The story sounded humble enough, but as soon as the captain had set little Hans on his feet and bent curiously over the forerunners of the dear friend, which had been placed on the little bench by the door, the three boys dashed down the stairs, and the shrill voice of the landlord’s son shrieked from the lowest step one “Turkey gobbler” and “Pope’s slave” after another.
“Satan’s imps!” shouted the old man; but the outer door, which banged below him, showed that pursuit of the naughty mockers would result to his disadvantage. Then as, with an angry shake of the head, he drew back from the banisters, he saw his daughter’s playmate.
How dear the latter was to him, and how fully his aged heart had retained its capacity of feeling, were proved by the reception which he gave the returning knight. The injury just inflicted seemed to have been entirely forgotten. With tears in his eyes and a voice tremulous with deep emotion, he drew Wolf toward him, kissing first his head, which reached only to his lips, then his cheeks and brow. Then, with youthful vivacity, he expressed his pleasure in seeing him again, and, without permitting Wolf to speak, he repeatedly exclaimed:
“And my Wawerl, and Ursel in there! There’ll be a jubilee!”
When Wolf had at last succeeded in returning his old friend’s greeting and then expressed a wish, first of all, to clasp the faithful old maid-servant’s hand, the old gentleman’s beaming face clouded, and he said, sighing:
“What has not befallen us here since you went away, my dear Wolf! My path has been bordered with tombstones as poplars line the highway. But we will let the dead rest. Nothing can now disturb their peace. Old Ursel, too, is longing for the end of life, and we ought not to grudge it to her. Only I dread the last hour, and still more the long eternity which will follow it, for the good, patient woman entered the snare of the Satanic Protestant doctrine, and will not hear of taking the holy sacrament.”
Wolf begged him to admit him at once, but Blomberg declared that, after the attack of apoplexy which she had recently had, one thing and another might happen if she should so unexpectedly see the man to whom her whole heart clung. Wolf would do better first to surprise the girl upstairs, who had no suspicion of his presence. He, Blomberg, must look after the old woman now. He would carry those things—he pointed to the parcels which the boys had left—into the young nobleman’s old room. Ursel had always kept it ready for his return, as though she expected him daily. This suited Wolf, only he insisted upon having his own way about the articles he had brought, and took them upstairs with him.
He would gladly have greeted the faithful nurse of his childhood at once, yet it seemed like a fortunate dispensation that, through the old man’s delay below, his wish to have his first meeting with the woman he loved without witnesses should be fulfilled.