The Atlantic Monthly/Volume 2/Number 6/A Prisoner of War
A PRISONER OF WAR.
Rugen is a small island, and its chief town is named Rügen also. They are both part of Prussia, as they were in 1807, when Prussia and France were at war. At that time Herr Grosshet was burgomaster, and a very important burgomaster, it should be understood,—taking in proof thereof Herr Grosshet's own opinion on the subject. According to the same high authority the burgomaster was also wondrously sharp; and the consequence of the burgomaster's sharpness was, that an amount of smuggling went on in the town which was simply audacious. None knew better than the burgomaster that the smuggling was audacious; scarcely a shopkeeper he knew, but laughed to his nose; but his dignity was so great, and he had made the central authority believe so strongly in him, that he could not lay a complaint; and the consequence of that was, that, though the townspeople laughed at their mayor, they would not have parted with him on any account. Not a soul in the town but knew of the smuggling, —not a soul who, publicly, was in the least aware of that illegality.
Bertha, as she was commonly called, did not positively belong to the town, but she had lived in it for sixteen years,—at the beginning of which time a very great commotion was created by her discovery, at the age of three, sitting staring on the sea-beach.
She was adopted by the town generally; for there were kind hearts in it,—as most towns have, for that matter; but she was specially adopted by Frau Klass, who took her home and straightway reared her, under the name of Bertha,—for the reason that she had once had a daughter with that name. The new Bertha in time met with a proposal from a flaxen-haired young sailor named Daniel, who left Rügen the next day with a considerably lightened heart. When the foundling had reached nineteen, three things had happened:—Dan had been away three years, and the town had given him up forever; Bertha's mother was no more; and Bertha rather found it her duty to submit to be married to the most odious of his sex, Jodoque by name,—a man who was detested by no one more heartily than by Bertha herself.
I say Bertha found it her duty to be married, and thus:—Frau Klass called Jodoque her nephew, and tried to justify a testament in Bertha's favor by suggesting to her the compensation to her nephew of marrying him. Thus Frau Klass tried to follow both her inclination and her duty, and died serenely at a great age,—assuring Bertha with her last breath that Daniel must be dead, and that Jodoque was an admirable youth, when known, and not at all poor.
So Bertha came into possession of a little farm and a little house. She tried to reconcile duty with inclination by suggesting to Jodoque the propriety of waiting; and he had waited, till he began to question the probability of his ever entering upon the tenancy of his late aunt's farm.
But Bertha at last yielded a consent; and the entire town, ever bearing in mind its universal parentage of Bertha, determined to go to great lengths of rejoicing on the wedding-day; and the burgomaster, a fool and a good man, was certainly not indifferent.
I have said France and Prussia were at war at this time; and, indeed, there were a score of young French prisoners at the fort,—or rather, nineteen, for one got away the very day before that mentioned as Bertha's wedding-day. Two hours after his escape he was kissing the hand of Bertha herself, who had promised him her protection, and hidden him in Frau Klass's own dark room.
Bertha had served the young Frenchman—who shall be called Max—with his breakfast, and was sitting in her porch, wondering about a good many things, when Herr Jodoque arrived. She was thinking how she should get the prisoner away,—what would be said of her, if found out,—how decidedly odious Jodoque was,—how handsome the Frenchman was,—and how she thought he was better-looking even than Daniel, the sailor who had been away three years.
So Herr Jodoque came up to the door of the little cottage, bringing with him a basket. Jodoque believed in the burgomaster as a grand man, and though nobody knew better than Jodoque that he was not very clever, he rather tried in manner to imitate the important mayor.
It is, and was, the custom in Rügen for the bridegroom to make a present, in a fancy basket, to the bride; and that the town might not talk, Jodoque brought his bride a basket, though it was not particularly large, nor was it particularly heavy.
Here is an inventory of its contents, which, with itself, Jodoque laid down with considerable effect:—Imprimis,—one piece of cloth, on the use of which Jodoque gave an essay. Item,—three cards of knitting-wool, for mittens. Item and finis,—one white rabbit, the skin of which, Jodoque suggested, would make him a cap.
