Ludwig Rietow stood outside of one of the buildings that his brigade was using as a barracks. He looked about at the surrounding tents and buildings that garrisoned the Prussian soldiers who were called in to quell the rioting at Baden. He drank in the scenery, so different from his native Pomerania. As he stared at the mountains that were black with forests, he wished he were in Baden to visit the spa or for a family outing instead of for fighting. Why would anyone want to revolt against the Prussian prince? Could life be better than it now was? He was thinking about the other possibilities when two of his comrades joined him.
"Ah, Ludwig, why so serious?" Louis Spak asked.
"I was just thinking how different this is from Stettin. I have never before seen mountains such as these."
"Yes, the north country is certainly different from this."
"If I lived here, I think I would miss the blue Baltic Sea," Ludwig said. "Traveling is interesting, and I think if it were not for the fighting, I would enjoy the army. Imagine--we have seen the Rhine River, Heidelberg, and the Black Forest!"
"I miss my Annie," Louis said. "Our baby is to be born soon, and I'd like to be there to see my son."
"You should be there," Ludwig said. "Why are you so quiet, Ernie?"
"Just listening to you two talk, I'm getting homesick. I'd be out in the fields at home at this time of day. We should have a good cabbage crop this year," Ernie said.
"Just as soon as my soldiering is done, I'm going to buy myself a farm," Ludwig said. "I want my land to reach to the Bay of Stettin, so that when I've a mind, I can walk down to the sea and look at it from my own land."
"You've that much money, Ludwig?" Ernie asked jokingly, "I didn't know your last name was von B�low."
"Didn't you know that Ludwig is rich, Ernie?" Louis teased.
Ludwig shook his head. "Not rich, not a von B�low, my friends, but I'll buy my farm. Then I'll court the prettiest fraulein in the county of Stettin and marry her."
Louis laughed. "What makes you so sure she'll marry you?"
"I didn't know they had any pretty girls in Stettin," Ernie said. "From what the men in the barracks said, the prettiest frauleins are in nearby Heidelberg."
"No, they are wrong," Ludwig said. "The fairest women are in Stettin."
A group of young officers were walking by. One left the group. "Soldier," the officer said, addressing Ludwig, "Did you mention Stettin?"
"Yes, sir," Ludwig answered. "I'm from Stettin. I was born and raised there."
"Then you are just the man I'd like to talk with," the officer said. "Can you spare a minute?"
"To talk of Stettin, I can even spare an hour," Ludwig said with a smile. "I have no duties right now."
"Good. My name is Frederick Froehlich. I'm from Berlin, but I have a good friend living near Stettin." As he spoke, he deftly led Ludwig away from the others so they could speak in private.
"If your friend lives near Stettin, I could know him." Ludwig laughed. "I know almost everyone around there. Is he stationed at the garrison?"
"Her," Frederick said. "My friend is a young woman. She lives with some people named Fechtnis who have a farm near Stettin, actually in Guilsow. They have two or three sons, I believe."
Ludwig's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "You don't mean Caroline Bartel?"
"Yes, that is exactly who I do mean," Frederick said. "Do you know her?"
Slowly, Ludwig answered, "I know who she is, and I know Max and Hedwig Fechtnis. They are fine people."
"Good." Frederick sighed. "I worry about her. Caroline and I were friends in Berlin. I hope to be able to marry her some day."
"You are going to marry Caroline Fechtnis?" Ludwig asked dumbly.
"Caroline Bartel," Frederick corrected. "If my father permits, and I'm sure he will." He spoke confidently. "Caroline is a wonderful girl and comes from a good family." He almost seemed to be talking to himself, as he continued with a sigh, "It is really a shame that circumstances turned out like they did. Berlin isn't the same for me without Caroline. Not that we saw much of each other. She was little more than a child when she left. Did you know her first name is really Fredericka?" Laughingly, he said, "She never liked the name and always insisted on being called Caroline. She likes the name Frederick though, and the few times I've heard her say my name out loud, she says it so softly and prettily." He put his hand on Ludwig's shoulder in a friendly manner. "Now, my good man, you must tell me all about Stettin, the Herr and Frau Fechtnis and Caroline."
Ludwig stammered, not knowing what the officer wanted of him but understanding that the man loved Caroline. "I don't know much about Fraulein Bartel except that she is the prettiest fraulein in Stettin."
"Yes, Caroline is beautiful," Frederick said softly. "How does she wear her hair now?"
"Looped over her ears, I think," Ludwig said. "I haven't seen her much outside of church, and in church, she is always wearing a bonnet. The bonnet was trimmed with a little yellow rose."
Smiling in remembrance, Frederick said, "That is my Caroline. She likes the color yellow." He sighed. "Does she ever talk of Berlin?"
"I don't know. I've never talked to her," Ludwig said. "I'm not at home much nowadays. I'll be finished with the army soon, God willing, and then I'll settle down in Stettin. I've only seen Fraulein Bartel three or four times--three times at church and once at a fair."
"But you remember her so well."
"As I said, she is the prettiest fraulein in Stettin, and being an outsider, one remembers her. She is not like the others."
"Has she made many friends, do you know?"
Ludwig shook his head. "I don't know."
"Now, tell me about the Fechtnis."
"They are good people with three sons, Fritz, Herman, and Joseph August. The boys are all younger than I, and they are hard working. I believe Fritz will begin his military duty in a year or two. Max Fechtnis owns his own land and has a well-run farm. Frau Fechtnis was lonely before Fraulein Bartel came to live with them. I hear she is quite happy to have the fraulein with them. She is treated as one of the family and calls them uncle and aunt." Ludwig smiled, recalling to mind the other young maidens' jealousy at the Stettin Fair. "Oh, this might interest you. Fraulein Bartel's embroidery was judged as best at the fair. That caused a lot of talk among the ladies for a few days."
"I'll bet it did," Frederick said. "But why are we standing out here talking when we could be inside drinking ale? Come with me, Herr Rietow."
"Me? Go with you, sir?"
"Of course. Come on, my good man," Frederick said. "We've much to talk about."
"But you're an officer."
"Yes, my father is richer than yours," Frederick said. "Therefore, I'm an officer, and you, you are going to be my friend. So come, let us go to the tavern."
They walked down the road that had become rutted from the many wagons that traveled it bringing supplies to the soldiers and walked into the inn. Officers and soldiers filled the room that smelled of beer, sweat and smoke. Frederick and Ludwig looked around for a table in the crowded room. Finally finding one, they sat down, relaxing and talking, discussing the riots in Baden, life in Berlin, Stettin, and Fredericka Caroline von Bartel.