“Well, I will take it back, Roswitha. But you must not come to me and say: ‘the poor major!’ What do you mean by the ‘poor major?’ The poor major was altogether good for nothing. A man who has such a red moustache and twirls it all the time is never good for anything, he does nothing but harm. When one has always been employed in aristocratic homes—but you haven’t been, Roswitha, that’s where you are lacking—one knows what is fitting and proper and what honor is, and knows that when such a thing comes up there is no way to get around it, and then comes what is called a challenge and one of the men is shot.”
“Oh, I know that, too; I am not so stupid as you always try to make me appear. But since it happened so long ago—”
“Oh, Roswitha, that everlasting ‘so long ago!’ It shows plainly enough that you don’t know anything about it. You are always telling the same old story about your father with the red-hot tongs and how he came at you with them, and every time I put a red-hot heater in the iron I see him about to kill you on account of the child that died so long ago. Indeed, Roswitha, you talk about it all the time, and all there is left for you to do now is to tell little Annie the story, and as soon as little Annie has been confirmed she will be sure to hear it, perhaps the same day. I am grieved that you should have had all that experience, and yet your father was only a village blacksmith who shod horses and put tires on wheels, and now you come forward and expect our gracious master calmly to put up with all this, merely because it happened so long ago. What do you mean by long ago? Six years is not long ago. And our gracious mistress, who, by the way, is not coming back—his Lordship just told me so—her Ladyship is not yet twenty-six and her birthday is in August, and yet you come to me with the plea of ‘long ago.’ If she were thirty-six, for at thirty-six, I tell you, one must be particularly cautious, and if his Lordship had done nothing, then aristocratic people would have ‘cut’ him. But you are not familiar with that word, Roswitha, you know nothing about it.”
“No, I know nothing about it and care less, but what I do know is that you are in love with his Lordship.”
Johanna struck up a convulsive laugh.
“Well, laugh. I have noticed it for a long time. I don’t put it past you, but fortunately his Lordship takes no note of it. The poor wife, the poor wife!”
Johanna was anxious to declare peace. “That will do now, Roswitha. You are mad again, but, I know, all country girls get mad.”
“I am just going to post these letters now and see whether the porter has got the other paper. I understood you to say, didn’t I, that he sent Lena to get one? There must be more in it; this is as good as nothing at all.”