Free kindle book and epub digitized and proofread by Project Gutenberg. Annette von Droste-Hülshoff’s The Jew’s Beech (Die Judenbuche) is brilliantly constructed with apparent artlessness on a platform of paradoxes. It is a tale that . Die Judenbuche / The Jew’s Beech-Tree: German | English (German and English Edition) [Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, Lillie Winter] on *FREE*.
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Frederick Mergel, born inwas the son of a judebuche landowner of the lower class in the village of B. The province to which it belonged was in those days one of those secluded corners of the globe, without factories or trade, without highways, where a strange face still caused a sensation, and to travel thirty miles even for the people of position, was a matter which raised them to the rank of Ulysses – in short, a spot like so many others in Germany with the failings and virtues, the originality and narrowness which thrive only in such surroundings.
Owing to very simple and often inadequate laws, the ideas of the inhabitants about right and wrong had got into disorder, or rather, a second system of laws had grown up – the law of public opinion, of custom firmly established by time.
The landowners, who were responsible for the dispensing of justice, punished and rewarded according to their own ideas, which were in most cases honest: It is difficult to look at that period impartially; since it disappeared it has been either arrogantly censured or stupidly praised, for those who lived in it are dazzled by precious memories, and the later-born do not understand it.
But this at least can be asserted: For he who acts according to his convictions, however faulty they may be, can never be quite lost, but nothing is more soul-destroying than having to obey laws which one feels in one’s heart to be wrong. A race of people more restless and adventurous than their neighbors was the reason why many things in the little province of which we are speaking appeared in more glaring colors than in other places under the same circumstances.
Crimes were daily committed in the forest, and he who got a broken head in the fighting which constantly occurred had to see to the binding up of it himself. But as most of the wealth of the province consisted in the large and productive forests, these were naturally sharply guarded; not so much in a lawful manner as by constantly renewed attempts to overcome violence and cunning by the same weapons. The village of B. Its position amidst the deep and lofty loneliness of the forest began early to nourish the inborn obstinacy of the people.
The proximity of a river which flowed into the sea, and was large enough to bear decked boats which could carry the timber for ship-building safely and easily out of the country, was to a great extent responsible for encouraging the natural audacity of the people, and the fact that the whole neighborhood teemed with forest rangers only acted as an incentive, as the frequent clashes between rangers and peasants generally ended in a victory for the peasants.
Thirty, forty wagons would drive out at the same time on a fine moonlight night, with twice as many men of all ages, from half-grown boys to the seventy-year-old mayor, who led the company with the same proud consciousness with which he took his seat in the court room.
Those who remained behind heard with indifference the gradually lessening noise of the wheels in the defiles, and went off to sleep again. An occasional shot, a feeble scream would sometimes cause a young wife or sweetheart to start up in alarm; but nobody else took any notice of it. At the earliest sign of dawn the company returned as silently as they had gone out, their faces glowing like bronze, here and there a head bound up, but of that no notice was taken; and a few hours later the whole neighborhood knew of the ill luck of one or more rangers, carried out of the wood, beaten, blinded with snuff, and incapable for a time of doing their work.
In this district Frederick Mergel was born, in a house which, in the proud possession of a chimney and a few panes of glass in the window, showed the pretensions of its builder, and in its present decayed state showed the miserable circumstances of its present owner.
What had been a railing round courtyard and garden had become a neglected fence, the roof was ruinous, other people’s cattle were pastured on the meadow, other people’s corn grew in the field beyond the courtyard, and in the garden, with the exception of a few woody rose-bushes left over from better times, more weeds grew than flowers.
True, ill luck had been to a certain extent the cause of all this; but there had been also a great deal of lack of organization and bad management. Frederick’s father, old Hermann Mergel, had as a bachelor been a so-called good drinker, that is, one who drank himself into the gutter on Sundays and holidays, and behaved himself well on other days. So he found no obstacles put in the way of his courtship of a pretty and well-to-do girl.
The wedding was a-merry one. Mergel was not too drunk, and the bride’s parents went happily home that evening; but on the following Sunday the young wife, covered with blood, was seen to run screaming through the village to her old home, leaving behind her all her good clothes and new belongings. That caused great scandal and annoyance to Mergel, who needed comfort more than ever. By the afternoon no pane of glass in his windows remained intact, and late that night he was still lying across his doorstep, at intervals trying to lift a broken bottle to his lips, and cutting hands and face miserably in the attempt.
His young wife stayed with her parents and very soon pined away and died. Whether it was remorse or shame by which Mergel was now overcome, it remains certain that from that time on he was looked upon as completely demoralized. The household went to pieces, the maids caused trouble and scandal: Mergel remained a taciturn and at last rather poor widower, until he suddenly let it be known that he was about to marry again. The fact itself was unexpected, but the personality of the bride made it an even greater wonder.
Margaret Semmler was an honest, respectable, middle-aged person, who had been in her youth a village beauty. She was still a clever and capable housewife and not penniless; so that nobody could understand what made her contemplate such a step.
Probably her reason can be found in her shrewd and conscious self-sufficiency. It is reported that on the evening before the wedding she said: The result unfortunately showed that she had over-estimated her power.
At first she made a great impression on her husband; when he had had too much to drink he either kept away from the house or crept up to the loft, but after a while the yoke became too irksome, and he was soon seen to reel across the lane into the house, and from inside came the sound of his wild uproar while Margaret hastily closed doors and windows.
On one such occasion – this time not a Sunday – she was seen to rush out of doors without cap or neckerchief, her hair hanging wildly round her head, and throw herself down beside a bed of herbs, where she began to grub up the earth with her hands; then glancing anxiously around her she picked a bunch of herbs and returned slowly towards the house, but went into the loft instead of the house.
