Then how can you expect me, a poor tailor, to do it? I should bring ridicule on you all and harm myself, all to no purpose. I propose that one of the innkeepers should be urged to undertake it; they are most accustomed to crowds than any of the rest of us.
After this several members rose one by one from the table, and there was a running in and out and a whispering together in the corners. Frymann and Hediger alone remained seated, with gloomy countenances, for they divined that a fresh and deadly assault on them was being planned. Finally, when they were all assembled again, Bürgi stood up before these two and said:
Kaspar and Daniel! You have both so often spoken to our satisfaction here, in this circle, that either of you, if he only will, can perfectly well make a short, public address. It is the decision of the society that you shall draw lots between you and that the result shall be final. You must yield to a majority of five to two.
Renewed clamor supported these words; the two addressed, looked at each other and finally bowed humbly to the decision, each in the hope that the bitter lot might fall to the other. It fell to Frymann who, for the first time, left a meeting of the Lovers of Liberty with a heavy heart, while Hediger rubbed his hands with delightso inconsiderate does selfishness make the oldest of friends.
Frymanns pleasure in the approaching festival was now at an end and his days were darkened. He thought constantly of his speech without being able to find a single idea, because he kept seeking for something remote instead of seizing upon what lay near at hand and using it as he would have among his friends. The phrases in which he was accustomed to address them seemed homely to him, and he hunted about in his mind for something out of the ordinary and high-sounding, for a political manifesto, and he did so not from vanity but from a bitter sense of duty. Finally he began to cover a sheet of paper with writing, not without many interruptions, sighs, and curses. With infinite pains he wrote two pages, although he had intended to compose only a few lines; for he could not find a conclusion, and the tortured phrases clung to one another like sticky burrs and held the writer fast in a confused tangle.
With the folded paper in his waistcoat pocket he went worriedly about his business, occasionally stepping behind some shed to read it again and shake his head. At last he confided in his daughter and read the draft to her to see what effect it made. The speech was an accumulation of words that thundered against Jesuits and aristocrats, richly larded with such expressions as freedom, human rights, servitude, and degradation; in short it was a bitter and labored declaration of war, in which there was no mention of the Seven and their little banner, and moreover, the composition was clumsy and confused, whereas he usually spoke easily and correctly.
Hermine said it was a very strong speech, but it seemed to her somewhat belated, as the Jesuits and aristocrats had been conquered at last, and she thought a bright and pleasant declaration would be more appropriate since the people were contented and happy.
You may be right, but still you dont quite understand it. A man must use forcible language in public and spread it on thick, like a scene-painter, so to speak, whose work, seen close to, is a crude daub. Still, perhaps I can soften an expression here and there.
But Hermine advised him not to try to write anything, to wait until just about an hour before the presentation and then to settle on some idea and make a brief speech about it on the spur of the moment, as if he were at home.
Nevertheless he could not help beginning at once to turn over and torture the idea in his mind without succeeding in giving it form; he went about preoccupied and worried, and Hermine watched him with great satisfaction.
The festival week had come before they knew it, and one morning in the middle of it, the Seven started for Aarau before daybreak in a special omnibus drawn by four horses. The new banner fluttered brightly from the box; on its green silk shone the words, Friendship in Freedom! and all the old men were joyful and gay, serious and merry by turns, and Frymann alone appeared to be depressed and dubious.
Hermine was already staying with friends in Aarau, for her father rewarded her perfect housekeeping by taking her with him on all his jaunts; and more than once she had adorned the joyful circle of greybeards like a rosy hyacinth. Karl, too, was already there; although his military service had made demands enough on his time and his money, yet at Hermines invitation he had gone to the festival on foot, and oddly enough had found quarters near where she was staying; for they had their affair to attend to, and no one could say whether they might not be able to make favorable use of the festival. Incidentally, he also wanted to shoot and, in accordance with his means, carried twenty-five cartridges with him; these he intended to use, no more and no fewer.
