“I gave it to you this very minute. I said you’d better take your hands out of your pockets, and then your earnings would run in. That’s good advice and worth more than five francs.
“What stuff! No one ever knows how to take you,” grumbled Blasi.
“It wouldn’t help you to take me, if you did not take your hands out too,” said Judith, “but never mind, I have really something good for you,” and Judith motioned to him to come nearer. “Would you like to have a nice well-washed shirt for Sunday? I will do one up for you if you will tell me something.”
That was an offer worth listening to. Sunday was a wretched day for Blasi, for when he had turned his two shirts and worn them both on both sides, he had never a clean one for Sunday. He had no one to wash for him. His mother was dead, and his father had enough else to spend for, without the washing for a grown-up son. Blasi’s money went for other things than washing, and he was not fond of doing it for himself.
The proposition was therefore very apropos. “Come a little nearer to the well; no one knows who may be behind those trees. Now listen; Can you tell me what is going wrong with Dietrich? He never whistles now, he never laughs, and his mother looks so sad, and she rarely speaks even to answer when spoken to. Something has happened to Dietrich.”
“Yes, and keeps on happening; all sorts of things, too. But Jost can tell you more than I can. They sit together in the Rehbock half the night and more, too; long after everybody else has gone, there they sit in the little back room. At first they do just as other people do, they drink a little and then a little more, and Dietrich pays. But that’s nothing to what it costs him afterwards. They do something with paper, he and Jost. Sometimes it is a lottery and then again something that they call speculating. I don’t understand anything about it. Somebody comes over from Fohrensee and explains it to them. He does not belong there; but I guess you have seen him; he has fiery red hair, and red beard and red face. He has business in Fohrensee once a week, and lives the rest of the time down in the city; and he arranges everything down there, and then brings the account of gains and losses up to them; but it’s a good deal more loss than gain. Dietrich puts in more money every time. Jost has nothing to put in but promises. He tells Dietrich all the time that presently the winnings will begin to flow in, and says that at first a fellow must expect to lose, so as to win all the more in the end, and that bye-and-bye it will all come back; with interest, of course. The red-haired man says yes to it all. Whenever I want to put something in, and ask Dietrich to lend me a little to try with, Jost acts as if he were the lord and master of the whole concern, and ‘donkey’ is the mildest name he calls me. I am just waiting though, till I can trip him up, and I’ll do it with a vengeance too, so that he won’t forget it all his life long.”