"Good!" said Bertha;—"Jodoque," she added.
"You know Madame Kurrig's?"
"At the very other end of the town?"
"Go there, angel?—why?"
"The silver teapot"———
"My sil—my aunt's silver teapot?"
"Just so,—Madame Kurrig"———
"Has got it?—I go!—My aunt's silver teapot!"
He ran down the little road towards the silver teapot,—for, indeed, Madame Kurrig did not bear a superior character,—but he had not proceeded far when he came upon the burgomaster, who was in great tribulation. Only nineteen prisoners were at the fort, and the governor had sent down a rather imperative message to the mayor, who, replying that his loyal town could not conceal a fugitive, met with such an answer as he had never received before in all his life. It is a deplorable fact that he and the town were recommended to go to a place, a visit to which the burgomaster at least hoped he should not be compelled to make.
The burgomaster was in the habit of asking people's opinions and never listening to their answers, and he now asked Jodoque what he was to do. Jodoque suggesting that the mayor could not want advice, the mayor admitted there was something in that,—but still a word was a word. Things, in fact, were in a pretty state, for the burgomaster, now he had to do with the escape of a French prisoner. And this was the case. The French were off the town, and at that time the French had the luck to be generally sure in the matter of victory. Now if the French took the town, and learned that the burgomaster had taken a Frenchman, (for the burgomaster felt sure he could recover the runaway, if he chose,) the burgomaster would perform that pas seul upon the ambient air which is far from a pleasant feat; while if the French did not take the town, and it was brought home to him that he had neglected the duties of his office, he would lose the position of burgomaster and be a degraded man.
Jodoque sadly wanted to reach Madame Kurrig's, but the burgomaster sadly wanted help,—though he would not confess it openly;—so he hooked himself on to Jodoque and uttered this sentence,—"And this detested smuggler, too!"—The effect of which was, that Jodoque became utterly pale and trembled violently. This behavior the burgomaster attributed to his own proper presence, and asked himself,—Could he survive degradation? No, better the tight-rope performance! So he made up his mind to recapture the missing Frenchman.
He, meantime, being a blithe, courageous young midshipman, was gayly chattering with his protectress. There he was laughing at her good-naturedly as she trembled for his sake, and chattering broken German as best he could. Wealth is a good thing, and health a better; but surely high spirited hope is worth more than the philosopher's stone.
"No, Mademoiselle,—I could bear the dark room no longer. Better an hour in the light of your blue eyes than an age in that dark room!"
"Still—nevertheless—it is dangerous to leave the room. The burgomaster"———
"Cannot see all the way here from the town; besides, if he could, your presence would dazzle him, and I should be safe."
"So you can trust your secret with me,—a woman?"
"I would trust it with two women,—three,—for with every disclosure there would be a fear the less that I should be found. You cannot comprehend that,—now consider."
"La! I cannot."
"How good you are! How would they punish you, if they learned the truth?"
"Oh, a good heart—I do think I have a good heart—don't weigh this way and that when there is a good action to be done."
"And done for the sake of a poor stranger."
"Stranger? Nonsense! I meet you,—you are in misfortune; therefore we are old friends. And an old friend may surely lend a room to her old friend."
"And your name?"
"They call me Bertha."
"And you are single?"
"If you ask me that question an hour hence, I shall say, 'No.'"
"No!—the only harsh word you have used."
"Well, shut up in a dark room, you have your thoughts to yourself; and you think, and think, and think again; and you always think of the same thing; and then—then you wake up, and there's an end to your dream."
"And how do you know I have not dreamt?—The clothes I got for you fit you well; you look a German. Ah, you make a grimace!"
"So, you are going to be married."
"In one hour—less five minutes."
"Ah! which way am I to go?"
"Straight back into the house."
"Nonsense!—I should compromise you."
"The house is mine; surely I may do as I like with it."
"And when may I reach the coast?"
"When the night reaches us."
"Well,—yes,—good-bye, I suppose,—and—and promise me one thing?"
"I do promise."
"Don't look at him."
