By JOHANNA SPYRI
Many writers have suffered injustice in being known as the author of but one book. Robinson Crusoe was not Defoe's only masterpiece, nor did Bunyan confine his best powers to Pilgrim's Progress. Not one person in ten of those who read Lorna Doone is aware that several of Blackmore's other novels are almost equally charming. Such, too, has been the fate of Johanna Spyri, the Swiss authoress, whose reputation is mistakenly supposed to rest on her story of Heidi.
To be sure, Heidi is a book that in its field can hardly be overpraised. The winsome, kind-hearted little heroine in her mountain background is a figure to be remembered from childhood to old age. Nevertheless, Madame Spyri has shown here but one side of her narrative ability.
If, as I believe, the present story is here first presented to readers of English, it must be through a strange oversight, for in it we find a deeper treatment of character, combined with equal spirit and humor of a different kind. Cornelli, the heroine, suffers temporarily from the unjust suspicion of her elders, a misfortune which, it is to be feared, still occurs frequently in the case of sensitive children. How she was restored to herself and reinstated in her father's affection forms a narrative of unusual interest and truth to life. Whereas in Heidi there is only one other childish figure—if we except the droll peasant boy Peter—we have here a lively and varied array of children. Manly, generous Dino; Mux, the irrepressible; and the two girls form a truly lovable group. The grown-ups, too, are contrasted with much humor and genuine feeling. The story of Cornelli, therefore, deserves to equal Heidi in popularity, and there can be no question that it will delight Madame Spyri's admirers and will do much to increase the love which all children feel for her unique and sympathetic genius.
CHARLES WHARTON STORK
I. BESIDE THE ROARING ILLER-STREAM II. UP IN THE TOP STORY III. NEW APPEARANCES IN ILLER-STREAM IV. THE UNWISHED-FOR HAPPENS V. A NEWCOMER IN ILLER-STREAM VI. A FRIEND IS FOUND VII. A NEW SORROW VIII. A MOTHER IX. A GREAT CHANGE X. NEW LIFE IN ILLER-STREAM
BESIDE THE ROARING ILLER-STREAM
Spring had come again on the banks of the Iller-Stream, and the young beech trees were swaying to and fro. One moment their glossy foliage was sparkling in the sunshine, and the next a deep shadow was cast over the leaves. A strong south wind was blowing, driving huge clouds across the sun.
A little girl with glowing cheeks and blowing hair came running through the wood. Her eyes sparkled with delight, while she was being driven along by the wind, or had to fight her way against it. From her arm was dangling a hat, which, as she raced along, seemed anxious to free itself from the fluttering ribbons in order to fly away. The child now slackened her pace and began to sing:
The snow's on the meadow, The snow's all around, The snow lies in heaps All over the ground. Hurrah, oh hurrah! All over the ground.
Oh cuckoo from the woods, Oh flowers so bright, Oh kindliest sun, Come and bring us delight! Hurrah, oh hurrah! Come and bring us delight!
When the swallow comes back And the finches all sing, I sing and I dance For joy of the Spring. Hurrah, oh hurrah! For joy of the Spring.
The woods rang with her full, young voice, and her song also roused the birds, for they, too, now carolled loudly, ready to outdo each other. Laughingly the child sang once more with all her might:
Hurrah, oh hurrah! For joy of the Spring.
and from all the branches sounded a many voiced chorus.
Right on the edge of the woods stood a splendid old beech tree with a high, firm trunk, under which the child had often sought quiet and shelter after running about in the sun. She had reached the tree now and was looking up at the far-spreading branches, which were rocking up and down.
The child, however, did not rest very long. Over where the wind struck an open space, it blew as mightily as ever, and the roaring, high up in the tree-tops, seemed to urge her on to new exertions. First she began fighting her way against the wind, but soon she turned. Driven by it, she flew down the steep incline to the path which led down to the narrow valley. She kept on running till she had reached a small wooden house, which looked down from a high bank to the roaring mountain stream. A narrow stairway led up from the ground to the front door of the little dwelling and to the porch, where on a wide railing were some fragrant carnations.
The lively little girl now leaped up the steps, two at a time. Soon she reached the top, and one could see that the house was familiar to her.
"Martha, Martha, come out!" she called through the open door. "Have you noticed yet how jolly the wind is to-day?"
A small old woman with gray hair now came out to greet the child. She was dressed in the simplest fashion, and wore a tight-fitting cap on her head. Her clothes were so very tidy and clean, however, that it seemed as if she might have sat on a chair all day for fear of spoiling them. Yet her hands told another tale, for they were roughened by hard work.
"Oh, Martha," the child said, "I just wish you knew how wonderful the wind is to-day up there in the woods and on the hill. One has to fight it with all one's might, otherwise one might be blown down the mountain side like a bird. It would be so hard then to get on one's feet again, wouldn't it? Oh, I wish you knew what fun it is to be out in the wind to-day."
"I think I would rather not know," said Martha, shaking the child's hand. "It seems to me that the wind has pulled you about quite a little. Come, we'll straighten you up again."
The child's thick dark hair was in a terrible state. What belonged on the left side of the parting had been blown to the right, and what belonged on the right side was thrown to the left. The little apron, instead of being in front, hung down on the side, and from the bottom of her skirt the braid hung loose, carrying upon it brambles and forest leaves. First Martha combed the little girl's hair, then she pulled the apron into place. Finally she got a thread and needle and began to mend the braid on the dress.
"Stop, Martha, stop, please!" Cornelli called out suddenly, pulling her skirt away. "You must not sew, for your finger is all pricked to pieces. There is only half of it left with those horrible marks."
"That does not matter; just give me your little skirt," replied Martha, continuing her sewing. "This kind of work does not hurt me; but when I sew heavy shirts for the farmers and the workmen in the iron works the material is so rough that, as I push the needle in, I often prick off little pieces of my finger."
"Why should you have to do that, Martha? They could make their own shirts and prick their own fingers," cried Cornelli indignantly.
"No, no, Cornelli; do not speak like that," replied the woman. "You see, I am glad and grateful to be able to get work enough to earn my living without help. I have to be thankful to our Lord for all the good things he gives me, and especially for giving me enough strength for my work."
Cornelli looked about her searchingly, in the little room. It was modestly furnished, but most scrupulously clean.
"I do not think that God gave you so very much, really, but you keep everything so neat, and do it all yourself," remarked Cornelli.
"I have to thank our Lord, though, that I am able to do it," returned Martha. "You see, Cornelli, if I had not the health to do everything the way I like it done, who could do it for me? It is a great gift to be able to step out every morning into the sunshine and to my carnations. Then I thank God in my heart for the joy of a new day before me. There are many poor people who wake up only to sorrow and tears. They have to spend all day on their sick beds and have many troubles besides. Can you see now, Cornelli, how grateful I have to be to our Lord because nothing prevents me from sewing, even if I have to prick my fingers? But I believe I hear the bell in the foundry. You know that means supper time, so run back to the house as quickly as you can."
Martha knew well enough that she had to remind her little friend about returning, for often time had been forgotten and Cornelli had had to be sent for. But now the little girl began to run swiftly down the incline beside the rushing stream. Soon she came to the large buildings from which the sound of hissing fires, loud thumping and hammering could be heard all day. The noise was so great that only the roaring of the stream could drown it. Here were the works of the great iron foundry, well known far and wide, since most of those who lived in the neighborhood found employment there.
Glancing at the large doors and seeing that they were closed, Cornelli flew by them with great bounds. In an isolated house, well raised above the stream, lived the proprietor of the foundry. Beautiful flower gardens were on three sides.
Cornelli approached the open space in front and was soon inside. Flinging her hat into a corner, she entered the room where her father was already sitting at table. He did not even look up, for he was holding a large newspaper in front of him. As Cornelli's soup was waiting for her, she ate it quickly, and since her father made no movement behind his paper, she helped herself to everything else that was before her.
While she was nibbling on an apple, her father looked up and said: "I see that you have caught up with me, Cornelli. You even seem to be further along than I am. Just the same you must not come late to your meals. It is not right, even if you get through before me. Well, as long as you have finished, you can take this letter to the post office. There is something in it which concerns you and which will please you. I have to go now, but I shall tell you about it to-night."
Cornelli was given the letter. Taking the remainder of her apple with her, she ran outside. With leaps and bounds she followed the rushing Iller-Stream, till the narrow path reached the wide country road. Here stood the stately inn, which was the post office of the place. In the open doorway stood the smiling and rotund wife of the innkeeper.
"How far are you going at this lively pace?" she smilingly asked the child.
"I am only coming to you," Cornelli replied. She was very much out of breath, so she paused before adding: "I have to mail a letter."
"Is that so? Just give it to me and we'll attend to it," said the woman. Holding the hand the child had offered her, she added: "You are well off, Cornelli, are you not? You do not know what trouble is, do you, child?"
Cornelli shook her head.
