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The Love of Ulrich Nebendahl

"It is Hedwig; twice you walked home with her last week."
"It is a lonesome way for a timid maiden; and there is the stream to cross," explained the
wheelwright.
For a moment the Herr Pastor's face had clouded, but now it cleared again.
"Well, well, why not? Elsa would have been better in some respects, but Hedwig--ah,
yes, she, too, is a good girl a little wild perhaps--it will wear off. Have you spoken with
her?"
"Not yet."
"But you will?"
Again there fell that troubled look into those dreamy eyes. This time it was Ulrich who,
laying aside his pipe, rested his great arms upon the wooden table.
"Now, how does a man know when he is in love?" asked Ulrich of the Pastor who,
having been married twice, should surely be experienced upon the point. "How should he
be sure that it is this woman and no other to whom his heart has gone out?"
A commonplace-looking man was the Herr Pastor, short and fat and bald. But there had
been other days, and these had left to him a voice that still was young; and the evening
twilight screening the seared face, Ulrich heard but the pastor's voice, which was the
voice of a boy.
"She will be dearer to you than yourself. Thinking of her, all else will be as nothing. For
her you would lay down your life."
They sat in silence for a while; for the fat little Herr Pfarrer was dreaming of the past; and
long, lanky Ulrich Nebendahl, the wheelwright, of the future.
That evening, as chance would have it, Ulrich returning to his homestead--a rambling
mill beside the river, where he dwelt alone with ancient Anna--met Elsa of the dimpled
hands upon the bridge that spans the murmuring Muhlde, and talked a while with her, and
said good-night.
How sweet it had been to watch her ox-like eyes shyly seeking his, to press her dimpled
hand and feel his own great strength. Surely he loved her better than he did himself.
There could be no doubt of it. He pictured her in trouble, in danger from the savage
soldiery that came and went like evil shadows through these pleasant Saxon valleys,
leaving death and misery behind them: burnt homesteads; wild-eyed women, hiding their
faces from the light. Would he not for her sake give his life?
So it was made clear to him that little Elsa was his love.
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