For the first five minutes Schwartz Thier found employment for his faculties by staring at the shaky, small-paned windows of the neighbourhood. He persevered in this, after all novelty had been exhausted, from an intuitive dread of weariness. There was nothing to see. An old woman once bobbed out of an attic, and doused the flints with water. Harassed by increasing dread of the foul nightmare of nothing-to-do, the Thier endeavoured to establish amorous intelligence with her. She responded with an indignant projection of the underjaw, evanishing rapidly. There was no resource left him but to curse her with extreme heartiness. The Thier stamped his right leg, and then his left, and remembered the old woman as a grievance five minutes longer. When she was clean forgotten, he yawned. Another spouse of the moment was wanted, to be wooed, objurgated, and regretted. The prison-gate was in a secluded street. Few passengers went by, and those who did edged away from the ponderous, wanton-eyed figure of lazy mischief lounging there, as neatly as they well could. The Thier hailed two or three. One took to his legs, another bowed, smirked, gave him a kindly good-day, and affected to hear no more, having urgent business in prospect. The Thier was a faithful dog, but the temptation to betray his trust and pursue them was mighty. He began to experience an equal disposition to cry and roar. He hummed a ballad
’I swore of her
I’d have my will,
And with him I’d have my way:
I learn’d my cross-bow over the hill:
Now what does my lady say?
Give me the good old cross-bow, after all, and none of these lumbering puff-and-bangs that knock you down oftener than your man!
’A cross stands
in the forest still,
And a cross in the churchyard grey:
My curse on him who had his will,
And on him who had his way!
Good beginning, bad ending! ’Tisn’t so always. “Many a cross has the cross-bow built,” they say. I wish I had mine, now, to peg off that. old woman, or somebody. I’d swear she’s peeping at me over the gable, or behind some cranny. They’re curious, the old women, curse ’em! And the young, for that matter. Devil a young one here.
in for the sack of a town,
What, think ye, I poke after, up and down?
Silver and gold I pocket in plenty,
But the sweet tit-bit is my lass under twenty.
I should like to be in for the sack of this Cologne. I’d nose out that pretty girl I was cheated of yesterday. Take the gold and silver, and give me the maiden! Her neck’s silver, and her hair gold. Ah! and her cheeks roses, and her mouth-say no more! I’m half thinking Werner, the hungry animal, has cast wolf’s eyes on her. They say he spoke of her last night. Don’t let him thwart me. Thunderblast him! I owe him a grudge. He’s beginning to forget my plan o’ life.’
A flight of pigeons across the blue top of the street abstracted the Thier from these reflections. He gaped after them in despair, and fell to stretching and shaking himself, rattling his lungs with loud reports. As he threw his eyes round again, they encountered those of a monk opposite fastened on him in penetrating silence. The Thier hated monks as a wild beast shuns fire; but now even a monk was welcome.