Faldum

The road that led to the town of Faldum ran far through the hilly country, now past forests or past green, wide pastures, now past cornfields, and the closer it got to the town, the more farms, dairies, and gardens stood and country houses along the way. The sea was far away, you couldn’t see it, and the world seemed to consist of nothing but small hills, small pretty valleys, pastures, forests, farmland and orchards. It was a land that lacked fruit and wood, milk and meat, apples and nuts. The villages were very pretty and clean, and the people were on the whole well-behaved and hardworking and not friends of dangerous or exciting undertakings, and everyone was satisfied when his neighbor was no better off than himself. Such was the land of Faldum,

The pretty road to the town of Faldum (it was called like the country) had been as lively as it was that morning since the first cock crow was to be seen only once a year, for the big market was to be held in the city today, and for twenty miles around there was no peasant, no peasant woman, no master, no journeyman, no apprentice, no servant, no maid, no boy or girl who hadn’t thought of the big market for weeks and dreamed of visiting it. None of them could go now; cattle and small children, the sick and the elderly, had to be cared for, and anyone who had been fortunate enough to have to stay to look after the house and farm seemed to have lost almost a year of his life and felt sorry for it the beautiful sun that has been warm and festive in the blue late summer sky since early morning.

The women and maids came out with little baskets on their arms, and the boys with shaved cheeks, and everyone with a carnation or aster in their buttonhole, all in their Sunday cleaning, and the schoolgirls with carefully plaited hair that was still damp and greasy in the sun. Whoever drove wore a flower or a red ribbon tied to the whip handle, and whoever was able to do so, his horses had polished brass disks up to their knees on the wide leatherette. Cart wagons came driving, over which a green roof had been built from curved beech branches, and people sat tightly packed beneath them with baskets or children on their laps, and Most of them sang loudly in the choir, and every now and then, especially adorned with flags and with paper flowers red and blue and white in the green beech leaves, came a carriage from which resounding village music poured out, and between the branches in the partial shade one could see it golden horns and trumpets sparkle softly and deliciously. Small children who had had to walk since sunrise began to cry and were comforted by sweating mothers, some things were taken in by a good-natured carter. An old woman pushed a pair of twins in a pram, and they both slept, and between the sleeping children’s heads lay on the pillow, no less round and red-cheeked, two beautifully dressed and steeled dolls.

Anyone who lived by the road and was not on the way to the fair today, had an entertaining morning and had to keep both eyes full. But there were few. A ten-year-old boy was sitting on a garden staircase and crying because he was supposed to stay at home alone with his grandmother. But when he had sat and cried enough and just saw a couple of village boys trotting by, he jumped out into the street and joined them. Not far from there lived an old bachelor who didn’t want to hear about the fair because he regretted the money. He had resolved on this day, when everyone was celebrating To prune the tall hawthorn hedge in his garden very quietly for himself, because it needed it, and he had hardly gone to work with his large hawthorn shears as soon as the morning dew had passed a little. But after a little hour he had stopped again and angrily crawled into the house, because no boy had passed by or drove by who had not watched in amazement as the hedge was cut and threw the man a joke about his untimely industriousness, and the girls had to do so laughed; and when he got angry and threatened with his long scissors, everyone had waved their hats and waved to him with a laugh. Now he was sitting inside behind closed shutters, but eyed enviously through the cracks, and when his anger had passed with time and he saw the last scanty market-goers hurrying by and hurrying by, as if it were a matter of bliss, he put on boots, put a taler in his purse, took the stick and wanted to go. It quickly occurred to him that a thaler was a lot of money; he took it out again, put half a thaler in the leather pouch instead, and tied it up. Then he put the bag in his pocket, locked the house and the garden door, and ran so quickly that he passed many pedestrians and even two cars as far as the town. instead put half a thaler in the leather pouch and tied it up. Then he put the bag in his pocket, locked the house and the garden door, and ran so quickly that he passed many pedestrians and even two cars as far as the town. instead put half a thaler in the leather pouch and tied it up. Then he put the bag in his pocket, locked the house and the garden door, and ran so quickly that he passed many pedestrians and even two cars as far as the town.

