that it was 
enough to give anyone the pip. Meanwhile the old gentle- 
man still kept hold of my button as he pored over the coin; 
but I noticed that his expression as he looked down on me 
was kindly. 

What happened after that I cannot really remember. But 
I recoiled being scrubbed down in a bath by a great hulking 
servant girl, while Auntie Lena, sitting on a wooden chair and 
watching the proceeding, bombarded me with questions, 
which I did my best to answer, in spite of the hard brush 
taking my breath away. 

At last she extracScd the whole truth from me, as far as a 
mere child could give it. I lied only on one point, just as I 
had lied to Engel Tiedje and the Bohnsacks. I said I had left 
school because book-learning and the stuffy air of the class- 
room had given me headaches. 

She might have believed my lie but for the fad that in my 
anxiety to go to a grammar school again I assured her that 
I should not have headaches now. I saw that she had deteded 
my double lie, and as this robbed me of my assurance I stam- 
mered, tried to describe precisely the sort of headaches I had 
suffered from, and grew red and confused. But how deep 
must have been her imderstanding, and how great her heart! 
For she was not in the least bit angry, and adually turned away 



Il6 OTTO BABENDIEK 

to give instrudions to the servant, so as to avoid adding to my 
discomfiture by so much as a glance in my direction. Then, 
taking me to a large bedroom, in which there were three beds, 
and having evidently decided not to urge me to a complete 
confession, but to let me simmer in my falsehood, she put me 
in one of the beds and left me. 

A few minutes later the servant came in to provide me with 
washing tackle, and when she had gone the old gentleman 
entered and proceeded with great detail to describe the Greek 
and Arabian coins which he hoped to come across, and in- 
formed me that my gold piece was Dutch. 

I was much relieved when he told me that the Greeks had 
been along our coast about two thousand years ago, for I had 
begun to fear they might turn up the next day and hunt me 
out of my beautiful clean bed. He then set me right about 
Pytheas, whom I had taken to be the Mayor of Ballum ; told 
me he had died in France over two thousand years ago, and, 
after returning the gold coin to the little bag Engel Tiedje had 
made for it, he bade me good-night and left. 

I believe I must have lain awake for some time, thinking over 
all the wonderful things that had happened, but also oppressed 
by the memory of the lie I had told. Moreover, I had under- 
stood very little of all I had heard and seen during the last two 
or three days, and least comprehensible of all was what I had 
seen and heard in this house. I turned it all over again and 
again in my mind, and always came back to the conclusion that 
probably the whole world was a bit mad and that those who did 
not behave like lunatics were only concealing their madness. 
But I remember that I had already satisfied myself that the 
type of lunacy I had to deal with in this house was of a be- 
nevolent nature, and with this comforting convidion I fell 
asleep. 

The following morning the servant came to my room and 
scrubbed and brushed me again, chattering away the whole 
time in her Frisian dialed, which I could not understand. 
When I was dressed and had had my breakfast Auntie Lena 
appeared in her coat and hat, examined me closely, but said 
nothing in particular, and then took me out of the house to the 
railway station. 

I naturally wondered what it all meant. It was the first 
time I had ever been in a train, though I remembered Paul 



AUNTIE LENA AND HER HOUSE tlj 

Sooth having told me how dangerous it was to look out of the 
window. As it happened, there was a man in our carriage 
who remained glued to the window the whole journey, and I 
thought he must be intending to commit suicide and ought to 
be prevented. 

Meanwhile Auntie Lena had entered into the liveliest con- 
versation with our fellow-passengers. It did not trouble her 
in the least that they were all total strangers ; and very soon a 
farmer who sat opposite her was giving her the most minute 
and painstaking account of his whole family history. At one 
station we changed and got into a small branch-line train, 
which was not much patronized. At the booking-office I had 
heard her ask for tickets for Steenkarken, and I had noticed 
that she pronounced the word very distindly, as though she 
wanted to make sure I should hear it. All this made me feel 
extremely depressed, and I sat tongue-tied by her side. We 
were quite alone. 

When at last I summoned up courage to ask her why we 
were going to Steenkarken, she glanced calmly out of the win- 
dow and said she wanted to find out why I had left the school 
there. 

I volunteered to tell her. 

"Very well," she said kindly, " then tell me. But the whole 
truth!" 

In a tearful stammering voice I told her all about Uncle 
Peter, his house, and his charafter; of the desk with the money 
in it, and of the charge of theft that he and the headmaster had 
brought against me. She asked me a number of questions in 
connexion with the disappearance of the money and other 
matters which I did not think could have any bearing upon it; 
but she evidently wanted to form a clear idea about me and my 
charaAer. 

So with the stinging tears falling down on my jacket I told 
her once again about the death of my father and mother. 
Uncle Peter's last visit to the forge, and the armchair in which 
I slept at his house. I also told her about Paul Sooth, the 
headmaster, and the people who might possibly have had 
something to do with the theft J'and in telling my tale I imagine 
I must have displayed that gift for narrative which I ultimately 
developed so strongly. When I had finished we were silent 
for a long time. 



Il8 OTTO BABENDIEK 

On leaving the train we went straight to my uncle's, and 
found him alone in the workshop. He started up in terror 
when he recognized me and saw my companion, and, shaking 
all over, offered her a chair. But looking at him with her won- 
derful large eyes, she crossed the passage and went through the 
best room into the wretched little closet that I had occupied; 
then, sitting down in the large dilapidated armchair, she looked 
about her. She eidier deliberately left the door leading to the 
best room open or else asked my uncle to open it. 

When he inquired to what he owed the honour of a visit 
from her, she exclaimed: "Oh, don't start that sort of rot! 
Tell me, did this boy, your nephew, really sleep for eighteen 
months on this armchair?" 

He fidgeted his arms and legs, but was obliged to admit it. 

"And did you often beat him, and is the apprentice's arm 
covered with pricks from your awl?" 

He writhed like a worm, but was forced to admit that also. 

"And how do you know," she pursued, " that it was he who 
took the money from your desk?" 

He stammered and gesticulated. "He did take it," he 
exclaimed. 

"Rubbish!" she rejoined. "Why him? It might have 
been any number of people — him, or you, or that young lout 
Fritz Hellebeck " 

"No," I cried, "not him, Auntie Lena!" 

"Or the apprentice," she continued, taking no notice of me, 
"or a neighbour. But probably you did it yourself. You 
wanted to ruin the child." 

" I ? I ? " he cried, waving his arms. 

"Yes, you, you old ruffian," she cried, "and don't fidget like 
that! You're enough to give one the pip! You murdered 
his mother and wanted to murder him too, so as to get his 
property. I know everything. I shall go straight to the court 
from here, my friend, and have you charged witli attempted 
murder." 

She looked so calm and self-confident, and her eyes were so 
large and knowing, that the wretched man was in a panic. 
Almost kneeling before her, he implored her not to be so 
hard. All his life, he said, he had been a poor devil, jeered at 
and shunned by every one; but he swore he had not taken 
the money. 



AUNTIE LENA AND HER HOUSE 1 19 

She kicked him contemptuously. "Stand up, you idiot!" 
she cried. "Do you imagine, you old crocodile, tliat I am 
taken in by your tears? It's a pity torture has been abolished 
for the likes of you. But I'll go and tell everybody in the town 
about you, and everything you've done to this little boy and 
your apprentice, and how you killed this boy's mother. Why 
did you leave the money about? You hoped he would take 
it! You dog! It was you who took it!" 

"So help me God," he implored, "I did not take it! It 
must have been Fritz Hellebeck." He writhed like a worm 
and tried to touch her dress, but she kicked him from her, 
making him howl for mercy. 

I had been leaning against the wall convulsed with sobs, and 
begging Auntie Lena to take me away. I could not bear to see 
a grey-haired man humiliating himself like that. 

Auntie Lena stood up and followed me out; then, catching 
sight of the bony, liaggard woman who did my uncle's cleaning 
for him, she asked who she was. 

I told her. 

"Good morning, my dear," said Auntie Lena. "So you 
look after this man's house, do you? And are you alone in 
the world?" 

"Yes, I never married, madam," replied the creature in 
honeyed tones. "I had no luck." 

"You ought to settle down here," said Auntie Lena, and 
pointing contemptuously at my uncle, she added, "And make 
that man work for you." 

The woman shrugged her great shoulders. "That's all 
he's good for. But he won't. He's as dried up as a bit of old 
leather." 

"Oh, fiddlesticks," retorted Auntie Lena, "you're big and 
brawny enough to make him do what you want, surely!" 

Then we left, and went straight to the headmaster. 

When we arrived he had just dismissed an unfortunate child 
whom he had been hecftoring; but as soon as he saw the stately 
matron who accompanied me his dignified old face grew 
several degrees more handsome.. It was only when he recog- 
nized me that he became uneasy, and timidly asked Auntie 
Lena to be seated. 

She settled herself very majestically in the largest available 
chair, her nose high up in the air, and told the headmaster who 



I20 OTTO BABENDIEK 

she was and what wc had done. When she reached tlic point 
at which Uncle Peter had implored her pardon on bended 
knee, and she had called him a murderer, she suddenly turned 
on the headmaster and asked him why he liad aided and 
abetted a murderer. 

"Surely that's putting it some\yhat strongly!" he replied 
with great dignity and some trace of nervousness. 

"Now don't equivocate, sir," she exclaimed. "Do you sup- 
pose I don't know you? You're known all along the coast as 
a bad lot. It is your Governing Board who don't know what 
you are. Why, in the Schleswig lunatic asylum there are two 
youths whom you have ruined. And you were on the high- 
road to ruining this child. Fortunately he had enough spirit 
to cut across country instead of throwing himself into the river. 
Why did you side with the murderer right away and leave 
this orphan in the lurch? Why did you want to ruin this 
child?" 

He protested that he had no wish whatever to ruin me. 
"But you condemned him on the mere word of that black- 
guardly lunatic! Did you investigate the matter? Did 
you question the old idiot? Did you question that smooth- 
tongued lout Hellebeck, or the apprentice, or the great hulking 
treacle-barrel who is in and out of the house all day ? Did you 
inquire whether this child or anyone else spent an unusual 
amount of money about that time ? You did nothing of the 
sort!" 

The old man looked at her askance. His face had grown 
sullen and spiteful. "I am still convinced that he did it," he 
stammered. 

Auntie Lena raised her large umbrella in a way that terrified 
me, as I thought she was going to strike him. " I know that," 
she said scornfully. "And do you realize why you are con- 
vinced?" 

He confessed he did not. 

"In the first place, because you knew this boy was a poor 
little orphan, and utterly defenceless. Secondly, because 
his eyes and face told you his soul was pure. And that 
exasperated you. That's the last thing you can endure, my 
friend! That's why you ruined those two other boys in 
the Schleswig asylum. You're a mean swine bent on ruinine; 
noble things!" 



AUNTIE LENA AND HER HOUSE 121 

He tried to tell her to leave the room, but he only made 
her laugh. 

"Don't imagine you can prosecute me!" she cried. "For 
I would soon prove, and get your sixth-form boys to prove, 
that you often rave and tell lies. But I don't want to ruin you. 
No, all I shall do is to go about from house to house repeating 
this little story. I am Lena Bomholt of Ballum, and known far 
and wide as a chatterbox. So I will repeat this litde story 
about this child, his little inheritance, his lout of an uncle, who 
is your bosom friend, and the charge you both brought against 
him. I can tell the tale beautifully!" 

I gazed with horrified eyes at the old man, much as an 
African negro must look at his chief, and I noticed that his 
expression was uneasy and that his mouth was working angrily. 

Auntie Lena's nose looked very determined and threatening. 
"All I want from you," she continued, "is a little certificate, 
which you will give me now. Or if you prefer a scandal, I 
promise you it will be a big one. So just write what I tell you. 
There's a pen! Write!" 

The old man turned sullenly to his desk, and at Auntie 
Lena's dilation wrote that I had been an industrious and 
gifted pupil, that he had never had the smallest fault to find 
with me, and he regretted that an ill-considered charge of theft 
should have been brought against me, for which there was not 
the smallest foundation. 

Then without saying good-bye we left the school and made 
for the station, and I noticed that in spite of her outward calm 
Auntie Lena was greatiy agitated. She seemed really to 
have got the pip this time, and I looked covertly up at her 
to see what outward signs of it I could deted. But I saw 
nothing. 

In the refreshment-room, where we had to wait for a little 
while, she drank two cups of coffee, of which she was very fond, 
and growing calmer put an arm round my shoulder. 

"I lied to you. Auntie," I said at last, "and I am so dread- 
fully ashamed." 

"Ah, my child ! " she exclaimed* 

"But I swear I never took that money." 

"Ah, my child," she repeated, "do you imagine I didn't 
know at once what you were made of? You're as clear as 
crystal : one can see through you in a jiffy." 



122 OTTO BABENDIEK 

I protested that the idea of taking the money had never 
entered my head. 

She glanced at me out of the corners of her eyes, as she often 
did, with that omniscient scoffing look. "All right, don't be 
puffed up with pride ! " she cried. " Many a child has done as 
much out of misery, love of adventure, or vanity, and has 
grown up to be the best of men all the same. Do you think I 
would give you the boot even if I believed at this moment that 
you did take those eleven talers?" 

Feeling somewhat ashamed, I held my tongue, and in a few 
moments she had entered into a heated conversation with the 
people about us. 

I remember nothing about the journey home except that I 
asked Auntie Lena whether she would go with me to Frau 
Mumm, and whether she thought I could go to the grammar 
school again. She said she would see about it, but that for tlie 
time being I was to stay with her. 

It seemed to be the custom in her house for whoever was 
first in bed to receive visitors, for as soon as I was tucked up in 
one of the three beds everybody came to see me in turn; and 
when I thought it was all over, and was on the point of falling 
asleep, lo and behold, two children, a boy and a girl, appeared 
with a night-light. They were a little bit younger than I was, 
and carried rucksacks, which they threw off. Then they came 
to the side of my bed and let the light shine on me. 

They were lively, healthy children. The girl was very fair, 
with curly hair. To this day I cannot say whether she was 
pretty. I saw her large cool eyes — her mother's eyes — resting 
on me, and I adored her from that moment. The boy was 
extremely good-looking, with dark hair that curled about his 
brow; but he had that delicate spare build which generally 
indicates a certain narrowness or morbidity of disposition. 

" There ! " cried the girl, " so that's the boy ! " And she bent 
over me and stroked my hair. "See how nicely his hair lies 
over his temples!" And she stroked me just as if I had been 
her pet rabbit. " We've known all about your birth for ages, 
and now we know all the rest. So that's the boy, Ernemann ! " 

They told me they were the children of the house, that the 
other two beds were theirs, and that they had been away in the 
country for a couple of days. "I am Eva," she explained, 
and he is Ernemann." Then, sitting on the edge of my bed. 



«( 



AUNTIE LENA AND HER HOUSE 123 

and continuing to stroke my hair with perfedl assurance, she 
asked Ernemann what he thought of me. 

Beginning to undress, he said that I was "quite nice." 
Then she informed me that Otto was too formal and that 
they had decided to call me Holler. I replied that I did not 
mind; for, after all, everything in my life had changed, so why 
not my name ? She added that every night and morning she 
would look at my hands to see whether they were clean, and 
woe betide me if they were dirty ! On Saturdays I would have 
a bath; and she reminded me that whereas country children 
were often dirty, nothing of the sort could be tolerated in her 
house. 

She spoke so gravely and firmly, in spite of her tender 
years, that I began to fear she might be a litde tyrant. 



CHAPTER VIII 

New Experiences 

Early the next morning, when it was still dark, and we were 
all up and washing, Eva gave me another thorough examina- 
tion, and declared that one of my fingers looked decidedly 
queer. I don't believe there was anything wrong with it at 
all, but she bound it up, and sternly forbade me to remove the 
bandage on pain of a beating. AH I can remember about 
Ernemann that morning is that as he was dressing he whistled 
all kinds of tunes in what seemed to me a most artistic way, and 
that he mentioned a great play about brigands which they were 
going to aft on the beach. 

At daybreak they left the house again, with their rucksacks 
and all kinds of wooden shields and javelins. I heard after- 
wards that they were in the habit of visiting friends along the 
coast during the holidays, and spending their time playing with 
the children of the peasants and fisherfolk. They were away 
a week, and I was once more alone with the grown-up members 
of the household. 

My mind was in a whirl. Since our journey together on the 
previous day I had certainly got to know Auntie Lena better, 
but I could not quite make out the old man, whom I took to 
be her husband, and who appeared to be called "Uncle 
Gosch" by visitors to the house. He was constantly talking 
about old coins and a certain Pj'theas, with whom he seemed 
to be on friendly terms. But on the third day, by listening 
carefully to everything that was said, I gathered that Pytheas 
was a Greek writer who had lived two thousand years 
ago, and that Uncle Gosch wrote books on one of his lost 
works. 

On the morning she left with her brother, Eva had put me 
through a severe cross-examination on the subjeft of my Latin 
studies at Steenkarken, and placing a book before me had told 
me what I was to learn up again before she returned. She 
added that she would cut off my ears if I were not diligent, and 

124 



NEW EXPERIENCES I25 

did in faft hit me on the head as she came to the end of her 
orders, though after the severity of her threats the blow seemed 
somewhat feeble. All the same, I was really frightened; she 
seemed very serious and determined, and I worked so'hard that 
my head swam. 

As it was holiday time. Uncle Gosch threw himself heart and 
soul into the subjeft of Pytheas, and gave me all sorts of infor- 
mation about him. For a long time I did not understand what 
he was talking about, for he had no gift for exposition; but I 
gathered that it was a matter of investigating the period when 
the Mediterranean civilizations had sent their first explorers 
and products to Northern Germany and our coast. Uncle 
Gosch lived in those far-away days and talked of nothing else. 
When he stopped talking about them he would go to the win- 
dow and gaze up the street leading across the bridge to the 
to\vn, staring out as though he were obsessed. But I soon 
gave up feeling surprised at all this; for I regarded all grown- 
up people in towns as rather odd, and, as we say, "fit for 
Schleswig," where our asylum is. 

Towards the end of the week Uncle Gk»sch came up to see me, 
buried in a book he had obtained firom a Berlin library, and sat 
down by the window as usual. I took no notice of him, but 
pored hard over my Latin. Then he asked me to go down- 
stairs and fetch another book which he had left lying on a little 
table in the sitting-room. 

I hurried out, and on entering the room saw Auntie Lena 
installed in all her glory in her chair, with a broad-shouldered, 
vigorous young man on the sofa in front of her. They were 
engaged in lively conversation — I think they were joking, 
for Auntie Lena was laughing, and her face looked extra- 
ordinarily young and beautiful. I took the book and went 
upstairs. 

When I got back Uncle GJosch asked me whether the visitor 
was still there and what I thought of him. 

I said he struck me as being very strong. 

"Yes," he said, "and don't you think he would be capable 
of anything?" 

As I was feeling a little bit piore at home in the house, I 
replied that I thought he was very strong and would have 
made a good blacksmith. 

He said that was not what he meant. He wanted to know 



126 OTTO BABENDIEK 

whether I did not think him capable of any crime. I replied 
that I did not think so, but that, on the contrary, he had 
made a good impression on me. Besides, Auntie Lena was 
there in the room and would see to it that he did nothing 
wrong. 

But he refused to be comforted. In the childish accents 
peculiar to him, he said that he would confess to me in confi- 
dence that he did not like the fellow, and asked me where 
Auntie Lena was sitting. 

I told him she was in her usual place and was in very good 
spirits. 

"I dare say," he replied, "in extremely good spirits!" 

"Yes," I said, "and her cheeks were flushed and she looked 
very young." 

He must have noticed the ardent affedion with which I 
spoke. "Her spirit and will are too strong," he observed, 
stroking his book, "and she can't rest unless she has talked to 
at least thirty people a day and mothered them." 

When I agreed and said that she was mothering even the 
strong man downstairs, he seemed delighted, and thought I 
was quite right. Then he went to the window again, and stood 
there pretending to read. But, as a matter of fad, he was 
looking toward the bridge and listening to hear whether there 
was any sound at the front door; for as soon as there was he 
went downstairs. 

In the evening we would sit together round the lamp, each 
busy with his own task — Uncle Gosch with his Pytheas, and 
I with my Latin. Meanwhile Auntie Lena, majestically in- 
stalled in her armchair on the right of the table, would fall 
asleep. From time to time the front door would be heard, 
when she would immediately wake up, and people would come 
in to ask her advice — mostly poor people with their children, 
treading barefoot and silent. But the mayor and aldermen 
would also come in occasionally to consult her or to have a chat. 
Then she would look at them with her large determined eyes, 
and scold, praise, or advise them, tell them stories and give 
examples, dismiss them, and then fiall asleep again. Uncle 
Gosch and I took no notice of all this, but sat absorbed in our 
books, though very often I could not resist the temptation, 
and only pretended to read while I listened to what was 
going on. 



NEW EXPERIENCES I27 

On the evening before the two children returned from their 
expedition along the coast I was sitting with Auntie Lena, and as 
only a few visitors came in I thought I should like to clear up a 
mystery. So I told her that I should very much like to know 
why Uncle Gosch load looked so sadly out of the window on 
the evening when he had come up to me. "Was it because 
of Pytheas ?" I inquired. 

Her eyes suddenly filled with tears, and for a while she sat 
up and did not move, while her eyes continued to fill with 
tears, which dropped on to her stately bosom. There was 
something deeply moving in her tears, and I gazed fixedly 
at her, hardly daring to breathe. Then, plucking up her 
courage, she replied: "No, it was something else. It was 
my fault." 

Never have I heard "my fault" pronounced in such stirring 
accents as by that powerful, kind-hearted woman. I was quite 
at a loss to understand, but, overcome by the expression in 
her beautiful face, I stretched out my hand in a clumsy 
eflFort to comfort her. Then she drew me on to her lap and 
tondled me. 

"You must have noticed already," she said after a while, 
"for you have sharp eyes, that I am constantly seeing people 
and chatting with them. Well, you see ... he thinks I 
must be unfaithful to him, especially because he is such 
a quiet sort, just the opposite of me. But it is not true; 
I love him more than anything in the world, and nothing 
wrong ever happens. But perhaps I ought to give up joking 
and playing the fool because it makes him sad. But I can't! 
It is very wrong of me!" And great tears rolled down her 
cheeks. 

I understood not a single word. But I believed her as she 
had believed me, and saw that she was crying and miserable. 
I felt unable to comfort her. How could I tell her that all the 
good advice and help she gave, and all her laughter and chaff, 
made up for it all ? So I pressed myself tenderly against her, 
and she responded. 

How happy I felt in those strong warm arms! How I 
begged her, though not at first in words — I could not do that 
— but with the movements of my limbs, and in the end with 
incoherent stammering, always to love me and not to leave 
me, as I had no one on earth except her! 



128 OTTO BABENDIEK 

And then somebody came in, and I had to leave her and go 
back to my book. . 

At the end of the week, as the holidays were drawing to a 
close, Eva and Ememann came back, and Eva immediately set 
to work to educate me again. I might even say that she flung 
herself into the task with fury. 

She first made me repeat the Latin vocabulary. When — I 
believe to her unbounded astonishment, though she said 
nothing — she found that I knew the vocabulary of the whole 
book by heart, she examined my hands, and, not liking the look 
of one of my fingers, she bound it up. 

She bore a real grudge against this finger, and, after bandag- 
ing it up tightly, told me, with severe threats, to hold my arm 
perfe<Sly still in a sling. I was much too shy and imaginative 
a child not to take her threats seriously, but although I did so I 
really felt extraordinarily happy under her tutelage. 

At about three o'clock she called me and told me that the 
play was just going to begin. Ememann had invited the 
children of the whole street — most of them bare-footed fisher- 
men's children — to the scullery, with its great black beams 
across the ceiling, to aA a play to them. He appeared before 
two sheets that had been hung up beside a little table, on which 
stood a large brown jar, and said that they were going to aft a 
piece called The Pirate of Heligoland. A moment later he 
reappeared with three boys carrying large wooden swords and 
wearing huge beards made of flax, and made bombastic 
speeches against the people of Hamburg, taking huge draughts 
from the great jar between whiles. There was a brief interval 
when the great hulking servant came in and said that she must 
have the jar, as she wanted to preserve some gherkins, but she 
was driven away with threats and thrusts of the wooden 
swords, and beat a hasty retreat. Then two Hamburgians 
were brought forward, bound with a piece of clothes-line, 
and after a terrifying examination were condemned to death. 
They were just on the point of being dragged away to execution 
when Eva appeared with a little gold-embroidered Frisian cap 
on her head (belonging to the servant), which suited her admir- 
ably, and, explaining that she was the wife of one of the 
Hamburgians, pleaded for his life. Her brother answered her 
most brutally, and she fell on her knees and begged so naturally 
that I burst into tears. But even in the throes of this scene she 



NEW EXPERIENCES ISg 

remembered my education, for she suddenly turned to me and 
said in threatening tones that I must take care not to let the 
tears fall on my jacket. 

I had watched the play with the greatest interest, and was 
convinced that Ernemann Bornholt was a genius, and that his 
sister was the most adorable creature in the world. 

The next day Auntie Lena informed me that she had not 
succeeded in persuading my relative Frau Munun to do any- 
thing for me, and that she and her husband had decided to 
keep me. But as her expenses were already sufficiently heavy 
she was going to arrange that on weekdays I should have 
free meals in the town, and dine with them only on Sundays. 
In any case, she added, it would do me good to meet other 
people. "You are a nice little boy," she observed, looking 
at me out of the corners of her eyes, "but you are certainly 
very awkward still, and will be all the better for being licked 
into shape." 

In the afternoon we went out together to arrange for the 
free meals. She put on her grey overcoat and her grey-brown 
hat, trimmed with a very thick old ostrich feather. For many 
years I thought she had two hats, one for the winter and one 
for the summer, both of which were the same shape and 
trimmed with the same sort of ostrich feather. But I found 
out later on that when winter came she merely drew a leather 
cover over the summer hat, and put the samae feather on top of 
the leather. She was always rather short of money for house- 
keeping, while for herself she had none at all. 

I examined her hat with great interest, and asked her 
whether she had had it long. She looked suspiciously down 
at me, for she was apt to think she was being made fun of. I 
protested that my question was asked quite seriously, which 
was the truth; for I really wanted to know the age of her hat. 
I believe I worshipped it because she wore it. 

But she did not believe me. "There's a look in your eyes, 
my friend, that makes me suspeft you're poking fun at me!" 
she exclaimed. 

I rejoined that in that case I should have to be very careful 
in future, for nothing lay further from my mind than the idea 
of poking fun at her. 

" Well, well ! " she cried, "just you shut up ! I can see from 



130 OTTO BABENDIEK 

your face that your head is full of quite superfluous thoughts! 
This hat, my friend, has seen a good deal ! " 

And she proceeded to tell me that she had first worn it when 
she was seventeen at her father's parsonage in Wenneby in 
Northern Schleswig, and that her father was the best pastor in 
the whole countryside. 

"Yes, and there was a youth at a farm there," she went on, 
"a scribbler of sorts, you know, who wore yellow breeches, and 
was always after me." 

I asked her what he wanted. 

" What did he want ? " she exclaimed. " Why, he was inter- 
ested in my hat, of course ! " 

"And what else?" I inquired, always passionately interested 
in human affairs. 

"Well," she replied, "there is a good deal of water in 
Wenneby, where my father was pastor; and he said, 'Fraulein 
Lena, I wish a storm would come, a gale, and that your hat 
would fly into the water ! Then I would jump in after it, and 
fetch it back!'" 

"And did the wind come, Auntie?" 

"No, it never came." 

"And where did the feather come from?" 

"My lad," she exclaimed, "you with your eyes and your 
questions, why, you would pester a snail out of its shell. . . . 
The feather was given me a year before by a forester." 

"And was he after you too?" I inquired. 

" Wasn't he just ? Like a squirrel after nuts, always hanging 
about the parsonage making eyes. He had a feather in his 
hat too." 

"Was it the same one?" 

"Oh, my dear boy, no! One day he drew a feather from 
his breast and said, * Listen, Fraulein Lena, here is a feather for 
your hat. It comes from Africa and is made up of seven 
feathers.' His name was Alphonse. But he married very 
unhappily. When he quarrelled with his wife she always 
said: 'Alphonse, I wish the world would split in two, and I 
could be on one half and you on the other!' That's how 
unhappy they were!" 

I required only six free meals, one for every working day of 
the week. But she was so happy going from house to house, 
introducing me and telling people about me, that in the end, 



NEW EXPERIENCES 131 

if I am not mistaken, she was offered twenty-one meals a week, 
and I went cold all over, thinking I should have to eat three 
dinners a day. 

I remember that we received a hearty welcome from the 
baker in whose boat I had travelled. He recognized me imme- 
diately, declared I was a phenomenon, and listened intently 
while Auntie Lena told him my life-story. As she related the 
tale most graphically I felt that I would now rank as high in his 
estimation as the chicken with four toes. 

In the evening, after dark, we went to the Mumms'. As I 
had a natural appreciation for beauty of buildings and decora- 
tions I remember how my eyes wandered over the wonderful 
old hall, with its antique cupboards and its stately staircase, 
the shining brown carving of which shone in the light of 
the chandelier. We had to wait a little while in the sit- 
ting-room, and I glanced round at the furniture and the 
numberless pictures with astonishment. In spite of my total 
ignorance of such matters, I felt they must be all very old and 
priceless. 

Soon a powerfully built woman with a broad, coarse face 
entered. She was dressed in black silk, and wore round her 
neck a gold chain reaching to her waist. 

" Look, Sarah ! " exclaimed Auntie Lena. " I've brought you 
the boy at whose birth we were both present. Give Auntie 
your hand," she added, pushing me forward. 

No sooner had Auntie Lena spoken than I knew there was 
opposition in the air; for there was something indefinably 
spirited and aggressive in her tone of voice. 

The big lady, who struck me as being extremely rich and 
proud, replied coldly and calmly: "Since you wish it, I have 
no objeftion to his coming here for his midday meal on 
Saturdays, but he need not call me Auntie; surely that is 
going a bit too far!" 

"I won't remind you, Sarah," Auntie Lena replied, "how 
pleased your husband was about this relationship, of which he 
was informed in such a charming way, or how wonderful it 
was that we should just happen to reach this child's home at the 
moment of his birth ; for you don't attach much importance to 
such things. But I would like you to remember that the child 
is an orphan, and has no other relative on earth; and the people 
of Ballimi will misunderstand if you do not allow him to call 



132 OTTO BABENDIEK 

you Auntie, particularly as I have told tliem that he is related 
to you. So please let him do so. It will be a great help to 
him in Ballum." 

I wanted to make a sign of approval, but the great lady 
looked so cold and forbidding that I did not dare, nor did I 
have the courage to thank her when she consented. However, 
at Auntie Lena's bidding I took the smooth, cold hand that did 
not respond to my pressure, and thanked her. 

At that moment a beautifully dressed girl of about my own 
age entered the room. She struck me as being very slim, and 
had a particularly fast, long stride, while her little head was 
covered with fine dark ringlets. She held a racquet in her 
hand, which immediately struck me as being quite in keeping 
with her willowy form. 

Auntie Lena addressed her as Barbara, and introduced me, 
begging her to be kind to me and take me to Eilert. 

The little girl looked coldly at me with her round, brown 
eyes, and, taking my liand, said indifferently, "Come along!" 
and led me out of the room, across the hall, and up the stairs, 
throwing her ball into the air as she went and catching it again. 
She said nothing, and as I looked at her out of the corners of 
my eyes I felt she had forgotten all about me. Upstairs she led 
me along a passage, and stopped at the last door and listened. 
Then she knocked in a peculiar way, and said very coldly: 
"He's got a visitor I don't like, so I shan't go in with you." 
Whereupon, turning away and throwing her ball into the air 
again and catching it, she went downstairs. 

A few moments later the door opened and Eilert Mumm 
confronted me. He was sixteen at the time, not very tall, 
but broad and already quite the young man. He wore 
knickerbockers, which struck me as being strange, and his 
coarse face — it was his mother's face — was framed by a wild, 
dishevelled mass of auburn hair of two shades. His thoughts 
were evidently far away, for at first he glanced inquiringly at 
me. Then suddenly his face lit up with genuine kindliness, 
and he exclaimed, "Oh, our little cousin!" and laying an arm 
on my shoulder he led me into the room. But a moment later 
he stopped and looked at me again, and I could see that my 
face and eyes pleased him. The powerful spirit in his powerful 
frame divined the timid secret flame that nature had kindled 
in my soul. "Gome along, she must see you!" he exclaimed 



NEW EXPERIENCES 133 

with a low good-natured laugh, and, opening another door, he 
pulled me forward into a roomy attic, the floor, walls, and 
furniture of which were littered with a medley of drawings, 
unframed pictures, and various papers, while a table stood in 
the middle. 

On the table sat my acquaintance of the sheep farm, dressed 
in her laundry clothes, soaked from her washing. Her wild 
red face was aglow either from work or excitement. She wore 
coarse woollen stockings and clogs, one of which had dropped 
on to a drawing on the floor. On her lap she held a large 
tabby cat, and beside her on the table stood a small empty 
wine-glass. 

"Why, that's little Twiddlums!" she cried, stroking me. 
"I saw him at the shepherds' !" she explained to Eilert. 

I reminded her of our common acquaintance with Stormfeld 
and Engel Tiedje. "And he is my greatest friend," I said, my 
eyes suddenly filling with tears. 

For a moment she was so bewildered that her face looked 
almost bestially vacant, and she turned her eyes appealingly to 
Eilert. Then with a mad laugh she exclaimed: "I bet he 
doesn't half slang me ! " 

"He doesn't. He doesn't know how to slang!" I replied, 
choking down my sobs. 

Again her little eyes turned appealingly to Eilert. "He 
was too good for me," she said, shaking her tousled head and 
laughing foolishly. 

Eilert too was smiling. We were all talking in very low 
voices, although he had locked the outer door behind him, and 
bolted the door to his bedroom. " Don't start quarrelling with 
the little chap right away ! " he said; and leading me to a chair 
he added: "You don't know her name, do you? She's Uhle 
Monk, and she's my best friend." There was no trace of con- 
descension or charity or even mockery in his voice and laugliing 
face, but real joy. 

"Your mother ought to have heard that!" she exclaimed, 
looking calmly at him as she stroked the cat. 

Sitting by my side, he had started a drawing of her in 
red chalk, and through the medley of lines I could already 
discern her form and the outline of the cat. " What do I 
care about my mother?" he replied, shrugging his shoulders, 
and jumping up he went to the cupboard and took out a 



134 OTTO BABENOIEK 

bottle containing some light-coloured liquid, of which he 
gave some to her and drank what she left. " We quite under- 
stand each other," he observed, "even to drinking out of the 
same glass." 

"You're a good creature," she replied, in the same calm 
tones, as she bent over the cat. 

"Good?" he repeated. "You don't mean that! You 
mean that I am a hiunan being and no more, just as you are, 
and that's why I am happy when you are with me." Then 
suddenly growing angry, he cried: "Is my mother a human 
being? Is my sister? And are my masters human beings? 
Why, if I let myself go and play about for a bit, like a bird or 
that cat there, I am always scowled at. Oh, I know them so 
well!" 

Uhle Monk did not seem to be listening. Suddenly he put 
down his paper. "Are you human too?" he asked, laying a 
hand on my head. 

Had he seen that my soul resembled his, and that the same 
stream of red blood ran through our veins ? He ruffled my 
hair affedionately. 

"Isn't Eva human?" I ventured to ask. 

He laughed heartily. "An old schoolmarm ! " he exclaimed. 
"I am always quarrelling with her!" 

I replied that she spoke very well of him. 

He appeared highly amused. "Never mind!" he said, 
"she is a little Philistine, but at least she is one of the best- 
behaved girls in this town. Isn't she, Uhle?" 

"She has fine legs," replied Uhle calmly. As I had ob- 
served at the sheep-farm, she had no thought beyond what her 
eyes could see. 

I ventured to remark that Eva also had a good heart. 
"Look what clever eyes he has got!" she observed to Eilert 
with some embarrassment. 

"He doesn't get them through sentimentality and fine 
feelings," he replied with a laugh, "but by remaining true to 
earth!" Then they had another drink. Indeed they had 
several, and their eyes grew more and more fiery. 

I described my experiences on the way to Ballum, and 
she remarked how easily I might have come to harm. 
At this Eilert sprang up, exclaiming wildly that that was 
how the world was made — all that was common and vile was 



NEW EXPERIENCES 135 

protefted, whilst valuable things were in constant danger of 
ruin. 

We sat talking long after it had grown dark. The girl 
played with the cat — I called her a girl then, although she w£is 
married, and I call her so now, although her hair is grey, 
because she still has that ingenuous astonished look in her face 
which one connedls with children — ^while Eilert leant back in 
his chair and smoked a stumpy pipe. 

Then declaring she could not waste any more time she got 
up and we all went through a further door in the wall, and 
I gathered from the echoing of our footsteps that we passed 
through some large empty rooms. Eilert was leading me by 
the hand. 

At last we heard Eilert's mother calling from below: 
"Eilert, do you know where Uhle is? Is Uhle up there?" 

"No!" he replied perfedly calmly, and I had a feeling that 
he drew her to him, after which she ran away on her stockinged 
feet. A moment later, when for some reason or other he 
bent down to me, I noticed that his breath smelt of schnapps. 
At the door of the kitchen he took leave of me, and, stroking 
my hair, kindly said that if ever I were in trouble I was to 
come to him. 

The school at Ballum was much more human and pleasant 
than the one at Steenkarken — better in every way. The 
masters, as a class, certainly struck me as being abnormal, 
but I was agreeably surprised to find that at least they did not 
regard the pupils as criminals and knaves. One of them, who 
was very pompous, had a habit when speaking of holding his 
head on one side and allowing his eyes to wander sideways 
up and down the walls. Young as I was, I had the feeling 
that his pomposity was merely a cloak for shyness, and I could 
not help thinking that it would have been better both for him- 
self and us if he had remained at home with his books. An- 
other was half blind, and we answered all his questions by 
reading them out of our books. It seemed incredible that he 
never discovered this. Uncle Gosch could both see and hear, 
but he was much too indulgent. He taught us Latin and 
mathematics, but the boys always managed to lead him back 
to his old friend Pytheas, and then he could not resist the 
temptation of telling us for the hundredth time all about the 
old seafaring folk along the North Sea coast who traded in 



136 OTTO BABENDIEK 

bronze, gold, spices, and amber — which was fiar more inter- 
esting than irregular verbs. Once we tried to make him 
fritter away a whole hour in this way because one of us had 
found a piece of amber on the beach. But we were dis- 
appointed. "What is this stone?" he inquired, turning it 
over in his fingers. Breathless silence! Dumb astonish- 
ment ! " Why, it's amber. Professor ! " a timid voice ventured 
at last. "Indeed?" he replied, dropping it into the box of 
chalk stumps. Whereupon, after a moment's tense silence 
and a deep sigh, we had the irregular verbs! I had not yet 
been to the headmaster for any subjeft. He was an energetic 
little man, with a sharp face and gold pince-nez, very clever 
and kindly. Although I felt suspicious of the whole tribe of 
masters I was ready to believe that he was almost a rational 
being. 

Direftly after school I went to have my midday meal at one 
of the various houses that had offered me hospitality. On 
Mondays I was alone with an old maiden lady who fed me so 
conscientiously that I was in constant danger of blunting at 
her table. The next day I sat at a long table in an artisan's 
cottage, and had a secret tussle every time with his two appren- 
tices, for there was not enough to go round. On Wednesdays 
I took my meal with a fat old widow and her daughter, also a 
widow. But I found them rather trying, as they were so stiff 
and formal, and being a mere child I loved people to laugh and 
romp with me as Auntie Lena and Eva did. On Thursdays I 
went to the pastor, who cross-questioned me about my life, 
and on Fridays to the baker, who seemed to have lost interest 
in me now that he had a young stork with one yellow and 
one black leg. I used to sit surrounded by his little sacks 
of flour, who, since their father took no notice of them, 
presumably because they were normal, used to paw me all 
over with their floury hands, so that I left the house grey 
with dust. 

On Saturdays I went to Aunt Sarah's. The table was laid 
in a sumptuous room hung with the dark Dutch landscapes 
I had seen on the occasion of my first visit. I sat opposite Aunt 
Sarah, between Eilert and Barbara. I felt that my presence 
was distasteful to my aunt, but as I had no manly pride yet I 
did not mind. Barbara treated me as an equal, and asked^me 
all sorts of questions about Eva and Ernemann; but she^was 



NEW EXPERIENCES 137 

always cold, and we were far from being friends. Her brother 
Eilert hardly spoke, because the moment he opened his mouth 
he quarrelled with his mother. And their quarrels quickly 
became angry and bitter, because, although they both had the 
same large peasant heads, he was honest and truthful, if some- 
what hot-tempered, while she was fussy and stupid. Uhle 
waited at table. She walked about with her wonderfully 
springy gait. How I loved to see her clattering over the 
wooden floor in her clogs ! But she used to leave them at the 
door and serve us in her stockinged feet. Not a sign of her 
friendship with Eilert was visible. 

At last on Sundays I sat between Eva and Ememann, and 
Eva scolded and disciplined me all through the meal. If my 
collar wasn't straight I was threatened with starvation ; if I 
did not hold my fork corredly I was to have my ears cut off, 
and so on. But when I discovered that a litde girl whose foot 
she bound up continued to smile imperturbably in spite of 
similar threats, I began to smile too. Uncle Gosch used to 
talk in slow, measured sentences, with proud, flashing eyes, 
about a recent article or book dealing with the old days along 
the North Sea coast. And Auntie Lena chatted with her 
favourite, Ememann, who told' her all his little joys and 
troubles, as if she were a friend of his own age. But when she 
had had enough of him her beautiful resonant voice dominated 
the table, and was the only sound to be heard, except for an 
occasional "Really, my dear!" from Uncle Gosch when her 
statements or stories became too outrageous. 

They were all very good to me — exceedingly good. And 
when I remembered that, whereas they were under no obliga- 
tion to me, they let me sit at their table and overwhelmed me 
with their kind attentions, I was deeply moved. But did I 
feel at home among them ? Did they possess my whole con- 
fidence and my whole heart? No ! I was a village urchin, and 
came from a village forge and a workman's cottage. They 
were all too refined, too dignified for me, and therefore 
remained strangers. No! there was only one creature in the 
whole circle whom I regarded as my equal, and that was Uhle 
Monk, who was half mad. She came of the people to whose 
ways and company I was accustomed. And that was why, 
when dusk fell, I used to slip round to the side door of the 
Mumms' house and listen. And as soon as. I heard the sound 



138 OTTO BABENDIEK 

of her clogs I slunk into the kitchen and called her. Then 
she would come to me, and show me every kindness. She 
would give me currants to cat or a piece of cake, would re- 
move spots from my jacket, and help and advise me in all my 
little childish difficulties. Kneeling in front of me she would 
discuss all the things and people about us. And it was only 
when I was in her arms, with her silly red ugly face with 
its beautiful large red mouth close to me, that I would feel 
safe and sound ; then only was I at home and unspeakably 
happy. 



CHAPTER IX 

Afy First Party 

The autumn brought several weeks of mild fair weather, 
which, in spite of its being term time, the children thoroughly 
enjoyed. The moment afternoon school — an institution now 
abolished, thank goodness ! — was over, there came from the 
other side of the street the cry of a seagull, which Eilert 
could imitate most perfedtly. And then Eva and Ememann 
would run over to him with their bathing towels, and join 
him and Barbara and the other children in the flat-bottomed 
boat. 

I seldom joined them in the early days, because I had a great 
deal of lost time to make up at school. So I would sit at my 
window upstairs and work hard. I would work until I grew 
tired, and would often finish up with a hearty sob. 

Every three or four days Eva, who was my taskmistress, and 
whom I used to follow about like a lamb without any will of 
my own, would make me join the boating party. As a rule 
Eilert, who was a good deal older than the rest of us, used to 
steer, and we all sat facing him in the roomy boat. Everybody 
talked at once, sometimes making a tremendous noise; but 
I sat silently listening and watching. I was still much too 
uncertain of myself to join in. When a bee or a butterfly 
happened to have wandered too far from land and lost itself on 
the water, I noticed that it was Eva who begged Eilert to steer 
the boat to its rescue. Barbara, on the contrary, urged him to 
go on, and if he did as Eva wanted she tried to frighten the 
inseft by splashing it with water. 

Once Ememann — the "sweet youth," as Barbara liked to 
call him — stopped at home, because he and his friends had to 
aft that evening in a play at a big party given by Frau Mumm. 
And Eilert made fun of him. "Auntie Lena," he said, "who 
in other respeds is the cleverest woman in Ballimi, is blind in 
her love for that boy." 

"Your mother ought to keep a sharp look out on him, Eva," 

139 



140 OTTO BABENDIEK 

Barbara remarked coolly, trailing her long fingers in the water. 
"He does nothing at all at school. And where does he get 
the money to buy his presents and sweets ? You haven't got 
money of your own like we have." 

Eva tried to reply, but her beautiful full lips remained 
expeftantly open, and her eyes uttered an appeal. Usually so 
quick in word and deed, she seemed sobered by Eilert's 
presence, and looked at him as though she expedled him to 
answer. 

"Ememann is not a saint, neither is Barbara Mumm," he 
said with a bright smile. 

" You always insist on sticking up for everybody ! " exclaimed 
Barbara with an angry flash in her round, brown eyes. 

"Yes," replied Eilert calmly, "because everybody is right in 
their own way." 

This infuriated Barbara all the more. "Yes, but you see, 
he'll come to grief yet," she retorted. "Mother says so too, 
and thinks the same as I do." 

Eilert's face suddenly grew grave. "And what about us?" 
he asked. " I should like to see what we shall all be like in 
ten years' time. We all have our faults, which may lead to 
trouble. Barbara Mumm, for instance, is stuck up, and as for 
her brother Eilert — God help him!" 

"And what about Eva?" Barbara exclaimed scornfully. 

"Eva?" he repeated, gazing at her. And Eva looked anx- 
ious; for Eilert could be as truthful as Nature herself, and 
at times was terrifying. "Of course anyone may have bad 
luck," he replied, "but Eva will do better in life than any 
of us." 

"Because she is a boring schoolmarm?" Barbara exclaimed 
with passionate scorn. 

"You are making a big mistake!" exclaimed Eilert, jerking 
his head. "That's only her funny way of helping every one, 
which she gets from her mother. She has hot blood, I tell you, 
but it burns more calmly and rationally than ours." 

Eva looked grateful, and stroked my hair gently. "What 
have you got to say?" she asked. 

Eilert too put his hand on my head. Their hands met, and 
they pulled me in opposite direflions. 

"He's a little coward," said Eilert, "and a sneak, and we 
ought to chuck him overboard." And he and his angry sister 



MY FIRST PARTY 141 

seized hold of me. But Eva came to my rescue and they had 
to let go, because Eilert had only one free hand. It ended by 
his holding Eva's hand in his, and I can still see her firm litde 
fingers in his great big brown ones. At last Eva stroked my 
hair to make it lie smooth over the temples, an attention she 
paid me at least once a day. 

While we bathed Eilert chaffed Eva a good deal. There 
seemed to be a sort of tacit understanding between these two, 
and yet was it really so? At all events his voice afted as a 
magnet to her, while he was so delighted by the beautiful 
pifture she made in the water that I heard him exclaim 
"Wonderful!" under his breath, as though he were talking to 
himself. 

I looked from one to the other, and felt tremendously proud 
and happy to think I belonged to them and that they were 
glad to have me. As I watched them I noticed a difference 
between them, for Eva had eyes only for Eilert, but Eilert 
saw not only Eva but everything about her — the whole scene, 
of which she was only the centre. 

As we were walking along the beach after our bathe, the 
girls with their hair flying loose in the wind, we met Helmut, 
ferryman Busch's eldest boy. In one hand he had some 
books, in the other a net of fish. 

"You can give me the fish," said Barbara; "my mother will 
buy them." 

He gazed steadily at her with his boyish eyes. "But we're 
going to eat them ourselves!" he replied in tones equally 
short and haughty. 

Eilert laughed and dropped on to a patch of grass, and we 
all followed suit. 

"What are those books?" Eva inquired. 

" Mathematics and composition." 

"What good are they to you?" Barbara exclaimed rudely. 
"You're going to be a fisherman or a ferryman, aren't 
you?" 

"You seem to know more about it than I do," he replied, 
looking calmly at her out of the corners of his eyes. 

I was tempted to ask him whether Dina was still as tidy and 
smart as ever, but refirained, and watched the haughty way 
Barbara was looking at him, with a strange inquisitive glance 
which took him in from head to foot. 



142 OTTO BABENDIEK 

" If you want to sell your fish you can give them to mc," 
said Eilert, springing up. "Uhle will take your &ther the 
money." 

Helmut nodded, handed the fish over, and we tiu-ned 
towards home. 

When we had gone a little way Eilert turned round and 
shouted to Helmut: "May Barbara eat the fish too?" 

Helmut looked back and stopped still a moment. Then he 
shouted back roughly: "For all I care the haughty prig can 
eat them — ^yes." 

"He says you may, he's sweet on you!" said Eilert, turning 
to Barbara with a laugh. 

"Thanks!" Barbara retorted laconically. 
"And you're sweet on him," he continued calmly. 
Barbara shrugged her lithe shoulders contemptuously. 
"You're a bit mad sometimes!" she exclaimed coldly. 

At home Eva and I found the others dressing for the evening 
party at Frau Mumm's. Uncle Gosch was already dressed, 
but he was reading a book all the same. Auntie Lena wore a 
fine brown evening frock, and Ememann was in knee-breeches 
and silk stockings. His mother told him he looked fine, kissed 
him, and danced a few steps with him. She was looking 
forward to the evening's entertainment. A little later Eva 
came downstairs in a blue dress, which immediately made 
me cry out in admiration; whereupon they all left for Frau 
Mumm's, leaving me alone with the servant, for I was not 
invited. 

After I had been sitting for some time over my Latin, I heard 
the front door bang, and Eva burst into the room, her face 
radiant. "Aunt Sarah and Barbara were against it, but Eilert 
won, and you are to come ... at once! ... in your big 
boots!" 

Dragging me to the washstand and then to the chest of 
drawers, she undressed and dressed me again, scolding and 
threatening me all the time, and saying she would shut me up 
in the wardrobe for a whole week if I didn't behave properly. 
In about a quarter of an hour I was out in the dark streets 
with her. Feeling somewhat terrified, I walked behind her 
into the house, through the lofty, brightly lighted hall, where 
girls and women with light caps were carrying in the food and 
wine. 



MY FIRST PARTY 143 

Then I entered a brilliantly illumined room, and saw crowds 
of people sitting at a long table, talking, laughing, making a 
noise, pulling loud crackers and laughing even louder, and 
toasting and paying each other compliments. Eva ushered me 
in by laying her hands on my shoulders and pushing me in 
front of her, guiding me to the end of the table where I saw 
Auntie Lena. I was given a chair beside her, and a plate and 
a glass of wine were set in front of me. As I had never tasted 
wine I did not dream of touching the glass, but I was obliged 
to eat, because Eva stood over me, and threatened me with 
all kinds of dreadful punishments if I did not. But I soon 
stopped, so absorbed was I by the scene about me. Never in 
my life had I seen so many jolly people. By now most of 
them, both young and old, were wearing caps, and I saw Uncle 
Gosch do something very funny. Suddenly struck by some idea 
— probably about Pytheas — he laid his cap on the table and 
wTote a long note on it; then, thinking it was his note-book, he 
stuffed it, tassel and all, into the breast-pocket of his coat. 
Auntie Lena had pulled her cap well down over her fair hair, 
and was joking and laughing with three or four young men 
who were sitting opposite her. Ernemann, in his page's cos- 
tume, was sitting on her lap, one arm round her neck, and 
playing wth her wine-glass with his other hand. Then an old 
man stood up and made a speech. But I couldn't listen; I 
had so much to look at. Eva and Barbara, surrounded by a 
number of boys, were talking and singing, while Eilert got 
up from time to time and went round the company, pulling 
everybody's cap farther down on their heads. Now and again, 
when he saw Uhle passing along the table with the punch- 
bowl, he leant back in his chair, and I think I saw the back of 
his head touch her arm as she went by. I had no cap, but at 
last Eilert brought me one, and with a few kind words put 
it on my head. But a moment later he pulled it off again, 
saying it did not suit me. 

"Why not?" I exclaimed, my eyes eloquent with love, as 
I looked up at him. 

"Oh, you're too fresh from God's mint!" he replied, 
stroking my cheek. 

And so, capless once more, I sat and watched the merry 
company round the table. But my Boeotian denseness and 
all the experiences I had been through prevented me from 



144 OTTO BABENDIEK 

laughing, and I sat there with an expression of deadly earnest- 
ness in my inquisitive eyes, contemplating the turmoil. 

Suddenly strains of dance music burst out from the direftion 
of the hall, and every one got up and danced. After a while 
I went into the hall also, but I had not been there a moment 
before the whole company proceeded two by two in a long file 
all over the house to the strains of the orchestra — upstairs, 
downstairs, and in and out of every room, shouting and 
laughing. 

As Uncle Gosch suddenly passed me, he cried: "Diek!" — 
for that's what he called me — "go in there and see what my 
dear wife is doing." 

"Oh, she's passed by long ago," I replied. "They're all 
up in the attics by now." 

"Well, run up to the first attic," he said, "you'll see the 
procession pass. It's dark up there. . . ." 

"But Auntie Lena has often been up there. Uncle; she 
knows it quite well," I replied, anxious to set his mind at 
rest. 

Soon afterwards the procession returned from the attics and 
broke up as though with one accord, and in a moment the 
hall was full of dancing couples. 

I sat at the foot of the stairs watching them, and had been 
there some time, when Eva, her face aglow, skipped towards 
me, pulled me up, and said: "Come along! Let's go over the 
house together!" 

I don't know why, but I immediately had a feeling that she 
wanted to find Eilert, and as we passed through each room it 
struck me that she was also anxious not to take him by surprise. 
In the kitchen we saw the servants sitting, eating, round the 
table, with wine before them, and they looked as if they had 
had quite enough to drink. Eva inquired hesitatingly where 
Uhle was. 

"Why, she was here a moment ago with Eilert," replied the 
cook, with infinite satisfaftion and a touch of scorn. "He 
likes us better than he does your lot, you know. There are 
the chairs they were sitting on ! " 

Another of the servants said that Uhle had gone upstairs for 
something or other with Eilert, and the others all laughed. 

Eva went singing up the kitchen stairs and pulled me along 
with her. We saw lights in Eilert's room, and Eva called him, 



MY FIRST PARTY 145 

but he did not answer. Then looking through the crack of the 
door, we saw him and Uhle talking and laughing together, 
with a bottle of white wine between them. 

Uhle was speaking of beautiful fair hair, and I knew she was 
referring to Eva. 

Eilert nodded. "She'll be the prettiest girl in Ballum!" 
he exclaimed with drunken jollity. "But you are pretty too, 
with your fine hips and your wild mouth, you witch!" 

Eva pulled me quickly away, and dashed downstairs. 
"What do you say — shall we go home?" she said when we 
reached the hall. 

I was naturally quite ready, and we left just as we were 
liand in hand. 

There was a light in the sitting-room when we got back, and 
the servant, who was half asleep, informed us that while we 
were away two boy friends of theirs from along the coast had 
dropped in. She had sent them upstairs, and by mistake they 
had got in Eva's and Ernemann's beds. 

We went up to our room, and there we found two boys of 
about our own age. My bed was empty. 

Eva woke them up and told them to get up at once,, as they 
were in the wrong beds, and took them into the next room, 
where she said they were to sleep. When she returned, instead 
of sitting on her own bed and proceeding to undress as usual, 
she remained standing. Then putting her hand down the bed, 
she said uneasily: "I can't sleep here!" 

When I asked her why, she said it was still warm, and 
disgusted her. 

I was just in the middle of undressing in front of my bed. I 
thought of offering it to her, but did not dare to. At last she 
asked me whether I would let her have it. I was delighted. 
"Only too pleased," I replied, "if you would like it." She 
said she would like it very much, but wondered where I would 
sleep. I suggested Ernemann's bed, but she did not take to 
the idea, and begged me to sleep in hers. "Then it will be all 
right for me to-morrow night," she said. 

After we had been in bed some time I heard her crying, and 
asked her what was the matter, not out of curiosity, but because 
I wanted to help her. 

"Oh," she said, "that business of Eilert's is so horrid! 
I . . . I . . ." 



146 OTTO BABENDIEK 

Her words cut me to the quick, and I got up and went over 
to comfort her. 

I believe my attitude to Eva changed from that night. The 
confidence she had shown me made me feel more assurance 
in her presence, and this led to her thinking more highly 
of me. Thenceforward she regarded me less as a creature 
under her charge, whom she had to rule by threats, than as a 
friend ; and she even enlisted my help with her other young 
charges. 

But in other respects too I was becoming more adapted to 
my new life. During recreation time at school I no longer 
hung about alone, but kept company with other boys. I 
began to make friends among my schoolfellows, and to visit 
their homes and go excursions with them. And I ceased to be 
bewildered by the many different people I used to meet at my 
free meals. 

Even with Eilert I was no longer the shy village waif, but 
went about with him along the dykes or over the moors, and 
stood looking over his shoulder as he painted. He was always 
painting with tremendous eagerness. He used to bend over 
his pidure, while beads of perspiration stood on his brow. I 
think I began to feel, even in those days, how much more a 
child of nature he was than other people. 

Little Ernemann too wanted me from time to time. His 
ambition was to be an ador — a tragic aftor — and he wanted me 
to take the villains' parts. Unfortunately I felt no vocation 
for the business, nor did Eva. So we used to tell him we had 
work to do, and would go upstairs and sit with our books. 
Sometimes Eva wanted to talk to me and tell me things about 
herself of which I knew nothing, and then the conversation 
would inevitably turn on Eilert, and I knew she was pleased 
when I waxed enthusiastic about him. Meanwhile I watched 
her bright face, with its beautiful broad brow and clear blue- 
grey eyes, which refleded the calm and lofty soul behind, and 
she became the objeft of my adoration. I did not sit opposite 
her, in a free and easy attitude with my head resting on my 
hands, but upright, with my hands lying quietly by the side of 
my book. And this instindlive attitude of a worshipper or 
slave, which I assumed towards her all through these years, was 
ultimately to determine the fate of both of us. 



MY FIRST PARTY 147 

Every Friday during recreation we schoolboys used to 
walk round the market, which was held near the church, the 
goods market being to the south and the cattle market to the 
north. Near the main door of the church one of the two 
shepherds always used to sit, with eggs, chickens, or wool for 
sale. There was never more than one of the brothers there, 
though which it was I could never discover. I often used 
to see Uhle here, her face usually flushed with anger, or wild 
and ugly. 

She generally nodded to me; then, turning to the shepherd, 
to my astonishment would sometimes address him as Jan and 
sometimes as Jacob. Evidently she knew the difference be- 
tween them! Although I was only a child, I could see that 
she did her best to attrad him. She would stand saucily in 
front of him, chaff" him about his wares and his laziness, and 
about the antics of the sheep, which were left to come and go 
as they pleased. Or she would beg him not to ponder too 
deeply on the ways and means of shirking work, in case he grew 
thin and exhausted. Occasionally she would hum a tune and 
look searchingly at him, when the stony figure might just give 
a faint stir or blink. Once I even heard him mutter something 
like "silly girl"; and he would follow her with his eyes until 
she vanished round the comer. 

Sometimes I ran across Helmut the ferryman's son there, 
and I watched him grow more and more like his father, broad 
and powerful. Once he told me that he was learning to be a 
locksmith, but that he still went to a continuation school, 
where he wanted to learn English, but up to the present there 
was no teacher of English. 

In a sudden access of generosity I offered to help him, for 
I had heard Eva speak a few words, and knew something of 
the language myself, especially the pronunciation. So after 
that he came every Saturday, and Eva and I helped him. 
Eva treated him kindly, but Barbara Mumm, who was some- 
times present, took no notice of him, playing with her ball the 
whole time. "Why, his sister is a servant," she said, "and I 
don't associate with servants and their brothers." 

Eva protested in surprise that Helmut was such a nice, 
good-looking boy, and so strong. 

Barbara did not answer. 

The second time Helmut met her with us he asked: "Why 



148 OTTO BABENDIEK 

does she always want to come here when she knows I'm 
coming?" 

I told him I thought she liked him because he was so strong 
and good-looking. And he was so much astonished that he 
said nothing. 

From time to time I saw his sister Dina, who was a servant 
in a good family. I would have liked to speak to her; 
but she looked so strong and determined in her beautiful 
white cap that I did not dare to. And she probably felt too 
much respedl for the Latin books under my arm to venture 
to address me, so we used to pass each other with a smile or 
a nod. 

One day I found her in great distress, and to my surprise 
saw that she could be angry and abusive. She was in a door- 
way and could not escape, for barring her path stood my 
friend and benefactor Balle Bohnsack, unconscionably tall, 
lank, and fair, in his dirtiest drover's kit and a rag of a cap 
on his wild mop of hair. But he had not got his jackdaw 
with him. 

He was asking her to go with him there and then to the 
jeweller's to buy an engagement ring. "It is of no conse- 
quence to me, my dear," he said, "whether you decide now or 
in two years' time. You're going to be my wdfe whatever 
happens. You know that well enough." 

She called him mad, and said she would tell her brother 
and her father. 

"My father-in-law," he replied with great dignity. 

With flashing eyes, she told him not to be so impudent. 

He shrugged his shoulders. "You see. Otto, my boy," he 
said in his old-fashioned way, "how my fiancee treats me! 
What a marriage ours will be. " 

Her eyes flashing more than ever, Dina spat. Yes, incred- 
ible as it may seem, this neat and tidy creature adually 
spat! 

"If my calling is not good enough for you," he continued, 
" — ^for I am a sort of glorified drover — I might change. 
But it must be something to do with animals. Perhaps I 
might go to your people to-morrow and discuss it with 
them." 

Seizing the opportunity, as he turned round to speak to me, 
she pushed past him and dashed away. 



MY FIRST PARTY 149 

Taking no further notice of her, to my horror — ^for he looked 
disreputable — he then fastened himself on to me. 

He told me that everything was going on very well at home, 
that his sister was mistress of the farm, his father merely an 
underling to the brother whom Bothilde had summoned back 
from America, and that his mother was a sort of general 
servant. 

I asked him whether Bothilde had even done away with his 
jackdaw. 

"Yes," he replied, "that too! She did not want anything 
to come between me and the bullocks. I swear she would like 
me to be a bullock ! ' ' But he hoped for Dina's sake and his own 
that he would be spared that fate. 

Apparently Dieter Blank still visited the farm and Bothilde 
was still in love with him. "He is her master," said Balle. 
"When he looks at her and plays his fiddle, she's done for — 
she's far away. That's the way of the world, my son — to every 
devil its master devil." 

He didn't think they would ever marry. It was just one of 
those love affairs that made the couple concerned most 
miserable. Only the day before he had caught her sobbing 
her heart out. And so it went on. But he said he was kind to 
her — ^at least, as kind as a "wretched drover" could be to "a 
ruling princess." 

Then he told me he had seen the old "pantechnicon" at 
Stormfeld. I had the greatest difficulty to restrain my tears, 
and forgot for the moment how uncomfortable it made me feel 
to be walking at his side through the streets. But I was afraid 
he might want to come to Auntie Lena's with me, so I men- 
tioned casually that I had to go to a neighbouring house to 
take a message, and left him rather abruptly. 

It was about this time that, after speaking to Eilert 
Mumm for the hundredth time about my old friend Engel 
Tiedje, Eilert suggested that he should come to pay us 
a visit. He thought Saturday or Sunday would be a good 
day, and he could go back on the Monday morning. I 
wrote to Engel to this effeft, and three days later I received 
his reply. 

His letter opened with congratulations on the wonderful 
luck my gold piece had brought me — "for was I not now at 
the very top of the tree?" He also referred to Eilert as my 



150 OTTO BABENDIEK 

"benefador," marvelling at the lofty spirit which enabled him 
to paint pidures for the fun of the thing, when he did not need 
to earn money by it. He had to confess, however, that after 
examining his accounts he had come to the conclusion that if 
he came to Ballum it must be on foot, for he had not the where- 
withal to drive or come by train. He had, therefore, resolved 
to set off with a two days' supply of food. 

On the following Saturday, as we stood on the bank, we saw 
him on the ferry, absorbed in the view of Ballvun in front of 
him. He had a little red bundle under his arm, and both his 
hands, which reached almost to his knees, were resting on a 
thick walking-stick. The older he grew the more careless he 
seemed to become with his pipe, which he would drop alight 
into the left-hand pocket of his jacket and leave it to go on 
burning. 

As soon as he landed, Eilert plunged a hand into his pocket 
and, taking out the lighted pipe, stuck it into Engel's mouth, 
and this simple aft of friendliness at once put Engel at his 
ease. After showing him his quarters, we took him to Auntie 
Lena, who, having only just dismissed the mayor, was in full 
swing. 

Sitting majestically in her large armchair, she immediately 
addressed Engel with the intimate 'thou,' and chaffed him 
about his behaviour on the day of my birth. 

Engel looked imploringly at Eilert and me, but as we knew 
that he was not in any very great danger we left him to his 
own resources, and he tried to explain to Auntie Lena that he 
had never had any aspirations to being a hero, but only wanted 
to serve Herr Babendiek well and faithfully. 

This somewhat mollified Auntie Lena, who then proceeded 
to chaff him good-naturedly about the big forge door and the 
little balcony, and even about his figure and his physical 
shortcomings. 

I tried to say something, but she shut me up. If I had 
thought anything of her, she said, I would have taken her 
to see Engel Tiedje long ago, but I was ashamed of being 
seen in the street with her. I smiled, and Uncle Gosch 
came in. 

"It simply means that you don't want to be seen walking 
by the side of that old ostrich feather," she exclaimed, looking 
at me out of the corners of her eyes. 



MY FIRST PARTY 15I 

I protested that, on the contrary, I was ready to go to the 
end of the world with her. 

She then turned to Engel Tiedje and asked him to tell her 
about his former wife, Uhle Monk. She said that she could 
well understand he could not live with her. 

Engel Tiedje was dumbfounded by her sudden reference to 
this subjed; his eyebrows vanished for some considerable 
distance under his maze of hair, and his small sparkUng eyes 
wandered uneasily round the room. She said she quite under- 
stood that men did not like to discuss such matters, and sug- 
gested that he probably could not put up with her because she 
was too hot-blooded. 

Eilert looked at Engel Tiedje with an expression that 
fluctuated between admiration and mockery, and Engel, 
gazing up at Auntie Lena with his great serious eyes, as if 
he were about to take the oath~before a court of law, replied: 
"She was always fiddling about with the forge fire, and then 
she would get quite wild." 

Auntie Lena then told a long story, which was somewhat 
beside the point, about some one else who had apparently had 
trances conneded with fire; then, turning to Engel Tiedje, she 
bade him proceed. She did not allow him to continue, how- 
ever, but chaffed him again, this time about his name, and 
once more alluded to his figure. 

Uncle Gosch reprimanded her for her indiscretion, and I 
took it upon myself to explain how poor Engel had been made 
a cripple in his youth, when he used to work all too conscien- 
tiously and zealously for cruel peasant employers. 

Auntie Lena looked round the company in amazement. 
"Just listen to him!" she cried. "A regular stuck-up little 
aristocrat, if ever there was one!" Then, laying a fine white 
hand on Engle Tiedje's large brown one, as it rested on his 
knee, she said: "As if you needed defending against me! We 
two are closer friends than these people think, aren't we? 
You dear sooty old Engel ! Look how they are watching us ! 
And simply because we like each other ! But they are none of 
them any good. Least of all Holler ! And as for you, my 
dear Eilert, and your friendship with Uhle Monk, you had 
better look out!" 

We could not prevail upon Engel Tiedje to have his 
meal with us at our table. He said he would eat in the 



152 OTTO BABENDIEK 

kitchen. But as Auntie Lena would not consent to this he 
sat a little way from the table, and ate some of the bacon 
sandwiches he had brought with him, and accepted a cup 
of tea. 

I don't know whether Eilert had intended from the first to 
confront our visitor with his former wife; but as we passed the 
back of his house on the way to Engel's quarters he motioned 
to me secretly to hold my tongue, and led us through his 
garden, up some stairs at the back and into his room. Engel 
Tiedje had not the faintest idea where he was, and was much 
too shy, polite, and confused to ask; besides, he was dead tired 
after his long walk. Eilert then went out and we sat down. 
At last we heard the sound of footsteps, and Eilert's name being 
called from downstairs, and at the same moment Uhle entered 
alone. She saw me first, and cried out cheerfully: "Hullo, 
Twiddlums." Then in the gathering dusk she caught sight 
of Engel, who started up, exhausted though he was ; and the 
next moment Eilert appeared. 

"I wanted to bring you together again," he said, smiling a 
little uneasily. 

Engel Tiedje had retreated a few steps and was looking 
timidly though not unkindly at her. 

Her first impulse under the spell of Eilert's influence was, 
I believe, to say something spiteful. But when she saw him 
sitting there so exhausted, and remembered his life, so full of 
self-sacrifice for others, including herself and me, whom she 
loved, she suddenly gave a little cry, and dropping at his feet 
and clasping his knees exclaimed in stifled and agitated tones : 
"I played with you as a cat plays with a mouse." 

"I bear no grudge against you now," replied Engel, com- 
pletely taken aback. 

"I know," she wailed, as the tears poured down her red 
cheeks. "But I have this against myself!" she cried faintly, 
beating her breast, "and so much more! But fire dances 
before my eyes and burns my veins." And she turned 
imploringly to Eilert. "You are so clever, Eilert," she said. 
"Let him go back to his forge. Please let him go back ! Our 
wild life is not for him, or for that child there!" 

Eilert was standing by with a pale face, looking as 
though he suddenly saw himself on the edge of an. abyss. 
"I meant well," he said bitterly. "I thought you were 



MY FIRST PARTY 153 

both human, and could not fail to understand one another. 
But I am continually reminded that it doesn't work. I 
don't understand even you now. But I suppose you can't 
help yourself." 

" He is too good, Eilert!" 

"All right," he said, laying an arm about her shoulder. 
"You have begged his forgiveness, so it's all right now." 
Then he added bitterly: "Men try to put things right! But 
it's no good! We're going too." 

So we left and took Engel to his quarters. 

On the next day we took him to the cathedral for Mass. I 
don't think he heard much of the sermon. The events of the 
previous evening had upset him too much. 

Direftly after the service we accompanied him to the ferry, 
and after filling two pipes for him, and lighting one, we took 
leave of him. 

Later, when I was alone with him in his room, Eilert 
spoke angrily and bitterly about Engel's meeting with Uhie. 
"People always want order and justice — ^as if that were 
possible ! " he exclaimed. " As if the world were not precisely 
a devilish wild medley of disorder ! The Church and society 
are perpetually trying to reduce and arrange this wild chaos, 
when all the while it only needs beautifying, accentuating, and 
illuminating!" Uhle Monk soon joined us, and he continued 
in the same strain; though she was quite incapable of under- 
standing. To him she was only a dark abyss into which his 
golden words were flung. They drank a good deal of schnapps 
together, but neither then nor on any other occasion did they 
offer me any. He called me his little ensign, because, in 
obedience to my mother's warning about my chest, I always 
held myself very straight. 

A few days later, as Eilert and I were crossing the market- 
place, whom should we run into but my old Steenkarken 
acquaintance Dutti Kohl! 

He had grown taller, broader, and fatter, and looked more 
like a helpless young elephant than a human being. He 
recognized meat once, and putting his fat arm round me, just 
as he used to do, said in his oily voice: " Well, little Babendiek, 
so there you are! For three days I've been looking for you. 
And now I've met you at last! " 

I must have known he was lying, and that he had not given 



154 OTTO BABENDIEK 

me a thought, and did not even know I was in Ballum. But 
it is terrible how one falls a vidim to such self-assurance, and I 
asked him in quite a friendly way whether he had come to 
Ballum on a visit. 

"Aren't you aware, sweet lad," he replied, hugging me 
tighter, "that the poor Kohls have come to seek their fortune 
in Ballum, and that we have a shop on the market-place? 
China and fancy goods and . . . but my sense of honour hardly 
allows me to confess it . . . also a little banking business." 
And he whispered the last words into my ear. 
I said that I was glad he was well. 

Pressing me again to his side, he said in his honeyed tones: 
"I know, dear boy, that you like the poor Kohls, who are 
making such a gallant struggle in life, and so I beg you to do 
me the favour of telling me who you are walking with. If I 

am not mistaken " 

I replied that it was Eilert Mvunm, but I am convinced 
now that he only accosted me because he already knew who 
it was. 

He bowed humbly, and informed Eilert that ever since he 
had been in Ballum he had been wondering whether he would 
ever be vouchsafed the honour of entering the stately portals 
of the house of Mumm, with all its masterpieces of ancient and 
modern art, bronzes, and etchings, and above all the works of 
the young son of the house. He confessed that he had long 
been an admirer of the arts and had managed to colled a few 
old pieces for his own edification. "I am so pleased, litde 
Babendiek," he added, " that you have introduced me to Herr 
Eilert!" And once more he pressed me to him. 

I was astonished to see that Eilert did not listen altogether 
unsympathetically to this speech. But the truth was that he 
took a pleasure in everything in nature, including creeping 
and flying things. He had the artist's reverence for every- 
thing God had made. And I believe he invited Dutti at 
this very first meeting to come to his mother's house and see 
its treasures. 

When Eilert left us I remained clasped in Dutti's arm, and 
went to his shop with him. The shop and the room behind 
it were very much like the establishment at Steenkarken. But 
Dutti soon led me into another little room, furnished with 
bright new furniture, in the middle of which stood a writing- 



MY FIRST PARTY 155 

table. He informed me that this was the bank. His words, 
however, conveyed nothing to my mind, as everything seemed 
to be there except the bank. I asked him what sort of business 
was transaded in it. 

Pressing me to his side, he whispered into my ear that they 
sold shares, and were dealing at present in Portuguese and St 
Domingo securities. "Haven't you heard of the bituminous 
soil of Lake Kibitz ? " he inquired. 

I said that I was aware that the lake was in the neighbour- 
hood, but knew nothing about the soil on its banks. He 
told me they were floating a company, in connedtion with a 
Hamburg bank, to exploit it. Then he led me into another 
room, where I found his father busy fixing the prices of 
the goods in the shop. He still had great difficulty in 
dealing with division, and I immediately set to and helped. 
But I was surprised to find that he never wrote the price 
I gave him on an article, but always multiplied it by two 
or three. 

After having been called out to the shop, old Kohl returned, 
looking very sad. " Think of it !" he exclaimed. " I have just 
been paid five marks for one of those yellow handbags, and in 
a month's time it will be all grey, and in two months worn out. 
How can people who buy such things expedl to make any 
headway in life? But I can't help it ! " 

Dutti, who was sitting by me with his hand on my shoulder, 
nodded and looked proud. " What a pity we Kohls have such 
tender consciences, little Babendiek!" he exclaimed. 

When old Kohl heard that his son had been introduced to 
Eilert Miunm he began asking me all about the houses at 
which I had meals. I was surprised that they knew I liad 
free meals in the town, but as I was quite guileless, and 
imagined they asked all these questions out of pure friendliness, 
I allowed m^'self to be carried away, and eagerly told them 
all I knew. 

They cross-questioned me more particularly about the 
Mumm family, and I was so proud of being related^to such 
people that I told them everything. I believe I even went so 
far as to hint that my Aunt Mimun was inclined to be vain, 
and that her son, although he was only seventeen, had a strong- 
smelling bottle in his cupboard. But they seemed to know 
a good deal about the family, gathered, I presiune, from 



156 OTTO BABENDIEK 

the cook and her associates, and I only confirmed what they 
already knew. At all events, they were very pleased with 
me, and Dutti hugged me most afTedionately when he said 
good-bye. 

When I think of those hours spent in the back-parlour of 
Dutti's shop at Steenkarken and Ballum, I believe it was there 
— ^and I confess it with some shame — that I first developed my 
gift for narrative. 



CHAPTER X 

Pleasant Memories 

Xwo uneventful years followed, during which I seem to have 
been at peace with the whole world and friendly with every- 
body. 

Auntie Lena was proud of me. She knew that her daring 
venture in adopting me had proved a success, though I told 
her quite frankly that I was not nearly as gifted as Ernemann. 
For I had a profound admiration for Ernemann. 

"No," she agreed, "that is true. There is nobody like 
Ernemann. Who knows what he will be one day ! But you 
are a fine lad all the same. You see more than most people, 
though you say nothing and are a litde humbug, and will do 
a lot of mischief before you're done." 

