Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

CHAPTER VIII.

How our need waxed sorer and sorer, and how I sent old Ilse with another

letter to Pudgla, and how heavy a misfortune this brought upon me,

Ņext day, when I had buried the poor corpses amid the lamentations of the whole village (by the same token that they were all buried under where the lime-tree overhangs the wall*), I heard with many sighs that neither the sea nor the Achterwater would yield anything. It was now ten days since the poor people had caught a single fish. I therefore went out into the field, musing how the wrath of the just God might be turned from us, seeing that the cruel winter was now at hand, and neither corn, apples, fish nor flesh, to be found in the village, nor even throughout all the parish. There was indeed plenty of game in the forests of Coserow and Uekeritze ; but the old forest ranger, Zabel Nehring, had died last year of the plague, and there was no new one in his place. Nor was there a musket nor a grain of powder to be found in all the parish; the enemy had robbed and broken everything: we were therefore forced, day after day, to see how the stags and the roes, the hares and the wild boars, et cet., rạn past us, when we would so gladly have had them in our bellies, but had no means at getting at them: for they were too cunning to let themselves be caught in pit-falls. Nevertheless, Claus Peer succeeded in trapping ą roe, and gave me a piece of it, for which may God reward him. Item, of domestic cattle there was not a head left ; neither was there a dog nor a cat, which the people had not either eaten in their extreme hunger, or knocked on the head, or drowned long since. Albeit old farmer Paasch still owned two cows; item, an old man iņ Uekeritze was said to have one little pig :--this was all. Thus, then, nearly all the people lived on blackberries and other wild fruits ; the which also soon grew to be scarce, as may easily be guessed. Besides all this, a boy of fourteen was missing (old Labahn his son) and was

* This exists no longer.

never more heard of, 'sò that I shrewdly think that the wolves devoured him.

And now let any Christian judge by his own heart in what Sorrow and heaviness I took my staff in my hand, seeing that my child fell away like a shadow from pinching hunger; although I myself, being old, did not, by the help of God's mercy, find any great failing in my strength. While I thus went continually weeping before the Lord, on the way to Uekeritze, I fell in with an old beggar with his wallet, sitting on a stone, and eating a piece of God's rare gift, to wit, a bit of bread. Then truly did my poor mouth so fill with water, that I was forced to bow my head and let it run upon the earth before I could ask, “Who art thou ? and whence comest thou ? seeing that thou hast bread.” Whereupon he answered that he was a poor man of Bannemin, from whom the enemy had taken all; and as he had heard that the Lieper Winkel* had long been in peace, he had travelled thither 'to beg. I straightway answered him, “Oh, poor beggarman, spare to me, a sorrowful servant of Christ, who is poorer even than thyself, one little slice of bread for his wretched child; for thou must know that I am the pastor of this village, and that my daughter is dying of hunger. I beseech thee by the living God not to let me depart without taking pity on me, as pity alsó 'hath been shown to thee !" But the beggarman would give me none, saying that he himself had a wife and four children, who were likewise staggering towards death's door under the bitter pangs of hunger; that the famine was sorer far in Bannemin than here, where we still had berries; whether I had not heard that but a few days ago a woman (he told me her name, but horror'made me forget it) had there killed her own child, and devoured it from hunger ? That he could not therefore help me, and I might go to the Lieper Winkel myself.

I was horror-stricken at his tale, as is easy to guess, for we in our own trouble had not yet heard of it, there being little or no traffic between one village and another; and thinking on Jerusalem, and sheer despairing because the Lord had visited

• A remote part of the Island of Usedom. + Micrelius also mentions this horrible event in his history of Pomerania # Where, according to Josephus, the same thing occurred.

us, as of old that ungodly city, although we had not betrayed or crucified him, I almost forgot all my necessities, and took my staff in my hand to depart. But I had not gone more than a few yards when the beggar called me to stop, and when I turned myself round he came towards me with a good hunch of bread which he had taken out of his wallet, and said, “There ! but pray for me also, so that I may reach my home; for if on the road they smell that I have bread, my own brother would strike me dead, I believe.” This I promised with joy, and instantly turned back to take to my child the gift hidden in my pocket. And behold, when I came to the road which leads to Loddin, I could scarce trust my eyes (before I had overlooked it in my distress) when I saw my glebe, which could produce seven bushels, ploughed, sown, and in stalk; the blessed crop of rye had already shot lustily out of the earth a finger's length in height. I could not choose but think that the Evil One had deceived me with a false show, yet, however hard I rubbed my eyes, rye it was, and rye it remained. And seeing that old Paasch his piece of land which joined mine was in like manner sown, and that the blades had shot up to the same height, I soon guessed that the good fellow had done this deed, seeing that all the other land lay waste. Wherefore, I readily forgave him for not knowing the morning prayer; and thanking the Lord for so much love from my flock, and earnestly beseeching him to grant me strength and faith to bear with them steadfastly and patiently all the troubles and adversities which it might please him henceforward to lay upon us, according to his divine pleasure, I ran rather than walked back into the village to old Paasch his farm, where I found him just about to kill his cow, which he was slaughtering from grim hunger. "God bless thee,” said I, “ worthy friend, for sowing my field, how shall I reward thee?” But the old man answered, “Let that be, and do you pray for us ;” and when I gladly promised this, and asked him how he had kept his corn safe from the savage enemy, he told me that he had hidden it secretly in the caves of the Streckelberg, but that now all his store was used up. Meanwhile he cut a fine large piece of meat from the top of the loin, and said, “ There is something for you, and when that is gone you can come again for more.” As I was then about to go with many thanks, his little Mary, a child nearly