"Yes, of course. And why should you? It does one good to see your bright eyes. Come to see me sometimes; I like to see a happy child like you."
Cornelli replied that she would gladly come again. She really meant to do so, for the woman always spoke kindly to her. After saying good-bye, she ran away again, jumping and bounding as before. The innkeeper's wife meantime muttered to herself, while she looked after Cornelli: "I really think there is nothing better than to be always merry."
The contents of the letter, which the little girl had taken to be mailed, were as follows:
ILLER-STREAM, 28th of April, 18—.
MY DEAR COUSIN:
My trip to Vienna, which I have put off again and again, at last has to be made. As I must leave in the near future, I am asking you the great favor of spending the summer here to superintend my household. I am counting greatly on your good influence on my child, who has had practically no education, although Miss Mina, my housekeeper, has of course done her best, with the help of our good Esther, who reigns in the kitchen. Old Martha, a former nurse of my poor dead wife, has done more than anybody else. Of course one can hardly call it education, and I have to blame myself for this neglect. As I am so busy with my affairs, I do not see much of my child. Besides, I know extremely little about bringing up little girls. There is no greater misfortune than the loss of a mother, especially such a mother as my Cornelia. It was terrible for my poor child to lose her at the tender age of three. Please bring a good friend with you, so that you won't suffer from solitude in this lonely place.
Please gladden me soon by your arrival, and oblige
Your sincere cousin,
That same evening, when Director Hellmut was sitting in the living room with his daughter, he spoke of his hope that a cousin of his, Miss Kitty Dorner, would come to stay in Iller-Stream while he was on his trip to Vienna. He also told Cornelli to be glad of this prospect.
After a few days came the following answer:
B——, The 4th of May, 18—.
MY DEAR COUSIN:
To oblige you I shall spend the summer at your house. I have already planned everything and I have asked my friend Miss Grideelen to accompany me. I am very grateful that you realize how monotonous it would have been for me to stay alone in your house all summer. You do not need to have such disturbing thoughts about your daughter's education. No time has yet been lost, for these small beings do not need the best of care at the start. They require that only when they are ripe enough for mental influences. Such small creatures merely vegetate, and I am quite sure Miss Mina was the right person to look after the child's well-being and proper nourishment. Esther, who you say is very reliable, too, has probably helped in taking care of the child as much as was necessary. The time may, however, have come now when the child is in need of a proper influence in her education.
We shall not arrive before the last week of this month, for it would be inconvenient for me to come sooner.
With best regards,
I am your cousin,
"Your cousin is really coming, Cornelli, and I am certain that you are happy now," said her father. He had read the letter while they were having supper. "Another lady is coming, too, and with their arrival a new delightful life will begin for you."
Cornelli, who had never before heard anything about this relation of her father's, felt no joy at this news. She did not see anything pleasing in the prospect. On the contrary, it only meant a change in the household, which she did not in the least desire. She wanted everything to remain as it was. She had no other wish.
Cornelli saw her father only at meals, for he spent all the rest of his time in his business offices and in the extensive works. But the child never felt lonely or forsaken. She always had many plans, and there was hardly a moment when she was not occupied. Her time between school hours always seemed much too short and the evenings only were half as long as she wanted them to be. It was then that she loved to walk and roam around. Her father had barely left the room, when she again ran outside and, as usual, down the path.
At that moment the energetic Esther was coming from the garden with a large basket on her arm. She had wisely picked some vegetables for the following day.
"Don't go out again, Cornelli," she said. "Just look at the gray clouds above the mountain! I am afraid we shall have a thunderstorm."
"Oh, I just have to go to Martha," replied Cornelli quickly. "I must tell her something, and I don't think a storm will come so soon."
"Of course it won't come for a long while," called Miss Mina. Through the open door she had overheard the warning and had stepped outside to say: "Just go to Martha, Cornelli; the storm won't come for a long time, I am sure."
So the child flew away while Esther passed Miss Mina, silently shrugging her shoulders. That was always the way it happened when Cornelli wanted anything. If Miss Mina thought that something should not be done, Esther always arrived, saying that nothing on earth would be easier than to do that very thing. Or, if she thought that Cornelli should not do a thing, Miss Mina always helped to have it put through. The reason for this was a very simple one: each of them wanted to be the favorite with the child.
Cornelli, arriving at Martha's house, shot up the stairs and into the little room. Full of excitement, she called out: "Just think, Martha, two strange people are coming to our house. They are two ladies from the city, and father said that I should be glad; but I am not a bit glad, for I do not know them. Would you be glad, Martha, if two new people suddenly came to visit you?"
The child had to take a deep breath. She had been running fast and had spoken terribly quickly.
"Just sit down here with me, Cornelli, and get your breath again," said Martha quietly. "I am sure that somebody is coming whom your father loves, otherwise he would not tell you to be glad. When you know them, I am sure you will feel happy."
"Yes, perhaps. But what are you writing, Martha? I have never before seen you write," said the child, full of interest, for her thoughts had been suddenly turned.
"Writing is not easy for me," answered Martha, "and you could do it so much better than I can. It is a long time since I have written anything."
"Just give it to me, Martha, and I'll write for you if you will only tell me what." Cornelli readily took hold of the pen and dipped it into the bottom of the inkstand.
"I'll tell you about it and then you can write it in your own way; I am sure that you can do it better than I can," said Martha, quite relieved. She had been sitting for a long time with a pen in her hand, absolutely unable to find any beginning.
"You see, Cornelli," she began, "I have been getting along so well with my work lately that I have been able to buy a bed. For a long time I have wanted to do that, for I already had a table and two chairs, besides an old wardrobe. Now I have put them all into my little room upstairs, so that I can take somebody in for the summer. Sometimes delicate ladies or children come out of town to the country, and I could take such good care of them. I am always at home and I could do my usual work besides. You see, Cornelli, I wanted to put this in the paper, but I do not know how to do it and how to begin."
"Oh, I'll write it so plainly that somebody is sure to come right away," Cornelli replied, full of zeal. "But first of all, let us look at the little room! I am awfully anxious to see it."
Martha was quite willing, so she led the way up a narrow stairway into the little chamber.
"Oh, how fine it is, how lovely!" exclaimed Cornelli, running, full of admiration, from one corner to the other. Martha had in truth fixed it so daintily that it looked extremely pleasing. Around the windows she had arranged curtains of some thin white material with tiny blue flowers, and the same material had been used to cover an old wooden case. This she had fixed as a dainty washstand. The bed and two old chairs were likewise covered; the whole effect was very cheerful and inviting.
"Oh, how pretty!" Cornelli exclaimed over and over again. "How could you ever do it, Martha, or have so much money?"
"Oh no, no, it was not much, but just enough for the bed and a little piece of material. I got the stuff very cheap, because it was a remnant. So you really do not think it is bad, child? Do you think that somebody would like to live here?" Martha was examining every object she had so carefully worked over.
"Yes, of course, Martha, you can believe me," Cornelli replied reassuringly. "I should just love to come right away, if I did not live here already. But now I shall write, for I know exactly what I shall say." Cornelli, running down stairs, dipped her pen into the ink and began to write.
"But do not forget to say that it is in the country, and tell the name of the place here, so that they can find me," said Martha, fearing she had set Cornelli a very difficult task.
"That is true, I have to say that, too," remarked Cornelli. When she had written the ending she began to read aloud: "If somebody should want a nice room, he can have it with Martha Wolf. She will take good care of delicate ladies or children and will see that they will be comfortable. Everything is very neat and there are lovely new blue and white covers on everything. It is in the country, in Iller-Stream, beside the Iller-Stream, quite near the large iron works."
Martha was thoroughly pleased. "You have said everything so clearly that one can easily understand it," she remarked. "I could not have said it myself, you see, for it would have seemed like boasting. Now if I only knew where to send it for the paper. I do not know quite what address to write on it."
"Oh, I know quite well what to do," Cornelli reassured her friend, "I shall take it quickly to the post office. Sometimes when I have taken letters there, I have heard people say to the innkeeper: 'This must be put in the paper.' Then he took it and said: 'I'll look after it.' Now I shall do the same. Just give it to me, Martha."
Once more the woman glanced through what had been written. It seemed very strange to her that her name was going to appear in the newspaper, but, of course, it was necessary.
"No, no, my good child," she replied, "you have done enough for me now. You have helped me wonderfully, and I do not want you to go there for me. But your advice is good and I shall take the paper there myself."
"Oh yes, and I'll come, too," said Cornelli delightedly. She knew no greater pleasure than to take a walk with her old friend, for Martha always discovered such interesting things and could point them out to Cornelli, telling her many, many things about them. In many places Martha would be reminded of Cornelli's mother; then with great tenderness she would tell the child about her. Martha was the only one who ever talked to Cornelli about her mother. Her father never spoke of her; and Esther, who had been in their service for a long time, always replied when the child wanted to talk to her about her mother: "Do not talk, please; it only makes one sad. People shouldn't stir up such memories."