When I came back from school she stroked my face, and 
sang my praises, but her approval soon turned to mockery, 
and she would say one amusingly spiteful thing after another. 
She was particularly fond of poking fun at my nose. Some- 
times it was too broad, sometimes too pointed, and sometimes 
too pendulous. She teased me about everything, even Engel 
Tiedje, his appearance, his life and the letters he wrote me, 
which she always read. But she never chaffed me about my 
dear parents, although they might well have provoked her 
irony. 

As for Uncle Gosch, I never seemed to get any further with 
him. I now knew who Pytheas was, and was even able to 
read certain p>assages in Greek authors referring to him; but 
that did not mean I had drawn any nearer to Uncle Gosch. 
To reach him I should have had to climb over generations of 
people long since dead and gone, over mountains of raw 
amber, bronze, and Indian spices. For when confronted with 
a question relating to the present he would simply look 
puzzled and helpless, and answer with a smile and an expres- 
sion of apology in his deprecating eyes. 

I never became very intimate with Ernemann, though of 

157 



158 OTTO BABENDIEK 

course he was always friendly to me. It was wonderful that 
he did not hate me for living as his parents' child in his own 
home ! Occasionally he would come up to me and, with his 
spare, delicate frame quite close to me, would look straight at 
me with his fine bold eyes and call me brother. But our 
natures and interests were too different. I had put my whole 
heart into my school work. I felt I had to do so in order to 
be a credit to Auntie Lena. But he had stuck in the fourth 
form for three years, would read novels and plays until far into 
the night, and had founded an amateur dramatic club. Thus 
he lived a great deal in the fantastic world of romance; but 
Auntie Lena loved him just as he was. 

"What would you like to be, my precious boy?" she would 
ask him; for she thought him capable of becoming anything — 
a great merchant, a great ador, a great poet, or even a great 
inventor ! What a delight they took in making these plans ! 
How they vied with each other in the piftures they con- 
jured up. 

I was great friends with Eva. One night she moved out of 
our room, and was given a room to herself, opposite ours. I 
did not like that at all, and missed her very much. But every 
morning I used to knock at her door and ask for something or 
other, merely to get a glimpse of her and make sure that she 
was still as friendly to me as ever. On Sunday mornings, in 
obedience to Auntie Lena's orders, I had to wear a white collar 
and a white tie, which was not easy to put on — ^at least, so I 
tried to make out — and I used to go very early to Eva's door 
and beg for her help. I would hear her jump out of bed and 
stagger half asleep to the door, open it, and stand before me, 
and, with her dear pure face quite close to mine, she would 
arrange my tie. 

I used to wonder why she was not a little more vain, and 
was rather piqued about it; because I felt that if she had been 
it would have been on my account. But she used to stand 
there before me, still drunk with sleep, with her large fresh 
mouth, her sparkling blue eyes, and her long fair hair falling 
in a tangle about her face. She was so radically healthy she 
ought really to have gone about all day barefoot in the night- 
gown, which reached to her knees. I wanted to tell her so, 
but felt that if I did it would sound queer and frighten her. 
And so these scenes at her bedroom door on Sunday mornings, 



PLEASANT MEMORIES I59 

in spite of their unspeakable bliss, always gave me a certain 
feeling of disappointment and pain. But I continued the 
pradUce all the same. 

On Sunday mornings I always spent an hour or two with 
my relatives. Entering by the kitchen door, I had a word with 
Uhle, and then went to Eilert's room in the attics. He was in 
the sixth form, but he did not work, and was frequently absent 
for days together. I used to spend my time rummaging 
among his drawings, pidures, and literary attempts. I knew 
what a great heart he had, and used to listen respecftfuUy when 
he spoke of God, humanity, and the people and things we 
knew. He must have been nearly twenty then, but his mind 
was full of deep and difficult problems, and was slow in reach- 
ing conclusions about them. 

I know now that these hours I spent in his room were not 
devoid of danger for me; but my mind, thanks to my parents, 
was sound and wholesome. Thus it did me more good than 
harm, although I was still only a child, to be associated with 
this stormy spirit, leaping from peak to peak, and full of the 
wisdom of the ages. 

Often when I was with him Uhle would creep up to the door 
in her stockinged feet, and listen and then walk in. She said 
little, and that little never rose above physical things. But 
what she said was wild and pithy, and pleased Eilert. The 
movements of her lithe body filled him with joy, and his anger 
and agitation calmed down in her presence. 

Sometimes Eva would go with me, and then Eilert was over- 
joyed. He had enough self-control to be conventional for a 
while, and carried everything before him by his charm. But 
the best thing in him was his red blood, and thus in time a 
word or a thought would inevitably escape him which fright- 
ened or wounded her. How well I recall her dear face, 
turning first white and then red, and her voice growing cold 
and strange. 

When we returned home they could see from our faces 
where we had been, and Auntie Lena would speak her mind 
about Sarah Mumm. "Anyone else," she would say, "would 
have sacked Uhle Monk long agoj but she does the work of the 
whole house, and that's the secret. Sarah Mumm is tight- 
fisted, and stupid into the bargain." 

But how essentially childlike I remained, in spite of my 



l6o OTTO BABENDIEK 

association with Eilcrt, was proved by my feelings when I was 
moved up into the fifth form. In anticipation of this event I 
had written to Engel begging him to send me some money to 
buy the blue cap which I then became entitled to wear. And 
how proud I was the first time I appeared before Auntie Lena 
with it on! To my great satisfadion, she had a number of 
visitors with her. 

She was very sweet to me. Standing up, she kissed me and 
cried over me — she had no difficulty in turning on the tap — 
and spoke so kindly about the joy my parents would have felt 
if they could have seen me. 

I was now sufficiently at my ease with her to make some 
attempt to express my gratitude for all her kindness. "Yes," 
I said, "but where should I have been now, Auntie Lena, if 
you had not crossed my path!" 

Deeply moved, she caressed me; then, calming down, she 
exclaimed passionately in front of everybody: "There now, you 
have all heard how at least one person has recognized the 
trouble I have taken. Never before in this house have I had 
such an experience." 

Everybody protested. 

Whereupon, in spite of emphatic remonstrances from Uncle 
Gosch, she told us how only once before in her life had such a 
thing happened, when she was a girl of seventeen at Wenneby. 
Some one had seen her helping with the children, and had told 
her she was a good creature. "He saw it at the first glancd," 
she added. " Oh, if only I had married him ! He is the head 
of a sugar fadlory now. . . . Yes. . . . Well, now tell us. 
Holler, what you are going to do . . . now you are all arrayed 
in blue and gold!" 

"If I might be allowed to say what I would really like, 
Atmtie Lena," I replied, "it would be to go and pay a visit to 
my relative Dean Eigen of Buchholz." 

I was proud to be able to mention such exalted relatives, 
though, truth to tell, I had heard not a word either from the 
Dean or Almut all this time. 

"Certainly!" she said. "Have you got any money?" 

I said that I had twenty marks which Engel had sent me. 

"Then you must go via Stormfeld and visit your old friend 
and father," she replied, highly delighted. 

"Of course," I agreed, still standing before them in my best 



PLEASANT MEMORIES l6l 

clothes, with my hair freshly cut and the blue cap on my 
head. 

"All right, then, Holler," she cried, "just you do that, and 
greet little Almut for me, and the Dean in his big carriage, 
and above all your dear friend and father." Then noticing 
that I looked rather cocky, she added: "But take care you 
don't lose any of your finery." 

I smiled with joy at her afFedion, and said I would be 
careful. 

Outside I asked Eva to go with me to the Mumms'. She 
consented, and for the first time laid her hand on my arm, and 
made me very happy. 

When we passed into the hall from the kitchen, where I had 
received Uhle's congratulations, to my intense astonishment, 
I heard Dutti Kohl's voice in conversation with my aunt in 
the sitting-room. In his undluous tones he was expatiating 
on the "Dutch traditions" of her wonderful home. 

I heard her purring with gratified vanity while he extolled 
the beauty of her valuable pictures. At last we went in and 
interrupted him. 

My aunt was in the black silk dress she usually wore, and 
was sitting at the window opposite her guest. The little table 
between them was covered with papers, and I gathered they 
had been discussing money matters. 

I informed her enthusiastically that I had been moved up. 
But she only looked coldly at me and said : " Really ! Really ! " 

I saw at once that thoughts of Eilert and of his dismal record 
at school were distressing her. And then to prove that there 
were compensations of which I could not boast, she rudely 
returned to her discussion with Dutti Kohl about the papers, 
while we remained standing. 

So we silently took our leave, and went upstairs to Eilert. 
He was very glad the holidays had come round, and was 
collecting all his sketching books and materials with the objed 
of devoting himself entirely to his art. He observed with a 
smile that he had been wondering which of the three — himself, 
myself, or Dutti — his mother would have preferred as a son, 
and confessed that he had been forced to conclude that she 
would have chosen Dutti. Then producing one or two bank- 
notes, he said that Dutti had already been to his room and 
bought a few old engravings, which would enable him to spend 



l62 OTTO BABENDIEK 

a week at Sylt, to study the clouds and the dunes, and the 
women's caps, and particularly their blue eyes. " I am child- 
ishly fond of fresh women's faces!" he cried. 

I am certain he did not mean to be coarse. He was above 
all unclcanliness. But such remarks sounded wicked, and gave 
offence to all those in his circle who were inclined to be con- 
ventional. Eva was toying with the pages of a book, and I 
saw her turn pale. 

I told him about my journey, and after chatting for a while 
we left, as we frequently did, looking graver than we had done 
when we arrived. 

Eva and Ememann accompanied me to the ferry. They 
were going north along the coast that same afternoon, to spend 
their holidays with friends on a farm. Eva admonished me 
about my money, and implored me to be careful. As she said 
this, and a great deal more, she again laid her hand on my arm, 
and I felt so proud and happy ! She and I were about sixteen 
at that time. 

When the ferry had started I stood for some time looking 
after my two friends, as they made their way along the harbour 
in the direction of home. At last I turned round and opened 
a conversation with the feiTyman. 

He told me that all his family were as lively as ever, and said 
that I must come and see them some time. 

"And Dina," I observed, "is still the cleanest and neatest 
girl in all Ballum?" 

"Aye, that she is!" he cried. "That's what I tell her 
mother." 

"And that fellow Balle still wants to marry her," I added 
indignantly. 

He raised a giant finger to his face and rolled his eyes. 
"He adually calls me father-in-law!" he exclaimed. "Why, 
I would fling him overboard for two pins ! So you are going 
away?" 

I was proud to think that he had noticed I was starting 
on a journey, and I replied carelessly that I was going to 
visit my relative, Dean Eigen, in Buchholz. I believe he 
really felt more resped for me after this, for when I said 
good-bye he raised his cap a little and wished me a pleasant 
journey. 

Whereupon my thoughts turned to the obje(S of my excur* 



PLEASANT MEMORIES 163 

sion, and^played about the person of Almut. Would she 
really marry Fritz Hellebeck ? But Fritz might have changed 
his mind, and Almut would be free to accept somebody eke. 
Hans? No, he was out of the question! So I might be 
vouchsafed this unspeakable joy ! During the three days I had 
been with her she had been so overwhelmingly kind and 
generous that I had long nursed this hope. I became buried 
in these thoughts, and at the end of two hours' journey arrived 
in the little town. 

On my way to the inn where the bus stopped which would 
take me to the village close by I saw standing at the corner of 
the High Street, a large closed carriage. On recognizing the 
two fat horses harnessed to it, and the chimney above, with its 
spiral of smoke, I hurried up and found the old Dean. 

He had grown older and his locks were snow-white, but he 
was still hale and hearty, and with his close-cropped hair and 
sharp features looked like an old army officer. He was smoking 
his meerschaum vigorously and reading an old book, I imagine 
in search of his beloved anecdotes. 

My heart beat anxiously. I suddenly saw that the hopes I 
had founded on this relationship were built on vanity, for at 
our first meeting he had hardly recognized me as a relative, and 
had never answered a letter I had written informing him about 
the change in my fortunes. 

But I thought I must make the attempt, so I went up to the 
open door and said: "Good morning, sir" — I did not dare to 
say "Uncle" — "I am Otto Babendiek. I paid you a visit 
eight years ago with my father. ... My parents are dead, 
and I am living with Professor Bornholt of Ballum, and have 
just been moved into the fifth form." 

He listened, but I can't say whether he understood. Not 
unkindly, but with a frown at being interrupted, he answered : 
"Really! Really! I believe I remember." 

To keep up the conversation, I asked him whether he still 
had his fat coachman, Kohbrook. He replied that he had, and 
asked me to fetch him out of a shop close by, as they must be 
off. "But," he added, "don't rush suddenly at him, it will 
give him a headache. He's had gout in the head lately." 

In the shop I found Kohbrook raisinga huge glass of kiimmel 
to his lips. I cleared my throat significantly and delivered 
the message. 



164 OTTO BABENDIEK 

He gave me a poisonous glance out of the corners of his 
eyes, and asked whether he was expeded to run his legs off. 
"Let him wait!" he added calmly. "Doesn't he make me 
wait?" 

I tried to remind him of my visit eight years previously. 
"Ha! if you think I can remember you out of all the crowds 
that come to the Dean's house in a year, you're jolly well 
mistaken!" he replied without looking at me. 

On going outside again I tried to get the Dean interested in 
the Bomholts and other matters, but he only began telling 
anecdotes, and I saw that he took no more interest in me than 
he did in the wheels of his carriage. 

At last Kohbrook appeared, puffing and groaning; but he 
took at least half an hour to get ready. His groans and curses, 
however, at least had the effeft of interrupting the Dean's flow 
of anecdotes, and he asked him whether he had done good 
business. Kohbrook merely asked in reply whether any busi- 
ness could be done, particularly in eggs, when he was expected 
to be always tearing his guts out. 

In sympathetic tones the Dean inquired how his head 
was. 

"How can I tell how my head is," Kohbrook replied, "when 
we are always in such a tearing hurry?" 

The Dean tried to soothe him, and hinted discreedy that 
they must move on to the school at Hohenaspe, as the children 
would be waiting. 

" Who has most waiting to do, I or the children?" Kohbrook 
retorted peevishly. 

Feebly the Dean replied that he had meant no offence, 
whereupon Kohbrook, with the speed of a snail, climbed on to 
the box. 

When the carriage had gone I turned hastily in the diredUon 
of the inn. As I approached it I saw a handsome young man 
standing in the doorway, whom I seemed to know, though I 
could not remember who it was. He called out to some 
dissipated looking youths as they passed by and invited 
them to a meal in the town, telling them they would get a 
good tuck-in. Still I did not recognize him. But just at 
that moment some well-dressed school girls happened to pass 
by, and from the way he drew himself up and pulled down 
his waistcoat I knew who he was, although he was already a 



PLEASANT MEMORIES 165 

man. With beating heart I ran up to him, exclaiming, "My 
dear Hellebeck ! " and I noticed that he started when I told 
him my name. 

He eyed me quickly up and down, and when he saw that 
I looked respectable he was very friendly. I know now that 
his smiles were half due to gratified vanity, but they charmed 
me at the time, and I thought they proved his generous 
disposition. 

I told him the objed of my visit. He laughed loudly, 
and, warning me not to worry the Dean, said I must 
stay with his people. "But how tall you've grown!" he 
added, and seemed pleased to think that my appearance 
would do him credit. I did not mind. I was still the 
little village lad, proud of being treated as an equal by so 
fine a gendeman. 

He spoke in the same old condescending tone about Almut 
and said she would be glad to see me. I blushed and asked 
after Hans. He smiled kindly and twitted me with having a 
weakness like Almut for his half-brother. Then with greater 
emphasis, though in his usual careless manner, he added: 
"Mother and I can't understand what all the fuss is about. 
He is certainly a good-natured, faithful creature, but nothing 
else — nothing!" And he daintily flicked the ash from his 
cigarette. " No gumption — no go ! " 

Meanwhile a groom had led a smart spick-and-span dog-cart 
up to the door; my friend handed him a tip, and we both got 
in and drove away. 

At first we talked about Steenkarken. When in later years 
I became convinced that it was he who had stolen the money, 
I could not help marvelling at the innocence and affability 
with which he mentioned all the people and incidents which 
through his fault had proved my undoing. Smiling cheerfully, 
he referred to Uncle Peter and the headmaster, but I tried to 
change the subje<S, and asked about the ferm, saying I was 
anxious to see his family. 

Flicking his whip, he told me how much ground they had 
put under seed, and how much of each kind of corn they had 
sown. He said "we" all the time, meaning, of course, himself 
and his mother, who were one, body and soul. Again and 
again, with ill-concealed pride, though always with the same 
ostentatious carelessness, he would say: " Do you know. 



l66 OTTO BABENDIEK 

little Babendiek" — for that was what he called me — "on such 
a large farm ..." And then some boastful assertion would 
follow. 

It appeared that he was going into the army for a year, and 
joining the Uhlans in Hanover. The sum of money he would 
require for that year struck me as fabulous. After this he 
intended to study accountancy for a year, and then marry. 
He talked as though he were a prince of ancient lineage, but the 
airs he gave himself always fired my admiration. 

As for Almut, they were to celebrate his betrothal to her two 
days later in the evening. 

This was a blow for me ! I was silent for some time, and 
tried hard to find consolation and support. . . . Fortunately 
I quickly succeeded. 

I relinquished my claim. I even relinquished it magnani- 
mously, at the same time making up my mind to do something 
wonderful — what, I did not quite know — which would force 
her to think more highly of me than of him. I pidured her 
as a middle-aged though still beautiful woman coming to my 
lonely bachelor quarters and kissing my hand, and saying she 
must see me just once more, and then taking her departure, 
bathed in tears. When I was sufficiently fortified by this 
pidure I was able to ask him what he intended to do when he 
was married. 

He said he would remain on the farm, which Hans would 
manage, and hoped soon to become a member of the Provin- 
cial Diet, with the view of entering the Reichstag eventually. 
And he spoke so nobly and with so much assurance that I 
really believed things would pan out as he desired. 

As Fritz was looking for his mother to present me to her we 
went through several rooms, beautifully furnished with dark 
furniture; but as we could not find her we went to his room, 
which was exceedingly comfortable and sunny. He suggested 
that it would be best for me to sleep in Hans's room, and we 
went over to look at it. It was a large room, the dark panel- 
ling of which was somewhat decayed. Near the window there 
was a table with two chairs, and at the far end of the room two 
beds. He appeared to think that the difference between this 
room and the other I had seen required some explanation, and 
assured me that his brother lived only for the farm, and that 



PLEASANT MEMORIES 167 

he could see the whole yard from this window, while the com 
lofts were close by. 

As I remarked upon the stoutness of the floor-boards he 
said: " Yes, it is a strong old building." Then he added with 
a smile: "When I was a child I used sometimes to sleep in 
here with Hans, because I liked to listen to the company in 
the room below as long as I was awake. I loved company, and 
hated going to bed early." And taking me by the arm he led 
me to a place where there was a little opening in the boards 
about the size of my hand. " Hans had a peep-hole made for 
me here, so that I could watch them sitting playing cards 
downstairs," he explained, still smiling. " I don't believe my 
mother knows about it to this day." 

Meanwhile I had gone over to the window^, and at a stable- 
door outside I caught sight of a tall, thin man with straw- 
coloured hair reaching almost to his shoulders. He was stand- 
ing in a strangely bowed attitude, gazing eagerly towards the 
garden beyond the yard. Looking in the same diredion I saw 
Frau Hellebeck standing talking to a girl. "Your mother is 
in the garden," I said, and, proud of my knowledge, I added, 
"and there is the farm-hand Soren looking at the girl." 

" He is not looking at the girl," replied Fritz. "He is look- 
ing at my mother! " 

" But she's ten years older than he is!" I objedled thought- 
fully. 

" Yes," he replied, " but she is still lovely, don't you think 
so?" 

I agreed emphatically. 

" I believe the fool has always been in love with her," 
he observed. "But how funnily he's looking at her! So 
covertly!" 

Then he took me downstairs, where she met vis. 

Her hair was now quite white, but her figure was still slim 
and her skin smooth. Did she perhaps have recourse to cer- 
tain aids to beauty which were obtainable in the neighbour- 
ing town? As for the dress she wore, with all its simplicity 
it was very beautiful. 

When Fritz introduced me she gave me a bewitching smile 
and was, as usual, fulsomely flattering in her welcome. 

She refused to discuss my father when she heard that he 
was dead, but suddenly changed the subjed and talked about 



l68 OTTO BABENDIEK 

my meeting with her son at Steenkarken, which I said had 
afforded me great pleasure. 

" I can well believe it!" she cried. " When a great hand- 
some fellow takes to a little boy like you were it must be 
wonderful! But my dear good clever Fritz showed his taste 
in making friends with you. Isn't that so, my dear Fritz! 
What lovely eyes he has! Forgive me, I don't remember 
whether you have any sisters. But they must be beautiful 
girls!" 

I felt she did not mean a word she said, but on coming to the 
conclusion that, after all, such behaviour helped to oil the 
wheels of life, I threw myself heart and soul into the spirit of 
her remarks, and was not unpleasantly moved when I felt her 
arm on my shoulder. 
ffj I said I was glad to hear of the betrothal. 

" Yes," she replied, " as I told my dear good old Fritz, it is 
God's will. For Almut has spme wonderfully fine meadows, 
my dear darling little Babendiek. And now they will be 
added to the farm. But how could a girl possibly resist my 
dear handsome Fritz ? I can just see my darling little Almut 
saying ' Yes ' without a moment's hesitation I " 

I was surprised that Fritz did not once protest against all 
these compliments; but I concluded he was his mother's son. 

When I inquired whether Almut was still on friendly terms 
with Hans she cried: " Oh, dear good old Hans! How could 
she fail to be ? We are all friendly with him ! " 

" Yes, but in the old days she was particularly attached to 
Hans. Is she still?" I retorted, ever anxious to get to the 
bottom of people's minds. 

I noticed that she grew uneasy, but quickly recovered 
herself. "Oh, my dear sweet little Almut!" she replied. 
" Yes, there's something in what you say, isn't there, Fritz ? 
She is extraordinarily fond of our dear good old Hans ! She's 
so sympathetic! Isn't she, Fritz? And then Hans plays so 
nicely with her. Our dear good old Hans! He is the most 
easy-going, sleepy, happy-go-lucky creature in all Buchholz. 
Yes, it is quite true my little daughterkins has a weakness for 
our dear Hans ! But how he notices things, Fritz ! We must 
be on our guard ! But now go and find Almut. She has gone 
to the woods with some children. Just go and see if you can 
find her!" 



PLEASANT MEMORIES 169 

Fritz went with me, and on the way pointed out Almut's 
meadows to me. " One day all that -will belong to my farm," 
he said. 

With a faint feeling of resentment it occurred to me that both 
Fritz and his mother regarded me only as a sort of receptacle 
into which they could pour their exaggerated boasts. But I 
was too young to resist his calm assurance, and only ventured 
to counter his braggart manner by asking whether Almut was 
not still too much of a child to be betrothed. 

He was not in the least put out by my question. Nothing 
put him out — until his very last hour, when Fate suddenly 
towered above him like a ravening beast, and he was frightened 
to death and almost lost his reason. 

He gave a smile full of self-confidence and pride. " You 
see," he said, " there are quite a lot of people after her 
meadows. And as for the old Dean — ^you know him — in the 
middle of one of the stories he is always telling he might one 
day give the whole of the property away to anybody who 
happened to ask him for his granddaughter's hand. And we 
wanted to make sure of it — that's the idea!" And he smiled 
again. "You will be surprised to see how much she has 
grown," he added. " She is fifteen." 

I asked whether her grandfather approved of the match. 

An expression of faint irony passed over his face. " The 
management of the property," he replied, "gives him a lot of 
trouble, and the girl is inclined to be spirited. So if we 
relieve him of his responsibility he will be all the more free to 
devote himself to his anecdotes." 

We were coming to the end of the path and approaching a 
sort of ravine where for centuries the people of the locality had 
dug sand. It was now overgrown with shrubs and bushes, which 
hung over the pit below, and in this medley of vegetation and 
sand I met Almut for the second time in my life. 

Fritz called her. She turned her bright little face at once, 
and answering, "Fritz!" ran towards us, surrounded by the 
children. Her form showed the rounded curves of budding 
womanhood, but she was so slim and slender, and trod so 
lightly, that she seemed to be wafted along on the air. " Who 
is this?" Fritz called out to her. 

She looked at me, and with laughing eyes exclaimed : 
"What prince have we here?" 



lyo OTTO BABENDIEK 

"An old acquaintance, Almut!" I replied with a blush. 

She started and tried to remember. I reminded her of 
the great trees in the wood which had once frightened me. 
Whereupon, recognizing me, she flew with childlike natural- 
ness into my arms. "Oh, it's really our little prince then!" 
she cried. " My little cousin ! What will Hans say ? What 
will Hans say? He calls you the little prince too, and I had 
the same idea. It's funny, isn't it, Fritz, how Hans and I 
think alike?" 

Hanging on our arms, she walked between us, asking me all 
kinds of questions. Meanwhile Fritz, who had been playing 
with the hand that lay on his arm, carelessly slipped a ring on 
her finger. 

She stopped and looked at her hand. "Oh, the ring! The 
ring! " she exclaimed with a low cry of joy, so that the children 
should not hear, and skipped about. "How lovely! How 
lovely ! What fun to be betrothed ! " 

With a self-complacent smile he observed that it was rare 
nowadays for a girl to be betrothed while she was still young 
enough to play in the sand-pit, but it had been quite common 
in the old days. 

Knowing his love of compliments, she replied: "Anyway, 
you have succeeded in doing it!" 

Young though I was, I seemed to see more comradeship 
than love in their attitude to each other. I don't think he, at 
all events, was capable of love, except for his dazzling self. 
Besides, like many a good-looking fellow, he was not very 
manly. 

I don't remember exadly what happened, but before long 
I turned down a side-path alone with her, while Fritz went 
back in the diredion of the farm. As soon as we were alone 
we both felt happier and more at our ease. She strolled along 
at a leisurely pace, as though she were enjoying the walk as 
a walk, and I had the opportunity of admiring her figure, 
her cheeks, and her fair hair. I felt her breath quite close to 
me, and saw her red mouth, and my eyes burned in my head. 

Suddenly she pointed to Hans, who was ploughing some 
distance away, and then called his nanje in the old affectionate 
way, on two short notes, one high and I'he other low. 

He looked like the meanest farm-hand, in the shabbiest of 
clothes, and I could not help asking Almut why this was. 



PLEASANT MEMORIES 171 

She replied that she did not know; it had always been so. 

"But," I protested, "Fritz goes about in fine clothes and a 
dog-cart!" 

She started, but merely repeated that it had always been so. 
"You sec," she added, "Fritz's father left him the farm. 
What could Hans have done with it?" 

I replied that the father might at least have divided it 
between them. 

"Yes," she said, still hesitating, and looking somewhat con- 
fused, "but Hans is best at work; he does not want to think 
or deal with figures, or see people. . . . But come! You 
mustn't worry your head about all that!" 

Hans pulled up his team, and stood still with his mouth 
wide open, and I must confess that he looked rather foolish for 
the moment. But as he had seen few people since he had last 
met me years ago, and had lived a life of solitude in the stables 
and the fields, he easily recognized me. " That's the youngster 
from the forge!" he exclaimed in his singsong voice. 

As the wind was sharp, he drove his team up to a wall, under 
which we all took shelter. Unconsciously, I believe, Almut 
put her arm round his neck, and nestled up to him, as he and 
I talked; and then, suddenly remembering the ring on her 
finger, she held it up to him and told him to look. 

He looked first at the ring and then at her, whereupon, 
heaving a deep sigh, and with an expression of joy on his face, 
he said : ' So now it is certain, quite certain, that you will stay 
here with us!" 

"Yes," she replied, also sighing deeply, and nestling more 
closely to him. " That's the chief thing — for me to stop with 
you!" 

He said he was relieved, because he had always been afraid 
that some stranger might come along and snatch her up. 
Then, turning to me, he asked whether I knew about Fritz 
and the Uhlans. 

"It's a very crack regiment," said Almut with a vanity she 
seemed to have caught from Fritz — " blue, with white facings. 
It will suit him wonderfully!" 

I heartily agreed. "He'll be the best-looking fellow in the 
country!" I exclaimed. 

"At his Christmas leave they'll be married," said Hans. 
"What a pair they'll be before the altar!" 



172 OTTO BABENDIEK 

She was obviously pleased, but was it at the thought of 
what he had said or because he had said it while she was in 
his arms ? 

Meanwhile, with the tadful solicitude of the bom gentle- 
man, he had begun to ask me about my parents and how I was 
getting on. When I told him about Engel Tiedje, of whom 
he remembered having heard before, and said that my parents' 
house still belonged to me, Almut suggested that we should 
ride over there. 

I was delighted, but reminded her that my house was very 
small, and that we should have to ride against the wind all 
the way. 

Hans was doubtful, saying he could not spare the time, and 
that there was no need for him to go too. But Almut declared 
that the whole trip would be spoilt if he did not come. 

After dark, when we had taken Almut back to the Dean's 
house and everybody had gone to bed, I went with Hans to 
his room. I still could not help wondering why he was 
treated so differently from his brother, and as we lay in bed 
I asked him about his family, cross-questioning him like an 
examiner. 

He told me that the farm had belonged to his mother, and 
that his father had owned only the little farmhouse in the 
woods. 

"But," I protested, "if the farm was your mother's, you as 
her son ought to have inherited it, not Fritz ! " 

He explained that after his mother's death his father had the 
right to dispose of the farm as he pleased, and that he had left 
it to Fritz. All that he himself had inherited was the little 
house in the woods. 

Indignant at the injustice of it, I exclaimed that I did not 
understand. 

He tried to point out that Fritz was obviously better fitted 
for the inheritance than he was. "It would not be so bad," 
he added, "if only " 

"If only what?" I exclaimed. 

"Well," he said slowly, "if only other things had been all 
right." 

I itched to hear more. I suspeded that there was some- 
thing very wrong. "If everything has not been fair and 
square," I said, "I should not let the matter rest if I were you." 



PLEASANT MEMORIES 173 

"Really?" he replied in his singsong tones. "Are you one 
to stick up for your rights ? . . . But tell me, would I fit the 
part? Isn't Fritz much better suited to it? Can you ima- 
gine me bargaining with the com-faflors, going to the bank, 
and mixing with people?" And I could tell from his voice 
that he was smiling. 

"It doesn't matter!" I rejoined. "Right is right. I 
wouldn't rest till everything was put in order." 

He seemed to think it was not worth the trouble, and that 
it would only cause unhappiness to people of whom he was 
fond. 



CHAPTER XI 

Home Again, and the Betrothal 

When I went downstairs on the following morning before 
dawn I found Fritz already dressed for our ride, and we were 
soon joined by Almut, looking indescribably fresh and bright 
in a blue linen riding habit with a sailor collar. She would 
not have any breakfast, but sat opposite us discussing the 
horses we should take, and particularly the one Hans was to 
ride. 

"But I don't think Hans will be able to come," said Fritz, 
in his calm, dignified way. 

"Oh," she cried, her good cheer suddenly vanishing, 
" you've talked him out of it ! You let him think you would 
rather he didn't go, and then he said he wouldn't be able to ! " 

Fritz admitted that as Hans would be sure to cut a poor 
figure, especially on a horse, he would, as a matter of fadl, 
prefer him not to come. He spoke with an assurance it was 
difficult to resist. 

"It's not the figure, it's the man that matters!" Almut 
protested, and suddenly laying her head on the table saying 
she did not want to go now, she burst into tears. "And I don't 
feel I want to be betrothed either," she added. " You treat him 
like a labourer, worse than a labourer ! You never take him 
into the town, and he feels that he is negledled and that your 
mother treats even Soren better than him. He knows it even 
if he doesn't show it ! " 

I was alarmed by this sudden fit of despondency, and laid 
my hand anxiously and appealingly on hers, though I did not 
dare to speak. 

With all his vanity Fritz was good-natured at heart — I say 
this deliberately — but he was ruled by his vanity, and a<Sed 
like a somnambulist under its influence. "I didn't know it 
meant so much to you," he said with a self-complacent smile. 
"Why not go and see whether you can persuade him to 
come?" 

174 



HOME AGAIN, AND THE BETROTHAL 175 

She Stood up and left the room, still sobbing, and a few 
minutes later all four of us were riding through the wood — 
Fritz and Almut in front, and Hans and I behind. 

I watched the couple ahead of us, saw how Fritz tried to 
make Almut ride closer to him, and how she beat off his out- 
stretched arm with the beech-wood switch she had taken with 
her. She then came back to us and chaffed each of us in turn 
— she had recovered her good spirits — ^and while she did so, I 
saw Hans looking away, as if he were counting the trees as we 
passed them. 

At last we emerged from the wood, and I noticed how Fritz, 
who had now joined us, took stock of us all. I too took stock 
of the party, and could not help observing how well Fritz rode 
— at least, as far as I was able to judge of such things. Almut 
was riding astride, and her youthful figure looked well on her 
light chestnut mount. Her head was bare, and her fair plaits 
were joined in front on her breast. Casting a covert glance at 
Hans, who was dressed in a badly cut suit, and riding with only 
a blanket on his horse's back, I noticed that he sat rather 
huddled up as he rode, and that his head, with its rough cap 
pulled too low over his ears, jerked a little with the horse's 
movements. He was certainly not like us — I mean Fritz and 
me. But in later years, when I had learnt wisdom, I began to 
wonder who really cut the best figure on that ride. For Fritz 
and I were nothing in particular. We were nondescripts! 
Whereas Hans was at least a real Low Saxon peasant on horse- 
back — the kind of man who, whether as farmer, knight, bishop, 
or military leader, has made the world what it is — from the 
North Cape to Palestine and from Moscow to San Francisco. 

Fritz was undoubtedly our leader that day. He determined 
our route, as well as our conversation, told us all about his 
friends, their large farms, and their great expedtations ; and 
counted up the number of uniforms he would require, and 
discussed where he would live when he went to Hanover. 

At a crossing in a wood, where there was a clearing, and we 
were sheltered from the wind, we stopped, and, leaving the 
horses to graze, had our midday meal. Then, after resting on 
the grass for about an hour, during which Hans slept, for he 
had been working hard of late and was very tired, Fritz and 
I went to a farm close by to water the horses. As the girl 
who kindly lent us a bucket happened to be pretty, Fritz, of 



176 OTTO BABENDIEK 

course, had to stop and flirt with her ; and as he wanted to be left 
alone, I wended my way back to the other two at the clearing. 

As I approached I saw a curious scene. Hans, sitting up, 
was obviously half-asleep still, and Almut, on her knees before 
him, was trying to get quite close up to him, while he was 
pushing her back violently and saying passionately: " No, you 
mustn't do that! Go away! Go away!" She shrank back 
in horror. "But what is the matter with you ? " she exclaimed 
in low tones. "Don't you like me any more?" 

When she caught sight of me she called to me as if she had 
suddenly taken leave of her senses: "What is the matter with 
him, Otto? . . . Look! He doesn't love me any longer!" 
And putting a hand to her face she began to cry bitterly. 

Meanwhile Hans, who was now wide awake, had got on to 
his knees, looking as pale as death. "What's the matter? 
What's the matter?" he cried, with a pretence of a smile. "I 
cross with you ? Not for all the world ! I cross with you ! It 
was a nightmare, that's all! God, how you frightened me! 
Why, I shall be your old Hans as long as I live ! Oh, please 
. . . please be happy again!" 

He kissed her, and she nestled affedionately up to him, with 
her head on his shoulder. Gradually she recovered, and 
declared she had never had such a shock in her life. 

He was very much upset. He evidently knew what had 
been going on in his own soul and that of the child, but main- 
tained he could not understand why he had had such a dream. 
" It must have been something terrible!" he declared. 

She imagined he was distressed because he had frightened 
her, and, pressing her dear little face close to his great big pale 
one, comforted him with the tenderest words, and thus com- 
forted herself as well. 

We then went towards the farm to meet Fritz, and found the 
pretty girl still dancing attendance on him. He was beaming, 
and so pleased with himself that he did not notice the agitation 
still visible in our faces. But we did not tell him what had 
happened. 

On remounting we left the wood, and rode for some time 
across bare hills. Occasionally Almut would glance back at 
Hans with a question in her eyes, and then he would nod to 
her, and she would smile at us both. We were passing through 
the country I had learnt to know so well when I had lived on 



HOME AGAIN, AND THE BETROTHAL 177 

the Bohnsacks' farm, and I was busy looking for landmarks. 
Far away in the misty distance stood the tower of my native 
village, which I proudly pointed out to them, and in two hours' 
time we had reached the saw-mill, in the shelter of which I 
had once slept. 

Fritz was horrified at the barrenness of the country, and 
Almut declared that if only she had known at the time of my 
first visit that I had come from such a wilderness she would 
have been much kinder to me. I protested that she could not 
have been kinder. 

The others rode along the coast, so as to reach the inn where 
they were to put up the horses, but I took a different route, 
to warn Engel of their arrival. 

On reaching the forge I tied the horse to one of the chains 
that hung from the wall, as I had tied many a horse in my child- 
hood, and when Engel came out from sheer habit his first 
thought was for the job he thought was awaiting him. Not 
looking at me at all, he stared straight at the horse's hoofs, and 
it was only when he failed to recognize them that he looked up. 
and saw me standing there. 

I tried to speak, but was too deeply moved. I had grown 
since he last saw me, and the sight of his short squat figure, as 
he glanced up at me with his childlike eyes, suddenly brought 
back all his past kindnesses to my mind. 

For a moment he thought he must be dreaming. But when 
he was certain it was I, and that I was happy and pleased to 
see him, he gave a sigh of relief and almost sobbed: " My, 
Otto, my Otto! What a miracle!" and looked appealingly 
at me. 

He did not want to give me his work-soiled hand, but I took 
it, and then I understood that it was my blue and gold cap, 
which he had not seen before, that was making him shy and 
awkward. 

Overwhelming me with questions, we entered the forge and 
he washed his hands in a bucket. But he was in too much of 
a hurry, and when he wiped his hands he left black marks on 
the towel. He soon noticed this and began washing again, 
but made things more difficult for himself by trying at the 
same time to get his pipe, which was his symbol of a festive day, 
out of the left-hand pocket of his coat. 

Meanwhile I was looking round the dear old place, though 



178 OTTO BABENDIEK 

I could scarcely see for the tears that blinded me, as the 
memories of my childhood surged through my mind. 

He continued to repeat: "What a miracle! What a 
miracle!" as I told him all about Buchholz and the friends I 
had brought with nne; and at last he exclaimed in agitated 
tones that he must give us cake and coffee, though where to 
start he did not know. 

I had not thought of that, but I knew that in his excited 
state it would be useless to exped him to prepare the refresh- 
ments. "Engel," I suggested after a moment's thought, 
" there's only one thing to do; we must ask Mamsell Boehmke 
to help!" 

He writhed — or at least came as near to doing so as his squat 
figure would allow — and beads of perspiration stood out on 
his forehead. Sitting down in great distress on the anvil, 
he looked pitifully from me to the fire and back again. 
"All right then. Otto," he said at last resignedly, "go over 
to her." 

She had seen me arrive. Her face was, if possible, rounder 
and shinier than ever. "Auntie Siene," I said, "I have 
brought three friends with me. They will be here in a 
moment. You must come over and make coffee for all five 
of us — I mean six." 

She consented with alacrity, and bustling about her littie 
house soon loaded herself and me with all the necessaries, and 
we went over to our kitchen. 

I found everything in my home clean and tidy, but it lacked 
the famiUar touch; and when, instead of my mother's refined 
melancholy features, I saw this plain round face bending over 
our hearth I was obliged to bite my lips to keep back the 
tears. 

Hearing voices in the forge, I went back and found my three 
friends gathered round Engel Tiedje. Fritz was looking down 
on my adoptive father with kindly benevolence, which to this 
day I believe was at times genuine, and telling him about 
Steenkarken; while Almut, who with her slender figure and 
bright plaits stood like a ray of sunshine in front of him, was 
looking shyly — almost timidly — into his face. 

Engel made an almost distressing gesture of embarrassment, 
and, with his eyebrows completely hidden by his firinge, 
allowed his eyes to v ander all round the walls till they settled 



HOME AGAIN, AND THE BETROTHAL 179 

on my little stool. " That's where he sat," he said, " when he 
came back from your farm, and could talk of nothing but the 
great big trees." 

Almut nestled in her affeftionate way against my shoulder, 
and, still looking at Engel, said how pleased she was that my 
visit had made such a deep impression. 

In a stall near the forge we saw a thin chestnut horse, which 
neighed loudly as we came up to it. Engel wanted to go by 
without saying a word, but, noticing his uneasiness, I asked 
whom the horse belonged to. 

Somewhat awkwardly he replied that it was "our" horse, 
and that he had bought it to till the potato-field in the summer. 
He added that it neighed a great deal, even at night. 

But when Fritz, Almut, and I praised it he seemed to gain 
courage, and led us across to a corner of the stables where the 
grindstone stood, and showed us a large wooden wheel, as high 
as our heads, entirely enclosed in wire netting, which he said 
was something very special. 

Almut, bursting with curiosity, made various guesses as to 
its purpose, during which Engel's eyebrows disappeared with 
delight for quite five minutes; and, when he had raised her 
excitement to concert 'pitch, he told her it was a dog-wheel. 
The neighbour's dog ran inside the wheel, and made it revolve, 
and thus turned the grindstone. 

I was beginning to reach the age of discretion, and to see 
things more or less as they really were, and at that moment I 
felt that my friend was an unpraAical dreamer. It occurred 
to me that he had bought the horse because it neighed more 
frequently than other horses, and at night into the bargain, and 
that he had made the wheel because it amused him to see the 
dog run round it. Like my dear father he was a dreamer, and 
that had brought them together. But why should I spoil his 
triumph ? What did it matter to me ? There we stood, Hans 
and all, looking down at Engel, while Almut listened with smil- 
ing wonder to everything he said, and I felt very happy. 

Then we went into the house. I introduced my friends to 
Mamsell Boehmke, and we sat down to coffee. Almut asked 
me whether the cups had really and truly belonged to my 
mother, and whether I expected her to pour out. God forgive 
me! With her beauty before me I had for the moment for- 
gotten all about my childhood and my mother, so sad did I 



l8o OTTO BABENDIEK 

feel at having for ever and a day to relinquish the miracle of 
loveliness and kindness that Almut presented ! 

After coffee, when Almut had finished examining and 
admiring the flowers at the window, and they had all gone to 
the beach before stardng back, I left them on the plea of 
calling on a friend, and went to my parents' grave. I had not 
been there long when the sound of heavy footsteps behind 
made me turn round, and through my tears I beheld Engel 
Tiedje. 

He comforted me by telling me in faltering tones how good 
and upright their lives had been, and assured me that they 
could see me and share all my happiness. Wiping my eyes, 
I thanked him and scolded him for sending me so much money 
in Ballum. 

He smiled and said the forge could well afford it, and when 
I asked him about the account-book, and expressed my doubts 
about the way it was kept, he started and asked thoughtfully 
whether, if it were vwong, my parents would have kept it 
hke that. 

But I was not convinced, for I feared my dear parents had 
been none too good at book-keeping either. However, we 
returned home quite united and happy, though on our way 
we were suddenly starUed by hearing cries behind us, and saw 
Almut running after us as fast as she could from the beach. 
Her hair was slightly dishevelled, and her clothes were flying 
in the wind. We could not understand. At last we could 
hear what she was shouting. Engel's pocket was burning! 
And it turned out that he had put his pipe away alight — a bad 
habit he had got into lately. 

Soon afterwards we had mounted our horses and were 
wishing our littie host good-bye. 

As I write these lines I am conscious of having afted some- 
what arrogantly and conceitedly the whole of that day, and of 
having been lacking in sincerity. I probably behaved in this 
way in order to appear big both before Alimut and the old 
friend of my childhood, and I remember that it was Hans's deep 
eyes that prevented me from going too far. But I was also 
aduated to a certain extent no doubt by the desire to make it 
a red-letter day, not only for myself but also for my friends. 

On the way back I rode in front with Fritz, as Almut had 
asked to be allowed to remain with Hans. But I kept watch 



HOME AGAIN, AND THE BETROTHAL l8l 

on them surreptitiously, and overheard her begging him to let 
her sit in front of him on his horse, because her knee was hurt- 
ing her. Although he knew this could be quite easily managed 
on his great camel of a horse, particularly as he was riding on 
a blanket, he raised objedions at first and said it was impossible. 
But she insisted, saying she would certainly fall off if he would 
not let her. I looked at Fritz, but he did not seem to have heard 
a word. 

So when I turned round a moment later I was not surprised 
to see that Hans had taken her on to his own horse, and was 
riding with her nestling in his arms in front of him. She was 
letting her head lie dreamily against his manly chest, and her 
bright little face presented a strange contrast to the plain, 
foolish sunburnt mask above it. 

On the following day I tried to keep away from her, as I felt 
ill-at-ease in her presence. But it was no good; she wanted 
me to be with her the whole time, and we repeated our first 
walk through the woods. 

She spoke so constantly of Hans that at last I protested: 
" Surely Fritz is better-looking than Hans? Hans is ugly." 

Staring in astonishment, she repeated: "Hans — ugly? I 
don't know." 

"And so untidy," I added. 

" Yes," she said, nodding unconcernedly, " he is just Hans ! " 
And she pronounced his name on two notes so tenderly that 
I heaved an agonized sigh. 

At last we came up to him ploughing, and she asked to be 
allowed to go round the field with him. Resting her hand on 
his shoulder we started off, and as they became more and 
more wrapped up in each other I gradually ceased to listen, and 
became absorbed in my own thoughts. I conjured up a pic- 
ture of the future, in which I saw myself returning to the farm 
year after year to witness the happiness of the two at my side, 
and growing into a white-haired old bachelor, something like 
Uncle Gosch. I felt convinced that by that time I should have 
made a great name for myself in some way or other, and that 
these two at my side and the whole world would respeft me. 

Almut and I also went for a drive with her grandfather the 
Dean in his smoky carriage. At the time I could not under- 
stand why I was so bored by his eternal story-telling, and why 



l82 OTTO BABENOIEK 

his anecdotes seemed to be so pointless. But I know now. It 
was because he always omitted the most important details — 
everything conne<Sed with the souls of the people he men- 
tioned. And if I happened to refer to such matters he always 
went on without paying the slightest attention to my remark. 
I felt the contrast between us — I always instindlively ferreting 
to the root of everything, and he passing superficially over 
the surface. He was probably the first human being whom I 
judged objeftively. 

We often stopped at inns on the way, to allow Kohbrook, 
the coachman, to transaft his business in eggs and butter; 
when he reappeared his nose always seemed to be bigger and 
redder. 

When the Dean's business for the day was done, and 
Kohbrook had to be fetched from a neighbouring bar to drive 
us back, he made a great to-do over his preparations, grumbling 
all the time at the terrible way he was hustled, and protesting 
that at his age he could not be expeded to work his fingers 
raw. 

On the way back the Dean told us tales of his army days. 
Almut took some interest in these, probably because they were 
about a young subaltern, and curling up on the cushions, with 
her slina legs outstretched, she listened dreamily, humming to 
herself. I could not make out how she managed to look so 
fresh and blooming in the stifling smoke. But I loved her 
more than I can say, and felt terribly sad. 

That evening a little dinner was given in the large hall of 
the farm, a sort of betrothal-feast, which was also intended as 
a send-off for Fritz, who was leaving for Hanover. 

When I saw the table I asked Almut why the two maid- 
servants were not dining with us as usual, although Soren, the 
farm-hand, was to be there. "Oh, he always comes," she 
replied. 

Just at that moment Frau Hellebeck, looking radiant with 
her white hair and dark silk frock, entered with one of the 
maidservants. " You've laid a place for Soren, haven't you ? " 
she asked. Then, turning her beautiful face to me, she added: 
" One must always be kind to people, mustn't one, my dear 
good little Babendiek ? Yes, indeed ! " 

The others now came in and took their places. I found 
myself between Almut and Hans, facing the older members of 



HOME AGAIN, AND THE BETROTHAL 183 

the company. This was Almut's idea, and how pleased I was 
at every sign of favour she showed me ! 

After the soup the Dean rose and proposed the toast. He 
spoke in smooth, polished sentences, like a regular old after- 
dinner speaker. Waxing eloquent over the son of the house 
and his blameless record, he foretold a successful year for him 
as a soldier, to be crowned by his marriage with a beautiful 
young wife — " if possible, one who would bring him the fine 
meadows that he lacked " — and happiness and every kind of 
honour and good fortune thereafter. It was like thousands of 
similar toasts — blasphemous in its thoughtless pomposity and 
arrogance ! 

Frau Hellebeck leant across the table, and with the sweet 
smile that never left her, said: "Wasn't that wonderful, my 
dear good Fritz? You ought really to feel proud, and you 
too, Almut!" Then, turning to me, she added: " I can well 
imagine how astonished you must be, my dear good little 
Babendiek. I'm sure you've never heard anything like that 
before!" 

With some embarrassment I agreed, for I believed all the 
prophecies I had heard. 

" And how fitting and right it was," continued Frau Helle- 
beck, "that Uncle Eigen should not have mentioned Hans! 
Not a word! Why should he make any special mention of 
you ? Isn't that so, my dear good old Hans ! There's no need 
to mention your name, because you are included in every 
speech as a matter of course; like the rest of us, you belong to 
the farm." And she patted him on the back, nodding 
affedionately. " When Soren and I — isn't that so, my dear 
Soren? — are too old to work, and Fritz is in Parliament, you 
will manage the whole property. For my dear good Fritz is 
too clever to be always sitting at home." 

I saw them all smiling, and noticed Hans's deep-set eyes 
looking from his mother to Soren with a searching, questioning 
glance. Soren was sitting there, with his broad thin face 
and stooping shoulders, stealthily watching the dazzling white- 
haired woman, and, careful though he was, I could see dumb 
lust in the depths of his eyes. 

Suddenly I was all ears. The Dean was talking about the 
death of Herr Hellebeck, and I had an idea that Hans raised 
his head and ceased to attend to Almut's chatter. Frau 



184 OTTO BABENDIEK 

Hellebeck tried to change the subjedl, but the Deanalways tram- 
pled rough-shod over everything conneded with the spirit, and 
turning to her observed in his story-telling tone of voice : " He 
died in this very room, to be sure, didn't he, my dear? Of 
course ! I remember, he died here, in that recess ! " 

" Yes," said Frau Hellebeck, " he wanted fresh air, and this 
is the loftiest room in the house." I could see from her eyes 
that she was wondering how to change the subjeft. But her 
mind seemed paralysed; she could think of nothing, and was 
obliged to let the Dean continue. 

To him it was merely a story like any other. "Yes, I re- 
member," he went on, "you told me when I came that Soren 
had carried him in here, and that an hour or two later hp had 
had an attack which ended in death." 

I believe I was the only one present who noticed how 
uncomfortable some of the party had become, though their 
faces did not change. Frau Hellebeck looked at me. I be- 
lieve she did not trust my eyes, and thought they were more 
piercing and saw more than other people's. 

The Dean was as inquisitive as an old washerwoman. " I 
believe," he said, " that Hans, as a child, spoke of his father 
wanting something at the end. What could it have been? . . . 
You must have been about nine then, Hans. . . . Yes ? . . . 
I believe you adlually told me about it. Yes, you did. How 
remarkable, my dear! Don't you remember?" 

Frau Hellebeck shook her white head. 

" My father wanted Soren to ride into the town," Hans 
replied in his sleepy, singsong voice. 

"But how do you know?" 

" I was sleeping in the room above this, where I am sleeping 
now. I heard it." 

The Dean was burning with curiosity, and his eyes shone ; 
for after all it was another anecdote ! " What did he want, my 
dear boy? What could he have wanted ? " 

" My father insisted. He wanted it very badly. He tried 
to raise himself up in bed. He even tried to get out of bed." 

"Do you remember, Soren?" asked the Dean. 

"Yes," said Hans. "Soren remembers. Didn't he hold 
him down?" 

" Soren ? " cried the Dean. "And what then ? " 

" Well," Hans continued, " very soon after that my father lay 



HOME AGAIN, AND THE BETROTHAL 185 

down quite quiet and went to sleep. And then he was dead, 
because I saw Soren take a handkerchief that happened to be 
there and lay it on his face. That's how I knew he was dead." 

"Really, really!" exclaimed ths Dean. "And an hour later 
I came with Dr Pcrsen and saw him lying there." 

"Yes," replied Hans, in his slow singsong, which was 
always so calm and measured, " I can see it still. . . . You 
came and remained standing at the table." 

The Dean smiled. " I remained at the table, did I ? Yes, 
my dear boy. I can't bear to look at the dead." 

"Yes," continued Hans, "but Dr Persen went to the bed, 
took the handkerchief from my father's face, and whisded." 

The Dean smiled again. "Quite right," he said. "And 
when I accused him of being drunk he said it wasn't that at 
all, but that he had whistled because the dead man had such 
a terrified expression on his face." Then a sudden thought 
seemed to strike him. "But, my dear boy," he cried in shrill 
tones, "how do you know all this? You talk as though you 
had seen it all. But you weren't in the room, were you ? " 

Hans looked first at his mother and then at the Dean. " But 
I saw it all the same," he replied calmly. 

"Saw it?" Frau Hellebeck exclaimed. 

" Yes," he said thoughtfully. " Weren't Fritz and I sleeping 
just overhead? Fritz always wanted to look at the company 
when he was sent to bed, and I had made a little spy-hole for 
him in the boards, so that he could lie on the floor and look 
down. But that night it was I who lay on the floor." 

Until this moment Frau Hellebeck seemed to have been 
held spellbound, unable to stop the conversation. But she 
now wrenched herself free, as it were, and in a harsh voice 
said to Soren: "How's that mare getting on, Soren? I think 
you ought to go and have a look at her." 

The man jumped up with a little cry — or was it merely my 
fancy? In any case, I looked up at him. I wanted to see his 
sallow face, which had struck me because it was so pale. But 
I could not see it, because he had already turned away, though 
as I watched his great stooping form shuffle away he seemed 
to be staggering. 

While Soren was shuffling out the Dean commented on the 
extraordinary features of the story. As far as I could tell, 
Fritz had not paid much attention to the conversation, but had 



l86 OTTO BABENDIEK 

been busy drawing something. The others began talking and 
Frau Hellebeck gave instruftions to the maidservants. As 
every one began to move I sank into a reverie, pidluring the 
scenes that had just been described. 

On the following morning, when Hans was already out in 
the fields, Almut and Fritz drove me to the town in their fine 
trap. Fritz said he might be coming to Ballum presently on 
business. I was glad to hear this, for I was very proud of him, 
and said I would get Auntie Lena to invite Almut, as I felt 
sure she and Eva would be good friends. We discussed these 
plans until I bade them good-bye at the station. Then they 
drove away and I was alone. 



CHAPTER XII 

The Green Wood Warps Badly 

After this journey there followed a period of resdessness, 
which I have litde pleasure in looking back upon. As a 
matter of fad I had ceased to be a mere schoolboy. 

I knew for certain that I was no longer a schoolboy, for I 
began to dog the footsteps of a girl who was not a mere child 
either. She was the daughter of a peasant, and came every 
Friday to Ballum with eggs and butter which she sold close by 
the shepherds' barrow. Her face attracted me one day after 
I had been talking to Uhle Monk. It was weather-beaten and 
covered with freckles. But her eyes seemed to question me, 
and I was curious to know the nature of their inquiry. I was 
also filled with qualms. It was blowing up for a storm, and on 
her way home she might be blown into a ditch and drowned, 
or she might meet another young man and never return to the 
market. I saw her coming out of a shop, and waited. I 
hoped to catch her eye. Eyes are always the chief attraftion 
with me. Then suddenly Barbara Mumm came along. She 
looked coldly at the girl and then in astonishment at me, and 
seemed to take in the situation. Her look was enough! In 
an instant I understood. I knew I had shown bad taste and 
must go away. I blushed vividly, and turned round, and for 
the next few days blushed again and again every time I thought 
that perhaps Barbara had told Eva all about it. 

The next attraftion was a very slim girl with beautifully 
straight legs. I confess that she wore her shoes down on one 
side, but some feet always do that, however careful their owner 
may be. I met her on three different occasions, and looked 
into her eyes. Yes, there was a question in them for me, and 
she gave a faint little smile as they asked it. There seemed to 
be an understanding between us, and I followed her about 
everywhere. On the following day, after meeting her for the 
fourth time, I made up my mind not to lose sight of her, even 
if I had to walk as far as the beach. Unfortunately, as she 

187 



l88 OTTO BABENDIEK 

reached a certain turning, who should appear but Hehnut and 
Dina, the ferryman's children, and I had to stop and talk to 
them. And as they were by far the cleanest and best-groomed 
couple in the town, I suddenly felt there was something dirty 
about the girl I had been pursuing. Yes, I felt sure she was 
not clean, and I asked them whether they knew her. 

Yes, they knew her. She was lazy and lousy, and went from 
job to job. I cannot describe how scornfully their two pairs 
of eyes flashed, and how Dina's cheeks shone, as they told me 
this! And again I blushed. 

A few days later when I chanced to meet Dina and asked her 
how Balle Bohnsack was she looked angrily at me and called 
him a catde-drover. Her expression was such that I had 
no alternative but to acknowledge that he might take more 
pains with his clothes and liis manners. Working myself up, 
I heaped abuse upon his head, and conceived the daring plan 
of paying court to her myself, and freeing her from Balle. So 
I asked her whether she ever went out in the evening. She 
replied that she did. Whereupon I invited her to go for a 
walk with me. 

Once more her eyes flashed angrily. No, never ! Though 
she admitted that some girls went out in the evenings with 
young men, or even with the boys ! 

For the moment I did not see the point of her distindUon 
between young men and the boys, but a moment's refledion 
made it clear. By " the boys" she meant the grammar school 
boys, and she saw no difference between the fourth and fifth 
form. So to my great chagrin I was forced to abandon my 
plan! 

Although I was now in the sixth form I felt that there must 
be something unstable in my charader, for I seemed to have 
had a fresh love every three months. And it was not mere 
tomfoolery; it was deadly serious. 

I met the last girl at one of the houses where I had free 
meals. She was a flapper, with small bright blue eyes and her 
hair in a plait. She used to sit opposite me and the son of the 
house, who was also a sixth-form boy, and we engaged in a war 
to the knife for her favours. He tried to impress her by being 
so proud and stiff that his mother asked him whether he was 
suffering firom lumbago. I, for my part, relied on my hair, 
and to enhance its charm I bought a box of pomade for a 



THE GREEN WOOD WARPS BADLY 189 

mark. Unfortunately, I forgot that it was perfumed, and was 
aghast when I saw Auntie Lena's fine nose sniffing sarcastically. 
Once when I unexpededly met the girl in the street I had the 
misfortune to drop my red cap in the gutter when I greeted 
her. My rival saw it and laughed scornfully. But a few days 
later, when he was looking spellbound at her, he upset a plate- 
ful of soup in his lap, and when I smiled scornfully she smiled 
back at me ! 

My victory was complete and decisive. After supper I 
went to meet her in the back garden, and we chatted and felt 
very proud and happy. She confessed that it was my hair 
that had captivated her, and that however many sweethearts 
she might have in the future she would never forget it. I, on 
the other hand, assured her that it was her walk that had " in- 
toxicated " me — I had long intended to use this word — ^and she 
allowed me to kiss her. She then informed me that her father 
had a soap faftory, and I determined on the spot to study the 
chemistry of soap, so that my father-in-law might one day take 
me to his heart ! My love had added years to my age. I felt 
I was a man ! 

Then one day it all came to an end. I was hanging about 
for her — ^we wanted to see each other every moment of the day 
— ^when, loand behold ! I saw Balle Bohnsack coming down the 
street with a drove of calves. Suddenly he stopped quite close 
to me, in his dirty linen overalls, and his ghastly old cap on the 
back of his head, and, seizing my arm, shouted words of com- 
mand to his cattle. I hastily pleaded that I must fly home as 
I had a composition to write. 

"What about?" he inquired. 

Meanwhile a calf had taken a fiincy to one of the shops, and 
was trying to enter it. Balle called to the group of girls — ^with 
me standing by him, if you please! — to coax the beast and lure 
him away. The young ladies remained dxmib, of course, and 
passed on. 

Eventually Balle had to release me to see to his cattle, and I 
breathed at last. But as he was carried away what should he 
do but shout at me — loud enough for the whole street to hear 
— that I must have caught cold, as I seemed to have no voice, 
and that I had better tie a wet stocking round my throat that 
night! 

That finished it! 



igo OTTO BABENDIEK 

As a matter of faft I was hoarse, and Auntie Lena, who 
always dreaded I might develop my father's trouble, ordered 
me to bed for three days, and added that, to spare my voice, 
no one was to come near me. 

Nevertheless they all came, and I spent three glorious days. 

My first visitor was Uncle Gosch, who, wet through and 
with his boots all muddy, came in after a long walk to talk to 
me about Pytheas. 

Then Ernemann came. He was always kind to me. He 
was too frail and sensitive for the fate that ultimately overtook 
him. Standing by my bed, he looked at me, and observing 
that I was not smart enough he decorated my nightshirt with 
geraniums. Then, sitting by my side, he played with a 
flower-stand that he had made for his mother. 

Eva also visited me. The first thing she did was to put a 
fresh bandage round my neck, and threatened me with the 
most terrible consequences if I touched it. Then, sitting on 
the side of my bed, she told me to put my knees up, and leant 
against them as she was very tired. And thus we chatted in 
the twilight. At first it was rather trying for me, because she 
talked about the girl with the plait, and about the walk along 
the dyke, where there was always a cold wind blowing. She 
knew everything! Then leaning forward to make sure that 
my neck was still covered, she tapped me gentiy on the cheek. 
It was wonderful ! I could think of nothing on earth more 
delightful than being ill and chatting with Eva. 

The second evening she sat talking to me she complained 
that Ernemann was very lazy and frivolous, and declared that 
Auntie Lena gave him too much money. I could not under- 
stand her fears, and argued with her, enumerating his various 
gifts — he could sing, play the violin, write poetry, adt, and 
carve wood. But she shook her head. Then to cheer her up 
I began to talk about Eilert and praised him to the skies. She 
agreed, but pointed out that he was too passionate and un- 
reliable. She said no more, but I knew she was thinking of 
his love of drink and his attachment to Uhle Monk. I tried to 
comfort her, but it was no good. 

On the fourth day I went back to school, but I was com- 
pletely changed. I had given up all thoughts of girls, and, 
concentrating entirely on my work, resolved at all costs to dis- 
tinguish myself in everything. 



THE GREEN WOOD WARPS BADLY IQI 

At first I felt very despondent, owing to the shining lights 
above me. There were two in particular who troubled me. 
One was a great scholar, who was extraordinarily good at 
Latin prose and at Greek and history, and I looked up to him 
in awe. The other, although not particularly brilliant at 
classics, knew a great deal about German poetry from the 
earliest times, and had founded a club, where he gave ledures. 
Not only did he write his own compositions, but he also pro- 
duced compositions for the whole of the fifth and lower sixth 
forms, at the rate of two marks apiece. I knew nothing about 
the details of Goethe's childhood, or whether he had written 
compositions for others at the rate of two marks apiece, but I 
had an idea that this young man promised to be a second 
Goethe, and I felt quite incapable of ever attaining the level 
of these two stars. 

Nevertheless my industry bore fruit. I distinguished myself. 
I was top in Latin in the lower sixth, and wrote an essay on 
the moral aspedls of Mary Stuart that caused a stir. In a single 
afternoon I sold five compositions at one mark apiece, all of 
which were marked more or less " good." I worked like mad, 
and inspired my masters with the hope that in the following 
year I would emulate the two shining lights in the upper sixth. 

I began to feel that I was destined to be either a poet or a 
statesman. Twenty stanzas written about Almut pointed to 
the first, and an essay on the political aspedb of WallensUin to 
the second alternative. 

I blossomed out. One stormy day in the autumn a fiock of 
geese flew across the beach from the foreland and landed in 
Ballum. The storm became a hurricane. Tiles were blown 
down from the roofs into the streets, and the five hundred 
geese were terrified. Suddenly the whole of Ballum was 
covered by a fluttering, cackling cloud of feathers, as the geese 
flew from roof to roof and window to window, and hurtled 
through the air above our heads. Inspired by this speftacle, 
I wrote that same night a poem of ten short stanzas describing 
the feathery confusion, and sent it to the editor of the Ballum 
News, asking him to keep the author's identity a secret, though 
I hoped he would not do so. But when, on the following day, 
the readers of the News waxed indignant over the poem, as an 
insult to the women of the town, my heart grew so faint that 
for a fortnight I crept about in a state of extreme trepidation. 



192 OTTOBABENDIEK 

Whereupon, abandoning books, I indulged my main bent 
and turned my attention to living people. I' began by pro- 
longing my stay at the houses where I took my free meals, and 
engaging my hosts in post-prandial conversation. Twice, for 
instance, I stayed two hours with the old maid with whom I 
lunched on Wednesdays, and listened to tales of her native 
village. I also frequently stopped on with the baker and his 
children, and began giving Helmut lessons in English and 
mathematics again. I had given up helping him for a while 
to devote more time to my school work, but I really enjoyed 
working with him, as I have always loved associating with 
plain working-folk. 

Occasionally I would go with Helmut to see his people and 
meet his father down at the ferry. Old Busch was proud of 
his son, and vowed he would be the best sergeant-major in 
Kaiser Wilhelm's army. I suggested that there were other 
possibilities, but he would not hear of them. He said that a 
sergeant-major was more important than a captain and even 
than a king. Why ? Because he knew every one of his men, 
and was familiar with every detail of their kit and equipment 
down to the last button. 

I said I often met Dina, and asked whether he knew that 
Balle Bohnsack was still pressing his attentions upon her. 

He shook with silent laughter. "That scavenger fellow!" 
he cried. 

As I still felt indignant with my old friend, I made no 
attempt to defend him. 

"Just fancy," he cried, " my Dina, my spotless Dina, and 
that — that — oh, words fail me!" And he began to praise his 
wife and her housekeeping. 

Once when Helmut and I were returning from one of these 
trips we met Eilert and Barbara on the dyke. We stopped to 
talk to them for a moment, and I noticed that Barbara looked 
disdainfully at my friend. When I turned to him I saw he 
had a similar expression on his face. Then he left us, and I 
went on with the others. 

" Surely he's not fit company for you!" said Barbara, turn- 
ing her little head to me, when we were out of earshot. 

I protested that she had always been against him even as 
a child. 

Eilert laughed softly. He said he had already explained the 



THE GREEN WOOD WARPS BADLY 193 

reason to me, and, knowing how outspoken he was, she cried: 
" Shut up ! I don't want to hear ! " 

"All the same, I will tell you again," he said carelessly. " He 
appeals to you for the same reason that Dutti Kohl appeals 
to you." 

I avoided speaking to Barbara, because we did not happen 
to be friends just then. But I could not help exclaiming in 
astonishment: "Dutti Kohl! Surely not!" 

" It's nonsense!" she cried. "He only says so." 

" When you were a baby," continued Eilert, "and first saw 
the ferry, you insisted on going to Helmut's father, and would 
not be satisfied till you were in his arms. And Helmut is grow- 
ing as big as his father." 

"But what about Dutti Kohl?" I objefted. 

He shrugged his broad shoulders. " What is our mother?" 
he replied scornfully. " Is she anything more than a coarse 
fishwife in silk with a gold chain?" 

"Eilert!" I exclaimed in horror. 

" As a matter of facft," he continued calmly, " her mother was 
aflually bred in a fish shop, and her daughter, our mother, is 
only a fishwife in disguise with ormolu embellislunents. What 
am I, I should like to know? Can't I bend a horseshoe in my 
hands? How could my sister fail to be fascinated by strong, 
coarse, powerful men?" 

" But Dutti is not strong," I protested. 

" No, but he has big limbs and is a brute at bottom," he 
replied. "That's the point!" 

"Oh, you know everything!" she cried scornfully, and 
looked dreamily into the distance. 

• • ■ • • 

While writing the above it has occurred to me that the order 
of events may not be quite corred, and that it was Eilcrt's 
return to Ballum that brought me back to closer intercourse 
with my fellows. 

Following a violent scene with his mother he had left school 
as a sixth-form boy, and stayed away for some time. After 
attending the art school at Diisseldorf he became dissatisfied 
and left, and, with very little money and a rucksack on his 
back, had gone in search of work all through Flanders and 
Holland, whence he had retiurned on a Dutch cargo-boat, 
working his way as an able seaman. 



194 OTTO BABENDIEK 

I remember that he was very depressed. He regretted 
having to come home again, and bewailed the faA that he 
would be deprived of teachers and models; but while he was 
glad that he had seen the masterpieces of his art he was also 
pleased to set eyes on the beauties of his native landscape once 
more. He was very friendly to me, and called me "little 
ensign"; and, though I remained a layman as far as his art 
was concerned, I felt that he had made great strides. He 
inveighed bitterly against Ballum and Ballum society, and 
especially against his mother and sister. He always referred 
to them as Sarah and Barbara Mumm, showing how &r away 
he was from them, and declared that they were more sorry 
than pleased that he had come back. 

When I urged him to try to be on better terms with his 
mother he asked what I meant. Was he to sit with her and 
Dutti Kohl and discuss mortgages and shares all day? "If 
you think I could do that," he said, " you can't know me! As 
for Barbara, she's not looking out, like a decent girl, for an 
honest, good-natured fellow, but for a man who will master her 
physically and buy her gold rings for her fingers and ears, and 
especially for her nose. What I should like would be for 
the pair of them to wake up one fine day to find themselves 
penniless!" 

I started. I was so horrified by the idea that I could 
not grasp it. "Oh, Eilert," I exclaimed, "that would be 
terrible!" And I suggested that even if he could not feel 
like a son and a brother towards them he at least had Eva 
and me. 

"Yes," he agreed, "and Uhle Monk! I don't think I 
should have come back unless I had known I was going to see 
her again." 

I knew how good Uhle was to him and how much he stood 
in need of the comfort she gave him; but what he said pained 
me on Eva's account, and I protested that for one who, like 
himself, set so much store by "natural" people, I could not 
understand why he did not see that Eva and her mother were 
women after his own heart. 

He nodded. "Yes," he said, "but deep down they are 
Philistines too, full of ideas of justice and uplift, and they set 
themselves up as judges because they don't know how much 
more there is in heaven and earth. But I do, little ensign!" ■• 



THE GREEN WOOD WARPS BADLY I95 

I wanted to argue the point, but just at that moment Dutti 
Kohl entered. 

I had not seen him for months, and was astonished at his 
smart appearance. He was carrying an expensive umbrella 
and various parcels, and in his well-cut clothes and cloth spats 
he seemed to look cleaner and more wholesome. After greet- 
ing Eilert, he hugged me as usual. " I am always glad to sec 
little Babendiek, Herr Munmi," he said. " We are old friends 
from Steenkarken, and I once stood by him when he was in 
great trouble." 

I was not aware of his having stood by me, but he knew that 
I would not wish to discuss the matter. So I asked him coldly 
how he was. 

Hugging me so tightly that I felt I was almost standing 
inside the huge circumference of his body, he replied that, 
seeing how seriously his tender coxiscience interfered with his 
business, he was as well as could be expedled — though he had 
managed to bring back a few botdes of liqueur with him from 
Hamburg; and he begged Eilert to accept one. 

I was surprised to see Eilert consent, but, as I afterwards 
discovered, Dutti Kohl was the only creature in this turbulent 
period of his career who showed any interest in his work and 
refrained from criticising his manner of life; for Eilert was like a 
wild deep torrent, constantly overflowing its banks. I cannot 
say this without sadness, seeing that to this day he has remained, 
both to Eva and myself, the dearest of memories, great sufferer 
that he was. 

We sat down and drank. I took a glass too, the first in my 
life. But I felt I required support against Dutti's over- 
whelming smartness and assurance. He asked to see some 
sketches, and on being shown them uttered those meaningless 
platitudes which, as I afterwards learnt, are mere parrot-cries 
showing no real appreciation. 

We left shortly afterwards, and Eilert accompanied us, but 
Dutti Kohl, pleading that he had some business to transact 
with Frau Miuiun, tried, I feel convinced, to create an impres- 
sion of familiarity and friendship by leaving the son for the 
mother. 

She was sitting at the window in her fine black silk dress, 
with the gold chain glistening on her stately bosom. Greeting 
Dutti and me with cold condescension, she listened while 



196 OTTO BABENDIEK 

Dutti reported upon a little Stock Exchange deal he had done 
for her. 

He told her he had bought certain shares, and turned the 
opportunity to account by again emphasizing his honesty and 
the difficulty his scruples gave him. 

At that moment Barbara entered. Her little face was 
flushed from the sea breeze, and her eyes, usually so cold, 
sparkled with fire. She was evidently pleased to see us both, 
particularly Dutti. While she asked him all sorts of questions 
about Hamburg I noticed that she examined him closely from 
head to foot. 

It was on this occasion, I believe, that Dutti mentioned a 
dancing-master who was coming to Ballimi. At all events, 
that winter — the last I spent in Ballimi, for I matriculated in 
the spring — was very gay; for the litde town was full of lively 
young people, and the excitement reached its height when 
the dancing-master appeared. 

He arrived in a blizzard on a bitterly cold day, and alighted 
from the train in a shabby dinner-jacket with his dirty violin 
case under one arm and a bundle under the other. They 
were his only possessions. The wind whistled, but he whistled 
more shrilly still. Stepping up to us, he told us that he had 
never finished his course as a student, that he was now a 
dancing-master, and went about all the year round in his 
dinner-jacket without an overcoat, because he liked it. 

He thought dancing the most important thing in life, and 
had evidently made up his mind to convert Ballimi to this 
view. In any case, a fortnight after his arrival he had played 
his cards so well that all the servants were dancing in the 
kitchens, the workmen in the workshops, and the children at 
the street corners, while many clubs and societies altered their 
rules to allow dances to be held in the evenings. 

We sixth-form boys had succeeded in persuading the tall 
junior judge, who presided over the lower court, to be presi- 
dent of our dancing club, which we called the " Academic " ; 
but, as a matter of fad, Eilert, Ernemann, and Dutti Kohl 
were its leading lights. Ernemann was good-looking and 
cheerful. He now wanted to be a singer, and meditated 
letting his hair grow long. Dutti was by far the smartest of 
us all. We sixth-form boys had stipulated that he should not 
be allowed to become a member. Eilert and Ernemann were 



THE GREEN WOOD WARPS BADLY I97 

diiferent — but Dutti ? Keeping a shop, as he did, what right 
had he to belong to the "Academic" dancing club? We 
argued the matter all through three recreations, and continued 
the debate by means of notes which we passed round the room. 
Then Eilert told me that both Barbara and Eva wanted Dutti 
to be a member. "You know, little ensign," he said, "that 
Barbara has a weakness for him; Eva only agrees with her out 
of kindness." And so the matter was settled. The tall junior 
judge was rather sarcastic, and said it was ridiculous for Dutti 
to come to the dances in his grey spats; but we sixth-form boys 
were impressed by his assurance, and by the fad that he often 
went to Hamburg, where he informed us that he mixed with 
the " best people." And as we had no idea what sort of 
people dealt in " Portugals" and " St Domingoes" we believed 
him. 

Forming a group in a corner of the hall, we watched the 
dancing-master whirling about before us in his short black 
jacket, very much faded by wind and rain. How we despised 
him — him and his art! Besides, what did we care about 
dancing? We only hoped that dancing might bring us into 
closer contact with those mysterious, beautiful creatures who 
were facing us. We wanted to hold their hands, put our arms 
round their waists, look into their wonderful eyes, inhale the 
fragrance of their hair, and probe their souls — that was all! 

The girls were all big healthy creatures, some of them 
beautiful. How everything about them vibrated with life! 
How they walked! How their eyes flashed! Eva and Bar- 
bara, then about eighteen, were in the first bloom of woman- 
hood. Dutti and the junior judge glided forward to greet 
them. How daring! Eilert went up to a tall smart-looking 
country girl, who looked lovely when he made her blush, 
and her massive shoulders rose and fell as she laughed. 
Meanwhile I stood there pretending an assurance I was far 
from feeling. 

In his falsetto voice the dancing-master announced the first 
dance, and the couples stepped forward. How they all looked 
at each other as they danced! I danced too. My partner 
was a tall business-man's daughter, who had the reputation of 
being a blue-stocking. I discussed higher education for 
women with her. But I was not really attending. I was 
watching the prettiest girls — ^Barbara and Eva. I tried to 



igS OTTO BABENDIEK 

catch the latter's eye, and was thrilled when she called me 
" little ensign" as she whirled past. Putting her arm in mine 
during an interval, she told me that I ought to keep my left 
shoulder a little bit lower when I was dancing, and I showed 
so much zeal in obeying her that I saw her smile. Somehow, 
I don't know why, I felt that I was still only a boy and she was 
a woman, and that increased my awkwardness. 

I accompanied my partner home, still discussing higher 
education. I could sec the other couples about me, Eva keep- 
ing close to Eilert. I knew them too well not to recognize 
them in spite of the darkness. 