He had soon scented the arrival of the Upright Seven and followed them at a distance as, with their little banner, they marched in close order to the festival grounds. The attendance was larger on that day than on any other in the week, the streets were full of people in their best clothes, going and coming; large and small rifle clubs came along with and without bands; but none was as small as that of the Seven. They were obliged to wind their way through the crowd but, taking short paces, they kept in step nevertheless; their fists were closed and their arms hung straight at their sides in military fashion. Frymann marched ahead with the banner, looking as if he were being led to execution. Occasionally he looked from side to side to see if no escape were possible; but his companions, glad that they were not in his shoes, encouraged him and called out to him bracing and pithy words. They were already nearing the festival grounds; the crackling rifle-fire already sounded close by, and high in the air the national marksmens flag flew in sunny solitude and its silk now stretched out quiveringly to all four corners, now snapped gracefully above the peoples heads, now hung down sanctimoniously, close to the staff, for a momentin short, it indulged in all the sport that a flag can think of in a whole long week, and yet the sight of it stabbed the bearer of the little green banner to the heart.
Karl, seeing the merry flag and stopping to watch it a moment, suddenly lost sight of the little group and when he looked all round for it he could not discover it anywhere; it seemed as if the earth had swallowed it. Quickly he pressed through to the spot and then back to the entrance of the grounds and looked there; no little green banner rose from the throng. He turned to go back again, and in order to get ahead faster he took a side way along the street. There stood a little tavern, the proprietor of which had planted a few lean evergreens in front of the door, put up a few tables and benches and spread a piece of canvas above the whole, like a spider that spins her web close to a large pot of honey, so as to catch a fly now and then. Through the dirty window of this little house Karl happened to see the shining gilt tip of a flag-pole; in he went at once and behold, there, in the low-ceilinged room, sat his precious old men as if blown there by a thunderstorm. They lay and lounged this way and that on chairs and benches and hung their heads, and in the centre stood Frymann with the banner and said:
And with that he stood the banner in a corner with a bang. No answer followed until the pleased innkeeper came and placed a huge bottle of wine in front of the unexpected guests, although they had been too upset to order anything. Hediger filled a glass, stepped up to Frymann and said:
But Frymann shook his head and spoke not another word. They sat in great distress, greater than they had ever known; all the riots, counter-revolutions, and reactions that they had experienced were childs play compared to this defeat at the gates of paradise.
Then in Gods name, let us turn round and drive home again, said Hediger who feared that even now fate might turn against him. At that Karl, who until now had stood on the threshold, stepped forward and said gaily:
But from all sides came cries of Well done! Forward unfalteringly! Forward with the lad! And Frymann himself gave him the banner, for a heavy weight had fallen from his heart and he was glad to see his old friends saved from the distress into which he had led them. And forward they went with renewed zest; Karl led, bearing the banner grandly aloft, and in the rear the innkeeper looked sadly after the vanishing mirage that had for a moment deceived him. Hediger alone was now gloomy and unhappy, for he did not doubt that his son would lead them deeper into the mire than ever. But they had already entered the grounds; the Grisons were just marching off, a long brown procession, and, passing them and in time to their music, the old men marched through the crowd, keeping step as perfectly as they had ever done. Again they had to mark time when three fortunate shots who had won cups crossed their path with buglers and followers; but all that, together with the loud noise of the shooting, only increased their festive intoxication and finally they uncovered their heads at the sight of the trophy-temple which blazed with treasures, and from the turrets of which a host of flags fluttered showing the colors of all the cantons, towns, districts and parishes. In their shade stood several gentlemen in black and one of them held a brimming silver goblet in his hand ready to receive the arrivals.
The seven venerable heads floated like a sunlit cake of ice in the dark sea of the crowd, their scanty white hair fluttered in the gentle east wind and streamed in the same direction as the red and white flag high above them. By reason of their small number and their advanced age they attracted general attention, people smiled not without respect, and everyone was listening as the youthful standard-bearer stepped forward and in a fresh clear voice delivered this address:
Beloved Countrymen! Here we come with our little banner, eight of us all told, seven greybeards with a young standard-bearer. As you see, each carries his rifle, without claiming to be a remarkably good shot; to be sure, none of us would miss the target and sometimes one of us hits the bulls eye, but if that should occur you can swear that he didnt mean to. So, as far as the silver is concerned that we shall carry away from your trophy-hall, we might just as well have stayed at home.