He was gone, and his house and garden were empty, and the dust on the street was slowly beginning to build up The horse’s trot and brass music had faded away, and the sparrows were already coming over from the stubble fields, bathing themselves in the white dust and looking at what was left of the tumult. The street was empty and dead and hot; in the distance it was still weak and lost a cheer and a sound like horn music.

Then a man came out of the forest, the broad brim of his hat pulled low over his eyes, and wandered off alone on the deserted road in no hurry. He was tall and had the steady, steady step that hikers who have traveled a lot on foot have. He was dressed in gray and inconspicuous, and out of the shadow of his hat his eyes looked carefully and calmly like the eyes of a person who desires nothing more from the world, but looks at every thing with attention and does not overlook any. He saw everything, he saw the innumerable confused wagon tracks running by, he saw the hoof tracks of a horse that had dragged its left hind hoof, he saw in the distance the small town of Faldum looming on the hill out of a dusty haze with shimmering roofs, he saw a little old woman wandering about in a garden full of fear and need and heard her calling for someone who did not answer. He saw a tiny sheen of metal at the side of the road and stooped down and picked up a shiny round brass disk that was a horse’s collar had lost. He put it with him. And then he saw an old hawthorn hail on the street, it was freshly trimmed a few paces, and at first the work seemed precise and neat and done with pleasure, but worse with every half step, because soon a cut was too deep gone, soon forgotten branches stood out bristly and prickly. The stranger also found a child’s doll lying on the street with a cartwheel over its head, and a piece of rye bread that was still shiny from the melted butter; and at last he found a strong leather pouch with half a thaler in it. He leaned the doll on the curb against a curbstone, crumbled the piece of bread and fed it to the sparrows, and put the bag with the half thaler in his pocket.

It was unspeakably quiet on the deserted street, the lawn border on both sides was thick with dust and sunburned. The chickens ran around in a manor next door, no one in sight, and cackled and stuttered dreamily in the warmth of the sun. In a bluish cabbage garden an old woman stood hunched over and pulled weeds from the dry ground. The wanderer called her to tell her how far it was to the city. But she was deaf, and when he shouted louder, she just looked over helplessly and shook her gray head.

As he walked on, every now and then he heard music rushing over and falling silent, and more and more often and longer, and in the end it sounded uninterruptedly like a distant waterfall, music and the babble of voices, as if all the people over there were happily together. A brook ran alongside the road now, wide and still, with ducks on it and greenish-brown seaweed under the blue mirror. Then the road began to rise, the brook curved to one side, and a stone bridge led across it. On the low bridge wall sat a man, a thin tailor figure, and slept with his head hanging; his hat had fallen in the dust, and next to him sat a funny little dog guarding him. The stranger wanted to wake the sleeper, otherwise he could fall over the edge of the bridge in his sleep. But first he looked down and saw that the height was low and the water shallow; then he let the tailor sit and go back to sleep.

Now after a little steep climb came the gate of the town of Faldum, it was wide open and nobody was to be seen there. The man stepped through, and suddenly his steps echoed loudly in a cobbled alley where a row of empty, guyed wagons and coaches stood on either side of the houses. Noise and muffled activity came from other streets, but there was no one to be seen here, the little street was full of shadows, and only the upper windows reflected the golden day. Stopped here the hiker took a short rest, sitting on the drawbar of a cart. As he went on, he put the brass horse disc he had found outside on the wagoner’s bench.

No sooner had he gone another street than the noise and din of the fair echoed around him; In a hundred stalls, shouting merchants were selling their wares, children blew silver-plated trumpets, butchers fished whole chains of fresh, wet sausages from large boiling kettles, a quack stood high on a grandstand, looked eagerly out of thick horn-rimmed glasses and had a table of all human beings Illnesses and ailments hung up. A man with long black hair passed him, leading a camel behind him on a rope. The animal looked haughtily down from its long neck at the crowd and pushed its forked lips back and forth as it chewed.

The man from the forest watched everything with attention, he let himself be pushed and pushed by the crowd, looked here into the booth of a picture-bow man and read the sayings and mottos there on the sugared gingerbread, but he did not linger anywhere and seemed to be what he was trying, for example, not to have found it yet. So he came slowly forward and into the large main square, where a bird dealer was nesting on the corner. For a while he listened to the voices coming out came to the many small cages and gave them an answer and whistled softly to them, the linnet, the quail, the canary, the warbler.