Soon after Christmas, just before the last dance of the season, 
I saw a tall, finely-set-up young man approaching me, whom I 
did not recognize until I saw him suddenly draw himself up 
as a couple of little schoolgirls passed. Remembering who it 
was that did this, I dashed towards him in great excitement, 
crying, "Hullo, Fritz Hellebcck!" 

" Well, I'm damned ! " he exclaimed in the same old pleasant 
patronizing tones. "Babendiek! I've been on the look out 
for you." 

In a moment I was his slave again. Military life had 
broadened him, and he was now as fine a specimen of manhood 
as I had ever seen. I told him how glad I was to see him, and 
asked how long he was staying. 

He said he was in a grain business in Ballum, and would be 
staying a few months. The farm was not enough ; he intended 
to deal in grain as well. He told me that his mother, Soren, 
Hans, and Almut were all quite well and had sent me their 
greetings. 

"And is Almut happy?" I asked. 

He laughed self-complacently. "I think so," he replied. 
" She has reason to be." 

I agreed most emphatically. 

He said they were to be married in a year, when Almut 
would be eighteen, but that he already had the management 
of her property. Then he asked me who were the "best" 
people in Ballum, as he would like to meet them. 

I knew his habit of looking out for money, and measuring 
everybody and everything by that standard, but I could not 
help being astonished, now that I was a little bit older, at the 
barefaced way he spoke about it. However, I told him proudly 



THE GREEN WOOD WARPS BADLY 199 

that the richest was my aunt, Frau Mumm, but that the best 
was Auntie Lena, who had generously taken me under her 
roof, and I proposed that we should go to her at once. 

We found Auntie Lena sitting at the table in her great 
armchair, and, strange to say, she was alone. I wondered 
whether she would overpower him as she did every one else; 
and, indeed, she opened the conversation in her usual high- 
handed way. " We know all about you, dear Hellebeck," she 
said, " from Holler, so it only remains to ask what has brought 
you here. People come to Ballum either for cattle, or to soak 
themselves in grog, or else ..." 

He told her, and asked her all kinds of questions about the 
town, and spoke with such deference and assurance that Auntie 
Lena grew noticeably hvunbler. She listened and grew cau- 
tious, and gave him more information than he gave her. 

During their conversation Ememann entered. Fritz seemed 
to see at once how much he could get out of the mother 
through the son. At any rate, after asking Ememann what he 
would like to be, he suggested that he should go into business, 
and drew a glowing pidlure of the prospers for one with 
Ernemann's obvious gifts. 

Auntie Lena smiled. Neither she nor her favourite child 
said much, but I saw how their heads swam with the visions 
that filled them. And Hellebeck saw it too. He felt the blind 
devotion of the mother and the fantastic vanity of the son. 
Whereupon, with a kindly smile, he suggested that Ememann 
might join him. 

How delighted they both were ! What an opportunity for 
trying a job under a friend just for fun, to see whether one 
liked it or not, with the chance of getting out of it without 
disgrace if one did not ! 

Fritz Hellebeck knew that he had carried all before him, and 
we went on together to Frau Mumm's. 

She, too, was alone. Sitting in her customary state over her 
accounts, she greeted me coldly, as usual, and hardly raised 
her head to my friend. 

But Fritz only had to mention that he and his mother were 
obliged to sit together for hours over the accounts dealing with 
their large farm, their timber transadtions, and above all their 
investments, and Sarah Munmi understood. 

Oh, he knew how to deal with her, and was as different as 



200 OTTO BABENDIEK 

chalk from cheese to the Fritz he had been a few minutes 
previously. He spoke with a melancholy expression about the 
burdens of wealth, and of the ignorance and overweening 
arrogance of poverty. 

" People won't think," said Sarah Mumm. 

" Exadly, dear lady," he replied. " We who have been born 
to wealth know how painfully every penny has been earned and 
should be husbanded; but to lesser people it is easily earned, 
easily spurned." 

"Precisely!" she exclaimed, "at least, I suppose it is so; 
for I could not, for the life of me, put myself in the position of 
a poor woman. But they do indeed seem to live from hand 
to mouth." 

I ventured to hint discreetly that their wages were often in- 
sufficient to last longer than a day. 

She cast a pitying look at me. I blushed, and was glad when 
Hellebeck remarked: " My dear Babendiek, your troubles so 
far have been confined to administering your weekly pocket- 
money!" 

In the hall Barbara came up to us with her long brisk strides, 
and I introduced Fritz. On the way upstairs he told me that 
he liked my aunt immensely, and Barbara even more, and asked 
me again whether they were really the richest people in the 
town. 

I replied that as far as I knew they were. 

Then he referred to Eilert, and said I had led him to believe 
he was a doubtful character. I replied that he was the best 
fellow in the world. 

But he said he thought artist chaps like him were always a 
bit of an incubus, and reminded me how much better off 
Almut was in this respedl, for, unlike my beautiful cousin 
Barbara, she had no encumbrances. 

Seeing my astonishment, he explained that for anyone who 
had to manage a large property such considerations were 
necessary. " What a pity it is," he added, with a strange 
smile, " that one cannot marry two rich girls at once!" 

About a week later we had our last dance, and Almut came 
to Ballum for the occasion. 

When Ernemann and I went upstairs to look at the girls' 
dresses we found they were not quite ready, so we stopped and 
talked to them for a bit. Barbara happened to make a remark 



THE GREEN WOOD WARPS BADLY 201 

about me which Eva thought disparaging, so turning to me, 
with her evening dress on her arm, Eva exclaimed consolingly, 
" Oh, Holler ! " and threw her bare arms round my neck and 
kissed me. 

I was extremely embarrassed. I was too young and too 
modest to conclude from Eva's behaviour that she was physi- 
cally attraded by me, but the little scene stirred me for some 
time, and jwhenever I thought of it I was filled with mingled 
feelings of unspeakable bliss and vague distress. 

I danced only once with Eva and Almut that night, for not 
only was I kept bizsy with the blue-stocking, but I felt I must 
leave them to their sweethearts. The junior judge and Dutti 
danced with Barbara at first, but when Fritz appeared upon 
the scene he won an easy viftory over both and ncgleded 
Almut. 

I thought she mast feel he was negleding her, but she was 
a child at heart, despite her eighteen years, and her great hand- 
some lover had entirely failed to awaken her more serious side. 
When I was dancing with her I inquired after Hans, and saw 
at once firom the way her face lit up that the wonderfiU attach- 
ment was as strong as ever. 

At about eleven o'clock Eilert turned up, somewhat the 
worse for drink, and became abusive and pugnacious, declaring 
that the " louts " who had been dancing with his sister were 
all beneath her. 

None of the fellows dared approach him, and the dancing- 
master, who tripped up to him with his fiddle in his hand, was 
brushed aside like straw. At last I summoned up all my 
courage, and going up to him said: " Eilert, you may be right, 
but at the moment you are making a lot of good people feel 
very unhappy." 

That did the trick! I had appealed to his fundamental 
good-nature. 

Dancing was resimaed, but all the enthusiasm had vanished, 
and we finished earlier than we had intended. As I was wait- 
ing for my partner outside, who should appear but Dutti 
Kohl ! Pressing me to his side as usual, he led me along the 
avenue of limes and poured out his feelings about Barbara's 
grace and beauty. 

I was annoyed, but told him scomfiilly to have a shot at her. 

Hugging me more tightly than ever, he replied that it was 



202 OTTO BABKNDIEK 

a very ticklish business, and he would have to go carefully. 
"For what am I?" he cried, "and what is she? No, the two 
sides don't balance yet, and I must do a great deal more 
reckoning yet. You see," he added, " if I am to win her, I 

must have " and he moved his fingers as if he were 

counting money. 

I tried to tear myself away, but he dragged me on, and 
pointed at something with his finger. I looked, and saw, in a 
side alley leading to my aunt's house, Barbara and Fritz kissing 
and cuddling. Disturbed by our appearance, they parted, and 
Fritz ran into the street. But Dutti did not seem to be jealous 
or distressed. He merely remarked that Barbara would have 
many such experiences before she had done. 

Feeling tired, I tore myself away at last, and ran towards 
home. But except for the Kirchenstrasse, which was deserted, 
there seemed to be couples everywhere, and suddenly I came 
upon Eva and Eilert. Although he was drunk, he had waited 
for her, and she was standing in an attitude of complete sur- 
render in his arms, her beautiful head thrown back, allowing 
him to shower his wild kisses upon her. I could hear her 
crying; I could feel how utterly wretched she was. Yet she 
accepted his love! 

Except for Bothilde, I had never seen love like this. And it 
was Eva — Eva, the saint I adored ! 



CHAPTER XIII 

The Sky is Overcast 

On the following morning, after Eva and I had seen Almut off 
on the ferry, and entrusted her with all kinds of messages for 
everybody at Buchholz, p>articiilarly Hans, I turned to Eva and 
said: "Well, did I exaggerate when I said that she was the 
prettiest, best, and happiest little thing in all Holstein ? " 

As Eva did not answer, I looked up and saw that she was 
crying. *' You're miserable about Eilert," I said, feeling I had 
been taftless. Again she did not answer, and I waxed eloquent 
in defence of Eilert. 

She replied that at times she gave up all hope of his ever 
becoming a rational and settled member of society. 

I wondered whether I was justified in urging her to stick to 
him, but I told her that I felt sure that some day he would 
settle down, and drew a glowing pidure of their future. I 
believed it all because I loved them both. 

" And keep Uhle Monk with us ? " she cried bitterly. " Or 
some other slut from the streets? He has a weakness for 
guttersnipes!" 

I assured her that he would get over that. 

" What's bred in the bone comes out in the flesh," she said, 
"and only grows stronger with time. Oh, Holler, if only I 
had a sweetheart like you!" 

I protested that she did not know me, that Ballum people 
had only seen me on my best behaviour, because I felt myself 
under an obligation to them. 

She laid a hand on my arm and shook me. " Shall I tell you 
what I think?" she said with smiling emphaisis. "I think 
there is something you do hide, and that is fire. But then your 
fire will always be bright and benevolent." 

On our way home, as we passed a tavern frequented by 
fisherfolk and harbour loafers I could hear Eilert's voice above 
the rest of the din inside, but hoped she did not notice it. 

In the sitting-room at home we found Auntie Lena installed 

203 



a04 OTTO BABENDIEK 

in her great armchair, with Ernemann perched on the arm, 
discussing the plans for his start as a business man in Helle- 
beck's office. They were both convinced that business was 
the best possible career for a man of his gifts. 

" It's so strange," Auntie Lena was saying, " that we hadn't 
thought of this all along. For, after all, we wanted something 
where there was full scope for Ememann's. gifts. He will visit 
the different countries and turn his versatility to account every- 
where. For instance, in one place he will find the people keen 
on music, in another keen on the theatre, and in another keen 
on wood-carving. What do you say, Holler? You are so 
clever that you can almost hear the grass grow ! Tell us where 
and how his gifts will shine best!" 

I said that human nature was much the same in every 
country, and that he would find people who would like some- 
thing or other about him wherever he went. 

But this did not fit in with my aunt's pifture. Perhaps I 
was wrong to put it so clearly. " That's gibberish, my dear 
boy!" she said, looking scornfully at me. 

" The main thing for a business man," I said with a smile, 
" is to be able to see men and things in their true light, value 
them intelligently, and know how to turn them to his own 
advantage." 

"Exadlyl" she cried triumphantly, "and that's precisely 
Ememann's ybrfe ! You know very well how he turns people 
and things to his own account! Don't you remember, Eva, 
when he was only six, how he got all the children of the place 
into the scullery and made them aft with him?" 

I wanted to say that this was not exaftly what I meant, but 
she was so confident and happy that she gave me no oppor- 
tunity, and began to attack me, as she loved to do. I believe 
something in my face provoked her, or was it only her love 
for me ? 

" No," she said, " I am not anxious about Ernemann. But 
what will become of you. Heaven alone knows ! What with 
your auspicious beginnings — that famous gold coin! — and all 
your distinguished friends, Engel Tiedje, Balle, the baker, your 
cattle-market and ferry acquaintances, and, above all, Dutti 
Kohl ! They'll all want you to be one of them. But I can see 
you wavering between Dutti's glassware business and his 
bank." 



THE SKY IS OVERCAST 205 

"You've forgotten the most important friend of all," I 
replied with a smile, " whose calling I would adopt if I had 
the means to study." 

She suddenly grew anxious, and with some emotion warned 
me not to aim too high. 

I replied that I had no wish to do that, though I had 
thought of studying theology and German archaeology, into 
which Uncle Gosch had initiated me so well. "If Engel 
Tiedje can keep me at the University long enough, of course," 
I added. 

Outside Eva came to me crying and in great distress. " Oh, 
please. Holler," she begged, "go to that inn on the harboiu- 
and persuade Eilert to leave it!" 

I said I had already made up my mind to do so, and set off 
at once. 

He had just then fallen into a habit, which he kept up tiU 
his dying day, of periodically throwing down all the tools of 
his art and spending a week or so haunting public-houses. 
And at such times he was generally wild or maudlin with 
drink. 

In the past I had been accustomed to deal with the people 
he frequented, but as a sixth-form boy I seemed to have become 
somewhat of a scholar, and had lost much of my ease of manner 
with simple folk. Moreover, I knew I had a deUcate task 
before me. I accordingly entered the large low-ceilinged tap- 
room rather timidly. It was full of fishermen and cattle- 
dealers in their working clothes, all more or less drunk and 
singing drinking-songs. At the far end of the room sat Balle, 
with his dirty yellow cap pulled down over his red-gold 
fringe, leading the music and beating time on the head of a 
sleeping drover. Behind the latter a red calf was tethered. I 
made my way up to Balle and showed I was plezised to see 
him; but, without interrupting his song, he pushed me 
down into a chair beside him. Then with his drover's stick 
he began to belabour the sleeping man's head more vigorously 
than ever. 

I could see Eilert in a recess by the window, with a steaming 
glass of grog beside him, feverishly sketching in a book he held 
between his knees. He was quite drunk. He shouted to me 
to keep still, as my milky white face provided a good note 
in the prevailing gloom. Meanwhile Balle was hitting the 



2o6 OTTO BABENDIEK 

sleeping man's head ever harder and harder, till at last he 
woke up, and with besotted, drunken eyes looked round for his 
calf, but could not see it. 

Balle leant forward. " My friend, your calf has been trans- 
formed ! " he said in his usual grandfatherly tones. 

" Trans— what ? " cried the man. " Where is it then ? " 

" It has been transformed into this young man." 

He stared at me open-mouthed, and everybody roared with 
laughter and shouted, "Yes, that's right! That's your calf, 
sitting in that chair!" 

"Impossible!" cried the man. 

" Why impossible ? " they all exclaimed. " It's sitting there 
in front of you, and you say it's impossible!" 

"And he's a prince," continued Balle. "One of the 
Poseldorfern ! " 

The man stared at me once more, and then, turning to the 
others, he burst into tears, exclaiming, " My Gawd ! What's 
to become of my wife and kids now ! Speak, man, for Gawd's 
sake ! Are you a prince?" 

Everybody shouted and laughed loud enough to shatter 
the window-panes. I felt unequal to the situation. Eilert 
noticed it and called to me to keep still. Hands were laid upon 
me to keep me in my place, and the host and his wife appeared 
in the shadowy background. But at last, unable to bear it any 
longer, I showed the man the calf, which was lying down on 
the floor behind him, and went over to Eilert. 

He was still drawing feverishly, and laughing in a sinister 
way to himself. "Your friend Hellebeck," he said, "is a 
f>olished money-box! Loathsome!" I was somewhat taken 
aback. But I said nothing, as I wanted to take him away. At 
last the sky clouded over, and the room grew so dark that he 
could no longer see to draw. All the rest were snoring in 
their seats, and he got up to go. 

I was afraid he might enter another public-house, but he was 
too busy inveighing against Ballum and his mother, and I led 
him home. 

Upstairs in his room he continued railing against the world 
in general, as he set to work to colour the piflure he had just 
drawn of the calf scene; and presently he spoke about Eva. 
She too, he said, was one of the Philistines, who were the curse 
of the world. Whereupon, referring to Uhle Monk, he pulled 



THE SKY IS OVERCAST 20J 

a large pidlure from his cupboard, and said: "There — there's 
a human being for you ! " 

I inunediately recognized a pidure of Uhle, stripped to the 
waist, washing herself at a tub. 

I did not blame him. I was never able to blame him as 
long as he lived, for this side of him was an inextricable part 
of the best that was in him. And indeed I could not help 
admiring the power with which he had portrayed the whole 
soul of the girl. 

I did not suspedt at that moment that I was related to him 
in more than blood, and that I too was an artist. But when I 
did become aware of it I was thankful to find that by the grace 
of God mine was a steadier, quieter, and more docile Muse. 

I implored him not to show the pidure to anyone, and in- 
quired anxiously whether he had already done so. 

He replied, as he put it away, that that fool of a dancing- 
master had seen it. 

" If people get to know about that pifture " I began 

anxiously. 

He made an impatient gesture and looked angrily at me, 
almost as though he hated me. I gathered that he wanted me 
to go; but when he gazed into my eyes and saw in them the 
afFedion I bore him he let his hand drop in despair. 

Nevertheless I thought it best to go. 

On the way I met Uhle on the stairs. As I passed her I felt 
an impulse to beg her to leave the house and remove the danger 
threatening him. But I refrained. After all, I knew that his 
greatest danger lay in himself and not in other people. And 
so I went down. 

On the way home I called at Dutti's, and was told that he 
and the dancing-master were up in Dutti's room, but would 
soon be down. So I remained standing at the counter, where 
old Kohl was trying to persuade a young peasant to buy some 
shares. 

When the transadion was ended and the peasant had gone, 
Kohl turned sadly to me and shrugged his shoulders. " People 
ought not to buy so much, Herr Babendiek," he said, "and 
least of all the things that are offered them. You saw that 
peasant ? What does he want with stocks and shares ? Does 
a rational man ever buy anything he doesn't understand? 
More education! That's what's wanted — ^more education!" 



208 OTTO BABENDIEK 

I felt inclined to ask him why, if he held such views, he 
kept all those shoddy goods in his window to deceive people 
with; but at that moment Dutti and the dancing-master 
entered, and the conversation immediately turned on the 
Mumms. 

Old Kohl asked me what the relationship was between 
mother and son. 

As I had now become much more suspicious and cautious, 
I replied that their natures were different. 

Dutti hugged me — I might even say he absorbed me into 
himself. " And do you know, little Babendiek, which nature 
I prefer?" he said with a laugh. 

I guessed it must be the mother's. 

" Quite right ! " he cried, hugging me more tightly. " Dutti 
Kohl votes for Ma!" 

I objefted, though without any sign of reproach, that he 
was always very friendly with Eilert. 

"And why not?" he exclaimed. "How could your poor 
friend do any business if he were not friendly to every one? 
But Eilert's clever mother will soon be very unfriendly to her 
son and turn him out neck and crop!" 

" With a crash that will be audible for miles ! " added the 
dancing-master. 

" I ought really to be very angry with you, little Babendiek," 
said Dutti, " for bringing Hellpbeck to Ballum." 

I retorted that he had come to Ballum on business. 

" What a baby you are ! " he replied. " That bullfinch has 
as much business in its beak as Hellebeck has in his whole 
body. He never came here for any business; he only came 
out of vanity and to have some fun, and he is going to stay 
another month, because every evening when it is dark he goes 
with Barbara on to the heath." 

"Oh," interposed the dancing-master, "that'll soon stop 
after the crash. The moment Hellebeck sees what sort of a 
brother Barbara has he'll wind up his business here and go." 

I reminded them that Hellebeck was engaged. 

Dutti Kohl laughed. "Yes, I know," he cried. "And 
he's sticking to the girl for her meadows. So there's no real 
danger. But even so I don't like it. You know I love Bar- 
bara!" And he crushed me against him. "But I bet you," 
he added, "that when your peacock sees the brother take 



THE SKY IS OVERCAST 209 

flight he'll follow suit. Ha, ha ! He's for the whitest waist- 
coat eveiy time ! " 

I asked the dancing-master whether he was going to leave 
Ballum too, but he replied that he intended to stop on for the 
time being. So I abandoned the idea of speaking to him 
about the dangerous pidure that day, and left. 

• • • • • 

I shall say nothing about the leaving examination, which I 
passed a fortriight after this conversation, or of how Unde 
Gosch greeted me as his young "comrade in arms" against 
Sven Modersohn, his Copenhagen opponent on the subjed of 
Pytheas. Suffice it to say that when I got home Auntie Lena, 
convinced that I would be bursting with conceit, began by 
taking me severely to task; but she soon grew sentimental and 
tearful, saying that it had indeed been a stroke of good fortime 
both for herself and her family that the storm wind of Storm- 
feld had wafted me and my gold coin from the Bohnsacks' 
farm into her arms. Neither shall I enter into the details of 
how Eva as soon as she heard my voice dashed downstairs and 
embraced me, weeping for joy. For I have matters of greater 
moment to describe. I must just mention, however, that the 
desk in my room was decorated with flowers, and that on it 
was a letter from Engel Tiedje containing five hundred marks, 
for my "first term," as he vaguely put it. 

On the following morning I happened to come across Eilert 
Mumm near the Imrbour, and he persuaded me to cross the 
river with him and go to the sheep farm. Looking upon the 
wonderful landscape about us, as we stood at the great door of 
the &rm, he remarked: " How fine it would be if no human 
justice had ever appeared to mar the vast eternal justice of 
nature!" Meanwhile his litde eyes were surveying the scene, 
and I gathered from the sound of his voice that he was com- 
posing a pifture. 

Round the corner of the building we came across the two 
shepherds, apricating under the wall of the farm, sheltered 
from the wind. And I stopped to speak to them, while Eilert 
went inside. 

The only explanation they offiered for being where they 
were was to point back at the house with their thumbs and 
mutter, "She!" 

Gathering that they meant Uhle Monk, I replied tha| 



210 OTTO BABENDIEK 

although she was a very adtive woman, she was also exceedingly 
good-natured, whereupon one of them pointed to a ewe, 
implying that she was as good-natured as that animal. 

Inside the house I found Uhle Monk and another hefty young 
woman engaged in a sort of spring-cleaning, Uhle having taken 
the day off to come and help. 

Eilert loved the low-ccilinged room. - He was sitting by the 
window drinking in the sight, and when he saw me he pointed 
to the strange girl. " Look at that animal!" he said. "But 
who is she?" 

I seemed to know the great strong girl, and all of a sudden 
I remembered who she was. " Why," I exclaimed, " you Jirc 
my old friend Bothilde, Balle Bohnsack's sister, and I was your 
little farm-hand!" 

She recognized me now, and wrung my hand heartily, 
saying she knew I was in Ballimi, and had heard of me from 
time to time. She still spoke in the same sleepy voice. 

Apparently she was related to the two shepherds, and ex- 
plained that she came every year to help Uhle with the spring- 
cleaning. "But they are good for nothing," she declared. 
"They groan and pant so that we prefer even to fetch the 
water ourselves." 

I turned to Eilert, who was devouring her with his eyes. 
At last he went up to her, and in a natural matter-of-fad tone 
of voice, that might well have given offence, said : " You are 
the loveliest creature I have seen for a long time," and con- 
tinued to stare at her. 

She blushed vividly, and, coming to her rescue, I asked her 
whether she was still good friends with Dieter Blank. 

She replied that she was, and explained that he was too 
frivolous a man for marriage. 

"And so your life is being wasted ..." I exclaimed. I 
meant to say her dear precious life, but I hope she saV from 
my expression all the love and gratitude she inspired in me. 

We exchanged reminiscences for a while, and Eilert asked 
her about her people and her farm. 

On the way home he was much more lively. The sight of 
Bothilde had been the crowning joy to his morning's feast 
among the glorious scenes of nature. 

He questioned me about my experiences at the Bohnsacks' 
farm, and thought the adventure with Bothilde in the ditch 



THE SKY IS OVERCAST 211 

simply wonderful. "Don't you see how wonderftil it was?" 
he cried, shaking me. 

I was only nineteen and had had no experience. I still 
adored Eva and Almut, but that was all I knew about such 
things. Then suddenly I remembered something I had seen. 
I saw Eva in Eilert's arms, with her dear head thrown back, 
receiving his kisses, and I shuddered and turned my face away 
from him. 

On the next day the last winter fun<Sion held by the " best" 
people of Balliun took place. It was held at the Mimams' in 
honour of Barbara's nineteenth birthday. At first the evening 
was not very different from the others we had spent in that 
house. The table was lighted by a row of old silver candle- 
sticks, placed between the decanters of wine, and three huge 
joints of roast beef, from an ox specially killed on one of Frau 
Mumm's farms, had been provided for the feast. Councillor 
Jebsen, a fine old man, sat in front of the largest but one of 
these joints, and beside him were the Dean, the judicial 
authorities, the leading wine-merchant, and everybody of note. 
■ After the soup the old councillor, turning first red and then 
white, and twisting his table-napkin about in his hands, at last 
rose and proposed Frau Mumm's health on the old familiar 
lines, dropping into Low German now and again as he pro- 
ceeded, and chaffing her good-humouredly, if a little coarsely, 
about everything she possessed, from her farms to her two 
children, Eilert and Barbara. She looked on with a gratified 
smile as he spoke, letting the fine gold chain about her neck 
glide glittering through her none too beautiful fingers. And 
when he referred to her able management of her affairs, and 
told everybody what a clever woman she was, she beamed 
with delight. He then touched lightly on Eilert's artistic 
exploits, as a sort of youthful measles, and vowed that in ten 
years' time the lad would be the best judge of cattle in all 
Ballum. As for Barbara — ^why, she could choose any man 
she liked — himself, for instance. (Roars of laughter.) Where- 
upon he shook hands with his hostess, while everybody turned 
to their respedtive partners, clinked glasses, smiled and cheered. 

They were all blind. They were not insincere, but totally 
blind. I know now that the only eyes that were open at that 
table were those of the son of the house. 

Even Auntie Lena was blind. I watched her, sitting there 



213 OTTO BABENDIEK 

with her long handsome nose, full of grave attention, and 
satisfied with God and man. As Eilert's godmother she was 
quite ready to believe that he would be back among the oxen 
some day. Allowing the wine to rock her indolently into 
dreamland amid the smiles and jokes of the company, she 
began to flirt with the junior judge, although there were three 
couples dividing them. Then turning to the old councillor, 
and making a dead set at him, she accused him of repeating 
the same old speech over and over again, and they proceeded 
to bicker, while the whole company laughed and cheered. 
When the crackers were handed round, and she put on a sort 
of Polish cap that suited her admirably, she looked, with her 
large nose, her fine bold eyebrows, and her pretty wavy hair, 
rather like a beautiful and dignified country vicar's wife, with 
a touch of the eighteenth-century duchess about her. And 
she reigned supreme. 

Uncle Gosch took no part in the proceedings. Inspired by 
the one glass of wine he had drunk, he sat quietly there, 
occasionally taking a slip of paper from his pocket and surrep- 
titiously scribbling something on it. He was absorbed in- 
Pytheas, and was preparing for his final duel with Sven 
Modersohn. 

The lower end of the table was occupied by all of us younger 
folk. Eva and Barbara were laughing at the junior judge's 
efforts in the English language, while Dutti sat silently listen- 
ing. He openly confessed to Barbara that he did not know a 
word of English, but I felt certain firom the look in his eyes 
that he intended starting there and then to learn it. Eilert sat 
lazily lolling and talking about Holland. He drank a good 
deal of red wine, and it made his eyes shine when he spoke 
of wild and passionate freedom. Ememann was talking to 
the dancing-master, who intended leaving Ballum the next 
day. We had all come to the conclusion that he was a gas-bag 
and a braggart, though we had silently made up our minds to 
put up with him to the end. Ememann, at any rate, still 
believed in him, and was evidently deliberating whether he 
would not adopt his profession. The dancing-master was 
looking a little bit uneasy. Presently he got up and went into 
the hall, and we all thought he only wanted to speak to the two 
musicians, who had already taken up their position on the 
stairs; but when he returned he looked more agitated than ever. 



THE SKY IS OVERCAST 213 

Uhlc tripped lightly round the table, waiting on the guests 
with the help of two other maids. She looked after everything, 
even the wine-glass which Auntie Lena in her excitement 
almost upset; but managed all the same to steal an occasional 
neutral glance at Eilert. His robust nature, however, claimed 
greater freedom than others, and he smiled naturally back at 
her, regardless of where he was. 

At last amid the general hubbub of voices the whole 
company rose. All their faces were animated and full of life. 
Peals of laughter rang out, and the leading couple threw open 
the double doors to the hall. 

As usual on such festive occasions, the hall was decorated 
with garlands of oak-leaves, which hung from the wrought 
iron chandelier to the tops of the old pidures. And seeing 
the latter brightly illumined, people looked up at them. 
Some of them even looked beyond, because an unaccustomed 
blaze of colour attraded their eyes. 

And lo, between the six large pidtures of Amsterdam, there 
were two new pidures, one representing a wild scene in a 
drinking booth, and the other the portrait of Uhle which 
Eilert had shown me, in all its crude and daring colours, with 
her roimd naked shoulders, ugly face and all. It was a pidure 
full to the brim with exuberant life. But in the eyes of that 
company it was an impossible, outrageous pidure, a pidure 
that killed their enjoyment. 

A terrified scream from Sarah Mumm or a curse from Eilert 
gave the signal, and in a moment nine-tenths of those present, 
led by Councillor Jebsen, silently pressed Frau Mmnm's hand, 
and, fetching their things, left the house. Their loyalty and 
friendship did not extend beyond the red wine, the formal 
toast, and the smiles that had followed. They knew no better, 
and could not ad otherwise. They could not stomach that 
pidure and the cries it had provoked from mother and son. 
All they could do was to leave. 

With a roar of rage Eilert called out for the dancing-master. 
But he too had gone. Indeed, he had been thfc first to go. 
Dutti Kohl cast a glance of deepest sympathy at Sarah Mumm 
and said a kind word to Barbara, and then he also took his leave. 
He was well aware that if anything really human happened it 
must inevitably put an end to a social fundion, and accordingly 
left those who were immediately concerned to themselves. 



214 OTTO BABENDIEK 

Sarah Mumm was standing quivering with rage at the door 
of the dining-room. " It's not only this," she cried, pointing 
to the pidlure, " but for years you have disgraced us with your 
rotten behaviour, your drunkenness, and your endless indis- 
cretions. You shall go this very night, and not wait till the 
morning!" 

" To-morrow morning," he replied, coldly and calmly, " to 
Rotterdam. I have to pack my things yet." 

Auntie Lena had dropped into a chair looking utterly 
wretched. " It is hard on the relatives!" she sighed. 

" Oh, shut up!" snapped Sarah Mvunm. 

Auntie Lena settled herself more comfortably. "Don't 
imagine I'm going to take orders from you, Sarah!" she 
replied, raising her voice. " But let me tell you this much — 
you've been too stuck up all this time, that's what you've been ! 
Too stuck up to go to his room to see what was going on ui^er 
your own roof!" 

With his usual frankness Eilert exclaimed with bitter scorn: 
"Auntie Lena, don't quarrel! Neither you nor my mother 
know anything about your own children. What do you know 
about the doings of your own son and daughter?" Then, 
pointing to his mother, he added: "And do you suppose she 
knows what her daughter does when she goes on the heath 
with the junior judge one day and Tom, Dick, or Harry the 
next ? You are a couple of blind hens, that's all you are ! " 

" You are as stuck up as your mother, my dear boy," Auntie 
Lena replied in a very loud voice, her eyebrows raised as high 
as they would go, "and in front of those pidlures too, which 
are really shocking! I don't mind saying so ! " 

"But are they good pidures?" Eilert inquired scornfully. 
"That is the only question — ^are the pidures themselves 
good?" 

" I think they're good," Auntie Lena replied; "at least that 
one of Uhle is. But really, Eilert, she might have had some- 
thing more on! Surely you might have caught her five 
minutes earlier ! " 

" I hope you're going to take her with you," said his mother. 
" She shan't stay another minute in my house ! " 

Auntie Lena protested. " Uhle Monk has her good points," 
she pleaded. " I've never seen anyone so quick at washing, 
and when you had that attack of inflammation of the lungs she 



THE SKY IS OVERCAST 215 

had a big dinner on the fire and was in the middle of spring- 
cleaning, and yet she saw to you and did everything herself. 
I've never seen anything like it. Such people are always a 
little hot-blooded. Mad on washing, mad on men! You 
ought to have known that yourself!" 

"Thank you, Auntie Lena," said Eilert. "At least you 
have a glimmer of understanding ! " 

" Yes, that's all very well," Auntie Lena continued, " but 
there must be some sort of order in life. You must know 
that, Eilert; we must have order!" 

"Oh, that'll do!" cried Sarah Mumm, "he's utterly de- 
moralized!" 

All his hatred of his antithesis flared up in Eilert's scornful 
retort. "What?" he cried. " We— demoralized ? No!— 
you ! You with your thick gold chain hiding a multitude of 
social hypocrisies. You are deceit incarnate. I am a human 
being. I am fire and blood through thick and thin!" 

Barbara, who had intended to retire silently to her room, 
was still standing on the first step of the stairs. She was, 
as usual, quite cool. " Yes, Eilert," she said, " that's exadly 
what you are ; you and your goings on have ruined our whole 
social position. That's what you've done!" 

" You need not be afraid, my dear sbter," he replied bit- 
terly. " If I were taking yoiu* money away with me I should 
certainly be ruining your social position. But I am going ; 
and you'll see, far from doing you any harm, it will be 
to your advantage. After this the junior judge and Dutti 
Kohl will be all the keener on you and your money!" 

" It's just like you to mention names ! " she retorted. " You 
always were vulgar, ill-bred, and coarse!" 

"Now that's going a bit too far!" interposed Auntie Lena 
in her deepest tones. "Eilert is not ill-bred, vulgar, and 
coarse. And I can't help it, I shall go on loving him as I have 
always loved him." Whereupon, catching sight of Eva, she 
added : " Oh, there you are, Eva ! I thought you had gone 
home. Why, you're crying — and no wonder!" 

Eva had her hat and coat on. She was pale and breathing 
heavily. 

Eilert wanted to say something to her, but she forestalled 
him. "Don't say anything, Eilert," she pleaded in simple 
matter-of-fad tones. " I know you can't be different. But I 



2l6 OTTO BABENDIEK 

can't be difTerent either; it's my nature. Until now nothing 
frightened me. But I see now that there would be no peace 
and order in my life, and I could not bear that," 

He went up to her and took her hand. " I understand," he 
said. " I am sorry, Eva." He too was pale now, and perfedly 
sober. 

" You need not be sorry, Eilert," she replied. " I have been 
very happy at times, and I don't think any the less of you 
because of this. I only think less of myself, because I don't 
feel strong enough to go with you and help you all I can. But 
I wish you the best of luck." She was pale as death, and the 
hand she gave him trembled. But she was brave and did not 
break down. 

" Wait a moment, Eva," said Auntie Lena. " I'll go with 
you. Good luck, dear Eilert ! May God be with you where- 
ever you go, however strange your path. ..." 

"Why don't you say 'dirty' and have done with it?" he 
exclaimed with proud disdain. "I should not be angry. 
Words mean so little! What do 'dirty' and 'evil' mean?" 

" All right, Eilert dear," she replied. " You see neither Eva 
nor I think any the less of you. . . . And now go to your 
room! . . . But what can I say to you, Sarah?" 

" I'm all right, thank you. I can manage," replied Sarah 
Mumm. " I don't want your help ! " 

"Indeed!" cried Auntie Lena. "Well, I don't believe it. 
As far as I can remember, you have never been able to manage 
— either in the case of your husband or of " 

" Lena, my dear," interposed Uncle Gosch, " you must not 
say such things!" 

" You may be right for once, Gosch," she exclaimed. "But 
as for you, Sarah, why can't you love your children as they 
are ? " Then suddenly turning to me, her great expressive eyes 
brimful of tears, she said : " You think. Holler, that I have no 
qualms about Ememann ! . . . You stuck-up booby, you ! . , . 
You don't know how worried I am about him. But I dread 
the consequences of his soft and sensitive nature— that's why 
I am lenient with him. You don't understand ! " 

Overcome by her tears, I rushed to her sidel " Oh, Auntie 
Lena," I exclaimed, full of pity, " but we do understand I And 
you are right — right in everything ! " 

''Ah!" she exclaimed impulsively, "you are all good for 



THE SKY IS OVERCAST. 217 

nothing, the whole lot of you ! You are always against us 
two!" 

Barbara had gone up to her room. Eilert was standing at 
the foot of the stairs, and going up to him I shook his hand and 
begged him not to forget me. Then bowing gravely to my 
aunt I followed Auntie Lena out. 

When we were outside she said that as I had always been 
Eilert's friend she felt sure he would like to see me now and 
have my help. 

So I bade her good-night and kissed her tearfully — I had 
never loved her more than I did that night — and, deeply 
moved, I went back into the house by the servants' entrance. 
Uhle was standing in the kitchen, wrapped in a great cloak, 
with her belongings packed at her side. I told her I wanted 
to go to Eilert and offer to help him. But she said that he 
would prefer to be alone, though he would like me to go with 
him to Hamburg in the morning. Apparently he wanted to 
get to Holland. 

" You see," she said, " he'll come back penniless, as he did 
the last time, without a whole shirt to his back." She herself 
was going to look for another place. 

"But you knew, didn't you," I asked gently, "that he was 
in love with Eva?" 

" Yes," she replied, looking inquiringly at me. 

I felt the fundamental primitiveness of her nature. " So you 
love him very much!" I said, full of pity for her. 

"Oh, Twiddliuns!" she cried, "I'd rather die with him 
than sleep in a bed of gold with a prince!" 



CHAPTER XIV 

Love 

I SPENT two years in Munich, living very modesdy in an 
attic and studying German archaeology with great zeal. Every 
month I received a letter from Engel Tiedje giving me all 
kinds of news about the forge, and enclosing as much money 
as he could afford. Auntie Lena was not fond of writing. 
Having spoken Danish a good deal as a child, she was not sure 
of herself, and Eva wrote saying that her mother had told her 
she could imagine me smiling over the mistakes in her letters, 
and that she had had enough of my superior smiles at home. 
So it was Eva who gave me all the news, and thus I learnt that 
Ernemann had joined Fritz Hellebeck in Buchholz and was 
very happy, although his mother was broken-hearted at parting 
with him. Eva's letters always contained a note from Uncle 
Gosch, telling me how his controversy with Sven Modersohn 
about Pytheas was progressing, and he occasionally even asked 
me a question about a book or a quotation bearing on the subjedl. 

At the end of the second year I detected a note of depression 
in Engcl's letters. The old account-book was evidendy in a 
bit of a muddle, as for the first time I received a letter contain- 
ing no money and couched in the gloomiest terms. So I was 
forced to conclude that there must be something wrong with 
the income derived from the forge and my litde inheritance, 
and decided, for the time being at all events, to give up my 
studies. I discussed the matter with a friend I had made, the 
son of a small newspaper editor in Altona. 

A few weeks later, when I was coming to the end of my 
money, my friend suggested that I should go to his father for 
a year, to take the place of the feuilleton-writer, who had fallen 
ill. It would be only a half-time job, and I would be able to 
work at the museum on a thesis for my do<Sor's degree. I 
accepted the offer, and selling my small colledtion of books and 
knick-knacks, in order to meet my travelling expenses, I set out 
on my journey north. 

218 



LOVE 219 

I went straight to Altona, and found myself, with the single 
trunk holding all my belongings, in the station from which, 
two years previously, I had taken my first plunge into the 
world. 

Though it had seen its best days, the suit I was wearing was 
a good one, and, probably out of vanity, I had put on a rough 
grey woollen hat which I imagined savoiu-ed of the Bavarian 
highlands. I was then twenty-two. 

As I walked up and down, watching what was going on, I 
saw standing by a board bearing a list of the stations a man of 
about twenty-six, whose appearance interested me. He was 
simply and neatly dressed in a dark suit, and the tab of his coat 
was sticking out from the back of his collar. His black hat, 
which was too large for his head, was pulled dawn almost over 
his eyes, and he was looking anxiously in one direftion. 
Then, suddenly raising his huge hat, he passed his hand im- 
patiently through his dark unruly locks. It was then that I 
recognized him. 

Pleased to see him so well dressed, I watched him for a bit, 
and then went up and accosted him. " How do you do, Paul 
Sooth!" I exclaimed. 

He was beside himself with joy, and, raising his huge hat 
again, he finally januned it down on his head so as almost to 
cover his eyes, and declared that meeting me like that was the 
biggest surprise he could have had. 

As we made our way to the Town Hall and the Konigstrasse, 
he asked me all kinds of questions, and I told him everything 
that had happened since I had last seen him. 

He informed me that my uncle had married the fiit " treacle- 
barrel" after all, because he imagined she had no children 
and was too old to have any then. But immediately after the 
wedding two illegitimate daughters, whose existence she had 
taken care to conceal, had appeared on the scene. 

When I asked him how he was getting on I was not surprised 
that he should mention only his brothers and sisters. He was 
pleased to find I had remembered their names, and heaved a 
sigh of relief when he told me that they were now all out of the 
hands of the peasants except the youngest, whom he could not 
yet afford to apprentice to any trade. 

As for himself, after serving his apprenticeship as a cobbler 
under my uncle, he had become apprenticed to a pastry-cook, 



220 OTTO BABENDIEK 

but had left him on discovering his true vocation as a magis- 
trate's clerk ; and, pointing to the Town Hall as we passed, he 
showed me the two windows of his office. 

As we walked along I noticed that he still searched the 
ground in all direflions, as he had been in the habit of doing 
in the past, hoping to pick up something valuable for one of 
his brothers or sisters. 

I asked him to help me to find lodgings, and he said there 
might be something close to his own quarters. Presently we 
reached an old-fashioned house, in the narrow hall of which I 
saw a rather tall, thin, sour-looking woman, and he introduced 
her to me as Frau Eckmiiller, his landlady. 

Frau Eckmiiller was not exaftly cordial. She told him that 
although he had lived under her roof for nearly two years he 
had apparently not yet learnt that he could not burst into the 
house at all hours of the day. 

Sooth, pleading that his unexpedted meeting with an old 
friend had been responsible for this untimely visit to his own 
quarters, asked whether he might be allowed to take me to his 
room. 

Most ungraciously Frau Eckmiiller acceded, and I noticed 
firom what I could still see of my friend's eyes beneath his huge 
hat that he looked extremely uneasy and miserable. 

When we reached his room he apologized for his landlady, 
assuring me that her bark was worse than her bite, and that 
compared with others of her calling she was scrupulously clean 
and honest. But I told him I should never be able to put up 
with her offensive manner, and asked him why he did not move. 
He explained that if he did, Frau Eckmiiller would inevitably 
wreak her revenge either on him or on his young lady friend, 
a gymnastic mistress, who lived with her aunt in the flat oppo- 
site ; and, by dint of further questioning and despite his pro- 
testations, I gathered that he was in love with the gymnastic 
mistress. 

He asked me whether I would care to have a room in his 
friends' flat, as he knew they had one to spare and were nice 
people ; and on my inquiring why he did not go there himself 
he replied that he felt sure Frau Eckmiiller would put down 
poison if he did, or do something horrible to himself and the 
young lady, who, by the by, only laughed at his qxialms. 

I said I should be delighted to be his neighbour, and 



LOVE 221 

wc slipped quietly out of his house and went over to his 
friends. 

The two women who lived in the flat we entered were as 
attracSive and diminutive as Frau Eckmiiller was tall and for- 
bidding. The aunt, who was already grey and a little bent, 
appeared first. She listened kindly to our proposal, and 
wanted to show us the front room immediately. But at that 
moment the niece came in. She was as short as her aunt, but 
more robust, and reminded me a little of my mother. She 
looked at my friend with her merry brown eyes, evidently 
expeding some fresh freak at which she would have to laugh; 
but my presence evidently sobered her. Sooth introduced her 
as Clara Butenschon. 

She conduded us to the front bedroom, and as it pleased 
me and the rent was moderate I agreed to take it. We sat 
down at a table by the window and began to chat. Frau- 
Icin Clara quickly discovered my conne<ftion with Sooth, and 
inquired whether he had obtained Frau Eckmiiller's permission 
to bring me to their flat. Evidently tlie idea of Sooth making 
such a request to his redoubtable landlady dckled her fancy, 
for she buried her pretty face in her hands and shook with 
laughter. Then looking up at me, she seemed to ask, "Isn't 
he a marvel?" 

She suggested that we should draw up a joint pedtion and 
present it to Frau Eckmiiller for her consideration, and 
laughed heartily. Poor Sooth could not understand how she 
could poke fun at such a serious matter, and told her so. But 
when Fr^ulein Clara and I assured him that we would support 
him against his landlady, he calmed down. 

I went to the newspaper office that same day, and made the 
necessary arrangements with the father of my Munich friend, 
and after receiving instru6lions from my predecessor I accom- 
panied the latter to the railway station and saw him off. Later 
on I went to the museum and saw the curator, who promised 
to afford me every facility for study and to place the library 
at my disposal. 

So every morning -I went to the newspaper office, and in a 
few days' time, witii the help of a huge pair of scissors be- 
queathed to me by my predecessor I became familiar with the 
work. In the afternoon I sat in the reference library of the 
museum, and worked at archaeology, and often took not only 



222 OTTO BABENDIEK 

books, but urns and fragments of ancient pottery home with 
me for further study. 

At home, while I ate my supper, Fraulein Clara would some- 
times amuse herself by turning over the leaves of these books, 
while she sat and chatted with me; and, after the meal. Sooth 
generally turned up. He never came straight over from his 
own room, but always up from the street, and even then he 
either crept in on tiptoe or hummed and swaggered about 
pretending to be somebody else. As the aunt went to bed 
early, we usually moved from my room, which was next to hers, 
into her niece's room, and there Clara would mould Sooth's 
bust in clay, while he and I sat and talked of old times. When 
she had finished his bust she began one of me, and as Sooth 
now had nothing to do she induced him amid much laughter 
to try his hand at modelling. 

I was curious to discover whether she had ever had any love 
afiair, for she was five-and-twenty and it seemed unlikely that 
such a pretty and vivacious little body should have failed to 
attradl a man. 

She told me that she had had one romance, but that it had 
left such a nasty taste in her mouth that she wanted a Uttle 
respite. And she laughed at herself. She had the softest and 
most attradive voice, particularly when she laughed. I think 
I might have yielded to the temptation of trying to win her 
affedion myself had I not felt that she was genuinely fond of 
my friend, and that it would be an excellent thing for him to 
marry her. Nevertheless I have sometimes thought how 
happy and delightful my life might have been with this bright 
little creature at my side. And yet would this really have been 
so ? I am beginning to doubt it. Mine was a nature that re- 
quired storms, although it dreaded them. And it got its full 
measure! 

About a month passed by in this way when Paul Sooth and 
I, attraded by the sunny spring weather, decided to make an 
excursion to Ovelgonne and enjoy the beauties of the Elbe. 
We went on foot, past the Town Hall and Klopstock's grave, 
and, halting for a while on the terrace above Ovelgonne, 
looked across the broad river, up which a few steamers were 
plying, towards the Hanoverian woods. Then we went down 
to the bank, where boats were being caulked, launched, and 
equipped with masts, sails, and sculls for the season. 



LOVE 823 

F^ing several landing-stages, we happ>ened to see a group 
of young people busy with two boats. Among them was a 
middle-aged man giving instrudtions. His hair was almost 
white, but he was as straight as a dart and his eyes were bright, 
while in his blue yachting suit and cap with its large gold club 
badge he looked extremely smart. 

Paul explained that he was Herr vom Gang, an authority on 
domestic economy, and president of various clubs, to one of 
which, the Philatelists, he himself belonged. 

Although I liked the look of him very much, he gave me the 
impression of being somewhat lacking in dignity for a man of 
his age. Nevertheless, like everybody else along the banks of 
the Elbe, from Altona to Wedel — ^as I subsequendy discovered 
— I felt there was something in his cheerful disposition that 
made one wish to know him. 

As we came up he greeted my friend, and introduced himself 
to me with youtihful eagerness. 

He reminded me of an old army colonel; indeed, if one did 
not examine him too closely, he might have passed for one. 
And as in those days I did not examine people too closely I 
was content to treat him as such. 

He discussed the weather and boating, and, smiling proudly, 
observed that, among other things, he had founded a yachting 
club. 

"It was the twenty-fifth," he added with a smile. "Other 
people celebrate the faft of having belonged to the same club 
for twenty-five years. I celebrate the faft that I have founded 
twenty-five, and the young people still declare that they cannot 
do without old vom Gang." 

Seeing him hailed and greeted from all diredions, I re- 
marked that he appeared to be very popular. 

He gave a gratified smile. " I have always been interested 
in my fellow-creatures and all that concerns them," he replied. 
"I have studied every social problem, and particularly do- 
mestic economy — a difficult problem, but I may say I have 
not only probed it, but also solved it." 

A priceless fellow! I was delighted by such idealism. 
"How happy your children must be," I remarked, "to 
have an educator of such experience and natural gifts as a 
father." 

He cleared his throat and seemed a trifle embarrassed. 



224 OTTO BABENDIEK 

" For the moment this is my family ! " he said, pointing with a 
smile to the group about him. 

As he spoke, a girl of about twenty came towards us down 
the path. She was of medium height, lithe and graceful in her 
movements, and her face, framed by curly hair of a reddish 
tinge, was fresh and refined. Her green woollen jumper hung 
loose about her graceful limbs, and, as she gave us a perfiindory 
nod, she went up to the old gendeman and said something 
about his having left " Mother " without a lia'penny. And 
dipping her hand into his breast-pocket she took out a bank- 
note. He smiled a trifle self-consciously, and making her face 
us introduced her: "My daughter Gesa, gentlemen! Gesa 
vom Gang!" 

She gave us a nod, and then tripped lightly back by the 
way she had come. 

I cannot say how it came about; all I know is that I saw in 
that girl all I loved and yearned for in woman. All the 
physical and spiritual qualities that my own nature lacked I 
discerned in her. Truth to tell, she possessed but few of them ; 
but in my youthful enthusiasm I endowed her with them all. 
What struck me chiefly about her was that she was unfinished ; 
she was a potentiality, a task, a pleasant mission, offered me 
by Fate, if only I would seize it. To me might fall the lot 
of bringing to the full bloom of maturity the buds that lay 
hid wthin the bosom of this young creature. What more 
exquisite destiny than to open her eyes to all the glories of 
life ! 

I was completely enslaved by her charm; and no wonder! 
For she was extraordinarily beautiful. What a pidure she 
made in a doorway ! What a noble brow she had ! And how 
the goodness of her heart shone in her face ! Yes, all that was 
there, and my eyes did not deceive me. But for the rest, for 
all that belonged to the realm of emotion, spirit, and taste — I 
afted on faith. I allowed my imagination free rein. I 
thought I saw clearly. But I was utterly mistaken. 

I watched her enter her mother's house; I watched her come 
back. Never had my youthful eyes looked upon a girl with 
so much pleasure, or, rather, with such mad bewilderment! 

We talked; but conversation was mere make-believe and 
play-ading. I was engrossed by a much more serious game. 



LOVE 235 

Under her snow-white, somewhat prominent brow were a 
pair of beautiful shy grey-blue eyes, and her frock of blue 
and white striped linen fluttered in the wind. To this day I 
am proud of having had the courage to win her, young as 
I was! 

She had a quick genial way of speaking, rapping out her 
sentences all of a sudden. Yes, she was always on the Elbe 
. . . the whole day long ! How could anyone stand being shut 
up in a room? How could anyone exchange the open air for 
four stuffy walls ? 

Our eyes met for a second, then quickly turned away. But 
something always drew them together again, even though 
they might wander away for a moment. We had fallen in love 
at first sight! 

Presently she left us and descended the bank to the landing- 
stage. Oh, that walk! Those dainty feet! And the attrac- 
tive way she planted them ! Even after her death people still 
spoke of the way she used to go down to the boats. But I 
fancy it was not the regularity of her gait that fascinated me so 
much as something about her knees, which touched at each 
step she took. In any case, whatever it was, it fired my being 
and wafted me to Paradise. 

Paul Sooth was adually discussing with her £ither something 
or other conneded with the Philatelists' Club! How could 
he? I had eyes only for her. She called the young men 
"boys," and ordered them about sharply. They all sprang 
eagerly into the boat, manipulated the sail, and did various 
other things which I did not understand and in which I 
was not interested. I could hoist a sail, and I could tack 
and row, but I had never done anything of the sort for 
pleasure. 

The boys were ready. She bade us farewell with a little 
nod, and turned away. How charming that farewell was! 
How magnificent she looked standing at the mast ! 

I, who, I am proud to say, became her closest associate, and 
was also proud to be the most intimate friend of Eilert Munun, 
who saw more deeply than most men into the secrets of the 
human soul and into the magic of moving waters, brought 
these two together once. But although, as an artist, he recog- 
nized her marvellous affinity to the wind and the water, it 
never entered his head to paint her. Perhaps she was too 



226 OTTO BABENDIEK 

young when he met her, for he had a weakness for maturity. 
But I mention this only incidentally. 

She was now standing in the boat, resting her delicate little 
hands on the shoulders of one of the boys. My vision grew 
clouded, and I longed for just one more glance from her 
bewitching eyes. And lo! I got it! Just for one brief 
moment, and they were gone ! She had taken leave of me ! 
She now belonged to the main-sail, the oar, and the boys. 
And thus they glided away. 

When I was alone with Paul Sooth I asked him whether he 
had ever seen her like. "With the exception of Fraulein 
Clara Butenschon, of course!" 

He admitted that she was a pretty litde thing. 

"A pretty little thing!" — I asked him whether he was mad, 
and looked anxiously into his eyes. But he was, as usual, 
searching the ground about him. I was on the point of sapng 
something tadless about Clara, so enthusiastic was I about 
my new acquaintance. Clara was too short and too dark. 
"A pretty little thing!" Again I asked him whether, with 
the exception of Clara, he had ever seen such a lovely creature. 

At last he grew reasonable, or saw what was wrong with me, 
and confessed that she was beautiful. 

I asked him whether he could possibly explain how it was 
that this girl had not long ago been snapped up, sold, stolen, or 
stifled by some lover whom she had rejeded and driven to 
despair. He frankly admitted that he could not make it out. 
With this admission our friendship, which I had begun to 
regard as broken, was at last renewed. 

The whole of the following day only my body was in my 
lodgings, at the newspaper office, and the museum. Sud- 
denly, on the way to work, it occurred to me that she might, 
after all, be engaged! My heart stood still. She might be 
accepting a proposal of marriage at that very moment and 
kissing her lover ! Feverishly I recalled the faces of the four 
"boys." Two of them, I remembered, were too young, only 
about seventeen. But the third might have been eighteen, 
and he was the one on whose shoulders she had laid her hands ! 
I imagined that this lout, whose face grew more and more 
insolent as my memory defined it, must be her favourite ! And 
on the opposite bank they would have wandered off together ! 
That's what it was ! I had come on the scene too late ! 



LOVE 227 

I Stared blankly at the passers-by. On reaching home I 
wrote hard all the evening, and went to bed at midnight. But 
I could not sleep. At last, when I did fall asleep, I was dis- 
turbed by bad dreams. Behind the four young men who were 
suing for her hand in the boat, I saw all her father's clubs 
turned out in full strength, with banners and devices flying, 
trying to pay her court as well. The whole of the five-and- 
twenty clubs ! And I woke up moaning and groaning, with 
my hair standing on end. 

On getting up I immediately set to and wrote a love-poem 
of sixteen stanzas, many of which had come to me in my 
dreams. And as soon as I entered my office I handed them 
to the printer's boy. 

Two minutes later he came back and told me I must delete 
at least twelve of the sixteen. I rushed down to the com- 
positors' room, and after a lively altercation with the foreman 
reduced the poem to six. In view of the agitated state of my 
nerves, I regard this a&. of seledion as the most difficult thing 
I ever accomplished in my life. At all events, I sent the paper 
containing the anonymous verses, without any accompanying 
note, to her address. 

On the following day I had a splitting headache, which made 
it impossible for me to go to Ovelgonne. But on the day after 
that, which was a Sunday, I set out at daybreak. When I 
reached my destination I waited for some time on the deserted 
bank, conjuring up all kinds of visions of m^'self and Gesa, 
but particularly of Gesa. Gradually as the morning advanced 
the river bank became full of life and animation. As I ob- 
served the groups gathering round the boats, I constantly 
looked at my watch, wondering when she would come. I did 
this so often that for days afterwards my hand would auto- 
matically fly to the left pocket of my waistcoat. 

Then at last she came ! — in her green jumper, her red-gold 
locks framing her face — ^and in her hand, which was blue with 
cold, she held a scull. 

In a trice I was beside myself again. Love ! The infatu- 
ation of love ! Or was she simply one of millions of similar 
girls all over the country? Oh, no! Impossible! She was 
goodness, intelligence, and blessedness incarnate. She was 
God's greatest ndracle ! 

In spite of the two years I had spent in Munich I had only 



328 OTTO BABENDIEK 

one or two very inadequate experiences of the sort behind me; 
I was as yet unspoilt and the vast field of romance was unex- 
plored. I imagined that when one looked into the eyes of 
a fellow-creature their whole soul was laid bare. This was 
Gospel truth to me at that time. Good God, it all seemed so 
clear ! And I felt so certain, so convinced that she and I were 
meant for each other, that our beliefs and tastes and the very 
blood that flowed in our veins were similar. Alas, what an 
illusion ! 

As she came towards me in her boat, I called out to her above 
the roar of the waters, and told her I was delighted to see her 
again. 

Did she guess that I had come on purpose and had been 
waiting for hours ? No matter ! She was not unfriendly, and 
that was everything. She asked me whether I was expedling 
friends. 

I repUed that I had no friends, and nobody could have 
accused me of boasting when I told her where I came from 
and what I had been doing in Munich. 

She grew a Uttle bit uneasy and her manner changed. In 
that case, she observed, I must be a "scholar." 

I immediately felt what was passing through her mind. 
She was no scholar! Heaven forbid! She was God's own 
creature, fresh from His hands. My eyes flashed as I pro- 
tested that I was no scholar either — very far from it. To the 
devil with all scholars! I was a man, a village yokel from 
Stormfeld! An ignoramus. ... I was enjoying the hour 
for its own sake . . . and the bank on which we were standing 
. . . and . . . and . . . 

She guessed what I was driving at, but had not the cour- 
age to express outright. And with a swift shy glance she 
blushed. 

Marvellous ! Incredible ! . . . She had understood my hint 
and had not taken offence ! I was not repulsive to her then ! 
On the contrary ! To stop myself from shouting aloud and 
falling at her feet, I felt I must say something, and I asked 
her whether she was going for a sail. 

She replied that she was and that she was waiting for a 
friend. "You'll like her," she added, "she's very clever. 
And I'm sure she will be pleased to meet you. You'll get on 
together like a house on fire ! " 



LOVE 239 

I bowed. 

"But I don't know anything about such things," she 
continued. 

I assured her that she had no need to, that she had eyes 
in . . . But I could get no farther. My own eyes were 
burning, and my voice gave way. I was head over ears in 
love. 

Soon her friend arrived — "Fraulein Lina." 

I shook hands with her. She was dark and stooped. Her 
eyes gazed inquiringly, appealingly, at me for a moment, then 
turned away and looked soulfully into the distance. Her 
whole manner and appearance reminded me of a weeping- 
willow. 

Suddenly Fraulein G^esa seemed to gain confidence. She 
looked kindly at me and asked whether I would care to go for 
a little sail with them — say to Cranz and back. 

I was in the seventh heaven! "Only too glad, Fraulein 
Gesa!" 

She blushed again — I had remembered her name! Prob- 
ably too my eyes told her that I was quite mad. Good! 
That was something! 

We started off — Gesa. in charge of the tiller and sails — ^and 
we got on splendidly, that is to say, if the lightning exchange of 
glances can be called getting on. What did we talk about? 
Gesa was silent. Possibly she found it as much as she could do 
to manage her eyes and the boat at the same time. Moreover, 
she was afraid of my erudition. Not so Fraulein Lina ! Oh 
dear me, no ! In fad she was a disturbing element. She was 
oppressive, making every word one uttered feel as heavy 
as lead. Whenever I opened my mouth she would gaze 
with pursed lips and dreamy wide-open eyes across the 
Elbe. Whereupon, turning them very slowly round, she would 
propound some tremendously profound question, such as, 
"What is God?" or "What is Man?" or "What is Love?" 
and turning her head slowly away again, gaze searchingly 
across the river or up at the sky. 

It was no joke ! I felt sure she was tormented by these vast 
problems, and did my best to help her and shed light on 
them. 

But with lips still tightly pursed she continued to gaze sadly 
across the water or up at the sky, and made me feel that my 



230 OTTO BABENDIEK 

golden words were so much rubbish. Whereupon I would 
seek Gesa's eyes, say a word or two about the wind or the sails 
— ^matters which did not interest me in the least — ^my own eyes 
flashing at her with all the ardour of youth. 

It was a glorious trip ! 

When we landed FrSulein Lina left us, and Gesa allowed me 
to see her home. I examined the outside of the house with 
greedy eyes, and ached to see some member of her femily. 
What wonderful creatures they must be! But she held out 
her hand to me. I gave it a little squeeze, and with a swift 
glance and a blush she turned round and was gone ! 

I did not dare to force my company upon her on the follow- 
ing day, but did my work at the office, my mind a whirl of 
ideas. Late at night, when my brain was too tired for work, 
although I could not sleep, I set out for Ovelgonne, full of 
dreams and visions, and stood for hours against the breastwork 
of the bridge, gazing at her house. 

I had suggested to the Butenschons that to give Paul Sooth 
a little peace he and I should change rooms. I also wished 
to bring my friend into closer touch with Clara. The two 
women agreed to the suggestion, and I informed Sooth and 
Frau Eckmiiller of the decision. 

It was a great shock to them both. Frau Eckmiiller planted 
six pails of water in a row along the hall, and held forth at great 
length and with violent gesticulations on the ease with which 
men were caught in the toils of a gymnastic costume. As for 
Sooth, he wandered about for hours, with his hat drawn well 
over his eyes, certain that there would be poison for somebody 
after this, in spite of all the laughter of a certain young lady 
who failed to see the gravity of the situation. But on 
the following day both Frau Eckmiiller and Sooth seemed 
to be reconciled to the change, and I became the former's 
lodger. 

All I remember of my second and third sail with Gesa was 
that her friend was with us, and that our conversation was as 
painful as it had been on the first occasion. Gesa said very 
little, and when she did speak it was chiefly about the tides, the 
wind, and the foresail, while Fraulein Lina asked questions 
about the universe and metempsychosis. But when, as soon 
as the questions had been put, she turned her eyes sadly to- 
wards the horizon without seeming to expedt an answer, it was. 



LOVE 231 

to say the least, disconcerting. So one day I begged Gesa, at 
the door, to let us go for a sail alone. I swore I should split in 
two, and that one-half would forthwith become incorporated 
in the great soul of the universe, and the other half fall at her 
feet, if she did not consent. She suggested that I should join 
her on a trip with the "boys," but I declined. Whereupon 
she made various other proposals. But at last, when every 
alternative had been rejeded, she yielded in great confusion 
to my request. 

I understand now that all this time she had used Fraulein 
Lina as a sort of shield against my erudition, which terrified 
her. 

I was proud of her high opinion of me, though it presented 
a serious obstacle. For I longed to get closer to her. I longed 
to be on familiar terms with her. O joy ! I wanted to call 
her endearing names, to kiss her hands — her mouth ! O bliss- 
ful folly! 

And lo! when I had reached the highest pitch of excitement, 
I discovered that she had a love. Yes, she was in love — ^with 
the Elbe and with sailing. And so I talked to her about these 
things. With a look of profoundest innocence I discussed the 
Elbe and sailing with her for quite a long time. 

And she became quite animated! Gradually, bit by bit, 
she began to explain. Her simple, loyal heart opened in the 
most touching manner. Oh, the Elbe! Her father! The 
wind! Sailing! The regattas! The Elbe! The Elbe! . . . 

I played a part. True, I took a delight in Natvire; and 
enjoyed the spe«ftacle of the open water and the boats. But 
I loved it all in a different way from that of Gesa and her 
friends, rejoicing in it as a manifestation of life, as a courageous 
conquest of the elements on the part of man, quite apart from 
the technicalities of navigation. 

Did I at this junfture perceive the vast chasm between her 
soul and mine ? Alas, no ! I thought her love of the river 
entrancing, I regarded her attachment to four square yards 
of sail-cloth as most touching! 

Timidly I laid my hand on hers, but she gently moved it 
away. I told her that the verses I had sent her were by me. 
She blushed. I confessed that three times I had spent half 
the night on the bridge, gazing at her house; but of my visions 
and inspirations I said nothing, for fear of alarming her again. 



232 OTTO BABENDIEK 

Then she slowly edged her hand along the side of the boat 
until it touched mine. 

That evening in the twilight, outside her door, I ventured 
to kiss her! 

Afterwards, when I was alone, I regarded this as the bravest 
deed of my life. 



CHAPTER XV 

A Difficult Negotiation 

There were two considerations that led me to go north 
about this time. The first was my own anxiety about Engel 
Tiedje, in whose letters I had begun to discern a disquiet- 
ing tone; the second was Eva's unesisiness about Ernemann. 
Apparently Ernemann was in the habit of going to Hamburg 
every Sunday to see Dutti Kohl, who was now doing business 
with Fritz Hellebeck. At first I had paid no particular atten- 
tion to this news, but on reading the letter a second time I 
began to feel qualms, and reproached myself with not having, 
in the first place, raised objeftions to Ernemann's joining 
Fritz. 

Having found some one to take over my work for a fort- 
night I therefore set out one day for Stomifeld, and reached 
the village at dusk. Engel Tiedje was working on the 
tyre of a cart wheel. He seemed to have shrunk and grown 
thinner. 

I had expeded him to be overjoyed at the sight of me, but 
as a matter of fad he looked frightened and let the tongs fall 
from his hand. 

I asked him how he was, but he could hardly answer. 
To comfort him I described my life and work in Hamburg and 
Altona, and as I did so my eyes wandered round the forge, 
which did not appear to be very busy; indeed, there was hardly 
any work being done at all. 

"Well, Engel?" I said cheerily, trying to put him at his 
ease. "How's the account-book?" 

In a low voice, with beads of perspiration glistening on his 
brow, he replied: "The account-book has gone wrong some- 
how, but how I don't know." 

I suggested that we should examine it together, and he went 
to fetch it. " Do you know," he remarked, as he handed it to 
me, "I believe it is bewitched!" 

I noticed that it had grown very dirty and worn since I^had 

233 



234 OTTO BABENDIEK 

last seen it, and I tried in vain to make out its contents. "Just 
read out what stands on that page!" I exclaimed at last. 

With knees shaking, and supporting himself with difficulty, 
he proceeded to read out various items, consisting chiefly of 
repairs, and as he carne to an end two great tears rolled down 
his cheeks. 

I could not bear to see him cry. "Have you always added 
it up corredlly?" I asked. 

He nodded. "And yet for a twelvemonth I have had no 
money," he exclaimed, breathing heavily, "and have not been 
able to buy any iron. There's only one thing to do, Otto; we 
must sell the forge so that you can continue your studies." He 
himself would find work as an assistant elsewhere. 
■ We were silent for a while. Once more I took up the book. 
But it was no good. Neither of us could discover the trouble. 
All the other forges were flourishing. What could be wrong 
with ours ? It must be bewitched ! 

While he was preparing our supper I told him a story to 
divert his mind. It was an old legend relating to our village. 
But I noticed that he was not really paying attention. More- 
over, he tried to corred certain improbabilities in my narrative 
— a. habit he maintained until the end in regard to my literary 
work — ^and finally made me bring my tale to a close, so that 
once again we sat silently side by side. 

I took it for granted that he was in debt, and declared that 
since matters were so bad we must sell the place and he 
must get a situation as an assistant in another village. I was 
extremely sad. 

When we went into the house I was much depressed to find 
it dirty and untidy; but he would not leave me until I was in 
bed and had solemnly assured him that I was comfortable. 

As I lay alone thinking, I felt a longing to keep the home of 
my dear parents, and began to plan how this could be done. 
Gazing into the moonlit room, I fancied I could see my mother 
sitting in her usual place, with my dear father opposite her, on 
the other side of the stove. They were in their Sunday clothes, 
and seemed to be looking at me. 

I thought it all out. My distress made me see things clearly, 
and I began to understand that I was not meant to be either a 
scholar or a scientist. As I listened to the wind from the sea, 
which had been my childhood's lullaby, I did not feel inclined 



A DIFFICULT NEGOTIATION 235 

to sleep, but made plans for my future and the calling I should 
adopt. And thus I came to the conclusion that writing was 
my vocation. Indeed, had I not taken the first steps in that 
diredion with my work on the Hamburg paper ? And might 
it not be possible to keep both my lifelong friend and the home 
of my parents by what I could earn in this way? 

Sitting up in bed, I peered once more into the moonlit room, 
and saw all the pidlures of my childhood again. Then sud- 
denly — I cannot be certain whether I was awake or asleep, 
but I do know that I was extremely surprised — I thought I 
saw Mamsell Boehmke's Town Hall of Liineberg on my 
mother's sewing-table. And this made me wonder whether it 
might not be possible to persuade her to take up her abode in 
that room. Yes, then the account-book would be put right; 
comfort and cleanliness would be restored, and I should be 
able, when I was far away, to think of the dear old house 
without a qualm. 

When I went to the forge in the morning Engel Tiedje 
was already bending over the fire making the coffee. 

As soon as we sat down to breakfast I went straight to the 
point. Speaking with more cheerfulness than I felt, I gave 
him a rough outiine of what had passed through my mind 
during the night about adopting literature as a profession. 

I noticed that a good deal of what I said was beyond him, 
but that he seemed quite ready to listen and acquiesce. 
There comes a time in the life of every capable son when 
from having been his parents' disciple he becomes their guide. 
And I felt this hour had come for me. I told him firmly 
that I wished to keep my old home not only for my own 
sake, but for his, and speaking with great friendUness and cir- 
cumspedtion I added that as I wanted to feel happy about 
him I must perforce discuss the matter of the account-book 
again. 

Never before had I seen him look so crushed and depressed 
— he was a regular heap of misery. 

I was silent for a moment to give him time to see how 
matters stood. Then I told him my plan about Mamsell 
Bochmke. 

He almost collapsed and looked like an anvil that had sud- 
denly sunk half its depth into the ground at the first blow from 
the hammer. "She is a kind body, Engel," I continued 



236 - OTTO BABENDIEK 

gently, "and I believe she could discover the mistake in the 
account-book which you and I cannot. Anyhow, there is 
more order in the Town Hall of Liineberg than in our 
accounts." 

"You know what I have gone through already!" he replied, 
looking up at me appeaUngly like a child. 

I tried to reassure him by telling him that he need have none 
of his old fears regarding fire, as far as Mamsell Boehmke 
was concerned. "At least we can ask her. She can but 
refuse," I added. 

He shook his head. "She'll never refuse a blacksmith. 
Otto," he replied, looking anxiously up at me. "But if you 
really mean it. Otto, then, of course, I must do it," he con- 
tinued in deep distress. 

So we arranged to have her over on trial, as it were; and 
agreed that at a certain sign from Engel I should conclude that 
it was all off. 

She was delighted to see me, and I assured her of the 
pleasure I felt at being allowed once more to behold the Town 
Hall of Liineberg and the spotless cleanliness of her rooms. 
She had grown grey, but her cheeks were still round and shiny, 
and she smiled in the same old way. 

I proceeded to tell her about the forge, and said that things 
were in a bad way over there. 

"There's no woman there, that's what's the matter, dear 
Otto," she replied. 

I observed that the account-book was in a muddle.^ 

"Your father and Engel Tiedje certainly wrote everything 
down," she replied, "but they never liked to ask for their 
money. And people got to know that, particularly the 
light-fingered ones, and that's why lots of them never pay a 
halfpenny." 

I was very much upset at this information, and immediately 
invited her to go across to the forge with me, as we wanted her 
advice about certain domestic matters. 

She consented with alacrit>', and we went over. 

As we entered Engel Tiedje shot his last load of coal on to 
the fire, and blew the bellows with all his might, while his 
eyes wandered up and down and all round the walls of the 
forge. 

She noticed his strange behaviour, and drew her own con- 



A DIFFICULT NEGOTIATION 237 

elusions. Then, turning to me, she remarked that I could 
have no idea of how terrified she was of the forge fire. 

Engel cleared his throat and blew the bellows more fiercely 
than ever. 

I expressed surprise, saying that I thought most women liked 
a blacksmith's fire. 

"Oh!" she cried, "if it were ever my fate to be the wife of 
a blacksmith — not that there's much chance of that, though, 
or any need for it — I wouldn't put my head inside the forge 
firom one year's end to the odier." And she appealed to 
Engel to confirm her statement, declaring that whenever she 
had had anything to say to him she had always remained out- 
side, or stood at the kitchen door. 

Engel Tiedje had not opened his mouth, and his eyebrows 
seemed to have vanished for ever beneath his fringe. Sud- 
denly he exclaimed, "Yes, but sometimes you might suddenly 
find yourself called in here to lend a hand quickly, and you 
wotdd have to stand on the other side of the anvil and strike 
and strike till the sparks flew up to the ceiling. Why, I've 
known cases where a blacksmith's wife has been pierced 
through the body by a red-hot iron when that happened!" 

"No — no, Engel!" she exclaimed, trembling with fear, 
"I would simply tell you to get an apprentice, and leave 
me to my kitchen and my garden. No, I'm not like Uhlc 
Monk!" 

I nodded at my old finend, to show that I believed every 
word she said, and advised him to go ahead with the business. 
When she left us to look round the house, he asked me in an 
anxious whisper to settle everything. 

I found her in the kitchen, described our desperate plight, 
and laid our proposal before her. After a little hesitation she 
agreed, and I went back to the forge. 

Engel Tiedje was hammering on the anvil loud enough to 
deafen the whole village, and I had to shriek to make myself 
heard. I told him that he must speak to her at once, and that 
I was off to the parish clerk. I noticed that beads of perspira- 
tion broke out on his brow and that he wiped it with his dark 
red handkerchief. This was the only preparation he made for 
his proposal, and as he went in the duredion of the kitchen I 
fled from the house. 

The parish clerk was quite amenable, and arranged for the 



238 OTTO BABENDIEK 

wedding to take place the following week. Had he not known 
the couple nearly all their lives? So what need for the 
usiial formalities? Why should the two old people wait a 
fortnight? 

On the next day Mamsell Boehmke came across and cleaned 
up the house, and six days later we carried her belongings 
over. I conveyed the Town Hall of Liineberg myself, and 
she was deeply moved when I placed it on my mother's 
sewing-table. 

After the wedding at church we all three sat round the table 
to a pleasant meal, and before taking my leave I paid a last 
visit to every room in the house. 

It was not yet dark when I reached Ballum. At Auntie 
Lena's I found all the doors open, and everything going on as 
usual. Seven or eight little girls were sitting on the stairs 
knitting stockings. Auntie Lena had filled out and was look- 
ing older and more matronly, although her hair remained fair 
for some years longer. She was installed in her great armchair 
with a knitting-needle in her mouth and a coarse grey stocking 
in her hand, while beside her sat an old woman who was her 
prime confidante where wool was concerned. 

It was a pleasant pifture ! 

When she heard my footsteps she did not "look up, but 
observed in her usual matter-of-fadl tones: "Their teacher says 
that these seven girls will never learn to knit a stocking, they 
are so stupid. So I had to do something to save the honour 
of Ballum!" 

"Is that the way to receive me after I have been away for 
nearly three years ? " I inquired. 

She looked up, hiding her smprise and emotion. "Why 
should I make a fuss about members of the family? " she replied 
maliciously. "But fancy you behaving like that! If I had 
been a girl, you would have taken the needles out of my 
mouth and kissed me." 

I went up to her and did as she asked, and her eyes filled 
with tears. 

"No!" she exclaimed in her old familiar voice, "I can't 
stand that!" And, looking me up and down, she observed 
sarcastically that I looked very well, "almost like a man. Or, 
at all events, one can see that you will soon be one." 

The children ran off home, as it was getting dark. 



A DIFFICULT NEGOTIATION 239 

Soon Uncle Gosch came home from the school, with his 
books under his arm. As soon as he recognized me, he shook 
hands, and holding me at arm's-length, exclaimed with a smile 
of childish pride: "Well, what have you got to say now? 
How is our Cause faring? I may say our Cause, because you 
have played an important part in it. Can't you imagine the 
feelings of old Sven Modersohn! How light-heartedly he 
crossed swords with me ! But now it's as plain as a pikestaff 
that I shall be justified up to the hilt." 

I assured him that I did not doubt it and was very 
pleased. 

