He became supervisor of forest rangers. With great pomp he moved into the royal lodge at Felseck, a portion of which was provided to him as a residence. He was now the good ranger's superior and he constantly tormented the old man. There was no end to the reprimands. The ranger couldn't do anything right. Lord von Schilf knew the Minister of Forests, who was highly valued by the new prince, and brought him over to his side, making the ranger's situation even more hostile.
"You are no longer worthy of serving," he said to the ranger one day. "I will attempt to find a capable man to maintain the beautiful forest." The ranger replied, "I will gladly retire from my post. I should have done it a long time ago when the late prince would have granted it. My son is to become the new ranger." "That could have been the case!" Lord von Schilf answered. "I recall hearing something about that at the time." The ranger referred to the royal decree by which his son was married. "Pah," exclaimed Lord von Schilf. "I know the decree well. It is merely a commendation for good conduct, nothing more. The youngster is worthless. I prefer to choose my own man."
The grizzled old man tried in vain to hide his tears and said, "Don't be unfair, Lord Supervisor! You believe I once did you a disservice and now you making every effort to punish me." "What," said Lord von Schilf with scorn burning in his eyes. "I remember your rudeness! You are an uncouth and arrogant fool. You had little regard for people of higher standing and yet you maintain yourself on servant wages. You threw away your savings on that beggar boy Anton. You didn't know how to control your own income so how are you going to take good care of someone else's property and support the interests of the prince? Leave! There's nothing else to discuss. I hope I don't have to deal with you or ever set eyes on you again."
The ranger left. "Hm," he thought on his way home. "The supervising ranger may say what he likes but my woods are in the best condition. However he feels about me, he can't take that away. I will wait and see what happens." When he arrived home he told his family nothing about what the supervisor said so as not to distress them.
A few days later as the old man returned from the forest and rested in his armchair a messenger entered the parlor and handed him a letter from the Forestry Service. In the letter was stated that former Ranger Grünewald was released from service due to old age and incompetance. Until a replacement was found he was to surrender the duties of his office to the neighboring ranger in Waldenbruch. There was no mention of a pension for the old man or an appointment for his son. The only comment was that from the moment he received the letter the former ranger was not to hunt in the forest or even be seen with a weapon.
The old ranger opened the letter and was dismayed. Once he had recovered he read the letter to his family, all of whom were in the parlor occupied by their own tasks. The elder ranger's wife and two daughters turned pale with dread. The young ranger burned with rage over the supervisor's maliciousness. The young ranger's wife stood speechless then began to cry. Her children cried with her. All were filled with misery. But the old ranger stood quietly in the middle of the room and spoke. "Do not forget that the old God still lives. Against His will evil men cannot harm us. This test comes from Him. Things will turn out fine for us.
"In Him we will trust. We will be comforted. I will do what I can to dispute this. Tomorrow at daybreak I will go to the prince. He is as noble as his late father. He will listen to me and not allow an old retainer, who has loyally served his princely house for forty years, to suffer from poverty and starvation along with his wife, children and grandchildren. You, Christian, must go with me. We should both be able to go without asking the supervisor's permission. We'll make the journey on foot. The necessary clothing should already be in our hunting bags. Now go get ready so we can leave early."
The old ranger got up the following morning long before daybreak and woke his son. "I can't wait for dawn to come," he said. "There's bright moonlight and we know the way. Let's go!" All in the house were concerned for the travelers, especially for their old father and grandfather. The first eight days they barely knew how to comfort themselves. But as more days followed and the weather became more unsettled and stormy they were filled with distress. "Oh," they said, "Christian is strong enough to withstand this but how will our old father get through it?" The two children of the young ranger looked to the front door every minute to see if their father and grandfather would enter.
Thus passed the first eight days and then another eight days in deep concern. Soon after the two rangers' departure a letter was delivered by a boy in the supervisor's employ. The ranger's wife didn't want to open it, fearing it was bad news. The boy said with a scornful grin, "It's strange that the old man and his young hothead of a son left the residence. The lord supervisor is certain of this. They'll accomplish nothing and return in schame and disgrace." All in the house prayed daily. May God will it that the two travelers have good audience with the prince and return safely. Even the children prayed without being told to.
Amid these unfortunate happenings holy Christmas Eve arrived. Twilight came earlier than usual and the sky was entirely filled with dense clouds. Gusty winds blew through the old oaks and swaying pine trees in the forest. It snowed and rained heavily and the gutters teamed with rainwater like a stream rushing over rocks. "Dear God," said the old ranger's wife after looking out the window for a long time. "They still aren't home. If they don't return for Christmas Eve I'll know they've met with misfortune. Things are unspeakably bad. This is weather in which a man wouldn't even let a dog out to hunt. And the pathway is soaked. Oh, if only they would return and let things take their course."
She opened the window, looked out, and cried, "Praise God, they're coming!" Everyone rushed to the front door and asked, "How did things go in the city?" "I'm hopeful that everything will turn out!" said the old ranger. "We caused you a lot of grief because we were gone so long. I became sick on the journey and couldn't go on. When I felt better there was a lot of rain which flooded the rivers and streams so we had to stay put a few days longer. But praise God, we made it home." He entered the house and sat in his armchair by the warming fire. The old ranger's wife brought a bottle of wine, two glasses and an oil lamp. "Take some refreshment," she said as she handed them glasses. "I'm sure you both need it. Dinner will be ready soon."
Imaging and translation by Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks