RECOLLECTIONS OF MY CHILDHOOD (1846-1854)
By FRIEDRICH HEBBEL
TRANSLATED BY FRANCES H. KING
At the time of my birth my father possessed a small house, with a garden adjoining, in which stood some fruit trees; in particular one very productive pear-tree. In the house there were three dwellings, the most pleasant and roomy of which we occupied; its principal advantage consisted in the fact that it was situated on the sunny side. The other two were rented. The one opposite to us was inhabited by an old mason, Claus Ohl, and his little stooping wife, and the third, to which a back-entrance through the garden gave access, by the family of a day laborer. The tenants never changed, and for us children they belonged to the house, just like Father and Mother, from whom indeed, as regards loving attentions bestowed upon us, they differed but little, if at all.
Our garden was surrounded by other gardens. On one side was the garden of a jovial master-joiner who loved to tease me. Even now I cannot understand how he could take his own life, as he did, later on. Once when I was a very little boy I had said to him over the hedge, with a precociously knowing look: “Neighbor, it is very cold!” and he never grew weary of repeating this remark to me, especially in the hot summer months.
Next to the garden of the joiner was that of the minister. It was inclosed by a high board fence, which prevented us children from looking over, but not from peeping through cracks and chinks. This afforded us infinite pleasure in the springtime when the beautiful strange flowers which filled the garden, came up again; but we trembled lest the minister should catch sight of us. We felt an unbounded reverence for him, which may have been inspired by his serious, severe, sallow face and his cold glance, as much as by his position and his functions, which seemed to us very imposing, such as, for example, walking behind the hearses, which always passed in front of our house. Whenever he looked over at us, as he occasionally did, we stopped playing and crept back into the house.