V upon the condition that he first give the countess notice that I had offered one thaler more for it; if she were willing to give as much for it as I, then she should have purchase of it; if not, then he would let me have the nanny goat and he would notify me that evening how the business stood.
And so my Pa went his way, and I and my companions ours too, but I could not and would not remain longer with my companions, but instead went back to where I found my Pa again.
He still had his nanny goat, because the others were not willing to give as much for it as I was, which astonished me about such rich folks but made me no more niggardly.
I took him to the farm which I had just bought, paid him for his nanny goat, and after I had got him half drunk I asked him whence he had got the boy of whom we had talked today. “Ah, sir,” said he, “Mansfeld’s war49 gave him to me, and the battle of Nördlingen50 took him away from me again.” I said: “That must be a diverting histori!”51 And I asked him, because we had nothing else to talk about, to tell it to me to while away the time.
Then he began, saying: “When Mansfeld lost the battle of Höchst,52 his fleeing soldiers were scattered far and wide, because they knew not whither they ought to retreat.
Many came into the Spessart Forest, because they were seeking woods in which to hide themselves; but while they escaped death upon the plain, they found it with us in the mountains, and because both warring parties deemed it permissible to rob one another and to do one another in upon our land and soil, 777 Book V we were out for their hides too.
At that time ’t was seldom a peasant went into the woods without a flintlock, and we could not stay at home with our hoes and plows.
In that same tumult I came upon a beautiful young noblewoman upon a magnificent horse, in a huge and wild forest not far from my farm, just after I had heard some musket shots not far from that spot.
At first I took her to be a man, because she was not riding along sidesaddle but astride the horse, but when I saw her lift both her eyes and her arms heavenwards and heard her cry out in French to God in a pitiable tone of voice, I lowered my flintlock, which I was about to fire off at her, and uncocked it, because her cries and gestures assured me that she was a lady in distress.
And so we drew nearer to one another, and when she saw me she said: ‘Alas! If you are a Christian, I beg you in the name of God and His mercy, aye, in the name of the Last Judgment, at which we must all account for what we have done and omitted to do, to take me to honorable women who with God’s help will deliver me of the burden my body bears!’ These words, which reminded me of God in His greatness, together with the sweet way in which she said them and the clearly distressed but still exceeding beautiful and gracious figure of the lady, compelled me to take pity upon her, and I took her horse by the reins and led her through the hedge and shrub to the very densest part of the forest, whither I had fled with my wife, child, hired hands, and cattle.
There she gave 778 Book V birth less than a half-hour later to the boy about whom we talked with one another today.” With this my Pa concluded his tale and accepted another drink, for I kindly urged him to; but when he had emptied his glass I asked: “And what happened to the lady after that?” He answered: “When she had in this wise become a mother, she asked me to be the child’s godfather and to take the child to be baptized as soon as possible.
She also told me her husband’s name and hers, so that they might be writ down in the baptismal book, and in doing so she opened her knapsack, in which she indeed had precious things, and gave me, my wife and child, the housemaid, and one other woman there so many presents that we could be well satisfied with her.
But while she was doing this and telling us about her husband, she died, right there in front of us, after having first commended her child to our care.
Now because there was such turmoil in the country at the time that no one could stay in his home, we were scarce able to find a clergyman to conduct the funeral and to baptize the child; but when both things were finally done, I was commanded by our mayor and our pastor to bring up the child till it was full grown and to take for my effort and expense everything which the lady had left behind, except some rosaries, precious stones, and some jewelry, which I was to keep for the child.
And so my wife nursed the child with goat’s milk, and we were glad to keep the boy and thought we would give him our girl as a wife when he was full grown.
But 779 Book V
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