Nevertheless, although we are not eminent marksmen, we couldnt keep away; we have come not to win trophies, but to present a modest little cup, an almost immodestly joyful heart, and a new banner that trembles in my hand with eagerness to fly from your fortress of flags. But we shall take our little banner home with us again, it is only here to receive its consecration. See, what it bears in golden letter: Friendship in Freedom! Yes, it is friendship personified so to speak, that we bring to this festival, friendship based on patriotism, friendship rooted in the love of liberty. Friendship it was that brought together these seven hoary heads that glisten here in the sunlight, thirty, no forty years ago, and it has held them together through every storm, in good and evil days. It is a society that has no name, no president and no statutes; its members neither bear titles nor hold offices, it is unmarked timber from the forest depths of the nation, and it now steps forth for a moment into the sunlight of the national holiday only to return presently to its place, to rustle and roar with thousands of other tree-tops in the hidden forest-dusk of the people, where only a few can know and call each other by name, and yet all are familiar and acquainted.
Look at them, these old sinners! None of them stands in the odor of particular sanctity! Rarely is one of them seen at church! They do not speak well of ecclesiastical matters. But here, beneath the open sky, I can confide something strange to you, my countrymen: as soon as their fatherland is in danger they begin quite gradually to believe in God; first each one cautiously in his own heart, then ever more boldly, till one betrays his secret to another and they then, all together, cultivate a remarkable theology, the first and only doctrine of which is: God helps him who helps himself! On days of rejoicing too, like this, when crowds of people are assembled and a clear blue sky smiles above them, they again fall a prey to these religious thoughts and then they imagine that God has hung the Swiss standard aloft and made the beautiful weather especially for us. In both cases, in the hour of danger and in the hour of joy, they are suddenly satisfied with the words that begin our constitution: In the name of God Almighty! And such a gentle tolerance pervades them thencross-grained though they are at other timesthat they do not even ask whether it is the Roman Catholic or the Protestant God of Hosts that is meant.
In short, a child who has been given a little Noahs ark filled with painted animals and tiny men and women, cannot be more pleased with it than they are with their beloved little fatherland and all the thousands of good things that are in it, from the moss-covered old pike lying at the bottom of its lakes to the wild bird that flutters round its icy peaks. Oh, what different kinds of people swarm here in this little space, manifold in their occupations, in manners and customs, in costume and language! What sly rascals and what moon-struck fools we see running around, what noble growth and what weeds thrive here merrily side by side, and it is all good and fine and dear to our hearts, for it is in our fatherland.
So, considering and weighing the value of earthly things, they grow to be philosophers; but they can never get beyond the wonderful fact of the fatherland. True, they traveled in their youth and have seen many countries, not with arrogance, but honoring every land in which they found people of worth; but their motto remained ever the same: respect every mans mother country, but love your own!
How diverting it is that there is not just one monotonous type of Swiss, but that there are various stamps of people from Zurich and Bern, Unterwalden and Neuenburg, the Grisons and Basle, and even two kinds of Baslers; and that Appenzell has a history of its own and Geneva another! This variety in unitywhich God preserveis the proper school in which to learn friendship, and it is only where political homogeneousness is transformed into the personal friendship of a whole people that the highest plane has been attained; for where the sense of citizenship fails, friendship will be successful and both will combine to form a single virtue.
These old men have spent their years in toil and labor; they are beginning to feel the frailty of all flesh, it pinches one in one place, one in another. Yet, when summer comes, they go, not to the baths, but to the national festival. The wine of the Swiss festival is the healing spring that refreshes their hearts, the outdoor summer life of the nation is the air that strengthens their old nerves, surging waves of happy fellow-countrymen are the sea that bathes their stiff limbs and makes them active again. You will presently see their white heads disappear in this sea. So now, fellow Helvetians, give us the cup of welcome! Long live friendship in the fatherland! Long live friendship in freedom!
Yes, he concluded, may our festivals never become anything worse than a school of manners for the young, and, for the old, the reward of a clear public conscience, of faithful civic loyalty, and a fountain of pleasure! May they ever celebrate inviolable and vigorous friendship in our country, between district and district and between man and man! May your nameless and statuteless society, my venerable friends, live long!
Again the toast was echoed all around and amid general applause the little banner was added to the others. Here-upon the little troop of the Seven wheeled about and made straight for the great festival hall to refresh themselves with a good luncheon and they were scarcely there before they all shook hands with their speaker and cried:
Spoken from our hearts! Hediger, Kaspar! your boy is made of good stuff, hell turn out well, let him go his own way. Just like us, but cleverer, we are a lot of old donkeys; but steadfast and unflinching, stand firm, Karl! and so on.
