Stories from the Mandel House
The tailor Christoph Eusebius Mandel spins tales to occupy his son, Amadeus, but the songs which Amadeus weaves over his father and step-father have an enchantment all their own.
After this successful night, everything in the Mandel house turned itself again towards the old tracks. A few days later, Christoph Eusebius had delivered a pair of trousers to the farmstead of the farmer Tautz in Ranser. At another time, it would have taken the master’s breath away a little to transact business with the man. For he was a fellow, crudely put together like a cow trough, the biggest lout on the Ranser mountain, and that says something in a place where the men hew their opinions with whips about the ears. Tautz was numbered in general among the crooked sheriffs and that was his grudge. For all of his gaunt, tall body was in order up to his belly. There, as a sort of bulbous buoy, was a sort of giant gall nut, not over the middle of the crotch, but further off, a little over the left trouser pocket.
The master thought his work to be his best and raked with his bamboo stick playfully in the soft path during his walk, in the manner of that sort of young fellow who is constantly itched by high spirits. When the tailor now entered the farmer’s living room, the latter was just calling his wife names because she was tolerating the neighbour’s hens in his garden, and swore not to leave a bone in the body of the feather duster if it happened again. Then he grasped the trousers from the oilcloth, looked down, inspected them, and vanished into the next room. His wife, however, sat down by the master and attempted a friendly conversation, for she had a tender, quiet nature and sought to blot out the bad impression her husband’s rumbling had left behind. But when a pair of boots flew against the wall inside, she rose and went out. Mandel counted the panes in the windows and smiled. Just as he got to the last one, the door flew open and Tautz came out in a rage and placed himself with his legs apart in front of Eusebius. “Twenty four”, Mandel said and did not realise that he was speaking aloud.
“No, a hundred”, the farmer roared, “a hundred times you are not clever, tailor.”
“Why are you shouting so? If roaring was cleverness then oxen would stand at every pulpit instead of pastors”, Mandel answered with the friendliest demeanour in all the world.
At this unexpectedly sharp reply, Tautz became somewhat more amiable, and because nobody else was in the room before whom he could make himself ridiculous with pandering, the farmer said quite politely that the trousers were quite good in most respects, but did not sit right around the belly.
Eusebius noted straightaway that he had arched the trousers on the other side of the belly to that which the farmer’s body admitted, that is, on the right instead of the left side, but shook his head, made a very aggrieved face and finally said it was all absolutely correct as it should be, but Tautz must be ill. For when he had taken his measures, his belly had been on the right side. Only, such things, and sometimes even worse, just happened in the world. There were kidneys that wandered; why could a belly not shift too? There he would have to talk to a doctor. But if he placed no little value on the experience of a much-travelled man, then he advised him to fasten a sealing wax plaster on the diseased part and let it lie there as long as it takes to fall off by itself again. That was cheap and would return the old ease and firmness to his body. Of course, he must abstain during this time from all agitation and excitement. For nothing harms such inner suffering more than anger and shouting. After that he looked the crooked sheriff in the eye and implied to him that it was really not right in his belly, for it had a quince yellow skin covering.
Christoph Eusebius said all that with calm conviction so that the farmer began to be a bit distraught.
Only the tailor had for too long had no fun and had thus been weaned off the pleasure somewhat. Hence, when he saw the wrinkled brow of the crooked sheriff, he could not hold back a smile. Then Tautz noticed that Mandel had just treated him with scorn, walked calmly into the next room and did not appear again for a long time. His face was pale with fury. He threw the trousers onto the table so that the buttons rattled and screamed, “I’m not taking the trousers! Drop your stupidity, and if you don’t find your way quickly out of the yard, I’ll set the dogs on you.” Under these circumstances, the tailor was quickly outside. But when he was descending the mountain, just then the sun came out. He saw his house lying under the maple and looking up at him with gleaming windows.
Then it came over him. He stepped behind a bush and made a little skip of joy.
On the way, he had to go to the Upper Röhrsdorf tavern, past the Moser tavern, which lay behind an ancient lime tree a few steps from the road. There three men were standing before the door, waving their hands about, arguing with each other and then laughing loudly. When they caught sight of the tailor, they called out to him that he was arriving on time. Such a one as Mandel, they would not have needed, for when he arrived, there were at once fifteen more there. So as not to provoke their mockery, he went and sat with them at the table. The men’s chatter swung back and forth amusingly, and the master, to whom it seemed as if he had come under a new sun, gave as good as he got, and when someone had dug a hole for him, then he played the grown-up fool as a reward. Finally the most serious of them said that was enough with the mucking about, now they must continue with the sheriff’s election. That very winter, namely, the change in the council leadership would take place. According to old custom, the Upper Röhrsdorf residents opened this business, which always brought a violent commotion into the cottages and farmsteads, with a satirical poem. The three men were now about to fulfill the post of election bards and hang a dry slur on each of the most probable candidates. They squeezed their sprays of vinegar towards Sauerborn, and read aloud what they had achieved.
If I were the miller of Sauerborn,
Then every day I’d get a horn;
For while I’m milling in the wheel house,
My wife is beating the sacks out.
Eusebius then told them about the fun he had with the farmer Tautz, showed the trousers around and acted the entire scene out with such fitting merriment that the three almost fell out of their seats with laughter.
Then he sat to the side and made up a little verse over the crooked sheriff. After he had finished, he presented the slip of paper to the three with the stipulation that they not betray him, the poet, and vanished while they were reading it.
The lines read,
If I were Tautz over the valley,
I’d stick a gnome in my belly.
He’d creep sometimes left, sometimes right,
That’d make my belly tight.
They ran out and called after the tailor, laughing. But he just waved from a distance with his cap and strove onwards to his house.