"So you are coming, too?" Martha said happily. It was her greatest joy to take a walk with her small, merry companion. Cornelli hung on her arm, and together they wandered forth in the beautiful evening. The storm clouds had passed over, and towards the west the sky was flaming like fiery gold.
"Do you think, Martha, that my mother can see the golden sky as well from inside as we see it from the outside?" asked the child, pointing to the sunset.
"Yes, I am quite sure of that, Cornelli," Martha eagerly answered. "If our dear Lord lets his dwelling glow so beautifully from outside, just think how wonderful it must be inside where the blessed are in their happiness!"
"Why are they so glad?" Cornelli wanted to know.
"Oh, because they are freed from all sorrow and pain. They are also glad because they know that every pain or sorrow their loved ones on earth have to bear is only a means to bring their prayers to Him who alone can guide them to Heaven."
"Did my mother pray to Him, too?" asked Cornelli again.
"Yes, yes, Cornelli, you can be sure of that," Martha reassured her. "Your mother was a good, pious lady. Everybody should pray to be able to go where she is."
The two now reached the post office and gave their message to the innkeeper and postmaster. When twilight had come and the evening bell had long ago rung, they wandered back along the pleasant valley road between green meadows.
UP IN THE TOP STORY
One bright morning in May, a portly gentleman, leaning heavily on a gold-headed cane, was walking up the narrow city street. The houses here were so high that the upper windows could scarcely be seen from below. A steep rise in the street caused the gentleman to stop from time to time to get his breath. Scrutinizing the house numbers, he said to himself several times: "Not yet, not yet." Then, climbing up still higher, he at last reached a house beside whose open door six bells were hanging.
The gentleman now began to study the names under the bells, meanwhile gravely shaking his head, for he did not seem to find the name he was seeking.
"Oh dear, at last! and the highest one up, too," he sighed, while he entered the house. Now the real climbing began. At first the steps, though rather high, were white and neat. But after a while they became dark and narrow, and in the end the way led over worn, uneven steps to a narrow door. The only standing room was on the last small step.
"Is this a cage?" said the climber to himself, breathing hard and holding fast to the railing. The thin and creaking steps seemed to him extremely unsafe. After he had pulled the bell-rope, the door opened, and a lady dressed in black stood before him.
"Oh, is it you, kind guardian?" she exclaimed with astonishment. "I am so sorry that you had to come up these winding steps," she added, for she noticed that the stout gentleman had to wipe his face after the great exertion. "I should have been very glad to go down to you, if you had let me know that you were here." The lady meanwhile had led the gentleman into the room and asked him to seat himself.
"As your guardian I simply had to come once to see you," he declared, seating himself on an old sofa and still leaning with both hands on the golden knob of his cane. "I have to tell you, my dear Mrs. Halm, that I am sorry you moved to town. You should have followed my advice and lived in a small house in the country. It would have been so much more practical for you than to live in this garret lodging where you have no conveniences whatever. I am quite sure that the country air would have been much better for both you and the children."
"I could not think about conveniences for myself, when my husband died, and I had to leave the parsonage, Mr. Schaller," replied the lady, with a faint smile. "The country air would naturally have been much better for my children, especially for my older boy. But he had to come to town on account of school, and I could not possibly have sent him away from me, delicate as he is. Besides——"
"There are boarding places in town where such boys are well taken care of," the visitor interrupted. "What other reasons did you have?"
"My girls, too, are old enough to learn something which they can make use of later on," continued the lady. "You know that this is necessary and that it is very hard to get such opportunities in the country. I hope I have persuaded you that coming to town with the children was not a foolish undertaking. I am extremely glad that you have given me an opportunity to explain why I did not follow your advice."
"What are your daughters going to learn?" the gentleman asked abruptly.
"Nika, the elder, paints quite well," replied the lady, "and Agnes has a decided talent for music. If both girls are earnest in their studies, they hope later on to be able to teach; indeed, they are very anxious to do so."
"These arts do not bring good returns, even after years and years of study," said the gentleman. "It would be much more sensible for the sisters to busy themselves with dressmaking. They could quickly begin a business in which they might help each other and make some money. This would really help both you and your son a great deal. If your boy is going to study, it will be a long time before he can be independent."
The parson's widow looked sadly in front of her without saying a word.
"Please do not misunderstand me. I am only speaking in your and your children's interest," the gentleman began again. "I am very sorry not to have met your daughters, for they would soon have agreed with me, if they had heard my reasons. Nowadays young people understand quite well what it means to make one's way easily and advantageously. You can be sure of that."
"My children may still be a little backward in this knowledge. They may, through the influence of their parents, still care for the things which you call the breadless arts," said the lady with a sigh. "But I shall make my children acquainted with your ideas and I shall try to speak to them according to your views, at least as far as I am able."
"How old is the eldest? She ought to be old enough to understand my reasons," remarked the gentleman.
"Nika is in her fourteenth year. Her education is, of course, still incomplete in many ways," replied the lady. "Dino is twelve and Agnes eleven years old. The latter must first of all complete her compulsory school years."
"Still rather young people," said Mr. Schaller, shaking his head. "I am sure of one thing, however. The longer their education will take, the shorter should be the ways to the goal. I am more and more convinced that my advice is right. If you give your little daughters into the hands of a clever dressmaker, your moving to the city will have been of some real use."
In his great zeal to convince his silent listener, the visitor had not noticed that a small boy had entered. This little fellow had at first hidden behind his mother, but, at a sign from her, approached the gentleman. He noticed the child only when a small fist pushed itself forcibly into his closed right hand.
"Please forgive the rather aggressive greeting of my small son," begged the mother.
"Oh, here is another, still. I knew there was a smaller one," exclaimed the dismayed visitor. "Well, boy, what is your name?"
"Mux," was the reply.
The gentleman looked questioningly at the mother.
"That is the name his brother and sisters have given him and the one which seems to have remained quite permanently," she replied. "His name is really Marcus and he is just five years old."
"Well, well, and what do you want to be when you grow up, my young friend?" asked Mr. Schaller.
"An army general," unhesitatingly replied the small boy. After these words the gentleman got up.
"It seems to me, my dear Mrs. Halm, that all your children have pretty high-flown ideas," he said impressively. "I can only hope that before long they will learn that in this world it is not possible for everybody to do what he pleases."
The mother approved this good wish, but added: "I have to tell you, though, that Mux has gotten this idea from his favorite book, where the picture of a general on horseback interests him more than anything else. This, of course, is a passing impression, like many others."
"One can never urge proper and successful work too soon nor too often; please do not overlook that, my friend!" With these words the guardian ended the interview and, saying good-bye, carefully descended the steep staircase.
Just then a child was running up the stairs so quickly that it actually seemed as if she had no need to touch the steps at all. As the gentleman was taking up all the room, the only space left for a passage was under the arm with which he held the railing. Here the lithe creature tried to slip through.
"Stop, stop! Do you not belong to the parson's widow, Mrs. Halm?" asked the gentleman, making a barrier with his arm.
"Yes, I belong to her," was the quick answer. And stooping down still lower, the small person again tried to pass.
"Just hold still one moment, if you can," the gentleman now demanded. "You probably know that I am Mr. Schaller, your guardian. I have just given your mother some advice, which was meant for your good. You do not look in the least stupid, so you can help to persuade your mother. I am sure you can understand what is good for you. Are you the elder?"
"No, the younger one," came quickly back for answer.
"So much the better. Then the elder will be still more sensible. If you take my advice you can both contribute to the prosperity of the whole family." With these words the gentleman gave the little girl his hand and went away.
Agnes flew up the rest of the stairs and into the narrow hall. Her brother Mux was standing expectantly in the open doorway. He did this every day at the time his brother and sisters were coming home from school. He loved the change that their coming brought after the quiet morning.
"A fat gentleman was here and mother said afterward: 'Oh God!' and you can't play the piano any more," he reported.
Agnes ran into the next room and as quickly out again. "Where is mother? Mother, mother!" she called, opening one door after another.
"Here I am, Agnes, but do not be so violent," sounded the mother's voice from the kitchen.
Agnes ran to her. "Mother, what is Mux saying? Is it really true? I know that Mr. Schaller has been here and that he can tell us what we have to do. What did he say? Is it really true what Mux has said? Oh, I'll never eat again! I don't want to sleep or do anything any more. Everything, then, is lost!"
Agnes was frightfully excited. Her cheeks were dark red and her eyes seemed to shoot forth flashes of lightning.
"But, child, you must not speak this way. Do not get so terribly excited," the mother calmly admonished her. "There is no time now to discuss a subject which we have to talk over quietly. We shall do so to-night. You know perfectly well that I have the greatest sympathy for your wishes and ambitions, and that it means as much to me as to you. As soon as we have a quiet hour together we can talk it all over."
