ERICK AND SALLY
By the Swiss Writer
Author of Heidi, Chel, and many other stories
HELENE H. BOLL
Affectionately dedicated to
MRS. MARTHA C. BUEHLER
To our Boys and Girls:
Years ago, in a little country called Switzerland, there lived a little girl who was the daughter of a doctor. This doctor sometimes had to climb up high mountains and sometimes he had to descend slowly to the deep valleys, always on horseback, to visit the sick people who had sent for him. Of course there were no telephones, electric lights, steam trains or automobiles, and so often this doctor was away from home for two or three days attending the people who needed his help. His trips took him into little villages where there were only a few hundred poor people who made a scant living from farming and sheep raising, but he knew them so well that he became very fond of them, and he shared their sorrows and joys. When he returned home he would tell his little daughter, who was Johanna Spyri, about what he had seen and heard. She became very much interested in the people whom her father told about, and when she grew up she visited many of the places that he had told her about when she was a child.
It was not until she was quite a grown woman that she wrote any books, but the children of Switzerland and Germany loved her stories so much, that we have decided to translate the story of Erick and Sally for the children of America. The author knew children and loved them, and wrote to them and not for them. Thus, every one who reads this story will follow the sorrows and pleasures of Erick just as if he were a personal living friend.
The translator understands American boys and girls, for she has been a teacher in our schools for many years. She also has an intimate knowledge of the country described in this story for she has often visited the places mentioned. Through her knowledge and love of the country about which Madame Spyri wrote, and speaking her language, the translator, Helene H. Boll, appreciates her thoughts, and has faithfully reproduced them in this absorbing little story.
Chapter I In the Parsonage of Upper Wood Chapter II A Call in the Village Chapter III 'Lizebeth on the Warpath Chapter IV The Same Night in Two Houses Chapter V Disturbance in School and Home Chapter VI A Lost Hymn Chapter VII Erick Enlists in the Fighting Army Chapter VIII What Happens on Organ-Sunday Chapter IX A Secret that is Kept Chapter X Surprising Things Happen
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Portrait of Madame Spyri
Now the lady held out her hand and said in a friendly tone, "Come here, dear child"
Churi....unexpectedly gave him such a severe push that Erick rolled down the rest of the mountain side
He threw both arms around the old gentleman's neck and rejoicingly exclaimed: "Oh, Grandfather, is it really you?"
In the Parsonage of Upper Wood
The sun was shining so brightly through the foremost windows of the old schoolhouse in Upper Wood, that the children of the first and second classes appeared as if covered with gold. They looked at one another, all with beaming faces, partly because the sun made them appear so, and partly for joy; for when the sunshine came through the last window, then the moment approached that the closing word would be spoken, and the children could rush out into the evening sunshine. The teacher was still busy with the illuminated heads of the second class, and indeed with some zeal, for several sentences had still to be completed, before the school could be closed. The teacher was standing before a boy who looked well-fed and quite comfortable, and who was looking up into the teacher's face with eyes as round as two little balls.
"Well, Ritz, hurry, you surely must have thought of something by now. Now then! What can be made useful in a household? Do not forget to mention the three indispensable qualities of the object."
Ritz, the youngest son of the minister, was usually busy thinking of that which had just happened to him. So just now it had come to his mind, how this very morning Auntie had arrived. She was an older sister of his mother and had no home of her own; but made a home with her relatives. She was a frequent visitor at the parsonage for months at a time and would help the mother in governing the household. Ritz remembered especially, that Auntie was particularly inclined to have the children go to bed in good time—and they had to go—and he also remembered that they could not get the extra ten minutes from Mother, for Auntie was always against begging Mother. In fact, Auntie talked so much about going to bed, that Ritz felt the feared command of retiring during the whole day. So his thoughts were occupied with these experiences, and he said after some thinking: "One can make use of an aunt in a household. She must—she must—she must—"
"Well, what must she? That will be something different from a quality," the teacher interrupted the laborious speech of the boy.
"She must not always be reminding that it is time to go to bed," it now came out.
"Ritz," the teacher said now in a severe tone, "is the school the place to joke?"
But Ritz looked at the teacher with such unmistakable fright and astonishment, that the latter saw that it was an honest opinion which Ritz had made use of in his sentence. He therefore changed his mind and said more gently: "Your sentence is unfitting and incorrect, for your three qualities are not there. Do you understand that, Ritz? You will have to make three sentences at home, all alike; but do not forget the different qualities. Have you understood me?"
"Yes, teacher," answered Ritz in deepest dejection, for he already saw himself sitting alone in the evening thinking and thinking and gnawing on his slate pencil, while Sally and Edi could pursue their merry entertainments.
Now the end of school was announced. In a short time the door was opened, and the boys and girls hastened out toward the open place before the schoolhouse, where suddenly all were crowded together like a huge ball, from the midst of which came a tremendous noise and confused shoutings. Something out of the common must have happened.
