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TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH OF ERCKMANN-CHATRIAN.
WE were living in profound peace in the village of Anstatt, in the midst of the German Vosges, my uncle, Dr. Jacob Wagner, his old servant Lisbeth, and myself. After the death of his sister Christine, Uncle Jacob had taken me to live with him. I was nearly ten years old. I was rosy, fair, and fresh as a cherub. I wore a cotton cap, a little brown velvet jacket made out of an old pair of my uncle's small-clothes, trousers of grey cloth, and woollen shoes ornamented on the top with a tuft of wool. In the village I was called Little Fritzel; and every evening, when he returned from his round of visits, Uncle Jacob took me on his knee and taught me to read French in Monsieur de Buffon's Natural History.
It seems to me as if I were still in our low room, its ceiling barred with smoky beams. I see, on the left, the little door leading to the passage-way, and the oaken wardrobe; on the right, the alcove shut off by a curtain of green serge; in the back part of the room, the entrance to the kitchen near the cast-iron stove, with its large mouldings representing the twelve months of the the Stag, the Fishes, Capricorn, Aquarius, &c.,- and on the side toward the street, the two little windows, which looked out through vine leaves upon the square of the fountain.
I see Uncle Jacob too; slender, with a high forehead crowned by beautiful light hair which gracefully outlines his broad temples; his slightly aquiline nose, his blue eyes, his rounded chin, and his tender and good mouth. He wears small-clothes of black satinet, a sky-blue coat with brass buttons, and soft boots with bright yellow tops and silk tassels in front. Seated in his leather arm-chair, his arms upon the table, he reads, and the sun makes the shadow of the vine leaves tremble over his face, which is somewhat long, and tanned by the open air.
He was a man of sentiment, a lover of
he was approaching his fortieth year, peace; and was considered the best physician in the country. I have known since that time that he took pleasure in forming theories of universal fraternity, and that the parcels of books occasionally brought to him by the carrier, Fritz, related to that important subject.
All this I see, without forgetting our Lisbeth, a good old woman, smiling and wrinkled, in a short jacket and a petticoat of blue cloth, who sits spinning in one corner; or the cat Roller, who dreams as she sits on her tail behind the stove, her great yellow eyes open in the shade like an owl's. It seems as if I only have to pass through the entry to slip into the fruit room with its good smell, - that I have only to climb the wooden stairs out of the kitchen to find myself in my own room, where I let loose the titmice that little Hans Aden, the son of the shoemaker, and I had caught with birdlime. Some of these were green and some were blue. Little Eliza Meyer, the daughter of the burgomaster, often came to see them and to ask me for some of them; and when Hans Aden, Ludwig, Franz Sepel, Karl Stenger, and I drove our cows and goats to pasture together, she always took hold of my jacket and said, "Fritzel, let me drive your cow; don't send me off." And I gave her my whip. We were going to make a fire on the turf and roast potatoes in the cinders.
Oh, happy days! How calm and peaceful everything was around us! How regularly everything went on! -never the least
disturbance. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, all the days of the week, followed each other exactly alike.
Every day we got up at the same hour, dressed ourselves, and sat down to the good meat soup prepared by Lisbeth. My uncle set off on horseback, and I made traps and snares for thrushes, sparrows, or linnets, according to the season.
At noon we returned home; we ate bacon cooked with cabbage and dumplings.
Then I went to the pasture to see about my | think I still see him, with his rat-like look, snares, or to bathe in the Queich when and his nose in the air, throwing out great the weather was warm.
In the evening I had a good appetite, and so had my uncle and Lisbeth too; and at table we thanked the Lord for his favors. Every day, toward the end of supper, when the twilight began to spread through the room, a heavy step came along the alley, the door was opened, and upon the threshold appeared a stocky, square-built, broad-shouldered man, wearing a large felt hat, who said:
Good-evening, doctor!" "Sit down, mole-catcher," replied my uncle. 66 Lisbeth, open the kitchen door." Lisbeth pushed back the door, and the red flame dancing upon the hearth showed us the mole-catcher in front of our table examining with his little grey eyes what we were eating. He had the very look of a field-rat, with his long nose, his small mouth, a retreating chin, pointed ears, and four long hairs of yellow tufted moustache. His old coat of grey cloth scarcely reached below his back, his large red waistcoat with deep pockets hung loosely over his thighs, and his enormous shoes, all yellow with soil, had great shining nails, like claws, on the vamps quite to the tops of the thick soles.
The mole-catcher was perhaps fifty years old; his hair was growing grey, deep wrinkles furrowed his reddish forehead, and white eyebrows with a mingling of yellow fell over even the balls of his eyes.