These words quieted the child. She knew that her mother always shared every experience with them. In coming to town, mother and daughter had hoped to be able to carry out their most fervent wish, namely, the completion of Agnes' musical education. Agnes could count on her mother's help. It was for the happiness of both of them. So Agnes went out to the kitchen to do her work as usual. Both the sisters always helped to lighten their mother's work, for their only servant was quite a young girl, who did not do much besides run errands.
Mux went back to his former place. He was intensely pleased with the great effect and excitement his words had produced on Agnes. Hearing somebody else coming upstairs, he prepared to repeat his speech.
When Nika was near enough to hear him he said: "A fat gentleman has been here, and when he was gone mother said: 'Oh God!' and you are not to paint any more trees and flowers."
Nika, not having seen Mr. Schaller, did not understand these words. Unruffled and silent, she passed Mux and went into the other room, which disappointed Mux terribly. So when he heard Dino coming up the stairs, he unloaded his disappointment on him.
"We are not going to have them to-day," he announced.
"What do you think we will have? What am I supposed to be thinking of, little guesser?" Dino called out.
"Oh, I know. Whenever you think we are going to have green peas for lunch, you run up very quickly. You can't even wait, you love them so," Mux asserted. "But we won't have any to-day, for we are going to have cabbage instead. There, now you have it!"
"Now come in and we'll see who makes a worse face about it, you or I!"
With these words Dino took his little brother's hand, and together they ran into the room. Very soon afterwards, the family all sat down to their mid-day meal. On most days the children would be telling their mother about the happenings of the morning. They would all talk at once until it was quite hard for her to do them all justice. But to-day it was different. It seemed as if a storm was in the air; everybody was silent, and on all faces, except one, heavy clouds seemed to be resting. Nika sat brooding and staring in front of her, for Agnes had interpreted to her their little brother's words. She swallowed very hard on every mouthful, because she had to swallow a great deal more besides. Agnes was frowning so that her whole forehead was like one huge wrinkle. The mother, too, was busy with deep thoughts, as one could see from her worried expression.
Mux, who generally was extremely talkative, was quietly nibbling on his dish of cabbage, with many a deep sigh. Dino alone was merry. He glanced with great expectation from one to the other, and his lunch did not keep him very busy.
"I am expecting a thunderstorm," he said, while the quiet was still unbroken. "Nika is going to let loose the lightning which is flashing under her lashes, and Agnes will follow with the thunder. After this I predict a heavy rainstorm, for Mux can hardly keep back his tears about this cabbage."
"But you have eaten much less cabbage than I have," Mux cried out.
"I do this only from moderation, my little man, so that nobody will get too little."
"I would answer you about the thunder and the cabbage, Dino, if I had time," Agnes at last exploded. "But I have a music lesson at one o'clock and I have enough to swallow without this horrid cabbage."
"I only wish you could be more moderate in other things instead of in eating, Dino," said the mother with a melancholy smile. "You have hardly eaten anything, and I heard you cough all night. Your health worries me dreadfully, Dino. Did you cough much in school this morning?"
"Certainly, mother. But that is nothing to worry about," Dino replied merrily. "It always goes away again. My professor said to-day that it would have been better for me to remain in the pastoral fields of my native village, than to have sought the dust-laden corners of town. But I answered: 'Unfortunately the Latin language does not sprout from the pastoral fields, professor.'"
"Oh, I hope you did not answer that," the mother said, quite frightened.
"Oh yes, but only in my thoughts! Please, mother, don't worry about me," Dino implored.
"I am afraid that your professor is right," the mother said with a sigh. "But I have a plan which we shall talk over to-night. I shall also talk over our guardian's proposal, girls. Please try not to look so terribly unhappy, for everything is not yet lost."
"Oh, it will come to that in the end," said Nika, leaving the room.
"Yes, and much worse, I guess," said Agnes. Violently pushing her chair in place, she departed, after thrusting her music into a folder.
"What can be worse than when all is lost?" Dino called after her. "I know what," responded Mux knowingly, while Agnes looked back at Dino as if to say: If I had time I certainly would give an answer to you.
"What is it, wise little man?" asked Dino.
"If she had to eat nothing but cabbage all the time," replied Mux, full of a conviction which he seemed to have acquired from his own experience.
Dino, too, prepared to depart. With a sorrowful look, the mother passed her hand over the boy's thick hair. "Please be careful, and do not run too fast," she begged. "It's very bad for you to sit in the cool school room when you are so overheated. I can scarcely ever see you go, without anxiety."
"But I am surely not as sick as that, little mother," Dino said, tenderly embracing her. "When somebody has a cough it always goes away again after a while. That is the way with me. Be merry and everything will be all right in the end. But I have to go now, it is late," he exclaimed.
"But do not hurry so terribly, Dino, there is time enough yet, and remember what I told you," she called after him. Then stepping to the open window, she followed the running boy down the street with her eyes.
Dino gave Mrs. Halm great anxiety, for he seemed more delicate every day. Her watchful eye had detected how poor his appetite had been lately. Despite that, the boy had a very sweet disposition and was always full of fun. He was always anxious to have everybody in a good humor, and above all, his mother. Of all the burdens she had to bear, the trouble about her son's health was the hardest. One could see this by the painful expression on her face when she left the window and sat down beside her work table.
Mux was just repeating a question for the third time, but his mother did not hear him. Loudly raising his voice he said once more: "Oh, mother, why does one have to eat what the cows get?"
"What do you mean, Mux? What are you talking about?" she asked.
"I saw it in my picture book. The leaves the cows get are just the same as those in the kitchen," he explained none too clearly, but the mother understood him directly. She remembered how interestedly he had looked at the cabbage leaves when the girl had brought them home from market. She also bore in mind a picture in his favorite book, where a stable boy was shown giving a glossy brown cow splendid green leaves to eat.
"So you still have the cabbage in your head, Mux?" said the mother. "You must not be dissatisfied when there are so many poor children who have to go hungry. While you get bread and good vegetables, they may be suffering."
"Oh, can't we send them the rest of the cabbage?" Mux quickly suggested.
"Come and work on the embroidery I have started for you, Mux. We shall see who can beat to-day. Perhaps that will clear away your thoughts about the cabbage. Come and sit beside me, Mux."
The mother put a little chair beside hers and placed the work in the boy's nimble fingers. Now a race with stitches began, and in his zeal to beat his mother he at last forgot the subject that had troubled him so much.
The late evening had come and the children's work for school was done. Mrs. Halm put the big mending basket away and took up her knitting. The time had come, when, clustering eagerly about their mother, the children told her all the troubles and joys of the day.
It was the hardest hour of the day for Mux, for it was his bedtime. His mother always took him by the hand, to lead him to bed, before she began to talk with the three elder children. Every evening he put up a fight, for the wily youngster always thought that by obstinate resistance he could break the rule. His mother, however, knew well that his success would only result in dreadful yawns and heavy eyes.
This evening he found himself ready for bed before he had had time to prepare for his fight. His mother seemed anxious to have him in bed punctually that night. The boy was always reconciled to his fate when she sat down a moment beside his bed to hear of anything that might be troubling him. Mux, knowing that all conversation was irrevocably closed after his prayers were said, would try every night to prolong this period.
After Mux had climbed into bed, he said thoughtfully: "Don't you think, mother, that if people planted cherries where cabbage now grows everybody could eat cherries instead of cabbage?"
"We simply have to stop now, Mux," Mrs. Halm replied to his astonishment, for he had hoped to start a long conversation.
"Well, Mux, you don't seem to be able to get over the cabbage to-day. Go to sleep, for you have talked enough about it."
Mux knew then that nothing could be done that day, After his evening prayer and a kiss from his mother, he lay down and was fast asleep before his mother had even shut the door.
Agnes had just finished her last task and was throwing her books into a drawer, each more violently than the other. She was still terribly excited, and as soon as her mother came back to the room, she burst forth: "Oh, mother, if I am not allowed to study music any more, I would rather stop learning anything. Why can't I become a servant girl? I could do the work well enough. As soon as I have earned enough money, I'll buy a harp and then I can wander from house to house, singing and playing. I can easily live like that. Nobody needs to be a dressmaker. People can wear petticoats and jackets. That is enough, and those can be woven. All other children are better off than we are. They can learn what they please and we can't learn anything!" An outburst of tears choked all further words.
During her sister's speech Nika had been quietly drawing, but she was holding her head lower and lower over her work without once looking up. She continued her studies, but her eyes seemed to be filling. Pushing her work away, she held her handkerchief before her face.
"Oh, children," said the mother, looking sadly at them, "do not be so desperate right away. You know that your good is my good as well, and that I am doing and shall keep on doing everything in my power to fulfill your ambitions. It would be my happiest joy to have your talents developed, so that you could devote all your lives to music and painting. If we should find it impossible, however, dear children, we must firmly believe that it would not have been for the best, had we succeeded, for God alone knows which way to lead us.
"Do not lose your confidence in a kind Father in Heaven, for that is our greatest consolation. He won't forget us, if we do not forget Him, and we must remember that He can see further than we can, for He knows why and where He is leading us. We cannot look into the future, but later we shall understand it all and realize why we had to bear our troubles. Out of them will come the greatest blessings."
"Now let us be happy again and let us sing a song," said Dino, who loved to be gay and who liked to see everyone about him merry, too.
"Let us sing:
If winter's storms are wild and long We know that spring is coming. To Agnes, whom I hear rebel, This consolation I here tell."
"Yes, Dino, it is easy enough for you to laugh," Agnes exclaimed. "You would probably whistle another tune if you had to become a tailor. But you can learn and study everything you want to."
"I shall certainly not study everything," Dino informed her. "But your singing is much nicer than your arguing, Agnes, so please begin, and if you don't like my song, you can start another."
"We shall all sing together later on, children," said the mother. "I have to speak to you, too, Dino. I am troubled about your cough and your health. I have looked about for quite a while to find a suitable place in the country where I could send you. Of course, there are plenty of places, but I want you to go into some modest house where you can be looked after. I found a notice in the paper to-day which might be just what I am looking for. Read it yourself, Dino."
Dino began to read. "Yes, yes, mother, I must go there," he said, shaking with merriment. "I must go to Martha in Iller-Stream. I am sure that it is very cosy in Martha Wolf's house, where everything is so neat and the covers are so fresh."
The sisters now wanted also to see the notice that made Dino laugh so heartily. He read the paragraph aloud about Martha Wolf in Iller-Stream and they all agreed that it would be pleasant there. The mother decided to write to the woman at once and to take Dino there as soon as possible.
"Now we shall sing a song to end the day," she said, sitting down at the old piano. Every day the children sang an evening song to her accompaniment. Opening the book she herself started and the three children took up the song with their pure, fresh voices:
When bowed with grief, Go seek relief Of God, our Lord above.
UP IN THE TOP STORY
Thy need has grown, When left alone, For great and helping love. Before thou'st said, Before thou'st prayed, He knows thy inmost need. And by His care, His love so rare, From sorrow thou art freed.
NEW APPEARANCES IN ILLER-STREAM
In the Director's house in Iller-Stream reigned great excitement. The day had come when the two ladies from town were expected to arrive for their lengthy stay. To celebrate the coming of his guests, the master of the house had ordered a festive dinner for the middle of the day. He had been longing for this day, so was in a splendid humor. It was very important for him to start on his journey right away, and he had waited only to be able formally to receive his visitors. Also he had promised his cousin to give the reins of the household into her hands himself, after which event he had planned to start on his journey.
To Cornelli the preparations for the arrival of the new members of the household seemed very annoying, everything being different from usual. She commonly very much enjoyed the prospect of company, for on such occasions she paid frequent visits to the kitchen, where Esther was always busy cooking.
As soon as Cornelli appeared in the doorway, Esther would call to her: "Come and see which you like best, Cornelli; I am sure they are not so bad." A small yellow apple tart and a round purple plum cake were ready for the child to taste, for her visit had been anticipated. Cornelli always assured the cook that the apple tarts were excellent and the plum cakes even better.
Then Cornelli would go into the pantry, where Miss Mina was fixing fruit on the crystal platters. Here many a raisin and almond would drop beside the plate, and from there find its way into Cornelli's pocket. It was pleasant to have a supply whenever she felt like eating. The housekeeper dropped many nuts on purpose, for she did not want to be less sought after than her rival in the kitchen.
To-day Esther was flying around the kitchen violently rattling her pots and pans, and when Cornelli appeared, to see what was going on, the cook called to her: "Off with you! I have nothing for you here to-day. The ladies from town must not think that they have to show me how to cook a good dinner. I'll show them. Go away and make room here for me. Make room, Cornelli! I have to fix the vegetables."
Cornelli ran to the pantry.
Mina was just building up a splendid pile of cookies and almond rings. "Don't come rushing in like that, or it will all tumble down," she objected. "Don't come so near to the table; this plate is all ready and nothing must be missing from it. I won't have it said that one can see there is no mistress in this house, and that nobody here knows how to set a table."
"If you are all so stingy to-day, I won't bother you any more," said Cornelli, and with these words she turned around and marched indignantly out of the house.
That moment, hearing the sound of approaching wheels, and looking down the road through the open place in front of the house, she spied the expected carriage with two ladies sitting in it.
"Matthew, Matthew," she called out, in the direction of the large stable and the barn. These lay a little distance from the house, and were hidden by trees.
Matthew was the gardener who looked after the horses, and had also to superintend all the work done by his assistant in the garden and the stable. He was Cornelli's special friend, whom she had known ever since she could remember, for he had served her grandfather.
He now came from the stable and mysteriously beckoned to her: "Come here quickly, run fast!" he said. "We'll still get to the carriage in time. Only come for a moment."
Cornelli ran to him, and looking into the stable, saw lying on soft fresh hay a tiny, snow-white kid. It looked like a toy, but was really alive.
"Oh, where did it come from, Matthew? Oh, how cunning it is! The white fine fur is just like silk! Can it walk alone? Can it stand, too, if it wants to? Oh, just see how friendly it is and how it is rubbing its little head against me."
"Yes, but come, now; the carriage is driving up," Matthew urged. "Come quickly, you can see it every day. Just think! It was only born to-day."
The carriage had just driven into the court and Matthew was there the moment the horses stopped. The Director was there, too; not to lose any time and yet not be tardy, he had put a watcher at the door to let him know when the carriage was approaching. The Director was very polite and lifted his cousin out of the carriage, greeting her heartily. Then he helped Miss Grideelen to dismount, thanking her warmly for coming. He told her how glad he was that she had been willing to follow his cousin into this solitude, for otherwise it would have worried him to leave her alone so long. He appreciated their great sacrifice in coming and he hoped that his trip, which was very urgent, would not keep him away too long.
"Where is your daughter, Frederick?" asked Miss Dorner now.
The Director glanced about.
"I saw her just a moment ago. Where are you, Cornelli?" he called towards the house.
"Here I am!" It sounded from very near, for Cornelli had hidden behind her father, so as to inspect the new arrivals without being seen herself.
"Come forward and speak to your cousin and to Miss Grideelen!" ordered Mr. Hellmut.
Cornelli gave her hand first to her relative and then to the other lady, saying to each: "How do you do?"
"You can call me cousin, and this lady is called Miss Grideelen," said the cousin, hoping that the child would repeat her greeting and would call her and her friend by the names she was just told to use in speaking to them. But the child did not say another word.
The Director now turned towards the carriage, giving Matthew instructions for the horses. Then everybody stepped into the house and soon the whole company sat down at the richly laden dinner table. Miss Mina earned many praises for the deliciously planned meal. When the afternoon came the host took the ladies around his place, for his cousin was anxious to become acquainted with everything she had to take care of.
"Oh, what an abundance of fruit!" Miss Grideelen exclaimed over and over again. "How many cherry trees and what enormous apple trees! Oh, what a row of pear trees! You must be able to fill your bins with fruit in the autumn, Mr. Hellmut! Where do you have room for it all?"
"I do not know about it; my servants take care of that, for I have no time."
"It is a great shame, Frederick, that you do not have half a dozen children. They would help to look after these matters," the cousin remarked. "By the way, I wonder where your child is. She does not seem to be very sociable."
"I do not know where she is," replied Mr. Hellmut. "I am generally at work about this time and Mina probably knows what she is doing. Perhaps she is busy with her teacher. Cornelli has been alone so much that she could not get very sociable. That is why I am so grateful to you both for coming. I am so glad she can at last be in the environment I have always wanted for her. But what could I do? I have twice taken governesses into the house, to supply her with proper intercourse and opportunity for study. The first ran away because she could not stand the solitude. The second wanted every servant to leave who had been here before her; Esther was to go, and even Matthew. She told me that I had to choose between her and the 'old house-rats,' as she called them.
"I showed no desire to send either of them away, and said to her: 'It is better for you to go, for when the two have departed, it will probably be my turn next, as I shall be the oldest house-rat left.' After that she departed and I had no more courage to go through another experience. But I knew that it was time for Cornelli to have a lady of refinement and culture with her. I am sure, dear cousin, that you can give me some good advice as to her education, as soon as you have become acquainted with her."
"I should like to know whom she resembles," said Miss Dorner; "she does not seem to resemble either you or your late wife."
"Do you think so?" replied the father quickly. "Do you really think so? The child certainly does not need to resemble me, but I have always hoped that she resembled her mother. I always hoped that this would increase with the years and that she would grow up to be my wife's image. Do you not think that she has Cornelia's eyes? I think that my child's rather straggly mane will in time resemble my Cornelia's beautiful brown hair; the child's hair is very thick and has just the same color."
The Director looked imploringly at his cousin. He seemed anxious for her to agree with him.