But Frymann was quite dumbfounded; the boy had said just what he ought to have thought of, instead of banging away at the Jesuits. He too gave Karl his hand in friendship and thanked him for his help in time of need. Last of all, old Hediger came up to his son, took his hand also, fixed his eye keenly and firmly upon him and said:
Son, you have revealed a fine but dangerous gift. Nurse it, cultivate it with loyalty, with a sense of duty, with modesty. Never lend it to the false and the unjust, to the vain and the trivial; for it may become as a sword in your hand that turns against you yourself, or against the good as well as the evil. Or it may become a mere fools bauble. Therefore, look straight ahead, be modest, studious, but firm and unswerving. As you have done us honor to-day, remember always to do honor to your fellow-citizens, to your country, to give them joy; think of this and so you will be best preserved from false ambition! Unswerving! Dont think that you must always speak, let some opportunities pass, and never speak for your own sake, but always for some worthy cause. Study men, not in order to outwit and plunder them, but in order to awaken and set in motion the good in them, and, believe me, many who listen to you will often be better and wiser than you who speak. Never use sophisms and petty hair-splitting which only move the chaff; the heart of the people can only be stirred by the full force of truth. Do not, therefore, court the applause of the noisy and restless, but fix your eye unswervingly on the cool-headed and the firm.
Try to acquire an equal knowledge of all branches and enrich your store of principles that you may not sink into the use of empty phrases. After this first dash allow considerable time to pass without thinking of such things again. If you have a good idea, never speak just in order to air it but rather lay it aside; the opportunity will come more than once later for you to use it in a more developed and better form. But should someone else forestall you in uttering it, be glad instead of annoyed, for that is a proof that you have felt and thought something universal. Train and develop your mind and watch over your nature and study in other speakers the difference between a mere tongue-warrior and a man of truthfulness and feeling. Do not travel about the country nor rush through all the streets, but accustom yourself to understand the course of the world from your own hearth, in the midst of tried friends; then, when it is time for action, you will come forward with more wisdom than the hounds and tramps. When you speak, speak neither like a facetious hostler nor like a tragic actor, but keep your own natural character upspoilt and then speak as it dictates. Avoid affectation, dont strike attitudes, do not look about you like a field marshal before you begin, or, worse, as if you were lying in wait to spring upon the audience. Never say that you are not prepared when you are, for people will know your style and will perceive it at once. When you have done, do not walk about collecting compliments, or beam with self-satisfaction, but sit quietly down in your seat and listen attentively to the next speaker. Save your harsh phrases as you would gold, so that when, on occasion, you use them in just indignation, it will be an event, and they will strike your opponent like a bolt from the blue. But if you think you may ever associate with an opponent again and work with him, beware of letting your anger carry you into the use of extreme expressions, that the people may not say,
Just so, said Bürgi, but that has been the means of our gaining new growth; we have put forth a vigorous young shoot. I move that the lad be taken into the circle of us old fellows and from now on attend our meetings.
So be it! they all cried and clinked glasses with Karl, who somewhat unthinkingly drained his to the bottom, which lapse however the old men let pass without a murmur in view of the excitement of the moment.
When, thanks to a good lunch, the party felt sufficiently recovered from its adventure, the members scattered. Some went to try a few shots, some to see the trophy-hall and other arrangements, and Frymann went to fetch his daughter and the women whose guest she was; for they were all to meet again for dinner at the same table which stood nearly in the centre of the hall and not far from the platform. They took note of its number and separated in the best of spirits and free from all care.