He might be seen constantly in the fields engaged in setting his traps, or at the gate of his bee-garden amid the heather, half way up the Birkenwald, with his mask of iron wire, his large cloth mufflers, and his great sharp spoon for taking the honey from the hives. At the end of autumn he left the village for a month with his wallet hung across his shoulders; on one side a great pot of honey and on the other cakes of yellow wax, which he sold to the priests in the neighbourhood to make wax candles. Such was the mole-catcher. After having thoroughly looked at the table, he said, "There, that is cheese! There, those are nuts!"
Yes," replied my uncle; "at your ser
"Thank you. I had rather smoke a pipe now."
Then he drew from his pocket a black pipe ornamented with a copper cover with a little chain. He carefully filled it, looking round all the time, and then went into the kitchen, took up a coal in the hollow of his callous hand, and laid it on the tobacco. I
whiffs in front of the glowing hearth, then coming to seat himself in the shadow at the corner of the stove with his legs crossed.
Beside the moles and the bees, the honey and the wax, he had another grave occupation: he foretold the future by means of the flight of birds, the abundance of grasshoppers and caterpillars, and certain traditions inscribed in a book with wooden covers which he had inherited from an old aunt from Fleming.
But to unfold the chapter of his predictions he needed the presence of his friend Koffel, the carpenter, the turner, the clockmaker, the dog-clipper, the cattle-doctor, in short, the greatest genius of Anstatt and its neighbourhood.
Koffel did everything: he mended cracked vessels with iron wire, he soldered saucepans, he repaired old furniture, he put the organ into good condition when the stops or the bellows were out of order. Uncle Jacob had even to forbid him to meddle with broken legs and arms, for he thought himself possessed of some talent for surgery also. The mole-catcher admired him greatly, and sometimes said,—
"What a pity Koffel has not studied! what a pity! And all the gossips of the country regarded him as a universal genius. But all this did not make his pot boil, and the most certain of his resources was cutting cabbage for sour-crout in the autumn, with his pannier over his shoulders, crying from door to door, "Any cabbage to cut? any cabbage to cut?" See how great talents are rewarded in this world! Koffel, small, thin, with black hair and beard, a sharp nose going straight to a point like the beak of a widgeon, did not fail to appear, his hands in the pockets of his little round vest, his cotton cap on his neck, the point hanging Letween his shoulders, his small-clothes and his coarse blue stockings spotted with glue slipping down over his legs, which were as thin as wire, and his old shoes cut in many places to make room for his bunions. He came in a few moments after the mole-catcher; and coming forward with short steps, he said,"I wish you a good appetite, doctor." Does your heart tell you of it?" replied my uncle.
Many thanks; we have had salad this evening; that is what I like best."
After these words Koffel seated himself behind the stove, and did not stir till my uncle said,
"Come, Lisbeth, light the candle and take off the cloth."
Then my uncle in his turn filled his pipe | ton cap, sitting in the arm-chair, my uncle's and drew up to the stove. They began to accustomed seat! He seemed to be retalk of the rain, of the fine weather, of the har- flecting profoundly, but was really intent vest, etc. The mole-catcher had had so many on remembering the news, that he might traps in the course of the day, he had turned tell it to his wife, the virtuous Barbara, who the water from such a meadow during the governed the commune in his name. storm, or he had just taken so much honey from his hives; his bees were going to swarm
And the great Karolus too, a sort of greyhound in a hunting coat and a cap of polished leather! The greatest usurer in the country, who looked down upon the peasants from the height of his grandeur because his grandfather had been a lackey of SalmSalm, who thought he did you a favour by smoking your tobacco, and who talked per
Koffel was always turning over in his mind some invention. He talked about his clock without weights, from which the twelve apostles were to appear exactly at noonday, while a cock should crow and Death should flourish his scythe; or, per-petually of parks, of pheasantries, of great haps, of his plough which was to work of itself by being wound up like a clock, or of some other wonderful contrivance.
My uncle listened gravely, gave an approving nod, while he thought about his patients.
hunts, and of the rights and privileges of Monseigneur de Salm-Salm. How many times I have since seen him, as in a dream, walking to and fro in our low room, listening, knitting his brows, and then suddenly plunging into the great pockets of my unIn summer time the neighbours, seated cle's coat to get the packet of tobacco, fillupon the stone bench in front of our open ing his pipe and lighting it at the candle, windows, talked with Lisbeth about their saying, Allow me." household concerns; one had spun so many Poor Uncle Jacob! how good-natured he yards of cloth in the course of the last win-was to let him smoke his tobacco! but he ter; the hens of another had laid so many did not even notice it, he was so taken up eggs in one day. with reading the news of the day. The Republicans had invaded the Palatinate, had descended the Rhine, and had dared to confront the three Electors, King William of Prussia, and the Emperor Joseph.