"In the house of old Marianne"—"a tremendously rich lady"—"a piano, four men could not get it in, the door is too narrow"—"a small boy"—"before we went to school"—It was so confused, nothing could really be understood. Then a voice shouted: "All come along! Perhaps they are not through with it, come, all of you to the Middle Lot!" And suddenly the whole ball separated, and almost the whole crowd ran in the same direction.
Only two boys remained on the playground and looked at each other, quite perplexed. The one was stout little Ritz, who long since had forgotten his great trouble and had listened intently to the exciting, although incomprehensible story. The other was his brother Edi, a slender, tall fellow with a high forehead and serious grey eyes beneath. He was hardly two years older than his brother; but for his not quite nine years, he was tall, and appeared much older than the seven-year-old Ritz.
"We must run home quickly and ask whether we too may go; we must see that, Ritz, so hurry up!" With these words Edi pulled his brother along, and soon they turned round the corner and also disappeared.
Behind the schoolhouse, near the hawthorn hedge, stood the last of the crowd in animated conversation. It was Sally, the ten-year-old sister of the two boys, with her friend Kaetheli, who with great excitement seemed to describe an occurrence.
"But Kaetheli, I do not know the beginning," said Sally. "Just you begin at the beginning, from where you saw everything with your own eyes, will you?"
"Very well, I will, but this time you must pay close attention," said Kaetheli. "You know that the old blind straw-plaiter lived with the little girl Meili at old Marianne's? Well, Meili went to school at Lower Wood. Two weeks ago her father died and Meili had to go to Lower Wood to her uncle. Then Marianne cleaned the bedroom and the sitting-room terribly clean, opened all the windows, and afterwards closed them all again and put on the shutters. She herself lives in the little room above. But this morning everything was open, and yet Marianne had said nothing about it to anyone and all people in Middle Lot were surprised at that. At half-past eleven, just when we were coming out of school, we saw a wagon coming up the hill from Lower Wood, and the horse could hardly pull the load, for there was a large piano on the wagon, a bed, and lots of other things, a table and a little box, and I think that was all. Now the wagon stopped at old Marianne's cottage, and all at once there came out of the cottage old Marianne and a woman, who was quite white in the face, and behind them came a little boy, and no one had seen them come up. Then four men of Middle Lot wanted to carry the piano into the cottage but it would not go through the door because the door was too narrow and the piano too wide. And all who stood around to look said she must be a very rich woman, because she had such a large piano. But no one knew from where she came, and when anyone asked old Marianne she snarled and said: 'I haven't any time.'
"All the people around are surprised that a rich lady should come to old Marianne in the wooden cottage; my father has said long since that the cottage would tumble over one of these days. And Sally! I wish you could see the woman, you too would be surprised that she should make her home there. Just think, she wears a black silk skirt on week-days!"
"And what about the boy, how does he look?" asked Sally, who had followed her friend's story with close attention.
"I had almost forgotten him," continued Kaetheli. "Just think, he wears velvet pants, quite short black velvet pants and a velvet jacket and a cap to match. Just imagine a boy with velvet pants!"
"I should think that would be quite pretty," observed Sally, "but what does he look like otherwise?"
"I have forgotten that, I had to watch the moving of the piano. He is nothing particular to look at."
"Kaetheli, do you know what?" Sally said, "you go home with me. I want to ask whether I may go home with you for a little while. I should like to see that too, and then afterwards we will both go to old Marianne's to call, will you?"
Kaetheli was ready at once to carry out the plan, and the children ran together toward the parsonage.
It was only a little while before, that Edi and Ritz had arrived home panting for breath. In the garden on the bench under the large apple-tree, Mother and Auntie were sitting mending and conversing over the bringing-up of the children; for Auntie knew many a good advice, quite new and not worn out. Now they heard hasty running, and Edi and Ritz came rushing along.
"May we—in the Middle Lot—to the Middle Lot—people have arrived—a wagon and a piano—a terribly rich woman and a—"
Both shouted in confusion, breathlessly and incomprehensibly.
"Now," the aunt cried into the noise, "if you behave like two canary birds who suddenly have become crazy, no human being can understand a word. One is to be silent and the other may talk, or still better both be silent."
But Ritz and Edi could do neither. If Edi began to report, then Ritz had to follow. It always had been so, and to be silent at this moment of excitement, that could not be expected; therefore both began afresh and would no doubt have continued thus for some time if Sally and Kaetheli had not arrived on the scene. They made everything clear in a short time.
But the mother did not like to have her children run to the Middle Lot for the sake of staring at strange people who had arrived there, and to increase the gaping crowd who, no doubt, were standing in front of Marianne's cottage. She did not give the longed-for permission, but she invited Kaetheli to stay at the parsonage and take afternoon coffee with the children and afterwards play in the garden.
That was at least something; Sally and Ritz were satisfied, and they ran at once with Kaetheli into the house. But Edi showed a dissatisfied face, for wherever something strange could be seen or found, he had to be there.