Exactly at twelve oclock the dinner guests, who were different ones every day and numbered several thousand people, sat down at the table. Country and city people, men and women, old and young, scholars and the unlearnedthey all sat joyfully side by side and waited for the soup, opening bottles and cutting bread meanwhile. Not a single malicious face, not a scream or shrill laugh was seen or heard among them, nothing but the steady hum of a glad wedding feast magnified a hundredfold, the tempered wavebeat of a happy and self-contained ocean. Here a long table filled with marksmen, there a double row of blooming country girls, at a third table a meeting of so-called old fellows from all parts of the country, who had finally passed their examinations, and at a fourth a whole immigrated hamlet, men and women together. Yet these seated hosts formed only half of the assemblage; an equally numerous crowd of spectators streamed uninterruptedly through the aisles and spaces and circled ceaselessly about the diners. Theypraise and thanks be to God!were the careful and economical ones who had counted the cost and satisfied their hunger elsewhere for even less money, that half of the nation that always manages things so much more cheaply and frugally, while the other half flings away money right and left; then there were also the over-fastidious ones who did not trust the cooking and thought the forks were too cheap; and finally there were the poor and the children, who were involuntary spectators. But the former made no unkind remarks and the latter displayed neither torn clothes nor jealous looks; on the contrary, the thrifty ones took pleasure in the spendthrifts, and the super-refined who thought the dishes of green peas in July ridiculous, walked about as good-humoredly as the poor who found their fragrance most tempting. Here and there, to be sure, a piece of culpable selfishness appeared as, for instance, when some tight-fisted young peasant succeeded in slipping unseen into a vacated place and eating away with the rest without having paid; and, what was still worse in the eyes of those who love order and discipline, this reprehensible act did not even result in an altercation and forcible ejection.
The head festival-host stood in front of the broad kitchen door and blew on a hunting horn the signal for a course to be served, whereupon a company of waiters rushed forward and dispersed to the right, to the left and straight ahead, executing a well practised manuvre. One of them found his way to the table at which sat the Upright and Staunch, among them Karl, Hermine, and her friends, cousins or whatever they were. The old men were just listening eagerly to one of the principal speakers who had mounted the platform after a loud roll on the drum. There they sat, grave and composed, with forks laid down, stiff and upright, all their seven heads turned towards the platform. But they blushed like young girls and looked at each other when the speaker began with a phrase from Karls speech, told of the coming of the seven greybeards, and made that the starting-point for his own speech. Karl alone heard nothing, for he was joking quietly with the women, until his father nudged him and expressed his disapproval. As the orator finished amid great applause, the old men looked at one another again; they had been present at many assemblies, but for the first time they themselves had been the subject of a speech and they dared not look around, so embarrassed were they, though at the same time more than happy. But, as the way of the world is, their neighbors all around did not know them, nor suspect what prophets were in their midst, and so their modesty was not offended. With all the greater satisfaction did they press one anothers hands after each of them had gently rubbed his own to himself, and their eyes said: Forward unswervingly! That is the sweet reward of virtue and enduring excellence!
After this Kuser cried: Well, we have to thank our young Master Karl for this pleasure. I think we shall have to promise him Bürgis canopy bed after all and lay a certain doll in it for him. What do you think, Daniel Frymann?
A clever tongue alone isnt always rewarded with a wife! At least in my house a skilful hand has to go with it. Come, my friends, dont let us try to include in our jokes things that dont rightly belong there.
Karl and Hermine were blushing and looking away into the crowd with embarrassment. Just then came the boom of the cannon-shot that announced the recommencement of the shooting and for which a long line of marksmen were waiting, rifle in hand. Immediately their rifle-fire crackled all down the line; Karl rose from the table saying that he too now wanted to try his luck, and betook himself to the range.
But it happened that the women lost sight of one another in the crowd and at last Hermine was left alone with Karl and went with him faithfully from target to target. He began at the extreme end where there was no crowd and, although he shot with no particular earnestness, made two or three hits in succession. Turning round to Hermine who stood behind him he said laughing:
Youre very high-principled and economical, she said almost tenderly, I like that. But its the best fun of all to accomplish with a little just as much as the others with their elaborate preparations and terrible exertions. So pull yourself together and win with your twenty-five cartridges. If I were a marksman Id make myself succeed.
He looked at her steadily, and could scarcely withdraw his gaze, for he had never seen her eyes look as they did now; there was a stern and tyrannical gleam in the smiling sweetness of her glance, two spirits spoke eloquently out of its radiance: one was her commanding will, but with that was fused the promise of reward and out of that fusion arose a new mysterious being. Do my will, I have more to give than you suspect, said those eyes, and Karl gazed into them searchingly and eagerly until he and the girl understood each other, there, surrounded by the tumult and surge of the festival. When he had satisfied his eyes with this radiance, he turned again, aimed calmly and scored once more. Now he himself began to feel that it was possible; but as people were beginning to gather about him, he went away and sought a quieter and emptier range, and Hermine followed him. There he again made several hits without wasting a shot; and so he began to handle his cartridges as carefully as gold coins, and Hermine accompanied every one with avaricious, shining eyes as it disappeared into the barrel; but each time, before Karl took his aim without haste or agitation, he looked into the beautiful face beside him. As soon as people began to notice his luck and collect round him, he went on to another range; nor did he stick the checks he received in his hatband, but gave them to his companion to keep; she held the whole little pack and never did a marksman have a more beautiful number-bearer. Thus he actually did fulfill her wish and made such fortunate use of his twenty-five cartridges that not one of them struck outside the prescribed circle.