"My husband—who is coming."
"He is so handsome?"
"Oh, magnificent! Good-bye! good-bye!"
Here he ran back into the dark room, while Bertha, who was a spoilt child, if the truth may be told, pulled moodily at one of the two long, black plaits of hair she wore. And it must be set down, sad as it is, that, seeing Jodoque coming up the road to claim her, accompanied by a sailorly-looking personage, she went in and shut the door with a deal of vigor.
The sailorly-looking personage was young, broad-chested, handsome, and had not been in that part of Prussia for some six years. Jodoque, prompted to sudden hospitality, had offered the sailorly personage a seat at his marriage dinner-table, and he, with a great laugh, accepted the invitation. He strolled leisurely on by the side of the bridegroom, until he heard the bride's name, when behold the effect produced! For he started back, and at first showed signs of choking his informant. However, after an awkward stare, he moved on again.
They soon came up to the door, and Jodoque was wondering why his bride did not open it wide to him, when a bright, stout little woman, dressed out in her best, came tripping through the garden-gate, through which the two had just passed. This little woman's name was Doome;—nobody knew why she was called Doome, but everybody called her Doome, all over the little town.
"Good morning, gentlemen! God preserve you, Jodoque! Good morning, Bertha!"—for here the door opened.
As she opened and appeared at the door, the sailor looked hard at her; but she did not start as she returned his look. He thought all women were alike and forgot; but if this broad-chested sailor could have seen his own blue jacket of six years before, perhaps it would have been a good argument to induce him to pardon Bertha's forgetfulness.
"Good day, Miss!" said he, and brushed his cap from his head.
The same explanation touching the sailor's presence was then given to Bertha that I have given to you,—given as the whole party were welcomed into the plain little house by its very far from plain mistress.
"Do you remember faces, Mistress?" said the sailor to Doome.
"Yes, friend sailor."
"Do you remember them for six years?"
"La! no woman can remember for six years," said Doome.
"I think you could, Mistress," said the sailor.
And thereupon the stout little Doome blushed and curtsied.
Meanwhile the bride was thinking of the young Frenchman, and how she could keep her secret, with half the town at the house and about it, as there would be in another half-hour. She thought more of the young stranger every moment, and especially when she gazed upon her future,—which seemed to grow more disagreeable each time she looked at it.
The young sailor, keeping his eyes away from Bertha,—who set to work drawing a huge mug of beer, in which piece of hospitality Jodoque hoveringly helped her,—and addressing himself to Doome, said,— "Do you know, I was nearly snapped up by a shark some months ago?"
With a sympathetic shudder the little woman replied, "The shark was doubly cruel—who could—who could take out of the world so—so fine a young man!"
"Ah! I wish he had!"
"Wish he had?"
"Yes,—his teeth wouldn't have been half so sharp as the teeth biting away at my heart now!"
"Have you ever had a lover?"
Here the little woman laughed outright. A lover! She could have honestly answered, "Yes," if the handsome sailor had asked her if she had had several score. A lover, indeed!
"Ah! well, suppose you only had one, when you were a poor girl, and he left you, what then?"
"Oh, I'd kill him first, and cry myself dead afterwards."
"Well, my sweetheart has gone from me."
"What! what!—given you up for any one?"
"Yes, and—and—I don't think he's my master,—unless it's in dollars."
"Ah!—And who saved you from the shark?"
"A young French officer,—bless him! He harpooned my sealy friend, and found a friend for life,—though it a'n't much a poor sailor-fellow can do for an officer. And, though we're at war with the French, I'd be hanged sooner than fire at his ship."
Here Bertha, assisted by Jodoque, set the big jug down upon the table with a bang. And here, too, something fell down in a neighboring room,—precisely as though a person, journeying in a dark chamber, had upset a heavy wooden chair. The noise sent Doome right into the sailor's arms, and also sent Jodoque right behind Bertha, who turned pale.
"There's some one in the room," said Jodoque.
"No, no!" said Bertha—"'tis poor aunt's room; no one goes there. It's only the rats,—that's all,—only the rats."