"But what will you do when you have polished off old 
Modersohn?" Auntie Lena inquired. "You seem to be very 
anxious to make an end of him." 

Uncle Gosch beamed : " When I have reduced him to com- 
plete silence, my love," he replied, "my main task will only 
just have begun. I shall then set to work to write a book 
about the whole controversy." 

They told me that the children were both well. Ernemann 
had recently paid them a visit and was quite happy. Fritz 
Hellebeck treated him exadtly like a friend. As for Eva, when 
I heard she was paying a call in the town I set off immediately 
to meet her. 

I recognized her while she was still some distance away by 
her free-and-easy, vigorous walk. She had on hat on, and 
the last glow of the evening sky was refleded in her hair, 
which was still very fair. My heart was filled with a blissful 
sense of possession as my eyes feasted on her form, and my 
Joy increased when I saw her eyes light up with pleasure as 
she recognized me. 

She laid her hand in mine and shook it as she chided me for 
coming to meet her. The fadt that I intended calling for her 
at the house she was visiting instead of waiting for her out- 
side struck her as denoting a change in me. "Never mind," 
she said, "the chief thing is that you wanted to see me at 
once ! " 

"No one means as much to me as you do," I replied 
eagerly. 

Then she chaffed me about all my old flames, and I blushed. 

"But you've grown!" she cried, "and your voice has 
changed! It is fuller and deeper." 



240 OTTO BABENDIEK 

I felt embarrassed, and inquired about the Mumms, asking 
whether Dutti still went there. 

She nodded. Apparently my aunt wanted to get richer, 
and, knowing very little about financial matters, chose advisers 
who at least appeared to be reliable. Both Dutti and Fritz 
Hellebeck came over to see her occasionally, the former firom 
Hamburg. 

As for Barbara, she still retained her weakness for big 
men. 

Feeling we were approaching the subjedl nearest her heart, 
Eva shook my arm again. "Don't forget the most important 
of all. Holler!" she exclaimed. 

UWith some hesitation I inquired: "Is Eilert still away?" 
k She nodded, and I could see that she was struggling with her 
tears. I felt disconcerted, for it meant she was still head over 
ears in love with him. 

But I tried to comfort her. "He is still young and giddy," 
I replied. "But he will grow steady and come back." 

She shook her head and cried. She did not believe there 
would ever be any permanent change in him. "Don't 
imagine I am not fond of everything free, exuberant, and 
wild," she said, "in its proper time and place. But, you see, I 
cling to an orderly respedable existence. And he is incapable 
of that, and always wUl be. He hasn't got a grain of resped- 
ability in his composition. We know how great and good he 
is, but he goes too far. He is a wild primitive creature." 

We were silent for a while, oppressed by the feeling of help- 
lessness in the face of natural forces. Then I asked, almost in 
a whisper, whether anyone knew where he was, and whether 
he ever wrote to anybody. 

She replied that he never wrote, but that sailors had brought 
reports of him from time to time, and that he had returned to 
Holland and Flanders, where he was feverishly copying Old 
Masters. 

Then she asked me all about myself, and I told her every- 
thing. When I informed her of my decision to adopt literature 
as a profession, she observed in a low despondent tone: "So 
you are going to be an artist too." 

Moved by the despair in her voice, I replied hotly: 
"Perhaps, Eva, but I trust I shall not upset other people's 
lives." 



A DIFFIOULT NEGOTIATION 24I 

But she could not reconcile herself to the idea, and, catching 
hold of my hand, begged me to accept a litde money — a. thou- 
sand marks — ^which she had inherited from an aunt, so that 
I might continue my studies. 

I thanked her from the bottom of my heart, told her she was 
nearer and dearer to me than anybody else in the whole world, 
but that I had definitely chosen what I thought was the right 
path. 

How strange is the hiunan heart! At that time I was 
conscious only of deep and passionate friendship for her. My 
love remained hidden from me. The memories of my child- 
hood and the reverence I had felt and sdll felt for her pre- 
vented it from reaching consciousness. 

• • • • * 

At supper Auntie Lena chaffed me a good deal about 
my life in Hamburg, and when she grew tired of that she 
turned her attention to her defenceless husband, and told us 
details about their courting days. During the meal a 
letter arrived from Ememann. He said he now had a good 
position with his friend Hellebeck, and that he was often 
obliged to go to Hamburg with large sums of money for 
Dutti Kohl. 

Once again I began to feel anxious. "Auntie Lena," I 
said, "he is still very young; do you think it is right? And 
what about that fellow Dutti Kohl?" 

"Yes," she replied, "if he were just an ordinary youth like 
yourself . . ." 

I smiled and looked at Eva, wondering whether she was 
smiling too. But she was very grave, and looked anxiously 
down at the table. 

It was during this visit to Ballum that Uhle Monk was 
married to one of the shepherds. And we all attended the 
ceremony. 

On the way to the farm I gathered a good deal of information 
about old friends, and heard from Busch that his son Helmut 
was a locksmith in Hamburg, after having been in the Guards 
for two years. A less pleasant bit of news was that he had 
become a Socialist. 

I reminded the old man that there were quite as many 
decent people in the ranks of the Socialist party as in any 
other; but he would not agree, and was obviously disappointed 



242 OTTO BABENDIEK 

that his son had not remained in the Army and become a 
sergeant-major. 

I was never quite clear as to which of the shepherds Uhle 
aAually married, but I gathered that the matter had been 
settled by drawing lots, and that Jan was the happy man. As 
to how she managed to distinguish them, we were informed on 
the way to the wedding that, provided their dog. Flock, was 
present, it was simple enough, for the animal always sat on 
Jan's left hand and Jacob's right, but that Uhle had presumably 
discovered some other way of telling them apart when the dog 
was not there. 

During the festivities I found an opportunity of informing 
Uhle of her first husband's recent marriage, and she pressed 
my hand gratefully. Then I asked her whether she was quite 
happy. 

She nodded and with a sly furtive expression in her eyes 
whispered: "Where else could he go, except here? He can't 
go back to his mother." 

For the moment I could not, for the life of me, imagine to 
whom she referred. Suddenly it flashed across my mind, 
and, somewhat taken aback, I inquired: "Is that why you 
married?" 

She nodded happily. She was a mere child, with the out- 
look and conscience of a child. "He will certainly come 
back," she said in a whisper, "probably with no shoes or 
stockings to his feet. And then he can come and live at the 
sheep-farm." 

After the wedding breakfast the married couple went off 
amid a deafening uproar. Some averred that it was the wrong 
shepherd who took his place in the broken-down carriage. 
Others declared it was the right one. Uhle Monk, slightly 
the worse for drink, shouted and laughed with the rest. I was 
of Eilert's breed. I felt, as he did, the glamour and glory of 
her womanhood. How wonderfully she walked ! How firm 
and comely was her form! How beautiful that red mouth and 
that hearty laugh, despite its monotony and its boorishness! 
Are not the wind and sea monotonous? 

Suddenly I felt sure that it really was the wrong shepherd 
who had got into the carriage, and I ran over to Auntie Lena. 

"Oh, my dear boy," she exclaimed, "they'll put that all 
right! And even if they don't, what does such a trifling 



A DIFFICULT NEGOTIATION 243 

mistake matter ? Look how often in life one snatches at the 
wrong thing! Just you be careful! I have a sort of feeling 
that you are on the point of doing the same thing." 

How true her words were! But I did not know it at the 
time. 

After midnight, when all the dancing and festivities were 
over and Auntie Lena had succeeded in procuring a bed at the 
farm, I found myself seated in the large room downstairs, be- 
tween two sailors, who told me their life-story, and, as usual, I 
was a good listener. Opposite me sat Peter Bohlen, the parson 
who had married the happy pair, and to judge from his face 
he appeared to be listening too. 

All at once, as, lost in thought, I raised my head, whom 
should I see standing before me but Eilert Mumm, in a 
reddish-brown suit with a travelling pack on his back — a. 
wanderer indeed ! 

He smiled, nodded his great head at me, shook hands with 
everybody and sat down. 

"I walked here along the beach," he said in his calm strong 
voice, "and heard about the wedding. Have the couple 
gone already?" 

He was so natural and simple. Most of those present knew 
him, and no one seemed surprised to see him suddenly sitdng 
among the wedding guests. He was given some food, and, as 
he was hungry, he ate eagerly. He always ate enough for two. 
During his repast he talked to Pastor Bohlen, describing the 
route he had taken from Skagen, the wind, and the scenery. 
Wonderful ! 

There was a great deal of noise all over the farm, even in the 
calf-sheds, where some couples had found their way. But 
there was most noise and crowd round the table where Eilert 
and Pastor Bohlen were sitting. The latter was leaning back 
now, drinking and gesticulating, and with shining eyes de- 
scribing the wild life of former days. From time to time he 
gave a loud laugh, while opposite him sat Eilert Mumm, with 
a broad grin on his face. 

At about three o'clock, when everybody was beginning to 
liave had enough, people started slipping away two by two. 
Eilert shouldered his rucksack again, and I accompanied him 
out on to the dyke. The sea was lapping lazily against the 
stone of the sea-wall and over the dunes, the oudines oi which 



344 OTTO BABENDIEK 

were lost in the darkness and mist ahead. Dawn was breaking, 
and the cry of the sea-gulls could already be heard. I asked 
him whether he had called on anyone in Ballum. 

He shook his head, and replied that he had come only to get 
another glimpse of the old houses and trees, and possibly of 
Uhle Monk. "But she wasn't there!" he added. "What a 
mad freak of hers, this wedding!" 

Something prevented me from telling him why she had 
done it, and I noticed that he asked no news of Eva and her 
family. The little Philistine of Ballum had vanished from 
his ken. 

We shook hands and parted at the next fence. He was on 
his way to Holland, and I returned to the sheep-farm to fetch 
Auntie Lena. 



CHAPTER XVI 

Evil Days 

I H A D intended to stay another week in Ballum, but on the 
following morning I received a telegram from my friend in 
Altona which left me no alternative but to return forthwith. 
I had not been back for more than two days, and had hardly 
returned to my old routine, though on the previous evening 
I had spent a delicious time in a certain boat below Ovelgonne, 
when who should turn up at my rooms, just as I had got back 
from the newspaper office, but Eva Bomholt from Ballum! 
And as soon as I saw her pale face and the sad look in her eyes 
I felt certain that something had happened to Ememann. 

As a matter of fad he had written a most confused letter to 
his mother, telling her that he had been charged by his chief 
with having misappropriated a siun of money which he should 
have taken to Dutti Kohl in Hamburg, that the accusation was 
false, but that as he could offer no defence he was obliged to 
fly to avoid being locked up. By the same post came a letter 
from Hellebeck announcing the loss of the money. He men- 
tioned whom he suspe<5ted of being the culpirt, and added that 
Ememann had disappeared in the direftion of Hamburg. 

I was very much upset by the news, particularly as I felt so 
helpless. It was only afterwards that I discovered that this 
feeling arose from an experience of my own, the memory of 
which lay deeply buried in my mind and was never entirely 
dormant. 

But how sorry I felt for Eva ! What misery lay in the depths 
of her dear eyes ! I pressed her hands and kissed them. 

She thought the best plan would be to go to Dutti first, and 
when she asked me to accompany her I reminded her that, 
after all, I was Ememann's brother as well as hers. 

She put her arm in mine, and pressed it as she had done in 
Ballimi, and my words seemed to have brought the first tears 
to her eyes. 

I cannot understand why I did not dasp her in my arms 

245 



246 OTTO BABENDIEK 

then and there, and comfort her, although there was but little 
comfort in my own heart. Who knows what might have 
happened had I done so ? But I still felt I was a poor village 
waif, and she seemed so far above me — ^an objeft of adoration! 
We found Dutti engaged in conversation with two women in 
deep mourning. Looking extremely smart and dignified, he 
begged us to excuse him a moment; then, noticing that our 
decent appearance did him credit, he observed to his lady 
clients: "Some old friends from home." 

"You will get me the highest possible rate of interest on 
my money, won't you, Herr Kohl?" I heard one of them say. 
"My friend, Frau Strohmeyer, assured me that you paid a 
higher rate than anyone else." 

After a while they left, and Dutti, returning from the door, 
hugged me to his bosom. " What a pity it is," he observed in 
melancholy tones, "that people understand so little about 
business, dear Babendiek, particularly the women!" Then, 
turning tearfully to Eva, he added: "I need not inquire why 
you have come. All the same, let me ask first of all how your 
dear mother is. And what is lovely Barbara Mumm doing? 
It is a fortnight since I have seen her to speak to, but I shall be 
in Balliun again to-morrow. Frau Mumm has invited me to 
a little party. . . • How is everybody? ... Is there any 
news of Eilert?" 

Eva, shaking her head, declared she could not talk about 
these matters now, and implored him to tell her about her 
brother's affairs. 

Sitting down beside me and clasping me once more with his 
great fat arm, he said sant^iimoniously: "It is very painful to 
us, dear Babendiek, to have to discuss this matter before his 
distressed sister." 

"For God's- sake, Dutti, come to the point!" I retorted 
impatiently. 

Looking sadly at us, he replied that the matter was unfortu- 
nately only too simple. " I do a great deal of business with 
Fritz Hellebeck," he added. "Didn't we know each other in 
the old Steenkarken days? — ^you remember the theft at your 
Uncle Peter's? . . ." 

I blushed, and beads of perspiration broke out on my fore- 
head. He noticed this and was pleased. 

"Well," he continued, "we deal in iron pyrites, brick- 



EVIL DAYS 247 

works, mortgages, and so on, and young Bomholt occasionally 
conveyed stocks and money between this office and Helle- 
beck's. I can't think why Hellebeck preferred this method to 
the post, but he did." 

Whereupon he embarked upon a digression about stout old 
Holstein hearts and childhood friendships, and I peremptorily 
ordered him to get to the point and stick to it. 

"Very well, then, under your brother's eye, Fraulein Eva," 
he went on, "Fritz Hellebeck, in addition to other papers, put 
a packet containing twelve thousand marks in banknotes into 
the disptatch-case your brother was to bring here." 

"Did my brother let the packet out of his sight or out of his 
hands, even for a moment, after he took charge of it?" asked 
Eva. 

"Not in Hellebeck's office, or in his presence," Dutti 
replied. And, turning to me, he added sadly: "And when 
Fritz Hellebeck says a thing — eh, dear Babendiek? — we know 
it's the true old Holstein stuff, don't we ? For he is a Teuton 
of the old stock. . . . But to cut a long story short, your 
brother left the office, arrived here, opened the dispatch-case 
in front of me, emptied it, and then suddenly, with his eyes 
starting out of his head, exclaimed that the packet of bank- 
notes was missing. We made inquiries. We telephoned. But 
what was the good ? Unfortunately your brother was forced 
to acknowledge, in the first place, that he loved luxury and 
fine clothes, and secondly, that Fritz Hellebeck had put the 
packet of notes into the case under his very nose. So Fritz was 
obliged to tell your brother on the telephone that he would 
report the matter to the police. For, as honest business men, 
it was impossible for either of us to lie under the suspicion of 
carelessness or theft. Honesty, you know, Fraulein Eva, 
honesty must always come first with us business men ! That's 
true, if anything ever was, isn't it, Babendiek ? " And he gave 
a sly smile and hugged me tighdy. 

He also informed us that Ememann had gone away quite 
desperate, and that he had not the faintest idea where he was. 
Then we took our departure. 

When we were outside Eva asked me whether I believed her 
brother had taken the money. I replied that I thought he 
was probably careless in regard to business matters, and that 
was why I thought it had been a mistake to send him to Fritz 



248 OTTO BABENDIEK 

Hellebeck, who had not had any proper bvisiness training 
either. But I thought it inconceivable that he should have 
deliberately stolen a large sum of money: "He was too easy- 
going to do such a terrible thing," I said. "Besides, for his 
parents' sake alone he would have resisted the temptation. 
He is too fond of his mother, and too anxious to do her 
honour. Hence his despair." 

"You know that mother has always been very lenient with 
him," Eva rejoined, pale to the lips, "because he is so delicate. 
And now she will be terrified of his breaking down altogether. 
Oh, Holler dear ! If only that fellow Hellebeck had never crossed 
our threshold!" 

The same thought had occurred to me. "And it was I who 
introduced him!" I exclaimed bitterly. 

She pressed my arm and assured me that she had not meant 
it in that way. " He was your friend," she said ; " it could not 
be helped." 

We got into a tram, and I saw from her dear face that she 
was deep in thought. "Tell me," she said, after a while, "I 
know so little about your friend . . . there is something so 
affable and kindly about him that my parents and Ernemann 
took to him at once. . . . But Eilert and I did not altogether 
like him." 

I said I had noticed this. 

"Yes," she continued, "and although his affability and 
good-nature may not be put on, I could not help feeling that, 
with all his kindliness to others, he was kindest of all to 
himself." 

The idea was new to me, and I replied that it might possibly 
be so. 

"Yes," she went on, "I should think he is ten times kinder 
to himself than to other people." 

I protested, and said I did not believe it. 

After a brief silence she apologized for her attitude, explain- 
ing that she had not the faith in my friend that I had, and 
reminding me that she was fighting for her brother. "What 
we must find out," she added, "is whether Fritz Hellebeck 
could derive any advantage from the disappearance of the 
money." 

I was terrified by the coldness in her voice and by her line 
of argument, and distressed that she should be driven by her 



EVIL DAYS 249 

grief to harbour such notions. I pointed out that Ememann 
had himself admitted that the money had been placed in 
the case in his presence, and that he had discovered its dis- 
appearance on reaching Hamburg. 

At my lodgings we discussed the matter with Paul Sooth, 
who undertook to go to the police for us, to make inquiries 
about Ememann and find out whether he had been arrested. 

Meanwhile, sitting disconsolately with Eva, I tried to divert 
her mind by telling her about Gesa, how I had met her, how 
beautiful, kind, and loving she was, and what wonderful hours 
I had already spent with her ! I also told her what a delightful 
family she had — I did not even know them yet — and spoke of 
my intended marriage. 

I could not see her face very well, as it was getting dark, but 
she laid a hand on my arm and told me that she was pleased 
for my sake, and that her parents would also be glad. 

I noticed that her voice sounded tired and desperate, and 
that my news did not seem to have cheered her very much. 
What an idiot I was ! What a blind, deaf idiot ! 

After a while Paul Sooth returned. Apparently Ememann 
was suspefted of being in the neighbourhood of the harbour, 
though he had not yet been found. 

We then left Eva, who was dead tired, in Fraulein Buten- 
schon's care, and set out in search of him — Paul Sooth going 
to the railway station and I to the harbour. 

DirecSly after I had left Sooth, whom should I see in front of 
me, a little way up the street, but my old friend Balle Bohnsack ? 
He was in his work-a-day clothes, his large dingy yellow cap on 
the back of his head as usual, and his yellow fringe sticking out 
in front of it over his forehead. He seemed to be waiting for 
somebody. Suddenly a maid-servant, all stiff and starched 
and clean as a new pin, came out of a doorway, and in a trice, 
thanks to his long practice with calves and other headstrong 
animals, he had succeeded in cornering her. 1 went up to the 
couple and greeted them. 

They were delighted to see me, but Balle did not waste much 
time on formal greetings. " What's the matter with the girl ? " 
he exclaimed in the fatherly tones of a benevolent judge. 
"Without consulting me you go and take a place in Altona!" 

Oddly enough she did not run away. He could not have 
stopped her if she had tried to escape. But, indignant as she 



250 OTTO BABENDIEK 

was at every word he uttered, soniething seemed to rivet her 
to the spot. With flashing eyes she told him she was still 
afraid he was dotty. 

"Yes," he replied, "and you don't care how much your 
words hurt me. It strikes me," he added in his most paternal 
manner, "that when I ask you a friendly question, you might 
be good enough to answer. As we shall have to live together 
one day, I am naturally interested in everything you do." 

She seemed to doubt whether he were in his senses. "I 
wanted a change," she replied. 

He shrugged his shoulders. "That you can have with me 
later on, my child," he replied with great dignity. "You will 
get change enough in my business!" 

She shook her head. Was he drunk? And she looked 
desperately at me. 

He declared that he was not altogether sure about her. He 
had heard rumours that a sweep was pursuing her. 

"A sweep!" she cried, pale with horror. "That proves 
that you're quite dotty. Fancy me going with a sweep!" 

"Well, well," he retorted, "I am pleased to find I was 
wrong." 

Amusing as this conversation was, I could not endure it any 
longer, and told them both what had happened. 

Dina, who was about Ernemann's age, and had often been 
to see his plays, burst into tears. But Balle was praftical and 
went straight to the point. "That little fellow Ernemann?" 
he exclaimed. "Hanging about the harbour so as to get 
abroad — eh ? Yes, it's possible. He was a nice young chap," 
he added. "I often used to see him in the cattle market. 
Very well, you spend the night hanging round the harbour. 
I won't say anything for certain; but I have an idea . . . 
Let us meet pundually at seven at your lodgings to-morrow 
morning." 

I gave him my address and deplored the faft that he would 
have to knock about all night. "But you were like that as a 
boy, when you stood by me in the playground," I added, 
deeply moved. 

He laughed and gave me an extraordinary wink with one 
eye, which seemed to leave his other eyebrow free to rise and 
fall in the most daring fashion. 

"You were in a nice pickle then!" he exclaimed. And, 



EVIL DAYS a51 

turning to Dina, he added: "This is the first occasion on which 
you have been anything like decent to me — almost cordial, 
infaa!" 

She opened her tear-stained eyes wide, and cried: "Me?" 

"Yes," he replied. "At all events, I am very pleased with 
you, my child, and feel quite happy about you now. You 
see, we shall be the happiest couple in Schleswig! A pair of 
turtle-doves!" And he held out his hand to her. 

At first she would not take it. Then, her fine blue eyes 
again filling with tears, she said: "All right, but only because 
you are going to look for Ernemann to-night." 

Moved by her tears, he nodded and left her. 

I spent a long night in the rain, walking up and down the 
harbour, stumbling in and out of boats, and going into one 
public-house aifter another. But without either hope or suc- 
cess. I could not have been more distressed if I had spent 
the night searching for my own brother. And when I re- 
turned to my lodgings I found Paul Sooth, whose quest had 
also been vain. 

As we entered I saw Eva huddled up asleep on a chair, and 
beside her Auntie Lena, wide awake. She had not been able 
to endure the suspense any longer, but had come by the 
night train. 

Eva, disturbed by our entry, woke up, and the two women, 
seeing from our faces that we had failed, burst into tears. It 
broke my heart to see them. 

We talked in a desultory fashion for about half an hour, and 
then, hearing the front door open, I went out. 

It was Balle, and from the way he winked I knew he had 
found him. 

He walked in, shook hands with Auntie Lena and the 
others, and, anxious to show his sympathy to the stately well- 
dressed matron, he called her by the name by which we all 
knew her, though he invariably added : " With all due respetS." 
He said he had discovered the "little creature" dead tired in 
a public-house where the Danish cattle-dealers usually con- 
gregated. He had promised to stay there. Then, turning 
to me, he added: "I've got a cab. ..." 

I shook his hand heartily, and Auntie Lena went up to 
him crying bitterly. "I have heard a great deal about you," 
she said, "and I and that young fool over there" — she meant 



252 OTTO BABENDIEK 

me — "have often maligned you. But what you have done 
for me now is wonderful." 

Balle evidently felt he must try to laise our spirits. He 
smiled, and closing one eye replied with his usual assurance: 
"I feel sure, Auntie Lena — ^with all due respeft — that you 
would be only too glad to do the same for me. Now there is 
a certain young woman, for instance, of whom you may 
possibly have heard . . . and she won't do what she ought 
to do. Perhaps you could help me." 

We all went downstairs, got into the cab, and drove off", 
Balle sitting with the driver. We soon reached our destination. 

Balle wanted to remain behind, but I said we might want 
him. As we entered the spacious bar, which was still very 
dark, we noticed that the benches along the walls were 
covered with horse-blankets, evidently used as shake-downs 
by the guests. Only two people were visible — a young catde- 
drover, who was asleep, and Ernemann. The latter was sit- 
ting with his head bowed, not daring to look up. 

But as soon as he saw his mother he gave a littie cry and 
sprang to his feet. Making a dash towards her, he buried his 
head in her breast, as if, for all the world, he wanted to become 
one with her. 

She led him to the opposite bench, and sitting down with 
her usual majesty took him on her lap. He swayed from 
side to side, groaning in abjedl misery. He did not want to 
go to prison — no, he wanted to go to America. 

Gentiy and by littie and little, she began to question him, 
as a motiier questions a child that has had a bad fall. 

He explained how careless Hellebeck was with money, 
leaving everything open and lying about. He had often been 
tempted, but had never yielded. But what good would it do, 
even if he swore on oath that he had not taken the money ? 
Hellebeck had put the notes in the case, and they had dis- 
appeared. 

"Think a moment, Ernemann!" exclaimed Eva, who had 
been listening intentiy — never had I seen her look so search- 
ingly at anyone. " He put the money with the other things 
into the case. Well — ^what then? Try to remember exadUy 
what happened! Did you pick the case up at once and go 
out? Think hard!" 

Ememann's sobs ceased a moment and he pondered. Then 



EVIL DAYS 253 

he replied, as though he attached no importance either to the 
question or the answer: "We were in the ofl&ce. Hellebeck 
put the money in the case. Then I went to fetch my coat, 
which was in the lobby close by . . . yes, and Hellebeck 
followed me. And I pulled on my coat and put on my hat." 

"And where did you say the case was?" Eva inquired. 

"Hellebeck had it in his hand as he followed me into the 
lobby." 

"Oh, indeed!" cried Eva, glancing at me. 

I deplored the line she was taking, which seemed to me 
mistaken. "Well, Ernemann," I said, "then you left. Try 
to remember exadlly. . . ." 

"Is my brother less to you than your friend?" she asked, 
truculently interrupting me. 

"I cannot believe what you do," I replied hody. "What! 
Fritz Hellebeck, rich and a gendeman bred, tamper with his 
assistant's case when his back was turned! Well, go on, 
Ernemann." 

But there was no more to relate. He shrugged his slender 
shoulders, and again began to cry out that he did not want to 
go to prison. He would prefer to throw himself into the Elbe, 
and wanted his mother to jump in with him. 

Eva, Balle, and I then held a consultation as to how the 
money, or at least part of it, could be returned. I thought I 
could contribute two thousand marks, and Balle offered a 
similar siun, while Eva had the whole of her little legacy, con- 
sisting of three thousand marks, in her bag. It looked as if 
we should be able to return about eight thousand marks 
immediately, and we told the other two of our scheme. 

But Ernemann grew so violent that I really began to fear for 
his reason. He said that would be tantamount to an admission 
of his guilt, and he admitted nothing. He had not stolen the 
money. All he wanted was to get across the frontier to 
Denmark. He felt certain that his innocence would be 
proved, and that he would rettun. 

Poor Auntie Lena ! The Qjueen of Balliun and everybody's 
friend in need! She could do nothing now except press her 
boy again and again to her breast crying : " Yes, yes, all right, it 
will be all right! " She could think of nothing else. 

And neither could we. ^ 

At last Balle brushed the hair from his brow and observed 



254 OTTO BABENDIEK 

slowly and deliberately: "I'm not so ready to dismiss the idea 
about Denmark, Auntie Lena, with all due resped ; for what 
do our sort do — I mean we men of the cattle trade — when 
one of our pals has gone wrong ? Such things happen in all 
classes, you know. Well, we never let him go to court. 
Never ! The judge is bound to be ruled not by feelings of 
humanity, but by the letter of the law." 

" The whole thing is enough to give one the pip ! " exclaimed 
Auntie Lena. 

"It is indeed!" agreed Balle, and proceeded to explain 
how among cattle-dealers a delinquent was smuggled over the 
frontier. "And that is why I agree with Ememann," he con- 
cluded. "Away to Denmark! In the circumstances it is 
the only safe thing to do, for although he is innocent appear- 
ances are against him. And we shall smuggle him across the 
frontier sandwiched between our calves and bullocks. That 
much at least I am prepared to do, Auntie Lena, with all due 
resped." 

Meanwhile Ememann had fallen asleep. Auntie Lena did 
not stir; great tears were rolling down her cheeks on to his 
hair. Eva went up to her, and they talked for a few moments. 

Then Eva made a sign to us and we followed her into another 
room. There she informed us that she feared for Ernemann's 
reason if he were arrested, and therefore, intolerable as the 
thought was to her, she agreed to Balle's plan. 

We arranged the flight for the next day and discussed all the 
details. But in the hope that, at the eleventh hour, it might 
be unnecessary, I insisted on going to see Hellebeck by the 
next train, to try to arrange matters, and left my friends in 
Balle's charge. 

After a good hour's journey by train I reached the little 
town, and walked the rest of the way. 

It was the middle of April, and the fields were green with 
new corn. The woods to the right as well as on the valley side 
also showed a shimmer of green through the vernal mist that 
covered the ground. In the distance, on the edge of the 
ravine facing the wood, I could see the dilapidated straw 
thatch of the mean little farmhouse which was Hans's property, 
and I thought with emotion of my first visit there. Then I 
remembered the unhappy people, so dear to my heart, for 



EVIL DAYS 255 

whom I had undertaken this mission, and striding along the 
highway I reached the farm in under lialf an hour. 

As I entered the large hall, with its tall massive cupboards, 
old Frau Hellebeck was just coming downstairs. Being short- 
sighted, she did not recognize me at once, and, taking me for 
some unwelcome intruder, looked at me with such strange 
indifference that I felt how cold at heart she really was. 

When she came nearer and recognized me her carefully 
tended face softened, and she showed every sign of delight. 

"Oh," she cried, with all her old affability, "my dear good 
old Babendiek! But what a pleasure! What an honour for 
our house!" 

I blushed at her fulsome welcome, and protested that I 
failed to see where the honour came in. 

"Oh, but it does," she rejoined, "when a clever, smart 
young student comes to see us simple country folk. . . ." 

When I told her how I was aftually employed she was 
disappointed, but patted me on the shoulder and observed that 
even journalism was a distinguished calling. 

She then informed me that her "dear good Fritz" was very 
busy. W'hat with the extension of the property, his corn 
business, financial concerns, and his various honorary duties, 
he was hardly ever at home. But "dear good old thing" that 
I was, I, of course, knew his brilliant gifts. Unfortunately 
there had been that distressing affair with his young assistant 
— and she pretended suddenly to remember that I knew his 
family. As for "dear sweet sunny Almut," I would now be 
able to see her as a mother! It was "the most beautiful and 
moving spedacle." 

Although I knew that more than half she said w£is empty 
chatter I could not help being infefted by her overwhelming 
good cheer, and in low eager tones I inquired after Hans. 

A shadow seemed to flit across her smooth features, though 
she was soon smiling again. "Dear good old Hans," she said, 
stroking my arm, "has, between ourselves, grown rather queer 
— the dear good fellow. But he sees it; oh, he sees it him- 
self. You see he has such a deep and touching affedion for his 
step-brother." 

Although it distressed me to hear that Hans was queer, the 
merry mood with which she had infefted me inclined me to 
banter, and I asked: "What about Soren? does he still stare 



256 OTTO BABENDIEK 

at you with his one eye as if — as if he wanted to ask you 
something?" 

I distindly saw her start, and in trying to mend matters 
I only made them worse. "Honesdy though," I said, "he 
always seems to be trying to catch your eye." 

"There may be something in what you say," she replied, 
pulling herself together. "Good old Soren! Who can tell 
what's in the mind of a simple fellow like that!" Then, 
pointing to Almut, who was outside bending over a perambu- 
lator, she bade me go to her, and left. 

For a few moments I watched Almut fondling and kissing 
her baby, and was conscious of the reawakening of my old love, 
or, rather, admiration, for her. I could not refrain from joy- 
fully contemplating the charming pidure, and was uplifted by 
its beauty and the old memories that it brought to my mind. 
Then I went up to her. 

She was delighted to see me, and pressing my hand repeated 
my name two or three times in her old singsong voice. But 
she showed nothing more than friendliness towards me, and 
seemed completely absorbed in her baby, though she spoke 
kindly and appreciatively of Fritz, who, she said, was very good 
to her, and used other expressions about him strangely reminis- 
cent of her mother-in-law. It seemed as if the older woman 
had so schooled and trained her mind that she had not yet 
looked at the world with her own eyes. 

With great delight she assured me that her baby could 
already recognize Hans; then her face suddenly clouded and 
she declared that she really did not know what had come over 
Hans. Ever since that unhappy Ememann affair he had been 
different and depressed. Surmising that I must have come 
about this matter, she begged me to go to Hans and ask him, 
from her, what was the meaning of the change that had come 
over him. She could not bear to see him so sad. 

Fritz arrived on the scene a moment later, and I accom- 
panied him to his office. 

His figure was more stately, his assurance had increased, 
and, in the full bloom of young manhood, he was all benevo- 
lence and affability. Evidently he guessed at once why I had 
come, and an expression of pained compassion entered his 
face. So great was his assurance, however, that even at that 
moment he could not refrain from opening the conversation by 



EVIL DAYS 257 

boastfully enumerating his hundred and one engagements, and 
saying I was lucky to find him at home. 

But I saw nothing wrong in this. On the contrary, ever 
since my childhood I had regarded it as only right that he 
should talk in this strain, and loved him as I had always 
done. 

I told him why I had come. His expression grew more 
pained than ever, and shaking his fine head gravely he ex- 
claimed: "The poor parents! , . . And that boy, with his 
life ruined at one stroke ! But that kind of thing happens 
so often with young people. They want to be rich all at 
once ! " 

Having no gift for generalization, I did not argue the point, 
but told him how desperate was the situation of Ememann's 
family, reminding him that they were the most respe<fted 
people in Ballum. 

He shook his head mournfiilly. 

I was moved by his sympathy, and immediately entered a 
plea on their behalf. I assured him that neither I nor anyone 
else could believe that Ememann had taken the money. It 
was not in his nature to do such a thing. And other people, 
honest, intelligent people, who had spoken to him, had formed 
the same impression. 

He smiled sadly. "Impression, dear Babendiek? What is 
an impression worth ? " 

I became uneasy, as I always did in his presence. "Tell 
me," I said, "was there no one besides yourself in the place 
when Ememann went to fetch his hat?" 

"He went out to fetch his coat and I followed him," he 
replied with perfe<ft calmness and composure. 
"And no one ebe ^\'as anywhere near?" 
"No, no one," he said sadly. 

I began to argue. Didn't it seem absurd, assuming he 
intended to take the money, that he should have delivered the 
other things? Would it not have been easier to say he had 
lost the whole case ? 

He seemed to start, and a second later his handsome face was 
filled with an expression of such haughty malevolence that for 
the first time it struck me as being faintly repulsive. " Forgive 
me, Babendiek," he said, " I confess I haven't gone very deeply 
into the matter, but you may be right." 



258 OTTO BABENDIEK ' 

I replied that I could well understand how distasteful the 
whole business, including my importunities, must be to him, 
but begged him to remember that the people concerned were 
the friends I held dearest in the world. And I proceeded to 
tell him about our idea of restoring the money and of Eme- 
mann's attitude to the plan, which only confirmed our belief 
in his innocence. 

The smile had vanished from his face and a look of dignified 
displeasure had taken its place. He pointed out that these 
were surely arguments to be presented to the police, or to the 
jury who tried the case. For, if he knew anything about the 
world, Ernemann was certainly the thief. 

His dignity oppressed me. I could say no more, and 
pleaded that I must be making my way back. 

He expressed regret at my having to leave, assured me with 
all his old friendliness that I should always be welcome, and 
told me that if I wished to see Hans I would find him in the 
stables or out in the fields. 

I found him in the fields. His head was bowed and his long 
plain face seemed longer than ever. His clothes were very 
shabby, and looked inadequate for his work out of dooi°s, and 
he strode along head foremost, as if he were lost in thought 
and wrapped in a cloak of loneliness. 

He looked alarmed when he saw me, as if the weight that 
bowed him down had suddenly grown heavier. 

He said that he had been thinking of me ever since the 
previous day, and, pointing to a wall, added that if I would 
take shelter beneath it against the wind we might have a talk. 

Without any preamble he informed me that Ernemann had 
come back in the night and that he had heard him pleading 
with Fritz, under Fritz's window; that he had gone down and 
had the whole aflfair explained to him in the office by Fritz 
himself. 

I asked him what impression he had formed of Ernemann. 
"Did he take the money?" I asked. 

He shook his head. 

I asked him what he thought about the matter. 

He looked on the ground, then sighed so deeply that it 
sounded like a desperate groan. 

I was startled. He had grown pale, his hands were shaking, 
and his lips quivered. I began to doubt whether he were 



EVIL DAYS 259 

sane. "What's the matter, Hans, my dear fellow?" I cried. 
"Tell me, if you can." I suspeded nothing — nothing! 

I begged him to wait till he had recovered a little, and 
noticed that his pale brow was covered with sweat. 

Slowly he began to speak. "He was about ten years old," 
he said, "when one Sunday morning I went down towards the 
river, where a neighbour owned two fish ponds. Through 
the bushes I saw Fritz lifting the sluice of the ponds to let the 
water out. His playmate, the son of a labourer, who was 
standing a litde way off, warned him and told him to stop. 
But he took no notice, and raised the sluice higher, while lus 
companion ran away in a panic. I could not stop, because a 
goat had broken loose. But at dinner-time I heard that the 
owner of the fish ponds had complained of damage to his 
property, and Fritz had sworn it was not he but hb playmate 
who had opened the sluice. I looked for him and asked him 
about it. I was astonished by what I had heard, but imagine 
my surprise when he described to me in great detail how his 
playmate had tried to persuade him to open the sluice, how 
he had refused, and how the other boy had crept up to the 
sluice, looked round and opened it. He told me everything 
with an air of such truthfulness and indignation. But he 
pleaded for his friend and begged me to see that he was not 
punished too severely ! . . . I listened, thinking I must have 
seen spirits that morning — I was only a youngster ! . . . But 
now . . ." 

My heart stood still. " Hans . . . Hans ! " I cried, covering 
my face with my hands. " It's impossible ! Impossible!" 

"I went with litde Ememann into the office," he added, 
breathing heavily, "and there Fritz behaved in exaftly the 
same way. . . . He accused him, but in the kindest possible 
way." 

I could pifture the scene — Fritz Hellebeck, calm, dignified, 
and gentlemanly, secretly putting his hand into the case. My 
head swam. "Impossible! Impossible!" I exclaimed once 
more. 

"I imagine that for some reason or other he needed the 
money," Hans continued, in his fine singsong voice, "and 
sacrificed Ememann just as he once sacrificed his little play- 
mate." Then suddenly bowing his head and covering his fece 
with his hands, he groaned: "And I loved him more than 



26o OTTO BABENDIEK 

anything in the world ! Even now I cannot tear him from my 
heart! Ifonly I could! But for Almut's sake, I can't, I can't ! 
How could Ahnut have married such a scoundrel ! " 

I tried to persuade him that he was wrong. Then suddenly 
I too groaneid aloud, for I remembered my own experience at 
Fritz's hands and was horrified. So far had I been from har- 
bouring such a suspicion that it only occurred to me now. It 
was Fritz who had taken the money from my uncle's desk; and 
driven me to the verge of despair. And he had always been 
outwardly kind to me ! 

I was so completely taken aback that I was tongue-tied. 

At last, stammering and with great difficulty, I framed the 
words, and told Hans the whole story. When I had finished 
we were silent. 

After a while we discussed what we should do. I was in 
favour of confronting Fritz with his lies, and accusing him of 
the theft there and then. 

But Hans had thought it all out, and dissuaded me. It 
would be useless. Fritz would merely shrug his shoulders and 
exclaim : " Conjefture ! Mere conjefture ! " I could see it all, 
and could pidure his assurance and his air of honest convidion. 

Then, laying his heavy brown hand on my arm, Hans added : 
"Even if you could do it ... I could not . . . on account 
of her." 

"But ought we to sacrifice that poor fellow Ernemann for 
her?" I protested uneasily. "I can't, much as I love her. 
But what can I do?" 

"Her whole life," he replied, "has been faith and trust in 
Fritz and his mother. She lives in a dream. She knows 
nothing of men and the world. If you went to her and told 
her the truth she would go mad. We must not disturb her 
dream. We must be kind to those he has injured. We must 
also hope that Almut will die, so that we can track him down 
and corner him. For he has not finished yet ... he will do 
more things of the same kind." 

When we reached the farm it was just supper-time, and, 
except for the Dean, we were the same company who had sat 
down to table fifteen years previously. 

God knows vfith what a heavy heart I took my seat at 
Almut's side, while opposite me sat the man whom, until an 
hour or two previously, I had regarded as a paragon. But I 



EVIL DAYS 261 

was amazed at Ham's self-control. What a power of dissimu- 
lation resides in the breast of the thorough-bred Low Saxon ! 

Almut remarked anxiously that he did not look well. He 
replied that he was suffering from a complaint inherited from 
his grandfather, who had nevertheless lived to a great age. 
He even had the courage to speak to Fritz about the farm. 
But his pent-up emotion had to find a vent, and turning to 
, Soren he remarked with flashing eyes: "All the time we've 
been talking you have been staring at my step-mother as if 
you wanted her to tell you something. . . . What is it you 
want to find out?" 

"Have I?" the man rejoined, trying to smile. "You've 
said that once before." 

"Yes," Hans continued in his singsong voice, "you gaze at 
her as though you had not been paid your last week's wages." 

Soren looked into Hans's face, and possibly because he saw 
the fire or the madness that gleamed in his watchful eyes, he 
rose and went out. 

" My dear good little Almut," cried Frau Hellebeck with a 
smile, "just Usten to Hans ! A moment ago you said he looked 
ill. But it strikes me that our dear good Hans is quite roguish 
to-day!" 

Fritz, who had taken no notice of all this, looked at me and 
observed: "I hope, dear Babendiek, that next time you come 
it will be on a more pleasant errand." 

But I could not endure his noble features and his dignified 
voice any longer. Pleading a headache, I begged to be 
excused, and springing to my feet shook hands with everybody, 
even with him. 

They all accompanied nae to the door, and I went out into 
the night alone. 



CHAPTER XVII 

A Double Farewell 

Sefore dawn I had reached the little Schleswig station 
where I had arranged to meet my friends, and, going inside, 
did not at first see them. At last I found them in the bare and 
gloomy waiting-room. Auntie Lena was sitting in a dark 
corner, with her eyes starting out of her head and great tears 
trickling down her cheeks ; she had Ememann on her lap. Eva 
was standing in front of them, probably to shield them from 
prying eyes; but as soon as she saw who it was she came forward 
to greet me and ask me how I had fared. 

I told her that I had been unsuccessful, and again ques- 
tioned Ememann about everything that had happened. But 
he could tell me nothing fresh. Anxious to discover whether 
he himself harboured any suspicions, I inquired with a beating 
heart: "Do you think it would have been possible during the 
few seconds before he followed you into the lobby for Fritz 
to have taken the money out of the case?" 

He shook his head emphatically. "Impossible!" he cried. 
"And anyhow Hellebeck would never do such a thing! 
Besides, there was no time." 

"Even if you don't think him capable of such a thing, 
Ememann, I do!" Eva exclaimed, her eyes flashing. 

I said I agreed with Ememann, though the sweat broke out 
on my brow as I spoke. "In any case," I added, "we can do 
nothing for the moment, even if Hellebeck did take it. But 
this I promise you, Ememann — I will leave no stone unturned 
to bring the truth to light." 

Touching my arm, Eva led me outside and explained that 
both she and her mother had come to the conclusion that not 
only would she have to accompany her brother to the boat, 
but that she might also have to go all the way. 

I was dumbfounded. I could not believe it. What would 
the house be without her ! 

"I am quite free," she said, bowing her head. "I have got 

262 



A DOUBLE FAREWELL 263 

over all that business with Eilert, especially during the last 
few weeks. I am free to go where I please. What harm will 
it do me to spend six months or a year or even longer in 
America?" Then suddenly flinging her arms round my 
neck she gave way to heartbreaking sobs as she smothered me 
with kisses. 

Quite beside myself, I interpreted her kisses as a farewell to 
the home she loved so dearly. "Why, you're homesick 
already, Eva!" I exclaimed in deep distress. "Some people 
can wander over the face of the earth, but not you ! " 

"I will come back," she said, "and that thought will help 
me to bear up. Meanwhile you must be her son. Holler, in 
spite of your fiatuie and your new parents. Be her son till I 
and possibly Ememann come back. I love you like a brother 
. . . but . . ." — and here she smiled tearfully — "differently 
from Ememann, because you are so serious and almost like a 
man." 

I behaved very foolishly. I felt no pride at her embrace; 
I did not even susped that she loved me. I looked upon her 
as a full-grown woman, and myself as still a youth. 

At last Balle appeared. Never had he seemed to me more 
sincere and unassuming than he did that night in that dirty 
litde station in Southern Schleswig. His shirt was old and 
grimy, his cap littie better than a disgusting rag, his fringe was 
down almost to his eyes, and he carried a bundle under his 
arm. He nodded as he passed, went into the waiting-room, 
and then took Ememann with him. We followed close on 
their heels, stumbling over the metals in the dark, until we 
reached a truck from which came the faint odour and stir 
of cattie. 

Auntie Lena was breathing heavily, and I was on the point 
of urging her to return to the waiting-room when Ememann 
appeared at the door of the truck. He was dressed as a drover, 
and seemed quite at ease even in that disguise. " Mother," he 
said in a shaky voice, "you know I did not do it?" 

"We all know it, Ernemann," I replied. "You need have 
no fears about that. We don't for a moment believe you 
did it." 

He knelt down in the doorway to give his mother a last 
embrace. 

She stroked and kissed him. "I know a good deal about 



264 OTTO BABENDIEK 

men and their filthiness, Ememann," she observed with 
wonderful composure. " They will try to make you filthy too. 
Don't do as they do. Whether you are well, sick or dying, 
let people about you do what they like . . . but believe in the 
good and do it!" 

He sobbed on her breast once more, and held her so tightly 
that she had to tear herself forcibly away. Then she turned 
her back on him and returned to the station. 

Eva and I walked to and fro for a while, and when her train 
came in we shook hands and parted. I had one more look at 
the dear boy's charming head. In what strange surroundings 
was I to see it again six years later ! I also saw Eva's bright 
face at the window. Then they both vanished in smoke, and 
the train was gone. 

An hour later Auntie Lena and I were on our way to 
Ballum. I remember nothing about this journey, except that 
she sat silently looking out of the window, while tear after tear 
rolled down her cheeks. 

We reached Ballum at about eleven in the morning, and 
found Uncle Gosch in his little study behind the dining-room. 

When he first saw me he did not quite know what to make 
of things. But he was very pleased, and asked me one or two 
questions about Pytheas, at which he had hinted in his last 
letters. It was only when he looked into his wife's face that 
he remembered his children and what had happened. Auntie 
Lena, who was exhausted, had dropped into a chair. I told 
him all that had taken place, and he listened quietly, with an 
air of utter helplessness, as though he were at a loss to know 
what to say or do. But when I assured him that we were all 
convinced that Ememann was innocent he drew himself up, 
and his childlike eyes grew brighter. 

"Then what is there to be miserable about?" he cried, 
clasping my arm. " Why should I be cast down? And even 
if he did take the money, after all he is my child. It is always 
possible for a young man to steady himself after a slip. As for 
Eva, she's the bravest of the brave, dear Babendiek, and could 
undertake the most difficult geological or historical research 
with him ! " And he beamed as he looked at me. " Yes," he 
added, "I have very good children, and all the good that is 
in them they get from their mother." 

But Auntie Lena, stretching out her arms, fell on her knees 



A DOUBLE FAREWELL 265 

before him, crying bitterly: "From me? From me? I am to 
blame for everything. I have been dancing on a tight-rope 
and making him dance with me. I am the biggest fool on 
earth!" 

He tried to comfort her, but she would not listen. "No, 
no," she sobbed, "I am to blame. All that is good in my 
children they get from you, and all the bad from me. I am to 
blame for everything ! " 

Again he protested and tried to comfort her, appealing to 
me to support him. "And now stand up, my love," he said, 
turning to her again, "or I shall be obliged to kneel beside 
you and bow lower than you." 

Later in the day, after a large sewing-party, at which Auntie 
Lena had defended her shaken prestige before her guests, she 
asked me to help her prepare supper and accompany her to 
Aunt Sarah's party afterwards. 

"Why, Auntie Lena," I protested anxiously, "you did not 
have any sleep last night, and you cannot possibly enjoy it. 
Why not go to bed early instead ? " 

She looked at me out of the corner of her eyes, and replied 
haughtily: "I shall take a little nap after supper, and then we 
shall go. That's what I used to do in the old days." 

"But, Auntie Lena," I urged, "how can you and I mix 
with those people in our present mood?" 

Again she looked at me sideways. "What do you suggest, 
then?" she exclaimed, with kindly assurance. "How long 
must I remain in hiding and give up looking after the poor and 
the aged ? A month ? Don't talk nonsense ! Just remember 
the great door of your forge and the balcony over it, which was 
always full of smoke, my dear boy, instead of criticizing other 
people ! . . . Or do you always want to stalk about on high 
bunskins?" 

"Buskins, not bunskins. Auntie Lena!" I rejoined. "They 
are a sort of half-boot with high . . ." 

"Oh, well, it's all the same thing. Old Peter StefTensen 
. . . but you didn't know him, did you ? ... he used to come 
out with the same kind of mistake. He always said Maxbeth 
instead of Macbeth. But he managed to do well in life, all the 
same, and he was given a very fine tombstone too. It's the 
third in the row of dead mstors." 

I smiled, but said nothing. 



266 OTTO BABENDIEK 

We prepared the supper together, I laying the cloth and 
carrying the dishes, as I had done when I was a child. An 
hour later we left the house for the party. 

It was about nine o'clock when Uncle Gosch, Auntie Lena, 
and I arrived at the Mununs' ; supper was over, and the com- 
pany were standing about the hall and the dining-room. 
Ever since the unfortunate incident with Eilert these gatherings 
had been less crowded and brilliant, while many of the older 
generation had either died or else were too far advanced in 
years to attend. Barbara was the first to come up to us and 
greet me. I saw from her expression that she had heard 
everything, probably from her mother, and that the case had 
been presented in the blackest colours. Nevertheless she was 
brave and honest enough to look us straight in the face and be 
friendly to us. Dutti, in the smartest of dinner-jackets and 
patent-leather shoes, came up, and immediately clasping me in 
his arm whispered something which I did not catch. 

Sarah Mumm, who made an effort to control herself, 
exclaimed: "I did not think you would come." 

"And why not, Sarah?" Auntie Lena rejoined in her sweet- 
est, liveliest tones. "Haven't you trouble with your own child, 
and yet you invite people to your house? . . . Why isn't 
the old Councillor here?" 

" Come . . . that's rather different ! " my aunt retorted with 
a stony stare. "After all, my son would never have done 
what yours has!" 

"Oh, Sarah," cried Auntie Lena, "don't talk like that, for 
heaven's sake ! What on earth do you know about your son ? 
Even as a child he used to come and put his head in my lap 
and not in yours." 

Sarah Mumm winced. "Yes, that's been your way all 
through!" she returned. "You always draw everything to 
yourself. Ever since we were children everything has always 
belonged to you!" 

And she proceeded to take Auntie Lena to task for buying 
her wool from Uhle Monk. 

"I buy it from her," Auntie Lena retorted, "because she is 
a charitable creature, and lets me and my mothers have it at 
wholesale price. You can come with me, if you like, and all 
the mothers as well, and if Uhle Monk's isn't the cheapest we 
can buy it elsewhere." 



A DOUBLE FAREWELL 267 

"The Mothers' Union should not buy things from such 
people," retorted Aunt Sarah. "But there, you always were 
drawn to the crooked things of this world ! " 

"Yes, my dear," Auntie Lena replied, loud enough for 
every one to hear, "that's true! I and God Almighty — or, 
rather, God Almighty and I — ^have always had a weakness for 
crooked things. But that hardly applies to Uhle Monk, for 
she's got the straightest, slimmest legs in the whole town. 
That you must admit ! " 

This brought Sarah Mumm back to the subjeft of Eme- 
mann, and she informed us that she knew everything. "Your 
boy robbed his employer and tried to set fire to the house," 
she said, "and now your daughter has gone too far with some 
man, and has had to fly too ! " 

"Yes, Sarah," Auntie Lena replied, in her rich, vibrant voice, 
"that's just like the Ohlens" — Ohlen was my aunt's maiden 
n£une — "two of your ancestors were murderers. They did 
not know what they were doing when they were in a rage. 
That's the stuff you're made of! " 

We left early, and Auntie Lena was in the best of spirits. 

> • • • • 

Very little happened in the eight months that elapsed before 
my marriage, except that throughout that period I enjoyed 
Gesa's company. 

I used to go to see her at Ovelgonne. She was always in 
her green jumper — it was the only one she had — ^with her red- 
gold curls about her brow and a scull in her cold blue hands. 
She was always either just going for a sail or just coming 
back from one. 

I told her all I had been through. Her sympathy was 
touching. She wanted to help me and take my mind off the 
two old people in Ballum and the two fugitives across the 
Atlantic. She recommended sailing. If I went sailing often 
enough, she declared, I would recover my spirits. She was 
convinced that no illness on earth could survive a course of 
sailing. I was only too ready to try her remedy, and so 
a-sailing we went! 

As she was attending to the tiller and the sails she would 
talk about the wind, the air, sailing-ships, and boats. And I 
willingly joined in. But, truth to tell — ^yes, truth to tell — I 
was interested in other things. I tried to lead the conversation 



a68 OTTO BABENDIEK 

on to more human topics, but it was no good. Gesa's face 
would only cloud over, and she would look confused and a 
little bit homesick. No — it was no good. And so we hoisted 
the sail, and sped before the wind. After all, why should I 
not afford her this little pleasure ? Was not her love for the 
beautiful broad Elbe most touching? Wherefore avaunt, all 
ye human interests — ^away like a flock of swallows! How 
sweet it was to sit by her side, talking of the Elbe and of sailing ! 
My eyes, drunk with love, doubtless flashed fire, and when they 
met her beautiful shy glance what bliss it was! I would lay 
my hand gently on hers, but our eyes would immediately turn 
away from each other, and she would heave a deep sigh. And, 
oh! the timid stormy kisses at the door of her house at night! 
Could anything have been more entrancing ? I was bursting 
with joy ! 

Did I really live in Altona? Was I breathing the same air 
as my fellow-men? Did I notice the rain or the fog, or Frau 
Eckmiiller's suspicious questions every night when I got home, 
because she thought I was in love, and did not like the idea? 
No, no ! I was conscious only of the sunshine and the wind, 
white sails, and innocence all about me ! 

I really do not know what would have become of me that 
year if I had not had to think of those two dear old people in 
Ballmn, the beloved fugitives, and my work on my novel! 

But I needed money. I was in love, and I had to write to 
make money. Gesa had informed me in her straightforward 
way that although it was true her father had a fine boat and 
a becoming cap with a gold shield on it, he had little besides. 
So I wanted money. Money ! 

I made up my mind to write a long novel — nothing very 
wonderful. What right had I to suppose I could write any" 
thing wonderfiil ? Before I could become an artist with my 
pen I felt I had a long way to go. Had I not spent my life 
in surroundings utterly devoid of art, ignorant of the very 
word? And had I not received many a hard knock, even 
as a child ? 

But I had read the great authors. Possibly I had studied 
those to whom I was most closely related, and raised myself 
on their shoulders. This idea never occurred to me. More- 
over I never believed myself capable of powerful original 
creations. So I adopted a different plan. I knew a few novels 



A DOUBLE FAREWELL 269 

which were popular among ordinary people, and decided to 
vise them as models. 

I did not feel very confident. All I wanted was to write an 
interesting story — something that Frau Eckmuller and Gesa's 
mother might like to read, and that a newspaper would buy, 
so that I might get a new suit for my wedding, a bed, a writing- 
table, and a kitchen cupboard. Gesa told me that her mother 
read Marlitt, and I knew that Frau Eckmuller read Captain 
Marryat. For a long time I wavered between Marlitt and 
Marryat. I was anxious to write a story that would please my 
revered and beloved mother-in-law. On the other hand, the 
foreman printer of my paper had been ten years a miner in the 
Rockies, and was able and willing to answer all my questions 
on the subjed. True, I had a feeling that he embroidered a 
little, and that I should have to read up a good deal about 
those parts; but at last I decided in favour of Marryat and the 
foreman printer. The plot hinged on the search for a valuable 
copper-mine and the struggle for the possession of it. 

My days were fairly fiill. In the mornings the newspaper; 
in the afternoons and evenings Ovelgonne; at night the copper- 
mine! 

I was amazed by the amount of time Gesa always seemed to 
have at her disposal. She had no ties ! Whenever I turned 
up, there she was, ready. The only question was, whither? 
How we sailed! I knew every inch of the river as far as 
Finkenwarder and Wedel, every tree and every hut. 

Sometimes I would pause during my night work, and dwell 
on the future. I would pi<Sure a little room, with a writing- 
table, at which I was seated, while Gesa could be heard busy 
in the kitchen. Then she would appear with the supper, and 
I would yawn and heave a sigh of delight. This sigh would 
bring me back to reality, to the copper-mine, and I would 
plunge back into work. 

Although I was able to conceal my love-affair from Frau 
Eckmiiller I was not so successful with regard to my novel, 
for the simple reason that I burned such an unconscionable 
amount of oil. She began to question me. I had to confess. 
I had to tell her about my novel and keep her informed as to 
its progress. She grew more and more inquisitive and critical, 
and often I had to fight tooth and nail to continue the narrative 
as I thought fit. 



270 OTTO BABENDIEK 

Yes, they were troublous days! I did not stop from 
morning to night. I never walked, but always ran! I was 
anxious, too, about Gesa . . . her boat seemed to me too small . 
for the treacherous Elbe. Moreover, I was concerned about 
the charaders in my novel. I felt every one of their emotions. 
I burned, wept, laughed, and burned again with all of them. 
I grew thin. Oh, but I was so happy ! I was happy about 
everything. 

When a longer and deeper acquaintance with my charaders 
convinced me that they were losing their angularity, and 
gradually becoming genuine hiaman beings, I gained courage, 
and even had the boldness to ask Gesa to introduce me to her 
people. 

After having pidured them in my imagination all this time, 
I was- at last to know them! 

Her mother was sitting by the window in the parlour in 
front of a little bolster-cushion covered with coloured needles, 
and seemed to be engaged in throwing a number of little 
wooden sticks at this inanimate porcupine. I had never seen 
lace being made before, but assumed that the dignified dame 
was engaged in some kind of fancy-work. She was as different 
as possible from her daughter — tall, emaciated, dark, and 
somewhat awkward and stiff, though her soft, brown childlike 
eyes were full of kindness and confidence. She sat very up- 
right, and was extremely friendly to me, asking me all kinds of 
questions. CJesa had perched herself on an arm of the sofa, 
and had begun to make herself a white cotton frock. Although 
I knew but little about such matters, it struck me that she was 
making incredibly large stitches. Moreover, she had a 
peculiar unbalanced way of sitting, as if she were on the thwart 
of a boat or on the rail of a bridge, expeding every moment 
to have to move. She never looked up, but sat there diligently 
putting in the huge stitches. 

Her mother told me about her children. Her eldest, 
Hieronymus, "a fine fellow," was apparently an accountant at 
a "large millboard fadory" in Gliickstadt. 

Quite by chance I happened to know that this fadory was 
in reality a small one, but I said nothing, because both mother 
and son were related to the beautiful creature perched on the 
arm of the sofa. 

"Yes," continued Frau vom Gang, "I am only too glad to 



A DOUBLE FAREWELL 27I 

answer questions about my Hieronymus. When he was only 
seventeen he was already a competent business man, and had 
made such a favourable impression on the head of the firm and 
his wife that they wanted him to marry their daughter. But 
my Hieronymus could not bring himself to love her." 

I expressed my regard for the man, allowing his sister to 
stand proxy for him as the objeft of my admiring gaze. 

Feeling my eyes upon her, she looked up, and I saw that 
she was amused. At what? At me? Or at her mother's 
praise of Hieronymus ? 

Meanwhile Frau vom Gang had begun to describe her 
second son, Adalbert — ^what a perfe<ft name! — who was an 
official at the Town Hall in Hamburg. 

I knew at once, of course, that a man who bore the name of 
Adalbert vom Gang, and who had such a mother and sister, 
could be no ordinary clerk. So it did not surprise me to hear 
that he was the mayor's right hand. 

"Ah, he could reveal a few things, if he liked!" exclaimed 
Frau vom Gang. 

I observed that he naturally did not do so, as his work was 
very confidential. 

"Quite so," she replied. "He sits in one room and the 
mayor in the next, and the mayor discusses everything first 
with Adalbert. It is very strenuous work. So strenuous, 
indeed, that when I can I give him half a bottle of port to 
take with him for lunch." 

I did not doubt it, and tried to catch my beloved's eye, to 
show her how great was my admiration for her brother 
Adalbert. 

Again she looked up and again I noticed in the depths of 
her eyes that suggestion of amusement which I could not 
understand. 

Still making a faint clatter with her wooden needles, her 
mother then proceeded to tell me about her third son, 
Eusebius. 

How priceless ! Eusebius vom Gang! A name that would 
carry a man anywhere ! 

Apparently, although he was only seventeen, he knew he 
was the most gifted of the family, and was thus a cause of 
great anxiety to the business world of Hamburg. 

"A cause of great anxiety? " I repeated faintly. 



272 OTTO BABENDIEK 

"Yes, indeed! His uncle, who owns seven square miles in 
furthest Ind, wants him to go out there, so of course he will be 
lost to the business world of Hamburg!" 

Then followed a description of this uncle, and of how he 
would one day either write or come over in person, and 
shower his wealth upon the whole family. Think what that 
meant — seven square miles! It would mean great changes, 
great changes, she said with a sigh. 

I cast a covert glance round the room, and noticed that it 
was certainly scantily, not to say poorly, furnished. It would 
indeed mean great changes! 

I was invited to look at his photograph on the chest of 
drawers. It seemed to have been taken a long while ago, but 
I gazed at it with the deepest reverence, for what if he were to 
write or arrive on the scene the next day! Again I tried to 
catch my beloved's eye, and again I perceived the twinkle of 
amusement in it. Was she laughing at her mother, her 
brothers, her uncle, at me, or at all of us ? 

I then implored Frau vom Gang to tell me something about 
Gesa. Incidentally, what a beautiful name — Gesa vom Gang ! 
How distinguished! How wooden and sinister my name 
sounded by comparison! 

She opened with the superfluous remark that Gesa was 
extremely gifted, though not at school-work — she was quite 
ready to admit that ! 

"Please don't be afraid to. Mother," came a voice from the 
sofa, " I am not at all ashamed of it." 

" But she is wonderfully gifted at sewing and cleaning. . . . 
Ever since she was thirteen she has made all her own clothes ! " 

"That's quite true," said the girl, in her clear voice that 
seemed to mock even herself, "and I'm proud of it." 

"Unfortunately," the mother continued, "she is always on 
the Elbe, though sailing too is a great art!" 

"And that's true too!" again cried the clear voice from the 
sofa. 

I could not help being struck by her tone. Was all that 
had been said before not true then? I tried to catch Gesa's 
eye, and when I did so, lo and behold! the look of amusement 
had vanished, and it was calm and clear. "And now that's 
enough about me. Mother," she said. "Herr Babendiek has 
very good eyes; he can see what we are." 



A DOUBLE FAREWELL ^73 

I cast an admiring glance at her, and she returned it; her 
eyes filled with shy joy, and she bowed her head low over 
her work. 

How happy I was! I loved her madly, and loved every- 
thing belonging to her. Why ? Why were all her relations 
so wonderful ? Because the most charming girl in the world 
must be given a suitable frame. Therefore her frame was 
wonderful ! 

Frau Eckmiiller still suspedled nothing about my romance. 
I had enough worries without that ! But Fraulein Butenschon 
knew, and she scoffed at both Sooth and myself. A week 
later I paid Gesa's people a second visit. It was on the occa- 
sion of some public holiday — ^but I was too much preoccupied 
to know that. 

Soon after my arrival her father came in — ^short and ereft, 
in his smart blue yachting suit, with his gold embroidered cap 
on his white hair. He had just returned from taking the chair 
at a meeting of the Chicken Breeders' Club. 

He laughed when I asked him about his chickens. He had 
none! Why should he be bothered? The others had the 
chickens; he had the Club. Splendid! 

We met Gesa's mother coming from the kitchen, where 
apparently she had washed up without anyone to help her; 
and, assuring Herr vom Gang that I was now one of the fanfiily, 
she proceeded to ask him whether he could let her have 
some money. 

The domestic economy expert looked uncomfortable. 
"Isn't the bank account all right, then?" he inquired. 

"No," she replied, gazing at him with her kindly, 
attra<Sive, childlike eyes, "it is not! Unfortunately," she 
added, turning to me with a smile, "my husband is not 
very good at domestic matters, but then he is interested in 
mankind as a whole ! " 

Feeling that I ought to encoiurage this interest, I turned to 
face him, when to my surprise he looked at me with an amused 
sihile and gave me a surreptitious wink. I smiled back, 
though I was completely mystified. 

Meanwhile Frau vom Gang had begun to read a letter that 
had just arrived from Hieronymus. Apparently his rooms 
were infested with bugs, and he felt he must move, but could 
not do so as he still owed a little rent. "If you would be so 



274 OTTO BABENDIEK 

good as to set the bank account right," said Frau vom Gang 
to her husband, "I could send him some money." 

I was surprised that the accountant of the great millboard 
fadory should be in such a plight, suffering from vermin and 
in arrears with his rent, and I cast a look of dumb inquiry at 
Herr vom Gang. The latter, pushing his cap on one side — 
he wore it even indoors — said he would write to his son. 

Soon afterwards Adalbert, the Town Hall official and the 
mayor's right hand, turned up. We shook hands, and he 
was exceedingly affable. I had to repeat my name twice; for 
he explained that in the course of the day he heard so many 
names that he had great difficulty in remembering them. 
Then he asked me what I did. 

On hearing that I was a sub-editor, he remarked that it was, 
of course, a subordinate post, but no doubt it was only a 
stepping-stone to something better. He had a friend who, 
although he was only twenty-five, was already an editor-in-chief, 
but he could not think of his name. Those wretched names ! 

I chanced to catch his father's eye at this moment, and 
noticed that he was winking at me and smiling faintly. I 
could not make it out! Evidently his family's little boasts 
amused him. He probably smiled at their exaggerations — 
their slight exaggerations. And Gesa was her father's child, 
and smiled in the same way ! . . . How charming ! 

Presently Eusebius, the youngest, appeared — the one who 
was waiting for his Indian uncle with the seven square miles. 
He gave me a silent nod when I was introduced, and sitting 
down by the window looked out into the back garden. 

His mother was radiant. She was evidently happy at 
having such contented, intelligent children, who congregated 
round her on Sundays, and asked Eusebius with a laugh 
where he had been the previous night. 

The young man turned his pale face round, and, looking 
imploringly at his mother with eyes just like her own, made 
no reply. 

She gazed anxiously at him. "You ought not to work so 
hard at that Chinese!" she observed. Then tiurning to me 
she explained that unfortunately — or, rather, God be praised ! 
— ^her sons were regular demons for work, and that Eusebius 
worked so hard at that wretched Chinese, particularly the 
script, that in the morning he was quite tongue-tied. But his 



A DOUBLE FAREWELL 275 

uncle would be oveijoyed to find he had already mastered the 
language when he arrived. 

I was delighted, though my heart ached for the youth. I 
tried to convey these emotions to his father, but he simply 
made signs implying that the boy had spent the night smoking 
and drinking with friends, and winked at me as he had done 
before. Evidently the father knew a thing or two, although 
his wife was so credulous. But he did not wish to hurt her 
feelings. What wonderful parents! What material for a 
poet here ! 

Delighted as I was, however, I had, after all, come to see 
Gesa, and was growing impatient. On inquiring where she 
was, I was told diat she was probably down on the river bank; 
so, bidding them farewell, I went there. 

Yes, there she was, surrounded by a crowd of "boys," 
discussing sails and tackle. I saw at once from the light in 
her eyes how much more I meant to her than the others, 
but she begged me to wait about half an hour, after which she 
would go for a row with me. 

I assured her that I was prepared to wait whole days and 
nights if necessary, and sat there devouring her every move- 
ment, and feeling in the seventh heaven when she vouchsafed 
me a glance. 

We went for a row — I believe to Finkenwarder: but we 
loitered and talked a good deal on the way, forgetting our 
midday meal, and just nibbling at a little stale bread that we 
found in the boat. She said she often did not go home to lunch. 

Night was falling, and we were still on the river, with our 
boat moored under a willow near Nienstedten. She let me 
kiss her and call her sweetheart. She was shy but trustful, 
quite trustful. 

O limbs of ivory ! O eyes like stars ! O miracle of God ! 



CHAPTER XVIII 

My Wedding 

Towards autumn I made a fair copy of about half my novel 
and submitted it to my chief. And I remember how intoler- 
able were the days of waiting that followed, how I used to 
study his face when he arrived in the morning, to try to gather 
from the smallest sign what his opinion was likely to be. I 
began to be filled with the most agonizing doubts. Who up 
to that moment had known anything about the work or 
criticized it ? Only Frau Eckmiiller and myself ! And were 
we competent judges ? I could not help entertaining serious 
doubts about this, and blushed to myself. 

I appealed to Fraulein Butenschon's aunt, gave her a detailed 
description of the plot, and asked her what she thought of it. 
Unfortunately it turned out that she never read novels, but 
only cookery-books, and very little of them, for she kept most 
of the recipes in her head ! 

And then a day or two later my kind chief informed me that 
if I finished the novel in the same style as I had begun it he 
would print it ! 

The moment my work at the office was over I flew to 
Ovelgonne, persuaded that I should find Gesa busy at home, 
as it was about the middle of the day. I had never seen her 
engaged in domestic duties, and my imagination formed the 
most delightful pidures of her going about her housework in 
a large apron. 

But when I arrived her mother, who was in the middle of 
turning out a room, informed me that Gesa was out sailing. 
The wind had been particularly favourable, and she had 
received a tempting invitation. 

As I had heard the same tale both on the previous day and 
the day before, I asked Frau vom Gang with a smile — ^for I 
was naturally glad that Gesa should be enjoying herself — 
whether she always did all the housework. 

Laying her hand on my arm, she smilingly replied that she 

276 



MY WEDDING 277 

had always left Gesa free to go where she liked. "Why 
should she be bothered with housework which her old mother 
can manage so well ? Besides, one of these days her uncle will 
cither write or come, and put all our affairs in order. So why 
should she bother?" 

I felt tempted to tell her my wonderful news, but I had 
the feeling that it would hardly compete with the uncle from 
furthest Ind. So I said nothing, but went out along the river 
to wait for Gesa. 

• She soon appeared with her young companion, and seeing 
that I appeared to have something particular to tell her she 
quickly took leave of him and came towards me with a question 
in her eyes. 

I told her the news — she did not even know that I was 
writing a novel — and added that, as we should now have some 
money to buy things, we might get married. 

She looked overjoyed, but I felt that she was not quite clear 
about it all. It was difficult for her to imagine that money 
could be made out of imaginative work. I beheve that all 
through our married life she regarded my novel-writing and 
the income I told her I earned by it in the same Ught as her 
mother's tales about the uncle from India, which neither she 
nor her father believed. But she was not the sort to give 
much thought to anything, and, what was more, she loved me 
and longed for nothing better than to settle down with me. 

She led me away to the boat-house. I thought she wanted 
to show me a boat or a new sail or something. But when she 
had taken me where no one could see us she flung her arms 
round my neck and kissed me passionately. 

What a marvellous thing is love ! How it uplifts one and 
makes one reverence everything pure and sacred! I was 
twenty-three at this time, and was tasting love during the 
glorious hours of youth ! 

That night, after I had finished my task on the copper-mine, 
feeling I could neither work nor sleep for joy, I ran to Ovel- 
gonne again, so that I might gaze up at her window and put 
a halo about her with the power of my love and the glory of 
my imagination. And the next day, which was a Sunday, 
I broke the news to Paul Sooth. 

He was sitting on the edge of his bed, looking terribly 
anxious and unhappy, and I asked him what was the matter. 



278 OTTO BABENDIEK 

Glancing towards the door, he implored me not to speak so 
loud, and then, with bated breath, informed me that he had 
unfortunately come to the conclusion that Fraulein Butenschon 
wanted to marry him. "Just imagine," he said," she adually 
told me so to my face yesterday ! " 

We congratulated each other, and I suggested that we should 
be married on the same day. But he could not feel altogether 
happy. There were his brothers and sisters to think of, the 
youngest of whom, who was only ten, was being very badly 
treated by the peasants. And looking very miserable, he 
declared that he saw things very black indeed. 

I asked him whether there was anything else that was de- 
pressing him, 

"Think of it," he replied, speaking very low, "you know 
that Fraulein Butenschon gives her gymnastic lessons in tights ? 
Well, last night she got into them and danced to me! " 

I observed that I could see no harm in that, and regretted 
that Gesa could not do the same. But he pointed out that, 
being a country bumpkin, such a proceeding struck him as 
outrageous. 

I tried to comfort him, and, when he had put on his coat, 
led him into the kitchen. But he still looked exceedingly blue. 

When little Clara saw the face he was pulling, and had 
laughed heartily at him, I told her my joyful news. Where- 
upon she informed me that Paul Sooth also wished to marry 
at all costs, and had threatened her, with a knife in his hand, 
if she refused to go to the altar with him forthwith. As for his 
brothers and sisters, she had written to the eldest girl, telling 
her the news and asking her to come to Altona to see her. 

While we were having breakfast together the old aunt came 
in with a card for Sooth from his eldest sister, saying that she 
would arrive at Altona on Sunday morning. 

My old friend was diunb with despair, and mumbled some- 
thing about the heavens falling in; but as a glance at the clock 
informed us that his sister would be arriving at that very 
moment we set off with all possible speed to the station. 

But she was nowhere to be seen on any of the platforms, and 
Paul Sooth, knowing his family's peculiarities, suggested she 
might possibly be sitting in the darkest comer of the third-class 
waiting-room. And so thither we repaired, and did indeed 
find her — not, however, alone, but with all her five brothers 



MY WEDDING 279 

and sisters! There they sat, each one simply but respedably 
clad, each wearing a hat a few sizes too large, waiting round a 
table that was perfedly bare. 

Sooth sighed heavily, and addressing each in turn by name 
shook them all by the hand. Clara, who had never before felt 
so disinclined to laugh, gazed aghast at the little group of 
orphans round the table, and exclaiming "My God!" found 
difficulty in suppressing a sob. 

We sat down with them while Sooth asked them all kinds 
of questions, and taking two baubles from his pocket placed 
them before the two youngest. There were three boys and 
three girls. Sooth asked them all about their food, their 
schools, their teachers, and their clothes, and became so deeply 
absorbed that he forgot we were there. He also made search- 
ing inquiries about the farmer who employed his brother of 
fifteen, and when he heard that the man was sometimes 
drunk he made careful notes in his pocket-book, with a view 
to framing a letter of complaint. 

The wearing of hats several sizes too large for their heads 
seemed to be a family failing, and as Clara Butenschon glanced 
curiously from one to the other she was evidently utterly be- 
wildered. At last, making a sign to the waiter, she ordered 
a huge pot of coffee and quantities of bread. 

The eldest girl, who was somewhat sharp-featured, explained 
that she had brought the whole family in order that her brother 
might hear their objedions, if they had any, to his marriage, 
and she concluded her little speech by informing him that the 
third girl must have a new dress for her confirmation. 

Sooth made a fiu-ther note, and said he would supply the 
dress. 

Meanwhile the coffee and bread had arrived, and Clara, 
who, though she had recovered her spirits, was still unable to 
laugh, sat down surrounded by her prospe<5Uve relations, and 
handing round the refreshments asked each one in turn 
whether he or she objecSed to Paul's marriage. They all 
remained very stiff and still; and one by one, like little judges, 
declared that it was all right, while my old friend followed 
their votes with the profoundest attention and concern. 

A little while later we saw them into their train, and returned 
home. On the way FrSulein Butenschon and I discussed the 
arrangements for our joint wedding, and agreed to share the 



280 OTTO BABENDIEK 

expenses of the wedding breakfast, which was to be at Steigel- 
meyer's in Ovelgonne, according to the number of guests 
we invited. 

During the next few days Gesa and I hunted for quarters. 
She suggested that we should buy the little boathouse which 
stood under the alders not far from her home, saying that the 
"boys" would make the trifling alterations required. When 
on the third day we had not found anything Gesa thought of 
an old fishing-boat which might suit our purpose, and I began 
seriously to consider building on my own account. But on 
the eighth day, just as we were on the verge of despair, I found, 
just below the church of a little village up-stream, a broken- 
down thatched cottage, which I immediately took. Gesa was 
delighted, because it commanded a view of the Elbe. She 
declared she could not sleep or eat out of sight of the Elbe. 