Ive done it once, but Ill never be able to again as long as I live, said Karl, and its you who are responsible, with your eyes. I am only wondering what all else you intend to accomplish with them!
The old men were sitting deep in pleasant conversation; most of the crowd in the hall had changed but they stuck fast to their table and let life surge about them. Hermine went up to them laughing and cried:
Hediger, however, paled with wonder and satisfaction to think that he should have a son gifted with eloquence, and famous in the use of arms, who would go forth with deeds and actions from his obscure tailor-shop into the world. Inwardly he began to sing small, and decided that he would no longer try to act the guardian. But now they all started for the trophy-temple where they really found the young hero, standing beside the buglers, the shining cup already in his hand, waiting for them. And so to the tune of a merry march off they went with him to the festival hall to christen the cup, as the saying goes, and again their steps were short and firm, their fists were clenched and they looked triumphantly about them. Arrived again at their headquarters, Karl filled the cup, set it in the middle of the table and said,
Accepted! they shouted. The cup began to go the round and new merriment rejuvenated the old men, who had now been in good spirits since dawn. The evening sun streamed in under the countless beams of the hall and gilded thousands of faces already transfigured with pleasure, while the resounding tones of the orchestra filled the room. Hermine sat in the shadow of her fathers broad shoulders, as modest and quiet, as if she couldnt count three. But golden lights from the sun, falling across the cup before her and flashing on its golden lining and the wine, played about her rosy and glowing face and danced with every movement of the wine when the old men in the heat of discussion pounded on the table; and then one could not tell whether she herself was smiling or only the playing lights. She was now so beautiful that young men, looking about the hall, soon discovered her. Merry groups settled themselves near her in order to keep her in sight and people asked one another: Where is she from? Who is the old man? Doesnt anyone know him? Shes from St. Gallen; they say shes a Thurgovian, answered one. No, all the people at that table are from Zurich, said another. Wherever she looked, merry young fellows raised their hats in respectful admiration and she smiled modestly and without affectation. But when a long procession of young men passed the table and all took off their hats she had to cast down her eyes, and still more when a handsome student from Berne suddenly appeared beside her, cap in hand, and with courteous audacity said that he had been sent by thirty friends who were sitting at the fourth table from there, to inform her, with her fathers permission, that she was the most charming girl in the hall. In short, everyone did regular homage to her, the sails of the old men swelled with new triumph, and Karls fame was almost obscured by Hermines. But he too was to come to the front once more.
For a stir and a crush arose in the middle aisle caused by two cowherds from Entlibuch who were pushing their way through the throng. They were regular bumpkins with short pipes in their mouths, their Sunday jackets under their brawny arms, little straw hats on their big heads and shirts fastened together across their chests with silver buckles in the shape of hearts. The one who went ahead was a clodhopper of fifty and rather tipsy and unruly; for he wanted to try feats of strength with every man he saw and kept trying to hook his clumsy fingers into everything, at the same time blinking pleasantly, or at times challenging, with his little eyes. So his advance was everywhere marked by offense and confusion. Directly behind him, however, came the second, a still more uncouth customer of eighty, with a shock of short yellow curls, and he was the father of the fifty-year-old. He guided his precious son with an iron hand, without ever letting his pipe go out, by saying from time to time:
Laddie, keep quiet! Orderly, laddie, orderly! and at the same time pushing and pulling him in accordance with his words. So he steered him with able hand through the angry sea until, just as they reached the table of the Seven, a dangerous stoppage occurred, as a group of peasants came up who wanted to call the quarrelsome fellow to account and attack him from both sides. Fearing that his laddie might do some fiendish damage, the father looked about for a place of refuge and saw the old men. Hell be quiet among these old baldpates, he growled to himself, grasped his son with one fist in the small of his back and steered him in between the benches, while with the other he fanned the air behind him to keep off the irritated pursuers, for several of them had already been properly pinched, in all haste.