As for me, I made use of a lucky minute to run to Klipfel's forge, from which the light shone in the night far off to the end of the village.
Hans Aden, Franz Sepel, and several others, were already there. We watched the sparks shooting out like lightning from the strokes of the hammer. We whistled at the sound of the anvil. If a poor old horse were there to be shod, we helped to lift up his leg. The oldest among us undertook to smoke some nut leaves, which turned their stomachs. Some of the others boasted of going already every Sunday to the dances; these were from fifteen to sixteen years old. They set their caps on one side, put their hands in their pockets, and smoked with an air of importance.
At last, at ten o'clock, the whole party broke up, and every one went home.
Thus passed the ordinary days of the week; but Mondays and Fridays my uncle received the Frankfort Gazette, and on those days our company was more numerous. Beside the mole-catcher, and Koffel, our burgomaster, Christian Meyer, and Monsieur Karolus Richter, the grandson of an old valet of Count Salm-Salm, came. Neither of them wished to subscribe for the Gazette, but they liked to hear it read for nothing.
How many times since I have remembered our fat burgomaster with his scarlet ears, short woolen gown, and his white cot
All present were astonished at their audacity. Monsieur Richter said that this could not last long, and that all these wretched beggars would be exterminated, even to the very last.
My uncle always concluded his reading by some judicious remark, and as he folded up the Gazette he said: :- "Let us thank the Lord that we live in the midst of the woods, rather than among the vineyards, on the bare mountains, rather than in the fruitful plain. These Republicans cannot hope to get anything here, and that is our security; we may sleep in peace upon both ears. But how many others are exposed to their rapine! These people want to do everything by force; now force never does any good. They talk of love, of equality, of liberty, but they do not apply these principles; they trust to their arms, and not to the justice of their cause. Before them, a very long time ago, there were others who came to deliver the world; they did not strike, they did not slay, they perished by thousands, and were represented in after ages by the lamb that the wolves devoured. It might have been thought that of these men no remembrance would remain. Well! they have conquered the world; they have not conquered the flesh, but they have con
quered the soul of the human race; and | he. "Since these Republicans have banthe soul, that is everything! Why do ished their lords and their priests, it must not these people follow their example?" Then Karolus Richter exclaimed with a scornful air: "Why? Because they make a mockery of souls, and because they envy the powerful of the earth. And in the first place, all these Republicans are atheists, from the first to the last; they respect as I watched my bees work, I saw that neither the throne nor the altar; they have overthrown things which have been established from the beginning of time; they will have no more nobles, as if the nobility were not the essence of things upon earth and in heaven; as if it were not certain that among men some are born for slavery and others for domination; as if we did not see this order established even in nature: the moss is lower than the grass, the grass lower than the shrubs, the shrubs than the trees, and the trees than the celestial vault. So the peasants are lower than the citizens, the citizens than the nobles of the long robe, the nobles of the long robe than the nobles of the sword, the nobles of the sword than the king, and the king than the pope, represented by his cardinals, his archbishops, and his bishops. This is the natural order of things.
have been so written in heaven from the beginning of time. God decreed it; now to know whether they shall return,— that depends upon what the Lord God may decree. If he wills to bring the dead back to life, that depends upon him. But last year, these little creatures, gentle and pretty as they are, all at once fell upon the drones and stung them and dragged them out of the hive. This happens every year. These drones breed the young, and the bees provide for them as long as the hive needs them; but afterwards they kill them. This is a shocking thing, but yet it is written. Now upon seeing this I thought of these Republicans: they are engaged in killing their drones; but be easy; they can never get on without them. Others will come back, they will have to take care of them and feed them, and then the bees will get angry again and will kill them by hundreds. They may think it is all finished, but others will come, and so on. It must be so! it must be so!"
The mole-catcher then shook his head, and Monsieur Karolus, stopping in the middle of the room, exclaimed, “Who is it you call drones? The real drones are those proud grubs who think themselves capable of everything, and not the nobles and the priests."
"These Republicans have obtained some Begging your pardon, Monsieur Richephemeral success on account of the sur-ter," said the mole-catcher, "the drones prise they have caused to the world by their are those who insist on doing nothing and truly incredible boldness and their want of enjoying everything; those who do nothing common sense. By denying all estab-but buzz about the queen and still insist lished doctrines and principles, they have struck reasonable people with stupefaction. That is the only cause of all this confusion. Just as we may sometimes see an ox, or even a bull, stop at once and then run away at sight of a rat which comes suddenly out of the ground before him, so we see our soldiers astounded and even routed by similar audacity. But all this cannot last long; and the first surprise past, I am very sure that our old generals of the seven years' war will knock this rabble of barefoots flat over, so that not a single one of them will ever get back to his unhappy country again."
