PUBLISHERS OF LITERARY FICTION SINCE 1983
Translator: Mike Mitchell Cover design: Marie Lane Cover illustration: Ben Mitchell
How Simplicius's home was captured, plundered and destroyed by the soldiers
I would prefer, peace-loving reader, not to take you with these troopers into my Da's house and farm, since things will be pretty bad there. However, my story demands that I set down for posterity the cruel atrocities that were committed from time to time in our German wars since, as my own example demonstrates, all such evils are visited upon us by the Almighty out of His great love towards us and for our own good. How else would I have learnt that there is a God in Heaven if the soldiers had not destroyed my Da's house, thus forcing me out into the world where I met other people from whom I learnt so many things? Until that happened I did not know, nor could I even imagine, that there was anyone else in the world apart from my Da, my Ma, myself and the servants, since I had never seen another person, nor any human habitation apart from the scene of my daily comings and goings. But soon afterwards I learnt how men come into this world, and that there will be a time when each of us must leave it again. In form I was human and by name a Christian, but in all other respects I was a brute beast. However, the Almighty took pity on my innocence, and determined to bring me to knowledge of both myself and Himself. And although He had a thousand means of achieving this, it was doubtless deliberate that the one He chose also punished my Da and my Ma, as a warning to others for the ungodly way they had brought me up.
The first thing the troopers did was to stable their horses. Then each went about his own particular task, though they all resulted in slaughter and destruction. Some set about a general butchering, boiling and roasting, so that it looked as if they were going to hold a banquet, while others went through the house from top to bottom like a devouring flame, as if the Golden Fleece were likely to be hidden there; even our secret room was not safe from them. Another group made huge bundles of sheets, clothes and other items, as if they intended to set up a flea market somewhere; anything they were not going to take with them they destroyed. Some stabbed at the hay and straw with their swords, as if they had not had enough sheep and pigs to slaughter already, some emptied the feathers out of the mattresses and eiderdowns and filled the cases with hams and other dried meat and provisions, as if that would make them more comfortable for sleeping on; some smashed the stove and windows, as if they were sure the summer would go on for ever. The plates, cups and jugs of copper and pewter they hammered flat and packed the crumpled pieces away, bedsteads, tables, chairs and benches they burnt, even though there was a good stack of dry wood in the yard, cups and bowls they broke, either because they preferred to eat roast meat straight from the spit, or because they had no intention of having another meal there.
Shameful to report, they handed out such rough treatment to our maid in the stall that she was unable to come out. Our farmhand they gave a drink they called Swedish ale: they bound him and laid him on the ground with a stick holding open his mouth, into which they poured a milking pail full of slurry from the dung heap. By this means they forced him to lead a party to a place where they captured more men and beasts, which they brought back to our farm. Among them were my Da, my Ma and our Ursula.
Then they took the flints out of their pistols, replacing them with the peasants' thumbs, which they screwed up tight, as if they were extracting confessions from witches before burning them; they put one of the peasant into the oven and lit a fire under him even before he had confessed to any crime; they placed a rope round the neck of another and twisted it tight with a piece of wood so that the blood came spurting out of his mouth, nose and ears. In short, each one of them had his own particular method of torturing the country folk, and each of the country folk his own particular torment to suffer. It seemed to me at the time that my Da was the most fortunate of them, since he laughed out loud as he confessed, while the others cried out in pain. This honour was doubtless due to the fact that he was the householder. They put him down beside a fire, bound him hand and foot, and smeared the soles of his feet with damp salt which our old billy goat licked off, tickling him so that he almost burst his sides laughing. It looked so funny I found myself laughing too, though whether it was to keep him company or because I knew no better I could not say today. Laughing thus, he confessed his guilt and revealed to them the whereabouts of his hidden treasure, which was far richer in gold, pearls and jewels than one would have expected of a simple farmer. What they did to the women, maidservants and girls they had captured I cannot say, as the soldiers did not let me watch them. What I do know is that I heard constant pitiful cries coming from all corners of the farmhouse and I guess that my Ma and our Ursula fared no better than all the rest. While all this suffering was going on I turned the spit and in the afternoon helped water the horses, during which I came across our maid in the stable. She was so tousled and tumbled that I did not recognise her, but in a weak voice she said to me, Run away, lad, or the troopers will take you with them. Make sure you get away, you can see how bad . . .' More she did not manage to say.
No. of pages: 434
Publication date: 23.02.2009
Re-print date: 01.05.2018
978 1 903517 42 0
978 1 907650 12 3
978 1 907650 13 0
World English Language in this translation.