Shrugging her shoulders, she replied: "I certainly see no resemblance between the tousled looking small savage and Cornelia. The latter always was so lovely in her exquisite neatness. Her eyes always glowed with happiness and seemed to smile at one from under her beautiful, wavy brown hair. I am sorry to tell you that your child is not exactly engaging; she resembles a wild and furious little kitten with bristling hair. She seems to me to be always making a round back; she looks as if she wanted to jump at one and scratch."
"No, no, she does not do that," the Director assured "The child is not in the least ill-natured, at least, I do not think so. But I am afraid that you are right in saying that she does not resemble her mother in the least. Her education, I mean her lack of education, may have something to do with it. That is why I am so grateful to you both for coming here. I am sure that with your influence the child will change and gain much, and I do not think that it will be hard for Cornelli to learn.
"I can travel now with a light heart, cousin, for I know that I can leave my child, the house and the servants in your care. You do not know in what a difficult position I am sometimes. I ought to go away frequently, and am not able to do so because there is nobody to take care of the house for me. The servants have to be kept in good humor, and the house has to be ruled with authority and judgment. I cannot thank you enough for making this trip possible for me."
When they had returned from their walk they separated. Mr. Hellmut had still plenty of preparations to make for his journey, and the ladies retired to their rooms to get settled there. At supper everybody met again. The ladies and their host appeared punctually and dinner was served at once.
"Where is your daughter? Does she not come to supper, too?" asked Miss Dorner.
"Yes, of course. Do you know where she is, Miss Mina?" the father asked.
At that moment the door opened and Cornelli, with cheeks aglow, ran into the room. She sat down quickly at her seat.
"Did you creep through a hedge?" the cousin asked her.
"No, I was in the hen house," replied Cornelli.
"That is no reason to look the way you do. Go to your room first and have your hair combed by Miss Mina. She will also give you some soap, for this is quite necessary."
Cornelli glanced at her father. This was something new and she waited for his approval.
"Quickly, Cornelli! Why do you hesitate?" he admonished her. "You have to obey your cousin absolutely, for she is taking my place now. I hope that everybody here understands that clearly," he added with a glance at Miss Mina.
The latter wanted to follow the child, but Cornelli called back: "I can do it myself."
When the child came back her face and hands were washed very thoroughly, but her hair looked most peculiar. She had combed it in such a way that one could not tell what belonged to the left and what to the right side, what to the front and what to the back.
The cousin laughed and said: "Your head looks like a wind-blown hay field. To-morrow Miss Mina will part your hair properly for you."
Cornelli frowned so deeply that her eyes came quite close together. She did not look up any more from her plate.
Next day quite early the Director departed.
The village of Iller-Stream, where the church and the school house were, was quite a distance from the iron works. Cornelli could not go to school there every day because it was much too far. She therefore had lessons at home, and the teacher her father had chosen came every morning and taught her in all the necessary subjects. In the afternoon she was free, except for the work which she had to do for the following day. That took little time and till now the child had really had a very free existence. She had always found time for a daily visit to Martha and a long conversation with her old friend. She could also wander freely about the lovely beech wood and along the mountain side. Her time was never parcelled out for her.
There were many wonderful things to find in the fields and woods, and Cornelli never tired of them as long as the sun was shining. If rain or snow prevented her from her strolls, she spent her afternoons in Martha's cosy chamber. There she had the most pleasant times, for the old woman's conversation and tales were for Cornelli a never ending source of enjoyment.
The teacher had just left the house. Owing to her father's departure, there had been plenty of material for sentences in her grammar lesson. All the child's answers to his questions had come so promptly to-day that the teacher had ended his lesson on the stroke of the hour. He also gave Cornelli special praise for the excellent work she had done. Then he heartily shook her hand.
The two were the best of friends and the teacher knew his pupil well. Whenever she was very bright and lively, he would work very hard with her and in a short time accomplish three times more than usual. In order not to spoil their mutual pleasure he would let her off most punctually. But whenever Cornelli was absent-minded and unwilling to work, he progressed slowly and carefully, treating her as if she were the least bit weak minded.
He would keep up this procedure till the hand of the clock showed a quarter, a half, or even three-quarters of an hour more than the set time for the lessons. Then Cornelli had hardly more than a quarter of an hour's time before lunch to run over to the garden, the stable and the hen house, something she always planned to do. The teacher would finally stop and say in his most friendly manner: "I had to stay so long to-day because we did not do half of what we should have done. You were a little slow in understanding, Cornelli. I hope it will go better to-morrow, otherwise your lesson might last still longer."
It always went much better after that, for Cornelli had no inclination whatever to have such a tiresome performance repeated. After such a lesson many days went by before she was lazy again. To-day Cornelli had worked quickly and well, for she wanted to have lots of free time before lunch. She had not had time to see the little kid since yesterday. The lesson over, she flew to the stable. Lunch was set for one o'clock, so there was a whole hour left. Matthew spied the approaching child and called to her: "Come here, Cornelli! It is just jumping around."
Cornelli ran into the stable, where she saw the snow-white kid, hopping merrily over to its mother and then back again to the hay. It looked so cunning in its gambols that Cornelli went into perfect raptures.
"Oh, you darling little thing!" she called out, patting its spotless fur; "I shall fetch a red ribbon for your neck and then we'll take a walk together." The child accordingly ran back to the house, and hunting about among her things, soon returned with a bright red ribbon which she tied about the little kid's neck. Cornelli was perfectly delighted, for she had never in her life seen a prettier object than the little creature with its snow-white fur and the red ribbon round its neck, skipping lightly about. The next moment it lay down in the hay and looked up happily at Cornelli.
"Can I take it out for a walk, Matthew? Can I harness it to a little wagon and drive around with it?" asked the child. She had many plans in her head, one following on top of the other.
"Wait, wait; we have to let it grow first," replied Matthew thoughtfully. "The most important thing for it is to grow, for it is like a baby that has just learned how to walk. It has to stay near its mother and can only run about near her. When it is bigger, it can take walks, and when it is strong and big we can harness it and you can drive it about with two reins in one hand and a long whip in the other."
Cornelli shouted with joy and patted the kid with new tenderness. She already pictured to herself the lovely drives that they would have together.
"Did you hear the bell in the foundry? I am sure it must be time for dinner. You will have to be a little careful now, Cornelli. Remember that strange ladies are in the house," said old Matthew with foresight." You can come again this afternoon."
Cornelli had really heard nothing, for she had been absorbed in her new pet. She knew that she ought to appear punctually at her meals, so she left right away. She had also noticed that the ladies were not buried behind big newspapers, like her father. While running to the house, she passed a hydrant. There she remembered that she had to wash her hands, so she held them both under the pipe and rubbed them hard. Then dipping her face in, she rubbed it, too. She had nothing to dry herself with except a very small handkerchief.
"Hurry up! The ladies are already at table," she heard Esther's voice urging her from the kitchen window.
Cornelli ran in and saw both ladies already seated at the table. In front of her was a full soup plate.
"You have to come punctually to your meals. I am sure that you can hear the loud bell out in the garden," said the cousin. "But how strange you look! Half wet arms, a soaking apron and damp feet. Have you been in the water, or what have you done?"
"I washed my hands under the water pump and I got splashed," Cornelli answered.
"Naturally," remarked Miss Dorner. "There are arrangements in the rooms for washing hands, which involve no splashing. Go, now, and put on another apron. You have to be orderly and neat at mealtimes."
"The child certainly obeys you—that is something," said Miss Grideelen. "Since you told her to, she always comes to table properly washed."
"That is true. But she has the most unheard-of manners," replied Miss Dorner.
"How shall one get rid of those and start the child on the right path? I must ask you to help her in the morning, Miss Mina. Please comb her hair smoothly and part it the way I told you to."
"I did it, Miss Dorner, and I do it every morning," she answered, quite hurt. "Cornelli's hair is just like bristles and it is very hard to braid. When she jumps it all gets tangled again and she jumps every moment."
Cornelli now came back and ate her soup. Her seat was beside her cousin and faced the other lady.
"What is sticking to your dress here?" asked Miss Dorner, looking with disgust at the little skirt. Something was really hanging from the bottom. "Can this be hay or straw? It certainly does not look orderly. I hope you have not come from the stable!"
"Yes, I have," replied Cornelli.
"How horrid! Indeed, I can even smell it. That is too much!" she exclaimed. "I am sure your father would not let you go there if he knew about it."
"Oh, certainly; he goes himself," Cornelli retorted.
"Do not reply impertinently. In the case of your father it is quite different," explained Miss Dorner. "I want to tell you something which you must remember. If you are allowed to go to the stable and you enjoy doing it, you can go. But when afterwards you come to your meals, you must first go to your room. Get properly washed there and also change your dress. Be sure not to forget."
"Yes," replied Cornelli.
"It is very strange what queer pleasures country children have," remarked Miss Grideelen. "Have you no books, Cornelli? Don't you like reading better than wandering around and going to the stable?"
"Oh no, I don't like it better, but I have some books," replied the child.