He stood there without saying a word. He was thinking whether he dared to work on his mother to get the desired permission. He feared, however, the auxiliary troops which his aunt would lead into battle to help his mother. But before he had weighed all sides his aunt said: "Well, Edi, have you not yet swallowed the defeat? Isn't there some old Roman, or Egyptian, who also could not always do what he wanted? Just you think that over and you will see that it will help you."
That helped, indeed, for Edi was a great searcher in history, and when he happened in that field, then all other interests were pushed into the background. He at once remembered that he had not finished reading about his old Egyptian, and with a smoothed brow he ran into the house.
The sun had set and it was growing dark among the bushes in the garden, where the children, with red cheeks, were seeking each other and hiding again. All of a sudden there came a loud, penetrating call: "To bed, to bed!" Ritz had just found a fine hiding-place in the henhouse, where he had comfortably settled, secure from being discovered, when this terrible call reached him. It struck him like a thunderbolt. Yes, it took his breath away so that he turned white and hadn't the strength to rise; for, with the call came the remembrance of the three sentences which he had to write: three whole sentences and nine different qualities, and he had forgotten everything, and now all the time had gone and he had to go to bed.
"Where are you, Ritz?" It sounded into his hiding-place. "Come, crawl out. I know you are in there and will be covered with feathers from head to foot."
The aunt stood before the henhouse, and Sally and Kaetheli beside her full of expectation, for they had sought Ritz for a long time in vain. But Auntie had experience in such things. Ritz actually came crawling out of the henhouse and stood now in a lamentable condition before his aunt.
"How you do look! You ought to have been in bed an hour ago, you haven't a drop of blood in your cheeks," the aunt exclaimed. "What is the matter with you, Ritz?"
"Where is Mamma?" asked Ritz in his fright.
"She is upstairs; come, she will put you to bed at once when I have got you finally together. Come, Sally, and you, Kaetheli, go home now."
With these words she took Ritz by the hand, and drew him up the stone steps into the house, and wanted to bring him up the stairs to the bedroom. Then everything was over and no rescue from going to bed at once. Now Ritz stopped his aunt and groaned: "I must—I must—I have to write three sentences for punishment."
"There we have it." But Ritz looked so miserable that Auntie felt great pity for him. "Come in here," she said, and shoved him into the living-room, "and take out your things."
Now she sat down beside him and the whole affair proceeded finely. Not that Auntie formed the sentences, no indeed, she was not going to cheat the teacher; but she knew well what was needed to form a sentence and she pushed and spurred Ritz and brought so many things before him, and reminded him how they looked, that he had his three sentences and his nine qualities together in no time. Now there came a feeling to Ritz that he had not acted right, when he said that an aunt must not always be reminding people, and when now Auntie asked: "Ritz, why had you to write the sentences?" then the feeling grew stronger in him, for he felt that he could not tell the cause of his punishment without making his aunt angry. He stuttered, "I have—I have—the teacher has said, that I made an unfitting sentence."
"Yes, I can imagine that," said Auntie. "Now quickly to bed."
Edi and Ritz slept in the same room and that was the place where the two boys, every evening after the mother had said evening prayer with them, and they were alone, exchanged their deepest thoughts and experiences with one another and talked them over. Ritz had the greatest respect for Edi, for although the latter was only a little older, yet he was already in the fourth class, and he himself was only in the second, and in history Edi knew more than the scholars in the fifth and some in the sixth class. When now the two were well tucked in their beds, Ritz said: "Edi, was it a sin that I said Auntie must not always remind?" Edi thought a bit, such a case had never come to him. After a while he said: "You see, Ritz, it goes thus: if you have done something that is a sin, then you must go at once to Daddy and confess, there is no help for it; but if you do that, then everything comes again in order and you feel happy again, and afterwards you look out not to do the sinful thing again. I can tell you that, Ritz. But if you do not confess, then you are always full of fear when a door is slammed or a letter-carrier unexpectedly brings a letter, then you think at once: 'There now, everything will come out.' And so you are never sure nor safe and you feel a pressure in the chest. But there is another thing that presses so hard that you can think of nothing else, for example, if you have given away a rabbit, you regret it afterwards. But there is a remedy and I have tried it many a time, and it helps. You must think of something dreadful, like a large fire, when everything is burnt up, the fortress and the soldiers in it and all historical books, and—all at once you think everything backwards and you have everything; then you are so glad that you think: what difference does a rabbit make? You still have everything else. Now Ritz, try that and see if it helps you, then you can find out whether everything passes away or whether you have to tell Daddy tomorrow."
"Yes, I will try it," said Ritz somewhat indistinctly, and soon after he took such deep breaths that Edi knew what was going on. He heaved a sigh and said: "Oh, Ritz, you are asleep and I wanted to tell you so much about the old Egyptian."
A little while afterwards the whole peaceful parsonage of Upper Wood lay in deep sleep; only old 'Lizebeth went about the passage calling: "Bs, bs, bs." She wanted to get the old grey cat into the kitchen to catch the mice during the night. 'Lizebeth had been in the parsonage of Upper Wood as long as one could remember, for there had always been a son, and when the time had come, then he had become parson in Upper Wood. First 'Lizebeth had served the grandfather, then the father and now the son, and she had long since elected Edi as the future minister, and intended to look after his house when he should be the master here.