For a stranger, the sailor showed a great deal of curiosity; for he turned very red, and said, "Suppose you look and see."
"Oh, no, no! Never mind. 'Tis only rats. No one ever goes into that room. My dear, dear guardian died in that room."
"Yes, Mistress," said the sailor, "but rats don't throw down chairs and tables."
"No, surely no!" said Jodoque.
"And if the house were mine," said the sailor, suiting the action to the word, "why, I'd go up to the door like this,—and I'd put my hand on the latch, and click it should go,—and—"
Bertha ran up to the door too, laid her hand upon the sailor's arm, and drew him away, as he quite willingly let her. Indeed, he trembled and looked pleadingly at her, as she touched him; and he murmured to himself, "Six years make a good deal of change."
"You, a guest, have no right to touch that door."
"If I were your husband, I should have."
"Surely,—but you are not."
"Yes, but this honest man here is as good as your husband."
"No?" said the other three; and Jodoque, but for presence of mind, might have overthrown the big jug of beer.
"No,—for, truly, I'm not going to marry Jodoque."
"Not going to marry me?"
"Not going to marry him?—Why, as sure as you call me Doome, there are the townsfolk, and the musicians, and the good father, and the burgomaster, all with their faces already turned this way, I would wager these new ribbons of mine!"
"Let them all come!"
"To send them back again?"
"No, to witness my marriage."
"And who's the bridegroom?"
"Somebody all of you have forgotten."
"No," said Doome, "I never forget a soul."
"Do you remember the poor sailor-boy Daniel?"
"I never saw him," said Doome. "No, friend sailor, you need not squeeze my hand,—I never did see him."
"Well, he has grown a man, and has come home."
"Then," said Jodoque, "I suppose I may go home."
"Come home?—where is he?—Still, my sailor friend, I can't tell why you should tremble."
"Yes, he has come home; and if he will have me, I will marry him."
"And he'll have a good wife, Bertha," said the sailor, and he made a movement as though about to run to the girl; but little Doome, too impulsive to think about the Fräulein Grundei, enthusiastically clasped the arms of her friend's eulogizer.
"Yes,—marry him!—and at this moment he is in that room! And now any one of you may open the door."
"Open the door?—I'll smash the door!" said the sailor, roughly pushing the girl away from him. "So, Daniel is there, is he? Well, let him come!"
He ran up to the door, threw it open, and there, standing just within, was the young French prisoner of war.
"Good morning, all!" he said.
"You are Daniel, are you?" said the sailor, drawing the other forward to the light. "You are Daniel, are you?"
He dragged him near the window and looked quickly at him. Then he turned pale himself, and wrung his hand.
"Yes!" said he, "yes!—it is Daniel himself,—the very Daniel!"
"Ah! so much the better!" said Doome.
"Daniel? the very Daniel?" said Bertha, faintly, and turned paler yet.
"I know you, comrade," said the sailor, aside,—"I know you. You are the French officer who has escaped, but I'm down in your log for a lump of gratitude; and so, you are Daniel. When a fellow saves you from a shark, perhaps you'll be as willing to give him your name."
"And why am I to take your name?"
"To give it to Bertha, there!"
"Give it to Bertha?"
"Yes! Sign the contract, which the burgomaster has in his pocket; sign it as Daniel;—'tis your only chance. And when you are gone, I have paid my debt. And don't let us cross each other again. You gave me my life, but that is no reason you should rob me of my wife!"
"Rob you of your wife?"
"Yes, of Bertha, who loved me six years ago!"
"Why, she has barely known me six hours!"
"True, but she loves you six times as much as she does the memory of Daniel!"
"But I do not care for her, beyond gratitude for sheltering me from pursuit."
"Oh, she has enough love for two of you!"
"Well, to me, one wife or another,—and she is a nice girl,—and, friend Daniel, where shall we go?"
"My wife and I," said the other, laughing
"You, comrade? I will manage for you; but your wife will stop here."