"What are you going to do in the afternoon, when you have no more lessons to study?" asked Miss Dorner.
"I always go to Martha," was the reply.
"Who is Martha?" inquired the cousin.
"A woman," said Cornelli.
"I can guess that," replied the cousin. "But what kind of a woman is she?"
"A good one," answered Cornelli quickly.
"What an answer!" The cousin turned now to Miss Mina: "Who is this woman? Can the child go to see her? Does anybody here know about her?" she questioned.
"Oh yes, she is well known here and was here long before I came," was Mina's reply. "She nursed the mistress of this house in her last illness. She is a very good woman and always looks neat and clean. Our master likes her well."
"Now I have really found out something! You must learn to give proper answers, Cornelli, do you hear?" said the cousin. "You are like a wild hare which does everything in leaps and bounds. You can go to see the woman after finishing your work for your teacher. I am sure you must have some to do for to-morrow."
Cornelli assented to this, and as soon as the ladies had left the room to retire to their bedrooms for the hottest hours of the day, she sat down at her little table in the corner. Here she wrote down a page with lightning speed, then taking up her book she read her lesson over and over again till she knew it by heart. Soon she was finished, and flinging the books into the drawer, she ran out of the house.
"Oh, Martha, I wish you knew how terrible it is at home now since Papa has gone," called Cornelli to her old friend, before she had even reached the top of the stairs. "I just wish Papa was back already and everything was again as before."
"What is it, Cornelli, what makes you so cross? Come, sit down here a while and tell me about it," said Martha kindly. She put a chair beside her own at the table where her mending lay neatly sorted out.
"Of course, you can't understand it, Martha," Cornelli continued, just as excited as before. "Here with you everything is always the same and nobody comes and orders everything to be changed. Now, I am not allowed to come in any more without getting washed; now, I cannot come out of the stable without changing my clothes. Then I must not wash my hands at the hydrant because I get splashed, and, oh, so many new things have to be done; so different from before."
"I am sure, Cornelli, that it is not at all bad that things should not always be the way they were before," said Martha reflectively. "I believe that the lady who is related to you wants the same thing from you that your mother would have wished had she lived. This is very good for you. Of course, Miss Mina and Esther mean well, but your relation knows much better what is to be done to make you grow up the way your mother would have desired. Just think how happy your father would be if you should resemble your mother and he be reminded of her every time he looked at you. You well know what great joy that would be to him."
Cornelli did know that her father would be very happy then, for he had made many remarks which she had understood. A short time ago he had said that his cousin found no likeness between his child and her mother, and Cornelli had observed the sad expression of his eyes when he had said it.
Cornelli shook her head. "You said once that my mother was different from anybody," she said. "So I can't ever be like her; you said so yourself, Martha."
"Yes, yes, I have said that," confirmed Martha. "But I have to explain something to you, Cornelli. If you can't become exactly like your mother, you certainly can become more like her than anybody else, for you are her child, and a child always has something from her mother. I have seen you look at me just the way she did, with the same brown eyes; but not when you frown the way you do to-day. You must try to watch the two ladies very carefully in all they do and in the way they speak. They are your mother's kind, and that is why I am so glad that you can watch their manners and can try to imitate them. You can learn to resemble your mother in your ways, if you copy the ladies."
"Yes, I shall do that," agreed Cornelli. "Just the same, I am not terribly pleased that they are here and that everything has to be changed. Oh dear, I have just remembered that I have to be back now and drink some hot coffee and milk, because Miss Dorner says that the afternoons are so frightfully long in the country they have to be interrupted. At that time I always used to get from the garden some apples or cherries or whatever else there was, and they always tasted so awfully good. If I only could lengthen my afternoon, which seems too long to them! I never can do all I plan to do. Good-bye, Martha."
And with these words Cornelli ran away.
THE UNWISHED-FOR HAPPENS
Esther, the able mistress of the kitchen, was standing in the garden picking green peas, which hung in clusters from the vines. They had ripened quickly in the sunny June weather.
"Come down here, Cornelli!" she called. "Just see how many peas there are! Why do you steal about so quietly nowadays, and why don't you run the way you used to?"
"I am not allowed to do anything any more," replied Cornelli, approaching her. "Mina is beginning to tell me that I even must not jump, for it might tangle my hair. I wish I had not a single hair left; then I could at least run and jump about."
"No, no, child; that would look too dreadful. Just imagine it! But don't get sad on account of that," Esther consoled her. "Just jump around as before! Your hair can always be put in order again. Why haven't you come into the kitchen lately to see if things taste right?"
"I am not allowed to; Miss Dorner says that is bad manners," Cornelli informed her.
"Oh, I see! Well, you might do worse things. However, you must obey! Yes, you have to obey," Esther repeated. "Don't you go to Miss Mina any more, either, when she fixes the dessert?"
Cornelli shook her head.
Miss Mina had quickly understood the new order that had begun in the household and accordingly had suited herself to it. When she thought the ladies would not approve of an old custom, she dropped it quickly, and Cornelli had soon noticed her change of attitude.
"I don't care if I never can go to the pantry any more, I don't care," Cornelli exploded now. "She can eat all the things herself which drop beside the plate. I don't care. I don't want anything as long as I can go to the little kid in the stable; it really is the most cunning creature in the whole world. Have you seen it yet, Esther?"
"Certainly I have, and why not?" the cook replied. "Matthew took me out to the stable as soon as it was born. You can certainly go to see it as long as it is in our own stable. Just go there as much as you like! Nobody can forbid you that."
"My teacher is coming," Cornelli now exclaimed, "and I have to go."
"Yes, child, but do keep up your spirits. There are lots of pleasant things still left for you to enjoy. Just wait till you taste the strawberry tarts I am going to make to-day."
With these words Esther smacked her lips to express the great succulence of the promised dish.
"I wouldn't even care if you baked nettle tarts; I wish I didn't have to eat at table and could just eat berries in the garden and drink milk in the stable."
Cornelli ran towards the house, for she had forgotten to walk sedately, as she had been told to do.
While Cornelli had her lessons upstairs in the living room, in the jessamine arbor both ladies were sitting on a garden bench.
"It would be so pleasant and agreeable here," said Miss Dorner, "and my cousin could have such a very charming life, if the child were only a little different. Don't you think, Betty, that she has no manners whatever?"
"Yes, but she has had no training at all." remarked Miss Grideelen; "and she may have inherited some qualities from her mother."
"Oh no, not a single trait! You cannot possibly imagine a greater difference than between the mother and this child," Miss Dorner exclaimed. "Cornelia was full of amiability and gayety. She always greeted and cheered everyone with her laughing brown eyes. If my cousin could only have the happiness to see his child resemble her mother the slightest bit! He was so fond of his wife! He deserves this joy, for he is a splendid man."
"It is curious how very different children can be from their parents," said Miss Grideelen with regret in her voice. "But I am sure that something can still be accomplished by educating the child. Many qualities can be developed that hardly show themselves yet. We ought to do our best for her, especially for her father's sake."
"That is just what I am doing, Betty. Unfortunately, I have had very little success as yet," answered Miss Dorner. "But I just hope that the day will come when I can write her father some pleasant news about Cornelli, something different from what I feel obliged to send him now."
The day had been exceedingly hot, and the ladies retired to their rooms immediately after dinner, while Cornelli, according to her custom, obediently did her lessons. Then she disappeared. In the late evening, when the ladies sat down to supper, it was so warm that Miss Mina was ordered to open all the windows.
Now Cornelli entered.
"For mercy's sake, what are you thinking of!" the cousin accosted the child. "We are nearly perishing with the heat and you put on a fur dress, which you could wear without a coat in a sleigh ride in the middle of winter. Why do you do such foolish things?"
Cornelli was really attired very strangely. Her little dress was made of such heavy, fur-like material that one could see it was meant for the coldest winter weather, and for someone who disliked much outer clothing. The child's cheeks were glowing red, and from the insufferable heat whole streams of perspiration trickled down her face.
"I have no more dresses left," she said stubbornly.
"Can you understand it?" asked the cousin, looking at her friend.
"I really think that this is the fifth dress in which I have seen Cornelli to-day," answered the friend. "In the early morning I saw her running across the yard in a dark dress. At breakfast she wore a light frock and for lunch a red one. I believe that she wore a blue dress when we had our coffee this afternoon, so this must be the fifth costume. I was beginning at lunch time to wonder about the frequent changes."
"I have to change my dress every time I go to the stable," Cornelli said, a little more stubbornly than before.
"How can anybody be so foolish!" exclaimed the cousin now. "I can understand now why you have no fun and why you always wear an unhappy face. You must be nearly perished with the heat! Finish your supper quickly and then go to your room and take off this heavy dress. You surely have another dress. I must forbid you to go to the stable from now on! You can see for yourself what comes of it! If only you would not frown like this, Cornelli. You look exactly as if you had two little horns growing on your forehead, one on each side. There are many other and better amusements for you than spending your life in the stable. Are you able to embroider?"
