It must have been quite a long time ago that the God said — as he was so often wont to say: —
"Gabriel, open the door and have a look down to earth! I think someone is crying!" Gabriel did as God
wished, at first holding his hand before his eyes so as not to be blinded by the light, but then he looked
all around and described what he saw:
"I see a long green meadow down thee; at one end sits Barbara tending her geese and at the other I
see Christoph watching over his pigs, and both of them are crying and I cannot stand to see them so
sad." "Is that so?" said God. "Make room for me, Tall Angel*, I would like to see that for myself." (*
Everyone knows that the Angel Gabriel is very tall.)
When he looked down he saw the exact same scene that Gabriel had described.
Why Christoph and Barbara were crying so bitterly can be explained thus: Christoph and Barbara were
very fond of each other. She tended the geese and he tended the pigs and so they were well suited for
one another because their lives were so simple. They planned on getting married and thought that the
only requirement for that was that they loved each other. But the farmer for whom they worked saw the
matter differently. So they had to be satisfied just to be engaged. But because it is good to have order
in all things and because kissing is important for those who intend to get married they agreed that
seven kisses in the morning and seven in the evening would be a good number. For a time that proved
to be right and at the appointed hour the kisses were punctually and properly exchanged. Now on the
morning of the day in question, at the moment when they were to kiss for the seventh time, Barbara,
because of her pet goose and Christoph, because of his favorite pig, started to quarrel about what they
should have for breakfast and the quarrel turned into an outright clash. Then they were so involved in
trying to make peace that they had no time for their kissing and had to stop at the wrong number. Later
they found themselves sitting alone at a distance from one another, far apart at the edges of the field.
When they realized what they had failed to do they started to cry, and they were still crying when God
himself looked down and saw them.
In the beginning God thought they would get over their differences in a matter of time; but as it kept
getting worse and when even Christoph's pig and Barbara's goose put on sour faces and started to look
sad God said: "I want to help them! If they make a wish today for whatever they wanted, it will come
Now both of them were thinking about the same thing but when they looked for the other and could see
nothing because they were so far apart and because of a great bush standing right in the middle of the
field. Christoph started to think: "If only I were over there where the geese are! And Barbara sighed: Ah,
if only I were over there where the pigs are!"
All at once Christoph found himself in fact sitting among the geese and Barbara found herself among the
pigs; and still they were not together and the number of kisses could not be set right again.
Then Christoph thought: Barbara will certainly wanted to be here with me. And Barbara thought: Ay me!
Christoph must have taken the long way round when he tried to find me! — Ah, if I were only with my
geese! — Ah, if I were only with my pigs!
So now Barbara was once again with her geese and Christoph with his pigs and it went on like that all
day long, back and forth, because both of them kept making wishes that kept them apart. And so the
seventh morning kiss never took place. Christoph intended to kiss that evening when both of them,
tired of wishing, had returned home, but Barbara thought it useless to try and that the affair could
never be set aright.—
When God saw that the two of them were always at odds with their wishes he said: "I was not much of
a help. But nevertheless, what I said, I said! Nothing will change it!" So God determined that he would
never again let lovers have their wishes be fulfilled without them giving careful thought beforehand, and
that he would first have to know what they really wanted. Later he is supposed to have said to the Angel
Gabriel confidentially: what a shame it was that lovers wishes were seldom the kind that he could grant.
And as for myself, once, a long time ago, when I turned to the God for help in a similar matter he made
as if he hadn't even heard me. It was after that that Gabriel told me this story; and on hearing it I was
not surprised in the least.—
|How Christoph and Barbara Made Confusing Wishes
Richard von Volkmann-Leander
Illustrations: Hans von Volkmann (Son)
|Reveries at French Firesides