A Call in the Village
The friendly village Upper Wood lay on the top of the hill close by the fir wood; it had a beautiful white church with a high, slender tower. At a distance of three-quarters of an hour's walk, down in the valley, lay Lower Wood, a small community which, however, did not wish to be considered smaller. They had a new schoolhouse and a church of their own, but the church had no tower, only a little red dome. Therefore the people of Upper Wood were a little proud, because their church was much prettier and also because they learned much more in the old schoolhouse in Upper Wood than in the new one of Lower Wood; but that was the children's fault, not the teacher's. In the middle, between the two villages lay a hamlet consisting of a few farms and some small houses of little pretense. It was called the Middle Lot, and its people the Middle Lotters. They had the choice to what church and school they wished to belong, whether to Lower Wood or Upper Wood, and according to their choice they were judged by the people of Upper Wood; for whoever wanted to learn much and be decent, he must, according to the Upper Wooders, strive to belong to them. This was a fixed and general idea of the people on the top of the hill. In the Middle Lot there lived only two families who were generally respected; the Justice of Peace, who was obliged to live there because otherwise he would have to be called there, and that would have been inconvenient. This peace-making man was Kaetheli's father. And the other was old Marianne, who lived in her own house and pulled horse-hair for a living, and never did harm to anyone.
When on the next morning the three children of the parsonage passed Marianne's house on their way to school, Sally said: "It is fun to go to school to-day for the strange boy of yesterday will come too; if we only knew his name. Kaetheli described him to me; he wears velvet pants. Of course he will come to Upper Wood to school."
"Of course," said Edi with a dignified air; "who would think of going to Lower Wood to School?"
"Of course, who would go there to school?" observed Ritz.
Then the three in perfect harmony entered the schoolhouse. But no strange face was to be seen in the whole schoolroom; everything went on in the usual way to the end of the morning. Then everyone hurried away in different directions. Sally was standing there, somewhat undecided; she would like to have heard something new of the strange boy and his mother, for she loved to hear news, and now not even Kaetheli, with whom she talked things over, had been in school. But now she saw Edi soaring along like an arrow into the midst of a crowd of boys, and they all acted so strangely and they shouted so strangely that Sally thought that something particular must be in preparation there, and no doubt concerned the new-comers. Then she could hear something from Edi. She went slowly on and kept on turning round, but Edi did not come, and only after Sally had long since greeted the mother and was about to call her father out of his study for dinner, did the two brothers come running along, their faces red as fire, and breathless, for they had lingered to the last moment. The father was just leaving his study when both rushed toward him and now it began: "We have—the Middle Lotters—with the Lower Wooders—"
"Hush, hush," said the father. "First get your breath, then relate, one after the other; but before anything, first the soup." With these words the father took Ritz's hand, and Sally and Edi followed them into the dining-room. Sally pulled Edi a little back and whispered:
"Tell me quickly, what did they tell about the strange boy?"
"About him?" returned Edi in a somewhat scornful tone. "I had forgotten all about him! We have something else to do than to talk about a strange boy, of whom one does not even know whether he will come to Upper Wood to school."
This answer was somewhat unexpected to Sally and had a saddening effect; but she always could find a way out of an unpleasant situation. So she sat as still as a mouse during the whole time the soup was eaten, and her thoughts were hard at work.
Now the father turned to Edi and said: "Now you can relate your adventure, while Ritz remains quiet, and afterwards his turn will come." Ritz looked quite obedient for he had two large noodles on his plate to work with.
But Edi, in a moment, put down knife and fork and quickly began: "Just think, Papa, we have made three songs, one for each parish. First, the Lower Wooders began. The sixth class were angry because we laughed at them, that they only now have to make sentences, and we in the fourth class have begun to write them already. They made a song about us which runs:
"'Of Upper Wood the boys They in their minds rejoice Because they think that they the cleverest are, But if ever they must fight They are in sorry plight And they turn round and run for ever so far.'
"How do you like that song, Papa?"
"Well, that is such as Lower Wooders would make," said the father.
"And then," Edi continued, "we have made a song for an answer, that goes thus:
"'And of Lower Wood the crowd They always yell so loud That they never, never stay within their den, For all dispute and strife They are much alive For they use their fists when they ought to use their pen.'
"How do you like this one, Papa?"
"Just about the same. And who has sung about the Middle Lot?" asked the father.
"The Lower Wooders and we together; they too had to have a song, but the shortest, as it ought to be. It runs so:
"'And they of Middle Lot They all together plot That they are striving zealously for peace, But with quarrelling they never cease.'
"And how do you like that, Papa?"
"They are, all three of them, kind of fighting songs, Edi," answered the father, "and I should prefer that you keep busy with your history studies, instead of taking sides in these party-fights. One never knows where one comes out, and such poetry usually ends with lumps on the heads."
Edi seemed much disappointed as he attacked his noodles with a visibly spoiled appetite.
"And what has been your experience, Sally? Why are you so pensive?" the father continued.
"Kaetheli was not at school," reported Sally, "and I had so much to talk over with her. Perhaps she is sick; may I go to see her this afternoon? We have no school, you know."
"Aha, Sally wants to see the strange boy," the sharp-witted Edi remarked.
"You may go, Sally," the mother said, answering a questioning look from the father. "But you will not go into any house where you have no business, just to look at strangers. I know you are capable of doing such things. You can start soon after dinner."
Sally was very happy. She quickly fetched her straw hat and took leave. But outside she did not run straight through the passage-way as she usually did in similar cases, but went to the kitchen door and peeped in, and when she saw 'Lizebeth at the sink, where the latter was scraping her pans, she went in very close to the old woman and said somewhat mysteriously: "'Lizebeth, does Edi or Ritz perhaps have a torn mattress on their bed?"
'Lizebeth stopped scraping and turned round. She looked at Sally from head to foot, put her hands on her hips and said very slowly and importantly: "May I ask what you mean by that question, Sally? Do you think this household is so carried on that one lies about on ragged mattresses and sleeps, until a little one, who is far from old enough to turn a mattress, thinks of coming to ask 'does not this one or that one have a ragged mattress' on his bed? Yes, Sally, what cobwebs you do have in your head."
"I do not care about the mattress, it is on account of Marianne that I ask," Sally explained. "Do you know, she now has some new people in her house and I should so much like to see them, and therefore I wanted so much to know whether you could not sacrifice a mattress so that Marianne could pull the horsehair for a mattress, for Mother will not let me go into the house without a good excuse."
"Oh, so! that is different," said 'Lizebeth quite mildly, for she had also been wondering what kind of people her old friend had taken into her home, and now, perhaps, she could learn something about them through Sally.
"I can help you, Sally," she said. "You go to Marianne and tell her that I send my greetings, and I have long since intended to come and see her, but the likes of us cannot get away when we want to; we never know what may happen if we are out of the house for five minutes; but tell her that I will surely come some fine Sunday. Now then go, and give my message."
Sally ran with a joyous heart, first through the garden, then away over the meadow and down the hill as far as the fir wood, where the dry road lay for a long stretch in the shade. Here Sally slackened her pace a little. It was so beautiful to walk along in shade of the trees, where above in their tops the wind rustled so delightfully and all the birds sang in confusion. She also had to consider how she would arrange her calls, whether she would go first to Kaetheli or to Marianne; but this time old Marianne had a stronger attraction than Kaetheli and Sally felt that she must go there first and give her message. Now her thoughts fell on the strange people and she had to imagine how they looked and what she was going to say, and what they would say when she knocked and asked for Marianne. Thus she thought everything well out, for Sally had a great power of imagining things.
In this way she came to the first houses of Middle Lot. She turned away from the road and went toward Marianne's house, which stood a little way from the road and lay almost hidden behind a hedge. As Sally had been accustomed to do, she now ran right into the house, although the house door was also the kitchen door. After entering the front door she stood in the small kitchen and was at once before another door which led into the living-room. This door stood wide open and Sally found herself suddenly in the presence of a lady dressed in black, who sat in that room sewing and who lifted her head at Sally's noisy entrance, and with large sad eyes she looked at the child in silence.
Sally grew as red as fire and in her embarrassment remained standing near the door like one rooted to the floor.
Now the lady held out her hand and said in a friendly tone, "Come here, dear child, what brings you to me?"
Sally was quite confused. She did not remember why she had come, for she had really not come to see Marianne. She had invented that—to get into the house where she had arrived now so unexpectedly. She approached the lady and wanted to say something, but nothing came out. Sally grew crimson and stood there more helpless than ever before in her life.
The lady took the child's hand and stroked her glowing cheeks.
"Come, sit down beside me, dear child," she then said, with a voice so sweet that it went deep into Sally's heart. "Come, we shall come gradually to know each other a little."
Now there came from out of a corner a quick noise of moving; Sally did not know what it was, for until now she had not dared to look around the room, but now she looked up.
A boy, a little taller than she, was carrying a small easy chair and placed it before Sally. He looked at her with such a merry face as the restrained laughter came so visibly out of his eyes, that the sight brought a complete reversion in Sally's feelings, and she, all at once, laughed right out; upon which, the boy too, relieved his feelings by a bright peal of laughter, for the rushing in and then the confusion of the unexpected guest had long since tempted him to laugh; but he was too well trained to dare to break out.
"Well, my child," said the mother with that winning voice, "and what has brought you to me?"
"I have—I ought to—I wanted," Sally began hesitatingly, "I wanted to give a message to Marianne—" Sally could not stop at half the truth. The sad, friendly eyes of the lady were penetratingly resting on hers, so everything had to come out as it was.
"That is lovely and friendly of you, that you want to see us, dear little girl. How did you hear of us?" asked the lady, and took off Sally's straw hat, while she put the question to the child. She placed the hat on the table and smoothed her hair with a mother's touch.
