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- A Word Only A Word, Volume 1. - 3/10 -
required plenty of mending. The ensign, a handsome, proud young fellow, with a dainty moustache, was Adam's most constant customer, and played very kindly with Ulrich, when Florette appeared with him. At last the young soldier departed, and the very same day Adam was summoned to the monastery, to mend something in the grating before the treasury.
When he returned, Florette had vanished; "run after the ensign," people said, and they were right. Adam did not attempt to wrest her from the seducer; but a great love cannot be torn from the heart like a staff that is thrust into the ground; it is intertwined with a thousand fibres, and to destroy it utterly is to destroy the heart in which it has taken root, and with it life itself. When he secretly cursed her and called her a viper, he doubtless remembered how innocent, dear and joyous she had been, and then the roots of the destroyed affection put forth new shoots, and he saw before his mental vision ensnaring images, of which he felt ashamed as soon as they had vanished.
Lightning and hail had entered the "delightful garden" of Adam's life also, and he had been thrust forth from the little circle of the happy into the great army of the wretched.
Purifying powers dwell in undeserved suffering, but no one is made better by unmerited disgrace, least of all a man like Adam. He had done what seemed to him his duty, without looking to the right or the left, but now the stainless man felt himself dishonored, and with morbid sensitiveness referred everything he saw and heard to his own disgrace, while the inhabitants of the little town made him feel that he had been ill- advised, when he ventured to make a fiddler's daughter a citizen.
When he went out, it seemed to him--and usually unjustly--as if people were nudging each other; hands, pointing out-stretched fingers at him, appeared to grow from every eye. At home he found nothing but desolation, vacuity, sorrow, and a child, who constantly tore open the burning, gnawing wounds in his heart. Ulrich must forget "the viper," and he sternly forbade him to speak of his mother; but not a day passed on which he would not fain have done so himself.
The smith did not stay long in the house on the market-place. He wished to go to Freiburg or Ulm, any place where he had not been with her. A purchaser for the dwelling, with its lucrative business, was speedily found, the furniture was packed, and the new owner was to move in on Wednesday, when on Monday Bolz, the jockey, came to Adam's workshop from Richtberg. The man had been a good customer for years, and bought hundreds of shoes, which he put on the horses at his own forge, for he knew something about the trade. He came to say farewell; he had his own nest to feather, and could do a more profitable business in the lowlands than up here in the forest. Finally he offered Adam his property at a very low price.
The smith had smiled at the jockey's proposal, still he went to the Richtberg the very next day to see the place. There stood the executioner's house, from which the whole street was probably named. One wretched hovel succeeded another. Yonder before a door, Wilhelm the idiot, on whom the city boys played their pranks, smiled into vacancy just as foolishly as he had done twenty years ago, here lodged Kathrin, with the big goitre, who swept the gutters; in the three grey huts, from which hung numerous articles of ragged clothing, lived two families of charcoal-burners, and Caspar, the juggler, a strange man, whom as a boy he had seen in the pillory, with his deformed daughters, who in winter washed laces and in summer went with him to the fairs.
In the hovels, before which numerous children were playing, lived honest, but poor foresters. It was the home of want and misery. Only the jockey's house and one other would have been allowed to exist in the city. The latter was occupied by the Jew, Costa, who ten years before had come from a distant country to the city with his aged father and a dumb wife, and remained there, for a little daughter was born and the old man was afterwards seized with a fatal illness. But the inhabitants would tolerate no Jews among them, so the stranger moved into the forester's house on the Richtberg which had stood empty because a better one had been built deeper in the woods. The city treasury could use the rent and tax exacted from Jews and demanded of the stranger. The Jew consented to the magistrate's requirement, but as it soon became known that he pored over huge volumes all day long and pursued no business, yet paid for everything in good money, he was believed to be an alchemist and sorcerer.
All who lived here were miserable or despised, and when Adam had left the Richtberg he told himself that he no longer belonged among the proud and unblemished and since he felt dishonored and took disgrace in the same dogged earnest, that he did everything else, he believed the people in the Richtberg were just the right neighbors for him. All knew what it is to be wretched, and many had still heavier disgrace to bear. And then! If want drove his miserable wife back to him, this was the right place for her and those of her stamp.
So he bought the jockey's house and well-supplied forge. There would be customers enough for all he could do there in obscurity.
He had no cause to repent his bargain.