I now became entirely absorbed in the little thatched cot- 
tage, and made all manner of purchases out of my slender 
means, walking about the empty rooms dreaming of the 
delightful scenes that would soon be ena<Sed in them, Gesa, 
on the other hand, as soon as she knew that the Elbe was 
visible from our future home, lost all further interest in it, and 
began sailing as usual, either alone or with the "boys." When 
she was not sailing she would perch herself on the arm of the 
sofa at home and work at two shifts — certainly not more — 
which were to constitute her trousseau. As far as I was aware 
the whole of this work was done on the arm of the sofa, with 
those huge stitches she was so clever at making. 

I was a little bit annoyed by her everlasting sailing and 
stitching. But what does happy and trustful youth care about 
little clouds on the horizon? We had eyes only for each 
other; and thus the weeks flew by. 

There were some who declared that she had really given her 
heart to one of the "boys," and that she had had more than 
one admirer. They were mistaken. I knew enough about 
the hmnan soul to distinguish truth from falsehood, and had 
no^dftpbt that I had won her whole affedion. I don't say 
that I ^was her first and only love. But what did that matter ? 
I was content to know that from the moment she became 
mine she was wholly mine, body and soul. At that time I 
was her love, the strongest love of her life. 

Or, at least, one of them. For there was another love 



MY WEDDING a8l 

Stronger than the one I inspired, which ultimately won the 
day — ^her love for the Elbe and the breeze that rippled its 
surface. 

But I did not know that at the time. 

I begged Engel Tiedje and Auntie Siene to come to my 
wedding, but they refused. My Ballum fjimily, however, 
accepted, and I went to meet them at the station on the 
afternoon before my marriage. 

As I could not see them on the platform after the train had 
come in, I ran past the carriage doors to look for them. Sud- 
denly the sound of much talking and laughing made me stop, 
and I caught sight of Auntie Lena, installed in all her glory, 
holding forth to a tightly packed audience, one member of 
which had aftually crept into the luggage rack over her head. 
Uncle Gosch, on the other hand, with his blue cap on the back 
of his head and his glasses on, was reading a book. As he 
was nearest to me, I nudged him, and he looked up. 

"My darling," he observed to Auntie Lena, "Diek is here. 
I take it we are in Altona; besides, the train has stopped." 

" What ! " they all cried in alarm, " is this Altona ? Quick, 
get out, you fellows ! . . . Good-bye, Auntie Lena ! " 

Auntie Lena would not let them go at once, but continued 
her conversation with the last speaker, chaffing him about the 
woman he would most probably marry. She then had a 
last word with one or two of the others. Meanwhile Uncle 
Gosch had returned to his book and was making copious 
notes. 

At last she turned to him. "Come along, Gosch!" she 
cried. "Look! there is our boy, Otto Babendiek. He's 
going to be married I " 

They all laughed and congratulated me, and Uncle Gosch, 
seizing a button of my coat, announced that there was good 
news from America. "They are both well and at work," he 
said, "Eva at a doctor's and Ememaim on the dodor's brother's 
apple-farm." 

I was deeply moved. Eva was evidently keeping her 
brother near her so as to be able to help him. I expressed my 
delight at the news. 

Then he rambled off on to the subjed of Sven Moder- 
sohn and Pytheas, and described his opponent's ignominious 



282 OTTO BABENDIEK 

retreat. " One strides more proudly over the earth, Dick," he 
said, "when one knows the great milestones of her history!" 

"Gosch," cried Auntie Lena, as we reached the ticket- 
coUedor's barrier, "here's another milestone. Where are 
the tickets?" 

He only looked bewildered, and asked what all the fuss was 
about. I saw that he was still in the clouds with Pytheas and 
his defeated antagonist. So I explained to him in great detail 
that he and Auntie Lena had just travelled from Ballum to 
Altona and that they must have had to buy two tickets for the 
journey. He listened eagerly, as though he were being given 
extremely interesting information. Then with a look of ra- 
diant joy he signified that he understood, and was in entire 
agreement with every word I had uttered. But it required a 
long search in all his pockets before we got on the track of the 
tickets, and it was only when Auntie Lena in her quiet way 
declared that she was convinced they could not be on his 
person that I thought of looking in the book he had been 
reading, where at last I found them being used as book- 
markers. 

I was afraid that Frau Eckmiiller, who had grown rather cold 
since my engagement, and had begun to negle<S my room, 
might be rude to my guests; and, indeed, she was a little bit 
stiff at first and tried to play the heavy town-dweller towards 
country bumpkins. But as soon as Auntie Lena had spread 
herself out in a chair, and addressed her as "my dear," asked 
her about her troubles, and incidentally recommended 
valerian tabloids to her, she began to thaw and grow confiding. 
Soon they were both sobbing together, and it was only when, 
in the midst of her sobs. Auntie Lena happened to glance at 
me that she remembered I was to be married the next day. 
She immediately sprang to her feet, kissed me, and then pro- 
ceeded to dance round the room with me. 

When we were alone she told me how much she loved me, 
and looked at me so tenderly with her beautiful large eyes that 
I could not help dropping on my knees before her and kissing 
her hands. I was overwhelmed by the thought of all she had 
done for me, and by the idea that a stranger had just entered 
my life, who was as near — ay, even nearer — to me than she was. 

She guessed what was going through my mind, and stroking 
my hair said softly: " We'll still be good friends, won't we? I 



MY WEDDING 283 

never thought I should live to be so proud of you," she added, 
smiling through her tears ; " but you looked such an odd little 
figure when I first saw you, with your great boots and your 
trousers tucked into them. You were about ten, I suppose." 

Direftly after lunch Sooth took my uncle to the Public 
Library, and Aimtie Lena and I went to Ovelgonne. 

We found the whole family assembled, except Gesa, who 
was paying a visit to a friend. The two younger brothers were 
there — the Town Hall official and Eusebius, the budding 
business-man. The accountant, whom I had not yet met, 
was also present, having come over from Gliickstadt for the 
wedding. To my surprise there was also another brother, the 
eldest, a broad-shouldered man with an open, smiling face, 
whose existence had been concealed from me, and who said 
that he had a little farm in East Holstein. 

From the sofa Auntie Lena cast her great eyes from one to 
the other of the strangers about her, and I perceived for the 
first time what strange folk they were, and how poverty- 
stricken the room looked. When she had taken stock of the 
company, with a sure instind she took my prospedive mother- 
in-law's hand in hers, and, drawing her closer to her on the 
sofa, said: "I see, my dear, that things have not been easy 
for you. The others have been sitting and you have been 
standing. Gome and sit by me for a bit!" 

"I have a good husband," Frau vom Gang replied, gazing 
at her with her fine brown childlike eyes. 

"So I see, my dear; but I can also see that he's not the stuff 
martyrs are made of!" 

Herr vom Gang smiled at her. He was quite pleased to 
have been understood. "I have always striven for mankind 
in general," he observed, "and possibly my own house has 
suffered a little." 

Auntie Lena told them a long story of a similar case. "But 
you might help your wife a little," she added. "Why not? 
It wouldn't iiurt you." Then turning to Frau vom Gang she 
said kindly, "Four fine healthy boys, my dear. ... I hope 
they are all doing well." 

She replied that they were all good boys, and introduced 
each in tiu*n, dismissing the eldest with a brief reference to 
his rustic occupation, and speaking in greater detail about the 
others. 



284 OTTO BABENDIEK 

Twice the eldest son, the farmer, interrupted her — once to 
express the hope that the accountant would find a good per- 
manent job before long, and the second time to remind her 
that the youngest had not yet secured any paid employment, 
but was only a probationer. 

"At any rate," replied his mother, "he is only waiting until 
his uncle in furthest Ind sends for him. He has a big business 
there — something connefted with land and banking. I don't 
quite know what." 

She wanted to say a good deal more about the Indian uncle, 
but at that moment Gesa appeared, and going up to Auntie 
Lena greeted her with the shy smile with which she always 
met strangers. Then, perching herself on the arm of the sofa, 
she seized a blouse, and set to work on it with her usual huge 
stitches. 

Auntie Lena monopolized the conversation for a while, 
filling the whole room with her fine rich voice. When the 
farmer son got up, saying he had to go to Altona, Auntie Lena 
and I also took our leave and went with him, Gesa walking 
beside me with her arm linked in mine. 

"Now tell me, my dear boy," said Auntie Lena to the 
farmer son, "how many of your family have yoiu: clesir, wide- 
awake eyes? Your father and you have got them, but how 
many of the others ? " 

He smiled broadly. "And my little sister Gesa," he re- 
joined. 

Auntie Lena smiled kindly at her. "I am glad, my child, 
for your sake as well as Holler's," she said. "But the others 
seem to be rather up in the clouds." 

The farmer agreed. "They get it from mother," he ex- 
plained. 

Auntie Lena proceeded to discuss the father. She said she 
had heard that he did nothing but found one club after 
another, and observed that he would do better to build some 
ladders to bring his family down to earth. 

The man smiled. "That's out of the question," he replied. 
"My father cares only about things outside the house, not 
about his family. He watches them as though they were a 
cage full of monkeys. I saw that as a boy, and left them as 
soon as I could." 

Gesa was striding along at my side smiling happily. The 



MY WEDDING 285 

conversation did not trouble her. She had seen what went 
on at close quarters ever since she was a child, and imagined 
that I saw it all as clearly as she did. 

"I think the girl is a good sort," Auntie Lena observed in 
a low, emphatic whisper when they had left us. 

"That's the main thing," I replied gratefully. 

She agreed, but thought it a pity that I could expecS no 
help from any of her family except the farmer son. "But you 
are bound to respeft the mother, Diek," she added. "My 
God, what fools mothers are . . . even those who think 
themselves most intelligent!" 

I knew she was thinking of herself, and that she was crying. 
"But Gesa is different," I said. "After all, I am only marrying 
her, not her family." 

"Yes," she replied, "but marriage is not only love, Diek, 
but friendship. It is not all kisses; you must have some sort 
of order. Tell me, what is there deep down in her heart? 
What is her favourite occupation ? " 

I bit my lip and confessed I did not know. 

"There is something," she continued, "but it's not house- 
work, sewing, reading, jollification, or dancing. I saw it. 
There's some force behind her." 

When I told her that Gesa loved sailing she exclaimed : " I 
see, I see! Then it will be a struggle between home and 
boating, and I hope home will win ! " 

"Auntie Lena," I observed after a while, " I have loved only 
two girls in my life — Eva and Gesa." 

"Then why didn't you try to win Eva, Diek?" she asked 
softly. 

I was astonished and alarmed. "But, Auntie," I cried 
emphatically, "from her earliest days she belonged toEilert, 
you know that! And then remember what I was when I came 
to your house — a. village waif, a working child, and you were 
such great people in my eyes. I always looked up to you 
and her. I do still!" 

She thought a moment. "I hope you will get over that 
attitude of looking up, Diek," she replied. "You would have 
suited each other so well!" And she heaved a sigh. "But 
everything goes wrong! Although I believe even that is the 
will of God, Diek!" 

When we reached the Butenschons* we found Uncle Gosch 



286 OTTO BABENDIEK 

in animated conversation with Clara's aunt, and as Auntie 
Lena strongly suspeded that her husband's eagerness was 
inspired more by the lady than by the subjed they were dis- 
cussing she thought it wise to suggest there might be some- 
thing boiling over in the kitchen, as she smelt a strong smell 
of burning. 

Just as the aunt ran out, who should come in but Balle 
Bohnsack and Dina, whom I had invited to my wedding. I 
wanted to show my old school-friend a mark of esteem, and 
also to give him an opportunity of being with Dina. For after 
their last meeting I had begun to entertain the daring hope 
that they might yet be yoke-fellows. 

Balle looked wonderful. He wore a red check shirt, a loose 
jacket, and a bright red tie; his trousers were stuffed into high 
boots that were shining black, and his forelock hung defiantly 
over his brow. Owing to the presence of many strangers 
and Auntie Lena, for whom he had the profoundest respedl, 
he had lost his customary assurance. Nevertheless, in order 
to remind me of our complete understanding, he could not 
refrain from winking at me again and again, in his old manner, 
with one eye closed and the eyebrow of the other jerking 
spasmodically up and down under his fringe. I was not sure 
whether he was trying to express his joy over Dina's presence 
or to congratulate me on my marriage, 

Dina was talking to Auntie Lena, and I went up to her and 
told her how pleased I was that she had come. She wore a 
very simple, tight-fitting blue dress, trimmed with lace at the 
cuffs and collar, and her skin had been scrubbed so hard that 
it looked as though it might bleed at any moment. 

I told her that, next to the bride, she would be the prettiest 
girl present, and added that I would ask Balle what he thought 
of her dress. 

"Him?" she cried, throwing me a glance full of indignation 
and contempt. 

I signed to him and he came up. 

When Auntie Lena saw him she was reminded of a certain 
rainy little railway station, and laying a hand on his shoul- 
der she exclaimed: "You dear good fellow!" Then looking 
at Dina and noticing her indignant expression, she added: 
"How can you be frightened of him? What an impregnable 
litde fortress you are ! Why, if I were you I would .marry 



MY WEDDING 287 

him every day! I would only make one or two slight im- 
provements in him." 

"Unfortunately," said Balle reproachfully, "she has got it 
into her head that she must marry a sweep. But I think a 
cattle-dealer is better than that — quite apart from what I 
happen to be like." And he began the play with his eyes 
again, but so wildly that I was afraid he would never get them 
straight again. 

Dina did not look at him, but plucked at her white cuffs, so 
as to make him feel that to have a cattle-dealer as a husband 
was the very last thing that would enter her mind. 

"I have a feeling," observed Balle, with all his accustomed 
dignity, "that your wedding is going to put an end to an 
old feud and lead to another wedding. And I don't mind 
betting a sheep," he added, "that before another twenty-four 
hours have elapsed a certain haughty young person will address 
a certain other very eligible party as her dear Balle." 

She swore she would jump into the Elbe first, and added 
that if she ever had occasion to speak to him again she would 
never utter that abominable name of Balle, but try to discover 
whether he had not got a Christian name like other people. 

After we had finished our meal Auntie Lena fell asleep, and 
there was comparative silence round the table. 

Up to that moment I had not mentioned a word about my 
novel. As the bridegroom, however, I felt it incumbent upon 
me to entertain the company, and as I was not a little proud 
of my creation I fetched the last chapter of the manuscript and 
read it aloud in a low voice. 

They all listened most attentively. 

When I came to the point where my hero embarked on the 
daring exploit of making his way across the wild and trackless 
Rockies my uncle gave a little cry of pain, and asked how I 
could possibly have continued the narrative without referring 
to other exploring expeditions, and more particularly the voy- 
age of discovery which had led Pytheas to the North Sea. 

I pleaded that had I done so I might have wearied my 
readers. 

But Uncle Gosch remained adamant, maintaining that just 
as he could not imagine any American novelist omitting all 
reference to Columbus, so he could not believe that any 
European would fell to mention Pytheas, and hoped that I 



288 OTTO BABENDIEK 

would never write a book in which that illustrious name did 
not occur. 

I promised to do my best, and continued to read. But when 
I came to the point where my villain was trying to contrive 
the death of the hero's sweetheart, by making the car in which 
they were both driving run into a rock, Balle objefted that a 
herd of oxen would be much more appropriate, and the elder 
Fraulein Butenschon and Uncle Gosch agreed. Sooth was 
evidently deeply moved by the danger threatening the girl, 
and Dina with a blush shyly suggested that, although I was 
the best judge, I must take care not to let the girl be killed 
or dirty her frock, and that a rock would be a much cleaner 
obstacle than a horrible herd of oxen. 

"That's meant for me," exclaimed Balle. "But if she 
promises to look at me to-morrow as kindly as she is looking 
at you now I undertake to withdraw my amendment about 
the oxen." 

At this moment Auntie Lena woke up, and immediately 
proceeded to congratulate Sooth on the way he looked after 
his brothers and sisters, about which she had known for years. 

He was covered with confusion and did not know where to 
look, and when Clara Butenschon began belauding farmers 
and peasants, and declaring that if ever she had children she 
would send them all to farms in the country, and laughed 
loudly when Auntie Lena upbraided her, he looked utterly 
bewildered. 

A bed had been made up for Sooth on my sofa that night, 
and when we retired he said that he was afraid he would not 
sleep a wink. 

"Why not?" Tasked. 

"You think what she said about her children was a joke," 
he explained. "But she meant it seriously. She is either 
hard-hearted or dangerous — I don't know which — ^and I can 
see all our children going one after the other to the peasants 
the moment they are born." 

I tried to coinfort him. "Besides," I said, "you may not 
have any children." 

"No children?" he exclaimed anxiously. "Why, she says 
she wants seven, and will send them all to farms!" 

I laughed him to scorn, and turning my thoughts to my own 
bliss soon fell asleep. 



MY WEDDING sSg 

I woke up the next morning before dawn, to find that Sooth 
had abxady gone; so, dressing quickly, I thought I would 
look for him in the flat. In the tiny hall I found Clara busy 
sweeping, and asked her whether she had seen Sooth. She 
was surprised, and replied that she had not. Feeling uneasy, I 
returned to my room, where I found a little note, in which he 
begged me to inform Clara that he could not marry her, as 
to do so would go against his conscience. 

I returned to Clara in great alarm and showed her the note. I 
noticed that she too was frightened and turned pale. Glancing 
at the clock, she snatched up her coat and hat, saying that 
although she hoped he would be back before she returned, as 
he could not possibly play her such a trick on her wedding-day, 
she was going to look for him, and begged me to join her. 

I did so. She hoped to find him at the station, feeling siure 
that he would change his mind at the last moment. 

We did not find him in the station-hall, but in the dark 
corner of the third-class waiting-room which his brothers and 
sisters had occupied. I knew from his expression that he was 
seeing things blacker than ever before in his life, for his hat 
was pulled down over his eyes lower than I had ever seen it. 

I went up to him and pulled his hat off. At first he did 
not recognize me. And it was only when Fraulein Butenschon 
dropped on to a bench and doubled up with laughter over the 
table that he looked first at me and then at her, and said in 
sepulchral tones that he would go back with us. 

I seemed to be dreaming! There I stood in a frock-coat, 
receiving Auntie Lena's congratulations, hearing her speak of 
me as her third child, whom she loved as dearly as the other 
two, and kissing her again and again. A moment later I was 
sitting in a huge carriage upholstered in shabby grey cloth 
with Gesa at my side. She was in white, with a wreath of 
myrtle on her fair locks. Her hand was cold and trembling 
as it sought for mine. Behind her were the friends and com- 
panions of my childhood. I remember the procession at the 
church — ^Auntie Lena and Herr vom Gang, Uncle Gosch with 
my mother-in-law, my editor-in-chief and his son, followed by 
Gesa's brothers, Paul Sooth and his eldest sister, and repre- 
sentatives of all my father-in-law's twenty-five clubs. Among 
the company were Balle and Dina, and I could hear Balle's 



290 OTTO BABENDIEK 

voice booming in the rear, while Dina implored him not to 
talk so much. Suddenly, just as we were entering the church, 
Balle shouted to me across the heads of the others that she had 
adually called him "Balduin." On either side of the church 
door stood over a score of Gesa's "boys," making an arch of 
their sculls and cheering their companion on many a sail. 
When we got inside there was a sudden outcry among the 
women. "Your petticoat, Gesa! Gesa, your petticoat! 
The safety-pins must have come undone!" They formed a 
ring round her, so that I could only see the top of her head 
and the myrtle wreath, and a moment later we stood confront- 
ing Pastor Peterson, with his huge, weather-beaten sailor's 
face. My "Yes" rang out bright and clear, and Gesa's low 
and quivering. After the ceremony Auntie Lena wept, and 
Uncle Gosch, in the tones of a monarch placing an order about 
his Prime Minister's neck, greeted me as "his old ally and 
comrade-in-arms on the question of Pytheas " ! 

Gesa was trembling so much on the way out that I asked her 
what was the matter. She whispered that she had been in 
church only once before in her life — for her confirmation — 
and that churches always frightened her. Outside there were 
signs of a conunotion round our carriage, and I discovered that 
Balle had turned out the coachman and insisted on driving 
us home himself with Dina installed beside him on the box. 

The festivities at the inn lasted a long time, but when at 
about eleven o'clock I turned to Gesa and asked her whether 
she would like me to take l\er home she nestled so close to me 
and begged me so sweetly to stay that I could not resist her. 

Things were growing very lively. Auntie Lena was again 
a little bit perturbed about Uncle Gosch, who was sitting 
absorbed in conversation with Clara's aunt; but after skilfully 
contriving to spirit him away to my mother-in-law's side her 
voice once more recovered its full rich tone. 

One of the "boys" had been entrusted with the duty of 
addressing a few words to Gesa in the name of his companions. 
At last he rose to his feet, pronounced a sentence, and then 
stuck fast. We all waited, hoping he would continue and make 
an end of the business. But he remained tongue-tied, staring 
at us, and I heard Balle ask my father-in-law whether he should 
make him sit down. At last Auntie Lena, in her fullest and 
richest tones, exclaimed: "Sit down, my dear boy!" 



MY WEDDING 2gi 

Then my father-in-law, who could not stand much in the 
way of drink, embarked on a rambling speech. For a long 
while none of us knew what he was talking about. Gradually, 
however, we gathered that Gesa and I were only another club 
or union which he had founded, and of which he had been 
eleded president. One or two people tried to call him to 
order, but it was no good, and we had to let him elaborate 
his idea to the end. 

The company then cleared the little room and began 
dancing, and I noticed that Gesa's bluestocking friend danced 
several times with a fat ship's mate, who seemed to be putting 
down vast quantities of liquor. After one of the dances she 
came and sat beside me, and asked me sorrowfully whether I 
thought there were such things as "absolute values" and 
"eternal love," and gazed despondently into the farthest 
depths of the room. I tried my best to help her, though I 
was not quite so zealous as I had been on my first sailing 
trip. 

When I saw Uncle Gosch going towards the door alone I 
hurried after him, in case he wanted help. But he only wished 
to gaze upon the starlit waters of the Elbe, and to listen to the 
lapping of its wavelets on the bank. "To think, Diek," he 
said, "that they may have passed by this very spot!" 

Thinking he was making a mistake, I reminded him that his 
children had travelled down the Elbe from Hamburg, not 
up it. But he was referring to Pytheas. "How their eyes, 
blinded by the sun of the south, must have peered through 
our grey nights, Diek ! " he exclaimed. 

On our return Balle informed me that Dina had just called 
him Balduin again quite calmly and naturally. His freckled 
face was radiant, and he winked again in his own peculiar way. 
In faft he grew so excited that he could think of nothing better 
to do than swathe himself in a blanket and ad the Alge9iras 
Conference before us with the help of some of Gesa's boys. 
He, of course, was the Bey of Morocco. But as his spirits rose, 
and he began to &&. the part of a marsh peasant bringing his 
pigs to market, Dina launched an ultimatum, which suddenly 
pulled him up short, and during the clamour that ensued 
Gesa and I slipped away. 

It was a bright starlight night, and a west wind fanned our 
faces. I noticed that Gesa went over to my left, explaining 



2g2 OTTO BABENDIEK 

that as she wished to be an obedient wife she must keep to 
my left. 

"You only want to be nearer the Elbe," I retorted, chaffing 
her, "Even now it attrads you!" 

She denied this. "But I am glad we can see it and came 
this way," she added, glancing across the gleaming waters. 
"Just listen to the ripples ! . . • When we get indoors I want 
to listen and see whether we can still hear them." 

I hugged her tightly. "But for the moment you ought to 
see and hear only me," I replied. 

She said nothing, but walked slowly on by my side. I 
seemed to feel her heart beating, or thought I did. 

But I noticed that her face was still turned towards the river. 



CHAPTER XIX 

Gesa Goes Sailing 

Every day I used to leave our little cottage on the bank before 
dawn and run to the station to catch my train for town. On 
reaching the newspaper office I would throw myself heart and 
soul into the work and keep scissors, pen, and bell for the 
printer's boy going the whole morning. 

As soon as my three hours' work was done I would run back 
to the station, reach home, find lunch waiting for me on the 
hearth, eat it standing, and then lie down for a bit and read. 
Then I would turn to my own work. 

I was writing my second novel at this time. Having gained 
courage, I had forged ahead, and no longer dealt with subjedls 
about which I felt cold and indifferent, but described my own 
passions and sufferings, which, as I began to perceive, 
covered a wide and varied range. My scenes were no longer 
laid in foreign parts or in No-man's Land, and I chose subjeds 
which had enthralled and terrified me as a child — tales which 
my father and Engel Tiedje had told each other across the 
forge fire while the smoke circled about their heads seeking 
a way out. 

I used to sit absolutely alone in the quiet litde hoiise, at the 
side of which some narrow and seldom used stone steps led up 
to the village or down to the river. There was not a sound 
outside, except perhaps the ripple of the waters or the oc- 
casional shriek of a sea-gull or a steamer's siren. From time 
to time, when the scenes my mind conjured up moved me too 
deeply, I would stand up, go over to the litde window — I had 
to stoop, it was so low — and glance at the waves and the clouds 
and the passing boats. By this time I knew almost every one 
of them — their size, their freight, their crews, and their des- 
tination. I had heard it all from CJesa. One more glance 
across the broad river to the misty horizon beyond the farther 
bank and I would return to my table and continue writing, 
undisturbed until nightfall. 

293 



294 OTTO BABENDIEK 

But where was Gesa ? Yes, where was Gesa ? 

I don't deny that occasionally she did happen to be at home. 
Yes . . . that is true. There were even times when, on my 
return, I found her busy in our little kitchen preparing our 
midday meal, none too skilfully. Sometimes too, while I sat 
working, she would take a scat beside my writing-table, and 
make a blouse or some other article of clothing, putting in her 
famous long stitches. She would then cast an occasional 
glance of mingled surprise and malevolence at my pen, and 
himi to herself. These glances at my pen and her humming 
disturbed me; but I said nothing. Yes, I admit that there 
were such occasions. 

But as a rule Gesa was not there. On retiu-ning home I 
would find the place locked up. Inside everything was 
deserted, and I would go to the kitchen and eat whatever 
food I found left on the hearth. But it was hardly ever 
quite ready, for Gesa was accustomed to her companions 
lending her a hand in preparing food, and, after all, was I 
not her companion? But I had no gift for cooking. Never- 
theless, with a quiet smile, I soon took to it, reflefting 
that it was a refreshing pradical adlivity compared with my 
brain-work. 

Was I miserable because she was not there ? Did I reproach 
her ? No ! I was still too feverishly preoccupied by the work 
I had just done at the office, and even more so by the task that 
lay before me. Of course I felt I wanted my beloved ; and 
how entrancing she was with her timid caresses and her 
chatter as she lay in my arms until deep into the night! It 
is true that she talked only of the Elbe and of sailing and 
clothes; but that did not matter! It was the way she said it 
all. It was her love that gave it a meaning. And, oh, how I 
loved her, and how happy I felt! In those days I did not 
miss the comrade — no, not yet. Work was my comrade, and 
as I needed no other I did not feel the lack of one. 

Nay, I almost made excuses for her not being more at home 
and for always being either out on the river with her "boys " 
or over at her mother's, perched on the arm of the sofa, 
making her long stitches, or talking to her father, who like 
herself always had plenty of time on his hands, and was 
her twin soul. For hours at a time the two would discuss 
sails and sailing, old and new, past and future, while my 



GESA GOES SAILING 295 

mother-in-law sat silently by, flinging her little wooden sticks 
hither and thither, and dreaming about the rich uncle in 
furthest Ind and the great future awaiting her children. 

Yes, that is how matters stood with Gesa.. I knew she was 
safe, and I had my work. My work! 

When at night I could hear her footsteps outside I would 
turn from my work and greet her. Looking down at me with 
mingled surprise and afFedion, she seemed to ask. Can this 
writing man really be my husband? Then as I rose to my 
feet she would spring into my arms and be mine until the 
morning breeze kissed the window, to give her the first 
greeting from the powers that were her masters. 

I was never one of those who liked to work on the Sabbath, 
and would have preferred to starve rather than do anything on 
Sundays. But Gesa was different, not because she did any 
housework on Sundays, though. In fatSt, when did Gesa do 
her housework? She used to complain about the cares of 
housekeeping; but what trouble could our four small rooms 
have been, seeing that not one of them was larger than my 
father's forge fire ? Moreover, the bulk of the work, even in 
these four small rooms, was done by me. She also complained 
about the trouble her sewing gave her. But how many hours 
could she have spent at it, seeing that she wore the simplest of 
clothes, which were all tacked together with her peculiar long 
stitches, and for the rest were held together with a dozen or 
more salety-pins ? No, Gesa did very little housework, either 
on Sundays or any other day. Truth to tell, (Jesa had no 
Sunday. She led exadly the same life on Sundays as on 
weekdays. She knew nothing of that wonderful concept, 
half sacred, half mystical — the symbol of pure and eternal 
peace — ^which consists in an ever-fresh perception of the 
eternal holiness of the Creator. She was like a bird that 
took refuge on the bank as long as it rained or thundered, 
but spread its wings and flew to the river as soon as the sky 
cleared. 

If I said : " Let us stay at home, Gesa ! Let us sit down and 
think for a while, or sit side by side at the window and think 
and talk ! " she did not understand, but would only beg me to 
go down with her to the river, where she used to go every 
morning. 

Timidly I suggested that she should go alone, and leave me 



2g6 OTTO BABENDIEK 

to myself, to keep the Sabbath in solitude. For to me those 
hours were the most precious in the whole week. 

But this made her quite wretched. She could not bear to 
think of me sitting alone in the cottage, or taking a solitary 
walk. It was as though she were leaving me in a cellar, shut 
out from sun and moon. She insisted on my going down to 
the river with her, to her boat and her friends. And she was 
only happy when I was on her beloved water with her, clinging 
to the fore-yard, and listening tO' her comments on wind and 
sail, and her old loves. 

Eventually we would land at Ovelgonne, and find ourselves 
surrounded by crowds of her friends, who were far more 
numerous on Sundays than on weekdays, and we would sit 
in our boats or in the parlour of an inn and talk about the 
Elbe. They were all mad on the Elbe, particularly those who 
had come from Hamburg for the day. 

My father-in-law, in his smart blue suit and his cap with the 
gold shield thrust a little to one side, was the heart and soul of 
these gatherings, and was always very lively. I confess I was 
bored, bored to death. I would try to engage one of my 
neighbours in conversation about things that interested me, 
and would ask him about his life, his antecedents, his friends, 
colleagues, and future. But he never seemed to have any, or 
to know anything about them if he had. 

If we went to my father-in-law's house for an hour or so we 
usually saw the two youngest boys there, and I would ask 
Eusebius how he had got on during the week. Unfortunately, 
owing to his strenuous overnight study of Chinese he would be 
tongue-tied and unable to speak. And if I asked Adalbert 
about even the most ordinary matters we would, to my regret, 
stop short, because some secret connecfted with the Mayor or 
the city of Hamburg sealed his lips. A casual mention of the 
Woermann Steamship Company would land us on the threshold 
of secrets which, if divulged, would have sent the Town Hall 
of Hamburg sky-high; and so it was hopeless. Finally, if I 
elefted to talk to my mother-in-law I did so at my own risk, 
for she would soon start off on the subjeft of the rich uncle 
in furthest Ind. But she looked so straight and comely, and 
there was so much faith and goodwill in her eyes, as she jerked 
her little wooden sticks hither and thither, that for a while I 
would feel a litde happier. 



GESA GOES SAILING 297 

When Gesa called me, and, seizing my hand, led me away, 
we would return with her father to the crowd of Elbe maniacs; 
and there I would sit, imprisoned in the cage of my own 
thoughts. If ever I made an attempt to escape from the 
cage a woM or a question from one of those about me would 
quickly drive me back again, and when I felt I could 
endure it no longer I would plead a headache and go for a 
lonely walk. 

Then, at last, my mind would gradually recover its serenity; 
by degrees the wonderful capacity to celebrate the Sabbath 
would be restored, and from the svmimit of some sacred hill I 
would contemplate life, freed from its worrying details and 
noises. 

Sometimes, although I had not intended to be away for 
longer than an hour, I would find it impossible to return to 
my fellows, and take off my crown and fling it into the Elbe. 
So I would prolong my walk, and eventually return home in 
a state of mUd bewilderment regarding my own mood, Gesa, 
and my life in general. 

In the spring I happened to see that a group of Northern 
artists were giving an exhibition of their works at Hamburg, 
and among their number I read the name of Eilert Mumm, 
now so familiar to all lovers of art. The article dealing with 
the exhibition spoke very highly of my old friend, saying that 
two years previously he had created something of a sensation 
with some landscapes lull of wonderful passion and power. I 
also heard that he had called at the office for me, and felt very 
proud that he should have wanted to see me. 

Putting everything aside, I went to visit the exhibition, and 
after looking at the pidlures and standing for some time lost in 
admiration before them I inquired of an official where the 
artist was living. 

The man smiled and replied that this was a question 
which neither he nor anyone else — not even the artist himself 
— could answer. But he thought he was staying at a friend's 
house, and I gathered that the friend in question was a 
woman. 

A few days later Gesa came up from the river and informed 
me that while she was sitting in her feoat that afternoon at 
Ovelgonne a broad-shouldered thick-set man with a large head 
and extraordinarily piercing eyes had come to the landing- 



298 OTTO BABENDIEK 

Stage, accompanied by friends and a pretty woman, and had 
told her that he had heard she was my wife. 

I was overjoyed. "Yes, it is he!" I cried. "Did you 
invite him to come here?" 

She nodded and replied that he was coming on Sunday 
afternoon. Then she questioned me about my own claim to 
being an artist. Eilert, she declared, was an artist, and yet he 
had said that he loved the Elbe. And she looked up at me 
with puzzled eyes. 

I admitted the possibility of what she said, but pointed out 
that an artist was like a hunter, who moved from one hunting- 
ground to another. 

" Oh, you must write a novel about sailing!" she cried, her 
beautiful eyes lighting up. 

I shook my head. "No, Gesa dear," I replied. "You are 
mistaken if you imagine you would be happier about me if I 
did. You see, Eilert and I love the Elbe in a different way 
from what you do. To us it is merely the scene, the image of 
the life force." 

But I could see that she did not understand and that her 
interest immediately vanished. 

When I questioned her about Eilert's lady friend she looked 
dubious and said she might have been an adress, and that now 
and again she broke into a foreign language and looked no 
better than she should be. 

Eilert arrived before lunch, just as we were taking om* food 
into the sitting-room, and shared our repast. Unfortimately 
Gesa had not had time to prepare a proper meal, and all we 
had was potatoes in their skins, and a little ham, which we 
served on wooden plates, of which we had only two, so that 
Gesa and I had to share one between us. 

She was somewhat ashamed, and cast quick, shy glances at 
me from time to time. But Eilert was so simple and natural 
that she grew calmer and happier and watched him with con- 
siderable curiosity. He was a little over thirty at the time, 
but looked older. Exposure to wind and sun, hard living, 
with plenty of wine, love, and smoking, had made his powerful 
features prematurely lined. Now and again he talked with 
great animation, but suddenly his flow of thought would stop 
as though it had been swallowed up in a well, and he would 
sit tongue-tied, not even listening to what others were saying. 



GESA OOES SAILING 2gg 

But there was something great and brilliant about him; he 
seemed to belong to all Europe rather than to any particular 
European country. 

He glanced round our modest and oh ! so tiny rooms, and 
congratulated me on Gesa. 

"There, do you hear that?" she exclaimed, flushing with 
pleasure. 

"Yes," said Eilert to her, "but you have made a good 
bargain too, let me tell you ! We were all very fond of him 
in Balliun. Why, he was a sort of little king there ! But you 
must have felt there was something special about him, and 
that's why you took him ! " 

She shook her head, and, as this was the second time that 
day that she had failed to understand, her eyes filled with 
tears, and she cried in bewilderment, " Me? No, I loved him 
—that was all!" 

He told us he had been in Belgium, where he had married 
and been divorced, and that after making friends with a French 
artist in Normandy he had often visited Paris, but latterly 
had lived in Antwerp. 

I told him all I knew about his mother and sister and the 
Ballum people. But I could not persuade him to get into 
touch with Auntie Lena and Eva again. He said it would 
be useless. "Even Eva," he added, "is biased and takes it 
upon herself to judge people." 

He informed us that his lady friend was a would-be admirer, 
who had clung to him ever since he had been in Amsterdam. 
"Very nice and plezisant, but not sincere. I'm sick of that 
kind of woman," he declared. "If there's one woman in the 
world I should like to have with me at the present moment, 
do you know who it is? — Uhle Monk!" Then he added, "I 
want to develop in my own way and refuse to be disturbed. 
That is why the only kind of woman I can stand is one who 
has no pretensions to being my spiritual equal, and who refuses 
— does not even attempt — to interfere with my nature, my 
work, and my daily task." 

Gesa listened breathlessly, and drawing closer to my side 
put her hand in mine. I believe she was frightened. 

He said he would like to stop about a month on the Elbe. 
He had an idea, and pointed with the stem of his pipe up 
the river. 



300 OTTO BABENDIEK 

Gesa, thinking that he wanted to paint a pifture from our 
cottage, suggested eagerly that he might stay next door, and 
that Uhle Monk might come to keep house for him. 

He agreed, saying that the two shepherds could quite well 
spare her for a few weeks. 

"Or Bothilde might take her place for a bit with the two 
shepherds," I suggested. "You know — Balle's sister." 

After inspeding the house next door, Eilert was perfedly 
satisfied with the arrangement, and sent a message to Uhle by 
a boatman who was going to Balltun. It was charaderistic 
of his simple nature that he instindively avoided modern 
methods of communication. 

When he had gone I discussed him with Gesa for some time, 
and, noticing that she was unusually quiet, I asked her what 
was the matter. She replied that she had watched him care- 
fully, and he had not shown any signs of surprise at our simple 
meal. 

I replied that neither he nor I troubled much about such 
things. 

She agreed that we were very much alike, even in the 
matter of not liking to be disturbed, and maintained that 
neither of us could stand having a real live creature near him. 

I smiled and protested faintly. 

"Oh, yes," she rejoined, "I know I am always disturbing 
you. And I often want you to go for a sail. But the worst 
of it is, I am not a good companion to you. Uhle, you say, 
is a very good housewife, and I am not." 

I ought to have banished this notion completely from her 
mind ; but it just happened to touch my sore point. Besides, 
I imagined that it was my duty to help her. When one is 
young one thinks one can reform people and change their 
natures for their own good. So I said cautiously: "I think 
it would be rather a good plan if you made up your mind, 
once and for all, no matter what the wind is like, to devote 
either your mornings or your afternoons to the house. You 
would make things much more comfortable for me, and feel 
all the happier yourself." Truth to tell, it passed my compre- 
hension how she could exist day after day, without any duties, 
whiling away the time sailing up and down, with little or 
much sail, fast or slow, before the wind. 

She was astonished and distressed by this first reference to 



GESA GOES SAILING 3OI 

the difference between us. "But the wind pays no attention 
to the time of day, Holler!" she stammered. 

I tried tadfully to remind her that the wind, although 
important, was not the only important phenomenon on earth. 

She agreed, but repeated her objedlion about the wind's dis- 
regard of time. 

I hinted discreetly that numbers of women I knew — ^Auntie 
Lena, for instance, and her own mother — did their housework 
without paying any attention to the wind. 

Although I said all this with a smile, she saw that I was 
serious. "But my father lives like that!" she exclaimed in 
sudden alarm. "So perhaps I ought not to have married!" 

I laughed, and light-heartedly too. "You not marry?" 
I cried. "Who on earth was more fit to marry than you?" 
And I kissed and fondled her. 

Four days later I saw, on my return from work, a piece of 
paper pinned to the front door bearing the word "Arrived," 
and on going next door I found Eilert and Uhle in the kitchen. 
Uhle was very simply dressed, and wore round her neck a 
Frisian necklace of gold and silver balls, given her by Eilert. 
But her face did not look as red as it used to do, probably 
because her hair was going grey. Her mouth was still as large 
and luscious as ever, though she must have been about forty. 

When she saw me she laughed in her silly, confused way, 
gave me good news of Auntie Lena and the couple in America, 
and a moment later, while I was helping Eilert to unpack his 
things, I saw her sitting by the fire, looking into the flames 
exacSly as I had seen her look when I first went to Auntie 
Lena's house as a child. I was so much moved by the sight 
that, laying a hand on her shoulder, I said : " I am glad to see 
you again, dear old Uhle; and with Eilert too ! " 

They lived next door to us for a month, and for me it was 
a period of peculiar bliss. Every afternoon I went over at 
least once to see how the work was progressing, and in the 
first fortnight he finished a landscape of the Elbe. After 
that, as the weather was bad, he remained at home and 
painted a picSure of Uhle. When I happened to catch him 
at work I found him sitting on a low stool, bending over his 
piifture, with his short pipe in his mouth, while Uhle sat in 
firont of him knitting or sewing by the fire. They were usually 



302 OTTO BABENDIEK 

silent when I was there, and if they spoke at all it was in 
slow, soft tones about Balliim and all that went on there. 
They might have been two old workmen or peasants who 
had known each other for years and happened to have met 
on the same job. 

Gesa was deeply interested in them both. But she never 
visited them alone, as they made her feel uncomfortable. 
She went only when I went. She evidently thought about 
them a good deal, and I fancy tried to gather from their 
conversation and the way they lived certain things about my 
nature and our marriage which at that time were beginning 
to cause her some anxiety. She tried to be a better housewife ; 
she watched Uhle's methods, and for weeks gave me meals 
which, though quickly prepared, were at least more con- 
ventional than they had been before. She also made another 
attempt to show an interest in my work, and from the questions 
she asked about my novel I gathered that she sometimes 
peeped into it while I was at the office. But when I told her 
about it I noticed that the imaginative treatment of reality 
was unpleasant, nay, adlually repellent, to her, and that her 
interest flagged. While I was speaking I saw her eyes turn 
quickly to the window, against which the call of the wind 
could be heard, and while she pretended to be listening to me 
her dear eager eyes were looking down at the river. 

I did not know then how utterly different we were. But I 
felt it, or was beginning to feel it. So I spared her the necessity 
for pretence, anxiety, and constraint, which would only have 
harmed her sweet soul, her truthfulness, and her honesty if 
she had persisted. 

"The wind is favourable, Gesa," I said, going to the 
window. "You ought to go for a little sail." 

For a littie while we talked of other things ; then she went 
with me to the window and leant out. " I think Father will 
be able to come with me this afternoon," she observed. 

There was the suggestion of a lie in her words, for my 
father-in-law always had time to accompany her. 

She went to put on her blue woollen jumper, and, on 
returning, flung her arm round my neck. I kissed her 
passionately, and with a little sigh she gave me a hug and 
left. 

Was I too weak? Ought I to have tried by deep and subtle 



GESA GOES SAILING 303 

wiles to wean her from her obsession ? I doubt it ! I should 
only have made an enemy of her. She would only have 
hated me, and would have been filled with loathing, instead 
of love, when she took her last trip of all. 

Uhle, with her marvellous intuition, guessed what was 
wrong with Gesa, and took over the whole of our housework. 
This proved too strong a temptation for Gesa, though possibly 
a recurrence of favourable winds and invitations from friends 
may also have played their part. At all events, the river kept 
her uniisually busy. She also received an invitation to go for 
a cruise round Heligoland, and was away for three days. On 
her return she was delighted to find the whole place in apple- 
pie order. After that we had visitors, good honest yachting 
folk from Denmark, Sweden, and Finland. I liked them, 
but could find nothing to say to them, though Gesa got on 
with them wonderfully. Knowing that I should now be well 
looked after, she went for one or two long trips with them, 
to Kiel and the Danish islands, and sent me pidure postcards, 
on which there was always some kind of vessel in full sail. 
As for her news, it was always the same : " My dear Holler, — 
We are getting a strong sou'-wester. It has been a wonderful 
trip ! The boys are very nice to me. Your Gesa." 

Meanwhile I worked at home alone. But I too was ob- 
sessed. I know that now. For, young as I was, and pas- 
sionately as I loved her, I remember how once, when she 
returned from a long trip, the third day of which I had missed 
her terribly, I nevertheless felt more eager about my work 
than about her. 

Bursting with enthusiasm, she began in her simple, rather 
helpless way to give me an account of her experiences, of the 
wind, the sails, the sea, and the risks they had run. 

But I had been absorbed in my work for four days, and had 
spent one lonely Sunday in a state of extraordinary exaltation, 
with the result that I simply could not listen to her. I could 
not bring myself to lend a sympathetic ear to her description 
of all these incidents, which to me were so jejune and unin- 
teresting. I tried to get her to tell me something about the 
spiritual and emotional aspeds of her excursion, but she could 
not do so, and, not understanding why I should want it, 
turned once more to the vagaries of the mainsail and her 
exploits at the tiller. But I could not listen, and while she 



304 OTTO BABENDIEK 

continued her narrative I proceeded to think out a scene in 
the book I was writing at the time. 

That night in bed I suddenly became aware that she was 
crying, and feeling alarmed — ^for I had not seen her cry before 
— I asked her what was the matter. She told me that she 
had known for a long time that I was quite different from her, 
that I had no sympathy either with her outlook or her con- 
versation, and that her whole family had also remained 
strangers to me. She then proceeded to enumerate her 
shortcomings — her constant preoccupation with sailing, her 
negled of her household duties, her peculiar way of sewing, 
and so on. She had noticed that I was thinking about my 
own "dreadful work" all through her account of her trip, 
and she knew that my soul, my love, and my happiness were 
in "that dreadful work" and not with her and her life. All 
we had in common was our unhappy love for each other; it 
was a great misfortune, and she did not know what would 
happen. 

I scoffed, I protested, and showed my surprise. How gro- 
tesque was the pidure she had drawn ! We unhappy ! And 
I kissed and fondled her, and laughed, and called her the mad- 
dest, tenderest names, until she too had to laugh, and we fell 
asleep in each other's arms. 

When I reached home on the afternoon of the next day — 
Gtesa had left the house at the same time as I had that morning, 
to go off on a long trip — I found a note from Uhle on the 
kitchen-table informing me that my dinner was on the hob. 
I went to fetch it, and ate it in solitude, as I had so often done 
before. Then I went over to my neighbours, and found them 
occupied in the usual way, except that the low-ceilinged 
kitchen seemed to be full of dancing flames. 

Eilert had evidently been poking his nose into chests and 
cupboards, and had found a niunber of church vessels, whose 
shape had delighted his eye — he was drunk at the time — and 
he had given them to Uhle to clean. When I entered he 
was sitting painting and humming old ditties, and studying 
the lights playing about Uhlc's face and arms as she turned 
the vessels over. She was not drunk, but, infeded by his 
fuddled state, she could not help becoming terribly excited, 
and, singing sofdy, she swayed her body about in what 
seemed to me a most uncanny way. 



GESA GOES SAILING 305 

I could not help feeling that what was going on was most 
unfair to the people to whom the articles belonged, but I 
could not tell him so. For what he was doing was also sacred 
to ine, although I saw to my sorrow that he had once again 
fallen a vidim to his old passion. 

He said he wanted to live at the sheep-farm, and made all 
sorts of absurd proposals, declaring that he would invent a 
machine for writing words on the blue sky, but would reveal 
the secret to nobody. What he wanted to write were the 
words: "And God saw everything that He had made, and, 
behold, it was very good." With the stubborn insistence of 
the drunkard, he repeated that everything, everything, was 
good. "Thoroughly good," he said, in friendly, scoffing 
tones, tapping the floor with the end of his pencil, "especially 
you and I and Uhle ! " 

More nonsense of the same kind followed, and as I listened 
I wondered how I could put an end to the disorder before 
me. At last I said quite casually to Uhle: "I say, Uhle, do 
be careful not to let anybody see you with those things. The 
caretaker would get into a terrible row." 

They both listened — they were the kindest-hearted couple 
in the world — and promised to be careful. "Just one hour 
more, little Ensign!" added Eilert. "I am tearing like a 
hart through the undergrowth as it is — but it is going to be 
something!" 

On the following day when I went in Uhle was sitting 
alone by the hearth, and from the little room next door came 
the sound of confused drunken ravings. She signed to me 
not to make a noise and said he was ill. Even the kitchen 
smelt of rum. 

Without saying a word I crept on tiptoe up to the pidure 
and looked at it. But the gold and bronze had all vanished, 
and nothing was left but a dim, dying fire, with Uhle huddling 
up to it, her shoulders bare, staring resignedly and with a look 
of faint expedation into the cooling embers. Gazing steadily 
at the pidure, I suddenly felt I was going to cry, and went 
out. 

When I went there again three days later they had left, 
and their landlady did not know where they had gone. She 
remarked in calm astonishment that she had never known such 
good simple people. 



306 OTTO BABENDIEK 

Meanwhile I had been working very hard. 

I admit that there were material aims behind all my artistic 
zeal; for I was poor and wanted to earn money, so that we 
could live a little more comfortably. Above all I was anxious 
to pay off the mortgage which Uncle Peter still had on my 
parents' house. I was also ambitious, and longed to become 
famous, and to be read by thousands. But the mainspring 
of all my feverish industry at this time was, after all, the 
pleasure I took in the work itself, in the a.& of creation, and 
in forming pi<ftures out of inchoate life. 

My beloved life-mate saw with her intelligent discerning 
eyes how completely my work had taken possession of my 
soul, and knew that this passion was too strong for her to 
supplant. She made the most touching attempts to enter 
into my world, and with a certain sense of shame begged me 
to let her read the books which I considered beautiful. I 
gave her Grimm's Fairy Tales, Theodor Storm's stories, and 
Marryat's Settlers in Canada. But I soon noticed that while 
she held these books in her hand her mind was not in her 
reading, but that she was thinking of the sounds outside, 
while her eyes would wander to the clouds and to the ripples 
on the river. Then with a deep sigh she would lay the book 
down, go up to the window, look out, come back, cast a shy 
glance at me, and finally sit down and pretend to read again. 
And from that moment she became a hypocrite. 

I used to read Marryat's Settlers aloud to her. We wanted 
to practise English pronunciation, so I read the original, 
putting as much feeling and expression as I could into it. 
But I saw that she was amusing herself by drawing, and that 
as I read on and on she was smiling to herself. Then, sud- 
denly, in the middle of my reading, she would exclaim: 
"Oh, look, what a funny boat I've drawn!" 

When she came home she used to describe all the little 
things she had seen. At first I did not understand, but at 
last I concluded that her objeft was to help me with my book 
by providing me with 'copy.' She seemed to think that 
writing a book was like filling a sack of flour or a barrel of 
fish. It was terribly pathetic! And what a hypocrite I had 
to be! I had to pretend that I was delighted, as though she 
really were enriching my store of experience! But, like all 
{>eople who lack imagination, she was singularly sensitive about 



GESA GOES SAILING 307 

lies, and in the end she discovered my pretence and gave 
up 'helping' me. 

After this she enlisted the support of her family. First 
her mother appealed to me and implored me not to take it 
amiss that Gesa spent so much of her time on the Elbe. She 
had had to put up with the same thing herself from her 
husband. But everything would be all right when the Indian 
uncle came back; then we should be able to afford a servant. 
Next my father-in-law approached me. With a twinkle in his 
eye he observed how funny the world and its inhabitants were, 
leaving me to infer that not only he and his children but I 
too was a figure of fun. Then still smiling he urged me to 
give up "all this quill-driving." What did I get out of it? 
I would only grow crooked and bent, and unfit myself for 
real life. I ought to go sailing with him and his friends. I 
did not know how wonderful it was ! 

I was at the end of my tether, and hinted that all people 
were not alike. "I would rather sit huddled up under my 
writing-table for a whole week," I said, "with my head 
between my knees, than spend that amount of time in the 
company of sailing enthusiasts." 

His face clouded; it was surprising, he said, that although 
I was not like either Gesa or himself I did not resemble the 
other side of the family either. 

I reminded him of his eldest son, the farmer, remarking that 
he too had nothing in common with either side of his family. 
"I am like him," I added. 

He smiled and assured me that he himself had done a certain 
amount of writing, but that it had brought him nothing but 
annoyance, and prophesied that I should one day feel the 
same. 

My brother-in-law Adalbert was the next to come to mk, 
and although our conversation was repeatedly interrupted, 
for fear we might touch upon important secrets connected 
with the municipality of Hamburg, in the end I gathered that 
he suggested approaching the Mayor and begging him to use 
his influence on my behalf. 

I was too young and too kind to advise him to think of his 
own future first; so I merely thanked him rather coldly and 
said I preferred to look after myself. 

I gather that G^esa's family must have told her I was 



3o8 OTTO BABENDIEK 

hopeless; for she became very subdued, and I thought I some- 
times heard her crying at night. I hope to Gk)d I was kind to 
her ! I have nothing to reproach her with, and I trust that in 
eternity she feels the same about me. We loved each other, 
and while we were strangers we imagined we each possessed 
the qualities the other desired in a mate. When we found we 
were wrong we did not cease to love one another, but our love 
got into difficulties and began to suffer. 



CHAPTER XX 

A Visit to Stormfeld 

In the late summer I finished my second novel, which was 
based upon memories of my home, my parents, and my 
childhood. I believed it to be not only an original but also 
a good piece of wofk, something that I hoped would stand 
out conspicuously in the literature of my day. But I also 
had moments of deep misgiving, when I wondered whether 
coming from the pen of a Low Saxon like myself my story 
were not too heavy and clumsy, and possibly too serious. 
Nevertheless, though my heart was full of qualms, I ventured 
to submit it to a well-known firm of publishers, and spent 
weeks of torture, during which my mind fluAuated between 
the lowest depths of despair and the most sanguine hopes. 
There were only one or two people who knew I had written 
another novel, and nobody had .the smallest inkling as to 
what it was about, least of all Gesa. 

The publishers accepted it ! 

I was stirred to the depths. The faint, half-frightened 
hope that I had nursed of becoming one of the little group of 
artists whose names stood out before the German people 
seemed as if it might, after all, he realized. How fervently 
I thanked God for the powers with which he had endowed 
me, and how deeply I felt the responsibiUty their possession 
entailed ! But I said nothing about all this to anyone, for I 
have never been communicative. Meanwhile I was con- 
scious that year of possessing a superabundance of strength 
and creative power, as though a rich spring had suddenly 
welled up in my heart, and I sat down and wrote and wrote 
as if from di<5lation, not even giving myself time to elaborate 
or polish the thoughts as I put them on paper. But I did 
not tell anybody about this either, not even Gesa. 

She was puzzled by the publishers' acceptance of my 
second novel, and did not seem to understand what a mar- 
vellous event it was to me. Perhaps I was wrong not to open 

309 



3IO OTTO BABENDIEK 

my heart about it to my mother-in-law. I ought to have 
gone to her and told her that while her mind was always full 
of wonderful dreams and fantasies she had not eyes or ears 
for the marvellous event that had taken place under her very 
nose and which must mean so much for her child, whom I 
loved more than anything on earth! But I said nothing. 
I was too shy and irresolute. 

The publishers were offering me in advanced royalties a 
sum which was several hundred marks above the mortgage 
on my parents' house. It was not surprising that I should 
measure these first literary earnings by this standard; for 
had I not constantly heard the sum mentioned both by my 
parents and Engel Tiedje ever since I had been a child of 
three ? 

I informed Gesa that when I had bought a new outfit for 
herself and me I intended to spend the balance of the money 
in paying off the mortgage on my parents' house — telling her 
that from my earliest childhood I had regarded such a 
possibility as belonging only to the realm of fairy-tale. 

She thoroughly approved of my scheme, and, as she had 
no acquisitiveness whatever, suggested that I should give the 
house to Engel Tiedje as soon as it was free from debt. 

But I shook my head, saying that I would never give up 
my parents' house as long as I lived, for how could I tell 
whether our children might not one day find their home and 
their happiness there ? 

She looked up at me. "Oh, Holler!" she exclaimed in 
faint embarrassment. 

" What's the matter, Gesa?" I cried, suddenly alarmed by 
her manner. " Surely we shall have children ? " But like a 
flash a surmise — nay, a suspicion — entered my mind. 

" I really don't know. Holler ..." she replied sadly. 

"Do you mean you don't want any?" I exclaimed 
aghast. 

She looked up uneasily. "Do you think it would be a 
good thing?" she asked. 

" I hope, Gesa, you are not thinking that it might prevent 
you from going sailing on the Elbe for a time ? " I replied very 
gravely. 

Looking at me until her eyes filled with tears, she answered 
tremulously: "But if it were to take after me it would fly on 



A VISIT TO STORMFELD 3II 

to the water and remain a stranger to you, and if it were 
like you it would be a stranger to me. . . . Who would it 
belong to?" 

I smiled. "Then I should have two on the water." 

" Or in it ! " she exclaimed despondendy. " You're anxious 
enough about me as it is." 

As it was a painful subjed I quickly changed it by an- 
nouncing my intention of taking the money to Stormfeld 
myself and of going to see my adoptive parents in Ballum as 
well. I pleaded as an excuse that I did not Uke to entrust 
Engel Tiedje with the task of paying over the sum for the 
mortgage, but my real motive was that, although neither 
Gesa nor her people had any understanding of what was 
agitating me at that moment, I knew that both in Stormfeld 
and Ballum I should find friends who would rejoice with me 
when I opened my heart to them. 

I went by train to the nearest station to Stormfeld and 
walked the rest of the way, reaching the village about supper- 
time. The front door of our house, which my mother in her 
nervousness would certainly have bolted by now, I found 
open, and I stepped gently into the parlour. 

I noticed that it looked very clean and had hardly changed 
at all, except that the Town Hall of Liineberg was standing 
on the sewing-table. The sight of the litde low-ceilinged 
room brought back the image of my parents so vividly to my 
mind that for a moment I was completely overcome by the 
longing I felt to pour out my heart to them, and covering my 
face with my hands I cried desperately to myself, "Oh, if 
only they were alive ! Oh, if only they were here ! " 

Passing on through the kitchen, which was empty, I 
opened the door leading to the forge, and there I saw Engel, 
a broad, crooked little figure, all black from work, standing 
at the forge fire. Through the window beyond I espied his 
assistant, busy with a horse; for I had already heard that 
since Auntie Siene had taken his affairs in hand he had 
enough work for a second smith at the forge. 

When he saw me his face betrayed the emotion and joy 
he felt. Laying an arm about his shoulders, I addressed him 
in the old affeftionate way, and asked him to tell me his news. 

Apparendy he was very happy. Auntie Siene, it was 
true, came rather often into the forge. "But they are all 



312 OTTO BABENDIEK 

like that," he said, "except that she keeps rather too sharp 
an eye on things." 

I smiled, and asked him whether he still put down his 
accounts in the book. But he shook his head, and looked 
embarrassed, and it transpired that slu did not think much 
of account-books, but was more concerned about getting 
the money out of the customers — a little detail which Engel 
had overlooked too long. But with all her pra(5Ucal qualities 
Engel had to admit that she was sadly lacking in imagination. 
As the best possible proof of this, he informed me mourn- 
fully, while he kept a stealthy watch on the kitchen door, 
that she had done away with the dog-wheel that turned the 
grindstone, though he agreed that possibly the contrivance 
was not much use. Then with an air of great mystery he 
pointed to the darkest corner of the forge in which stood a 
model winch he had made out of old clock-wheels, and 
explained that it was for my eldest child to play with, but 
that she knew nothing about it. 

Deeply touched, I thanked him, and, sadly remembering 
Gesa's confession, I suddenly burst out with all my news and 
all the ideas that filled my mind. 

He did not understand much, but, thinking that I probably 
felt a call to some funambulistic or fire-eating profession, ex- 
claiimed in confusion: " God's miracle! God's miracle. Otto, 
can it be possible!" 

When I explained that Schiller and Defoe and the author 
of The Arabian Mights had been of the same calling as 
myself, and showed him some of the proofs of my novel, 
which I had in my pocket, his heart stood still. Buried in 
thought, he removed his apron — a thing he did only on the 
eve of festivals or when he was called to a meal — and then 
solemnly washed his hands. When he had finished he took 
the proofs from me, held them at arms'-length, and read the 
first few lines. Then,«sinking on to a bench, he looked up 
at me utterly dazed. 

I am sure he had not the faintest notion what he had 
read, for remembering that Schiller in his youth had written 
something against tyrants, he asked me whether it was all 
against tyrants. 

I gave him a brief outline of the story, and was delighted 
when, on recognizing some of the figures, he lifted his hand 



A VISIT TO STORMFELD 313 

and in great excitement pointed in the direcftion where the 
charaAer I had in mind was to be found. I am afraid my 
summary of the novel was too sketchy and confused for him 
to be able to follow it properly; but he believed in me and 
was pleased and astonished. 

Then, putting my hand into my pocket again, I showed 
him the money. 

He had put his short pipe in his mouth, and had been 
contentedly smoking; but on seeing the money he thrust 
the pipe back into the gaping pocket of his jacket, from 
which a thin spiral of smoke immediately began to rise. He 
exclaimed again at the sight of the money, and the more 
he thought about it the more suspicious did he become, 
until at last he came to the conclusion that it was a sort of 
conjuring trick such as he had seen at fairs. So I was obliged 
to explain to him that literary work was paid for like any 
other job, and that a man could keep himself by it. 

But this did not afford him much comfort, and he seemed 
to have an idea that I ought to offer the money to some 
church or cause. Meanwhile, in the heat of our discussion, 
we had not noticed that his pocket was alight, and we had 
to attend to the smouldering cloth and the burning pipe 
before I was able to tell him about my idea of paying off the 
mortgage which Uncle Peter had on our house. 

He was by no means pleased at the idea, and I gathered 
that he had grown so accustomed to the mortgage that he 
would feel lost without it. After a while, however, par- 
ticularly when I told him that we would go to Steenkarken 
together to pay the money to Uncle Peter, he seemed better 
pleased and agreed to accompany me. 

How well I remember that three hours' walk through 
wind and sun with the fields of ripe corn ever about us and 
the dwarfed little figure at my side! And how we talked! 
We seemed to discuss everything, from the nature of eternal 
life to the charafter of my wife Gesa; and as I listened 
to what he had to say on the latter subjed I could not 
help feeUng with faint distress how badly she fitted into the 
world to which I belonged, and which, after all, was my 
kingdom. 

As we approached the town he asked me to count' the 
money again, and heaved a sigh of relief when we found it 



314 OTTO BABENDIEK 

correft; but he insisted on our paying it through a lawyer — 
otherwise, he said, my uncle would be sure to cheat me. 

I had not seen the town for fifteen years, and I walked 
through its familiar streets with a heavy heart, not saying a 
word. Engel too was silent, and looked nervously about 
him, as though he expefted strangers to stare at his odd 
figure. 

While we were still some distance away I saw a big broad- 
shouldered woman standing in the doorway of my uncle's 
house, and as we drew nearer I recognized her as the creature 
who had been in the habit of doing my uncle's charing for 
him, and whom Balle had dubbed the "treacle-barrel." 
She did not recognize me, even when I asked her whether 
she was living there now, and turning to Engel, whom she 
did remember, demanded what I meant, seeing that she was 
the mistress of the house. 

When I explained that I was a nephew and did not know 
my uncle had married, she recognized me. 

I said I hoped she was happy. 

"Happy!" she repeated scornfully, "with an old tin- 
whistle like him! I only did it because I wanted to be 
kept!" 

Apparently things were going better with him, for he now 
had an assistant as well as an apprentice; but when I pointed 
out that, after all, they only had their two selves to keep, she 
rejoined sullenly that she had two daughters, who lived with 
her. 

I reminded her of my uncle's dread of children, and said 
that he had imagined she had no encumbrances. 

"So did everybody," she replied scornfully. "But I had 
two daughters, and they are living with me now." 

Astonished to find that a treacle-barrel could turn to 
vinegar in this way, we followed her into the workshop. It 
was just the same except for its inmates. My uncle had 
changed. On the best stool, which he always used to occupy, 
sat his huge brawny assistant, who looked as if he might be 
a relative of the wife, and by his side sat the apprentice. My 
uncle, however, was seated on a third stool, for which there 
did not seem to be sufficient space or light, and to my 
astonishment there was a cradle beside him, which he 
occasionally rocked with a touch of his left foot. He had 



A VISIT TO STORMFELD 315 

aged a great deal, and was much more bent. Sitting on the 
table in the background, where in the old days it had been 
my lot to prepare the meals, there sat a big young woman, 
whom, from her features, I took to be one of the daughters, 
and with her were two more children. 

The young woman, anxious to be polite, snatched up one 
of the children from a chair, which she offered to me, and 
turning to Uncle Peter exclaimed sharply, " Here, take the 
child!" and put it in his arms. Meanwhile Engel, staring 
from one to the other, retreated to the wall; but I noticed 
that he avoided -looking at my uncle, because he knew too 
much about him. 

I for my part could not take my eyes off him, and could 
not help asking him how he liked adling nursemaid. 

He tried in vain to put on his old waggish expression, and 
replied that one got used to anything. 

I told him all the news that I felt would interest him about 
Paul Sooth and Balle. But he avoided my eyes, as God 
knows he had every reason to do, and said nothing. Then 
his wife volunteered the information that he had lost all his 
savings through an injudicious loan. 

I replied that I had come to give him some money — no 
less a sum than twelve thousand marks; but although he 
turned pale and looked far from pleased the elder woman 
almost danced for joy. "Think of it, Trina!" she cried, 
"twelve thousand marks! Think of it. . . . Now perhaps 
you will be able to marry after all ! " 

The burly assistant paused in his hammering. "Well, 
don't think of me in that connexion, ma'am," he said firmly, 
"she won't hook me ! I want a respedable girl, and you can't 
call Trina respedlable ! " 

"And who's thinking of you, I should like to know?" 
shrieked the elder woman angrily. Whereupon a lively 
altercation ensued. 

I spread the money out in front of Uncle Peter and asked 
him to count it. 

"Oh, nonsense!" cried his wife. "What has it got to 
do with him?" 

He tried to get up, but failed. Then, gazing at the 
banknotes on the table, with his eyes starting out of his 
head, he moaned: " My money! " 



3l6 OTTO BABENDIEK 

"You old sneak!" she cried, shaking her fist at him. 
"Fancy never telling me anything about it!" Then count- 
ing the money carefully and finding it correft, she added, 
" Come over here and sign ! " 

Letting the child slide from his lap, he rose, and bending 
over the table signed the document with a trembling hand. 
He glanced once more at the notes his wife was holding, put 
his blue fingers to his face, groaned, and left the room. I 
believe he wanted to escape from my eyes, into which he 
had not once looked since he had recognized who I was. 

Then we said good-bye to the women and left. 

On reaching home we were met by Auntie Siene, who 
informed us that she had just received a visitor, a niece, 
and on entering the parlour what should I see but Gesa's 
smiling face! Oh, how delighted I was! Those happy 
laughing eyes ! That red mouth so full of life ! Those arms 
about my neck! And Engel Tiedje digging me in the ribs 
with his elbow all the evening while we sat and talked, 
trying to convey to me how pretty and delightful he thought 
her! 

She had come by boat with friends, and on the following 
morning, as the wind was favourable, she left. Almost 
immediately after she had gone I took my departure also, 
and continuing my journey reached the ferry outside Ballum 
towards evening. 

The ferryman told me all about his family. Dina had 
been married to Balle a year now, and the couple lived at 
the corner of the market square, where Balle had a butcher's 
shop. He had learnt the business and finally set up for him- 
self. Old Busch made me promise to go to see them. 
Helmut, he added in pained accents, was lost. 

I was astonished and did not understand. Surely he had 
not been sent to prison, I asked anxiously. 

It was evidently worse than that. 

After further questioning, and looking suspiciously at two 
pejisants on the other side of the ferry, he turned to me and 
said softly — or what he believed to be softly: "He has joined 
the Socialists ! Yes, he is a Socialist leader, and has become 
a sort of head of a big business they have in Hamburg." 

I heaved a sigh of relief when at last I discovered that 
the good fellow had merely given up his old calling in order 



A VISIT TO STORMFELD 317 

to accept a post in a large co-operative store, and tried to 
explain to the father that the Socialists were a political 
party like any other, and that it did Helmut credit to hold 
such an important position at his age. 

He listened patiently, but I could see that he did not 

believe me. He evidently regarded the Socialists as a sort 

of robber band, and imagined that his son had become their 

leader. In vain did I try to describe the kind of business 

transacted by a co-operative store; he merely replied that he 

would regret until his dying day that his son had not been 

a sergeant-major. But at last he pronMsed to discuss the 

matter with other people, and I had to be satisfied with that. 

I found Auntie Lena's front door open as usual, and as 

there was no one either in the hall or in the sitting-room 

I went to the study, where I found Uncle Gosch sitting at 

the writing-table absorbed in his work. It was only when 

I told him I was there that he stood up and greeted me with 

his old cheerful cordiality. 

Yes, the news from America was excellent, but evidentiy 
his chief interest lay in his new work. Having reached the 
age-limit, he had given up his duties at the school, and was 
now engaged in writing a book on The North Sea Coast : its 
Inhabitants in Ancient Times, which would give his old anta- 
gonist Sven Modersohn his death-blow. 

He was still holding on to the button of my jacket, and 
discussing all this in the liveliest manner, when Auntie 
Lena came in. 

She had aged a good deal and looked quite matronly, but 
it struck me that she was entering upon the calmest and most 
balanced period of her life. She was not a big woman, but 
her easy, calm, and energetic bearing lent her the dignity 
of a queen. With the turmoil and ambition of her youth 
behind her the innermost depths of her nature — all its smug- 
ness, kindness, lust of dominion, and love of organizing — 
reached full ^)loom, and for the next fifteen years she was 
the undisputed sovereign of Ballum. 

Taking her iisual seat in the large armchair, she pointed 
lightiy to her right cheek and told me to kiss her; and, 
bending over her, I kissed her on the mouth. 

She inquired after Gesa, and I described our life. But 
although I was very careful about what I said, and tried to 



3l8 OTTO BABENDIEK 

appear cheerful and confident, she could see that things 
were not as they should be — ^indeed, I think she saw much 
more clearly than I did that matters were in a very bad way. 
At least, so I imagined, for she looked searchingly at me with 
her large bright eyes and began describing other marriages 
which, though they had been on the brink of disaster, had 
been saved from ruin.. 

I listened. "Why is she telling me all this?" I asked 
myself "There is nothing like that between Gesa and me! 
The only difference between us is that Gesa likes sails in 
the wind, and I like souls in the wind — a difference of two 
letters!" 

Then she asked me about Engel Tiedje and Uncle Peter. 
She was overjoyed when she heard that the latter was 
married. "As you know. Holler," she exclaimed, "I am 
constantly finding occasion to criticize Almighty God and 
His ways, above all for so seldom giving us the pleasure of 
seeing the villains of this world burning in hell while we 
are still alive. I must say it is a pastime of which I am 
extremely fond — yes, worse luck — if only I could adually 
see the burning!" 

I pointed out that it would not do for this always to 
happen, for in that case people would do good only out of 
fear, or for reward, and never for its own sake. 

"Yes," she agreed, "you are right, but I don't like to 
hear you talk so wisely." 

When we were at table I again asked about Eva and 
Ernemann, and heard that Eva was secretary to a learned 
physician in a little town not far from Chicago, and that 
Ernemann had found a job on a fruit farm in the neighbour- 
hood. They were both earning such good salaries that in 
three years' time they would have saved enough to run a 
fruit farm of their own. 

"But when is she coming back?" I exclaimed, my heart 
aching with longing for the companion of my youth. 

"She says nothing about that," Auntie Lena replied, 
"and I suppose we ought to be pleased, because otherwise 
the old business with Eilert might start again. Besides, 
Ernemann may want her over there." And she brushed 
the tears from her eyes. 

We talked about Eilert, and I pointed out to them what 



A VISIT TO STORMFELD 319 

an ideal mate Uhle Monk was for him. I did not hide the 
fad that I regretted the association, but I could not help 
acknowledging how admirably she suited him. To my sur- 
prise both Auntie Lena and Uncle Gosch agreed. 

"I certainly always thought you understood his nature," 
I said, "but I did not know you understood it so well, or 
that you felt so kindly towards him, in spite of his having 
spoilt Eva's life. But just think what a blessing it is they 
never married ! If, as we all admit, Uhle Monk is the right 
mate for him, how could Eva have been ? " 

Auntie Lena did not answer, but looked silently in front 
of her. " I always loved him from the time he was a child," 
she said, her eyes filling with tears. "He used to come to 
me, first with his little troubles and then with his big ones! 
And then he got fond of Eva, and, like an old fool, I made 
plans. But it all ended in smoke. He spent his time with 
Uhle Monk and her class, and my child was ousted ! And I 
was partly to blame! What a silly schemer I've been! I 
not only made plans about Eilert, but, in case they fell 
through, I had a sort of second string to my bow. And that 
was you! Yes, you! But you were a young donkey — as 
you have always been — and didn't see how fond she was 
of you!" 

I blushed with embarrassment, pride, and joy. It seemed 
incredible to me that proud, grown-up Eva could really 
have been fond of me; and, to cover my confusion, I began 
telling them my great secret, and, putting my proofs in her 
hands, mentioned the name of the publishers. 

She was obviously dumb with astonishment, and thor- 
oughly bewildered. She had not thought very much of 
my serial about the copper-mine, but a book bearing the 
imprint of that famous firm was different. She knew how 
to hide her feelings, however, and at last, after chaffing me 
about the unpradical nature of the calling I had adopted, 
she asked where I had got my artistic capacity from. "You 
certainly did not get it in this house," she declared. 

"It is a gift, my love," observed Uncle Gosch; "he was 
born with it." 

"Yes," she rejoined suspiciously, "but where docs it 
come from ? " 

"From my parents," I replied. 



320 OTTO BABENDIEK 

"From your parents?" she repeated, still looking sus- 
picious. "But your mother's thoughts were always on the 
grave and your father's up in the clouds ; so which of them 
was it?" 

I answered that it was probably both. But she merely 
raised her eyebrows and reminded me that on this subjecft 
she had her own ideas, and would always stidt to them. 
She believed that a certain distinguished old superintendent 
named Steenbock, who exercised an extraordinary fascination 
over women, and could tell the most wonderful stories, had 
once cast his steely eyes upon my mother. That was quite 
enough to account for it. And she knew that Steenbock 
had visited us once at the forge. 

I replied that I had never heard anything about that. 

After supper I went for a stroll through the town alone 
in the twilight. The day was overcast and the mist was 
turning to rain. I felt strangely depressed, as though I 
were weighed down by some terrible burden, and wondered 
what on earth could be the matter. I tried hard to cheer 
up and to think of pleasant things — that bright supper-table 
with the two dear old faces I had just left, my future and the 
fame it would bring me. But it was no use ! The pleasant 
pidlures all sank behind the mist, which was hanging like a 
cowl over the town, and I trudged on, still badly in need 
of something to raise my spirits, when suddenly what should 
I see but Balle Bohnsack's sign on the comer of the market 
square; so in I went. 

While I was not in the least bit surprised to find it the bright- 
est and most spotless butcher's shop I had ever seen, I must 
confess that I was somewhat taken aback to find the friend 
of my youth looking so clean and respeAable. He had also 
lost a good deal of his grandfatherly manner; for though he 
was very pleased to see me he spoke with a certain em- 
barrassment. 

I gathered that in order to gratify a craving for his old 
haunts and associates he contrived once a week to repair to 
the old taverns near the harbour on the plea of going to 
insped some cattle. But the wink he gave me, as he told 
me this, was not as convincing as of old, and he informed 
me that he found her kisses and caresses and her "dear 
Balduins" terribly difficult to resist. 



A VISIT TO STORMFELD 321 

At last he called Dina, who appeared in a dazzling white 
apron and seemed to be white enamel and polish all over. 
Evidently she intended to rival her mother's ample propor- 
tions, for she was already plumper than when I had last seen 
her. I said I must see their little boy at once, and as I bent 
over the baby's snow-white cot she asked me whether I did 
not think he looked clever, like her father. 

"For my part," interposed Balle, "I can see from his 
nose that he is a regular Bohnsack, and as his favourite toy 
is a little wooden sheep it isn't difficult to guess what he 
will be one day." 

Looking at me in surprise, she asked whether this could 
possibly be true, and I suggested that, for all Balle knew, 
the sheep might be a sign that the boy would one day be a 
shepherd on the marshes or a shepherd of men. 

At this moment customers entered the shop, and I left to 
call on my Aunt Sarah. 

I found her sitting alone at her old place by the window. 
She was, as usual, wearing a black silk dress and had her 
thick gold chain round her neck. Her face, though a little 
coarse, was still beautiful, and if anything more dignified 
and attractive than when I had last seen her. But when I 
presented myself before her that evening I felt just as shy and 
timid as I had done when Auntie Lena first led me by the 
hand into her presence. She was engaged in telling her own 
fortune by cards. 

I began by informing her that I had come to Ballum on 
a flying visit, and teased her about her cards, which I said 
I was afraid were unfavourable that day. 