seven years old, the same who had said the Gratias on the • Streckelberg, seized me by the hand, and wanted to go to school

to my daughter; for since my Custos, as above mentioned, de

parted this life in the plague, she had to teach the few little ones - there were in the village; this, however, had long been aban

doned. I could not, therefore, deny her, although I feared that · my child would share her bread with her, seeing that she dearly

loved the little maid, who was her godchild; and so indeed it happened ; for when the child saw me take out the bread, she shrieked for joy, and began to scramble up on the bench. Thus she also got a piece of the slice, our maid got another, and my child put the third piece into her own mouth, as I wished for none, but said that I felt no signs of hunger and would wait until the meat was boiled, the which I now threw upon the bench. It was a goodly sight to see the joy which my poor child felt, when I then also told her about the rye. She fell upon my neck, wept, sobbed, then took the little one up in her arms, danced about the room with her, and recited, as she was wont, all manner' of Latin versus, which she knew by heart. Then she would prepare a right good supper for us, as a little salt was still left in the bottom of a barrel of meat which the Imperialists had broken up. I let her take her own way, and having scraped some soot from the chimney and mixed it with water, I tore a blank leaf out of * Virgilius,' and wrote to the Pastor Liepensis, his reverence Abraham Tiburtius, praying that for God his sake he would take our necessities to heart, and would exhort his parishioners to savè us from dying of grim hunger, and charitably to spare to us some meat and drink, according as the all-merciful God had still left some to them, seeing that a beggar had told me that they had long been in peace from the terrible enemy. I knew not, however, wherewithal to seal the letter, until I found in the church a little wax still sticking to a wooden altar-candlestick, which the Imperialists had not thought it worth their while to steal, for they had only taken the brass ones. I sent three fellows in a boat with Hinrich Seden, the churchwarden, with this letter to

[ocr errors]

First, however, I asked my old Ilse, who was born in Liepe, whether she would not rather return home, seeing how matters stood, and that I, for the present at least, could not give her a

estiver of her wages (mark that she had already saved up a small ísum, seeing that she had lived in my service above twenty years, but the soldiers had taken it all). Howbeit, I could nowise persuade her to this, but she wept bitterly, and besought me only to let her stay with the good damsel whom she had rocked in her cradle. She would cheerfully hunger with us if it needs must be, so that she were not turned away. Whereupon, I yielded to her, and the others went alone.

Meanwhile the broth was ready, but scarce had we said the Gratias, and were about to begin our meal, when all the children of the village, seven in number, came to the door, and wanted bread, as they had heard we had some from my daughter her little godchild. Her heart again melted, and notwithstanding I besought her to harden herself against them, she comforted me with the message to Liepe, and poured out for each child a portion of broth on a wooden platter (for these also had been despised by the enemy), and put into their little hands a bit of meat, so that all our store was eaten up at once. We were, therefore, left fasting next morning, till towards midday, when the whole village gathered together in a meadow on the banks of the river to see the boat return. But, God be merciful to us, we had cherished vain hopes ! six loaves and a sheep, item, a quarter of apples, was all they had brought. His reverence Abraham Tiburtius wrote to me that after the cry of their wealth had spread throughout the island, so many beggars had flocked thither that it was impossible to be just to all, seeing that they themselves did not know how it might fare with them in these heavy troublous times. Meanwhile he would see whether he could raise any more. I therefore with many sighs had the small pittance carried to the manse, and though two loaves wer-, as Pastor Liepensis said in his letter, for me alone, I gave them up to be shared among all alike, whereat all were content save Seden his squint-eyed wife, who would have had somewhat extra on the score of her husband's journey, which, however, as may be easily guessed, she did not get; wherefore she again muttered certain words between her teeth as she went away, which, however, no one understood. Truly she was an ill woman, and not to be moved by the word of God.

Any one may judge for himself that such a store could not last

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »