I answered that it had been mine from the beginning, because I had made it myself and written into it.
He asked: “But why on birch bark, of all things?” I answered: “Because the barks of other trees are not suitable.” “You rascal!” said he. “I’m asking you why you did not write on paper.” “O!” I answered. “We had no paper in the forest.” The governor asked: “Where? In what forest?” I again answered with my old refrain that I did not know.
Then the governor turned to several of the officers who were waiting upon him and said: “This is either a rogue of the first order or a complete fool.
Of course, he cannot be a fool because he can write.” And as he was talking he leafed through my little book so violently, to show them my beautiful handwriting, that the hermit’s letter could not but fall out of it.
This he had an officer pick up.
I, however, grew pale at this, because I held it to be my greatest treasure and relic, which reaction the governor well remarked and therefore grew even more suspicious of treason, particularly after he had opened the letter and read it, for he said: “I recognize this handwriting and know that it was writ by an officer well known to me, but I cannot recollect which one.” And the contents seemed quite strange and unintelligible to him too, for he said: “This is without doubt a message in code which no one can understand but a person who knows the key to the code.” Me, however, he asked what my name was, and when I answered “Simplicius” 90 Book I he said: “O, yes! You’re a right fine fellow! Away with him, away with him, and forthwith put him into irons, hands and feet.” And so the two soldiers went off with me to the new lodgings assigned to me, namely the jail, and turned me over to the provost, who, in accordance with his instructions, adorned my hands and feet with iron bonds and chains, as if I had not enough to bear with the ones I already had bound around my body.
These first steps to welcome me were not yet enough for the outside world; rather, hangman and bailiff came with gruesome instruments of torture, which truly did make my situation gruesome, despite the fact that I had my innocence to console me. “O, God!” said I. “How much I deserve this! Simplicius ran away from the service of God and into the world, so such a monster of Christianity as I am should receive the proper reward which I deserve for my wantonness.
O, unhappy Simplicius! Whither has your ingratitude brought you? Look you, scarce had God brought you to knowledge of Himself and into His service, when you run away from His service and turn your back upon Him! Could you not have continued to eat acorns and beans as before, in order to serve your Creator unhindered? Did you not know that your loyal hermit and preceptor fled the world and chose the wilderness for himself? O, you blockhead! You left the wilderness in hope of satisfying your shameful lust to see the world.
And now, look you, whereas you thought to feast your eyes, you must 91 Book I needs perish and go to ruin in this perilous labyrinth.
Could you not before, you stupid booby, imagine that your blessed predecessor would not have exchanged the world’s joys for the harsh life he led in the wilderness if he had thought it possible to achieve in this world true peace of mind, genuine calmness of spirit, and eternal salvation? Poor Simplicius, now go to, and receive your just deserts for the vain thoughts you have harbored and for your presumptuous folly! You have no right to complain and to console yourself with your innocence, because you rushed headlong to your martyrdom and subsequent death.” Thus I reproached myself for my sins, begged God for forgiveness, and commended my soul unto Him.
Meanwhile we were approaching the tower where they incarcerated criminals, but when the need is highest, the God’s help is nighest; for when I was surrounded by beadles and was standing before the prison, together with a large throng of people, to wait till it was opened and I was put into it, my parson, whose village had been plundered and burned shortly before, also desired to see what was afoot (for he was also under house arrest for the time being).
When he looked out the window and espied me, he cried out very loudly: “O, Simplicius! Is that you?” When I saw and heard him, I could do nothing but lift up my hands towards him and cry: “O, Father! O, Father! O, Father!” He, however, asked what I had done.
I answered that I did not know; they had surely brought me hither because I had run out of the 92 Book I — N ow when day dawned, my master turned me over to the stableboys, just as the two armies were setting out on the march.
Now they were a swarm of ragamuffins, and therefore the chase which I was obliged to suffer was all the greater and more frightful.
They rushed into the bushes with me, all the better to sate their bestial lusts, which is the practice of these children of the devil when a woman is handed over to them.
And they were followed by many other fellows, who were watching this wretched diversion, amongst whom was also my Johnny.
He did not let me out of his sight, and when he saw what they were going to do to me, he attempted to deliver me by force, even if it should cost him his head.
He attracted a crowd of bystanders, because he said that I was his intended.
They felt sympathy for me and him and desired to be of help to him.
This, to be sure, did not set well with the boys, who thought they had more right to me did not desire to let such a fine catch out of their hands.
Therefore they resolved to meet force with force.
Then people on both sides fell to dealing out blows.
The crowd 310 Book II and the noise grew greater with each passing moment, so that it looked almost like a tourney, at which every man does his best for the sake of a beautiful lady.
Their terrible screams caught the attention of the provost, who arrived just as they tore my clothes off my body and saw that I was not a woman.
His presence caused everyone to fall silent, because he was much more feared than the devil himself.
Also, all of those who had laid hands onto one another dispersed.
He briefly informed himself about the affair, and whereas I was hoping he would deliver me, he, to the contrary, took me prisoner, because it was uncommon and a very suspicious business that a man in woman’s clothing should be found in the army.
He and his men were walking along with me in this wise past the regiments (all of which were standing in the field and preparing to march), with the intention of handing me over to the judge advocate or provost marshal; but as we were passing my colonel’s regiment I was recognized, addressed, clothed in rags by my colonel, and turned over as a prisoner to our old provost, who put irons onto my hands and legs.
It was terribly painful for me to march along this way in chains and fetters, and John Rumblygut would have tortured me nicely too if the secretarius, Olivier, had not given me food, for I durst not let my ducats, which I had got away with till then, come to light, unless I were willing to lose all of them, and to put myself into even greater peril in the bargain.
The aforementioned Olivier communicated to me that very 311 Book II evening the reason why I was being kept prisoner under such heavy guard, and our regimental magistrate straightway received orders to interrogate me, so that my testimony might be submitted all the sooner to the judge advocate general, for they took me to be not only a scout and a spy, but also a person who could perform witchcraft, because shortly after I had left my colonel’s service they had burned several witches who, before they had died, had owned that they had seen me at their general assembly when they had been together to dry up the Elbe River so that Magdeburg might be taken all the sooner.
The points to which I was supposed to answer were the following: First, whether I had gone to school, or at least could read and write.
Second, why I had approached the camp outside the walls of Magdeburg in the costume of a fool, when I did, after all, have sufficient wits about me, both when I was in the service of the captain of horse and now.
Third, for what reason I had disguised myself in women’s clothes.
Fourth, whether I, along with other demons, had been at the witches’ dance.
Fifth, where my fatherland was, and who my parents were.
Sixth, where I had been before I came to the camp outside the walls of Magdeburg. 312 Book II
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