She tried to smile, but failed. Apart from the difficulty 
she had in being natural she was particularly suspicious of 
me owing to my sharp eyes; though this very suspicion 
made her study my expression, and she asked me questions 
and opened her heart to me. She began by inquiring 
how the Bornholts were; then, suddenly changing the sub- 
ject asked whether I had seen Dutti Kohl. Apparently 
he was in Ballum and called on her from time to time on 
business. 

"He comes here occasionally and discusses business," 
she observed with a smile, still scrutinizing me closely. 
" He says old Judge Jensen's advice is old-fashioned. It is a 



322 OTTO BABENDIEK 

difficult business. People who have no money have no idea 
how hard it is to manage a fortune." 

Annoyed by her constant reference to my lack of 
means, I replied coldly and carelessly: "I wouldn't trust 
him, Aunt Sarah. I can't say any more, for as you very 
rightly observe, being a penniless man, I know nothing 
about such matters." 

At that ihoment Barbara entered. She was now a fine tall 
girl of twenty-two, and her brown eyes were full of life and 
fire. She greeted me with the indifference which always left 
me to infer that neither as a human being nor as a man 
did I inspire her with the smallest emotion. She informed 
us that she had just met Helmut Busch and had a little chat 
with him. 

I had always suspefted her of having a weakness for 
Helmut, and her tone confirmed this impression. 

" He has grown into a fine man," she continued in a voice 
of indignant surprise, "and he holds himself well. He is 
smart too. But I can't stand him. Just imagine ... he 
adually gives himself airs ! " 

"And why shouldn't he?" I exclaimed scornfully, think- 
ing of myself. "He has made something of himself. Why 
shouldn't he hold his head up and be smart?" 

"Yes, but he's old Busch's son, all the same," she replied. 
"Besides, he has turned Socialist." And she began trucu- 
lently to hold forth about Dutti Kohl's flourishing circum- 
stances. Apparently he had invited her and my Aunt Sarah 
to one of the best restaurants in Hamburg. 

"I would far rather sit with Helmut in one of the harbour 
taverns," I replied, "than have dinner in the most palatial 
restaurant with Dutti Kohl." 

She pondered a moment. "People who have no money 
always dislike those who have!" her mother observed. 

"That's just where you are wrong. Aunt Sarah!" I 
answered coldly. "I've known Dutti since he was a boy, 
and all I can say is that far from doing any business with him 
I would not even sit at the same table with him." 

They shrugged their shoulders. I thought of asking about 
Eilert. But how could I ? There were no two people, in 
the whole country who were greater strangers to that dear 
wild friend of mine than these two women, his nearest 



A VISIT TO STORMFELD 323 

relatives! So I stood up and took my leave. They had 
not asked me a word about my own afiairs. 

Taking a short cut home, I happened to meet Dutti 
Kohl in the Lindengang. He was a little embarrassed 
when he saw me, and explained that although he often 
came to Ballum his Hamburg business was much more 
important. 

I asked whether the peasants still bought stocks and shares. 
Putting his great fat arm round me, he admitted that some 
of them had made rather foolish investments, as many of the 
shares had gone down, and others were paying no dividends. 
The bituminous soil had not proved as rich as had been 
expeded, and the best yield, so far, had been due to fraud. 
It was an unpleasant business, and honest old Dutti had great 
difficulty in meeting unjustifiable complaints. 

I felt certain that he had been involved in the fraud. 
But I said nothing. 

I asked him whether he was doing any business with my 
aunt. 

"Yes," he replied with a pained expression, "but it is 
difficult, very difficult. She is very suspicious." I sug- 
gested that Eilert's absence probably suited his purpose. 
He agreed, and added that he would never have been able 
to get a hold over Eilert. 

"But you find the two women easier," I replied angrily. 

"No, indeed!" he rejoined. "They are very difficult. 
These old pezisant families are as hard as nails. But I have 
succeeded in persuading them to exchange some meadows 
which yielded only four per cent, for stocks that pay six and 
even more." 

I observed that I only hoped the stocks were not of the 
Portuguese variety. 

"What does dear little Babendiek know about such 
things?" he said with a smug laugh, hugging me affedion- 
ately. "But to talk of more important matters — my other 
affair here progresses terribly slowly. However, I have 
persuaded her and her mother to dine with me." 

Just at that moment we saw Barbara pass by in the distance, 
and I noticed how his arm trembled as it lay across my 
shoulders. 

"She is a fine girl," I said. I suppose I wanted to tease 



324 OTTO BAB£NDI£K 

him, for I never for a moment imagined she would marry 
him. 

He was silent for a while, and his arm trembled more than 
ever. "I wonder whom she will marry!" I said. I wanted 
to annoy him. I was furious that he should have the 
impudence even to admire my beautiful and distinguished 
cousin, let alone love her ! 

When she had vanished from sight he became somewhat 
calmer. "If I know old Dutti Kohl," he exclaimed with 
his old heartless, empty laugh, " there are times when he has 
the audacity to imagine he might succeed in winning her!" 

"If you imagine you can win her with the. help of her 
mother, your business influence, and dinners at swell res- 
taurants, you are mistaken!" I retorted angrily. "She 
will choose a man of flesh and blood, so it certainly won't 
be you." 

He hugged me tenderly to him, and replied with his 
usual unctuous sentimentality: "Honest old Dutti Kohl 
would like to get some pleasure out of life for once." 

It nauseated me to listen to his thoughts and plans, so I 
shook him off and asked him sharply whether he still did 
business with Fritz Hellebeck. 

He shook his head. "He is not reliable enough for me, 
litde Babendiek. No, I don't do business with him any 
more. Good old Dutd Kohl thinks too highly of his good 



name 



i»» 



Whereupon he informed me that Fritz was now living in 
grand style in Hamburg. "The fellow is eaten up with 
vanity — his big house, his friends, his wife, even his busi- 
ness, are all vanity. One day he'll go bankrupt through — 
vanity!" 

In my heart of hearts I agreed with him, and inquired 
anxiously after his wife. 

"A UtUe pale," he replied, "and her gaiety is a litde bit 
forced. But I am sure she loves him and is a litde blinder 
than most women." 

I asked what had happened to the farm at Buchholz, and 
he told me that it was now managed by Fritz's mother, and 
that the mad half-brother was there too. 

"Hans Hellebeck mad?" I protested. "Very far from it!" 

He laughed in his foolish way. Had he not eyes, and good 



A VISIT TO STORMFELD 325 

ones to -boot ? And had he not been there just to see how 
the land lay and find out the conditions on which the 
property was held? 

"They are unfortunately all too clear," I replied. 

"On the contrary," he said, "they are far from clear, and 
the neighbours say that if the mad haJf-brother liked he could 
make matters very uncomfortable for Fritz. But what an 
amiable old lady the mother is ! " 

"I know her," I replied gloomily. 

I was shocked to hear that Hans now lived all alone in 
the tumbledown cottage in the woods, surrounded by mud 
and dirt, and had fallen a prey to melancholia or some form 
of madness. I could not bear to hear Dutti speak of all this 
as though it was of no consequence, and again shaking myself 
free I Idft him. 



CHAPTER XXI 

/ Visit Hans 

On the following morning I travelled south. I had not 
really intended going to Buchholz, but what Dutti had told 
me had so alarmed me that I wanted to know how things 
stood. I felt bound to Hans by sad and weighty secrets. 
His father's mysterious death, the guilt of the man Soren 
and Frau Hellebeck, Fritz's strange behaviour and his young 
wife, were all subjefts that tormented me; and when I heard 
that Hans was in trouble I surely had sufficient reason to 
bestir myself and pay him a visit. 

On reaching the farm I found the hall just as it had always 
been. The young couple had evidently left the large chests 
behind them when they moved to Hamburg. The dining- 
room, which I could see through the half-open door, also 
looked the same, with the stately dark furniture I had known 
from childhood. As I waited, contemplating the scene 
about me, Frau Hellebeck came out from a room on the left. 
She had aged a good deal, and was now quite the old woman. 
Her well-dressed hair was snow-white; but she still held 
herself with great dignity. 

When she saw who I was, her face suddenly beamed with 
friendliness, and leading me by the arm into the dining- 
room she poured forth a torrent of inquiries about my health, 
my marriage, my work, and my place of abode, calling me 
her "dear old Babendiek" at least a dozen times. Then in 
the same fulsome fashion she told me about Almut and 
Fritz, how comfortably they were living, and how delighted 
they would be if I went to see them. 

I am puzzled even now to know how far she believed 
her exaggerated statements, but I am inclined to think that 
she must at least have had some inkling of Almut's state of 
mind, though she was too false and cunning by nature and 
too madly infatuated with her son to have any regard what- 
ever for truth. And so she urged me again, "dear good old 

326 



I VISIT HANS 327 

Babendiek," to pay them a visit, as I had been such a good 
friend to them both, particulariy to "dear good little Almut," 
with whom she even believed I was in love. 

I blushed and changed the subjed by asking after Hans. 

Was I right in thinking that the white-haired woman 
suddenly looked older and more lined? Did her proud, 
ered bearing suddenly vanish, and an expression of uneasi- 
ness and fear enter her regular features ? Had the rumours 
which were constantly circulating in the village and the 
neighbourhood at last reached her ears ? Or did I imagine 
it all? 

With a fresh outburst of fulsome friendliness she reminded 
me that "dear good old Hans" had always been a little odd, 
melancholy, slow-witted and . . . uncouth. As long as the 
young couple had remained at the farm he had not changed, 
but since they had left things had been very bad with 
him. He worked hard — yes, he worked like a horse — ^but 
he would see no one, and buried himself in the old cottage 
in the wood. 

I said that I had heard all about that, and had come 
on purpose to see him and would go over to him there and 
then. 

She scrutinized me uneasily, and indiredUy tried to prepare 
my mind for what he might say. Apparently he was apt 
suddenly to burst out and talk a lot of nonsense. She re- 
membered he had done so once at the betrothal dinner, 
and sh? was very much afraid that some day, as the result 
of all his brooding, he would come out with something ab- 
solutely ridiculous. Could I not persuade him to return 
to his room over the dining-room? It would be doing 
both him and her a real service. And she looked imploringly 
at me and showed more genuine feeling than I had ever 
seen in her face before. 

On my way to Hans I came across Soren chopping wood 
with a farm lad. My greeting seemed to have the effeA of 
making hihi wield his axe more vigorously than ever, and 
I stopped to talk to him. I began by warning him not to 
run the risk of losing his other eye by letting a splinter fly 
into it, and he replied with staggering calm that it would 
have been better for some people if he had been blind in 
both eyes. 



328 OTTO BABENDIEK 

I asked him what he meant, but he evaded the question 
and replied that he had known totally blind people who were 
quite cheerful, and at least they saw nothing of the world 
and of life. 

"You once cherished a great hope," I suggested, "and 
were disappointed, weren't you ? " 

He nodded. " We all cherish hopes, and nothing comes 
of them," he replied in the same calm tones. 

"But you are at home here," I protested, "working on the 
farm you have been on ever since you were a boy ! " 

"Yes," he replied, "if only it had a single bright feature 
about it; but it is all going to pieces, and things get worse and 
worse every year." These were more or less the words he 
used; at all events they give his meaning. I was surprised 
to hear him talk like this. Then, going, as I always did, to 
the heart of the subjeft, I said: "Frau Hellebeck is still very 
lively for a woman of her age. And extraordinarily beautiful 
too!" I was cruel, but I felt that if he had done that foul 
deed it had not been to get the farm, but to get that beautiful 
woman, and I wanted to find out whether my suspicions were 
corredl. 

He did not answer, but I thought he went pale. 

When I asked him about Fritz he looked contemptuously 
at me with his one eye and exclaimed: "Him! He is to 
blame for everything! She has eyes and ears only for him. 
And there is nothing in him — nothing!" 

"That's a pity for his poor young wife," I observed. 

"There's nothing here that's not a pity," he replied, 
"everything's a pity!" 

"It's all because the father died too soon," I remarked. 
" Had he lived Hans would have been given the farm and 
Fritz would have gone into business, and everything would 
have been all right. It was a bad job his dying so unex- 
peftedly." 

I thought my words would provoke him, but his rough 
nature knew how to conceal its secret feelings, and turning 
to his work he murmured something I did not catch, and 
swung his axe for a mighty blow. Feeling that he did not 
want to say anything more, I went on my way. 

On reaching Hans's broken-down cottage I found the door 
open and went in, and passing through the gloomy hall. 



I VISIT HANS 329 

which revived so many memories of my childhood, I entered 
the living-room. In the old days this room had been quite 
empty, but it was now furnished with an odd assortment of 
rickety old pieces of furniture, which had evidently been 
brought over from the house. There were a table, a few 
chairs with the straw bursting out of their seats, a desk 
standing unsteadily on three legs, and, beside the bed, which 
was built into the wall, was a sort of hanging dresser, which 
looked as if it might fall down at any moment. On the 
table there stood a badly chipped cup, which had been used, 
and an old plate. I stood still for a moment contemplating 
the grimy sordidness of the scene and listening to the rain 
which had just begun to fall, and as I stood there I heard 
heavy footsteps approaching. 

I went towards the door and saw Hans returning from 
the fields in the raggedest and dirtiest of farm-labourer's 
clothes. With the faint ironical, knowing smile with which 
he kept the world at arm's-length, he said in his slow, 
singsong voice, which seemed to hail from the depths of 
his great solitude: "It is decent of you to come and look 
me up like this in my lair." Then, going to the kitchen, 
he lit a fire, opened a cupboard, and placed two cups on 
the table. 

I could not help noticing how bent and old he looked 
and how wild his hair and how dirty his face and hands 
were. I thought of Almut and marvelled at the vagaries of 
human taste, which could make the sunniest and most 
refined creature in the countryside the friend of such a lout. 
*'If she were to see him now," I thought, "it would be all 
over. He would disgust her." 

Meanwhile I told him about my wife, Engel Tiedje, and 
my literary work, and then, turning to his affairs, I remon- 
strated with him for living more wretchedly than the poorest 
in the land when he was the son of a rich farmer. 

His smile slowly vanished. "I could not live up at the 
farm any longer," he replied with a gravity that was stir- 
ring in its simplicity. " While the little one was there I 
could bear it; but after that was all over I could not stand 
the great empty house. There seemed to be bad air in 
every room, Otto, my boy." 

" Particularly in the dining-room," I suggested. 



330 OTTO BABENDIEK 

He nodded and smiled faintly once more. 

"You had a view of the whole room as a boy that time, 
didn't you?" I asked. 

He smiled. "Yes, through the hole in the floor." 

"And you saw the man Soren throttle your sick father," 
I exclaimed with the fierce wrath I still feel when I think of 
his smile. 

"Did I?" he replied slowly and still smiling. "Do you 
think so?" 

"I don't know!" I cried, outraged by his calmness and 
even more by his voice. "I should like to believe that 
you are the truest and most serious of men. But I some- 
times doubt whether there is anything serious in you, 
when you can say these terrible things with such smiling 
indifference." 

His expression became confused. " If I did not play with 
myself a little," he rejoined with quivering lips, "how could 
I help going mad ? " 

I apologized. 

"I was only a little boy. Otto, and it was growing dark; 
I can't swear to what I saw," he continued. Then after 
a pause he added: "But he's going to the dogs. He's 
suffering." 

"And isn't it only right that he should?" I cried. 

"If he really did it. Otto," he replied, "was it really 
so bad?" 

" Really so bad ? " I repeated, utterly dumbfounded. 

He then began to discuss the secret forces which sometimes 
seize upon a man's soul and compel him to a deed he cannot 
help. Must there not be good and evil in the world ? What 
would life be without good and evil? All life was full of 
light and shade, and the play of the two produced colour. 
Who was to judge these things? "Thousands of people 
carry secrets in their souls," he added, "and have to live with 
these secrets, just as I have, if I really have such a secret. 
I was only nine years old and it was growing dark! But 
you see I need not mix with men, because I am the son of 
a farmer and inherited this tumbledown old cottage from 
my mother." 

"Yes, but this life is lying too heavy on your heart, Hans 
Hellebeck!" I cried, filled with love and solicitude. "This 



I VISIT HANS 331 

life that you are leading, like a lonely beast of the field, is 
proof enough of the enormity of that man's crime." 

"It is a little hard, Otto," he replied slowly and softly. 
"First of all that business about my father, which I have 
been brooding over ever since I was a child. Think of it — 
ever since I was a child! In fa A it prevented me from ever 
being a child ! And then came the business with Fritz. I 
thought he was worthy of admiration. But that too was a 
mistake. And now, ever since he has been in Hamburg, 
he has been loading the farm with debt. He will lose it 
next. And it was my mother's farm, and it is good land. 
And what will become of the litde girl when she finds it all 
out one day? She is so sunny and divine. It will be 
terrible ! I can only help by standing aloof, and living alone 
in this house, in which my mother and Almut's mother used 
to play together as children. I must go on living; for to 
leave life before God calls is too difficult." 

As we left the cottage together I asked him whether he 
knew how Almut was getting on. 

He shook his head and said nothing, and when I suggested 
how glad she would be to see him he replied softly that we 
must not fetch her, we must not even call her. And his face 
was full of such cruel longing that I was obliged to turn my 
eyes away. 

I felt that she alone could help him; but I knew that he 
was right, and that I must not summon her. I must not 
even tell her of his deep distress. 

When we reached the spot where a few moments previously 
I had spoken to Soren, Frau Hellebeck came towards us 
from the farm. " Well, my dear good old Hans," she said, 
"wasn't it a pleasant surprise? • . . Have you had a good 
talk?" 

"I have not been very lucky to-day," I replied. "The 
few words I had with Soren led us on to the most serious 
topics, and the same thing happened with Hans." 

She looked calmly at me, and I was convinced that she 
knew what I meant. But she was such an adept at feigning 
affability, in which she encased herself like armour, that the 
heaviest thrusts made no impression. And such was the 
glamour of her personality and the gracioiisness of her smile 
that I abandoned my aggressive intentions and replied in 



332 OTTO BABENDIEK 

friendly tones that, as I felt tired and depressed after my 
talk with her stepson, I should prefer not to return to the 
farm, but would go straight back to the town. 

When my new novel first appeared in November of that 
year it was hardly noticed amid the flood of new books, and 
I did not have my attention called to any criticism of impor- 
tance. In the February of the following year, however, 
there appeared simultaneously in two large and reputable 
journals a critical essay on the book by a well-known young 
reviewer, who praised my work to the skies, and warmly 
recommended it to the public, and I received congratulatory 
letters from the publishers, together with all kinds of good news. 

Gesa was strangely suspicious — all the more so because, 
although she made the most touching efforts to understand, 
she had not the faintest idea what it all meant. She stayed 
at home a whole day — a thing she had never done before 
— turning over the pages of the manuscript and the printed 
book, and casting covert glances from dme to time at my 
face, as I sat at my desk answering letters, doing her utmost 
to glean something from my expression. But I could see 
from the questions she asked that the whole affair was quite 
beyond her grasp, and that as a creature gifted with common 
sense and no imagination she could make nothing of it. At 
last, towards evening, she sprang to her feet, kissed me more 
timidly and less confidently than usual, and got ready to 
leave the house. I knew that she intended going to her 
people, to discuss the matter with them, particularly with 
her fatiier, as in all pradical questions she did not take her 
mother quite seriously. As I had finished my letters I 
decided to go with her. 

On entering the house I was more than usually conscious 
of the poverty-stricken appearance of the living-room, and, 
seeing my mother-in-law busy as usual with her lace-making, 
I remembered that she probably did a httie business with her 
handiwork and thus helped to make both ends meet. But 
as she sat there stiff and straight in front of her lace-making 
frame I could not help feeUng how much I loved her just 
as I had loved her from the first hour of our acquaintance; 
and going up to her with a beaming face I said I felt, sure 
she was as delighted as I was at the success of my book. 



I VISIT HANS 333 

She nodded and congratulated me. She had read the 
book twice, but her husband had no taste for such things. 
She had only one fault to find — it was too full of sadness 
and brooding. 

I wanted to discuss it with her, but she got on to the 
subje6t of her brother in furthest Ind, and was assuring me 
that he would certainly buy ten or a dozen copies, since 
money, of course, was no objeft to him. 

I felt tempted to raise her thin industrious hands to my 
lips and to implore her to give up thinking of that brother 
in India, who had long ago forgotten both her and her 
children; if she must have a marvel to think about, let her 
think about me, who was a marvel close at hand. But I 
was too shy and said nothing. 

Then my father-in-law entered, in his usual get-up. 
Although I had one or two secret grudges against him, I 
could not help liking him, and going forward to greet him 
I said I hoped he was pleased at what had happened. 

He pressed my hand. " Of course I am pleased, my boy ! " 
he replied in his breezy, youthful way. " You know I don't 
think much of all this quill-driving, because none of it is 
real, but all the same . . ." 

I was a little bit annoyed by the word 'quill-driving,' 
but I hid my feelings. "But to many intelligent and 
thoughtful people," I observed, "quill-driving brings the 
greatest joy; it is a sort of revelation of life to them." 

Yes, he knew that. He had only one suggestion to make 
— that I should lay more stress on family Ufe in my books, 
and depid a well-regulated household, "for the family and 
its harmonious working is the cell . . ." 

He was about to hold forth when my mother-in-law 
interrupted him by saying that the balance at the bank 
required looking into, and he replied that he would see 
to it. 

As to my brothers-in-law — the one at the Town Hall in 
Hamburg and the accountant in Gliickstadt — the former 
had certainly been told by the Mayor that he had heard of 
my book. "But what time have we to think of life, my 
dear vom Gang," he added, "when we have our hands full 
governing the city!" The accountant, after informing me 
that his wife, who came of very good family, thought my 



334 OTTO BABENDIEK 

book ought to open the doors of many fine houses to me, 
led me aside and to my astonishment asked me to lend him 
twenty marks, which I promptly did. 

My mother-in-law seemed quite pleased with her sons' 
remarks, and my father-in-law, who had now quite recovered 
from his embarrassment about the bank balance, smiled and 
winked at me as of old. Meanwhile Gesa's eyes wandered 
from one to the other of the company, without finding an 
answer to the riddle that was puzzling her. Finally they 
settled on me with that expression of mingled love, anxiety, 
and distress with which a mother might be expeded to take 
leave of her son. 

Gesa and I spent much of our time together during the 
next few days, and every minute of that brief period we 
were completely one in heart and soul. And, my God, 
what plans we made! How youth loves making plans! 
What a voluptuous pastime it was! It all began with the 
idea that we must buy a house. And then it suddenly 
struck us that we could live anywhere we liked now. Was 
I not a free man, an author? Were not paper and ink 
obtainable everywhere ? 

But all this was mere make-believe; for while we were 
discussing the merits of one place and another each of 
us felt, though for different reasons, that we could not stir 
very far from the river on the banks of which we were 
discussing our plans — I because I felt I was already too 
far from Stormfeld, although it was only about twelve 
miles downstream, and Gesa because to leave the Elbe was 
unthinkable. 

So, having decided to remain in Ovelgonne, we began 
to discuss what we should buy with our money; for naturally 
it never occurred to us to leave it in the bank. I suggested 
that I should give my mother-in-law a new dress, as she 
had not had one for seven years, and asked Gesa to think 
of something she could give her father. As for Engel Tiedje, 
I said I would buy him a new pipe and a new suit of clothes. 

She said I must also get something for Uhle and Auntie 
Lena, and asked me what I was going to buy for myself. 

My choice was books; but when I asked her what she 
would like I could not help looking round our extremely 
barely furnished room — a friend afterwards told me that he 



I VISIT HANS 335 

had never seen such poverty — ^and it occurred to me that 
we might do something to make it more comfortable. 

Hardly had the thought crossed my mind, however, 
when in faltering tones she came out with the wish which 
I felt sure had been agitating her the whole time — ^would 
the money be enough to buy a new set of sails ? 

In my excitement over all that had happened I had 
forgotten all about her boat and the Elbe, and in any case 
could never bring myself to take more than a half-hearted 
interest when she spoke about either. But I was pleased 
to be able to gratify her, and, kissing her, replied with 
laughing eyes: "Of course, my child! But, tell me, didn't 
you say there was something wrong with the boat? What 
was it? How much does a boat like that cost?" I had 
not the faintest idea, nor did I care. The question interested 
me about as much as the price of a donkey skin. 

But she was beside herself with joy. Never had I seen 
her look at me with an expression so beatific! From that 
moment she talked of nothing else and had no other thought 
in her mind. Like a young seal making its first acquaintance 
with dry land, she had made a cautious and timid attempt 
to accustom herself to strange surroundings; but now she 
was back in her natural element, and that very evening 
she went over to her father to discuss the matter with him. 
She now spent half her time at the boat-builder's, or on 
the river, studying and discussing other boats, and was 
extremely distressed when she bade farewell to her little 
boat, the faithful friend of her youth. Once more she 
became quite undomesticated. 

Maanwhile I myself had little peace. Discovered and 
unearthed by my contemporaries, I was importuned, bom- 
barded, and harassed from morning to night. 

Begging letters were not the worst of the evils I had to 
endure, although they absorbed time and money enough 
in all conscience. But, strange to say, I even had trouble 
with Engel Tiedje. The exaggerated accounts of my 
earnings which had been circulated in Stormfeld induced 
many of the local inhabitants to come to the forge and 
urge Engel to appeal to me on their behalf. In his kindly 
childlike way he proceeded to do so, begging me to setde 
any number of worthy workmen on their own plots of land. 



336 OTTO BABENDIEK 

He wrote the most enthusiastic letters to me about these 
people and their wants, and although I did what little lay 
in my power I gave him a complete account of my takings 
up to date to prove that I could not do more. 

But worst of all were the crowds who came hoping to see 
me. In my simplicity I at first believed that they were 
all seriously in need of spiritual guidance; but this was 
true only of a very few. Old Professor Dohm, who was 
engaged in biological work in Naples, wrote to me reminding 
me of Goethe's words — "When a man by his work has 
rendered a service to his fellow creatures, everything is 
done to prevent him from doing so a second time." I was 
grateful to him for the warning and the advice, but I don't 
think I stood in need of either. My ship had too deep 
a keel and was too heavily laden to be easily diverted from 
its course. In secret I may have indulged in a certain 
amount of tremulous, exalted, and not altogether innocuous 
self-applause, but I went quietly on my way notwith- 
standing. As a Northerner I could not be satisfied with the 
materialistic explanation of my success, regarding it as due 
to certain convolutions in the grey matter of my brain; 
my soul saw and longed to see in all that had happened 
the manifestation of some will-power, some miracle, grace, 
or guidance on the part of certain unseen forces, and I 
was therefore filled not only with a sense of modesty and 
a belief in protedtion from above, but also with a feeling 
of heavy and terrifying responsibility. 

In the evenings, after I had had a hard day's work, Gesa 
would come home and tell me all about her boat, and I 
would listen. But I felt in her eyes, and in the timid 
accents of her dear voice, that her doubt and anxiety regard- 
ing my interest in these things had increased and were 
oppressing her more than ever. 

Truth to tell I was not in the least bit interested. But 
I had to pretend to be. Often before in my life I had had 
to play the hypocrite, and I was obliged to do so then. 
But ever since I had lived with Gesa I had perfefted myself 
in the part. With a smile of feigned interest on my lips 
I interposed remarks which I tried to make as relevant as 
possible, and did everything that kindly feeling prompted. 
But it was very hard. Anybody can pretend now and 



I VISIT HANS 337 

again, but to be obliged to do so always and with one's 
nearest and dearest was a thankless task ! 

Once tentatively, very tentatively, I suggested that we 
might go away together, to some place where we should 
be quite alone. I hoped this might help us to return to 
a more honest and truthful attitude towards each other, a 
relationship more consonant with spiritual dignity. I said 
I longed either for the oblivion and solitude of a great 
city or else the peaceful life of a village, where I could 
find a background for the pidures in my mind. I argued 
that I must live either in the heart of Hambiu-g and hob- 
nob with cabmen who had been driving for the last fifty 
years across the Jungfernstieg, and with business men, or 
else I must live in Weimar or Wunsiedel. 

But at this point she ceased to understand, and, frowning 
in the diredion of the river, looked for a sail. 

"I think I ought to Uve, and indeed would Kke to live, 
in Ballum or Stormfeld," I continued. . . . "One can go 
for good sails from those places too." 

"But you'll soon get that idea out of your head, won't 
you ? " she replied hesitatingly, looking at me with wide-open, 
anxious eyes. "After all it can't really matter to you where 
you live ! " 

How frightened she looked ! 

No ... no ... it was no good ! . . . Because we could 
not take the Elbe with us ! Life would be impossible with- 
out Schweinesand and Finkenwarder, and Brunsbiittel corner, 
and Stieglmayr's cafe, and without the beautiful broad valley 
through which the river flows ! 



CHAPTER XXII 

/ Go into Society: Almut 

Even some of Gesa's "boys" who had hitherto ignored 
me because I never went sailing now began to approach 
me in the capacity of brothers of the pen, and one in par- 
ticular, who had tried his hand at poetry and married a 
rich manufaAurer's daughter, asked us to visit him and 
his wife at their country house in Othmarschen. I had 
some difficulty in persuading Gesa to make herself a new 
frock for the occasion; for, apart from the fa<S that she 
lived all her life in sailing clothes, she was suspicious of 
any venture unconnedled with boats. However, she bought 
some material of a beautiful blue shade, and set to work to 
make herself a dress with her famous long stitches. I 
warned her that if her frock fell down at the party she 
would not have a crowd of kind friends to stand round 
her, as she had had in church on her wedding-day, 
while she fastened it up again. But she told me to calm 
my fears, and said she would hide as many safety-pins as 
she could all over my evening dress. And when we left 
home we were each armed with a goodly supply of these 
safeguards. 

It was a fine house, and the company consisted of smart 
young people, chiefly married couples of good family, 
well bred and affable. They discussed my book a fittle, 
and then one after the other came modestly forward with 
their own produftions — poems, one-a6l plays, drawings, 
and musical compositions. Gesa's clear, quick, sea-pirate's 
eyes glanced hither and thither, and then settled inquiringly 
on me. She seemed surprised and frightened lest somebody 
should ask her what she thought. But in her cool simple 
features they saw no understanding of these things, and 
spared her. Bottles of wine, wine-glasses, and cakes now 
stood among a litter of manuscripts, sketch-books, and 
music. The company grew more lively, laughter began to 

333 



I GO INTO SOCIETY 339 

ring out, cigarettes to glow, and the young artists began 
toasting one another. 

Suddenly the parlourmaid appeared and whispered 
something in our host's ear. He turned pale. " My father- 
in-law is coming," he said uneasily, and springing to his 
feet went to the door. 

There was a general commotion. Most of those present 
prepared to take their leave, and went over to the door. 
" Must you go so soon?" 

"Yes . . . yes . . . we were just on the point of going." 

"Yes . . . well . . . perhaps it's better. He's so 
peculiar. ..." 

Gesa and I alone remained. 

The old man came in, slightly bent and white-haired, 
but with bright youthful eyes. "Well, my dear boy," he 
observed, glancing round the room, "so you've been having 
a little party, have you?" 

"Yes, Father. We have had a few friends here. Have 
a drink, won't you?" 

The old man declined, and his son left the room to take 
leave of his guests. 

Meanwhile the father-in-law and I got on grandly 
together. He saw at once in my eyes that I had suffered 
bitterly, and, declaring that only people who had had my 
experience could write books, began to scoff at the band of 
would-be artists I had just met. 

He pleased me immensely, and I did my utmost, even 
after the son came back, to humour him by talking like a 
man well versed in business matters. But as I found this 
somewhat exhausting after a time, I took an early opportunity 
of bidding them both good-bye. 

On the way home I felt called upon to keep up the pose 
I had adopted at the house just a little while longer, and 
after praising the father-in-law and zissuring Gesa that he 
was also singing my praises at that moment I expressed my 
views concerning the various social questions the old man 
and I had touched upon. 

Gesa was happy. She felt clear about things for once, 
and was proud of me; and as we drew near home she was 
exquisitely charming to me. 

A day or two later we called on the Sooths. Apparently 



340 OTTO BABENDIEK 

Paul was still having difEculties with the peasants about his 
youngest brother, but he had addressed a letter of complaint 
to the Sheriff, and hoped that in the spring all would be 
well, and that the boy would come to them in Hambiurg. 
He was also feeling some anxiety about his second sis- 
ter, who was ill and working at a baker's. But he said 
he would ride otit to her the next day on his bicycle, 
and as this would save expense he would give her the money 
his fare would have cost. 

I was much moved by his faithful love for his brothers 
and sisters, and asked him whether it did not make his wife 
jealous. But he protested that she only laughed, and was 
forced to admit that he and his family seemed to have a 
peculiar faculty for making her laugh. 

Paul and his wife then insisted that we should go with 
them to a large party to which they had been invited and at 
which everybody was welcome, and she was so pressing that 
we agreed to join them. It was a Bohemian affair, where, 
among other people, I met my old school rival in literature, 
the fellow I had compared to Goethe; and towards the end 
of the evening who should drop in, with a number of other 
artists, but Eilert Mumm. 

A tall girl sitting beside us, whom I had once seen at 
my editorial offices in Altona, gave a littie cry of joy and 
relief at the sight of him, and it struck me that she had 
probably come to the party only in the hope of meeting 
him. 

He turned his huge peasant's head towards us, and came 
to greet us with a smile of pleased surprise in his eyes. 
Apparently he had just arrived from Holland to paint a 
portrait and hold an exhibition of some of his pidlures. 
He congratulated me on the success of my book, asked Gesa 
how she got on with the hypocritical humbug that I was, 
and smiled, eloquentiy at her when she blushed. Then, 
seizing the tall girl's hand and laying it on his arm in his 
free-and-easy way, he assured her that he had come on 
purpose to see her. 

She drew herself up and looked at him full of bewilder- 
ment and joy. "Don't let us stay here any longer," he 
said, and turning to ns he added: "I shall come and look 
you up cither to-morrow or the day after." 



I GO INTO SOCIETY 34I 

We left together, but in the search for our coats became 
separated. When Gesa looked about for the couple on the 
steps outside they had vanished. " Where have they got to 
now?" she exclaimed wistfully. 

I shrugged my shoulders. "That's Eilert Mumm all 
over," I replied. 

"Heavens!" she cried. "That girl cbmes from a good 
family ! If her mother only knew ! " 

But no, these social fundions were no good for me! 
There was too much empty show about them, too little to 
learn, and too much waste of time. They ruined the sacred 
freshness of my mornings for me, and disturbed my silent 
contemplation of the souls of my fellow-men« 

Eilert never turned up sifter all, but a charming little note 
arrived from Almut to say that she had read my book with 
great joy, that she felt very proud at the thought of being 
my oldest friend, and wanted to see me. She ended up 
by asking me to take Gesa to dinner with her and Fritz 
on the following day, and presumed that I had told my 
wife all about her. 

The house was a fairly large one in Winterhude, built 
in the pretentious purse-proud style peculiar to the period 
just before the Great War. The hall was lofty, oppressive, 
and unhomely. It had a large red brick fireplace standing 
opposite an old altar-piece taken from some village church, 
and in the centre was a vast table, covered with botdes of 
liqueur, huge cigars, and flowers. I vfas conscious of the 
ostentatious formality of the place, and felt that neither my 
erstwhile friend nor the beloved playmate of my youth 
fitted into the surroundings. 

Fritz Hellebeck, in a smart dinner-jacket, came majesti- 
cally forward to meet us. What wonderful assurance ! What 
vanity in the smile on his fine handsome face ! 

He paused after he had greeted us, no doubt because he 
expeAed me to congratulate him on his success, his house, 
and his fine hall. 

He had been my idol, and as I looked at his charming 
features, beaming with self-assurance, I was again conscious 
of his power over me, though I fought against it and con- 
quered it. For I remembered the foul patches bene<ith 



343 OTTO BABENDIEK 

that smooth surface. Without returning his smile I said I 
was particularly glad of the opportunity of seeing Almut 
again and of introducing my wife to her, and hoped they 
would get on well together. 

I noticed that he gave a little start, and a subtle expression 
of ineffable pride and disdain came into his handsome face. 
At this moment another guest arrived and he had to intro- 
duce us. He was an Englishman of about forty, though in 
appearance he might well have been a German from the 
country. Indeed, I discovered later that he adually was a 
farmer. When Fritz had sufficiently recovered from his 
pique he informed us that Mr Crawley was the brother of 
an English peer. 

As I was younger than the other two men, and the fame 
my novel had won me had undermined rather than increased 
my self-confidence, I assumed the attitude of a reserved 
and respe<Sful observer, accepting the stranger's rank with- 
out question. But when I glanced at Gesa I noticed that, 
unlike myself, she had remained quite unmoved, and was 
coldly observing the Englishman out of the corners of her 
eyes, until, allowing her glance to wander round the room, 
it lighted upon a pidure of a ship on the high seas. 

Meanwhile Fritz informed me that he and the Englishman 
wished to go to Cuxhaven and Duhnen together. " You will 
be shown everything of interest," he said, turning to Mr 
Crawley. " As an ex-Uhlan, I think I can explain most things 
to you. I don't think we'll say you are English, otherwise 
we might have difficulties." 

I fancied that the Englishman did not look altogether 
pleased; but touching my hand in the most simple and 
friendly way, he said: "That sounds suspicious; but an old 
artillery sergeant may be forgiven for wanting to go with a 
friend to see all the old things again." 

I hinted that he looked so German and spoke the language 
so well that no one would take him for an Englishman. 

" My mother was German," he replied with some pride — 
or was it defiance ? 

As the conversation was becoming somewhat strained, I 
was relieved when another guest arrived, a Captain Dierksen, 
a business man. He had a breezy, swaggering air, and 
smacking Fritz on the shoulder asked where Almut was, 



r GO INTO SOCIETY 343 

exclaiming that although Fritz was a damned good-looking 
fellow, his wife cut him out completely. 

Fritz assured him that Almut had been inquiring about 
him and was delighted at the thought of seeing him. He 
did not seem to be surprised. "All women are the same!" 
he cried. "They are delighted when I come, and cry 
when I go. You'll be just the same," he added, turning to 
Gesa with a laugh. 

Other guests arrived, and at last Almut appeared, looking 
radiant in a dress of blue silk and lace. I saw at once that 
she was still quite girlish, and that there was little either of 
the woman or the mother about her. She hardly gave us 
time to greet her, but leading Gesa and me to the other end 
of the hall sat down and immediately started a friendly chat 
with us alone. 

I gathered that she had heard about Hans living alone 
and was worried. I told her that I had been to see him 
quite recendy, and although I tried to upset her as little 
as possible I was obliged to admit that he seemed rather 
low, both physically and mentally. But I avoided giving 
her any explanation of his condition. 

I could see she was deeply distressed and also suspic- 
ious. She said she had begun to see things more clearly 
since she had grown up, and remembered that I too had 
wondered why he was treated so badly by his stepmother 
and always depreciated, when he was cleverer than all the 
rest of them put together. Then she proceeded to ask me 
what I thought of Fritz, and whether I considered that he 
and his mother had dealt honestly by Hans, to whose mother 
the farm had once belonged. She said she had been alone 
a good deal of late, and had had time to think things 
over. And she questioned me again about Fritz, saying 
she could not quite make him out, and adding that she 
felt suspicious about his friends, Dutti Kohl, Mr Crawley 
the Englishman, and the business man with the wild eyes. 
"My heart thumps," she exclaimed, "whenever he looks 
at me!" 

Presently she took Gesa and me into the next room. "I 
can't tell you what I think, Almut," I said. "If I were 
to be shot to-morrow, I could not tell you ! You must keep 
your eyes open, and gradually find out how the land lies. 



344 OTTO BABENDIEK 

But you must insist on going to see Hans and helping him. 
You are the only person who can help him!" 

Evidently she saw by my expression how perturbed I was 
about our dear friend, for she turned horrified towards me 
and was just going to say something or ask a question when 
Fritz came up, with a look of dignified reproach on his 
face. "You must show yourself, my child!" he exclaimed. 
"Captain Dierksen has asked after you three times, and 
you know I want to do business with him." He spoke 
with that air of superb indifference which I knew so well, 
as if the matter, though extremely important, was not really 
of much consequence to him. But he did not look at me. 
He knew I was secredy at loggerheads with him, and felt 
ill at ease in my presence, for he only felt happy and secure 
when everybody about him was smiling and pleasant. 

As we went in to dinner I noticed that Dutd Kohl was 
among the guests. The meal was very elaborate, course 
following course, and by the time dessert was served the 
conversation all round the table had become very lively. 
Dutti Kohl, who was sitting next to Gesa, talked to me about 
Buchholz, and was whispering all kinds of scandal about 
Frau Hellebeck. He was convinced, like everybody else,' 
that she had murdered her husband, and that Hans either 
knew it or suspeded it. "Isn't she a wonderful woman?" 
he exclaimed. "There's a mother who has done something 
for her boy, if you like ! But as for the boy himself ! Just 
look! He has placed his lovely wife next to that Captain 
Dierksen! Any other husband would have protefted her 
against him ! But he is a mass of vanity ! As for business 
— never, as long as he lives, will Fritz Hellebeck do any 
business, or understand the beginnings of it ! All he wants 
to do is to scrape acquaintance with Captain Dierksen's 
sister, who is related by marriage to a good old Hamburg 
family! But he won't succeed. He'll only succeed in 
making himself a beggar. When the farm has been mort- 
gaged up to the chimneys, which will happen in about two 
years' time, then exped the crash ! " 

I glanced towards the other end of the table. Almut was 
sitting next to Captain Dierksen, with Fritz opposite them; 
and Dierksen, with eyes full of boastful laughter, was telhng 
dubious, not to say disdndly risky, stories. He thrust his 



I GO INTO SOCIETY 345 

great clean-shaven face quite close to Almut's, and laughed 
provocatively at her. I could see that, big and handsome 
though Hellebeck was, he had not known how to awaken 
the woman in his wife, and that the great hulking fellow 
at her side was terrifying and fascinating her, and flirting 
with her quite heavily. For he understood women, and 
also knew how the land lay. In fa<ft, the way he was courting 
her, under the very nose of her husband and of us all, was 
positively shameless, and revealed the bottomless contempt 
he felt for every one present. 

When we rose from table Fritz, who, though not joining 
in, had taken care to listen to their conversation, urged his 
wife to take Captain Dierksen into another room and show 
him a pidure of the farm and the Dean's house; and she 
tripped off with him in her charming fairylike way. 

A little while later Dierksen returned alone, and I noticed 
that his face was pale and that he looked crestfallen and 
uncomfortable. Going up to a group who were chatting 
together, he stood there, quite unlike his usual self, not 
saying a word, and I saw him biting his lips. 

I suspe<fted that something had happened, and Gesa and 
I went into the next room. As Almut was not there we 
continued our search, and found her in a simply fiu-nished 
little sitting-room beyond. She had flung herself into a 
chair, and, pale as death, was gasping for breath. As soon 
as we appeared she told us with quivering lips all that had 
happened. 

The brute had adually assaulted her, bitten her on the 
arm like a wild beast! She was utterly at a loss to under- 
stand how such an outrage was possible. "Fritz . . . 
Fritz wanted this to happen!" she blurted out. "He tried 
once before to leave me alone with the brute. . . . Now I 
know why. . . . Oh, if only Hans were here!" Then, 
shaking in every Umb and burying her face in her hands, 
she cried: "The man is so wild and so handsome! It is 
all so new to me! I can't think what's come over me. 
But I know this. ... I am going to Hans the first thing 
to-morrow." 

I pleaded with\|her not to go like that all of a sudden. 
I said I would write to Hans first, so that he could get things 
straight before she arrived. 



3^6 OTTO BABENDIEK 

She did not at first understand to what extent he was 
roughing it in the cottage. She only knew that her present 
life was a tissue of lies, and that she had lost faith in her 
husband and his mother. 

When I tried to describe how Hans was living and told 
her how careless he was about his clothes and his food, 
instead of deterring her, my words had the contrary effeft, 
and confirmed her determination to go to him at once. 
She confessed that she did not love her husband, that her 
mother-in-law had talked her into marrying him, and was 
responsible for everything. She saw it all now — how Frau 
Hellebeck's love for Fritz had made her humiliate Hans — 
and she knew that she herself did not love Fritz. Her 
experience with that brute had given her an idea of what 
love was, and had taught her that all the time she had really 
loved only Hans. She must go to him ! 

Again I tried to dissuade her, emphasizing the con- 
fusion in which he lived. But it was no good. Gnashing 
her teeth, she repeated that she must go to him. " I 
shall kneel before him," she exclaimed, "and wash him 
myself!" 

At that moment Fritz appeared at the door; but as our 
faces were in shadow he did not see how agitated we all 
were. In his kindest and most condescending tones he 
told her that she was wanted again. 

She winced when she heard his voice, and standing close 
to my shoulder exclaimed in frightened tones: "You and 
your mother have not told me the truth about Hans. . . . 
He is miserable. . . . He has always been miserable, and 
it's all through you and your mother. ..." 

Fritz's handsome face grew grave. He could not tolerate 
anything that disturbed or darkened his life. "Did you 
tell her that, Babendiek ? " he inquired reproachfully. 

I shook my head. "All I have told her is that Hans is 
living in the cottage in the wood," I replied, "and that she 
cannot go to him as she wants to." 

She then returned to her charges. Why had she been 
forced to give Fritz her meadows? Why had he sent 
her into a room alone with that handsome man who had 
fallen upon her like a beast of prey? She had begun to see 
everything more clearly. She did not love him. She felt 



I GO INTO SOCIETY 347 

nothing for him. But Hans was in trouble and living in 
filth and poverty, and she loved him. "Your mother 
hjis driven me quite mad," she added, beating her little 
hands on her breast, "ever since my earliest childhood, 
with her sickening chatter! It was always Fritz, Fritz, 
Fritz . . . But Hans was half-witted, your plaything, your 
slave! . . ." And she proceeded to call for Hans, declaring 
that she loved him. Then suddenly tearing off her dress, 
she vowed she would fly to him that moment. "Anything 
to get away from you, you hairdresser's model, you pidure 
postcard ! " 

Fritz had turned very pale, but he still maintained his 
dignity. Nay, he was more dignified, gracious, and con- 
descending than ever. "I don't wish to prevent you," he 
said; "but remember you will be very poor!" 

"Do you mean to say you are going to stop in all this 
luxury," I exclaimed, "with those two quite poor? You 
know perfedly well that the farm comes from Hans's mother, 
and the meadows were Almut's." 

"I'm afraid I can't help that!" he replied with calm 
urbanity. " My business obligations alone . . . and the law 
is on my side." 

I flared up. His sandimonious tone was too much for 
me. "Yes," I cried, in a choking voice, "yes, that is you 
all over! That's just how you spoke when you let your 
little playmate down over the fish ponds, when you left me 
in the lurch after taking the money from my uncle's desk, 
and when you ruined Ernemann by stealing that money 
too. The law is always on your side, because it does not 
probe deeply enough into men's hearts and souls. You 
sacrifice everybody to your vanity!" 

I knew he would not fly at me. On the contrary, he 
remained cool and haughty, expressed his pity for us all, 
referred to my powers of imagination which were notorious, 
and, turning calmly to Almut, said he hoped we should 
all leave the house quietly without any fuss. Then, wheeling 
round on his heel, he left the room and closed the door 
gently behind him. 

Almut's haste to get away positively terrified Gesa and 
me. Hardly an hour elapsed before she had packed all 
her things and she and her child were driving with us to 



348 OTTO BABENDIEK 

Ovelgonne. And on the following morning I accompanied 
the two of them to Buchholz. 

On the way I tried to explain to her what the real life 
of the people at the farm had been, and I saw that she had 
never had the smallest inkling of the truth. I told her 
about the sudden death of the father, and of the suspicions 
that were current in the neighbourhood. I also enlightened 
her about the charader of Frau Hellebeck, her own grand- 
father the Dean, the man Soren, and Fritz. 

We reached Buchholz at dusk, hired a fly to take us to 
the village, and, following the same track through the woods 
that we had once taken as children, made our way to Hans's 
cottage. 

As we approached it I noticed to my relief that there was 
a light behind the dirty little window, and, stumbling over 
the rough ground, we drew near and peered into the room. 

Hans was sitting there alone, dressed in his dirty ragged 
working clothes, poring .over a book. His long face, with 
its simple stolid features and its large mouth, looked very 
thin, and was covered with a few days' growth of beard. 
He seemed to be deeply absorbed in what he was reading, 
and his lips moved. AJfter a while he stood up, and as he 
stared blankly in front of him we could see how deep was 
his despair and how complete the shipwreck of his soul. 
Almut was sobbing quietly, 

I knocked at the window. 

How he started! Then we went round to the door, and 
as he did not seem to be coming I knocked again. At 
last he opened the door, and there was fear in his voice 
as he asked who was there. It struck me that he cotdd 
not have been far from a mental breakdown when we 
arrived. 

When I told him he uttered a groan of astonishment or 
horror and fancied he saw ghosts. And it was only when 
Almut called to him, and I repeated my name a little angrily, 
that he let us in. 

And I stood by and saw how Almut, forgetting all the 
refinement and brilliance of her past Ufe, and even the child 
she had brought with her, flung herself into the arms of 
that great, gaunt, ragged, and dirty man, who was almost 
half-witted, and immediately blossomed into womanhood 



I GO INTO SOCIETY 349 

as she did so; experiencing more in that half-hour than she 
had done during the whole of the twenty-six years of her 
life. She had come to fling herself in anguish on her 
knees before him, to beg forgiveness for all the wrong 
she had done him and others, to sit by his bed and to watch 
over him while he slept. But as she stood clasped in his 
arms her emotions got the better of her, and the bite she 
could still feel on her arm fanned them to flame. Seizing 
his great tousled head between her hands, and nestling 
against him, she kissed him passionately again and again, 
repeating that she was his and that she was in heaven. 
And then I heard Hans Hellebeck — who, though a man 
of thirty-five, had never known a woman, and whose soul 
was half-buried beneath years of lonely brooding — I heard 
his heart awaken, and in the intoxication of the moment 
suddenly give utterance to the sublimest nonsense! . . . 
Yes, I saw all this. . . . For men are flesh and blood, 
and though this may account for all the evil in them it 
also accounts for all that is beautiful as well. 

But the child began to cry, and, looking round the room, 
asked for some hot milk. Hans and I went into the kitchen, 
and as we busied ourselves with the fire I told him what 
had happened. "You might have had her from the first!" 
I concluded indignantly. "She loved you and nobody 
else. But you were a sleepy old donkey of a Low Saxon! " 

He did not answer, but remained buried in thought. 
When the milk was ready he went back to her, while I 
remained in the kitchen and put some water on the fire. 
A littie later when I went in to them I found him sitting 
on the edge of his bed with Almut asleep in his arms, and 
the child sleeping on the easy-chair in the blankets she 
had brought with her. 

I reminded him of a former occasion when they had sat 
opposite me in a similar position. He nodded, and there 
was a light in those deep-set eyes of his which only a moment 
before had looked so desperate. I felt certain that for the 
last quarter of an hour he had scarcely breathed so as not 
to disturb her. "She knows all!" he whispered, and his 
large mouth remained open in anxious astonishment. 

"She had already come to the end of her tether with 
him," I replied, "so I felt justified in telling her everything." 



350 OTTO BABENDIEK 

"Then she is mine," he exclaimed, "and will stay with 
mc?" 

I nodded. 

"And all the King's horses and all the King's men shan't 
take her from me," he added. 

I urged him to clean himself up and get some decent 
clothes, and scolded him generally. I saw that it did him 
good, for his deep-set eyes looked quite calmly at me. 

I promised I would give him some money to buy things 
with, and told him he must have some more cows, and 
do everything in his power to get his little property in 
order. "Don't break her up in your great bony hands," I 
concluded angrily, "and don't devour her with your oven 
of a mouth!" 

He smiled. 

Yes, he a(5lually smiled ! 

And when I saw that I shook hands with him and left. 



CHAPTER XXIII 

A Difficult Interview 

^i^HEN I think of this period I shake my head in sad surprise, 
for I was not leading a proper life at all. And yet I could 
change nothing, first of all because of a kink in my own nature, 
and secondly because I gave way too much to Gesa. 

Unfortunately I was in too great a hurry and tried to 
do too much all at once. I ought to have taken my time; 
I also needed peace. But I was too young to know this. I 
was always creating trouble for myself. 

I used to worry about people and mix myself up in 
their affairs and try to help them, doing more harm than 
good, I fancy. An artist should leave such things alone, 
or else delegate his charitable duties to some other person. 
But I undertook everything myself, and at least three-quarters 
of the time afled ill-advisedly — with what disastrous conse- 
quences to myself! 

My fellow-creatures, moreover, pestered me to death, al- 
ways pressing me to join them in something or other. But 
I derived no pleasure from their entertainments; I did not 
require such things. Then Gesa would invite me to go 
sailing. But I found it either horribly boring or unspeak- 
ably exasperating. I also allowed myself to be inveigled 
into other distasteful escapades, selling my soul for hours 
or days at a time. I had not yet learnt that what really 
gave me pleasure was to indulge in leisurely soul-to-soiil 
talks, and listen to anything people had to tell me about 
themselves, whether sad or gay, as I watched the kaleido- 
scopic movement of human existence enthralled. 

I often sat up till all hours of the night over religious and 
philosophic works, and would wander from the most up- 
to-date thought — Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and the new 
theology — back to the original sources of our culture — 
Plato, Seneca, and the Gospels. Everywhere I sought food 
and nourishment for my soul, but for bread more often 

351. 



352 OTTO BABENDIEK 

than not found a stone, and was never quite satisfied. But 
what pains I took! How I pondered, and what ground I 
covered ! 

I was very unhappy, though I did not know why. I was 
in chains, and knew it not. Sometimes I feh I must set 
myself free, but the desire was not strong enough to translate 
itself into aftion. ... I had no proper life, no real, true 
life. 

Meanwhile Gesa went sailing ! The new boat had merely 
served to whet her appetite, and all that she and the "boys" 
seemed to aim at was to break all records! These things 
were beyond me, but I picked up bits of information here 
and there when I happened to hear them talking. Thus 
when I was alone with Gesa I used to warn her about the 
risks she ran; but I could not help feeling that she hardly 
heard what I said. 

I am afraid I was very weak where she was concerned, 
and the faft that I had a little money proved our undoing. 
As I could afford to pay a neighbour to do our housework, 
and had my meals at an inn close by, Gesa was free to spend 
nearly the whole day on the Elbe. And if, as rarely hap- 
pened, she chanced to be sitting at home with me, making 
herself a cheap dress with her usual inordinately long stitches, 
her head would turn to the window at the slightest gust of 
wind, and a look come into her eager eyes, as though she 
had heard a call; whereupon off she would go to the river 
again. 

If only she had been happy! — it was my dearest wish that 
she should be; if only she and I could have derived some 
sort of contentment from this mode of life ! But we didn't. 
Others might have done so, but we did not. We tormented 
each other. While our passion for each other remained 
unchanged, in everything else there was constraint; we no 
longer spoke to each other open-heartedly, but picked our 
words. If she mentioned her boat, or the wind, or Heligo- 
land, she would make a start and then grow uneasy, think- 
ing I was not interested. And if I began to discuss one of 
my stories, I too would soon stop short, knowing she was 
bored. 

And though all this was unavoidable we could not 
help reproaching ourselves and feeling guilty, as if it was 



A DIFFICULT INTERVIEW 353 

our own fault that our eyes were different and our tastes 
incompatible. 

I, being the stronger, stood it better than she did, and 
sought and found in my mother-in-law what I had failed to 
discover in her daughter. But Gesa was different, although 
I did not notice it for a long while. For months I imagined 
she did not feel it as much as I did, and that her nature was 
more frivolous and resilient than mine. But one day I dis- 
covered my mistake. 

We had just been in to the town, I forget what for — 
possibly to see an exhibition of Eilert's pidures — and having ■ 
left the tram at Flottbeck on our way home, were drinking 
coffee at a riverside cafe, when a tragic accident occurred before 
our very eyes. 

A storm had blown up during the afternoon, which was 
partly responsible for Gesa's wish to walk home from Flott- 
beck. We were watching a boat, which Gesa knew quite 
well, making its way along the river, when just as it reached 
a bend a sudden squall took the little craft by surprise, and 
it turned turtle. Gesa and I were the first to reach the 
bank and push a boat out to the rescue; but we soon saw 
that there was no sign of the crdyjon the surface of the water, 
and assumed that the waves wife too strong or that the 
sails were preventing them from rising. At last, after half 
an hour of anxious waiting, the two bodies were recovered, 
but although the dodors tried artificial respiration for a 
long time their efforts proved vjiin, and we went back to 
our cafe, paid for what we had had, and walked home. 

I was depressed and angry, and gave vent to my feelings 
by inveighing hotly against the frivolity, thoughtlessness, and 
undutifulness of the two young men who had been drowned, 
and expressing my sympathy for their relatives. And I 
repeated my warnings to Gesa, imploring her to think of my 
own and her parents' distress if ever she were the vidlim 
of such a mishap. 

As she said nothing, I tried to peer into her face, and 
to my surprise found that her expression was quite blank. 
When I nudged her to make her attend to what I was saying 
she replied with a strange melancholy which I had not 
suspeded in her: "Oh, it wouldn't matter so much as all 
that!" I protested violently, but she only said that she 



354 OTTO BABENDIEK 

was good for nothing except sailing, and that life could not 
be all sailing. She added that she had not felt this until she 
lived with me, but now she was often quite hopeless. 

I had always mastered my own melancholy by my religious 
faith, but I don't think I had ever discussed these deepest 
and most sacred things with her; for at first we had been 
too happy, like a pair of sea-gulls in the sun. But when I 
saw her distress I longed to help her, and I told her about 
the spiritual background to my life. 

She listened for a while in silence; then she said she had 
long known that I believed in a God and other supernatural 
things, but that she couldn't. Even at school she had never 
felt any inclination to do so. She could not believe in any- 
thing she could not see with her eyes and hear with her 
ears. She knew it was all wrong, but she couldn't help it. 
Although she did not use these aAual words, this was more 
or less what she meant, and in her voice there was just that 
suggestion of bitterness or mild anger which showed that 
she envied me and other people for being different from 
herself. 

I was extremely depressed by her confession. I felt as 
though I had a pauper at my side whose misery my wealth 
could do nothing to relieve. At last, as I was utterly at a 
loss to know what to say, I spoke of her parents, of our love, 
and of my hope that she might have children, and then all 
would be well. 

But she repeated that she did not want children. She 
saw no point in reproducing so imperfeft a being as herself. 

"You have married a sea-gull," she said. "Isn't there 
some fairy-tale about that? My mother always wanted to 
tell me fairy-tales when I was a child, but I could never 
listen to the end. I made paper boats instead. There's 
nothing of that kind in me!" And the blankness of her 
expression made her look almost half-witted. 

I shuddered and was silent. I knew now that it was 
impossible for anyone to help her. God had bolted and 
baired all the entrances to her soul. I did not understand 
it at the time, but during the years of war, and particularly 
during those long hours on the snow-covered roads of 
Russia, everything gradually became clear to me. 

Oh, I made many mistakes — nothing but mistakes, in 



A DIFFICULT INTERVIEW 355 

fad. It was a mistake to take so much interest in other 
people and forget Gesa. It was a mistake to go to Stormfeld 
just then, and not persuade her to join me. At first she 
wanted to come. But when the day arrived the "boys" 
sent her a pressing invitation to go to Norderney, and I 
gave in. So she went off in her boat and I returned to 
our cottage. 

As I stood alone in the silent room a wonderful feeling 
of serenity came over me. "Home!" I said softly. "I 
must go home ! " 

That was where my childhood had been spent ! And a 
man's childhood stamps the whole of his life with an impress 
that lasts till he is ninety. There, at least, I could be myself 
and belong to myself! 

I reached the house towards evening and peeped into the 
forge, which was already quite dark. Then I saw something 
move and recognized Engel Tiedje, peering out at me, his 
face twitching and the sooty fingers of both his hands buried 
in his hair. 

"Don't you know me," I cried, "or aren't you pleased?" 

As usual when he was embarrassed, his little blinking 
eyes wandered up and down the walls, and he tried to make 
a deep respedful bow, but failed. 

Then I understood what was the matter! I had sent 
him one or two Press cuttings, in which my youthful rise to 
fame was discussed, and had been somewhat surprised that 
he had never written to me since. I now saw that he 
had taken the thing in the wrong way. So kissing him and 
twitting him with having gone off his head, I led him 
trembling at the knees to the bench and sat down. And 
thus we remained for some time, I stroking his hands while 
the tears ran down his face. 

I gathered he was crying because he imagined I had 
drifted away from him, and was very much upset. For a 
long while we said little, though I continued to expostulate 
with him from time to time. At last I asked whether he 
would not like to have a pipe, and, standing up, he plunged 
his hand into his side pocket and lit his pipe with trembling 
hands. Then he called to Auntie Siene in the kitchen, and 
when her jolly round face appeared in the doorway he said 



356 OTTO BABENDIEK 

with a grand gesture: "Otto is here . . . and just the same 
as ever ! " 

After he had washed himself and we had been all over 
the house we went for a long stroll together, first round 
the garden, and then across the dunes to the beach, recalling 
old times, greeting neighbours, and talking of my parents, 
Uhle Monk, and my own affairs. 

When the two old people went to bed I retired to the 
sitting-room, in which my beloved parents' bed had been 
prepared for me. Opening the window, on the garden side 
of the house, I sat and listened to the murmur of the waves 
and the rustUng of the trees in the churchyard, while 
my spirit wandered along every path, into every house, 
visiting all my friends. And wherever it went it found 
the ground firm beneath its feet. 

Then followed weeks which might have been full of the 
purest beauty for me if only I had not been so young and 
had not made the mistake of being in too great a hurry. 
For hurry is always unbecoming and harmful. 

They were weeks of wonderful fertility. For the first 
time since my childhood I found myself in a suitable en- 
vironment, in my native country, with my whole day free 
to do as my spirit and my gifts prompted me. All the 
morning I woijd sit at my dear parents' table, sometimes 
starting before Engel had Ughted the forge fire, and would 
write and write, slowly and painstakingly building up the 
charafters in my new book till they stood out more vividly 
before my eyes than did their living prototypes. 

And in the afternoons I would mix with my fellow- 
creatures; I would stand and talk with Engel and his 
assistant in the forge, surrounded by peasants, or with 
Auntie Siene, among the wallflowers and columbine in 
my mother's garden. I called on the young peasants and 
teachers who had been my playmates at school, and would 
wander with them and the young girls along the beach, 
or drive into the woods behind the first line of hills beyond 
the marshes. And everywhere, everywhere, I felt myself 
at one with them. I read their souls and their thoughts. 
I saw their hates and their loves, their cares and their plans, 
their joys and their sorrows. And I got to know the beauti- 
ful girls of the distrid better. They tried to cotirt me. 



A DIFFICULT INTERVIEW 357 

Indeed, they never did anything else! It was second 
nature with them. They always tried to court any man 
who seemed the least bit desirable. And the fad that I 
had a young wife only made it all the more exciting. They 
flirted charmingly with me, and I did not mind. My 
whole being longed not for books, but for life! But I was 
a little intemperate, hasty, and over-anxious. 

I often wandered about alone too, particularly when it 
was raining or very windy. And then, with the line of the 
horizon and the coast before me, pointing to eternity, I 
pondered on the meaning of life and the universe, and on 
my place and mission therein. Fearfully and with a beat- 
ing heart I worshipped the unseen, and what I felt to be 
the eternal power Isehind phenomena. And through the 
unaided efforts of my soul I gradually became serene in 
my being, because my being reposed in God- Was this 
really so? Alas, no! I was still too young! But I was 
moving towards my goal, and my soul divined whither my 
path would lead, and became more resigned, calmer, and 
happier. 

Every fortnight or so Gesa would sail down the Elbe to 
me with one or two of the "boys," and would warn me 
of her arrival by telephoning to our neighbour the inn- 
keeper. And I would go to the dunes and look out over 
that vast expanse of water for the pathetic little sail I knew 
so well. It seemed fixed to one spot, so slowly did it move, 
and I would go back home, and on returning to the dunes 
would find that it had hardly stirred. Then suddenly it 
would seem to be coming quite close, and in a moment she 
would be standing by me, with her bright fair hair, her 
keen grey eyes, and her soft white limbs. 

Three days of unspeakable bliss would follow. Bliss? 
Why, we were mad with joy! We could not leave each 
other. In the evening she would sit between Engel Tiedje 
and Auntie Siene and work at a new frock, and I don't 
know which of us three marvelled most at the length of her 
stitches. She would ask Engel questions about my child- 
hood, and by sly attacks on my charafter provoke him 
most reludantly to defend me. But we were united heart 
and soul, for it seemed as though Gesa — ^as the three of us 
secredy hoped — ^were going to stay. 



358 OTTO BABENDIEK 

Yet on the fourth day she would grow restless and begin 
to fuss about her boat. Casting her eyes across the waters, 
she would talk of nothing but the wind, the water, the 
birds, and the boats. Was it homesickness? Did she long 
for her kind mother and that kindred spirit her father? 
Or was it I ? Did I perhaps make her feel, in some subtle, 
intangible way, that she was standing between me and 
my work? Was I perhaps no less possessed than she was? 
At all events, she would soon be sitting at the tiller, manip- 
ulating the ropes . . . the wind would catch her sails, and 
with one last look at me she would turn her face to the water 
and glide away. It drew her like a magnet ... a power she 
could not resist. 

One day I made a long excursion north along the heights 
of the old coast-line, and, feeling deeply stirred, passed many 
memorable spots associated with some of the most poig- 
nant episodes of my childhood — the hilly moor which I had 
crossed on my flight from Uncle Peter; the stone on which 
I had sat, tired out, when Balle had found me; the ditch 
along which I had waded with Bothilde on that summer 
night ; and the old farmhouse with the window of the room 
in which I had so often sat up telling Bothilde and her 
friends stories of an evening. What a part that girl had 
played in my childhood! And was it not my memory of 
her that made me descend to the plain from the hills? I 
had heard from Balle that she was still held in the toils of 
her old love, and knowing her sterling qualities, and 
indignant that she should be bound to one so unworthy, I 
felt I must go to her and if possible help her. 

At the entrance to the farm I happened to meet one of 
the old farm-hands, to whom I made myself known, and 
stopped tzdking to him for some time, asking him about the 
people of the house. He told me that Bothilde ran the 
place now, that her father, who was old, aded as herds- 
man, and that her mother was dragging out a half-crazy 
existence. The brother from America had proved a waster, 
but he lived at the farm as his sister's menial; while Dieter 
Blank, who still hung round making love to Bothilde, was 
qmte hopeless. 

As we stood talking by the fence who should come along 
but Bothilde herself, somewhat flushed with exercise, for 



A DIFFICULT INTERVIEW 359 

she was bringing in some of the day's milk; and though at 
first she looked questioningly at me, when she recognized 
me her powerful features melted into a friendly smile and 
she invited me to lunch. 

I noticed how much cleaner and brighter the rooms 
looked than they had done when her parents had control 
of the place, and as soon as we were alone in the parlour — 
the others were to have their meal in the kitchen — I told 
her how pleased I was to find her looking so strong and 
well. "Your whole personality breathes kindness and com- 
fort," I said. " I felt that as a child." And I reminded her 
that she was in Eilert's pidure. 

"Yes," she replied without either pride or emotion, "he 
painted me at the shepherds' two years ago. I am a distant 
relative of theirs, and once a year I help Uhle to clean up 
their place." Uhle had told her I had written a book, and 
she marvelled at what her little farm boy had done. 

We were interrupted by the familiar sound of the front 
door being opened, and as she turned pale and went 
trembling out of the room I gathered it was Dieter Blank. 
As she spoke to him about me I noticed that her voice 
had completely changed, and that she spoke in the humble, 
pleading, timid tone I knew so well. 

Evidently anxious to prove that my visit meant nothing 
to him, he replied rudely that he too had friends waiting 
for him, and was going to Ballum with them, inviting her 
to join them. 

She begged him piteously to stop at home, but I heard 
him answer impatiently something to the effedl that he 
was "fed to the teeth" with her importunities; and then 
he went away. 

I got up to catch a glimpse of him from the window as 
he left, and saw that he was the same as ever — a short, sturdy 
man, who seemed to move on springs. Fiery and head- 
strong, he wzis a complete contrast to her. 

When she returned I took her to task for putting up with 
such treatment — she the proudest in the land! "Surely 
you can do better than that!" I exclaimed. 

She declared there was no one else, and that I could not 
understand. But I knew that only another man could 
release her from her bondage. 



360 OTTO BABENDIEK 

At last, to my infinite joy and surprise, I managed to 
extraft from her that there was somebody else, and that 
his name was Eilert Mumm. "But he has gone back to 
Holland," she added. 

I pointed out that he was not the marrying sort, but she 
said she did not mind. 

I protested that I could not understand how so supremely 
desirable a woman could have been so unsuccessful in love. 

"Yes," she said faintly, "and they are both drunkards." 

"I cannot understand!" I cried angrily. "Surely there 
are plenty of men after you ! I can't believe there isn't one 
you could put up with — some good steady fellow who would 
offer you marriage and children. Heavens, how can you 
stand a rotter like that, who deliberately torments you!" 

We were silent for a while, then presently she observed 
that it was not quite true to call him a rotter. Deep down 
there was good in him, but an evil spirit never let it come 
to the top. " Perhaps one day he wUl die," she whispered 
with a sigh. " He goes home drunk often enough." 

"And you want him to die?" I asked. 

"Yes," she said calmly. "I have been wanting it for 
years." 

So she coveted peace through the death of her beloved ! 
I laid a hand on hers. "Why, for two pins I'd lie in wait 
for him and strike him dead myself," I cried hotiy. 
f "I have often thought of that," she said calmly as she 
slowly stroked the tablecloth; "but it's out of the question. 
I would have to do it openly and confess, and I don't want 
to go to prison. I shoiild die if I could not get out into the 
fields and see things." 

When I left she accompanied me as far as the road, and, 
shaking hands, thanked me for my visit and turned back. 
I I continued my walk northward, following the river bank 
when I reached it. Presently the towers of Ballum loomed 
up in the distance, while to my right lay the broad sunlit 
marshes. 

In the afternoon, on nearing the sheep-farm, I noticed 
that the thatch had suffered a good deal firom the storms 
we had had in the spring and that there were great holes 
infit. Finding one of the brothers sitting in a huge arm- 
chair in the hall, gazing drowsily out on the river, I chatted 



A DIFFICULT INTERVIEW 361 

with him for a while, and asked him about the state of the 
roof. He replied briefly that his brother was dead, and 
that although the dodlor said he had died of inflammation 
of the lungs he himself was convinced that it was the fear 
of having to do some thatching that had killed him. He 
seemed qixite hopeless, and perfeAly resigned to having the 
rain come through on the sheep, the fire, and his own bed. 

I tried to comfort him, but it was no use. After a while 
he pointed with his thumb to a large wooden peg on the 
wall by the door. I got up, and taking down the rope 
hanging on it laid it on his knee. I thought he wanted 
to fetch one of the cows from the meadow. It never entered 
my head that he was too lazy to fetch a piece of rope to hang 
himself with ! I asked him what he was looking at on the 
river, but not understanding his reply I left him and went 
into the kitchen, where I found Uhle. 

Her hair was now quite white and her coppery cheeks 
stood out in sharp relief. Her wild little face shone with 
joy when she saw me, and we greeted each other cordially. 

As she laid the table she told me in her calm simple 
way how the other shepherd had died — I gathered it was 
her husband. She also informed me that Eilert had been 
to the farm only a week before, and had slept in the large 
bed in the weaving-room. He had worked hard and 
painted for two whole days. She had invited Bothilde over 
during his stay, and seemed quite resigned to the fad that 
he was in love with the girl. 

"But you still love him, don't you, Uhle?" I asked. 

"Ah," she replied, slightly embarrassed, "that was in 
the old days, Twiddlums, when I was younger." 

When I asked her where Eilert had gone she replied that 
he had returned to Rotterdam for a festival. 

Sitting comfortably by the fire, we were discussing our other 
friends and acquaintances, when a peasant from a neighboiu:- 
ing farm rushed in and asked us where Jacob was. 

I replied that I had left him sitting by the door in the 
haU. 

"Yes," he replied, "but he's not there now. He went 
down to the meadow with a rope in his hand. I'm afraid 
something's happened ! " 

Uhle's knees gave way and she dropped on to the hearth. 



362 OTTO BABENDIEK 

"Impossible!" I cried, springing to my feet in horror. 
"How dreadful! Why, he was too lazy to fetch the rope 
himself! . . . Pull yourself together, Uhle! , . . Come 
along, my man, let's go and see." 

We found him hanging at the spot the peasant had 
described, and thanks to the fresh breeze he was almost cold 
already. While we cut him down I had to give vent to 
my anger and astonishment. 

The neighbour delivered a homily on the disease of 
indolence, but I was young and did not stop cursing 
even after he had gone off to fetch a ladder to carry 
the body on; and I was still raging when we got back to 
the kitchen. 

Uhle, who had kept an eye on us and seen that our 
suspicions were confirmed, had prepared a couch for the 
dead man, and was busy poking the brushwood in the fire 
and making the sparks fly far into the room. 

Clasping her gently to me, I did my best to comfort 
her, telling her that she had always been good to the two 
shepherds, and that, after all, it was high time the roof was 
rethatched. The indolence of the couple had passed all 
bounds. 

"I made Engel Tiedje unhappy with my teasing and 
stoking, and now I have done the same with these two," 
she said with a bewildered look. "The best thing I can 
do is to set the whole place on fire, and then I can't do 
any more harm to anybody." 

"What?" I cried, taking a burning log from the fire 
and brandishing it at her, "do you want to be more idiotic 
than him? No, the house belongs to you and Bothilde, 
and you must keep it. Eilert is sure to come back; and now 
the shepherds are gone he can live with you here." 

"Yes," she replied, "he loves this old house, especially 
the big windows and doors and the oak." Then looking 
solemnly at me, as though she were not sure whether she 
was talking nonsense or not, she added: "He is a great 
man; but to me he is only a peasant's son." 

I nodded. " His grandfather was a peasant," I replied. 

"But if he came here," she rejoined, "they would have 
to have the house to themselves — Bothilde and him." 

I started. "But he is so fond of you, Uhle," I replied. 



*A DIFFICULT INTERVIEW 363 

"You arc his whole youth to him. He will certainly want 
you. And he would not understand if you didn't stay." 

"How could I bear it?" she cried. 

I said I thought she could, because she loved him so 
much; but if she could not she was to come to me in Storm- 
feld, and I would repay her for all her generosity and 
kindness. 

She pressed my arm, and I felt she was comforted. 

I stopped till the following morning, when I crossed in 
the ferry with the peasant who was to fetch the coffin. 



CHAPTER XXIV 

A Small Sail on the Vast Ocean 

On reaching the opposite bank I found Auntie Lena waiting 
for the mayor and the judge, with whom she had business 
to transacS. But when she saw me, instead of the two men 
she was looking for, she sank on to a tree trunk on the 
bank, and I could see that she was on the verge of getting 
the pip. 

I told her I had been to see Uhle, and gave her an account 
of what had happened. She was deeply interested, and, 
commenting on the strangeness of the people along the North 
Sea coast, immediately described two similar cases that had 
occurred in Wenneby. 

I then left her to her business, and went alone in the 
direftion of the town. As I approached the house I saw 
Uncle Gosch coming towards me from the other side of the 
street. His trousers were stuffed into old-fashioned top- 
boots, all covered with dust, and he looked tired, as though 
he had walked a long way. It took him some time to 
remember me, but when at last he did so he looked very 
pleased, and, inviting me into the house, took me to his 
own room. 

I told him all that had happened, and that I had met 
Auntie Lena, and then asked after Eva and Ernemann. 

Seizing the button of my jacket, he leant back. " Every- 
thing is all right, my dear Diek!" he exclaimed, his kindly 
face beaming. "Think of it, Eva is going to be a niurse! 
That scientific man she was with has found her a post 
with a doftor in another town — a Dane. She writes very 
cheerful letters, and I'm certain she will make an excellent 
nurse!" 

"Why, she will smother her p>atients up to the ears in 
cotton-wool," I said with a smile, remembering her atten- 
tions to me when I was a child. 

He took my words as a compliment, and was obviously 

364 



A SMALL SAIL ON THE VAST OCEAN 365 

already pidluring his daughter as a hospital nurse in a print 
■uniform sitting by the bedside of the President of the 
United States, while I remarked somewhat anxiously that 
she had probably gone to another town only because her 
brother had been forced to move there to earn his living, 
and I asked how he was getting on. 

"Just think!" he exclaimed, "he has changed his job! . . . 
He is now dealing in fruit from the South." 

"Oh," I cried, "I think that will just suit him!" I 
wanted to please the old man. 

" Exaftly what I say ! " he replied enthusiastically. " Don't 
you remember how he always had a longing for the South ? " 

I said I did remember, and he was deUghted. 