Suddenly he saw it flashing so brightly and dazzlingly near him, as if all the sunshine had concentrated on this single spot, and when he went closer it was a large mirror that hung in a measuring booth, and next to the mirror were other mirrors, ten and a hundred and more, big and small, square, round and oval, mirrors to hang up and to stand, also hand mirrors and small, thin pocket mirrors that you could carry with you so that you don’t forget your own face. The dealer stood and caught the sun in a flashing hand mirror and let the sparkling reflection dance over his booth; to this end he shouted tirelessly: “Mirrors, gentlemen, you buy mirrors here! The best mirrors, the cheapest mirrors from Faldum! Mirrors, ladies, wonderful mirrors! Just look inside, everything is real

The stranger stopped by the mirror booth, like someone who has found what he was looking for. Among the people who looked at the mirrors were three young country girls; he stood next to them and watched them. They were fresh, healthy peasant girls, neither beautiful nor ugly, in thick-soled shoes and white stockings, with blond, somewhat sun-bleached ones Braids and eager young eyes. Each of the three had picked up a mirror, but none of the large and expensive ones, and while they hesitated to buy and tasted the graceful agony of choosing, each looked lost and dreamy into the bare mirror depth and looked at her picture, the mouth and the eyes, the little jewelry on the neck, the few freckles over the nose, the smooth head, the rosy ear. At this they became quiet and serious; the stranger who stood behind the girls saw their pictures wide-eyed and almost solemnly looking out of the three glasses.

“Oh,” he heard the first say, “I wish I had golden-red hair and so long that it came down to my knees!”

The second girl, when she heard her friend’s request, sighed softly and looked more intently in her mirror. Then she too confessed with blushing what her heart was dreaming of and said shyly: “I, if I could wish, I want the most beautiful hands, all white and delicate, with long, narrow fingers and rosy fingernails.” She looked up her hand holding the oval mirror. The hand wasn’t ugly, but it was a little short and broad and had grown coarse and hard from work.

The third, the smallest and happiest of all three, laughed at it and shouted merrily: “That’s not bad Wish. But you know, the hands don’t matter that much. I would like it best if I were the best and quickest dancer in the whole of Faldum from today on. ”

Suddenly the girl was startled and turned around, for a strange one with black, shining eyes peeked out from behind her own face in the mirror. It was the face of the strange man who had stepped behind her and whom none of the three had so far noticed. Now they looked in amazement at his face when he nodded to them and said: “You made three beautiful wishes, you maidens. Are you really serious about it? ”

The little one had put the mirror down and hid her hands behind her back. She felt like letting the man pay for her little horror and already remembered a sharp word; but the way she looked him in the face, he had so much power in his eyes that she was embarrassed. “Is it your business what I wish for?” She said simply and blushed.

But the other, who had wished for the fine hands, gained confidence in the great man who had something fatherly and worthy in his being. She said, “Yes, we are serious about this. Can you wish for something more beautiful? ”

The mirror dealer had come up, other people were listening too. The stranger had turned up the brim that one saw a bright, high forehead and imperious eyes. Now he nodded in a friendly manner to the three girls and called out with a smile: “See, you already have everything you wanted!”

The girls looked at each other, and then each quickly in a mirror, and all three turned pale with amazement and delight. One had thick golden curls that came down to her knees. The second was holding her mirror in the whitest, slimmest princess hands, and the third was suddenly in red leather dancing shoes and on slender ankles like a deer. They couldn’t believe what had happened; but the one with the noble hands burst into blissful tears, she leaned on her friend’s shoulder and wept blissfully into her long, golden hair.

Now the story of the miracle spoke and shouted around the booth. A young craftsman, who watched everything, stood there with wide eyes and stared at the stranger as if petrified.

“Don’t you want to make a wish too?” Suddenly asked the stranger.

The journeyman gave a start, he was quite confused and helplessly let his gaze wander around to see something he might wish for. Then he saw a huge one in front of a pork butcher’s stall A wreath of thick, red crackling sausages hung out, and he stammered, interpreting over: “I would like to have such a wreath of crackling sausages.” See, the wreath hung around his neck, and everyone who saw it began to laugh and to scream, and everyone tried to get closer, and everyone wanted to make a wish now. They could do that too, and the next person’s turn was already cheeky and wanted a new cloth Sunday robe from top to bottom; and scarcely said, he was in a fine, brand-new clothing, which the mayor had no better. Then a woman from the country came, took her heart and asked for ten thalers, and the thalers clinked in her pocket.

Now the people saw that miracles were happening in all seriousness, and immediately the news of it rolled on across the market square and through the city, and the people quickly formed a huge lump around the booth of the mirror dealer. Many still laughed and joked, others believed nothing and talked suspiciously. Many, however, were already stricken with wishful fever and came running with glowing eyes and hot faces that were contorted with desire and worry, because everyone feared that the spring would run dry before he himself could draw. Boys wanted cakes, crossbows, dogs, sacks of nuts, books and skittles; Girls walked away happy with new clothes, ribbons, gloves and parasols. But a ten-year-old boy who had run away from his grandmother and had come out of the rim because of the sheer glory and splendor of the fair, he wished in a clear voice for a living horse, but it had to be a black one; and immediately a black colt neighed behind him and rubbed its head confidentially on his shoulder.

An elderly bachelor with a walking stick in his hand forced himself through the crowd, quite intoxicated by the magic, who stepped forward, trembling, and was so excited that he could hardly utter a word.

“I wish,” he said stammering, “I wish two hundred – -”

The stranger looked at him carefully, pulled a leather pouch out of his pocket and held it in front of the excited man’s eyes. “Wait a minute!” He said. “Haven’t you lost that wallet? There is half a thaler in it. ”

“Yes, I have,” cried the bachelor. “This is mine.”

“Do you want him back?”

“Yes, yes, give it to me!”

Then he got his pouch, and with that he had lost his wish, and when he understood that he was furious with his stick at the stranger, but did not hit him and only knocked down a mirror; and the splintering had not yet rattled when the dealer was already standing and demanding money, and the bachelor had to pay.

But now a fat house owner stepped forward and made a capital request, namely for a new roof on his house. It was already shining with brand new bricks and whitewashed chimneys from his alley. Then everyone became restless anew, and their wishes rose higher, and soon you saw someone who was not ashamed and, in all modesty, wanted a new four-story house on the market square, and a quarter of an hour later he was lying over the ledge and looking out of his own window attend the fair from there.

It was now actually no longer a fair, but all life in the city, like the river from its source, only proceeded from that place near the mirror booth where the stranger stood and where one could do one’s wishes. Screams of admiration, envy, or laughter followed every request, and when a hungry little boy had wanted nothing but a hat full of plums, his hat was refilled with coins from someone who was less modest. A fat shopkeeper who wished herself free from a severe goiter then met with great jubilation and applause. Here but it showed what anger and resentment can do. For the shopkeeper’s own husband, who was at odds with her and had just quarreled with her, applied his wish, which could have made him rich, to the fact that the gone goiter should be put back in its old place. But the example was once given, a multitude of the infirm and sick were brought in, and the crowd fell into a new frenzy when the lame began to dance and the blind greeted the light with happy eyes.

Meanwhile the youth had been running around everywhere and had proclaimed the wonderful miracle. They told of a loyal old cook that she was standing by the herd and was roasting a goose for her rule when the call came through the window to her too. Then she could not resist and ran away and into the marketplace to quickly wish herself rich and happy for life. But the further she went through the crowd, the more clearly her conscience beat, and when it was her turn and was allowed to wish, she gave up everything and only asked that the goose not burn until it was back with her.

The tumult did not end. Nannies rushed out of the houses and dragged their little ones in their arms, bedridden people ran out into the streets in their shirts, eager. A little old woman came in from the country, very confused and desperate pilgrimage, and when she heard of the wish, she sobbed and asked that she would find her lost grandson safe again. Look, the boy came riding on a little black horse and fell laughing into her arms.

In the end the whole city was transformed and seized with intoxication. Loving couples walked arm in arm, whose wishes had come true, poor families drove around in carriages and still had the patched old clothes on from this morning. All the many who already regretted an unwise wish had either gone away sad or drank forgetful at the old market fountain, which a jester had filled with the best wine through his wish.