Having thus spoken, Monsieur Karolus re-lighted his pipe and continued to walk back and forth with his hands behind him, and an air of great satisfaction.
All the others reflected upon what they had just heard, and after some time the mole-catcher took up the word in his turn.
All that must happen, happens," said
upon being handsomely provided for. They are provided for. But, in fine, it is written that they shall be cast out. This has happened a thousand and a thousand times, and it will never fail to happen. The workingbees, who are all order and economy, cannot be feeding creatures who are good for nothing. This is unfortunate, it is sad,but it is so; when one makes the honey, one likes to keep it for himself."
You are a Jacobine," exclaimed Karolus, indignantly.
No, on the contrary, I am a citizen of Austtall, mole-catcher and bee-keeper. I love my country as much as you do. I would sacrifice myself for it perhaps sooner than you would. But I am really obliged to say that the true drones are those who do nothing, and that the bees are those who work, for I have seen it a hundred times."
"Ah!" exclaimed Karolus Richter, "I bet that Koffel has the same ideas as you."
Then the little carpenter, who had said nothing, answered, winking his eye,
'Monsieur Karolus, if I had the happiness of being the grandson of a domestic of Yeri Peter or of Salm-Salm, and if I had inherited great wealth from him which would maintain me in abundance and idleness, then I should say that the drones were the workers and the bees were the lazy But being such as I am, I need all the world to help me get along, and I say Only I think everynothing. I am silent. body ought to get what he deserves by his labours."
"My dear friends," then said my uncle, gravely, "let us not talk any more about these things, for we never could understand each other. Peace! peace! that is what we need. It is peace which makes men prosper, and puts all beings into their proper places. Through war we see bad instincts prevail, murder, rapine, and the rest. So all men who lead bad lives like war; it is the only means for them to appear to be something. In time of peace can easily they would be nothing; we see that their thoughts, their inventions, and their desires are in accordance with their low characters. Man was created by God for peace, for labour, and to love his family and his fellow-creatures. Now, since war goes against all that, it is nothing but a scourge. Here now! ten o'clock is striking; we might dispute till to-morrow and not understand each other. So I propose that we should go to bed."
Every one rose, and the burgomaster, resting his fists upon the arms of his chair "Heaven grant that neither exclaimed, Republicans nor Prussians nor Imperialists may pass through here, for all those people are hungry and thirsty. And as it is pleasanter to drink one's wine oneself than to see it swallowed by others, I like much better to learn these things from the Gazette than to enjoy them through my own eyes. That is what I think."
ONE Friday evening in the month of November, 1793, Lisbeth after supper was kneading the dough for the household bread, according to custom. As some cake and an apple pie would follow from this, I kept near her in the kitchen and watched her, giving myself up to the most agreeable reflections. The dough being made, the yeast was put in, and the trough scraped all round, and then a large feather covering was stretched over it, and it was left to rise. Afterward Lisbeth spread some coals from the hearth on the inside of the oven and pushed into the back part of it with the poker three large dry fagots, which began to flame up under the dark arch. At last, the fire well lighted, she put the iron plate before the mouth of the oven, and said to me,
Now, Fritzel, let us go to bed; tomorrow when you get up there will be a pie."
Then we went up to our chambers. Uncle Jacob had been snoring in his alcove for an hour. I went to bed dreaming of good things, and was soon sleeping the sleep of the blest.
This lasted for some time, but it was still night, and the moon was shining on my little window, when I was waked by a strange tumult. One would have said that the whole village was out of doors; doors opened and shut at a distance, a multitude of steps plashed through the muddy pools At the same time I heard in the street. people coming and going in our house, and a red light was reflected on my windows. After having lisImagine my fright! tened, I got up softly and opened a window. The whole street was full of people, and not only the streets, but also the little gardens and the neighbouring lanes, nothing but great lively fellows with immense cocked hats and long blue coats faced with red, broad white shoulder-belts, and long queues hanging down the back, to say nothing of their sabres and their carGood-tridge-boxes, which swung below their hips, and which I saw for the first time. They had stacked their guns in front of our barn. Two sentinels were marching round; the others went in and out of the house as if they were at home.
After that reflection he took his way to the door, and the others followed him. "Good-night," cried my uncle. evening," replied the mole-catcher, going off into the dark street. The door was shut, and my uncle, deep "Fritzel, try to in thought, said to me, sleep well."
"And you the same, uncle," I replied to him.
At one corner of the stable three horses pawed the ground. Farther off, in front of Sepel the butcher's shop, on the opposite pro-side of the square, on the hooks where calves were skinned, now hung a whole ox,
Lisbeth and I then went up stairs. A quarter of an hour afterward, the most found silence reigned in the house.