"Why, you don't suppose I can give up the good girl I have loved for the six years I've been rolling over the seas! 'Tis true, she doesn't remember me, and thinks me dead; but when she learns the truth, all the old love will come back; and she will like me none the less for aiding you. The burgomaster, who shall be in the plot, shall marry you to my wife,—and when you are gone, God speed you! The burgomaster will set all that right, as he can; and Bertha and I will often talk, in our seaside cot, of the French officer that we saved."
Here Doome interrupted the dialogue; for she could not conquer her curiosity farther. So she came up, and complimented the French officer (who was to be called Daniel) on his marriage. "To be sure, he had almost forgotten German; for, as Bertha said, he had left home almost before he could speak like a man, and had been in the French service,—and so there it was! No doubt, now he had come back to Germany, he would soon learn German again, and speak it like a native;—eh, friend sa ilor?" "What, little one? I didn't hear you."
The "little one," not dissatisfied at that term, flounced round, and then gave a little scream,—for all the neighbors, with the burgomaster at their head, were approaching the little house. When they arrived, and the change of husbands was announced, not a neighbor but framed a little mental history,—and, indeed, Jodoque cut rather a ridiculous figure. As for the burgomaster,—who knew the real Daniel, having discoursed with him about the French fleet riding off the island, that very morning,—his dignity prevented him from suddenly spoiling matters. Before he could sufficiently recover himself from the blow which his dignity had received, Daniel came up to him and said these two words,—"Your neck!"
"What do you mean, young man?"
"Suppose the French took Rügen?"
"Well, suppose they did?"
"And suppose you had caused the recapture of a French officer?"
"I haven't the least idea that I have caused a recapture; but suppose so?"
"Well, and if he was hung, and if the French took the place, you'd be hung too."
"What do you mean, young man?"
"That man over there is the French officer who has escaped."
"Good gracious me!"
"Yes, and you must suppose him to be me. Marry him to Bertha, and help him to escape to the French fleet."
"No!—on the faith of a burgomaster, no!—on the word of a German, no!"
"But your neck?"
"I don't care. The French may not take the place."
"And the French may. Who'll be the wiser, burgomaster?"
"My conscience, young sailor."
"And you'll save a man."
"Oh, dear! dear! dear!"
"Here! the best table for the burgomaster! The handsomest chair for the burgomaster! Make a good pen for the burgomaster!"
"Oh, dear! dear! dear!"
The burgomaster then, in the homely German fashion, asked the usual questions, filled up the marriage-contract, and then handed the pen to the bride. She trembled rather as she put her name to the paper, but not so much as the young sailor.
As for the Frenchman, he hesitated before he put his name down,—and when he had done so, he flung the pen away, as though he had done wrong. One hour after that, these two young people were married in the village church.
The little village festivities which followed need not be dwelt upon; but imagine the summer-evening come, and Daniel and the French officer stealing down to the rocky beach. The young sailor showed a deal of doubtful feeling as he saw the tearful energy with which little Bertha parted with her make-believe husband; and when little Doome, who had been let into all the secrets, except the one that Daniel kept to himself—namely, that he was Daniel,—when little Doome crept up to condole with him on the hard case of the newly-married pair, it must be said that he pushed her away quite roughly.
Soon the two men reached the shore. Daniel instinctively went to a little cove where he knew of old a boat would be,—and as darkness came on, the plashing of a couple of oars sounded near the little cove where the boat had been.
"Mind, comrade, I have paid my debt! You may be taken, and you run your chance; though if you get to your ship, you know, one gun, as you promised your wife, fired eastward."
"All right, Daniel. You will like me as well as ever, Daniel, in a few days."
"No, comrade, there's a woman between us."
So the French officer went on his venturesome pull of a couple of miles to the French fleet, and the sailor returned to the little cottage, where were sitting Bertha and Doome. The latter, for his cleverness and perhaps good looks, had begun to consider the sailor as worth far more than those sixty youths who had caused her to laugh when he referred to only one of them. But it is a deplorable fact, that, while Doome welcomed Daniel back with a great deal of heartiness, Fräulein Bertha rather looked upon him as cruel; for what need was there that her husband should have gone? He could have hidden till the French took the place, and then he would have been free. For love conflicts with patriotism woefully, and, though nobody could be more grateful than Bertha for the good service Daniel had done her, yet somehow she could not be over-pleased with him. She thanked him, however, very warmly; but it was Doome who set the chair for him, and Doome who got the beer for him, and Doome who proposed the sailor's solace of a pipe. As the pipe was lit by that young woman, Bertha got up to leave the room.