The old nurse remained with him and took care of Ulrich, who throve admirably. His own heart too grew lighter while engaged in designing or executing many an artistic piece of work. He sometimes went to the city to buy iron or coals, but usually avoided any intercourse with the citizens, who shrugged their shoulders or pointed to their foreheads, when they spoke of him.
About a year after his removal he had occasion to speak to the file- cutter, and sought him at the Lamb, where a number of Count Frolinger's retainers were sitting. Adam took no notice of them, but they began to jeer and mock at him. For a time he succeeded in controlling himself, but when red-haired Valentine went too far, a sudden fit of rage overpowered him and he felled him to the floor. The others now attacked him and dragged him to their master's castle, where he lay imprisoned for six months. At last he was brought before the count, who restored him to liberty "for the sake of Florette's beautiful eyes."
Years had passed since then, during which Adam had lived a quiet, industrious life in the Richtberg with his son. He associated with no one, except Doctor Costa, in whom he found the first and only real friend fate had ever bestowed upon him.
Father Benedict had last seen the smith soon after his return from imprisonment, in the confessional of the monastery. As the monk in his youth had served in a troop of the imperial cavalry, he now, spite of his ecclesiastical dignity, managed the stables of the wealthy monastery, and had formerly come to the smithy in the market-place with many a horse, but since the monks had become involved in a quarrel with the city, Benedict ordered the animals to be shod elsewhere.
A difficult case reminded him of the skilful, half-forgotten artisan; and when the latter came out of the shed with a sack of coal, Benedict greeted him with sincere warmth. Adam, too, showed that he was glad to see the unexpected visitor, and placed his skill at the disposal of the monastery.
"It has grown late, Adam," said the monk, loosening the belt he was accustomed to wear when riding, which had become damp. "The storm overtook us on the way. The rolling and flashing overhead made the sorrel horse almost tear Gotz's hands off the wrists. Three steps sideways and one forward--so it has grown late, and you can't shoe the rascal in the dark."
"Do you mean the sorrel horse?" asked Adam, in a deep, musical voice, thrusting a blazing pine torch into the iron ring on the forge.
"Yes, Master Adam. He won't bear shoeing, yet he's very valuable. We have nothing to equal him. None of us can control him, but you formerly zounds!....you haven't grown younger in the last few years either, Adam! Put on your cap; you've lost your hair. Your forehead reaches down to your neck, but your vigor has remained. Do you remember how you cleft the anvil at Rodebach?"
"Let that pass," replied Adam--not angrily, but firmly. "I'll shoe the horse early to-morrow; it's too late to-day."
"I thought so!" cried the other, clasping his hands excitedly. "You know how we stand towards the citizens on account of the tolls on the bridges. I'd rather lie on thorns than enter the miserable hole. The stable down below is large enough! Haven't you a heap of straw for a poor brother in Christ? I need nothing more; I've brought food with me."
The smith lowered his eyes in embarrassment. He was not hospitable. No stranger had rested under his roof, and everything that disturbed his seclusion was repugnant to him. Yet he could not refuse; so he answered coldly: "I live alone here with my boy, but if you wish, room can be made."
The monk accepted as eagerly, as if he had been cordially invited; and after the horses and groom were supplied with shelter, followed his host into the sitting-room next the shop, and placed his saddle-bags on the table.
"This is all right," he said, laughing, as he produced a roast fowl and some white bread. "But how about the wine? I need something warm inside after my wet ride. Haven't you a drop in the cellar?"
"No, Father!" replied the smith. But directly after a second thought occurred to him, and he added: "Yes, I can serve you."
So saying, he opened the cupboard, and when, a short time after, the monk emptied the first goblet, he uttered a long drawn "Ah!" following the course of the fiery potion with his hand, till it rested content near his stomach. His lips quivered a little in the enjoyment of the flavor; then he looked benignantly with his unusually round eyes at Adam, saying cunningly:
"If such grapes grow on your pine-trees, I wish the good Lord had given Father Noah a pine-tree instead of a vine. By the saints! The archbishop has no better wine in his cellar! Give me one little sip more, and tell me from whom you received the noble gift?"
"Costa gave me the wine."
"The sorcerer---the Jew?" asked the monk, pushing the goblet away. "But, of course," he continued, in a half-earnest, half-jesting tone, "when one considers--the wine at the first holy communion, and at the marriage of Cana, and the juice of the grapes King David enjoyed, once lay in Jewish cellars!"
Benedict had doubtless expected a smile or approving word from his host, but the smith's bearded face remained motionless, as if he were dead.
The monk looked less cheerful, as he began again "You ought not to grudge
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