Now Sally related all in full confidence how it had happened, and that she and her two brothers had wanted to come yesterday to find out who was coming to live with Marianne, and to find out how the piano and all the other things could find room in the little house. Sally now, for the first time, looked around the room and she had to wonder a little, for she saw only the piano and four bare walls, and then there were the two easy chairs on which she and the lady were sitting, and the small table. She knew that besides this room there was a very small bedroom, where two beds could hardly find room. Sally could not set herself to rights; all was so different from what she had imagined. She had expected to see strange and foreign things standing about everywhere and now she saw nothing besides an old piano. And yet the lady who sat before her in a black silken dress looked more aristocratic than Sally could ever have imagined; and the boy in his velvet suit looked quite like the old knights in Edi's beautiful picture book, and he had brought her a seat without anyone telling him, and was more refined and courteous than she had ever before seen a boy.
When Sally turned her surprised eyes again to the lady, she saw such a painful expression in her face that it came involuntarily into her mind how the mother had said, that of course "she would not go there for the sake of staring at the people," and she felt that she was doing something very much like it. Sally rose. All at once she remembered to whom she really wanted to go, so she said hastily: "I must go to Kaetheli; she may be sick." With these words she quickly offered her hand to the lady.
The lady, too, had risen; she took the proffered hand, held it between both of hers, and looked once more so lovingly into the child's eyes, that her little heart was moved. Then she kissed her forehead and said: "You dear child, you were a friendly picture in our quiet room."
Then she let go of her hand, and Sally went through the open door into the small kitchen. The boy, meanwhile, had opened the house door and now he stood outside quite courteously, like a doorkeeper, to bid Sally good-bye.
"Are you not coming to school tomorrow?"
"Yes, indeed," was the answer.
That pleased Sally very much and she at once decided that he must become Edi's friend, for she had taken a great liking to the boy and when he was Edi's friend then he would be hers too, and he must come every Sunday afternoon and spend it with them and they would teach him all kinds of games; and many undertakings passed through her brain, for with this friend everything could be carried out; he was so entirely different from other boys and girls in the school. "Then you are coming to-morrow?" she asked with happy expectation.
"Where shall I come?" he questioned in return.
"To school, of course."
"Yes, indeed, I'll come to school."
"Well, then, good-bye," said Sally, giving her hand, "but I do not know your name."
Now they shook hands, and Erick remained standing in the doorway until Sally had turned round the hedge, then he shut the door and Sally ran toward the house of the Justice of Peace. Before she reached it, old Marianne met her, panting under the large bundle of horsehair which she was carrying on her head. Sally was delighted to see her, for she had just remembered that she had not given 'Lizebeth's message. She rushed so quickly toward the old woman and with such force, that the latter went back some steps and almost lost her balance, and Sally cried out: "Marianne, you have such nice people in your rooms. Do you talk much with them? Do you cook for them? Do you buy the things they need? Have they no maid? Do you make their beds?"
"Gently, gently," said Marianne, who had recovered her balance, "else I lose my breath. But tell me, how did you get into the people's room? I hope you know how I am to be found."
Sally told her that she, for the shorter way, had not gone round the house, where, in the woodshed, a narrow stair went up to Marianne's small room; but that she had wanted to run in the front way, through the kitchen, and out the back door; but that she had stood suddenly before the open door of the room and under the eyes of the lady.
"You must never do that again," Marianne interrupted Sally, raising her finger warningly. "Do you hear that, Sally? Never do that again. They are not people into whose home you can rush, as if they were living on the highway."
"But the lady was quite friendly, Marianne," soothed Sally, "she was not at all offended."
"That makes no difference, she is always so, she could not be otherwise, and just on that account, and on account of many other things, do you hear, Sally? Promise that you never again go that way when you want to come to me. Will you promise?"
"Yes, indeed I will. I do not intend to do it again. Good night, Marianne! Now I have forgotten the main thing: 'Lizebeth sends her greetings and she will come to see you on a fine Sunday."
The last words came from some distance, for Sally had already started on a run while she gave the message, and when Marianne wanted to send her greetings, Sally was already far away. After a few more jumps Sally arrived at the house of the Justice of Peace, in front of which stood a large apple tree which shaded the stone well. Here stood Kaetheli who did not look sick at all, but splashed with two fat, red arms about the water in which she seemed to clean some object eagerly.
"Then you are not sick. Why didn't you come to school then?" Sally called out when she saw her.
"Oh, it is you? Good evening! I could not make out who was jumping about, and I hadn't the time to look," Kaetheli said with some importance. "That is also the reason why I did not go to school. I hadn't the time, for Mother has gone away today to see sick Grandmother, and then we got young chickens, twelve quite small ones, and that is why I have to wash a stocking, for I have run after the chicks everywhere and near the barn I stepped in the dirt quite deep. But come, I will show you the chickens. Never mind if I have only one stocking on."