"And so, by dealing in melons and bananas," he added, 
"he will return to his old love, and become an explorer 
somewhere in Venezuela, or on the Amazon, I should 
imagine ! " 

I replied that I thought this highly probable, and we 
were both exceedingly enthusiastic. 

He then quickly lapsed into his favourite theme, and told 
me of his great discovery. He had found the site of the 
old port on the North Sea which Pytheas had called Basileia ! 

Truth to tell, I was much more interested in the streamers 
on Eva's cap and in Ernemann's bananas than in Basileia; 
but to please him I looked astonished, and asked him where 
he had located it. He told me that Basileia was really Wes- 
seln, a village close by. . . . Wasseli. . . . Weddelen. . . . 
Wesseln ! 

I told him I thought the etymology was probably sound, 
and his dear old face beamed with delight. It appeared, 
however, that Sven Modersohn had already written two arti- 
cles contesting the discovery. But Uncle Gosch was busy 
writing a reply. Sven Modersohn had adhially had the 
impudence to say in one of his articles that he was coming 
to investigate the matter for himself. But we should see! 

Delighted with his youthful ardour and faith, I pressed 
his hand, reiterating my firm belief in the genuineness of 
his discovery. 

In the middle of it all the- front door bell rang, and I 
went out to see who it was. 

A handsome young man in knickerbockers was standing 



366 OTTO BABENDIEK 

on the doorstep, and, handing in his card, asked whether he 
could see Professor Bornholt. 

It was Sven Modersohn ! 

Strange to say, Uncle Gosch was not only highly honoured, 
but also extremely pleased. "Where are you, dear old 
Modersohn ? " he cried, as he ran out into the hall. " Come 
along, dear old friend. . . . Gome inside, do!" 

When he saw the young man he was beside himself with 
astonishment and joy. Embracing him, he exclaimed with 
tears in his eyes how wonderful it was that so young a man 
should have made such a profound and enthusiastic study 
of the history of the German people. Then, taking him 
into his room, he overwhelmed him with questions, while 
I went out to answer the door again. 

This time it was Auntie Lena. She said she had heard 
our voices from outside, and, going straight to the kitchen 
and dropping wearily on a chair by the fire, added that 
she presumed we had told each other everything. 

I informed her about Uncle Gosch's visitor, and said 
what a nice young man he was. She was not surprised, and 
immediately conneded the visit with the discovery of 
Basileia. 

I repeated my remark about Sven Modersohn, saying 
what a charming young man he was, and how pleased 
Uncle Gosch had been to see him; and after we had dis- 
cussed the matter at length she told me all the Ballum 
news. 

I had been burning with impatience for some time; at 
last, unable to stand it any longer, I exclaimed: "Don't 
you think you might talk about me for a bit now!" 

" Oh, yes, of course," she drawled, " let us talk about you, 
certainly!. . . Yes! HowisGesa? Still cheerful ? And 
are you as much in love as ever ? " 

I said we were. 

"I suppose she still goes sailing a lot?" she observed. 

I admitted it, but explained that it did not interfere with 
our mode of life. And this was perfeflly true— at least, so 
I believed at the time. 

Then she returned to the people of Ballum, and I took her 
to task for not wanting to discuss the subjed most important 
to herself and me and all of us. 



A SMALL SAIL ON THE VAST OCEAN 367 

"Oh," she replied carelessly, "you mean your book?" 
She agreed that it was very fine, and its success most satis- 
faftory. "But," she added, "I really can't see why it's so 
important." 

I upbraided her for not telling the truth. "The two lead- 
ing lights of the place should be straight with each other!" 
I cried. 

I could see the malice sparkling in her eyes. 

"Yes," she rejoined, "probably I am the leading lady. 
But what about the men? Surely Uncle Gosch with his 
research about Pytheas and this Basileia business is ten 
times more important than you ! What's all this fuss about 
your book? All you have done is to twist about the stories 
you have heard Engel Tiedje and the peasants tell in the 
forge, and add some of your own fibs! That's all! Any 
village schoolmaster could have done that — not to mention 
the parsons ! " 

"All right then," I replied indignantly, "just you sit 
down and try. Title: The Parsonage of Wetmeby. . . . 
Gould you do it? . . . You couldn't! It would be a nice 
hotch-potch! Nobody would print the stuff. But my 
book is in its thirtieth thousand! Do you hear? Thirty 
thousand! That means at least a hundred thousand- 
readers!" 

Looking contemptuously at me, she hinted that I had 
probably been deceived, and that paper was long-suffering. 
"I am certain," she declared, "that nobody in Wenneby 
has ever heard about it." 

After visiting Basileia with the two scholars on the following 
morning, I took leave of Auntie Lena and Uncle Gosch, 
and towards evening went over to the ferry. I wanted 
to spend the night at the sheep-farm and keep Uhle company 
in her watch over her dead brother-in-law. 

On the ferry I happened to fall in with a herd of oxen 
and Balle Bohnsack, to whom the beasts apparently belonged ; 
at any rate, he had them in his charge. 

As usual he had his top-boots on, but his linen jacket 
was clean, and his yellow locks noticeably shorter. He 
was addressing his oxen in extremely grandfatherly tones, 
and although there was nothing obje(5tionable in that I 
coiild not help thinking that when he greeted me he did 



368 OTTO BABENDIEK 

not draw sufficient distin6iion between the animals and 
myself. He did not seem to be aware that I was a celebrity, 
but asked me whether I was still an "ink-slinger." 

When I felt the time had come to tell him I had written 
a book, he asked me with his old &miliar wink whether I 
would undertake to guess which of his oxen was the most 
good-natured; and on my declining he said he would 
bet a sheep that no one in his senses would ever read my 
book. 

He asked me another question, but I had done with 
him and told him I had no wish to disturb the harmony 
of his relations with his catde any longer. Then, elbowing 
my way through them, I went over to ferryman Busch. 

He informed me, in tones which he imagined were gentle, 
that Balle and Dina were getting on splendidly, that Dina, 
who was at her mother's for the day, was expe(^ng her 
second child, and that his own wife was also expe<Eling 
another addition to the fiimily. "The eleventh," he added, 
"and it looks as though he'll be a fine sturdy lad." 

Helmut was still at the co-operative stores, but dressed 
quite decentiy all the same. The old man seemed to have 
taken it for granted that his son went about Hamburg with 
a red sash round his waist. 

When we landed I accompanied Balle and Busch to 
the ferry-house to greet Dina and her mother, and soon 
picked out Dina's little boy when I saw his yellow hair, 
his jerky eyebrows, and the wooden calves in his fat fists. 
Balle seemed to be a very important member of his father- 
in-law's household. Sitting in the armchair with half a 
dozen youngsters crawling all over him, he talked to us 
all in his usual grandfatherly tones. But old Busch did not 
seem to mind — in fa<5l, he and his wife appeared rather to 
like it! 

I stayed with them half an horn-, hoping I might see 
Helmut, who was expeded; but when he did not turn up 
I left and walked along the bank towards the sheep-farm. 

It was getting dark, and a^ I went along I thought I 
saw Helmut come out from a break in the willows a little 
way in front of me. And when I reached the opening I 
saw a boat waiting on the edge of the bank, and recognized 
the girl in it a& Barbara Mumm. 



A SMALL SAIL ON THE VAST OCEAN 369 

Thinking she had just come from the opposite bank, I 
paid no particular attention to the boat, which I should 
otherwise have recognized, and even forgot the man who 
had passed in front of me a moment before, so completely 
was I absorbed by this fresh apparition, who, in addition to 
being a relative of mine, was an exceedingly pretty girl. 
She was dressed in a becoming woc^en jumper, of a fine 
green colour, and her intelligent little face beneath its dark 
ringlets was full of life. 

She invited me to get into the boat, saying she would 
row me as far as the sheep-farm; and as I got in I took 
her hand. "There's something adventurous in your eyes 
and your whole manner to-day," I observed. 

She smiled and admitted that at times she did feel like 
that, particularly when she had no companion and was 
looking for one. 

I told her how delighted I should be if only she could 
find the right man. But she reminded me that she was 
very particular. For the right man would not only have 
to suit her as a mate, but would also have to be comfortably 
off, and that made things difiicult. 

"Meanwhile," I rejoined, "you enjoy life by playing 
first with one and then the other!" 

"Yes," she agreed, "but prudently." 

I ventured to question whether she were always so very 
prudent. " What has that to do with you? " she retorted. 

I explained that, being an author, I was always eager 
for copy. I then proceeded to enumerate her p£ist admirers 
in chronological order; but when I came to Dutti Kohl she 
protested that the attachment was entirely on his side. 

I was delighted, and asked her how matters stood with 
Helmut. 

Looking scornfully at me, she upbraided me for teasing 
her about him as her brother had always done, and said 
there was nothing between them. At that moment I 
happened to notice that the boat belonged to ferryman 
Busch, and remembered the man who had crossed my 
path on the bank. "But you've only just this minute 
crossed the river with him!" I exclaimed, astounded at 
her hypocrisy. 

She smiled and admitted it. " He was on the other side 
2a 



370 OTTO BABENDIEK 

with his boat, and I spoke to him. He looks very fine, 
particularly when he sits in front of one, rowing." 

" Yes, he is a well-set-up young fellow," I replied with a 
twinge of jealousy. "He has fine straight limbs." 

She nodded. "Yes, it is very nice to sit opposite him," 
she said. "I could see that he would like to go further 
with me, but did not dare. He respeAs me too much, 
because his parents are poor." 

I suggested the real reason was that he had a sense of 
honour, and thought that she had too. 

" And don't you think I have ? " she retorted, scrutinizing 
me closely. 

"No," I answered. "As soon as you get into firm hands 
you'll be a jewel ; but until then you will remain an adven- 
turous, unreliable creature." 

She was evidently pleased at my frankness, and, growing 
more confidential, she related her experiences with a sort 
of grave and courageous defiance. For the first time in 
my life I began to feel at ease in her company. 

We stayed together until midnight, when she put me 
ashore, saying it had been a memorable day for her, a day 
that would give her enough to think about for at least 
three more. 

Again I referred to Helmut. She shrugged her lissom 
shoulders, and declared she had no feeling for him at 
present. Then turning back to her boat she rowed towards 
Ballum. 

I had intended spending the night with Uhle, but youth 
and dalliance made me change my plan; so I decided to 
go straight home. 

I walked all night along the dyke, and dawn was just 
breaking when I reached the dilapidated old mill under 
whose shadow I had as a terrified and trembling child spent 
one of the most dreadful nights of my life. 

• • > • • 

I sat down on one of the massive beams which supported 
it, and, gazing across the landscape, thought with wonder 
and gratitude of all the good spirits who had helped me 
on my way, of the serenity and cheerfulness that had been 
mine of late, and of the decisive part which the atmosphere 
of my home had played in effefting this happy consummation. 



A SMALL SAIL ON THE VAST OCEAN 37I 

For the man of parts — ^and why should I not apply this 
description to myself? — ^are not gifted human beings com- 
mon enough? Think of the hidden genius in hundreds 
of humble workers, gardeners, dressmakers, milliners, and 
so forth! — the man of parts does not need to have the 
whole world or even high society at his beck and call in 
order to reach complete efflorescence, though he certainly 
requires a perfect microcosm, a sort of miniature world 
complete in itself, in which the whole range of humanity 
is represented — poor and rich, subjeds and rulers, worldly 
and spiritual people, townsmen and country folk, and so 
forth. And such, more or less, was my native village. 

And so when summer came I was still at Stormfeld, 
immersed and happy in my work and wholly engrossed by 
it. I might rejoice in my heart when I thought of Gesa, 
or expedted a visit from her; but my soul's life, in season 
and out of season, was my work and nothing else. And 
in confessing this I acknowledge that I was not a good 
citizen or husband. I was an artist, and that was the main 
cause of our misfortune. 

I cannot remember much about her last visit, but she 
must, as usual, have told me all about her adventures — 
chiefly sailing. Her whole life seemed to be spent in her 
boat, and I imagined that she had her meals in it, enter- 
tained her friends in it, and then, wrapping herself in a 
sail, even slept in it. 

When she had finished all she had to say, I probably 
began my tale, and told her all about my work; how I was 
getting on with my new novel, what I had talked about on 
my walks with old and new friends, and what I thought 
about them, entering with great enthusiasm into the 
minutest detail. But the longer I talked the more bored 
did she become. These things did not interest her. What 
did she care about them? I never said a word about 
tackle, wind, or tiller; I never mentioned sea-gulls, sails, 
or tar; but spoke only of anger, love, pride, faith, hatred, 
kindness, youth, and so on. What were these things to 
her? So, after I had talked for some time — I see it all 
now — she would walk silent and crest&Uen at my elbow, 
surreptitiously casting longing eyes across the water at our 
side; and that bright rippling surface, stretching to the 



372 OTTO BABENDIEK 

horizon, together with every sail and every bird upon it, 
was nearer to her than I was. 

I was not entirely free from blame. Instead of devoting 
three days once a fortnight to her, I ought, even at the cost 
of being hard on her, to have forced her to live with me, 
and given up at least four hours a day to her company. 
I was also wrong to be on terms of such cordial friendship 
with the young people about me, particularly the girls. 
Indeed, at times I even forgot I was married; or, rather, 
the married state was not precisely my strong point! Nor 
should I have been so careless about money matters. She 
and I were alike in this. True, my bank-book was not quite 
as badly kept as my father-in-law's, but it only balanced 
for short periods at a time. In faft, although I was twenty- 
five I was still somewhat unsteady and unreliable. I ought 
to have seen where the danger lay. But I was so confident 
about my shrewdness of vision. I felt I was so wise in 
my summing up of Eilert Mumm! I ought to have paid 
more attention to the material side of life, and been less 
absorbed in the creatures of my imagination, the charaAers 
in my novels. 

On the Sunday morning of her last visit I tried to persuade 
her to go to church with me, but she refused, saying she 
was firightened of churches — particularly our village church, 
because I had told her there were graves under the aisles 
and nave. 

I remember too that we had discussed Paul Sooth's 
marriage. He and his wife were so different, and yet got 
on so well together. How was that? I tried to explain 
the anomaly. But I saw that I had gone beyond her depth 
again, and that she had grown silent and wistfiil. At last 
she spoke of Barbara Mumm, and said she thought the girl 
would have made me a good wife. 

I laughed and shook my head; but after a moment's 
consideration admitted that I might have got on with her 
quite well, particularly as she was a fiiank, outspoken creature. 

When we were alone together on that last evening I 
remember that she was her old lively self again. Sitting on 
the edge of the bed, with her shapely legs stretched before 
her, she was putting safety-pins and her usual long stitches 
into a split seam she was trying to mend, making fun of 



A SMALL SAIL ON THE VAST OCEAN 373 

herself, and threatening to come to me next time in a dress 
entirely held together with pins. Then she sprang to her 
feet and danced to me, turning her pretty little head about, 
and ogling me in the most fascinating way. And that is 
how I remember her — ^lithe, slim, playful, and wanton. 
She told me how much she loved the life she was leading, 
free and alone, with three days in every fortnight spent with 
me. She laughed; but I believe I saw melancholy lurking 
in her eyes, as is so often the case with laughing people. 

On the following morning she again set sail and left me. 

About a fortnight later, just as I was expecting her to 
come again, a boat arrived, with three of her "boys," who 
informed me that she was going to leave Ovelgonne that even- 
ing with a fellow called Timm Thaden, who was known to 
be a daring yachtsman as well as a heavy drinker. 

I don't know where or how the disaster happened. No, 
I know nothing about it! 

It is possible that, unable any longer to endure our life 
together, with its harmony only on the physical side, and 
at a loss to discover any other solution, she may in a moment 
of despair have engineered the calamity while her companion 
slept. It is also quite possible that it was simply an ordinary 
accident — a. sudden squall, a piece of wreckage which struck 
them in the night, or what not. And at the very moment 
the thing happened spirits may have been hovering round 
who helped to consummate the disaster — I don't know! 
What, in fad, do we know of life and death ? We believe, 
but can we be sure, that our neighbour is a human being ? 

For the last three days the weather had been rough and 
windy, but not in the least stormy. As, however, it had 
grown squally in the last twenty-four hours, I telephoned 
to her to beg her to wait until the next day, and not to set 
out even then unless the weather had improved. 

But she was one of those creatures who could never be 
persuaded to change a plan. Nothing can make such 
people understand that an elemental force is moving towards 
them, to crush both themselves and the house they are in. 

I heard her laugh on the telephone. She said it was 
precisely because it was squally that she wanted to start 
that very night. It would be heavenly! And then she 
asked me whether I was not looking forward to having 



374 OTTO BABENDIEK 

her with me in the morning. She would arrive early 
enough for us to have a whole hour alone together. And 
she spoke in that soft, gentle voice which she always used 
when I folded her in my arms. 

I woke several times in the night, and, listening to the 
wind, was relieved to find that although the weadier was 
still squally it was no rougher. Towards morning, how- 
ever, it grew more boisterous. I dressed and went through 
the forge. I wanted to go to the beach and have a look 
out. Engel Tiedje offered me glasses, but I declined them. 
He came with me. As we reached the church we were 
greeted by a fresh gust, and took shelter against its walls. 
It was a violent gust, blowing sand, grass, and leaves over 
the roof of the church. 

Then we went on to the dunes and gazed out to sea. 
It looked dreadfully bleak and wild. To our left the sun 
was shedding a watery light through dark, heavy clouds. 
The "boys" had joined us, and we stood there fully two 
hours, talking, doubting, guessing, and scanning the horizon 
as far as we could see. From time to time one of the " boys " 
would go to the post ofiice to find out whether there was any 
news. 

When at twelve o'clock there was no sign of Gesa 
and no news from her I telephoned to Ovelgonne to 
find out whether she had left, and when I heard that 
she had I went straight to the station and took the first 
train thither. 

I found her parents at home, and her fitther, pale and 
silent, pacing to and fro in the sitting-room. He had 
telephoned to the pilot stations and small ports along the 
coast, but had obtained no news. He knew there was litde 
hope. But my mother-in-law, who was sitting at the 
window with her work, tried to comfort us. She con- 
vinced herself by her own arguments, and I gathered that 
the ship which she felt sure had picked up Gesa was an 
Oriental liner, and that the trip would give Gesa an oppor- 
tunity of visiting her uncle, and possibly bringing him 
back with her, when everything, including the bank-book, 
would be set in order. 

As we sat in that mean, shabby room, with the shadows 
falling about us, the telephone bell suddenly began to ring 



A SMALL SAIL ON THE VAST OCEAN 375 

very persistently, and I remembered that it was the time 
when Gesa usually fixed her appointments and settled her 
trips with the "boys." They were all calls concerning 
"wonderful cruises," invitations to boating club meetings, 
and suggestions for fresh trips. 

And instead of Gesa it was I who sat and answered: 
"Gesa left for Stormfeld yesterday morning and there has 
been no news of her anywhere along the coast." 
"Oh, dear! ... Oh! . . . Oh, dear!" 
But I could not bear it any longer. I imagined she was 
calling me, and asking me to go north and scour the sea 
for her. So I returned to Stormfeld, and went out on 
the dunes again, standing there for hours, looking across 
the vast cheerless waste of waters to the far horizon. . . . 
But there was no sign of her! 

Exhausted by the constant standing and walking, I re- 
turned home, snatched a few minutes' sleep on a chair, and 
then got up and went back to the beach. 

Dusk fell again slowly over the sea. It was still squally, 
and the waves on the horizon were like white hillocks. 
Occasionally a bright light stood out like a sail. But in 
a moment the efFeft changed, and I saw that it had been 
only a trick of the waves. . . . There was no sign of 
Gesa! 

By now I could hardly stand, and with bent knees I 
crawled home, threw myself on my bed, and slept. But 
it was only for a moment; I was soon up again and back 
on the beach, where I stood in the night wind, with Engel 
Tiedje at my side, straining our eyes over the restless sea. 
Day dawned and again we telephoned to Ovelgonne, Cux- 
haven, and the small ports along the coast. But nothing 
had been heard of Gesa's boat! 

It was now certain that she had been drowned. 
We offered a reward for the recovery of the two 
bodies; we telephoned along the coast, and studied the 
local pajjers. Everybody helped. For was not vom Gang 
well known all along the coast? But there was no news 
of Gesa! 

Going from the beach to the dunes, and then to the 
dyke, I wandered backward and forward, staring hope- 
lessly across the endless grey waste of waters. Somewhere, 



376 OTTO BABENDIEK 

over there, in the wind and beneath that glittering sur- 
face, she must be lying with her little white sail and 
those eyes that used to look so shyly into mine. I half 
hoped that the litde white sail was wrapped about her, 
about those tender limbs which had been my joy. 
The sea roared, the birds screeched above their nests 
in the scrub, and the wind rose again. The rain beat 
against my face; I could not see twenty yards before 
me; I knew that she would never come back! But I 
still looked out to sea! 

Once more I went to Ovelgonne, and sat with her poor 
parents and mingled my tears with theirs. Then, begging 
them not to be angry with me for returning north, I left 
for Stormfeld. I felt I must go back to the beach. It 
was as though she expeded and wanted me to be there, 
looking out across the sea, searching the horizon, believing 
she would return. 

And so I stood on the beach once more, listening to the 
breakers at my feet, wondering whether they knew anything 
about her, and scanning the face of the waters to see whether 
the waves ever laughed faintly as I used to laugh when I 
sported with my Gesa. 

Then suddenly a mad and quite incredible rumour reached 
my ears. There was going to be war! What nonsense! 
What about? War at this time of day? Had not aero- 
planes and airships just been invented? Were they not 
going to obliterate frontiers and national boundaries? 
Why, surely we wtre on the eve of the United States of 
Europe! Had I not been a journalist and written many 
articles in this vein? War? Nonsense! And I assiured 
Engel Tiedje, the fisherfolk, and the peasants that the 
rumours were quite senseless, and went back to my vigil 
on the beach. 

Then a friend arrived from Sweden. He had just been 
to Africa, Australia, and Japan, and he came and found 
me on the beach. "You don't know," he said, "how 
much Germany is hated all over the world!" "That's 
only England's envy and lies!" I retorted. "A Siberian 
army corps is marching west, with bag and baggage," 
he continued. . . . But I did not hear what he said. 
I did not want to hear. Was I not an intelligent being 



A SMALL SAIL ON THE VAST OCEAN 377 

— a very intelligent being? I regarded all idea of war as 
ridiculous. 

But at the end of the fourth week ... war! . . . Who 
would go to the help of the Fatherland, which was encom- 
passed by enemies on every side? I went like everybody 
else. 

Thus I found myself in barracks in Altona. 

More sensitive than other men, my brain was racked 
with thoughts about the rights and wrongs of humanity, 
and my duty to God and man. I saw the Saviour standing 
before me, gazing into my eyes. I did not see Him as a 
God — that I had never done — but as a pure and beautiful 
man, the most beautiful of men. I am not a creature of 
compromise or make-believe. I must be clear. At last 
I said to Him: "I believe in Thy being and Thy works. 
I know Thou art right. But although I believe in Thee I 
am also a man of my day. Despite Thy holy works, I must 
strike down my fellows who would rob me of my goods and 
my honour. Unto Thee the future and a holy generation 
of men; but unto me and my fellows the savage deed, the 
heavy conscience, and the thorn in the spirit!" All this 
went through my mind as I lay sleepless on my palliasse 
in the barracks. 

But most of the time I stood in spirit on the beach gazing 
out to sea. The wind came in heavy gusts across the waste, 
the breakers roared on the beach, and the birds screamed 
above the waving sand-grass. Yonder were clouds of vapour, 
and an occasional little white sail on the infinite undulating 
surface. But she did not come ! 

We worked hard, learning how to kill men. Many, many 
hundreds of thousands had already been killed. The Major 
told us we must make haste and be ready to fill the gaps. 
And we did indeed make haste. It struck me that we were 
not being taught our job very thoroughly. During one of 
our pra<5lice hours the first snow fell. 

Then the day came for us to march off. Hundreds 
watched us march past, waving to us and weeping. But 
there was no one there for me, and I looked neither to right 
nor left, but straight out to sea, through the veil of falling 
snow. There she is! . . . There . . . somewhere there! 
She has become one with our passion and desire! The 



378 OTTO BABENDIEK 

wind blew ... it was Gesa! The sea roared ... it was 
Gesa! The breakers chiirned up the foam . . . that was 
Gesa's dear bosom. ... But she herself was never found, 
and would never come back. 
The train took us east. 



CHAPTER XXV 

No Warrior and yet at War 

From Altona we travelled via Berlin for about forty-eight 
hours in an easterly diredUon. After leaving the train we 
spent our first day doing route-marching prance through 
wooded roads in full kit — heavy top-boots reaching half-way 
up the leg into which we tucked our trousers, a greatcoat 
falling below our knees, a hundred and twenty cartridges 
in our belts, a haversack and a water-botde, an iron ration 
of three pounds in our knapsacks, two horse-blankets, a 
spade, and a rifle — sixty pounds altogether. The company 
consisted of two hundred and fifty men, all young or fairly 
young, the sons of Holstein farmers, labourers, and fadory 
workers. Seventy-five of them had already been on the 
Western Front and seen war; the rest of us were cam- 
paigning for the first time. Although our mood was grave 
we were full of hope and confidence, for we were all con- 
vinced that Germany was right and that the war was a 
bitter necessity. Wherever the snow had blown away the 
road was extremely rough, and in many places like glass; 
whilst wherever it had met with any obstacle there were 
drifts into which we sank up to our knees. We were 
exhausted when we returned from this march. On the 
following morning we moved eastward. 

I was young and had not yet seen very much of the world. 
I was also inquisitive. In spirit I had searched many a 
soul that had faced the fire of battle. Now I was to &ce 
it myself, and I was stirred to the depths of my being. We 
passed through a village which, compared with one of our 
Holstein villages, seemed very poor, with its small wooden 
houses and their miserable and scanty furniture. The 
Russians had already been there and done a great deal of 
damage. The people were very glad to see us, and, retiring 
to their kitchens, gave up their sitting-rooms to us. Some 
of them came to meet us and informed us that the Rtissians 

379 



380 OTTO BABENDIEK 

were retreating. We were ako met by soldiers and Land- 
sturmmen. " Thank God, you have come !" they said, "We 
can't deal with them by ourselves. There are too many 
of them ! " Then we marched in the diredion of a wood 
on the crest of a hill in front of us, which was said to be 
held by Russians. It was beginning to get dark. 

When we were about a mile and a half away from the 
wood we had to deploy and advance in a long thin line. 
It was here that we received our baptism of fire. We were 
told to lie down and shoot, but not to overdo it, so as to 
avoid wasting our ammunition. From time to time our 
N.C.O. ordered our group to stand up, advance a few 
paces, and then drop to the ground again; and thus we 
gradually drew nearer and nearer. But for our corporal, 
our group, which consisted of nine men, had never seen 
a shot fired. We were short of breath and were shaking 
with terror and excitement. I imagine we were all in the 
same state. We knew we were on the verge of killing 
and being killed. We did not even notice the icy cold 
wind which was blowing gently but bitingly across the 
bare fields. And thus we lay amid the disagreeable sharp 
smell of powder and blue smoke, blurting out short staccato 
sentences in the intervals of firing. . . . "Have you got 
the range? . . . Here's a litde cover! ... If only we 
could get to that wall!" . . • No thought of our homes 
or of God ! Only once did I have a sort of numbed feeling, 
"Now you are in battle and shooting your fellow-men!" 
Otherwise all I was conscious of was my own little shred 
of life and the five or six yards left and right of me . . . 
and the silent excitement all round and the noise. 

When we had advanced about three hundred yards the 
order went round, "Fix bayonets!" This unnerved us. 
We imagined ourselves transfixing a man! But when the 
Russians heard the signal to charge, with which they must 
have been familiar, they leapt out of their holes and rushed 
helter-skelter through the wood. When we reached their 
posidon, which consisted of innumerable hollows dug in 
the ground, we found dead men sitting in some, wounded 
in others, and among them some who had not been touched. 
The latter threw up their arms and looked at us in terror. 
But when we signed to them that we meant them no harm. 



NO WARRIOR AND YET AT WAR 381 

and addressed them cheerfully with smiles on our faces — 
for we were unspeakably relieved to have got through the 
afiair so easily — they laughed and marched to our rear, and 
I believe many of us envied them their good fortune. 

Then we continued our advance through the wood, over 
the uneven snow-covered paths, with an icy wind blowing 
in our faces, and marched the whole of that night and the 
following day. The icy blast never dropped, and we were 
often obliged to wade through snowdrifts up to our waists. 
From time to time, at intervals of about three hours, we 
piled arms, laid our knapsacks down, sat on them, and, sup- 
porting our heads in our hands, immediately fell asleep. 
Once when I looked up and found a blizzard blowing over 
tis I thought we must certainly all freeze to death as we 
sat there. In the evening we reached the litde town of 
Bialla, which had been heavily shelled. It was full of 
troops of all kinds — ^infantry, cavalry, and artillery — but I 
don't remember what the regiments were. We slept on 
the floor of a room which was full of icy draughts. Towards 
midday we had to move on. 

We were marching along the road in fours, when suddenly 
the Russians dropped shrapnel on us from a wood. Our 
artillery immediately retaliated, firing over our heads. We 
were extremely agitated and grave, for it was the first time 
we had experienced this, and, looking up at every shell 
that burst in the air, we ducked our heads. When the 
firing became heavier we had to deploy and lie down in 
the snow. As we lay there with nothing to do we were 
overcome with unutterable exhaustion, and many of us fell 
asleep. Not a few woke up to find they could no longer 
feel their feet. One man's feet were so badly frostbitten 
that he had to be taken to the rear. Many others had 
fallen out during that three days' march, either from ex- 
haustion, sore feet, or dysentery, and we were now reduced 
to about a hundred and eighty men. 

Evening fell and then night, and we were still lying under 
fire. It was pitch-dark, for we had not even any light baUs. 
At dawn when one of us stood up and tried to stamp life 
into his fi-ozen feet he was shot in the thigh, and had to 
crawl back on his hands and knees. When it was light 
the Russians evacuated their position, and we got up and 



382 OTTO BABENDIEK 

advanced. As we made a circuit in order to avoid a snow- 
drift, we saw the first of our dead, lying in the snow. We 
all looked quite calmly into his face. He was lying on his 
back, with his rifle across him ; his eyes were closed, on one 
side of his head there was blood, and close by the snow was 
also dyed red. 

The whole of that day, I think it was the eleventh of the 
month, we continued our march. It was not quite so cold, 
and the wind was no longer so cutdng; but marching 
through the snow with our heavy kit was terribly tiring. 
Moreover, the field kitchens had not been able to keep 
up with us, and we had nothing to eat. So we were allowed 
to consume half our iron rations, though this did not appease 
our ravenous hunger. Towards evening we passed through 
a large village that had been heavily shelled (I believe it 
was called Neudorf), and entered a large straggUng wood. 
As we were marching on — all five companies of the battalion 
— we suddenly heard that there were Russians in front 
and behind us. So we halted and peered through the 
shelled trees into the night. When our officers, who had 
held a consultation, returned it was decided to make a 
simultaneous charge in all four diredions, and forming 
square we dashed with a wild cheer into the darkness. 
The manoeuvre was successful. The Russians retreated. 
We had cleared the road and wanted to move on. But 
suddenly it was discovered that the fifth company was 
missing. We were forced to conclude that it had been 
surrounded and captured, and we returned without it to 
Neudorf, from which place we had originally advanced. 
When day dawned, however, the lost company tinrned up. 

We remained for the rest of the night and the following 
morning in Neudorf. As the field kitchens were not very 
well supplied — the meat was generally tough and had no 
goodness in it — we cooked ourselves potatoes, which we 
found in the half-ruined cottages, and ate them with salt. 
How delicious they were ! 

When I had finished my meal I^happened, on turning 
the corner of the street, to knock up against Paul Sooth, 
who was with another battaUon, and I asked him for all 
the news. I heard that Balle Bohnsack was with his 
regiment, but in another village. He had also heard a 



NO WARRIOR AND YET AT WAR 383 

rumour that Eilert Mumm was in Finland, or somewhere 
in that diredion, where he had been paying a visit, and 
that he had been taken prisoner and interned in Russia. 
He told me various other pieces of news about common 
acquaintances, all very distressing. He spoke very coldly 
— I believe because he was terrified — ^and struck me as being 
strange and absent-minded. But I suppose I was strange 
too, and that he thought I was a ghost. 

In the afternoon, when we were about to march on and 
were lined up in the street, our General arrived on a small 
brown horse. He was a broad-shouldered man with a 
pointed beard; in the sharp, staccato accents of the Prussian 
officer, though in a pleasant enough voice, he addressed 
a few words to us, telling us that during the last five days 
we had been taking part in a great batde, and explaining 
that we were on the southern or right wing of the Front, 
our friends in the north, from Gumbinnen downwards, 
constituting the other arm of the pincers. He congratulated 
us on what we had already achieved, described the plan 
of campaign, and exhorted us to advance with confidence, 
as the Russians were a beaten horde. When he had ridden 
off our Captain informed us that, although the General had 
spoken so cheerfully, he himself was not at all convinced 
that the outlook was so bright. The Captain had not been 
very popular with us in the training camp; he had been too 
ready with arrests and refusals of leave. But since he had 
been in the field with us he had been nothing but a soldier 
of greater experience than ourselves, and we were always 
glad to hear what he had to say. 

The whole of the rest of the day we continued oiur march. 
A thaw had now set in, and the roads were soft. By this 
time there were a great many more of us, and the roads were 
bristling with troops on the march. As numbers of motors 
bearing Staff and Intelligence officers were constantly passing 
ahead of us, we gathered that we should not reach the Front 
that day. At dusk we were told that we should be billeted 
on an estate lying alongside the road. We were delighted 
to hear that we were going to spend a night under cover, 
and in high spirits we tramped up to our knees in mud, dead 
tired though we were, in the diredion of the property. 
But at midnight when we reached the fiarm-houses we found 



384 OTTO BABENDIEK 

them packed to the attics with troops; and we were obliged 
to return to the road. By this time we were at our last 
gasp, and laying our knapsacks down and wrapping ourselves 
in our coats and blankets in the horrible filth we fell asleep. 
We got up the next morning covered from head to foot 
with mud and started off without having had anything to eat 
or drink. Nevertheless, we were in quite good spirits, 
though we could not help thinking that superhuman efforts 
had now been required of us for a whole week, and that 
it was a mistake, for we were almost bound to break down 
if it came to hard fighting. 

That day — or was it the following day? — we crossed 
the frontier. The Captain sp>oke a few encouraging words 
to us, and for the first and only time since we had been 
on the move we sang as we marched along. I remember 
that as I looked at the Captain my eyes stung painfully as 
if they were burnt, and seemed to be sunk in deep hollows 
in my head. The frontier ran right through the middle 
of the village, and we could tell which was the Russian 
side from the inferior and dirty appearance of the cottages. 
We marched the whole of that day and half the night. We 
were told each day that we were expecSed to march to such 
and such a point; but as soon as we reached it were informed 
that our destination lay a few miles farther on. By this 
means they hoped to encourage us and keep us going. I 
suppose the method was justified. 

The following day at midday we were billeted on a 
manor farm consisting of a number of low buildings teem- 
ing with troops, and we spent the rest of the day and night 
eating, drinking, and sleeping. That night I was put on 
sentry duty near the kitchen, and had an opportunity of 
telling the cook that I was the son of a blacksmith and 
had written a book. The fadt that I had written a book 
did not impress him; but, as it happened that he also had 
come from a forge, he gave me some coffee and meat. 

The following morning we continued our march until at 
midday we again came into touch with *the Russians. As 
we could not make any proper progress, we dug ourselves 
in. The earth was sandy, but not sandy enough to crumble. 
The country was hilly and slightly wooded. We were 
sparing of our ammunition, and the artillery fired over our 



NO WARRIOR AND YET AT WAR 385 

heads. Late in the evening the Russians retired, and we 
were able to occupy a village possessing a spring, the water 
of which was drawn up by a large crab-bar, like those 
used on old farms in Holstein. We were quick to make 
for this spring. But as the great crab-bar soared above 
the roofs of the cottages it was soon shot to bits, and we 
had to give up trying to use it. We remained three days 
in this neighbourhood, but I remember very little about 
it, except that we had to do several hard marches in the 
distri(S and that the food was good. Even those of us 
who were intelledually alert had no thought in our heads 
beyond eating and sleeping, for we felt that food and sleep 
alone could ward off the deadly exhaustion which was 
creeping over our weary bodies. During the whole of this 
period I was unable to be any more to my fellow-soldiers 
than they were to me — a good comrade. 

When, on the march, my thoughts wandered away from 
the things that were under my nose, and my imagination 
started a flight on weary wings, it always went home to 
my nearest and dearest. How clearly I saw Stormfeld and 
Ballum and all my old friends ! How hard I tried to pifture 
what they were all doing at that hour, and what they felt 
like! With what love and tenderness those two old people 
in Ballum must have been thinking of me, and with what 
anxious and bewildered feelings must Engel Tiedje have 
been filled as he thrust his tongs into the white heat of the 
furnace! . . . Was Fritz Hellebeck in the firing line? 
What a good thing it would be if he were killed! . • . 
Where was Eilert ? Was he in Russia or had he escaped ? . . . 
Was Balle Bohnsack still alive? A lucky chap, the captain 
who had him in his company! . . . Gesa? Oh, dead, 
dead! . . . Her poor parents! . . . War had fallen like 
a thunderbolt on every house, and everybody was look- 
ing for his own among the smoking ruins. . . . Where 
were my own? In dust, smoke, and fire! I could not see 
them. . . . Sleep was overcoming me. A fellow-soldier 
behind was grumbling ... "I say, Babendiek, are you 
thinking out a new fairy-tale ? Don't dream so much ! " 

On the fourth day we continued our ^larch and reached 
a village which the Russians had evacuated voluntarily. 
We searched the cottages and found many of the enemy 

2b 



386 OTTO BABENDIEK 

concealed in them, and collected them together. In the 
evening we continued our way by the light of the moon 
and came upon a road through a wood. It was freezing 
again, but there was no snow about. 

When we reached the end of the wood we were told 
to unload — which many of us did not do, by the by — 
and to fix bayonets and deploy to the left. Soon we came 
to some ploughed fields, and although we advanced as 
quietly as possible we could not help the clink of a spade 
or a rifle being heard. Then suddenly we found we were 
being heavily fired upon from a distance of not more than 
forty yards. If we had charged at once things might have 
been all right. But, throwing ourselves on the ground, 
we tried to dig ourselves in as we lay. There were about 
twenty of us without any officer, and we heard later that 
we had gone too far to the left and lost touch with our com- 
pany. When the firing died down a bit we crept back 
on our hands and knees; then, springing to our feet, made 
a bolt for the village. There we found many of our men 
wounded — that is to say, those who had been able to get 
away. We asked where our company was, but nobody 
could tell us. Dawn was just breaking. 

We were standing about, talking to the wounded, when 
a short, fat major came along the road and said : " You must 
go back to the front line." When we explained that we had 
lost our company he told us where it was, and ordered us 
to follow him. We went with him and crept crouching 
along a strip of wood. He then pointed out our comrades 
— they were at a point about thirty yards ahead of us to the 
left — and told us to make a rush for them, leading us him- 
self. But just as he reached the trench held by our men 
he got a bullet in the throat. He tried to loosen his belt, 
but fell sideways into the arms of our comrades. One 
by one we jumped after him into the trench. Many of 
our men had already been wounded and a few who had 
been hit in the head had collapsed motionless on to the 
ground. * 

We lay enveloped in a smarting blue cloud of smoke 
and, filled with terror and excitement, kept up a lively fire 
in the midst of the terrific din around us. We stumbled 
and crept about, stepping over the dead and wounded, and 



NO WARRIOR AND YET AT WAR 387 

raising ourselves cautiously, fired, shouting to each other: 
"Have you got the range?" . . . We dodged shell 
splinters and whistling bullets. "Damn it, that was a 
close shave! . . . How long is this going on? . . . Are 
you wounded? . . ." Medical orderlies and stretcher- 
bearers came along the trench. . . . "Out of the way! 
Make way!" We were short of ammunition and took it 
from the wounded. The Russians, barely thirty yards 
away, were in much greater strength and were firing much 
more fiercely than we were. We saw and heard nothing 
of our officers, but, as far as I could make out, every one 
did his duty, firing as often as he could; and every shot was 
fired at the risk of death, for we had to put our heads above 
the parapet to shoot. When we had been there a few hours, 
I cannot tell how long, we saw that the Russians were 
trying to envelop us on our left flank, so we abandoned 
our dead and wounded and ran like hares out of the trench, 
and back across the open fields, and I and a few others 
reached a wood. 

Under cover of the wood we stood and knelt where we 
could, utterly bewildered and crestfallen, not knowing what 
to do. Two of us, quite young fellows, who had seen their 
dearest friends fall beside them, were crying and screaming 
like madmen. The captain, who had also reached the 
wood, was standing there pale, his lips compressed and 
his eyes sad as death. Three times he asked: "Where is 
the eighth company?" "We are the eighth company," 
we replied. When he looked at us and found that we were 
only thirty men all told he shook his head in silent anguish. 
For the rest of the day we remained in the wood in a state 
of complete despair. Towards evening the company ser- 
geant-major called the roll and announced that only thirty 
of our company were left, and only about two hundred of the 
whole battalion. 

I think we must have stayed two days in this sparse 
wood and in the village close by. I remember that the 
cottages were packed with troops, and that we slept in a 
little room with a red tiled floor where there was a big 
kitchener, which some of the men used as a bed. We 
were extremely miserable, and stood or sat together dis- 
cussing the disaster in plain, simple words, mentioning the 



388 OTTO BABENDIEK 

names of the dead and wounded, asking after one man 
or another, whose fate we did not know, and commiserat- 
ing his relatives. On the third or fourth day we moved 
on. 

We now found ourselves surrounddd by masses of troops 
who were pushing forward. The country was still wooded 
though sparsely. The food had improved. When our 
supplies ran short we were sometimes given food by the 
Field Artillery, who were better fed than we were. We 
came across numbers of abandoned rifles and batteries, and 
endless rows of wagons, and once from a height on the road 
we saw in the distance a great crowd of men standing along 
the paths through the woods, as though they had been 
herded together, and all round them thousands of others 
running hither and thither. Beyond them we saw some 
stretches of water, which we were informed were the 
Masiuian Lakes. An officer who passed us in a car examined 
the scene through his field-glasses, and told us that we 
were looking at the remains of four Russian army corps, 
that we had won the battle — won it brilliantly — and taken 
over a hundred thousand prisoners. But all of us in our 
battalion were still depressed and stood mooning about, 
staring in front of us, calling to mind the dreadful scenes 
in the battle we had just fought, and the faces of our fallen 
comrades; while their voices and the weeping of their 
families rang in our ears. 

On the following morning — we were still almost in the 
same position — the first rays of the sun revealed the outlines 
of a large town, which we were told was Grodno. We 
contemplated it for some time, and, from the outlandish 
towers gleaming in the sunlight, understood that we were 
in a strange land surrounded by strange people. We 
gazed wistfully on the scene. 

As I was standing gazing with the rest I felt th^ first signs 
of physical discomfort, and was obliged to go to the doftor 
in the evening. He said I was probably suffering from an 
attack of dysentery, asked me who I was, and suggested 
that I should go to the nearest field hospital with the 
ambulance column, which was just outside. As I was 
hesitating what to do he made short work of the matter, 
and ordered me to take a seat by the driver of the first 



NO WARRIOR AND YET AT WAR 389 

wagon. The train consisted of twelve wretched-looking 
four-wheeled agricultural wagons known as Russian carts. 

Again and again I had to descend from the wagon in 
order to relieve myself, and each time I found it more 
difficult to climb back to my seat again. The driver, a 
man who was slightly wounded, was not very friendly to 
me, I believe because he had noticed I was well educated. 
Some people are pleased by such a discovery, others are 
alienated. Owing to the loss of blood I was growing weaker 
every moment, and was soon obsessed by the thought of 
what I should do if I were obliged to get down again. 
I wondered whether it would not be better to let myself 
go in my seat, for I was afraid that if I left it I might faint 
and remain lying on the ground all night and be frozen 
to death. 

We were crossing very hilly country, and I remember 
that the roads were very bad and that the wounded, lying 
in the straw in the body of the cart, were constantly com- 
plaining and cursing. Horses were lying dead on the road, 
and in some places peasants were already busy skinning 
them. Once or twice the wagons had to go over, or, rather, 
through the middle of, these carcasses. 

About midnight we entered a road through a wood; its 
extraordinary breadth and the tall trees on either side made 
a deep and solemn impression upon me, and, in spite of 
my miserable condition, did me good. At some of the 
clearings there were fires burning, round which groups of 
men, children, and cattle were coUeded. They were refugees 
from the surrounding villages. Close to the road soldiers 
had lighted fires in tree stumps and were sitting round 
them. I remember that I felt somewhat surprised at seeing 
they were Russians, but I took them to be deserters, who 
had not yet been rounded up by our men. As a matter of 
fa<ft, however, we had lost our way, and were already deep 
in the enemy's territory. 



CHAPTER XXVI 

/ am Made Prisoner and Escape 

As we were jogging along this stately forest road — dawn 
was breaking and it was growing light — and just as I had 
got down from the wagon again, some shots were fired 
at us from the wood. I was on the point of falling flat on 
the ground, when I was seized from behind by strong hands, 
and some Russian soldiers, middle-aged men with beards, 
accosted me, their eyes full of astonishment. The ambulance 
column halted, the drivers, Polish peasants, stood trembling 
beside their horses or fled into the woods, while our wounded 
cried out and shouted in confusion. Our leader, an N.C.O. 
who had been wounded, leant against one of the horses. 
The men who had taken us prisoners continued to harangue 
us. They could not understand what had happened; 
asked us all sorts of questions, and obviously did not know 
what on earth to do with us. They had evidentiy been 
lying concealed in some thicket, probably because they 
had managed to escape from the firing-line; and when, in 
a bend in the road, they saw mounted troops approaching, 
they turned round and ran like hares back into the wood. 

The troops — a. whole regiment — trotted past us; they all 
looked at us and seemed to be wondering what we were 
doing. But they trotted on. They must have seen that 
we were Germans, but on the other hand they could also 
tell at a glance that we were only a crowd of wretched 
wounded, hardly able to raise our weary heads to look 
sadly at them. Our leader was still leaning against his 
pony, with his arms resting on it^ haunches, and I now 
became aware that I too was wounded ; for my right trouser 
leg was wet with blood at the knee. 

One of the troopers in the rear of the column — he looked 
like a Jew — rode up to me and reined in his horse. "Have 
you no leader?" he asked in low tones, addressing me in 
German. 

390 



I AM MADE PRISONER AND ESCAPE 3gi 

When I replied that we had, he told us the way to the 
nearest field hospital. Then turning to the Polish drivers, 
who were still standing by their horses, or had straggled 
back from the woods, he admonished them severely in some 
foreign tongue, and rode away. 

We too then started off once more. The N.C.O. had 
climbed on to a wagon and had either fainted or fallen 
asleep. I was the only one walking at the side of the column ; 
and having bound my handkerchief, which was unspeakably 
dirty, round my wound, went from one wagon to the other 
answering the bewildered questions of my conu'ades, who 
seemed unable to grasp that we were prisoners. The sudden 
stupendous change in our destiny had completely staggered 
us. As for myself, I was entirely engrossed both in mind 
and body — ^for, as I discovered only a few hours later, 
my sickness had suddenly vanished — by the fadl that we 
were prisoners, and, moreover, prisoners in Russia! In a 
trice I had been transformed into an infinitely small and 
infinitely cautious creature. I was like a fox watching 
on the outskirts of a wood, or a hare stealing along a furrow. 
It never occurred to me that I should be of no further use 
to the Fatherland. Doubtless I felt that any help I could 
give was insignificant enough, and I was obsessed by the 
thought of how forlorn, lonely, and trifling my own existence 
had suddenly become. 

I cannot say whether it was a good or a bad thing for me 
that my wounded comrades should suddenly have regarded 
me not only as their leader, but also as an omniscient sort 
of individual to whom they could address all their questions 
and confide all their fears and troubles. What questions! 
What fears ! What troubles ! One slightly wounded fellow, 
a little lacquerer from Mecklenburg, was delighted to think 
that now, at any rate, he had the war "behind him," as 
he expressed it. He was saved and restored to life! It 
struck him as being quite an amusing adventure to be a 
prisoner of war, and, raising himself up, he began grate- 
fully to contemplate the Russian carts, the horses, their 
harness, and the trees in the wood. Another man, a coach- 
man from Liibeck, who was more seriously wounded and 
whose foot I had bound up, kept up an endless flow of 
talk about his wife and every one of his children. In the 



393 OTTO BABENDIEK 

delirium of fever he imagined that he was with them, and 
that the cart in which he was lying was taking him home. 
Another was racked with anxiety about his mother, who, 
ever since he had been in the army, had been living with 
a sister who was unkind to her. He was also terrified at 
the thought of being sent to Siberia, which he imagined 
as a great glistening stretch of ice on which it was almost 
impossible to get a foothold. The coachman from Liibeck 
died. We buried him in the wood between two pine 
saplings on a bed of pine needles, and took our leave of 
him. The drivers of the carts gave us no difficulty. They 
stuck fast to their property — the horses and carts — and 
were probably only too glad, that our journey was taking 
us away from the Front. 

On the second day we reached the little town which 
the Russian officer had mentioned to me. But there was 
no accommodation for us there, and, after a doftor had 
examined the wounded and dressed their wounds, we had 
to move on. We proceeded by short day marches through 
undulating sandy country, feeding chiefly on potatoes, which 
we found in the cellars of the houses we passed, and on the 
bread kindly given to us by columns of troops along the 
road. On the fifth or sixth day we reached a straggling 
railway station, consisting of various small broken-down 
buildings lying in an open field. A doftor of German 
extradion to whom I taUced told me that the station was 
completely blocked and that it would be some time before 
we could move on. But as we were provided with food 
and medical assistance I decided to remain there. 

When with the help of one or two slightly wounded 
men I had deposited my wounded in two railway carriages 
and had done the best I could for them, I hobbled about 
the metals in my horribly tattered uniform, watching the 
work on the sidings and the shunting and departure of one 
or two trains at both ends of the vast station. The indolence 
with which everybody seemed to be working was incredible. 
I would even go so far as to say that what was done 
one day was deliberately undone the next. Probably the 
soldiers who were working there preferred to be engaged 
on this peaceful spot to being sent nearer the Front. Other- 
wise they struck me as being quite ordinary men. They 



I AM MADE PRISONER AND ESCAPE 393 

were kind and friendly to one another, and friendly rather 
than unfriendly to me. When I tried to pick up a few 
words of their language there was always somebody ready to 
help me. 

One of our more seriously wounded men died, and when 
I asked the do<Sor where I was to bury him he pointed to 
a wood close by. Halting and stumbling — ^for we were all 
wounded — we carried him past a few wooden huts into 
the wood. We thought that we should have to bury him 
anywhere, but, lo ! we discovered, between two plantations 
of birches, a beautiful cemetery filled with wooden crosses 
of the shape known as St Andrew's crosses, which we had 
never seen before. We were delighted both for oiwselves 
and our dead comrade, and after digging a proper grave we 
laid him in it and recited the Lord's Prayer. On the 
following day we set a simple cross on his mound, which 
seemed to have sunk extraordinarily fast. 

But enough of these details! I will not describe how, 
with my wretched little group of wounded, I reached a 
town in the interior, east of St Petersburg, and for nearly 
a year attended to German and Russian wounded until 
I became a regiilar hospital orderly. Nor how, what with 
home sickness and my longing for intelleAual work, I was 
in danger of falling a victim to the melancholia which had 
overtaken my mother. I will also pass over the joy I 
felt when a soldiers' and workmen's revolution broke out 
in the town — a harbinger of the great revolution which was 
to follow — ^and there were rumours that the war would 
soon be over; nor will I tell how, in the second year of 
our internment, when winter had come round again, 
German prisoners would escape under cover of the long 
dark nights by ones and twos to Finland, and from that 
time onward formed a constant stream trickling along that 
route. But, at all events, it was this that suggested to 
myself and a friend of mine, the son of a fellow-countryman 
from Holstein, that we should follow their example. 

February, however, was already at hand, and we had 
not made the attempt. We had great difficulty in secretly 
procuring the necessary warm clothing, particularly the 
sheepskins. But an old woman who in her youth had 
once been under some obligation to a German came to 



394 OTTO BABENDIEK 

our assistance. I believe she had once had a German lover 
in St Petersburg. 

She had brought us the sheepskins and had just closed 
the kitchen door behind her when we heard a cautious 
knock. Throughout the autumn and winter numbers of 
sick soldiers and German wounded, particularly those who 
were making their escape, had come in by this door 
to hatch their plots and plans. I gently opened it and 
saw in the moonlight two fugitives standing in the snow, 
dressed in the usual Russian travelling garb, which I now 
knew so well — dirty sheepskins reaching to the knee, a 
cap of some sort of fur on a bearded and unkempt head, 
fur-lined boots, and, slung on one side of the leather belt, 
a little enamelled teapot covered with large black or rusty 
patches. 

One of them, a broad-shouldered, sturdy fellow, asked 
me in low tones whether I was a German, and when I 
replied in tones equally low that I was, they begged me 
for bread and a litde sugar. I went back to the kitchen 
and for the hundredth time promised the second in command 
there that, after the war, I would give him enough money 
to fulfil the dream of his life and to buy a little cottage in 
his native village; and he gave me what I wanted. He 
believed me when I told him that in Germany I had vast 
estates, and I made light work of describing the glories 
of my castle and the number and breed of my horses and 
cattle, for, in view of the emptiness of my existence, I 
derived a certain comfort from this exercise of imagination. 

When I opened the door again, and the moonlight fell on 
the face of one of the fugitives, and I also heard his voice, 
which was full of a broad and genial humanity, I suddenly 
gasped and asked him where he came from. 

" From Schleswig," he replied. 

"From Ballum?" I asked in trembling tones. 

"Well, what if I do?" he rejoined. 

"Don't you know me?" I cried. 

With his charaderistically free and easy manner he came 
up to me, turned me to the light with his strong arms, 
and recognized me. . . . "You?" he exclaimed. "You? 
You here?" 

I was already excited enough by all I had been through. 



I AM MADE PRISONER AND ESCAPE 395 

and the thought that I was on the eve of making my escape. 
And now that my dearest friend was standing bdfore me, 
the man in whom all the memories of my youth were 
centred, the tears sprang to my eyes: "My God, Eilert! . . ." 
I exclaimed. " Fancy meeting like this ! " 

"What is there so strange about that, little ensign?" 
he said in calm, friendly tones. And turning to his com- 
panion he added with a smile: "Would you be surprised 
if the moon came down and lay in the snow beside us with 
an angel sitting on it laughing at us ? " 

My vivid imagination, ever busy with the wildest fancies, 
my strange condition and my longing for home, had shattered 
my spirit. I was a home bird, a lover of peaceful, humdrum 
life. And Eilert, who had grown ever stronger and mightier, 
both in mind and body, seemed the only solid thing about 
me when all else was crumbling to bits, the only clear 
light when all around was gloom. " Are you going to Fin- 
land?" I blurted out. "Will you take me with you? . . . 
We want to escape too. Please take me with you, though 
I can't walk very well!" And I showed him the bad 
wound above my knee which prevented me from straight- 
ening my leg. 

He asked me whether the wound had healed, and when 
I replied that it had he thought it would be all right, and 
urged us to get ready at once. In the end we decided 
that they should go on ahead to the outskirts of the town 
and wait for us there. They left, and in wild haste we 
colleded our things and quickly followed them. 

And thus we wandered through the long nights, chiefly 
through sparsely wooded country. All the woods were 
traversed by broad footpaths made either by the local 
inhabitants or by fugitives and tramps. Deep down in 
the soul of the Russian there is a love of wandering for 
wandering's sake — a sort of longing to flee from his neigh- 
bour and from himself. Hundreds of years ago we Germans 
were probably in the same state. When, owing to snowdrifts, 
we were in doubt as to our dire(5Uon, we steered our course 
by a little compass belonging to Eilert's friend, a watch- 
maker from Hamburg, a quiet, silent man. 

I walked most of the way at Eilert's side, occasionzilly 
spcciking to him. But by midnight I was always tired out. 



396 OTTO BABENDIEK i 

This was not entirely due to my injured knee, but to a 
certain inborn delicacy of constitution, for I am not so 
big in the limb as most of my countrymen. When I felt 
like this I walked by his side in silence. Towards morning, 
when we were trying to reach some house or hiding-place 
in the distance, I was always at my last gasp. Then he 
would put his powerful arm about me and help me on. 
But the snow was very deep and walking extremely difficult. 
Sometimes other little groups of fugitives would catch us 
up. But as a rule we met only Russians, who were se- 
cretiy wandering east or west. Among them were quite a 
number of strange Mongolian faces, probably natives of 
Eastern Siberia, who had escaped from the Front and had 
conceived the daring plan of reaching their distant homes 
across Finland and Sweden. 

I was deeply agitated by all I had been through and by 
the faft that I was trying to escape. When I had the 
strength I talked of Germany, of the war, of my home and 
the people there, and of Eilert's mother and sister, and 
my jaunt in the latter's boat. How far away it all seemed ! 
I spoke of Auntie Lena, Sven Modersohn, Balle Bohnsack, 
Eva and Ernemann in America, Engel Tiedje, and Gesa 
and her death, about which somebody had written and 
told Eilert while he was near the Urals in East Russia. 
All these people and events seemed very far away, as though 
they belonged to a different world. But far away as they 
were they still stood out in lively colours in my memory, 
and my heart beat fast when I thought of them. But 
Eilert looked with calm, indifferent eyes across the broad, 
melancholy landscape and said Utde, and when he did 
speak he was quite unmoved. Nothing excited him, not 
even the situation in which we found ourselves. All that 
life brought him merely inspired fresh images and pictures 
in his calm and childlike soul; he had no wish to alter 
anything; he merely wanted to marvel. And thus he 
lived silent and serene, quietly observing everything the 
hour brought. 

When we reached some shelter, whether in the morning, 
afternoon, or evening, he was always the spokesman. He 
had already been on the road for a year and spoke Russian 
well; and his great hirsute face, and his careless natural 



I AM MADE PRISONER AND ESCAPE 397 

manner, occasionally lit up by a flash of fire, pleased people. 
After we had been given some bread and tea or soup he 
would take the little sketching-block from the bottom of 
his coat-pocket, and then he seemed a miracle-worker in 
the eyes of our hosts. He would draw their low-ceilinged 
room with the great stove, the baby in the cradle, or the 
old grandmother; or he would make a portrait of the young 
wife, with her soft fair hair, her blowzy features, and lithe, 
voluptuous form. Then he would tear the paper up amid 
a chorus of lamentations, and, smiling with his clever eyes, 
and making all kinds of promises I could not understand, 
would go on drawing again. He was just as lively and 
content as if he had been in one of the fohermen's taverns 
of Ballum, Hamburg, Emden, Amsterdam, or Normandy. 
We would lie asleep or half asleep in one corner of the 
room, overcome with exhaustion after a difficult march 
through the snow, while in another corner, at the deal 
table, on the bed, on the floor, and in the little cradle, 
everything was awake and astir. The beautiful young 
daughter, half-undressed, would sit before the broad- 
shouldered man with his confident smile and talk to him. 
As he said his prayers the littie son would peep through 
his fingers to look at the stranger, and the grandmother 
would open her watery littie eyes to watch the man and 
the woman at the eternal game of capture. The father 
or the brother would sit on the floor or on the table, drinking 
with the artist from a bottie containing a crystal-clear liquid 
until they were intoxicated, when they would creep to the 
stove or sprawl on the floor. 

I think it was in the neighbourhood of Lake Ladoga 
on the twentieth day of our march that we turned north, 
and in the afternoon reached a lonely settiement of three 
houses on the outskirts of a wood. We wanted to go on 
still farther, but Eilert, after getting into conversation with 
the inmates of the last house, suddenly decided to spend 
the night there. When we entered the hovel, which, as 
far as I can recoiled, consisted only of one low-ceilinged 
room, the first thing that caught my eye was a buxom 
young woman, and I gathered from her expression that 
it was because Eilert had seen her that he had decided to 
remain. He soon set to work to draw her, and was very 



398 OTTO BABENDIEK 

lively, and ordered schnapps to be brought. The young 
woman, whose eyes were growing heavier and heavier 
every moment, had to go out to fetch her people, for she 
lived next door. They came in, and an animated discussion 
took place, during which the men and women kissed and 
cuddled each other. The rest of us, who were exhausted 
by our march through snow-covered woods, sat apart and 
availed ourselves of the unaccustomed opportunity of this 
early rest and the daylight to wash and louse ourselves, 
as we were terribly tormented by vermin. Then we lay 
down and went to sleep. 

I don't know exaftly what happened, but the young 
woman must have been the cause of the commotion, for 
we were awakened by the sound of loud cries and slamming 
doors. A moment later Eilert came to us and told us we 
must be up and off as quickly as possible. We staggered 
up, pulled our sheepskins on, threw our knapsacks over 
our shoulders, picked up our kettles, our ropes, and our 
hatchets, and went out. When we had turned the corner 
of the house, and were floundering along in the bitter cold 
night against a blizzard, we saw lights in the other hovels 
and heard people shouting and rushing towards the hut we' 
had just left, and we hurried away. 

For the first few hundred yards we ran, then, settling 
down to a walk, the Hamburg watchmaker solemnly con- 
sulted his compass, and determined our bearings; we were 
out of danger! It was then that I first noticed Eilert had 
no sheepskin on. I was horrified and asked him whether 
he had had to leave it behind. He said he had, and from 
his voice I gathered that he was cross and miserable. An 
icy cold wind was blowing snow and hail into our faces. 
We suggested that we should take turns to lend him our 
sheepskins, but he curtly refused. So we went on in 
silence, keeping as close to him as we could, so as to proted 
him from the wind. 

When the short day had turned to night we reached 
a straggling burnt-out farmhouse, in one room of which 
there was a fire burning. The watchmaker crept up to it, 
and came back with the report that a number of Russians 
were sitting inside, but that they were not regular soldiers 
and we had nothing to fear from them. Whereupon we 



I AM MADE PRISONER AND ESCAPE 399 

crept cautiously into a little room, on the opposite side 
of the farmyard, which still had a portion of its ceiling 
undamaged. 

Pressing against the wall, to protect ourselves against 
the wind, we cut up a charred board with our knives, 
kindled a small fire, and tried to melt some snow in a kettle. 
Meanwhile I could not help looking anxiously at Eilert 
from time to time, as I was very much afraid we should 
lose him. His lips were compressed, and I saw him shake 
himself now and again in his clothes, to drive out the cold 
which was penetrating him. We had again offered to 
take turns in lending him our sheepskins. But again he 
had refused, saying that in our weaJc condition we could 
not survive without them for half an hour; which was, of 
course, quite true. We tried to find more wood, so as 
to make a bigger fire, but it had all been burnt or used. 
Nothing was left but the stone walls and here and there 
a few patches of plaster. From the other side of the yard 
we heard the Russians singing and making a noise. 

I felt certain that Eilert could not get through the night, 
which was getting colder and colder, without falling very 
ill; and, unable to endure the sight, I got up and went 
across the yard to the room where the other men were. 
Standing in the shadow on the threshold, I gazed at the 
occupants in the light of the moon and the fire. They 
were dirtier than we were, but they were quite warm in 
their sheepskins and looked very fit. They were talking 
Russian, and at times I seemed to catch the sound of some 
other East European language. To judge from what 
remained of their uniforms, and the fact that they were 
very young, I imagined they must be deserters and 
marauders, chiefly of Mongolian race. Their leader, a 
gaunt Kirghiz — ^at least, that is what I took him to be — 
had a wild red beard. He was leaning comfortably and 
solemnly against a wall, with the lid of a large teapot on 
the side of his head and a rifle in his hand, while the 
Kirghizes or Kalmucks, or whoever they might be, were 
kneeling before him doing him homage. Meantime he 
kept his eye steadily fixed on a large bottle of crystal-clear 
liquid that was being passed round, and round. Close 
beside him, sitting on the floor, which was burnt black, 



40O OTTO BABENDIEK 

there was a litde man whom from the cut of his features, 
though I could only see him indistindlly as he was sitting 
in the shadow of the leader, I took to be a German. In 
his left hand he was holding the remains of some strange- 
looking lute, which he touched from time to time, and 
the way in which he moved his fingers suddenly reminded 
me of Bothilde's lover. Dieter Blank, of the Bohnsacks' 
farm. But it was only a passing thought, and I immediately 
forgot it. What made me examine him more closely was 
the fadt that he was wearing a particularly fine brown sheep- 
skin, and all I was thinking about for the moment was 
how to get a sheepskin for Eilert. 

I was standing looking enviously at the sheepskin and 
feeling quite desperate, when suddenly a noisy quarrel, 
accompanied by much laughter, broke out among the 
party. I did not know what it was all about, but the 
leader settled it by laying his hand, a horribly dirty freckled 
hand, on the filthy dishevelled heads of the two chief com- 
batants, and with a sort of confident undluousness said a 
few conciliatory words which had the effeft of calming 
them. The gesture and the fatherly tone of voice raised 
my spirits, and reminded me of something similar buried 
in the far-away past. But still I did not recognize him. 
It appeared that he had found fault with the singing of 
the others, and had maintained that he and the little man 
with the lute and the be&utiful brown sheepskin could 
give a far better performance. He now leant comfortably 
back and to my great astonishment exclaimed in the best 
Ballum slang: "Now, then, fire away, dear brother-in-law, 
and I bet a sheep we can do it better than the Kalmucks!" 
And so saying he began singing: "Sally, if your shoe pinches, 
it's because your feet are big!" 

The whole room, the fire, and the group of men round 
it swam before my eyes, and my heart stood still. I could 
only stare at him. He was unspeakably filthy, filthier than 
he had ever been in the worst period of his youth among 
his oxen and calves. It might even be said that he had 
gone back to his primitive state. But he was extremely 
lively. Singing at the top of his voice, he gesticulated with 
his hands in mock Chinese fzishion, tapped the others on 
the head, knocked off their fur caps, or pulled the bottle 



I AM MADE PRISONER AND ESCAPE 4OI 

from their lips. At last I drew nearer — I am sure my feet 
faltered — and, while he and Dieter Blank were still singing, 
I exclaimed: "Balle, I'm here!" 

I believe he had already seen me, though I don't think 
he had recognized me. But he was an extraordinary 
creature, and whether he adled spontaneously, was pre- 
tending, or only trying to tease me, I don't know; but, 
as usual, even at this moment, which was one of the tensest 
excitement to me, he still spoke in his calm grandfatherly 
tones. "Sit down, my son," he said, "and join in our 
song." 

They sang the song to the end, and while those about 
him were still shouting and singing, I told him all about our- 
selves and the danger threatening Eilert. I had also shaken 
Dieter Blank by the hand. I noticed that his face was 
bloated by years of drink and that his eyes looked besotted. 
He was drunk at that moment. 

Balle got up and went with me to Eilert. "We want 
you to let us take turns to lend you our sheepskins," he 
said. 

But Eilert still refused. 

Taking Balle aside, I said in tones of deep distress: "He 
won't live until the morning. . . . What can we do?" 

Balle went away, and I once more sat down as close 
up to Eilert as I could, so as to keep him warm, and the 
others did the same. But when we opened our coats to 
lay the corners over his knees or across his breast, he pushed 
them off, whilst now and, again he would shake himself 
to ward off the numbness that was overtaking him. 

At the end of half an hour Balle returned. I rose and 
went up to him. I had a mad forlorn hope that he had 
thought of some way out. From my earUest childhood I 
had regarded him as one who overcame every obstacle, 
and who could go through fire and water unscathed. 

He reeked of schnapps. "Not so long ago," he remarked 
in his nonchalant way, "he was still human; but now that 
he has been a prisoner of war for two years, and taken 
up with those Moujik topers, he is an absolute drunkards 
He drinks like a hog." So saying, he went away again. 

I sat down by Eilert again to shield him from the wind, 
and we remained thus for some time. Our two friends 
So 



402 OTTO BABENDIEK 

had fallen asleep. But Eilert did not sleep. With calm 
eyes he stared into the darkness before him. His breath 
froze on his beard, and his right hand glided over his knees 
as though he were drawing figures. 

Then Balle came back, and I got up again. He reeked 
. more strongly than ever of schnapps, and observed, as it 
were quite casually: "A little while ago, when he was 
quite sober, he was quite well aware that life no longer 
had any meaning for him. He admitted himself that he 
was nothing but a drunken sot and that it would be better 
if he were dead. And that's what I think too. It is better 
for some people never to return — better for themselves and 
better for those who belong to them." 

I don't know whether I guessed what was passing through 
his mind, but I felt terrified and my heart beat wildly. 
"Are you talking about Dieter Blank?" I asked anxiously. 

He closed one eye in the old familiar way, while the 
other eyebrow jerked wildly up and down. "Yes, my son, 
I am," he rephed slowly. 

I said nothing; he went away and I sat down again. 
The noise and the singing in the other room grew louder, 
then gradually died away. 

But again he returned, stinking more than ever of 
schnapps, and his voice was rather thick: "Anyone would 
think," he said, "that he wanted to drink me under the 
table. But nobody has ever succeeded in doing that! I 
suppose it's because I never say die! But is this wretched 
business Avith my sister to start all over again and go on 
for ever till she is old and grey?" And he staggered away 
again. 

I had remained silent, looking at the floor. When he 
had gone I sat down again, and listened to what was going 
on across the yard. Everything was quiet. 

Soon he came back again, and he had the fine brown 
sheepskin in his hands — I recognized it by its colour. 
Raising Eilert, who was quite stiff and had fainted, we 
put the sheepskin on him and covered him up well; and 
taking off our own skins put them over him and nibbed 
and shook him until he grew warm and fell into a deep 
sleep. Then, getting into our sheepskins again, we lay 
down close up to him, and thus we remained. Balle 



I AM MADE PRISONER AND ESCAPE 403 

Bohnsack looked calmly across the yard through which the 
snow was driving. 

"I really couldn't kill him," he observed after a while. 
"He must have a stomach like a paving stone. So I said 
to him, 'How much do you think you are worth? . . . 
I mean as a man? Are you worth three marks? . . .' 
He replied: 'No, brother, I am not. No, I am not worth 
a good bright three-mark piece.' I said, 'Over there in 
that hovel there is a man who is worth thousands of marks, 
and he will freeze to death if he doesn't get your sheep- 
skin.' Then he said, 'Take my sheepskin off me, brother. 
I can't take it off myself. I'm too drunk.' I replied, 'You 
must say that three times.' He repeated it twice more, and 
then I pulled his sheepskin off." 

He was silent, and I buried my face in my hands. 

"Yes," he continued after a while, "that's how it hap- 
pened. Do you suppose my sister lUced him only for his 
daring eyes and his violin? There was something more 
in him, something great. . . . She is a whole-hogger too 
in her way." 

I imagined him lying over there in the other room with 
the rest of the drunken crowd, without his sheepskin, his 
small, sinewy body doubled up and slowly growing stiff. 
And I gave a great sob in my hands. After sitting in 
silence for a while, my old friend observed: "One must 
distinguish between one man and another and a.&. accord- 
ingly. Don't we do so with animals? Everything has its 
proper value." 

"I don't know that it is for us to judge," I replied. 

He did not answer for a moment. "I have done it 
now," he said at Icist. 

It was the first time since I had known him that his 
voice, although confident, was melancholy and slow. After 
a while he added in the same measured tones: "Which 
petition is it, the fifth or the sixth ? " 

At first I did not understand; then I replied the fifth.* 

"Now let us go to sleep," he said after a while. 

But I could not sleep. 

On the following morning, when we were about to con- 
tinue our journey, I looked in at the door of the other 

* This refers to the seven petitions of the Lord's Prayer. — ^Tr. 



404 OTTO BABENDIEK 

room. He was lying there, a small thin figure, doubled 
up beside the dead fire. The wind had changed slightly, 
driying the snow over him, and he was already beginning 
to get covered. The others were sitting there with callous, 
besotted faces, half turned away from him, round a fresh fire, 
And were making their morning tea. Eilert was feverish, 
but he was able to go with us. 

I believe we were ten days on the road after that terrible 
night before we reached the frontier of Finland in the 
north. 

From that point onwards we were led by visible and 
invisible hands. During the day we slept in some hut, 
generally on the banks of a lake, across which the wind 
blew the snow. In the evening, when it was getting dark, 
people would appear — chiefly quite young men and women, 
and frequently mere girls — who would lead us on foot, 
or in litde sleighs, across lakes and over fields, all night 
long in a westerly direftion. Balle Bohnsack was our 
leader, and we left everything to him. He was still as 
strong as ever, and as he was constantly meeting fresh 
people he was very lively. Of course he had no difficulty 
in speaking Finnish at once, or whatever language he was 
called upon to speak. In any case he entertained himself 
in the hveliest fashion with the good people. Eilert, a 
prey to feverish delirium, lived in his visions, while I, 
lonely and weak, and bad at languages, sat by myself and 
took no part in the conversation. I could only show my 
gratitude by shaking hands with the grown-up people 
and stroking the cheeks of the children. On the thirtieth 
day of our flight we got into the hold of a fishing-smack, 
and pushed out to sea, and, with a good sou'-wester blowing, 
against which we had to tack, reached the Swedish coast 
three days later. 

Balle made a speech to the two fishermen who had 
brought us over. At first they listened with a smile, and 
at last they had to laugh. Then we stumbled along to a 
hut which they pointed out to us in the distance. It was 
built of black beams, and two reindeer, a doe and her 
calf, were tethered to the door at the side. An old woman, 
who, if I could judge from pidures I had once seen, looked 
like a Laplander, came to the door. She knew at once 



I AM MADE PRISONER AND ESCAPE 405 

who we were, and, going back into the hut, began to light 
a fire. I sat for a while with the others, leaning forward 
with my hands on my knees, utterly exhausted. There 
were an old man and a child in the room, who stared at 
us, and feeling I wanted to be alone I went outside to the 
back of the hut. 

There I prayed long and earnestly, not a prayer of thanks- 
giving for having been saved, but a prayer full of wonder 
and astonishment, for I had Seen miracles of beauty and 
terror, and had come through with treasures which, as it 
seemed to me, time could not destroy. 



CHAPTER XXVII 

An Eventful Week 

We remained two days and nights in the hut. . I was 
confused and unspeakably tired, and slept most of the time. 
Eilert was weak with fever. Balle was up and about the 
whole while. When on the third day I went out and gazed 
wearily about me I saw that there were other huts under 
shelter of a rock. I went towards them and found Balle 
talking to a crowd of Lapps about some reindeer. Apparently 
the animals had something the matter with them, and, to 
the accompaniment of many a lively gesture, my old friend 
was telling the people in his usual deep voice how to 
cure them. When he saw me he left them and came 
back to the hut with me. As the sun was shining, we 
sat down in our sheepskins on a wooden bench outside 
the door. "They arc decent fellows," he observed, 
and, looking round, he added: "It is very pleasant here, 
on the whole." 

I replied that I did not know any spot on earth which 
he would fail to find pleasant. 

He looked a little suspiciously at me out of the corners 
of his eyes. " When spring comes, they all go north," he 
observed, "crowds of men, reindeer, and dogs, and do some 
lively business." And he proceeded to describe how the 
people and the animals spent their time. 

I did not say very much, but merely listened. I was 
too depressed and indifferent. 

Meanwhile he went on talking. The people were too 
callous about the well-being of their animals and too slow 
and careless in business. It would be interesting to steal 
like a fox through the country; he was sure that in a couple 
of years, without a penny in his pocket, he would have 
secured a fine herd for himself. 

"I quite believe it," I replied, "and incidentally you 
would have escaped the war." 

406 



AN EVENTFUL WEEK 407 

Holding his neck very stiff, he looked straight in front 
of him into the distance. "Yes, that's true," he said. 

"It's not for me to say anything about that," I observed. 
"I am a cripple and shall never be sent to the Front again." 

He was silent for a while. "You mean, my son," he 
said at last, " that I ought to go back and lend a hand 
again, otherwise the flock of sheep will never get across 
the stream?" 

I agreed. 

"I remember," he continued, after a moment's silence, 
"that one of our schoolmasters told us how King Charles 
of Sweden led his people into a war that was too much 
for them, and how they returned to their homes from 
every quarter of the globe limping and in rags. And when 
they got back — those of them who did get back, and there 
were not very many of them — they found their houses in 
ruins and the grass growing in the streets of their towns. 
Do you know anything about that ? " 

I replied that, as a matter of facft, it was perfedlly true. 

"Well," he proceeded, "don't you think Germany's 
going the same way? I mean that the Kaiser has bitten 
off more than he can chew, and we, like the old Swedes, 
are returning from all corners of the globe to our homes 
to find nothing to eat there. . . . The people here, my 
son, say that it looks as though things were not very grand 
in Germany — there is hunger and misery everywhere ! " 

"It may be so, Balle!" I replied. I was worn out and 
full of doubt and fears. 