With your permission, gentlemen, said the octogenarian to the younger old men, let me sit down here a minute so that I can give my laddie another glass of wine. Then he will grow sleepy and be as quiet as a little lamb.
Will you be quiet, or Ill knock the senses out of you before you can turn round, said his father. But when Hediger pushed the full cup towards him he said: Well, then, if the gentlemen will allow it, take a drink, but dont guzzle it all.
Oh, replied the father around New Years hell be about fifty-two; at least he was screaming in his cradle in 1798 when the French came, drove away my cows and burnt my house. But because I took a couple of them and knocked their heads together, I had to fly, and my wife died of misery in the meantime. Thats why I have to bring up my boy alone.
In the meantime the youthful neer-do-well had drained the fragrant cup. He filled his pipe and looked round the circle blinking most happily and peacefully. Thus he discovered Hermine and the womanly beauty that radiated from her suddenly rekindled ambition in his heart and the desire to show his strength. As his eye fell simultaneously on Karl who was sitting opposite him, he invitingly stretched out his crooked middle finger across the table.
Stop that, Sonny! Has Satan got into you again? cried his father wrathfully, and was about to take him by the collar, but Karl told him to let the other be and hooked his middle finger into that of the young bear and then they tried, each to pull the other over to him.
The two hands now wavered for a considerable time over the centre of the table; Karl soon ceased laughing and grew crimson in the face, but at last he gradually drew the arm and shoulder of his opponent perceptibly towards his side of the table and with that the victory was won.
The man from Entlibuch looked at him quite bewildered and downcast, but not for long; his old father, now enraged at his defeat, boxed his ears, and much ashamed he looked at Hermine; then he suddenly began to cry and said, sobbingly:
That is true, said Hediger, his father, and, after some reflection he continued enthusiastically: Therefore let us forever and ever praise the new era which is again beginning to train men to be men and which commands not only the country gentleman and the mountain herdsman but the tailors son as well to train his limbs and develop his body so that it can do something.
That is true, said Frymann also awaking from meditation, and we too have all taken part in the struggle to bring on this new era. And to-day, as far as our old heads are concerned, we, with our little banner, are celebrating the final result, the command Cease firing! and the rest we leave to the young ones. But now, no one has ever been able to say of us that we stuck obstinately to our errors and misunderstandings. On the contrary, we have always striven to keep our minds open to all that was rational, true, and beautiful; and so I herewith frankly and openly take back my declaration in regard to the children and invite you, Friend Kaspar, to do the same. For what better memorial of this day could we found, plant, and establish than a living line; springing directly from the loins of our friendship, a family whose children will preserve and transmit the principles and the unswerving faith of the Upright Seven? Well then, let Bürgi bring his canopy-bed that we may equip it. I will lay in it grace and womanly purity; you, strength, resolution and skill, and with that, forward with the waving green banner, because they are young. It shall be left to them and they shall keep it after we are gone. So do not resist longer, old Hediger, but give me your hand as my kinsman.
Good luck! Theres betrothal, thats the way it ought to be! cried some of those sitting near, and at once a throng of people came up to clink glasses with the young couple. As if by arrangement the orchestra struck up, but Hermine managed to slip out of the crowd without letting go of Karls hand, and he led her out of the hall to the festival grounds where already nocturnal silence reigned. They walked round the fortress of flags and as no one was near they stood still. The flags waved with animation and whispered together but they could not discover the little banner of friendship, for it had disappeared in the folds of a huge neighbor and was well taken care of. But overhead in the starlight the Swiss flag snapped in its constant solitude and the sound of the bunting could plainly be heard. Hermine put her arms round her betrotheds neck, kissed him of her own accord. and said tenderly and with emotion:
Hermine craned her neck and seized Karls hand; but he went nearer and saw one of the sentries of the Aargau sharpshooters standing in the shadow of a pillar. The metal on his equipment gleamed in the dark. Now the two young men recognized each other and the sentry was a tall, fine-looking fellow, the son of a peasant. Karl and Hermine sat down on the steps at his feet and chatted with him for a good half hour before they returned to their party.