And finally there were only two people left in the city of Faldum who knew nothing of the miracle and had wished nothing. There were two young men and they were pinning high in the attic of an old house in the suburbs with the windows closed. One of them was standing in the middle of the room, holding the violin under his chin and playing with a devoted soul; the other sat in the corner with his head in his hands and was completely absorbed in listening. The sun was already shining obliquely and in the evening through the small window panes and glowing deeply in a bouquet of flowers that stood on the table, and played on the wall on the torn wallpaper. The chamber was completely filled with the warm light and the glowing tones of the violin, like a little secret treasury with the brilliance of precious stones. The violinist swayed to and fro as he played and had closed his eyes. The listener looked quietly at the floor and sat staring and lost as if there were no life in him.

There were loud footsteps groping in the alley, and the door was pushed open, and the steps came heavy and rumbling up all the stairs to the attic. That was the master of the house, and he threw open the door and shouted into the room with a laugh that the violin song suddenly stopped and the mute listener jumped up wild and tortured. The violinist, too, was sad and angry that he had been disturbed, and looked reproachfully at the man’s laughing face. But he didn’t pay attention, he waved his arms like a drunkard and shouted: “You fools, there you sit and play the violin, and outside the whole world has changed. Wake up and run so that you are not late; A man stands on the market square who makes sure that everyone has a wish fulfilled. You don’t have to live under the roof any longer and owe a little rent. Up and forward before it’s too late! I have also become a rich man today. ”

The violinist was astonished to hear this, and since the man gave him no peace, he put the violin down and put his hat on his head; his friend followed in silence. As soon as they were out of the house, they saw half the city transformed in the strangest way and, as if in a dream, walked past houses that had yesterday been gray and crooked and low, but now they stood tall and neat like palaces. People who she knew as beggars drove four-in-hand in carriages or looked wide and proud out the windows of beautiful houses. A lean person who looked like a tailor and was followed by a tiny dog, tired and sweating, dragged himself with a large, heavy sack, and pieces of gold dripped from the sack through a small hole onto the pavement.

As if by themselves, the two young men came to the market square and in front of the booth with the mirrors. The unknown man stood there and said to them: “You are in no hurry to wish. I was just about to leave. So say what you want and don’t force yourself. ”

The violinist shook his head and said: “Oh, would you have left me alone! I do not need anything.”

“No? The stranger shouted. “You can wish what you can only think up.”

Then the violinist closed his eyes for a while and thought. And then said quietly: “I want one Violin on which I can play so wonderfully that the whole world can no longer come to me with its noise. ”

And see, he had a beautiful violin and a violin bow in his hands, and he hugged the violin and began to play: it sounded sweet and mighty, like the song of paradise. Whoever heard it stopped and listened and got serious eyes. The violinist, however, as he played more and more intimately and splendidly, was lifted up by the invisible and disappeared into the air, and from a great distance his music sounded like the glow of the sunset.

“And you? What do you want for yourself? ”The man asked the other youth.

“Now you’ve taken the violinist from me too!” Said the youth. “I don’t like to have anything from life but listening and watching and only like to think about that which is immortal. That is why I wish I would like to be a mountain as big as the land of Faldum and so high that my summit towers above the clouds. ”

Then it began to thunder underground and everything began to sway; There was a clink of glass, the mirrors fell into pieces one after the other on the pavement, the market square rose swaying like a cloth, under which a sleepy cat wakes up and rears its back. An immense terror came over the people, thousands fled screaming from the city into the fields. But those on who had stayed in the market square, saw a mighty mountain rise behind the city until the evening clouds, and below they saw the quiet brook transformed into a white, wild mountain water, which came to the valley foaming in many cases and leaps from the mountain.

A moment had passed and the whole land of Faldum had become a gigantic mountain, at the foot of which lay the city, and far in the depths one could see the sea. But nobody was damaged.

An old man who had stood by the mirror booth and watched everything said to his neighbor: “The world has become foolish; I am glad that I will never have long to live. I’m just sorry about the violinist, I’d like to hear him again. ”

“Yes,” said the other. “But say, where did the stranger get to?”

They looked around, he was gone. And when they looked up at the new mountain, they saw the stranger walking away high above, in a billowing cloak, and for a moment saw him standing gigantic against the evening sky and disappearing around a corner of the rock.