The rumor spread that on that day Mergel first hit her, but no word of that ever passed her lips. The second year of this unhappy marriage was marked, one cannot say gladdened, by the birth of a son, for Margaret cried bitterly when the child was handed to her. But in spite of all the sorrows of his mother, Frederick was a healthy, pretty child, and throve in the good air.
The father loved him very much, and never came home without bringing him a bit of cake, or something of that sort, and people even thought he had improved since the birth of his child; at least the noise in the house was much less.
Frederick was nine years old. It was the feast of the Epiphany, a raw, stormy winter night. Hermann Mergel had gone to a wedding, and had started off betimes as the bride’s house was three-quarters of a mile away.
Although he had promised to return in the evening, Frau Mergel did not expect him, more especially as a heavy snowfall had begun at sunset. Towards ten o’clock she raked together the ashes in the fireplace and prepared for bed.
Frederick stood beside her, already half undressed, listening to the howl of the wind and the rattling of the garret window. They were hardly in bed when a gust of wind came which threatened to carry away the house.
The Jew’s Beech
The bed shook, and there was a rustling as of goblins in the chimney. Go to sleep, don’t make me lose the miserable bit of rest I can fie. Frederick was quiet; he listened for a little while longer and then fell asleep.
After a few hours he woke again. The wind had shifted and was now hissing like a snake through the cracks in the window into his ear. His shoulder was stiff; he crept deeper under the quilt and lay quite still judfnbuche fright. After a time he noticed that his mother was not sleeping either. He heard her crying, and in between, “Ave Maria!
An involuntary sigh escaped him. Frederick thought about the devil and wondered what he looked like. The multifarious engglish and uproars in the house seemed strange to him.
He thought there must be something alive both inside and out. The mother raised herself in bed; enlgish howl of the storm lessened for an instant.
Die Judenbuche by Annette von Droste-Hülshoff – Free Ebook
One could distinctly hear knocking on the shutters, and voices, “Margaret, Mistress Margaret, hello, open the door! The rosary fell to the floor, clothes were hastily thrown on. She went over to the hearth, and shortly afterwards Frederick heard her crossing the floor with defiant step.
Margaret did not come back, but there was a great deal of murmuring of strange voices in the kitchen.
Twice a strange man entered the bedchamber and appeared to be looking anxiously for something. Suddenly a lamp was brought in and two judeenbuche came in leading Margaret. She was white as chalk and her eyes were closed. As soon as Margaret regained consciousness she was judehbuche to get rid of the strangers. Her brother stayed with her, and Frederick, obliged to stay in bed under threat of punishment, heard all night long the crackling of the kitchen fire and a noise as of things being pushed backwards and forwards and brushed.
Little was said, and that very quietly, but at times sighs reached the boy that, young as he was, cut him to the quick. Once he heard his uncle say, “Margaret, don’t take that so much to heart; we will both have three masses said, and at Easter we will go on pilgrimage to the Virgin at Werl. When the corpse was carried out two days later Margaret sat by the hearth, hiding her face in her apron. After a few minutes, when it was all quiet, she murmured to herself, “Ten years, ten crosses. We have carried them together, and now I am alone!
Frederick approached her timidly; with her black ribbons and troubled looks his mother seemed to him a sinister figure. Margaret was silent awhile, then she said, “Listen, Fritz, the Almighty lets the trees grow engljsh, and the englksh move from one estate judenbbuche another; they cannot belong to anybody. But you juednbuche understand that yet; now go to the outhouse and fetch some twigs. Frederick had seen his father lying blue and horrible on the straw. But he never said anything about it and apparently did not like to think of dje.
The memory of his father had left in him a mixture of terror and tenderness, and as nothing binds so much as love and care for a being against whom all others seem to have hardened their hearts, so with Frederick this feeling grew with the years, increased by the feeling of the neglect on the part of others. As long as he was a child he was very unhappy if his dead father was spoken of unkindly, and that was a sorrow which the delicacy of judenbucne neighbors did not spare him.
In that district it is believed that a person who dies by an accident cannot rest in his grave. Old Mergel became the Judebuche Wood ghost; he led drunkards like a Jack-o’-lantern till they fell into the ditch the shepherd boys, when they crouched over the fire at night and the owls called around them, heard a voice saying in broken tones but quite clearly, “Now hearken, fine Lizzie,” and an unauthorized wood-cutter who had fallen asleep under a spreading oak and been overtaken by darkness, had on waking seen old Mergel’s swollen blue face watching him through the branches.
Frederick had to hear a great many such stories from the other boys; and he cried, struck out with his fists and once even with a knife, and in return was pitiably thrashed.
After judenbucge he always drove his mother’s cows alone to the further end of the valley, where he would lie in the same position judenbuchd the grass for hours, plucking handfuls of thyme out of the ground. He was twelve years old when a younger brother of his mother, who had not crossed her doorstep since she had married so foolishly, came on a visit from his home in Breder. Simon Semmler was a restless little man, with fish-like eyes, and in fact his whole face englisn like a pike’s, a gloomy person, in whom bragging taciturnity and affected sincerity were equally mixed; who would like to have been thought an enlightened person, but who was really considered a disagreeable, quarrelsome fellow, out of whose way everybody was glad to keep as he got older, for with age dull judwnbuche generally increase their demands as their usefulness decreases.
Now you are old, and the child still small. There is a time enylish everything. But when an old house catches fire, no water is any use.
The Jews’ Beech-Tree
But he is quiet and thoughtful, isn’t he? And does not run about with the other boys? He’ll return that to them yet. What mother’s heart does not rejoice when she hears her child praised? Margaret had never felt so pleased, for every one said her boy was spiteful and taciturn.
Judenbuchw came into her eyes. They say he is not doing much at school.