"Where are you going, Bertha?"
"Into the garden. My head aches."
And she went out.
"I think, Doome,—they call you Doome, don't they? and a tidy name, too,—I think, Doome, Bertha doesn't like pipes."
"I think the smell of a pipe delicious."
"And what do you think of this pipe?"
"Oh! I think it a beautiful pipe!"
"Hum,—so you've lots of lovers?"
"Well,—I have a few."
"Ah!—do they smoke?"
"Yes,—some of them."
"You queer little Doome!—Are any of them rich?"
"Oh, I don't care a bit for money!"
"And what are they?—farmers?"
"I shouldn't like to marry a farmer."
"I suppose Bertha has sat down. I don't hear her step."
"No,—I shouldn't like to marry a farmer,—farmers are such quiet people."
"Don't you marry a sailor!"
"Law, sailor-friend, (I don't know your name,) why?"
"Why? Because, if he went away for six years, you would forget him; and that's what Fritz says."
"No, Mr. Fritz, I should not forget him,—but I should not let him go away for six years."
"But suppose the king ordered him?"
"Then the king don't deserve to have a wife."
"And yet he has."
"So much the worse!"
"Bertha must have sat down."
"You know I don't think I care for one of my lovers. I think I could give them all up,—yes, every one,—if I met with anybody that I could love."
"Yes, and then suppose he didn't care for you?"
As Doome had never considered the probability of any such situation, its suggestion rather startled her. She held her tongue, while Daniel puffed gravely.
Soon Bertha came slowly into the room. "I think he ought to have got there by this time; don't you, Sir?"
"He's named Fritz, Bertha,—call him Fritz."
"Don't you think he ought to be there by this time, Mr. Fritz?"
"Surely, Mistress! You will soon hear the cannon;—'tis not more than two miles, and he left the shore a good hour ago."
So she went up to the window.
"I suppose, Mistress, if he did not come back for six years, you would forget him,—wouldn't you?"
She was so lost in thought, that she didn't answer; so Doome took the answer upon herself. "You are very hard upon us women, Fritz,—Mr. Fritz. No, of course she would not forget him; no wife ever forgets her husband. Why, do you think I should forget you, Fritz,—Mr. Fritz,—if you were my husband, and if you went away for six years?"
"There are women and women, Doome, Fräulein Doome,"—
At this moment the sound of a cannon-shot swept over the little cottage, and Daniel, running to the window, and putting his hand out to feel the breeze, declared that it was fired east-ward.
Now Bertha was at the window, and, as the sailor spoke, he looked into her face. She quickly put her arm round his neck in the German fashion, kissed him gratefully, and said, "You good, good man!"
He kissed her in turn, and looked eagerly at her,—but she didn't recognize him, though he kissed her in precisely the manner of six years ago.
He sat down again, and again smoked,—and as, in the most heroic poem, people eat and drink, and as Anne Boleyn would have thought it hard to starve while her trial was going on, surely, as this is only the chronicle of people such as you may meet any day, and not at all heroic, it may not be wrong to state, that plain-spoken, every-day, love-making little Doome got supper ready.
Bertha had saved a prisoner, Daniel had assisted, and little Doome rather liked Daniel, yet nobody ate much; and when Daniel (at the suggestion of Doome) was furnished with a mattress and blanket on the floor, he did not make use of it, but sat smoking,—smoking for hours after the two women had gone off to Bertha's room.
But when the tobacco-pouch was empty, and the pipe was cold, the sailor fell asleep in his chair; and though he had done a good act the preceding day, he did not sleep well, but sighed heavily as he slumbered on.
