Like as the traveller, who, when the sun is approaching its setting, Fixes his eyes on it once again ere quickly it vanish, Then on the sides of the rocks, and on all the darkening bushes, Sees its hovering image; whatever direction he look in That hastes before, and flickers and gleams in radiant colors,-- So before Hermann's eyes moved the beautiful shape of the maiden Softly, and seeming to follow the path that led into the cornfield. But he aroused from his wildering dream and turned himself slowly Towards where the village lay and was wildered again; for again came Moving to meet him the lofty form of the glorious maiden. Fixedly gazed he upon her; herself it was and no phantom. Bearing in either hand a larger jar and a smaller, Each by the handle, with busy step she came on to the fountain. Joyfully then he hastened to meet her; the sight of her gave him Courage and strength; and thus the astonished girl he accosted: "Do I then find thee, brave-hearted maiden, so soon again busy, Rendering aid unto others, and happy in bringing them comfort? Say why thou comest alone to this well which lies at such a distance, When all the rest are content with the water they find in the village? This has peculiar virtues, 'tis true; and the taste is delicious. Thou to that mother wouldst bring it, I trow, whom thy faithfulness rescued."
Straightway with cordial greeting the kindly maiden made answer: "Here has my walk to the spring already been amply rewarded, Since I have found the good friend who bestowed so abundantly on us; For a pleasure not less than the gifts is the sight of the giver. Come, I pray thee, and see for thyself who has tasted thy bounty; Come, and the quiet thanks receive of all it has solaced. But that thou straightway the reason mayst know for which I am hither Come to draw, where pure and unfailing the water is flowing, This I must tell thee,--that all the water we have in the village Has by improvident people been troubled with horses and oxen Wading direct through the source which brings the inhabitants water. And furthermore they have also made foul with their washings and rinsings All the troughs of the village, and all the fountains have sullied; For but one thought is in all, and that how to satisfy quickest Self and the need of the moment, regardless of what may come after."
Thus she spoke, and the broad stone steps meanwhile had descended With her companion beside her, and on the low wall of the fountain Both sat them down. She bent herself over to draw, and he also Took in his hand the jar that remained, and bent himself over, And in the blue of the heavens, they, seeing their image reflected, Friendly greetings and nods exchanged in the quivering mirror.
"Give me to drink," the youth thereupon in his gladness petitioned, And she handed the pitcher. Familiarly sat they and rested, Both leaning over their jars, till she presently asked her companion: "Tell me, why I find thee here, and without thy horses and wagon, Far from the place where I met thee at first? how camest thou hither?"
Thoughtful he bent his eyes on the ground, then quietly raised them Up to her face, and, meeting with frankness the gaze of the maiden, Felt himself solaced and stilled. But then impossible was it, That he of love should speak; her eye told not of affection, Only of clear understanding, requiring intelligent answer. And he composed himself quickly, and cordially said to the maiden: Hearken to me, my child, and let me reply to thy question. 'Twas for thy sake that hither I came; why seek to conceal it? Know I live happy at home with both my affectionate parents, Faithfully giving my aid their house and estates in directing, Being an only son, and because our affairs are extensive. Mine is the charge of the farm; my father bears rule in the household; While the presiding spirit of all is the diligent mother. But thine experience doubtless has taught thee how grievously servants, Now through deceit, and now through their carelessness, harass the mistress, Forcing her ever to change and replace one fault with another. Long for that reason my mother has wished for a maid in the household, Who not with hand alone, but with heart, too, will lend her assistance, Taking the daughter's place, whom, alas! she was early deprived of. How when to-day by the wagon I saw thee, so ready and cheerful, Witnessed the strength of thine arms, and thy limbs of such healthful proportion, When thy intelligent speech I heard, I was smitten with wonder. Hastening homeward, I there to my parents and neighbors the stranger Praised as she well deserved. But I now am come hither to tell thee What is their wish as mine.--Forgive me my stammering language."
"Hesitate not," she, answering, said, "to tell me what follows. Thou dost not give me offence; I have listened with gratitude to thee: Speak it out honestly therefore; the sound of it will not alarm me. Thou wouldst engage me as servant to wait on thy father and mother, And to look after the welt-ordered house of which ye are the owners; And thou thinkest in me to find them a capable servant, One who is skilled in her work, and not of a rude disposition. Short thy proposal has been, and short shall be also my answer. Yes, I will go with thee home, and the call of fate I will follow. Here my duty is done: I have brought the newly made mother Back to her kindred again, who are all in her safety rejoicing. Most of our people already are gathered; the others will follow. All think a few days more will certainly see them returning Unto their homes; for such is the exile's constant delusion. But by no easy hope do I suffer myself to be cheated During these sorrowful days which promise yet more days of sorrow. All the bands of the world have been loosed, and what shall unite them, Saving alone the need, the need supreme, that is on us? If in a good man's house I can earn my living by service, Under the eye of an excellent mistress, I gladly will do it; Since of doubtful repute, must be always a wandering maiden. Yes, I will go with thee, soon as I first shall have carried the pitchers Back to my friends, and prayed the good people to give me their blessing. Come thou must see them thyself, and from their hands must receive me."
Joyfully hearkened the youth to the willing maiden's decision, Doubtful whether he ought not at once to make honest confession. Yet it appeared to him best to leave her awhile in her error, Nor for her love to sue, before leading her home to his dwelling. Ah! and the golden ring he perceived on the hand of the maiden, Wherefore he let her speak on, and gave diligent ear to her language.
"Come," she presently said, "Let us back to the village; for maidens Always are sure to be blamed if they tarry too long at the fountain. Yet how delightful it is to chat by the murmuring water!"
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