“It will not?” asked Wolf in astonishment. “It is for her alone, not for myself, that I value the increased income.”
“For her?” repeated the old man, shrugging his shoulders incredulously. “Open your eyes, and you will see what she cares for gold and jewels.”
“The splendid bouquet there—do you suppose that she even looked at it? Bright pinks, red roses, and stately lilies in the centre. Where were they obtained, since April is scarcely past? And yet she threw the costly birthday gift aside as if the flowers were apple parings. It was not she, but I, who afterward put them in the pitcher, for I can’t bear to see any of God’s creatures thirst, even though it is only a flower. Besides, we both know that the fullest purse in the city, and a man worthy of all respect to boot, are attached to the bouquet. Yes, indeed! For a long time she has been unwilling to share my poverty, and if Herr Peter had remained loyal to our holy religion, I would persuade her myself.”
Here, exhausted by his eager speech, he paused with flushed cheeks—for it was a hot day—and raised his long arm to take his hat from the hook, to refresh his dry palate at the tavern.
But, after a brief pause for reflection, he restored it to its place.
He had remembered that he had not stirred a finger that morning, and had promised to have an inscription on a jug completed early the next day. Besides, the baker had not been paid for four weeks, so, sighing heavily, he dragged himself to the workbench to move the burin with a weary hand.
Wolf had followed him with his eyes, and the sight of the chivalrous hero, the father of the girl whom he loved, undertaking such a wretched occupation, in such a mood, pierced him to the heart.
“Father Blomberg,” he said warmly, putting his hand on his shoulder, “let your graver rest. I am a suitor for your child’s hand. We are old friends, and if from my abundance I offer you——”
Here the hot-blooded old man furiously exclaimed: “Don’t forget to whom you are speaking, young fellow! How important he feels because he gets his living at court! True, there is no abundance here; but I practise this art merely because I choose, and because it cools my hot blood in this lukewarm time of peace. But if on that account,” he added threateningly, while his prominent eyes protruded even farther than usual, “you ever again venture to talk to me as though I were a day labourer or a receiver of alms——”
Here he hesitated, for in the midst of his outbreak Barbara had noiselessly entered the room. Now she approached him, and, in a more gentle and affectionate tone than she had ever used before, entreated him to rest.
The captain, groaning, shook his head, but Barbara stepped lightly upon the low wooden bench on which he sat, drew his gray head toward her, and tenderly stroked his hair and beard, whispering: “Rise, father, and let somebody else finish the engraving, it is so cool and shady in the green woods where the birds are singing, and only yesterday you praised the refreshing drink at the Red Cock.”