Chapter XI

  ‘Blumenthal, Easter Sunday.

‘I MUST write to you while I am at Pastor Fiedler's. I came on Saturday, so as to be at the Dankfest to-day.

‘You know what an old-world charming little German-looking township Blumenthal is, with the Coolie Hills in the distance, to the south-east, and the quiet, shadowy woods all round, broken up by farms and vineyards and

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numberless homesteads, nestling among fruit-trees. St. Stephan's, the new little Lutheran church, is nearly a mile from the pastor's house, with a delicious untilled valley full of tan wattles lying between. There is a good-sized garden and a glebe attached to the pastorage—a glebe with two milch-cows, likewise two calves, that come up and let you kiss them on the forehead, and rub their charming little chestnut noses against your hand. There is also a fat gray cob, lazier even than Leo. You may doubt this; but that is because you do not know Hans as intimately as I do, But I want you to come to the little church. The pastor went at ten; Mrs. Fiedler and I half an hour later, and we brought immense posies of chrysanthemums. They are out in wide bushes; at this moment there is a great bowl of them close beside me. They are in the little hall in the sitting-room, on the tiny lawn, in the garden—everywhere. We also brought some of our best roses and crocuses. How I love the yellow crocuses that come up in wide golden bubbles, so close to the ground! Sunday was an entirely perfect day. I believe it was really the first day of autumn. The sun was at times half veiled with fleecy gray clouds. The sky was not so staringly blue; a tender tint of gray had stolen into it. And there were such gentle pastoral sounds: the distant tinkling of bullock-bells; the bleating of sheep not far away; the lowing of a cow whose calf had been weaned; the high, sweet carol of a white-shafted fantail. Autumn leaves fluttered in the wind down from the willows and fruit-trees; but they did not speak of decay, only of rest. Everything rested—from the great foliage masses that bounded the horizon on every side, to the bees whose buzzing was faint, as if they were half drugged with the ambrosia of deep flower-bells. No rumble of dray or waggon, laden with wool or wheat or grapes or hay, invaded the Sabbath quiet.

‘My old friends the Schulzes, Grossvater and Grossmutter, greeted me with all their old cordiality. Their seat was crammed with sturdy young Schulzes of the third generation. I should be afraid to say how many of the sept there were in all. It was good I was in the church before the service began, for I could not have kept my eyes from wandering. Such lavish heaps of flowers, fruit, and vegetables! No wonder the good Germans of Blumenthal

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hold a harvest festival. There are ten windows in St. Stephan's, with wide, deep sills to them. On each side of these an overflowing horn of plenty had been emptied.

‘It was a triumphant exhibition of what Nature can do in our land when her lap is shaken out. The apples alone were a feast to the eyes—so large and smooth and beautifully tinted. As for the pears, they were so ripely yellow one dared not look at them too fixedly lest they should melt at a glance. There were mounds of great purple figs gaping with mellowness. Citrons large as pumpkins, quinces not much smaller, plums of all kinds, from the little piquant damson to the generous Orleans; blood-red mulberries, fragrant peaches with their crimsoned cheeks, nectarines, and oranges of a lordly size, though still, of course, unripe. On the altar—a plain table with a white cloth and crucifix —were grapes, heaped up in splendid profusion. The robust Black Prince, the small berries of the Cabernet Sauvignon—no, I must not put you out of patience by naming all; besides, if I did, half would still be forgotten, if you will pardon the bull. I noticed one bunch of Doradillas which must have weighed five pounds. You are in deadly terror of hearing about the spies and Eshcol—but I spare you. I also let you off in the matter of vegetables. They were all there, from the asparagus to the virtuous potato. The ends of the seats were wreathed with hop and vine leaves, and round the chandeliers were hung sheaves of fine wheat, of oats, of barley, and maize. The pastor preached a divine little sermon—sincere, simple, and to the point. It was the discourse of a man who knows that there are two sorts of ignorance, and two sorts of lying, in the world. The ignorance that knows and cares for little beyond the daily round; the ignorance that cares for so much, yet apprehends that so little can be really known. The lying—that of statements known to be untrue; the other, which takes the form of treating as certainties matters that can never be subjectively proved true. And yet, because he knew all this, it seemed to me that he was all the better fitted to speak with authority on what we do know to be true. We know that if we put aside the baser temptations of life we can bear our share of fruit to nourish man's spiritual nature, even as the fields around us, year in, year out, bear harvests that sustain material life.

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‘As we came home the wattlewood valley rang with the peculiar mournful pipe of some birds. “They are quite new here,” said the pastor and pastorin as we stood to listen. I felt I ought to know whose notes they were, yet could not tell without seeing the birds that uttered them. I left Dustiefoot in the pastor's charge and stole away as noiselessly as an aboriginal in Kooditcha shoes. Dear, how you will begin to hate this comparison—to me it still has something of the freshness of primeval woods. They wors white-winged choughs. I saw three of them perched in the very top of a tree. One knows them from afar by their scarlet irides and the glossy green reflections of their plumage.

‘In the afternoon we drove to the Schulze's. Grossmutter, as usual, kissed me repeatedly, as if I were a little child—and very good. But it is true, if ever I am good at all, it is among these kindly, sincere German people. Not even the sort of impertinent pen you wot of would tempt me to cast reflections now on a world that produces such fine grapes and wholesome-natured people.

‘Grossvater was in one of his blithest and serenest hours. Their golden wedding-day is next month—on his eighty-first birthday. After that he will give up all active part in the management of his vineyards. His son Karl is a good and skilful vigneron. “I counsel him to be true to his Australian Fatherland—to make nothing but good wine from good grapes,” said the old man, with the genial smile that makes his face so young. “Wine fit to drink at the table of the Lord's Supper, at the marriage feast, at the christening of the eldest son, on the death-bed, when the dear God calls us to another world.”

‘One sees how much better it is for the pastor to be in the country with a congregation that grows grapes and tills the soil. Life passes with such leisurely tranquillity, and the baser denominations of our kind seem more unreal. I feel sure, too, that no one here tempts him to read the “Kritik of Pure Reason.” ’


‘I left Blumenthal yesterday, vowing to make a longer visit in the spring. I carried away with me from the pastor an old ballad in early German, called “Two King's Children,”

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which I am translating into English for your special benefit. This is the anniversary of Esther's wedding-day. No one had the courage to say a word about it. After what you said so admirably as to the necessity of sometimes showing a little of the sympathy that one feels, I made an effort. But, heavens, how I blundered! It was after sunset. I sat in the drawing-room bow-window sewing, when Esther came and sat in a far corner already dusky with the gathering twilight. She sat with folded hands, her face pale and set. At last I crept up to her and touched her cheek with my hand; and presently we were both crying. To make one weep bitterly who had before been calm, is that shedding any of the balm of consolation? Don't you think you had better dissuade rather than encourage me in such painful bungling? It is better to recognise one's limitations. If people are badly hurt, I can make them cry worse, but can never tell them it is all for the best. I could tell them that no one understands the refinements of hangmanship like Nature, and that life is a finished artist in defeating the heart's insatiable yearning for happiness; but on the whole I think I had better hold my tongue—likewise my pen. But not till I tell you a little conteà rire related to me by the pastor when he drove me into Gawler for the two o'clock train. Two Sundays ago he visited the little Lutheran Sunday-school at Detmold, and found the teacher —a very stout, placid-natured man, who likes to arrange things in a tranquil, unexciting way—with a class around him repeating the Creed. The plan was that each child should say a clause, thus: “I believe in … the Holy Catholic Church;” next child, “the communion of saints;” next, “the forgiveness of sins.” Then there was a long pause, till a small boy at the tail-end of the class piped out: “Please, teacher, the girl who believes in the resurrection of the body has got the mumps!” ’