And now it was that Jodoque, the Discomfited, again came upon the stage. Having been laughed at by every soul in the village, that poor bachelor went to his lonely house, took a small mug of consolatory weak beer, felt convinced that all women were deceivers, vowed that from that time forth he would think no more of matrimony, and went to bed in the dark,—prompted thereto by the power of economy in candles. He had fallen asleep, and slept soundly, when thrift prompted him to remember that one piece of cloth, several balls of wool, and one white rabbit,—his property,—were at that moment at the deceiver Bertha's. Why should he, the deceived, make the married pair happy, with one piece of cloth, several balls of wool, and a white rabbit? And Jodoque woke up to the terrible truth in a cold sweat. The articles in question were at the deceiver Bertha's. At the first break of day he would go and demand his property. Being unable to sleep through the remainder of the dark hours, he presented but a disreputable appearance when he clapped to the little door of his house.
It was barely light, and it was not an overpowering distance for Jodoque to walk from his house to Bertha's. He knew the household would not be up, but he determined to sit down before it,—besiege it, in fact,—and carry off the cloth, the wool, and the white rabbit, when the enemy should first be moving.
And this is what he saw, as he came up to the cottage:—A young officer in the French uniform was getting in at Bertha's kitchen-window. Jodoque seized the idea, as though it were the white rabbit,—this was the French officer who had escaped yesterday, endeavoring to hide himself in Bertha's house.
Jodoque did not instantly rush forward to re-arrest this prisoner; but it struck him there must be a reward for the recapture; so, determining upon taking the prisoner and the basket at one fell swoop, he tore away to the burgomaster's to inform him of the discovery. He reached the official residence, and drew the pompous little burgomaster to his bedroom-window in a moment. The burgomaster was rather scandalized that such a respectable man as Jodoque should be out at such an hour; but when he heard the information, he grew considerably cold, and rather wished the French fleet would successfully challenge the place at once, and relieve him of his admirable chance of the halter.
Was ever burgomaster in such a fix? He wished his ardent longing for that position had been strangled at his birth. No,—he had saved his neck from the French, he thought to himself, by conniving at the escape of a French officer the day previous, and now his neck was in danger for having very properly tried to save it on that previous day.
But action, action! Whatever came of it, he must appear a patriotic burgomaster; so he took his night-cap off, and, in spite of the energetic remonstrances of the burgomaster's lady, was soon down in the street, surrounded by half a dozen men, and making for Bertha's eventful little mansion—
Within which was passing a terrible scene.
The fact is, that, when the false Daniel arrived at the fleet and reported himself, he found that he had escaped with only part of himself, and rather wanted the rest; and as at that time the French navy was allowed a liberty which it has not now, the young officer laid a statement of the whole case before his commander. That daring personage thus recommended:—A French boat to start away for shore with this young officer, and several more in her; that it should touch near Bertha's house; that Bertha should receive the merest hint, and then take passage for the French fleet herself.
The French officer, attended by half-a-dozen more youths, came back to the shore, and, just as day was peeping, came up to the little right-hand window; and as no one answered his tap, he raised the sash and jumped lightly in.
This Jodoque saw and reported to the burgomaster; but he could not tell the remainder.
For Daniel, waked by the tapping on the window-pane, saw who it was, and believing that he had come to steal his wife from him, he clenched his fists, and, as the slim young man jumped down into the room, crushed him almost dead in his strong arms.
"Not a word, or I'll stifle you!"
"Not a word,—and don't Daniel me, you thief!"
"Don't speak loud."
"You would steal my wife from me."
"How your wife?"
"Why, Bertha;—she promised to marry me six long years ago, and she would have married me, if you had not come and stolen her heart."
"Why, you yourself gave her to me!"
"Ah! I owed you a debt I had to pay. 'Tis paid now. I thought you gone, and the marriage knocked on the head; but now, you've come back, and won't go again!"
"Don't Daniel me, I say, and don't speak loud; at least, she sha'n't see you taken off. Lie quiet for her sake, and show your love for her that way."
"And so you'll give me up, old friend, whose life I saved?"