But Sally had only very little time left and besides, her head was full of quite different things and she wanted to hear Kaetheli tell of something else than the new chickens, so she said quite decisively: "No, Kaetheli, I haven't time enough to see the chickens. I only wanted to know whether you were ill and I want to tell you something. I have seen the strange lady and the boy whom you know. He does look nice. Do you know his name?"
"He?" said Kaetheli, shrugging her shoulders. "Of course I know. His name is Erick and just think, he goes to school at Lower Wood; I have seen him myself today, with his school sack, going there."
That was a blow for Sally. He went to school at Lower Wood. What was now to come of her beautiful plans? Of all the planned Sundays which were to be so full of joy and delight, and the whole friendship with the prepossessing Erick? For how could Edi ever be brought to making friends with a fellow who went to Lower Wood to school, when he just as well might have gone to Upper Wood? Sally was very downcast, but she did not easily give up a pleasant intention. On the way home she wanted to think what could be done, therefore she stretched out her hand to the astonished Kaetheli, and this time the invitation, to at least come into the room and eat a piece of bread and butter, was not accepted; nor would she go with Kaetheli behind the barn where they could fetch down ripe cherries from the large cherry tree—it was all of no use.
"Another time, Kaetheli, it is already so late I must go home," and Sally ran away. Kaetheli stood there much surprised and looked after her, and in her bright mind she thought: "Sally has something new in her head, else I could have brought her to the cherry tree, for she is not always so anxious to go home; but I will find out what it is."
Meanwhile Sally ran for a long stretch, then she began to walk slower, for she had to think over so many things and she was so lost in her plans that she forgot when she arrived at the garden which stretched from her home far into the meadows. Ritz stood on the low wall and beckoned with wild gestures, for Sally had not seen him at first.
"Do come a little quicker so that you can tell something, else we will have to go to bed, for Auntie has already looked twice at her watch. Were you in the barn at Kaetheli's? How many cows are in it? Have you seen the young goat?"
But Sally had different things in her head. She hastily stepped into the house, while Ritz followed. The rest of the family were in the living-room. Mother and Auntie were mending stockings; Father was reading a large church paper. Edi, his head supported on both hands, sat lost in his history book. Sally had hardly opened the door when she cried out with much excitement: "Oh, Mother, you ought to have seen how friendly the lady was, and she is so beautiful and so gentle and so good, and quite an aristocratic lady; and Erick in his velvet suit is like a knight, and so fine and polite. Edi could not find a nicer friend."
They all looked surprised at Sally, and a pause followed this outburst. Sally had quite forgotten that she was not to go to the strange people, and that she had given, as the object of her walk, the call on Kaetheli. She now remembered everything and she grew very red.
"But, dear child," said the mother, "did you really, in spite of opposition from me, press into the home of the strange people? How could you enter the house without an excuse?"
"Not without an excuse, Mamma," said Sally, somewhat embarrassed. "'Lizebeth had given me a message for old Marianne."
"Which the inquisitive Sally fetched in the kitchen for the purpose of carrying out her plan, that is clear," remarked Auntie. When the whole truth lay open to the light of day, Sally felt relieved and she returned with new zeal to her communication. She had much to describe: the empty room and the silk dress of the lady, and her sad glances, and then the knightly Erick with his joyous laughter and the merry eyes; but she could not describe it all so attractively as it seemed to her.
"So," said Edi, looking up from his book, "now you have another friend. It will go, no doubt, with him as with little Leopold!" After giving her this fling he bent again over his book and read on, taking no notice of anything.
Sally did not find the desired sympathy. She was so full of her impressions that she felt Mother and Aunt should be all afire and aflame for her new friendship. Instead of that, the two kept on mending the stockings; Father did not even look up from his paper and Edi had only a satirical remark for sympathy. Sally had rather a bad reputation for making friendships. Almost every week she saw some one who appealed to her so much, that she must make a friendship at once; but the friendships were mostly of short duration, for she had imagined something else than she often found on looking closer. This made her quite unhappy at the time, but the next week she had already found some one else who filled her thoughts.
The last unfortunate friendship had brought forth Edi's satire to a greater degree. The tailor of Upper Wood had three sons, and since the father on his wanderings had spent some time in Vienna he gave his sons, in remembrance of the beautiful days which he spent there, the names of three Austrian grand dukes. It was this strange name that had first attracted Sally; to that was added that Leopold, the oldest of the sons, who had lived with his grandfather until now, but had come recently to Upper Wood, always wore elegant jackets and pants after the latest cut. Leopold had entered Sally's class and his appearance had at once inspired her. But he was so small and dainty that he received the name Leopoldy from the whole school. The rumor had preceded Leopold, that he had staid three years in the same class in the town where his grandfather lived. So Edi looked down on Leopoldy from an elevation of a fourth class boy and noticed with scorn how Sally found pleasure in the little fellow and befriended him. But that did not last long for, after a trial of a week, Leopoldy was set back two classes, since he had been put in the fifth class on account of his years, but not his deserts. In these eight days Sally had discovered, with sorrow, that Leopoldy was unusually silly, and Sally was glad that the enormous gap that lies between the fifth and third class, made easier the rupture of this friendship which could not continue, for nothing could be done with Leopoldy. So it happened that no one listened with sympathy to the enthusiastic description which Sally gave of her new friends, for each one remembered Leopoldy, and that was not inspiring.
