“God forbid that I should make fun of anything that I have seen in this country!” replied the Hunter. “I now rejoice that a mad freak brought me here to these woods and fields, for otherwise I should probably never have learned to know the region; for it has very little reputation abroad, and there is, in fact, nothing here to attract exhausted and surfeited tourists. But the feeling has gripped me here even more strongly than in my own home—this is soil which an unmixed race has trod for more than a thousand years! And the idea of the immortality of the people was wafted toward me in the rustling of these oaks and of this surrounding vegetation in an almost, I might say, tangible form.”
A long conversation resulted from this remark, which was carried on alternately by both the Hunter and the Pastor, as they walked slowly along behind the cart.
When they took leave of each other the young Suabian was obliged to make his friend a promise that he would visit him for a few days in the city. After that they separated and went off in opposite directions.
THE STRANGE FLOWER AND THE BEAUTIFUL GIRL
The sun was still high in the heavens. The Hunter felt no particular inclination to return to the Oberhof so early in the day, so he stepped up to one of the highest hedges to obtain a general view of the region. From there he saw rising, a short distance away, the bushy summits of a group of hills, through which he thought he could probably make his way and get back to his quarters before late in the evening.
His foot trod the fresh, damp green of a meadow bordered by bushes, under which a stream of clear water was flowing. Not far away appeared some small rocks, over which ran a narrow slippery path. He walked across, climbed down between the cliffs, tucked up his sleeves, and put his arm in the water; it sent a pleasant thrill through him and cooled his hot blood. Thus, half kneeling, half sitting in the damp, dark, rock-begirt spot, he glanced aside into the open. There his eyes were fascinated by a glorious sight. Some old tree stumps had rotted in the grass, and their black forms protruded from the surrounding vivid green. One of them was entirely hollowed out, and inside of it the rotted wood had formed a deposit of brown earth. Out of this earth and out of the stump, as from a crater, a most beautiful flower was growing. Above a crown of soft, round leaves rose a long, slender stalk which bore large cups of an indescribably beautiful red. Deep down in the cups of the flower was a spot of soft, gleaming white which ran out to the edge of the petals in tiny light-green veins. It was evidently not a native flower, but an exotic, whose seed some chance—who knows what?—had deposited here in this little garden-bed, prepared by the putrefactive powers of Nature, and which a friendly summer sun had caused to grow and blossom.