"Saved!—you saved it once, and I saved yours. You took away my hope when you robbed me of my wife;—now I give you a like return."
"And you yourself, Daniel, who harbored me yesterday"—
"That's nothing to you.—Lie still till some one passes."
For the strong sailor had tipped the officer on to the mattress. There he lay,—not from want of courage, but because he did not know what to do.
The sailor felt for his pipe, but he remembered that all the tobacco was smoked up; so he set the pipe down again and bit his nails.
He had not waited a quarter of an hour when a voice said,—"This way, Herr Burgomaster!—this way!"
The sailor and his prisoner both started to their feet; and the burgomaster, coming to the open window, lost the last faint hopes he had had that this said French officer might not, after all, be the French officer at whose escape he, the respected burgomaster and butcher, had assisted.
"Mr. Burgomaster, here is a French prisoner,—and I hand him to you as the fit personage to place him in the hands of the commander."
Thus spoke Daniel, and, as he spoke, Bertha appeared at the door of her room, and with her Doome, who hearing this little speech, all her liking for the sailor vanished on the instant. She was ready to utterly exterminate him, and more than ready to cry, which she did, straightway.
As this is only a little comedy, and by no means tragical, we pass over the next scene, and simply state, that Bertha, before all those neighbors, forgot everybody but her husband,—if he may be called so,—and the church had said so; that Daniel felt great remorse at what he had done; that he told Doome again that he wished the shark had finished him; that Doome didn't or wouldn't hear, for her idol was broken,—and so was Doome's heart, nearly.
The authorities took away the prisoner, and left Bertha and Doome wretched and alone. As for Daniel, he went out wandering by himself,—for he rather felt ashamed to look upon anybody.
At this time, a little boat with a white flag at its prow put off from the French fleet, and bravely approached the bristling fort of Rügen. Nearer and nearer it comes,—nearer and nearer; and in half an hour there is great cheering over the island of Rügen, for peace between Prussia and France is declared.
'Tis true, the peace did not last very long; but it lasted long enough to save the French officer. He was set at liberty at once, and an hour afterwards Daniel could look people in the face again,—all except Doome, who would not cease to be incensed.
"But then," said Daniel, "you know I'd been waiting six years."
"How?" exclaimed Bertha.
"Yes, Bertha,—I'm the real Daniel. Look here!"—and half a little silver cross came forward.
"And you didn't say it when you came!—and you actually gave her to him!—and you saved his life!—and oh! you, you CAPTAIN of a man!"
Thus Doome spoke and was comforted.
And Bertha went up to her old sweetheart and kissed him, saying, she thought she knew of a better wife for him than she could ever have made,—for, now that Ernest (the French officer) had suffered so much for her sake, she had no right to leave him. And, indeed, they were re-married that day.
It was after Bertha had said she knew of a better wife for him, that Daniel looked at Doome, who, picking up that pipe of his, handed it to him.
"Will you take care of it, Doome?"
"Save when you want it."
"Oh! I mean to come with it."
"'Tis the handsomest pipe in all Germany,—and—and I won't part with it till I part with you."
Hence, you see, there were two marriages that morning. Doome parted with the pipe a good deal,—for Daniel loved the sea as heartily as he had loved Bertha and grew to love Doome, who assured him many times that she was a far better wife for him than Bertha would have made. Whereupon Daniel would kiss her,—so you can draw your own conclusion as to his motive. For my part, I say first love is only heart-love,—and you see the heart is not so wise as the head.
By the time the long war was over,—with Waterloo for the last act,—Ernest had made not a little money; so he and Bertha—now a grand lady—came to Rügen. Ernest learned German, perfectly, from his own children and Doome's, and turned his sword into a ploughshare.
As for Daniel,—he gave up the sea and took a wine-shop.
Those four people are now still alive; and if Bertha and Daniel did not marry, their children have,—though it was rather lowering to those grand young ladies and gentlemen, Bertha's children.
Those four, when they meet and clapper their friendly old tongues, can hardly believe that once upon a time they were all at sixes and sevens,—and that Ernest himself was once in that very place a Prisoner of War.