"Everybody I spoke to in Russia, and I talked to heaps 
of people," he said, "thought we had gone ahead too quickly 
with our fleet and our commerce, and had become a menace 
to the honour and existence of other nations." 

"There may be some truth in that, Balle," I said. "But 
now we arc in trouble, and everybody who can must go 
and help." 

"I thought," said Balle, "that it might perhaps be better 
for Dina and the two children if I were to stop here in a 
hut with a littie herd of reindeer, rather than go back to 
Ballum and cut down the grass in the streets, possibly to 
feed a goat on." 

"It's not for me to say," I repeated, "for I shall never 



408 OTTO BABENDIEK 

be sent to the Front again. But you will have to go back 
to the firing-line." 

He was silent for a while. Then he said: "So you mean, 
my 8on, that it is my damnable duty, although the whole 
thing is a most infernal and hopeless mess, to go to Altona 
again." 

I nodded. 

He gazed silently towards the Lapps, who were still standing 
in groups about their animals. And I believe a terrible 
struggle went on in his breast, not so much because he 
would be exposed to fresh danger, but because he would 
miss the fine deals he felt he could make here. "It really 
is a wonderful opportunity for making a bit of money," he 
said, turning to me again; "but if you really mean what 
you said we shall be off to>morrow morning." 

I went to Eilert in the hut. He was very tired, though 
his fever had abated. I persuaded him to come out with 
me to enjoy the sun, and when we had been sitting on the 
wooden bench for a little while he had an opportunity 
for the first time of examining his sheepskin by daylight. 
He looked it up and down for some time, and then in rather 
a depressed tone of voice he said: "I say, when we were 
going through that burnt-down farm the other day, and 
I had no sheepskin, I noticed, as we passed, a Uttle fellow 
who had a sheepskin exadly like this one, brown with a 
leather belt. Am I right, or was I dreaming?" 

" It's perfectly true, Eilert," I replied with some emotion. 

"I have been thinking about it in my fever," he con- 
tinued after a moment's silence, "How did you get hold 
of it?" 

"That little fellow," I answered, "was Dieter Blank, 
a neighbour of Balle and his sister in the old days, and 
Bothilde's lover for seven year?, You remember that big 
giriBothilde?" 

He nodded. "That great big corsair woman? And 
Dieter Blank was her lover! Qjuite right! She told me 
about it." 

"Yes," I said, "that's it!" And I hoped he would 
ask no more questions. But, looking at me, he persisted; 
"Well, what next?" 

"Yes," I stammered, "Balle and I rather thought it would 



AN EVENTFUL WEEK 409 

be a good thing for Bothilde if he never went back. He 
was an unreliable fellow and a drunkard, and she could 
not tear herself away from him." 

"Really!" 

" And then we discussed who was of greater value — ^you 
or he." 

"Really!" 

" Yes, and then Balle made him drunk." 

"Oh, indeed!" 

"And when he was drunk he grew melancholy and 
magnanimous, and gave you his sheepskin, and Balle said 
that it was because he had these quaUties that Bothilde 
could not tear herself away from him." 

"A true woman," he observed. "Fire is what they 
want, even if it is sulphurous." 

"That is how it happened," I said. 

"Indeed!" he exclaimed. And after a while he added 
mockingly: "You wonderful judges ! " 

We did not refer to the subjecft again, and I told him 
that Balle and I had thought of continuing our way on the 
morrow. 

"I really do not know what I ought to do," he observed 
after a while. "I have not much natural feeling for things 
that mean so much to other men — the Fatherland, the 
Empire, conventional marriage, and so on. I am more 
attached to natural universal things, like land and sea, 
water, air, humanity, animals, love and beauty, spirit and 
strength. Besides, I have good friends in Belgium, France, 
and Holland — dear people, some of them adually holy 
people. Also, while I was a prisoner of war, I lived for a 
year in the house of one of Tolstoy's disciples, and met with 
nothing but kindness and love in the midst of imprisonment 
and death. People in Ballum used to talk about the Gospels, 
but I saw no sign of the Gospel spirit. But in that hut in 
the Urals I did. I don't like shooting men, it goes against 
the grain with me." 

"So you will stay in Sweden?" I said. 

He shook his massive head. "No," he replied, "I won't 
do that! I will go with you. A man Uke myself, an artist, 
should not wander too far from his age and his people. I 
will join the ranks again, and endure what has to be endured. 



410 OTTO BABENDIEK 

But I refuse to take aim and shoot men. I am a man of 
life, not of death." 

He wanted to say more, but Balle came up to us with 
some Lapps and we discussed our journey. 

A week later we had managed secretly to cross Sweden 
and the sea beyond, and on a rainy day in April we arrived 
at the principal station in Altona from which we had 
originally set out. We went to the barracks to report, 
and half an hour later we separated at its gates, having 
been given a fortnight's leave. Eilert went to friends in 
Hamburg, and Balle returned to Dina, while I booked a 
little room at the Schleswiger Hof in Altona. 

I was unspeakably exhausted, both physically and men- 
tally, and spent three days in complete idleness, sleeping 
the whole night and half the day, and spending the rest of 
the time in the hotel lounge, with my hands in my lap, 
watching the activity about me as it were through a mist, 
while the events of the last few years and thousands of 
human faces passed in slow and solemn procession through 
my mind. On the fourth day, though still tired and weary, 
I began to talk to my host and the visitors, and to ask all 
kinds of questions and look at the papers. 

And then I learnt that what I had heard in Lapland 
was true, and that things were no longer going well with 
Germany. Whereas at the beginning of the war there 
had been a feeling of exuberance and plenitude, now there 
was an atmosphere of want and anxiety. Whereas at first 
people had had faith in their rulers and believed they had 
a good strong Government, they were now bitterly aware 
of injustice and laxity in many quarters, and a suspicion 
that the authorities were supporting crumbling and decayed 
institutions had taken the place of the convidion that the 
Army and the Civil Service were efficiently administered. 
While it was true that the condud of affairs might not have 
been particularly brilliant, it was believed that at least it 
was in the hands of men of understanding, members of 
old and experienced families. But now people saw in- 
capacity in every quarter. And, worst of all, whereas at 
the beginning of the war everybody had believed that 
Germany had been innocent and had been driven into the 
conflid by the other nations, now I could see that the idea 



AN EVENTFUL WEEK 4II 

had gained ground that we too were not altogether guiltless, 
not so much from wanton wickedness, perhaps, as through 
stupidity. This feeling oppressed the people, who set a 
clean conscience and justice above all ebe, and it paralysed 
the energy of numberless worthy souls. 

These discoveries made such a deep impression on my 
sensitive nature and gripped me so firmly that I was tor- 
mented night and day. I began to see that defeat was 
possible, whereas until then it had been unthinkable; and, 
as anybody who has read one or two of my books may 
imagine, I tried in my own way to find a deeper interpre- 
tation of this stupendous {&&.. Could it be the outcome of 
divine retribution? But no, that would not do! All day 
long I remained in the hotel, pondering these matters, and 
in the evening and half through the night I would wander 
about the deserted streets and along the shore as far as 
Blankenese, where the spirits of my dear departed would 
often join me. At last, ^ter many a dark, despondent hour, 
I humbly resigned myself — ^for nothing else could save me 
— to acquiescence in human imperfection and trust in the 
justice of God, believing that everything had a holy meaning 
which I, as a spirit temporarily imprisoned in human form, 
could not understand. 

When I had recovered my equanimity in this way I 
happened one evening at dusk to be going through Ovel- 
gonne, and seeing a light in my father-in-law's house I 
went in. 

My father-in-law welcomed me cordially. He told me 
that his eldest son, Thomas, the farmer, had gone down with 
his torpedo-boat near the Skaggerak, but that, as far as 
he knew, the others were safe and sound. His hair had 
grown much whiter, but he was as straight and as smart as 
ever. All his club men were at the war, and in their absence 
he had founded various clubs for women and boys, which 
were already flourishing. 

Presendy my mother-in-law came in, and greeting me 
with tears in her eyes said that she now perhaps had two 
children buried beneath the waves. 

I tried to comfort her, and asked what she meant by 
"perhaps." She replied that it was surely quite possible 
that they might both be alive still. 



412 OTTO BABENDIEK 

I agreed that there was just the ghost of a chance. 

" Postal communications have been cut off everywhere," 
she continued. "Only when we have won — ^and we cer- 
tainly shall win, Holler — shall we know whether Gesa was 
not perhaps picked up by a liner, and whether Thomas did 
not perhaps reach Sweden or Denmark in a fishing-smack 
or something." 

I observed that as they were both good, pure souls we 
could comfort ourselves on that score if they really were 
dead. But although she agreed wholeheartedly about Gesa 
she thought Thomas might have been gifted with a Uttle 
more imagination and energy. 

K Sitting at her lace-work, which always seemed to stimulate 
her fancy and her emotions, she told me about the others. 
Apparently they were all getting on splendidly. Adalbert 
had unfortunately been obliged to leave the Mayor of 
Hambiurg, and was now in Belgium with his brother 
Hieronymus. She did not know exa<5Uy what they were 
doing, but she believed they were engaged on some earth 
or road works. In any case, to judge from their letters, 
they were held in high esteem, and were having most 
brilliant careers. At least, that was what she read between 
the lines. They were too modest to do more than hint 
at it. 

I coidd not resist glancing at my father-in-law as I 
listened, and noticed that he was winldng at me and had 
a somewhat supercilious expression on his face, as was 
always the case when his wife or one of his three sons 
indulged their fancy. 

I then asked after her youngest son. She said he was 
the pride of her life. He was so brave and clever that 
he had already been commended again and again by his 
General, and had been offered a commission. But out of 
consideration for his fellow-soldiers, with whom he had 
been associated for three years, he had refused it. He had 
merely asked to be allowed to continue his Chinese studies, 
and his request had been granted. 

As she then proceeded to expatiate on what would happen 
when her brother returned from furthest Ind I remained 
only a littie while longer before taking my leave. My 
father-in-law accompanied me for a short distance, and 



AN EVENTFUL WEBK 413 

after walking in silence for some minutes he suddenly 
exclaimed: "You know mother!" 

I replied that I not only knew her, but also loved her. 

"My youngest boy's commanding officer has merely 
written to me to say that he is a jolly good soldier," he 
said. 

"All your children are good," I replied, from the bottom 
of my heart. 

He smiled. " The other two are only privates in a labour 
battalion, doing hard work on poor food, and building some 
road in Belgium ! " 

The affeftion I had always felt for him prompted me to 
ask him how it was that he had never been able to get his 
wife and children to look fads more squarely in the face. 

"My dear Holler!" he exclaimed, shaking his fine white 
head, "I tried to do so when my wife was young and the 
children still Small. But you know her childlike eyes? I 
could not wound them with flints. Another man might 
perhaps have done so. . . . Whether it would have served 
any purpose, or would have made those eyes see more clearly, 
is another question . . . but I could not do it." 

On leaving him I thought over all I had seen and heard, 
and all I had experienced at the hands of Gesa's family. 
When my first flush of enthusiasm and admiration for her 
and her family had subsided I had for a time regarded them 
with a certain distant contempt. But to my surprise I 
found that this feeling had vanished and that I liked them 
all, and thought of them with tender emotion. And then 
my mind wandered to all the other figures that had played 
a part in my life. For the first time after three years of 
terrible agitation and suspense I was able to think calmly 
and coUededly of my beloved parents, of Engel Tiedje, 
and all my other friends. I saw the Hellebecks' fiirm in 
the sunshine of my childhood, with beautiful Frau Hellebeck, 
Almut, and Hans. I saw the Bohnsacks, Auntie Lena and 
Uncle Gosch, and remembered how Eva had ruled me and 
how much I had admired Ernemann. Then I saw Eilert 
Mumm drawing, and getting drunk and raving as he drew; 
and Barbara on her perpetual daring quest of adventure. 
And I conjured up the pidure of Hans, sunk in hopeless 
filth and stupor, with Almut coming to the rescue; and of 



414 OTTO BABENDIEK 

Gesa laughing and kissing rat and sailing away never to 
return. Close on the heels of this came the war, with all 
its terrible memories, culminating in the tragedy of Dieter 
Blank's sacrifice. All this passed before my eyes, and as 
I pondered over it aH I saw that everything, both living 
and dead, had now assumed a fresh perspective, and that I 
had grown quieter, calmer, and more just, and that miracle 
after miracle, passing all understanding, had taken place. 

On entering the lounge of my hotel I sat down alone, 
and once more gave myself up to thought. In the old 
days I had been able to endure loneliness only when my 
mind was occupied with reading or writing, or observing 
nature. Now, it was only the terrible experiences that lay 
behind me that made me long for solitude. All about me 
people were anxiously discussing the war and the possibilities 
of peace, a subject every aspedl of which I knew and was 
sick of. The proprietor offered to light up, but the guests 
preferred to remain in semi-darkness yet a while longer. 

Just at that moment a new visitor arrived and passed by 
my table; and, looking up, I caught a fleeting glimpse of 
a fine handsome oflicer in a smart uniform without an 
overcoat, whose gracious, condescending voice caused me 
instantly to recognize him as Fritz Hellebeck. 

To judge from the way everybody addressed him he was 
evidently regarded as a person of considerable power and 
importance; and the proprietor as he offered him a table 
respedfuUy asked him whether he was on leave. 

In his leisurely, pompous way, Fritz replied that he was, 
and hinted that he had some business to settle, partly of a 
private and partly of a political nature. 

There was a respe<Sful silence, after which the proprietor 
humbly observed that he hoped he was quite well and asked 
whether he had come from a dangerous sedor. 

"Oh, not so bad!" he replied. "Heavy shelling and 
bombs from aeroplanes; but not so bad! . . ." What a 
grand confident manner he had— just as if he had the power 
to determine when and where the shells should fall ! 

When he was respedtfuUy asked what his job was he 
replied that he was supply-officer to a General in the field. 

"Oh, really! ReaUy!" 

Then glancing about him and noticing the empty glasses 



AN EVENTFUL WEEK 415 

on the other tables, he called for drinks all round, and, 
remarking that an officer on adtive service often did not 
know what to do with his money, proceeded to give a 
boastful description of his duties. 

In the middle of it a timid tap was heard at the window. 
I immediately guessed that he had arranged this in order 
to gratify his vanity. 

And as a matter of fad he jumped up and with a conceited 
smile observed: "Ah, that's a fellow who wants to discuss 
something with me ... a private matter. . . . To-morrow 
I shall go to Cuxhaven and the next day back to the 
Front. . . . My bill, please!" And pushing some money 
towards the proprietor, he added: "That's about right, 
isn't it?" and left. 

When he had gone I got up too, and, running into the 
proprietor at the door, I told him that I was an old acquain- 
tance of the officer who had just left, and asked him whether 
he knew how he was getting on in business. 

The proprietor told me that for some time he had posed 
as a merchant in a big way, but had lost the bulk of his 
fortune; though Dutti Kohl, a doubtful sort of character, 
had been partly responsible for this. Afterwards he had 
carried on business alone, dealing in houses and mortgages 
— dealings on a small scale which were not always above 
suspicion. 

I described the state of affairs at the farm, explaining that 
although the farm itself belonged to Fritz the meadows 
were the property of his wife, who was living with his half- 
brother. And I asked whether he knew how things were 
in that quarter. 

He replied that Fritz had divorced his wife, who was 
now married to the half-brother, and that the couple were 
living on the little farm on the edge of the wood. 

As I was turning all this over in my mind I saw three 
men walking on the opposite side of the street, under the 
limes, which were still bare. I should not have noticed 
them or even have been aware that they were there if one 
of them had not jingled some money in his pocket, reminding 
me of my boyhood's friend. 

"There he goes again!" I whispered, and asked the pro- 
prietor what sort of fellows his companions were. Somehow 



4l6 OTTO BABENDTEK 

they had aroused my curiosity, possibly because they did 
not look like natives of the town. 

The proprietor replied that they were strangers to him, 
and just at that moment one of them, turning aside, knocked 
his short pipe out against a lime tree in a manner that seemed 
familiar to me. I tried in vain to recall where I had seen 
him before, and it was only long afterwards, at the most 
tragic moment of my life, that I remembered he was the 
man whom I had met at Fritz Hellebeck's house, and who 
was said to be the brother of an English peer. 

On the following morning I received two letters. 

One was from Uncle Gosch, in which he told me how 
deUghted he and Auntie Lena were to hear that I had 
escaped from Russia. He also reported that the Basileia 
theory was making good progress, that Eva had been married 
two years to her employer, the Danish doAor, and had a 
little boy, that her husband, whose name was Modersohn, 
had turned out to be the brother of Sven Modersohn of 
Copenhagen, and that Eva's son was also called Sven! 
On account of her husband's delicate state of health they 
had moved to Los Angeles in California, and I was to write 
to them at once and tell them that I was alive and well. 
Finally he informed me that Ernemann had a flourish- 
ing business in tropical fruit. There was nothing in all 
Uncle Gosch's letter about the war, and I presumed that 
he either did not know about it or had forgotten that it 
was on. 

The other letter summoned me to report at a certain 
hour at Corps Headquarters. 

At the appointed hour I limped to the place, and a 
sergeant-major sent me to a colonel, who, among numerous 
other questions, asked me whether I could speak Low 
German and English. When I said I could, though my 
English was not very good, he inquired whether I would 
like to make a little journey diu-ing my leave. 

I replied that I would. 

He then told me that things looked "very rotten" in 
America. The English were blackening heaven with their 
lies, and the Americans were on the point of coming in 
against us. But a German over there had set aside a fund 
to provide for three propagandists, and he wondered whether, 



AN EVENTFUL WEEK 417 

as I could no longer be employed at the Front, I would 
care . . . 

Feeling highly honoured, and being only too anxious to 
give whatever help I could, and also Jremembering Eva 
and Ernemann and the joy it would give their dear parents 
if I could see them, I replied, with a blush, that nothing 
would please me better than such a mission. 

I spent three hours with him, receiving all kinds of 
ironical, shrewd, and ungodly instruftions — ^all of which 
were foreign to my cautious, thoughtful, and positive nature; 
whereupon he handed me my papers, in which I was de- 
scribed as a Dane from North Schleswig, and told me to 
take the first train I could catch to the foreign port from 
which I was to sail. 

A week later I was on the high seas. 



Sd 



CHAPTER XXVIII 

A Journey and a Memorable Meeting 

I DO not propose to describe all the events of that terrible 
voyage, with its constant difficulties and alarms. I will 
pass over my feverish rush from lift to lift in New York, 
and from town to town across the vast continent, while 
the conflagration of lies and insults against Germany in- 
creased to such an extent that we, who were the advocates 
of Germany's cause, and our few friends and helpers, could 
no longer cope with it. Suffice it to say that the moment 
had arrived when the great American people stood wavering 
between two alternatives, although it was already plain 
that the scales were weighted against us. 

I was stupefied by the long railway journeys and the 
interviews I had been having. But what bewildered me 
most of all was the hatred of Germany which I could read 
in every newspaper, in every word that people uttered, and 
in every face I looked at. I don't think I could have 
endured these overwhelming evidences of hatred and 
hostility if I had not been able to bear in mind the sweet 
litde haven of peace and love which I knew awaited me 
beyond the raging waters I was in, somewhere in Los 
Angeles, where I would be able to sit once more with the 
two dear friends of my poverty-stricken but oh, so happy 
childhood ! 

It was evening in one of the new towns in the State of 
Oregon, and we were on a ferry crossing the Columbia 
River, when with sudden vividness this terrible contradidion 
flashed across my mind — the German people imagine that 
the mighty American nation wants to terrify and humiliate 
them with noisy theatrical thunder; but the truth is that 
this young country, strong as a giant, is arming itself with 
a religious fervour that extends from sea to sea against 
our people whom it believes to be evil and accursed of 

418 



A MEMORABLE MEETING 419 

God. But Germany is already bleeding to death! Germany 
is done for! 

I sat exhausted and half paralysed by this most appalling 
of modern spediacles — the sight of a giant nation driven 
mad by a lie. I was in the modest home of a man of Ger- 
man origin, consulting him as to what I should do. At last 
we decided that I should destroy my German papers and 
travel quite openly to New York with the Danish jjapers 
I had, and thence proceed to Denmark; but that, just to 
prove my bona fides, I should go round by Los Angeles and 
visit the friends of my youth. I heaved a sigh of relief, 
and in all the tumult about me I kept that blessed isle of 
peace steadily in view. 

On the following day I reached Los Angeles, and although 
it was late afternoon in the month of April the streets of 
the town were oppressively hot. 

I knew, or had guessed, that Dr Modersohn, who was 
more of a scientific man than a physician, lived in modest 
circumstances; and, truth to tell, the nearer I drew to his 
quarter the meaner and humbler did the streets and wooden 
houses become, till at last I came to the neighbourhood of 
ugly, unfinished streets with small one-storied wooden cot- 
tages where he lived. 

Looking for some one whom, without unnecessary risk, 
I might ask to dired me to the house, I happened to catch 
sight of a little fruit shop, with its rows of apricots, peaches, 
and bananas shielded from the sun by an awning. I saw 
that there was some one there, and with an intentness that 
quickly turned to astonishment I eagerly scrutinized the 
back of a young man's curly and rather boyish head as 
he was shutting the place up for the night. . . . Sud- 
denly he straightened himself and turned round. It was 
Erneraann ! 

He was dressed in a check shirt and wide cotton trousers, 
his brown hair had prematurely receded from his temples, 
above which it clustered in curls, and his handsome face 
was as boyish as ever. Deeply moved I gazed at him with 
eyes full of affedUon and examined his shop. So this was 
the business in tropical firuit which Uncle Gosch had told 
me about! 

I crossed the road and czdled his name. He looked up 



490 OTTO BABENDIEK 

and stared as though I were a ghost. Then, stammering 
my name, he threw up a leaf of his counter, dragged me 
behind it, let down the awning, so that we were almost 
in darkness, and with tears pouring down his face kissed 
and hugged me and asked after his parents. 

He told me all about his chequered career, his experiences 
as a farmer, waiter, sa\vyer, and musician, and said that for 
the moment he was a greengrocer by day and played the 
violin at an hotel at night. As he was talking he began 
to take some smart evening clothes and a clean shirt from 
a chest, and I concluded that the shop in which we were 
standing, together with the chest and its contents, repre- 
sented the whole of his property. 

Resolved to make him as happy as I could, I told him 
that Hans and I were convinced that Fritz had stolen the 
money, and that I had told the latter so three years pre- 
viously. He was overjoyed, and seizing my hands asked me 
whether his mother knew. 

When I replied that if she did not know she at least sus- 
pected it, his eyes filled with tears, and sobbing bitterly he 
kissed me again. 

Meanwhile he had finished dressing, and although his 
evening jacket was a little bit the worse for wear he looked 
quite respe<ftable. 

Lowering his voice to a whisper, he then informed me 
with obvious delight that at midnight that very night he 
was going south by car with three other young Germans, to 
try to reach Mexico, whence he hoped to be able to get 
to Germany and proceed to the Front. The thought of 
making an honourable return to his native country — he 
was thinking of the theft — was driving him almost mad 
with joy. But I could not help feeling very strongly that, 
in addition to his longing to see the Fatherland again and 
to help it, he was also tremendously excited at the prosped 
of making a further change in his career, and I was also 
certain that he had not the faintest idea what the Front 
was like. In this he was his father's son. So I watched 
him pack his little suitcase, which was all he was going 
to take with him; and when, like the dear Ernemann of 
old, he looked for something to give me, I was forced to 
accept a particularly fine peach and a litde penknife. 



A MEMORABLE MEETING 42I 

By this time it had grown quite dark, and an elderly 
man apf>eared, who was going to take over the shop. He 
paid Ernemann the money for it, and when this business 
was over Ernemann conduced me to Eva's house. As 
he was afhiid they might try to prevent him from carrying 
it out, he had told them nothing about his plan of flight. 
So he asked me to wish them good-bye for him, and, kissing 
me again, vanished in the shadow of the trees that lined 
the street. 

I was so deeply moved by all that I had gone through 
in the last few days, and especially by the meeting with 
Ernemann, that I felt I could not present myself immediately 
before the one creature on earth who seemed entitled to 
demand most of me. So I wandered about for a while 
outside her house, taking stock of the ugly mean street, 
while I passed in review the various incidents of our joint 
lives, and all their joy and sorrow, up to the moment when 
we had parted for six long years in that wretched little 
Schleswig station. And now I was to see her again in a 
strange land, the wife of a man who had perhaps always 
been an enemy of our country, and the mother of his child ! 
Heaving a deep sigh, I at last ran up the wooden steps 
of the house, and cautiously entered, as though I was afraid 
the floor were going to give way beneath my feet. 

No one appeared, and I was beginning to think the 
house was empty, when a soft, dreamy woman's voice 
came from a room at the back, saying: "Is that you, 
Frederick?" 

I recognized her voice, and immediately guessing that 
she was with her sleeping baby, whom she did not wish 
either to wake or to leave, I went through to her on tiptoe, 
and, standing at the door, saw her in the gloaming, sitting 
beside the child's cot. She was a little stouter, her red- 
gold hair was a little thicker, and her voice deeper; other- 
wise she was the same as ever. "Don't be frightened, Eva," 
I whispered, still standing at the door. " It is I . . . your 
oldfk-iend!" 

She started violently, but remained seated. "Come in. 
Holler!" she said in soft low tones, as though she were 
dreaming. "How nice of you to speak so gently! You 
see ... I did not scream when I saw you standing there. . . . 



422 OTTO BABENDIEK 

For I was with you all. ... I had Mother, Father, Erne- 
mann, and you before my eyes. We were sitting round 
the table, and Mother had just said something ridiculous, 
and we were all smiling, as we often used to. I saw each one 
of you quite clearly. The world is full of miracles! Only 
at lunch to-day Frederick was telling me that Ernemann 
was going south, and then on to Germany, to help. And 
my thoughts had gone with him." I went up to her and 
whispered: " I have just seen him. He is already on his way. 
I was to wish you and your husband good-bye for him. . . . 
But, Eva, tell me . . . have you a good husband?" 

We were standing hand in hand in the middle of the 
room. She leant close up to me and said: "Yes, I have. 
I was quite certain I should have, for hadn't I been his 
assistant for two years?" Then, gazing intently at me and 
trembling, she added in a choking voice: "How you have 
changed! Come and sit by me so that I can hold your 
hand . . . and tell me everything." 

So I described my last visit to Stormfeld and Ballum, 
and told her about Almut and the two Hellebecks, and 
also about my book, Gesa's death, the war, my experiences 
as a prisoner, my escape, and my mission in America, which 
was now at an end. And when I had finished we stroked 
each other's hands and blurted out broken words of affedlion. 

I was delighted by her friendliness, and felt an intense 
desire to press her cheek to mine. But memories of my 
childhood still made me shy with her; though with shining 
eyes I told her how delighted I was after all these long 
years of suffering to see her face again. "All my troubles," 
I said, "even my despondency and home-sickness, have 
vanished now I am sitting with you!" 

We chaffed each other for a while. I said she had always 
been hard and stern with me, while she maintained she 
had always been kind, and in any case had invariably been 
prompted by afTedlion. I agreed and reminded her of 
various incidents that proved it. 

She blushed, and, putting her hands in mine, begged 
me in blissful confusion to recapitulate more of our childhood 
scenes. 

I reminded her of how she used constantly to stroke 
the hair over my temples, saying that it grew so attradtively. 



A MEMORABLE MEETING 433 

"Yes, and it does still," she exclaimed, stroking it again; 
and her voice quivered and her hand trembled and dropped 
from my head. 

Still I did not guess what her real feelings were. As a 
sex we men are extremely dense. All I knew was that she 
was as friendly to me as ever, and, moved by delightful 
memories of the past, I began to recall other episodes. 
With tears in her eyes and distress in her voice, she now 
begged me not to go on, but to discuss the future. 

In a trice the delightful memories vanished and I 
remembered my country's terrible plight, and the pain 
and anguish of all mankind, and I grew sad. With a heavy 
heart I told her about my plans, and said that I wanted to 
start back home in the morning. 

We were discussing this when Dr Modersohn came in. 
He was one of those tall, spare men of pure Frisian breed, 
who are very delicate, and inclined to consumption and 
asthma — quite unlike his robust and jovial brother of 
Copenhagen. Like all men who from childhood have 
been aware of their physical weakness, he had a cautious, 
impartial, and lucid mind. Occasionally interrupted by 
shortness of breath, he spoke in gentle, measured tones 
about the war and its causes. "I do not think Creation 
or the Eternal Powers have any idea of guilt or innocence," 
he observed, " but only of the right and wrong way. Now 
the whole of mankind, Germany included, have been on 
the wrong track; and this war and all its terrible consequences 
will put her back on the right one. All human upheavals 
have done this." 

I asked how Germany had gone astray. 

"All ancient people," he replied, in slow, measured 
tones, " and later Portugal, Spain, France, England, and 
so on, had their moment of prosperity and brilliance. And 
they grew haughty, overweening, and thoughtless, and 
consequently imprudent, foolhardy, over-ambitious, and 
careless of the traditions, rights, and feelings of other nations. 
They paid no attention to things of the spirit, and became 
spiritually backward and coarse. And thus to the rest 
of mankind they seemed an obstacle to progress and to all 
that was desirable. And although the other nations were 
themselves guilty in other ways, they united against the 



424 OTTO BABENDIEK 

haughty nation and pulled it down from its perch. And 
that is what has happened to Germany. She injured 
France, Denmark, and Japan, more than was right or 
necessary. She was a disturbing neighbour to Italy and 
Russia, and alarmed England and the whole of the commer- 
cial world by her restless, hasty, and haughty behaviour. 
Everybody righUy felt that she could not be trusted, that 
tomorrow she might do anything. And that is how the 
feeling of the whole world has been roused against her. 
Much that is false and deceptive may lie behind the feeling ; 
but the facts I have mentioned are at the bottom of it." 

"And what about England and America?" I asked hotly. 
"They are surely bursting with overweening pride too!" 

Shaking his small anaemic head from side to side, he 
replied slowly : " England has been lucky ! At the time 
of the Armada, and again in the days of Napoleon, she 
was lucky. She was an island. But when she ceases to 
be an island . . . and to-day she is no longer an island . . . 
then her hour too will have struck. For she is haughty. 
And haughtiness, which makes a people blind, imprudent, 
and confused, is the cause of the downfall of all great nations. 
America will go the same way." 

And he proceeded to prophesy that through the inter- 
vention of America Germany would be beaten, and that 
in the fury of the struggle she would be harshly treated, 
plundered, and deprived even of her just right to existence. 
But she would recover again, as all the other nations had 
done who had made the same mistake in the past, and 
then things would go better with her than ever before. 
For only after her defeat would the road be cleared for a 
great free German people. 

So new and terrible were these thoughts to me that I 
cannot remember what else we talked about. All I know 
is that when at last I left them I lay awake until the small 
hours. 

When I entered the sitting-room the next morning 
Dr Modersohn had already gone to his laboratory, and 
Eva and I went out into the garden. 

I asked her whether she was satisfied with her life in 
Los Angeles. 

"Not in the least!" she replied emphatically, shaking 



A MEMORABLE MEETING 425 

her fair head. "Am I not my mother's child? True, 
I don't turrr my house into a sort of general hospital and 
mental home, as she does! I shouldn't like to. But I do 
feel the need of a hard day's work, or rather a hard morn- 
ing's work, and now you will see what I do." 

Whereupon, taking little Sven to his father, she fetched 
a coup6 car from the garage, which she drove herself, and, 
bidding me take the seat beside her, drove through the 
most fashionable streets of the town, stopping to inspedl 
and give advice and instruAion at the gardens of about 
twenty private houses. As we drove along she explained 
that in this way she saved these wealthy people all trouble 
in connection with their gardens and gardeners, and, what 
was just as important from her point of view, held out a 
motherly hand to about seventy or eighty people, mostly 
old men, who were badly in need of her help. 

It was at once a matter of surprise and some little distress 
to me to see her thus engaged, and then to have her at my 
side again at the steering-wheel. She seemed so near 
and yet so strange to me. She had become a society lady, 
although the same old Eva still peeped through, whether 
she was talking to a gardener or brushing some dust from 
the sleeve of my jacket. All the same there was still some- 
thing separating us, which caused her embarrassment, and 
made me feel shy of looking into her pure, healthy face, 
so close to mine as we sat side by side in the car. But I did 
not know what it was. All I knew was that it caused me 
faint distress. 

At last we returned to her house, and were alone in the 
sitting-room. 

She looked at me strangely, probably noticing my care- 
worn expression, and stroked me. Then, when I kissed 
her kind hand, not knowing what to say, she whispered 
with a smile: "You mustn't be so sad. You still have a 
lot of good friends, including myself." 

"Really?" I rejoined bitterly. "Certainly I shall have 
your parents, and perhaps Ernemann if the war does not 
swallow him up. But you will stay here — you, the queen 
of my childhood ! " And my eyes shot fire at her. 

" Don't say that ! . . ." she cried, turning pale and tremb- 
ling. "Oh, don't say that!" . . . 



/ 



4^6 OTTO BABENDIEK 

"What's the matter?" I exclaimed. I did not yet see 
what was the matter, because I did not think it possible. 

"You must not look at me or speak to me like that!" 
she stammered in great distress. 

Then, suddenly, in a flash, I saw it all. And I was filled 
with such astonishment and ecstasy that I was struck dumb 
and could only look at her. 

Again she begged me not to look at her. 

At last, recovering my tongue and trembling all over, I 
said: "I never dreamt that you felt like that — no, never!" 

"I didn't know it either for a long time," she said very 
softly, still pale to the lips. "It was only when you married 
Gesa that I found out. . . . And now I feel it taking hold 
of me!" 

I deteded the note of bitterness and reproach in her 
voice. "I was a little village waif, Eva," I protested, "the 
son of a working man ... I am not exaggerating . . . 
I was like a little beggar-child at your court . . . that's 
how I felt towards you! Besides, you loved Eilert, who 
was so much older than I. That was the whole trouble. 
I never dared to think of you in that way." 

She was pressing both hands to her breast, as if she were 
in torture. " When Eilert went away that time," she con- 
tinued in agonized tones, " my feelings turned to you, and I 
thought that was how it would end. . . . But you went on 
being such a brother to me ! " 

"But you were still a queen to me, Eva!" I repeated, 
"and I was only the penniless little boy you had adopted. 
I have only just got rid of that feeling. I am only beginning 
to feel a man towards you now. Oh, if only you were free ! 
I have always loved you best all my life ! " 

Her litde boy came in and interrupted us, and she picked 
him up. " All right. Holler . . ." she said, pale and tremb- 
ling, " now be quiet. But it was fine ... it was fine to 
hear it ! But now you must be quiet and control yourself. 
Look, I've got the child in my arms, and my husband is 
outside I " 

We tried to control oxirselves ; we tried to speak of other 
things, but we could not. 

I stood up. "Let me go, Eva," I said. "This is intoler- 
able. Let me say good-bye. Perhaps we shall see each 



A MEMORABLE MEETING 427 

Other again when things are more peaceful. I can't bear 
it!" 

I kissed her hand and her hair, and she stroked me in her 
old way. 

I kissed her child and told her how fervently I wished 
happiness to her and every one belonging to her. Then I 
went out, and did not look back. 

Before dawn I was sitting in the train that was rushing 
me back to the east. 



CHAPTER XXIX 

The Crash 

A.T this point my pen begins to fail me, and my heart is 
filled with unutterable sadness and weariness. Am I 
justified in laying before the present generation all the 
horrors of the last months of the war, as described in the 
next few pages? Have I a right to inflidl this on the old 
over whose last years it has cast a shadow, on the young 
whose joiV de vivre it has destroyed, or on the children, the 
dawn of whose life it has saddened ? All of you who were 
in the firing-line during the last months — those months 
in which its face completely changed and which were the 
cruellest in the whole war — you know what it was like ! 
But you who were not there do not know. But because 
you too had your share of sufiering perhaps it is right you 
should remain in ignorance to this day and even longer. 
That is why I shall write down only what is necessary 
for the elucidation and proper understanding of my own 
insignificant little existence and the lives of those in my 
immediate circle. 

As I could not be a combatant I was given the job of 
studying the morale of our troops both at the Front and 
on the lines of communication, of examining English- 
speaking prisoners, and of reporting the result of my 
observations from time to time to a General Officer. It 
was work that suited me, for I liked to mix with simple folk 
to study their moods, and to pra<5Use dissimulation, not 
in my own interests, but in those of the common cause. 
Besides, the object was a noble one; for to seek the truth 
and tell it must surely be a good thing ! Nevertheless, 
it was a heartrending business, for what my colleagues 
and I — and we were distributed over all the army zones — 
had to report grew more and more terrible from day to 
day. 

I had been at this work for about a year, when — ^it must 

428 



THE CRASH 429 

have been in September — I chanced one day to be sitting 
in a cafi in some village in the north of France, about 
twenty miles from the Front, surrounded by the remnants 
of an infantry company which, under the command of a 
subaltern, had just returned from the firing-line. The 
men were nothing but skin and bone, and looked like ghosts. 
There were twenty-five of them. Their eyes shone out 
of their beardless faces under the brim of their steel helmets 
with a strangely unreal and feverish solemnity ; their uni- 
forms were indescribably filthy and torn; many of them 
in the heat of battie, or through pressure of illness, had 
actually fouled their clothes, and they stank most horribly. 
From the house opposite, which the signs about it proved 
to be a casino, came the sound of a man's voice trying to 
sing a song after the style of a cabaret singer. The subaltern, 
who was sitting by me, told me that he was leaving his 
company to take over another command, and proceeded 
to describe the ghasdy days of fighting they had just been 
through. He said the morale of his men was very low, 
but that, badly fed though they were, the company was 
going to be reorganized immediately. A firesh subaltern 
would be placed in command, who, in spite of knowing 
nothing about the nature and difficulties of the present 
kind of war&re, would have to stand up in front of them, 
read them the regulations again, and instruA them in 
their duties in face of the enemy! The men were sitting 
doubled up and staring silentiy across the street. At last 
one of them asked: "Have you got one of those English 
hand grenades with you?" 

"What do you want it for?" asked his companion. The 
other replied that he wanted to throw it into the first Base 
casino he came across, so that the people there would learn 
for once what war at the Front was like. A Base officer, in 
a smart, clean uniform, happened to pass ; but the men went 
on talking or sat silent, looking contemptuously at him, 
without attempting to salute. Soon afterwards a fet, sleepy, 
well-dressed major came over from the casino and met one 
of the men who had gone a litde way up the road to post a 
card. The man passed him without saluting. "I say, 
you lout!" shouted the major, purple with rage, "don't 
you salute an officer? Helmet straight! Points of fingers 



430 OTTO BABENDIEK 

to the eyebrow! " Springing to his feet the subaltern went 
up to the major, and, without saluting, said in tones of icy 
contempt : "For God's sake, push off, man, or you'll find 
a piece of steel between your ribs!" The major turned 
pale, stepped back, and moved off. Presently an orderly 
came from the Commandant of the place and gave the 
men their billeting papers. Whereupon they all stood up 
and with bent knees disappeared round the corner of the 
street. 

As soon as they had gone another group, who had been 
sitting in silence at the other end of the room, suddenly 
became lively. I shifted my position so that I could watch 
them unobserved. They were reinforcements, consisting of 
boys of about eighteen years of age, whose smooth faces 
and expressionless eyes informed me instantly that they 
had not yet been in the firing-line. They were keeping 
up an animated flow of conversation — boys' talk. When 
an oflicer came along the road they sank back in their 
corner and were silent, while one or two stirred as if they 
wished to slink away. As soon as he had passed they 
laughed and scoffed and abused him behind his back. 
One of the youngest of the party declared that they could 
not remain much longer without being found out, but 
the others maintained that they would be all right, and 
there was no need to worry. The man who seemed to be 
their spokesman said: "We shall say that we are stragglers, 
and if, after all, we are forced to go forward, we shall let 
ourselves be taken prisoners at once. It would be too 
stupid to get shot for the sake of the war profiteers in Berlin 
and Hamburg!" 

An officer, whom I could see at a glance had been at 
the Front and been wounded, came along and saw them 
sitdng there. Probably guessing what was passing through 
their minds, he went up to them and questioned them. 
The spokesman, who a moment before had been behaving 
so truculently, was suddenly transformed. He sprang to 
his feet like a child, and politely answered the questions 
with a feigned air of frankness and deference which might 
well have filled an a<5lor with envy, but which, alas! was 
now all too common among the German people. He 
explained that, owing to a mistake on the part of their 



THE CRASH 43I 

group leader, they had become sejiarated from their main 
body, and had only just discovered where they belonged. 
The group leader had just that minute gone to the 
Commandant's office, and in half an hour they were going 
south. The officer was obviously some worthy education 
inspector or magistrate, or the head of some small govern- 
ment office, and was probably trying to do his best as a 
soldier. But he was destitute of any native worldly wisdom, 
and was therefore utterly unfit to be an officer. He believed 
the young whipper-snapper's tale, murmured some patriotic 
words, to which they all listened with an expression of child- 
like innocence, and then left. As soon as his back was turned 
they burst out laughing. 

I continued to watch them, sick at heart with thoughts 
of what I had gone through. Presently a tall, dignified 
N.C.O. came in. He was thin and dirty and wore that 
expression of feverish and exaggerated earnestness with 
which I had become so familiar at the Front. Suddenly 
he started, and coming up to me sat down beside me ; but 
it was only when he was seated, and I could look into his 
eyes under the brim of his steel helmet, that I recognized 
Helmut Busch, the ferryman's son. 

We greeted each other cordially, and related our expe- 
riences, and, as usual, when called upon to describe my job, 
I pointed to my wounded knee and showed how far I could 
bend it. I then asked after his people. 

He told me that four of his brothers were in the field, 
that one of them had been killed, but that the others were 
safe and sound. His father was still running the ferry, 
and his mother was at home looking after the younger 
children in the same old way. He added that Balle had 
returned to the Front immediately after his escape, and 
was with his old regiment — the one to which I was shortly 
to be attached. Dina and her children were quite well, 
and they all crossed the river every day with her father 
to spend a few hours with her mother and talk about those 
who had fallen and those who were still alive. Then, 
sighing heavily, he added: "Our battalion was to have had 
a fortnight's rest, but orders have just come along that 
we are to go back into the firing-line to-morrow, and every 
time we go forward we lose half our men. So you see 



432 OTTO BABENDIEK 

how much chance I have of saving my skin ! When you 
see Ballum again give my love to my people ! " 

I tried to change the subjed, and asked him whether he 
had good officers and men. 

He nodded in his stiff formal way, and described the 
nature of the recent heavy fighting, saying that our supplies 
of men and munitions were diminishing every day, whereas 
those of the enemy were increasing. 

Convinced as I was that he was a born leader of men, 
I asked rather bitterly, " How is it you haven't got on better ? 
You ought to have been a captain by now, and you are 
still an N. CO.!" 

He shrugged his thin shoulders. " My father was a poor 
man," he replied, "and could not give me the necessary 
education." 

I told him that was ridiculous, explaining how Frederick 
the Great and Napoleon had aded in regard to this all- 
important question. 

We sat in silence for a while, full of bitter thoughts. Then 
I asked how he imagined the war would end. 

He replied that all hope of vidory was at an end. 

Knowing how clever he was, and how well he understood 
the soul of the masses, which made his opinion all the more 
hard to hear, I asked him what he considered was the reason 
of this, for I had been thinking the matter over night 
and day for a long while and was asking everybody their 
opinion. 

If I am right in my recollections of the day and the mood 
he was in, he replied more or less as follows: "All our 
leaders are men of 1870 and 1871. They neither know 
nor susped that since then the soul of the German and 
of the Western European generally has completely changed. 
They imagine the masses still believe in the old Kaiser 
and Bismarck. But the masses have had two Kaisers 
since then, first of all old Bebel * and then that secret all- 
powerful Kaiser whom old Bebel called into existence — 
the proud and headstrong self that lies hid in every man. 
What is the Kaiser to the common soldier? At most 
a symbol which leaves him cold. What is the officer? 
Nothing but a man with greater privileges and higher pay, 
^ The Socialist leader. 



THE CRASH 433 

a creature of greater intelligence than himself possibly, 
or else a fool. You can imagine how many officers seem 
fools in the dispassionate eyes of the common soldier." 
After a moment's refledion, he added: "We might possibly 
win, but in that case all our leaders, from the Kaiser downr 
wards, would have to confess that somehow or other they 
had made a mistake both in psychology and strategy. They 
would have to recognize that the army is gradually falling 
to pieces, and that they are not winning, despite the bravery 
and untold self-sacrifice of our men. And then somewhere 
in the army an officer of genius would have to be unearthed, 
a man of about thirty, or perhaps forty, an up-to-date man 
who, while he saw things with a clear, cool eye, gave no 
thought to the past, but said to himself, 'The soul of the 
German army and of the people at home is in such and 
such a condition, and I must lead them accordingly.' He 
would immediately have to be given supreme command. 
Then he would revolutionize both the army and the people 
at home, from attic to cellar; he would be cruel but just; 
he would purge the higher powers and allow all the forces 
which lie deep in the hearts of the people to rise free and 
unfettered. But neither the people at home nor the army 
know of such a man, or think he is to be found. Possibly 
the antiquated system on which the army has been run 
has not been favourable to his production. Possibly he really 
does not exist, in which case we must abandon all hope 
and make up our minds to defeat and to another kind of 
revolution — a revolution from below, a foul and despicable 
revolution." 

I felt this revolution was already on its way. I had seen 
signs of it. 

As we were discussing the matter I watched the people 
about me, as I always do when I am listening. Suddenly 
I saw an officer coming along and, striding at his side with 
extraordinarily long swinging steps, a yoimg woman in 
nurse's uniform. The two were obviously ffirting heavily. 
I have a sharp eye for such things. He was making love 
to her and she was keeping him at arm's-length, though 
none too resolutely. 

As soon as I recognized her and turned quickly to my 
old friend, scrutinizing him intently, he too looked at me, 

2ii 



434 OTTO BABENDIEK 

and with a tightness in his throat exclaimed: "Do you 
see her?" Then he added scornfully: "She is here on 
soldiers' welfare work. She gave me a cup of coffee 
yesterday." 

Forgetting, like a man, that I too had once had an 
adventure with her, I felt angry with both of them, and 
standing up, exclaimed: "How do you do, Barbara!" 
The officer smiled condescendingly at us. "Old acquain- 
tances ? " he observed, and took his leave. 

"Fancy finding you here!" I said. "Did you exped 
adventures here?" 

She looked at me in her provocative way. "Yes, what 
could I do at home?" she replied with her usual frankness 
and intelligence. "You can't think how dull and boring 
it is there!" 

"I suppose so!" I replied. "All the young men are 
away, though I am sure Dutti Kohl is there." I was furious 
with him! The mere thought of him nauseated me, parti- 
cularly when I imagined him in connexion with my beauti- 
ful cousin. But I was even more angry with her. 

"Oh yes!" she answered, "he is still there, but he thinks 
of nothing but business now." 

"So I should imagine," I replied. "With Germany in 
her death agony, he must be waiting to play the carrion 
crow. Where is Eilert?" 

My words had evidently given her food for refleftion, 
for she answered absent-mindedly: "At a remount depot, 
somewhere in France. But he is painting most of the time." 

"And your mother?" 

Her intelligent brow puckered, and she looked hard 
at me. " On Dutti Kohl's advice," she said, " Mother has 
sold some more meadows. Do you think it is right?" 

"Oh, what do I know about such things?" I cried. 
"You must see to that yourself! " 

She had cast only quick, covert glances at Helmut, and 
their eyes had met in the usual cold and calculating manner. 
But now she turned to him, and looking haughtily but with 
a certain coy confidence at him she said: "You are a business 
man, and a very efficient one, I am told. What do you 
think about it?" 

I felt how little money and property and the problems 



THE CRASH 435 

conneded vdth them must mean to him at that moment. 
"It's all plain enough," he replied, coldly and indifferently. 
" When a storm is raging one docs not leave port ! " 

The matter-of-fad tones in which he spoke, and the apt 
simile he had used, again impressed her with his vigorous 
manliness. His dirty tunic, his earnest feverish eyes, and 
the feeling that he was a brave soldier who was doing his 
duty, all combined to warm her passionate heart probably 
for the first time in her life. And a beautiful blush, which 
reminded me of Eva, suffused her cool little face. " Thank 
you," she said, with a kind of cautious provocativeness. 
"Thank you. I will write and tell Mother that." And 
springing to her feet, she shook hands and left. 

"It's an awful shame about that girl!" I exclaimed in- 
dignandy. 

Helmut was pale and the hand that was fumbling with 
his tunic was trembling, but he answered calmly enough: 
" She must have her fling. If she is lucky and ever gets an 
honest man, she will be faithful to him." 

We shook hands and parted. 

A week later I was limping in the rain through a litde 
town about six miles behind the firing-line. The streets 
and houses were nothing but a heap of ruins, and between 
the fragments of walls that still remained standing remnants 
of furniture, stable equipment, and harness lay in sicken- 
ing confusion. A low line of battered wall indicated the 
direftion the old streets had taken. The survivors of two 
regiments who were quartered there had put duckboards 
across the ploughed-up gardens and shattered houses, and 
over the mass of ruins that covered what had once been 
streets. They were living in the cellars, the entrances to 
which they had protefted by piles of stones. Now and 
again a fall of shell would howl or whiz over these retreats. 
At night scores of shells from heavy guns would pour down 
with savage violence on this position, sending up fountains 
of dust and flame mountains high into the sky and filling 
the air with horrible smells. Everywhere there was gloom, 
depression, and a strange silence beneath the shrill roar, 
while the air was heavy with the stench of burning. 

Taking shelter behind a strip of wall, because the bombard- 
ment was growing heavier, I asked a man who was kneeling 



436 OTTO BABENDIEK 

by me what his regiment was. When he told me that he 
came from Sylt, I asked about various acquaintances there, 
and he gave me news of people, some of whom I knew, 
saying that they were either dead or still up and about, or 
else in hospital. He knew Balle and Ernemann, and told 
me that they were in the neighbourhood and that he had 
seen Balle only a few days before. Then after a moment's 
silence he added thoughtfully: "They have been sent into 
the firing-line again and have probably been killed; for 
things are in such a state there now it is impossible for any- 
body to come through. . . ." 

At that moment a troop of men from the front trenches 
passed silendy by. They were caked with mud and blood, 
and, evidendy quite familiar with the place, stumbled in 
single file over the ruins. We both stood up and followed 
them, and as we did so passed the body of a litde girl who 
had been killed months ago by a shell and buried, but had 
been unearthed again by a recent bombardment. Pushed 
and shoved rather than advancing of my own free will, I 
went down into the cellar with the men. It was a spacious 
place ; six rickety and horribly dirty tables stood on the damp 
filthy floor, and round them sat and reclined a number 
of soldiers. The whole place stank most horribly. 

Taking my place in a corner, I looked at the men who 
had just come in. They were as black as niggers with sweat, 
dirt, and gas, and under their steel helmets their eyes shone 
piteously and anxiously in their gaunt faces. One of the 
litde band was so weak that he had to be supported by 
a fHend, who found a seat for him. Their commanding 
officer, a short, terribly emaciated subaltern, was doubled 
up with pain and constandy had to go out. His men were 
trying to persuade him to give in and report sick, but he 
stubbornly shook his head. At the entrance, on a fragment 
of wall, sat a red-haired N.C.O.; his filthy uniform was in 
tatters and all covered with blood, and he was weeping 
aloud. I asked a subaltern who was sitting behind me 
in silent thought what was the matter with the man. Look- 
ing up, he replied: "He has lost the whole of his group. 
All killed!" Then glancing at the weeping man, he added: 
"But what I have gone through is worse than that!" 

He saw the inquiry in my eyes, and continued in a whisper: 



THE CRASH 437 

"There were still thirty men remaining of the third company 
on our left, quite close to us; they were surrounded by the 
English and held up their hands. Oh, horrible, horrible! 
They held up their hands like this! . . . And those on 
oiur right. . . ." And his voice dropped even lower. 

"And those on your right? ..." I repeated. Leaning 
towards me and looking at me with great feverish eyes, as 
though he were begging me to believe what he was telling 
me with such reludance, he proceeded: "Well, they did 
the same. . . . And there was no need for them to do 
it. . . . They went over of their own free will ! Horrible ! 
Horrible!" 

An N.G.O. came over from another table and sat down 
by the subaltern and the two began talking about various 
matters. In low bitter tones the N.G.O. referred to a 
speech the Kaiser had made. They had been standing for 
two hours in the rain ; they were hungry, badly fed, and 
freezing. At last the Kaiser's sumptuous car drove up and 
he made a speech, the upshot of which was "Garry on! 
Garry on!" "Oh, he knows nothing!" the man exclaimed. 
" He does not even know that when two airmen go up from 
our side twenty go up on the other to fire into our sheU- 
holes, and that when ten guns fire on our side a hundred 
fire on the other. He has never seen the tanks ploughing 
through our thin lines, while we are lying in shell-holes 
behind machine-guns. He has not seen the giant Canadians 
charging, and the clammy corpses and the shell-holes full 
of dead, and the way we sway backward and forward 
with mad eyes starting out of our heads, and how at night 
we creep into stinking dug-outs filled with rotting corpses 
and turn the English bodies over and over to see whether 
we can't find scraps of bread on them to still our hunger. 
Day after day we lie with sprained limbs in our dug-outs 
and shell-holes, freezing from cold and from loss of blood, 
doubled up with hunger, and using English pots and pans 
for our meanest needs and emptying them at night. When 
it is dark we rob the dead. We are no longer human 
beings; we are beasts! What does he know of all these 
things? What does he think the firing-line is like? Why 
does nobody tell him what it is like and what goes on there ? 
Why doesn't one of his sons say, 'Father, don't say these 



438 OTTO BABENDIEK 

things any more ! Don't talk like that! This is how things 
really are; this is how we stand. And the men all feel it. 
Every Tom, Dick, and Harry knows you are talking about 
things you have never seen!' Who knows except us what 
the front line is like? Hardly anyone above the rank 
of a company commander. Nor could it be otherwise. 
But, in spite of all this, we are sent back to the firing-line 
again and again. But soon we shall be at the end of our 
tether, and not one of us will ever see Germany again." 

Just as he finished an N.C.O. stumbled down the stairs, 
looked slowly round, and sat down at the table nearest 
to me. I noticed that quite a number of the men seemed 
to know him, and that one or two of them tried to smile; 
and when, attracted by his voice and movements, I looked 
more closely at him, I recognized Balle Bohnsack. 

He looked terrible. His tunic and stripes were unspeak- 
ably muddy and filthy and full of holes made by barbed 
wire or shell splinters. His hands were bleeding, his 
clean-shaven face was thin, and his squint was worse than 
ever. 

For a while he sat and listened. Then he said that he 
could not stand their conversation any longer, that he was 
a good-natured chap, and would try to do something to 
raise their spirits. So from one of the pockets in the rags 
about him he withdrew a botde and a little piece of bacon. 
They all stared at him with eager eyes; then, seizing their 
haversacks, they produced some bread, and presently one or 
two glass jars containing a rather thin and unsavoury looking 
jam appeared on the tables. He began by filling up the 
glasses which were passed round, then he cut slices from 
the piece of bacon, and, raising the bottle, began to make 
a speech in his old £imiliar way, with one eyebrow jerking 
wildly up and down. "Friends and comrades," he said, 
"I am delighted to welcome you in these august surround- 
ings, under the salute of the guns" — the whole cellar it 
may be mentioned was shaking beneath the heavy shells 
that were falling above our heads. "The champagne is 
excellent and the ham delicious, and though we have not 
got a rag to our backs we are the conquerors of the world. 
To-day we have certainly received a slap in the face from 
the English, but I dare wager a sheep that we have smashed 



THE CRASH 439 

hundreds of them and shall smash hundreds more!" Then, 
turning to various soldiers in turn, he promised to make 
one Duke of Lithuania, another King of Finland, and 
another Caliph of Baghdad. Their spirits revived a little 
with the schnapps and the buffoonery; some smiled, others 
fell asleep with their heads on the table, and others talked 
in tired voices. 

I got up and took a seat by my old friend. 



CHAPTER XXX 

Fritz Hellebeck 

iVe were engaged in an animated conversation, when a 
short, fat subaltern, with closely cropped iron-grey hair and 
a large dirty piece of sticking-plaster on his broad bleeding 
chin, came in and ordered us all to get back to duty. I 
went out with the rest, and was separated from my old 
friend without even being able to say good-bye. 

I drove back to the village, in which Corps Headquarters 
were stationed, in a motor lorry that was coming back 
empty from the Front. The place was still quite undam- 
aged. Presenting myself at the Commandant's office, I wrote 
my report to the General sitting on the floor of the porch, 
as crowds were going in and out, and there was no room 
anywhere else. 

As I was sitting there a group of very young officers 
coUeded close by. They were obviously fresh from home, 
and had probably come from some Officers' Training 
Camp, for I could see that they were quite unaccustomed 
to their new dignity. Presently an older officer, tall and 
broad-shouldered and of imposing presence, entered into 
conversation with them. His confident, condescending tone 
of voice struck me as familiar, and, cautiously looking up, 
to my great surprise I saw that it was Fritz Hellebeck, and 
I quickly bowed my head over my papers. 

He put on tremendous airs before these boys, who, 
ignorant about conditions on this sedion of the Front, 
were filled with anxiety, though they had left home with 
the best will in the world. They constituted an audience 
after his own heart, and he talked to them in the slow meas- 
ured tones of authority, saying that the General to whose 
staff he belonged was a most efficient man and an excellent 
tadician, that everybody in the place was charming and that 
it was a joy to associate with them. 

One of the young officers, who obviously saw no prospcd 

440 



FRITZ HELLEBECK 44I 

of being asked to play a part in this life along the lines of 
communication, inquired what things were like in the firing- 
line. My old school-friend, in the benign tones which he 
apparently reserved for drafts on their way to the Front, 
replied that the men were all doing their duty splendidly, 
and that the English were beginning to get stale. "I think, 
gentlemen," he added in his friendliest tones, "that you 
will spend Christmas at home." When one of the young 
subalterns, in a disconsolate voice, mentioned how depressed 
and hopeless people at home were, and how dangerous 
this spirit was, Fritz, with grandfatherly dignity, inveighed 
against the unreasonableness of such an attitude. The author- 
ities ought to be more severe, he maintained. " All the people 
have got to do is to obey and hold their tongues until things 
have been settled at the Front!" 

Yes, I thought to myself bitterly, that is your opinion, 
and your opinion happens to be right. But it is just like 
you to be here safe and sound, while others are risking their 
lives in hunger, misery, despair, and responsibility. 

Unable to endure the sound of his voice or the sight 
of him any longer, I quietiy got up. But at that moment 
he saw me, for he was constantly glancing from side to 
side at everybody, to find out whether they were looking 
at him. He pretended not to recognize me, but whether 
this was due to the altercation we had had some years 
previously, or to the fad that I had only an N.G.O.'s stripes 
on my arm, that I was very dirty, and, owing to fatigue 
and agitation, quite unpresentable, I do not know. 

As I was standing outside the door, an elderly officer 
came up behind me, laid a hand on my arm, and whis- 
pered: "Might I ask to see your papers?" 

I gave them to him and he examined them. "Do you 
know Lieutenant Hellebeck?" he asked as he returned 
them. 

I replied that he had been a friend of mine at school. 

He then inquired whether I considered him a man to be 
trusted. 

I started. "Certainly not!" I exclaimed, and said no 
more. 

He then asked me whether I knew that he was acquainted 
with foreigners. Suddenly, like a flash, it dawned upon 



442 OTTO BABENDIEK 

me what he was driving at; and, with my heart in my 
mouth, I told him all I knew — about the Englishman I had 
met at his house and of what I had seen in front of the 
Schleswiger Hof in Altona a year previously. 

The officer shook his head thoughtfully, as though he 
could not believe such a thing was possible. "My old 
school-fellow is vain," I added; "it is a passion with him 
to shine, particularly before strangers," or words to that 
effedt. I was desperatie and upset by the thoughts that 
were surging in my brain, and, turning aside, I vomited. 

The officer left me. I finished my report sitting on a 
broken wagon, and while writing I was again asked for my 
papers. The town or village was full of officers, moving 
restlessly hither and thither and coUeding in small groups 
and talking. There seemed to be a feeling of uneasiness 
everywhere, as though something was pending. Troops 
arrived in motor lorries, and marched across the fields 
towards the firing-line. Left and right, from the direction 
of the Front, the roar of the firing grew louder and louder, 
sometimes culminating in a deafening burst like thunder. 
Towards evening, in order to carry out my duties, I again 
went forward, through the sulphurous heaps of ruins, 
stinking of gas, which had once been a town. The enemy's 
fire had grown fiercer, but it was drowned by a heavy 
roll of thunder on both flanks, sounding hke huge laden 
lorries tearing over a wooden bridge. Dusk was falling. 

I cannot remember where I halted that evening, for what 
happened during the night obliterated everything else from 
my memory. I know that I found myself in a cellar lying 
close to the ruins of a church, possibly it was adually under 
the church. The horribly gloomy vault was lit by two 
candles, and was full of wounded, sick, and exhausted men, 
broken in body and soul. A medical orderly was attend- 
ing to the wounded. The steps leading to the surface 
were occupied by men driven half mad by what they had 
been through, leaning with their hands against the shaking 
walls which threatened to fall down on them at any moment. 
Some of them screamed out in shrill whining voices, but 
nothing coherent was said or heard in the tumult and 
confusion. Nevertheless, I gathered that the enemy had 
for the last few days been attacking with material which 



FRITZ HELLEBECK 443 

was probably twenty times superior to our own, and were 
now cautiously advancing, that our Front was only thinly 
defended by various little groups of men, numbering from 
five to twenty, who were lying in battered old trenches or 
shell-holes, and that the whole line had been under such 
fierce fire for the last two hours that it was no longer possible 
to hold it. A wounded man, whose leg I bound up several 
times, though I could not stop the blood from oozing 
through, explained, gesticulating wildly in the air with his 
thin dirty hands as he tried to find the right expression, 
that in the front line they had been like "moths in a storm" 
. . . "like mice in a whirlpool." The enemy's artillery, 
aviators, tanks, and machine-guns were tiurning the earth 
upside down, transforming the soil into dust mixed with 
deadly gases, "and our artillery, our aviators, do nothing! 
No, it is more than hunian nature can stand. . . . This 
is the end. All my pals are dying. . . . There were five 
of us. . . . Three have already been killed. . . . Now 
the last of them is dead too. . . . And I am dying here. 
We are all dying. . . . And that is as it should be . . . 
for then it will be over . . . over . . . over! . . ." And 
he repeated the word again and again. 

Unable to endure the fetid atmosphere and the groans 
any longer, I cautiously stepped over the bodies of the men 
who were lying about and made for the exit. Outside I 
stumbled across broken tiles and stones, glass, and pieces of 
furniture, and followed the side of a wall until I came to 
a gap, through which, in the light of the bursting shells, I 
saw a group of unwounded steel-helmeted men silently 
lying huddled up against a piece of wall, which afforded 
a little protedion. Moved by a common impulse to seek 
cover they had gathered there. When a shell fell close by 
they moved and groaned, as though the group they com- 
posed were a single animal. Sickened by the spediacle, I 
ran over the duckboards covering the ruins, tumbled down 
twice, and, picking myself up, reached a broken-down 
trench, in which a wounded man and a dead man were 
lying, and leant against the traverse to recover my breath. 
Cones of machine-gun bullets were striking the ruined walls 
above my head. 

I peeped over the edge. In front and on both sides 



444 OTTO BABENDIEK 

of me a storm of explosions, dust, smoke, and evil smells 
was raging — everything quivering in the intermittent light. 
Not far off red star-shells rose from time to time over the 
ploughed-up, quaking ground. Now and again the crash 
of hand grenades and desperate cries rose above the tumult. 
Once or twice I fancied I saw the forms of men springing 
up and disappearing again. Farther away in the distance 
the flashes of the enemy's guns lit up the horizon, their 
shells howled over my head and dropped on the ruins of 
the town behind me, and, farther back, left and right, on 
our artillery, whose a<Sivities I could not follow on account 
of the ruins between. The shells shrieked, now shrill, now 
low, the charges in the shrapnel rattled against the hard 
road and the ruined walls of the houses, and now and again, 
as though a storm had suddenly blown up, the burst of 
falling salvos rent the air like thunder. Roaring and 
howling, the hurricane crashed and hurled its meteors over 
our position, over the ruins of the town and over our artillery 
in the rear. Two bread-carriers stumbled past me with 
their loads. When they were about ten yards away they 
hurried past a spot where graves had been torn open by 
falling shells. Another shell fell and blew one of them 
to bits and hurled the other back into the trench at my 
feet. He put a hand to his arm, from which the blood was 
pouring, and moaned that the men in the firing-line had 
had nothing to eat since twelve o'clock the previous day. 
A young gunner subaltern tried to get by me, in order to 
go forward. We ducked our heads as a shell fell and I 
shouted to him. But he merely shook his thin gaunt head 
in silence and floundered on. 

As I was standing there a number of forms suddenly 
sprang up before me out of the craters and shell-holes. 
They were hardly visible in the darkness and smoke. They 
advanced, dragging machine-guns and some half-full sacks 
along with them, and shouting words which seemed to 
me as maniacal as their expressions. Then they dropped 
into two shell-holes and into the battered end of the trench 
in which I was kneeling with the gunner subaltern, who had 
just returned. The hard piercing voice of their commanding 
officer drowned their own cries. He turned out to be 
none other than the fat subaltern with the large piece of 



FRITZ HELLEBECK 445 

plaster on his chin. He asked them some question, and 
they answered in a shriek as loud as his own. They were 
mad with despair at having been driven back, and were 
shouting wildly to each other. Holding grenades in their 
hands, they set up their machine-guns, and called out to 
their officers and friends to try to discover whether they 
were alive or dead. Whereupon they cursed the enemy, 
consigned them to death and perdition, and when they could 
not sp>eak looked at each other with wild eyes and pointed 
from side to side. Presently a group of tanks lumbered 
over the field, covered in clouds of smoke, and aeroplanes 
buzzed over our heads and passed on. Shell splinters sent 
up sp>outs of earth, clouds of dust and smoke blew in our 
faces, and strange bowed forms drew nearer and nearer. 

Supporting myself on the parapet of the trench, I limped 
to the ruins of the nearest house and sat down under the 
shelter of one of its shattered walls. After a while I got 
up and continued slowly on my way. It was still dark, 
but there were streaks of dawn in the east. Through the 
' mist and stench and the thundering confiision of falUng 
shells wretched little groups of men forming a company 
crept up towards the front line, to take the place of the 
dead and those who had been made prisoners, themselves 
entering the jaws of death. With eyes burning in their 
gaunt faces, weakened by hunger, and the majority of them 
ill, they bore their rifles and their haversacks, machine-guns 
and sacks of hand grenades, and stumbled through the 
smoke and stench against an enemy twenty times stronger 
than themselves in war material, for the last fight to the 
death. And I remember that as I stared at their vanishing 
forms my eyes stung, though, strange to say, more as the 
result of the appalling uproar than of the fumes of gas in 
the air. 

I went on my way, taking cover where I could, till at 
the end of the little town I came to a small, battered chdUau. 
Just in front of it, near the ruins of what may have been 
its lodge, were the remains of a battery — iron, horses, and 
men all blown to atoms and scattered right and left. 

At that moment a man, crossing the path in front of 
me, pointed to something a little way off, and shouted to 

fellow-soldier: "Look! . . . It's the likes of us that 



446 OTTO BABENDIEK 

generally get copped like that. . . . But there they've got 
one of the gents by the collar!" I looked in the diredion 
in which he was pointing, and at first saw only a mili- 
tary policeman, and heard the men shouting abuse as they 
passed him, but presently I noticed that he was mounting 
guard over a dignified, well-dressed officer, whose face was 
turned away from me. At that moment the officer who 
on the previous day had asked me for my papers and in- 
quired about Fritz went up to the military policeman and 
his charge. 

And then only did I recognize the prisoner, although 
he was turned away from me. 

Hatred of the military police and of sleek, well-dressed 
officers was very fierce among the men in the front line. 
Numbers of them who had just come through the dust, 
gas, fumes, and crashing shells, and were crossing the ruins 
of the town, looked at the group with burning contempt 
in their eyes, and many of them shouted abuse. I went 
towards Fritz, animated, I believe, by a vague desire to get 
rid of the unwelcome sight. Saluting the officer, I reminded 
him of our meeting, and with beating heart asked him what 
had happened. 

Though on the previous day he had been calm and 
colle<Sed, he was now extremely agitated. "A nice 
friend you've got!" he shouted, his whole body quiver- 
ing. "Ever since yesterday afternoon we have felt certain 
from the way our batteries were being shelled that our 
positions must be known to the enemy. We had our 
suspicions of an old man in a village close by, who had 
been seen creeping about. Then by chance an orderly, 
attached to the Staff, happened to see your friend a day or 
two ago talking to the old man, and so I went for him. . . . 
I have good eyes, very good eyes. Women and criminals 
could tell you something about that! I knocked him over 
with my eyes, and twisting him round and round found 
something in his waistcoat pocket which was damnably like 
a sketch of our battery positions. In his waistcoat pocket! 
I know eyes when I see them. I know eyes! And so I 
have made him stand there, facing the Front ... so that 
he will be able to look the brave officers and men in the 
eye as they pass . . . the dog!" 



FRITZ HELLEBECK 447 

Gasping for breath, I asked whether I might be allowed 
to speak to him. I felt I must say a human word to him. 

He shrugged his shoulders and took me up to him. I 
shouted his name. 

He turned round, recognized me, and burying his face 
in his hands groaned aloud. Then, suddenly dropping his 
hands, he stared at me with eyes in which there was more 
fear and horror than I had ever seen in a human face before. 
Oh, human sin and human suffering! "I did not do it!" 
he shrieked. " I did not do it ! " 

I did not know what the truth was, but his eyes seemed 
to say that his conscience was not clean. Possibly he had 
only toyed with evil all his life. It may have been his passion ; 
he may have felt impelled to toy with it. But, fearing that 
he was going to be a coward, I said sharply: "Be brave at 
least, and hold your head up!" 

He groaned like an animal, and stared at the shells 
crashing to the ground on either side, as though he were 
hoping — ^at least, so I tried to believe — that one of them 
might hit him. And, clutching at his breast, so that the 
buttons of his shirt flew off, and gasping for breath, he 
exclaimed, with his eyes starting out of his head: "Was 
it my fault that I was my mother's son and had no conscience 
like other people!" Then, staring at the men who were 
passing, and who were probably nothing but a swaying mass 
in his eyes, he wrung his hands crying: "Help me, oh, help 
me, I don't want to die! How can I die? How can I 
appear before God like this?" 

For a while I could not make myself heard, as light and 
heavy shells were crashing all round. Presently an officer 
came shouting up to us: "The tanks are already at Trois 
Tilleuls, and we have got nothing more to put up against 
them!" "I can do nothing for you," I said at last in 
deep distress. "Pray God to have mercy on you!" 

His eyes turned from one to the other of us as though seek- 
ing help. Then, suddenly remembering his appearance, 
he tried to arrange his shirt and button up his uniform, 
but his hands were shaking so much that he gave it up. 
The next minute he tried to draw himself up as he used 
to do in the streets of Ballum when he saw some little girls 
coming along. But even this he failed to do. 



448 OTTO BABENDIEK 

"Have you any message for your mother?" I asked. 
" What shall I say to her if I ever get back ? " 

I saw from the change in his expression that he was 
back at her side in imagination. " My mother ?" he replied 
hoarsely. . . . "Oh, what can I say to her? Isn't she to 
blame for all this? And I am her son. . . . But don't 
tell her what I have just said!" He groaned, and with 
eyes starting out of his head he shrieked: "When they 
bury me . . . don't let them throw the earth on my face!" 
Even at this late hour, when he was on the edge of the 
grave, he still studied his appearance. 

At this moment other officers came along and stepped 
up to us, and as they did so we heard the shriek of a heavy 
shell, which immediately afterwards buried itself in the 
ground twenty yards away, sending up a column of bricks, 
stones, and dust. In the confusion that followed, while every- 
body was seeking cover, or falling flat on their bellies, the 
military policeman who w<is guarding Fritz was wounded, 
and the latter, springing up, dashed away. But hardly 
had he gone five paces before another shell crashed down, 
and, throwing him over, killed him. 

Motor lorries thundered up and vomited their loads of 
men beside us. 

With feverish eyes, weakened by hunger, and many of 
them sick, bearing their rifles, their haversacks, their machine- 
guns and sacks of hand grenades, these wretched little com- 
panies, led by their officers, staggered through the smoke 
and stench and falling shells towards the enemy and death. 



CHAPTER XXXI 

The March Home 

During the next ten days or fortnight I wandered aim- 
lessly about behind the lines. I was horrified by the ex- 
periences I had just been through, while in addition I was 
beginning to feel gravely alarmed by the changes I could 
see coming over the lines of communication. From time 
to time I was able to think coolly and philosophically 
about it all and to argue that I was witnessing the Great 
Shepherd of Souls urging men forward and driving them 
on they knew not whither. But the thought that it was 
my own people who were laying down their arms and 
abandoning all order filled my heart with unspeakable 
gloom. 

All the places I passed through were crowded with 
malingerers and slightly wounded men, many of whom 
had probably mutilated themselves. They were sitting 
about everywhere hobnobbing with the lines of com- 
munication troops, and either describing the hell in the 
firing-line or the desperate state of affairs at home. Those 
who were ready and willing, as well as those who had no 
taste for war — and in every nation the latter constitute the 
mass of the people — were, as far as I could see, at their 
wits' end and filled with unutterable despair. They seemed 
to be waiting for a word from above, a passionate, stirring 
word, a command which would make all eyes shine and all 
limbs stiffen. But it never came! So they grew more 
and more desperate, sceptical, and callous. Meanwhile 
all the shallow-pates and chatterboxes, as well as the villains, 
began to raise their voices ever louder and louder. Every- 
thing seemed to be taking its natural course — the result 
of the events and conditions we had witnessed. The 
fighting men, who were the best human material in the 
world, under leaders who though hard were clear about 
their aims, were now demoralized through lack of leader- 
2» 449 



450 OTTO BABENDIEK 

ship. They had degenerated into insignificant individuals 
with insignificant little wants. Would there be anything 
to eat to-day? What were the people at home doing? 
Would it be possible to get any tobacco ? When were they 
going to get home? Would they be sent back by train? 
If not, would the soles of their boots stand the long march ? 
Would the friend who had over-stayed his last leave escape 
punishment? Was it true that there was a revolution in 
England ? What sort of welcome would the people at home 
give them when they returned? . . . Oh, home, home! 
Oh, to be back digging, working, and ploughing, and doing 
all those other wonderful, lovely, and beautiful things! 
Home! To wait at home to see how things panned 
out . . . ! To wait at home for the new era to dawn! 
Home! Fancy Christmas at home! Fancy celebrating 
Christmas ! 

On the third day, in the neighbourhood of Sedan, I 
discovered an abandoned Train Park. On the fourth 
I saw a hundred men, belonging to some supply column, 
insult their officer and choose a leader from among them- 
selves. I saw the same thing happen that very evening in 
three other places. 

I went to my General to report what I had seen and 
heard, but he was not in his office; he had gone up the road 
leading to Corps Headquarters in the north of the town. I 
met him coming back, but he turned round and walked 
a little way with me in order to listen to what I had to say. 
He made no comment. He knew without my telling him 
how things stood. I believe — for he was a clear-headed, 
matter-of-fa<fl man — that he had summed up the situation 
correftly from the very beginning, and had only con- 
tradidled me and my colleagues in order to get more out 
of us. 

As we approached the chdteau in which Corps Head- 
quarters were installed he stopped. "They say it is just 
possible the Kaiser may come," he observed, looking down 
at the town. "That may be his car over there." 

To the left of the chdteau there was a fine country-house, 
before the door of which a large private car was standing. 
We stopped to watch, while the General asked us various 
questions. 



THE MARCH HOME 451 

A moment later the Kaiser came out of the house and 
stood talking with three senior officers. He looked in good 
spirits, or at least seemed to be in the optimistic mood all 
too common with him- As usual, he held out his sound 
arm and talked in the lively, didatorial manner he loved 
to assume. We were too far away even to be able to hear 
the voices, but we stood calmly gazing on the scene. 

"There he is," observed the General thoughtfully, "the 
man who has led the German people for thirty years, and 
whom the German people have allowed to lead them!" 

"Yes," remarked a colleague of mine, a young journalist, 
with a broad, clean-shaven peasant head, a South German 
by birth, "his grandfather and Bismarck won so much 
power for the Empire that the mass of the people would 
have trusted and followed the Kaiser whatever he had been 
like. Even the workmen would have done so, in spite of 
the Social Democratic Party." 

"That is perfeftly