"No," Cornelli answered curtly.
"Children of your age ought to be able to, though," said the cousin. "But we have not come here to teach you that; have we, Betty? You probably do not even know how to hold the needle in your hand."
"Why should it be necessary for Cornelli to learn embroidery just now?" replied the friend. "She has lovely books that she can read; she has shown us some herself. Don't you prefer reading a pretty story to running about in the stable, child?"
"No, I don't," replied Cornelli crossly.
"We must not pay attention to what she says," remarked Miss Dorner. "When Cornelli is bored, she will probably turn to her books herself. Please, Miss Mina, keep an eye on Cornelli. Nonsense like this must not happen any more."
When supper was finished, Cornelli went up to her room, and Miss Mina followed her.
"You certainly don't need to do such silly things," she said scoldingly, as soon as they were on the stairs, where her words could not be overheard. "I have enough to do nowadays without watching whether you put on a new dress every few hours."
"It isn't my fault," Cornelli replied morosely. "They ordered me to do it."
"They won't always smell it when you have been to the stable," scolded Miss Mina.
"Yes, but they do smell it," Cornelli retorted, "and even if they didn't, I should have to obey. They told me to change every time I go to the stable."
"Yes, but now you are told not to go there any more, remember that!—so your frequent changing will have to stop," grumbled Miss Mina, while she was helping Cornelli to take off her hot dress.
"Now I have to clean it, besides! You actually give more work than six well brought up children." Miss Mina had never before spoken so roughly to Cornelli, for she had always been anxious to keep in the child's good graces. But she had suddenly ceased to care about that.
Cornelli looked at her with astonishment. The child's eyes were also full of something that nobody had ever seen there before. Mina seemed to understand: "I did not do you any harm," she said quickly; "what I have said is only the truth." With that she left the room.
"If everybody treats me that way I'll be that way, too," cried Cornelli with a furious look. Suddenly taking hold of the dress she had just taken off she threw it out of the window. After a while Mina returned, bringing back the dress. Cornelli was sitting on the window-sill crossly looking down at the yard.
"Look out that the wind doesn't blow you down, too, like your dress," Miss Mina said unpleasantly.
"I don't care," Cornelli replied obstinately. "It did not blow down at all, for I threw it down on purpose."
"Oh, is this the way you behave? Next time you can get it yourself," said Miss Mina, running away indignantly.
Next morning Cornelli was walking across the courtyard, happily talking to her teacher, whose hand she was holding. During her school hours she had forgotten all the troubles of the day before, for Mr. Malinger had been as kind to her as ever. He at least had not changed.
"Could you give me a little rose?" he asked smilingly, while they were passing the blooming rose bushes. So Cornelli quickly ran from bush to bush till she had gathered a fine bunch of dark and light, white and red roses. These she offered to her teacher, warning him not to prick himself. Then the two parted most cordially.
Cornelli, on coming back, ran swiftly toward the stable. Suddenly, however, she stood stock still, for she remembered that she was not allowed to go there any more. No longer could she see the darling little kid and watch its growth. She would be unable to tell when the moment had come for it to be hitched to a carriage to be driven about by her. She might not be allowed even to do that! She hoped, however, that her father might be back by that time and that then everything would be different. Cornelli danced with joy at that thought, and her old gaiety seemed to return. She felt like going to Esther and talking it all over with her good old friend. The moment the child went into the house, Miss Dorner stepped out of the living room.
"You have just come in time," she said, "for I have to show you something. Where are you going?"
"To the kitchen," replied Cornelli.
"You have nothing whatever to do in the kitchen and you shall not go there. I thought you knew that you have to go upstairs before lunch to fix your hair. But before you go up come in here. I have to tell you something very important."
Cornelli followed her cousin into the room. Miss Grideelen was standing near the window as if she had expected the return of her friend. Leading Cornelli to the sofa, Miss Dorner pointed to it, saying: "You are sure to know who has done this and you had better tell me right away."
On the dark plush coverings were visible distinct marks of dusty shoe soles. There was no trace of a whole foot, but one could see that somebody had trampled on the sofa.
"I did not do it," said Cornelli with sparkling eyes.
"Who in all the house would have done it except you? Please ask yourself that, Cornelli! There is no question about it at all," said Miss Dorner. "It is probably one of your little jokes similar to throwing your dresses out of the window. I know all about it. Just let me tell you this! It is the last time that you, a girl of ten years old, will show such a terrible lack of manners. As long as I am here, you shall not do it any more. You really should spare your good, sensitive father such behavior."
"I have not done it. No, I did not do it, no, no!" Cornelli cried aloud.
"But Cornelli, only reflect! You are blushing and your conscience is giving you away," Miss Grideelen here remarked. "It would be so much better for you to say humbly: 'I have done it and I am sorry; I shall never do it again!'"
"No, no! I have not done it. No, no!" Cornelli cried out louder still. Her cheeks were glowing red from anger and excitement.
"Do not make such a noise," ordered the cousin. "One might think there was an accident. It is not worth while to lose so many words. You should not have made things worse by denying it; if you had not, everything would be all settled. You have misbehaved and you shall not do so any more. Remember!"
"No, I did not misbehave. No, no! And I shall not say yes when it is not true," Cornelli now cried, quite beside herself.
"Go to your room, Cornelli, and smooth out your forehead before you come to dinner. Your little horns are protruding quite plainly when you act that way. Just look at yourself in the mirror and see yourself how repulsive you look. If you think that there is anybody in the world who can still like you when you have black horns on your forehead, you are mistaken. Go, now, and return with another face."
Reaching her room, Cornelli put her hand up to her brow. Right on her forehead were two protruding points. Should horns be really growing there? The child had a sudden horrible fright at this thought. She was sure that everybody could see them already, for she could feel them quite distinctly. She could not stand it any longer, so she ran away to old Martha.
"No, I did not do it, Martha. I never did it," she called out, running into the little room. "When I tell them no, no, they ought to believe that I did not do it. I never, never did it. They shall know it! But they won't believe me even if I say it a hundred times and—"
"Stop a little, Cornelli!" said old Martha kindly. "You see, you are all out of breath. Sit down here on your stool and tell me quietly what has excited you so. You know that I believe your words. I have known you since you were small, and I know that what you say is true."
It was impossible for Cornelli to speak calmly about what had happened, but it soothed her, nevertheless, to be able to pour out her heart and to know that Martha believed her. She told of the accusation which had been brought against her, and how she had not been believed despite all her assurances. She was certain that both ladies would always believe for ever and ever that she had done it and had denied it. At this thought Cornelli again became quite red from excitement and was on the point of breaking out again. But Martha put her hand on the child's shoulder, quietly restraining her.
"No, no, Cornelli, that's enough," she said soothingly. "It is only to your advantage that it is so and not as they have said. You have been accused wrongly and cannot prove it, but God knows the truth. He has heard everything. You can be calm and happy and look up to Him with a clear conscience. You can say to yourself: 'God knows it, and I do not need to be afraid or frightened.' If you had really done wrong and had denied it, you would have to be afraid that the truth would be revealed. Then you could not look up calmly to the sky, for you would be frightened at the thought that up there was One who knew everything and from whom nothing could be hidden. A wrong accusation does not stay with us forever. Even if it takes ever so long, it generally is revealed in the end, and you certainly will not need to bear it in all eternity, because God already knows how it is."
Cornelli had really grown calm at the thought that there was One who knew how it all was. When her trouble began to weigh upon her, she could always say: "You know it all, dear Father in Heaven, You have seen and heard everything."
"If He could only tell them! They would then know it, too. God could easily do that," Cornelli said.
"Yes, but that is not the way things happen. We do not know better than He what is good for us," Martha said, shaking her head quite seriously. "If we could rule, everything would come wrong. We never can see ahead of the hour and we never know what is good for us because the next moment always brings something we did not know about. Otherwise we would always be trying to undo what we have strained to do the day before; we should only make ourselves miserable over and over again. But if God ordains anything that we do not understand, we must believe firmly that something good will come out of it. We must be patient, and if our troubles are too heavy, we must console ourselves and think: God knows what good will come from it. But we are forgetting the time, Cornelli. You must hurry home to your dinner, now. I am afraid it is already late."
Cornelli's black frown had disappeared during Martha's soothing speech, but now a deep shadow flew across her face.
"Oh, Martha, if I only did not need to go home any more! I hate to go back and sit at table. I would not mind dying of hunger, if I could only stay here with you."
Cornelli, glancing at her home, drew together her brows as if she saw something frightful there.
"But, child, you must not say such things about your lovely home; it is wrong to do that," said Martha, kindly admonishing her. "Just think how many children have no home at all. How grateful they would be to God for a home like yours. Go, now, Cornelli, be grateful for all God has given you and chase away the thoughts that make you sad. Come soon again and we shall be glad together, for there is always something to be glad about."