The burgomaster, as usual, sat at the head of the table; the Junker had taken his place between him and Maria, opposite to Barbara and the children.
The widow never wearied of gazing at the young man’s fresh, bright face, for although her son could not compare with him in beauty, there was an honest expression in the Junker’s eyes, which reminded her of her Wilhelm.
Many a question and answer had already been exchanged between those assembled round the board, many a pleasant memory recalled, when Peter, after the dishes had been removed and a new jug with better wine placed on the table, filled the young nobleman’s glass again, and raised his own.
“Let us drink this bumper,” he cried, gazing at Georg with sincere pleasure in his eyes, “let us drink to the victory of the good cause, for which you too voluntarily draw your sword. Thanks for the vigorous pledge. Drinking is also an art, and the Germans are masters of it.”
“We learn it in various places, and not worst at the University of Jena.”
“All honor to the doctors and professors, who bring their pupils up to the standard of my dead brother-in-law, and judging from this sample drink, you also.”
“Leonhard was my teacher in the ‘ars bibendi.’ How long ago it is!”
“Youth is not usually content,” replied Peter, “but when the point in question concerns years, readily calls ‘much,’ what seems to older people ‘little.’ True, many experiences may have been crowded into the last few years of your life. I can still spare an hour, and as we are all sitting so cosily together here, you can tell us, unless you wish to keep silence on the subject, how you chanced to leave your distant home for Holland, and your German and Latin books to enlist under the English standard.”
“Yes,” added Maria, without any trace of embarrassment. “You still owe me the story. Give thanks, children, and then go.”
Adrian gazed beseechingly first at his mother and then at his father, and as neither forbade him to stay, moved his chair close to his sister, and both leaned their heads together and listened with wide open eyes, while the Junker first quietly, then with increasing vivacity, related the following story:
“You know that I am a native of Thuringia, a mountainous country in the heart of Germany. Our castle is situated in a pleasant valley, through which a clear river flows in countless windings. Wooded mountains, not so high as the giants in Switzerland, yet by no means contemptible, border the narrow boundaries of the valley. At their feet the fields and meadows, at a greater height rise pine forests, which, like the huntsman, wear green robes at all seasons of the year. In winter, it is true, the snow cover them with a glimmering white sheet. When spring comes, the pines put forth new shoots, as fresh and full of sap as the budding foliage of your oaks and beeches, and in the meadows by the river it begins