This general coolness angered Sally very much. She knew her new friends if they would only believe her. All ought to be so interested in this mother and her Erick, that they would want to know everything possible about them, and now no one asked a question and they hardly listened to her communication. That was too much; Sally had to relieve her tension. She suddenly broke forth to Edi, who was entirely lost in his book: "Although you read a thousand books one after the other, and act as if one did not tell anything, and you think that one must have no friendship with any human being on this earth but only for the thousand-thousand-year-old Egyptians, yet you might be glad to have a friend like Erick."
Edi must have just read something that made him solemn, for he looked quite restrainedly up from his book and said quite seriously: "You see, Sally, you do not at all know what friendship is, for you believe that one can have a new friend every week. But one ought to have only one friend for the whole life, and one must drag his enemy three times around the walls of Troy."
"Then he will have to make a nice journey if he comes from Upper Wood," remarked Sally quickly.
The mother meanwhile had left the room, and Aunt rose from her work.
"You will get quite barbaric from pure historical research," she said, turning to Edi, "but now it is high time to go to bed, quick! But where is Ritz?"
Ritz had withdrawn behind the stove a full hour ago in the hope of there escaping his fate for some time. But sleep had overcome him in the dark corner.
"Now we have the trouble," the aunt cried, when the sleeper had been discovered, and only with the greatest difficulty she woke him.
While Auntie was pushing and shaking the sleepy Ritz, Edi had tried several times to get near her, but she had always escaped him. Now a quiet moment came. Ritz was at last awake. Edi quickly stepped up to his aunt and said: "I did not mean alive, only after his death, like Achilles did."
"Now he too is talking in his sleep and says all kinds of nonsense," the aunt cried quite excitedly, for she had long since forgotten Edi's judgment on the enemy and she did not know what he was talking about. "No, no, it cannot go on like this, children must go to bed in good time, else the whole household gets out of joint."
Edi wanted to explain once more, only to make it clear to her, and not to have to go to bed misunderstood, so he had followed her about, and now a greater misunderstanding had arisen. There was no more chance for explanation. Ritz and Edi were shoved into their room, the light put on the table, the door was closed, and away went Auntie.
"I am sure Mother will come to us. I must explain everything to her," Edi said to himself, for to be so misunderstood disquieted the thinking Edi exceedingly. And the mother came as she did every evening, and she promised to make everything clear to Auntie, so he could be pacified and find the sleep which Ritz long since had found again.
'Lizebeth on the Warpath
On the following morning 'Lizebeth stood full of expectation at the kitchen door, and made all kinds of signs when Sally came rushing into the living-room from breakfast. The signs were indeed understood by the child but she had no time to go to the kitchen. She waved her school-bag and shouted in rushing by 'Lizebeth: "When I come from school; it is too late now!" Followed by Edi and Ritz she continued her run.
Something very particular must be in preparation, for after school all the scholars were standing again in a dense circle, beating their hands in the air and shouting as loud as they could, to have their views heard. Sally, who had waited a few moments for her brothers, went on home for she knew how long such meetings were apt to last and that her brothers would only arrive home when the soup was being served. Sally stepped into the house and with her school-bag in her hand she went straight to the kitchen.
"Now I will tell you everything that happened yesterday, 'Lizebeth," she said.
'Lizebeth nodded encouragingly and Sally began, and became more and more excited the longer she talked. She was most excited when she came to telling about the lady and her little boy, describing the way she talked, how she and the boy were dressed, and her aristocratic way. But all at once 'Lizebeth jumped as if a wasp had stung her and she called out, "What do you say, Sally? This woman wears a silk dress in the middle of the week? Silk? And she lives at Marianne's? And the boy wears velvet pants and a jacket all of velvet? Well, well! I have lived ten years with your great-grandfather and thirty with your grandfather and twelve with your father, and I have seen your father grow up from the first day of his life and your little brothers. And I have known them since they were babies and none of them ever had velvet pants on their body, and yet they were all ministers, your great-grandfather, your grandfather, your father, and the little ones will be ministers too, and none of them ever had even a piece of velvet on them and this woman in the middle of the week walks about in silk, yes indeed! And then taking rooms at Marianne's and living where the basket mender has lived, I tell you, Sally, there is something behind that! But it has to come out, and if Marianne wants to help a hundred times to cover it up, I tell you, Sally, I will bring out what is behind it all. Yes, indeed, velvet pants? I wonder what we shall hear next!"
Sally stood quite astounded before the anger-spouting 'Lizebeth, and could not understand the cause of this outbreak. But she had enough of it, so she turned round and hastened into the sitting-room, where, according to her expectations, at the very last moment, just when 'Lizebeth came into the room with the soup tureen, the brothers appeared, in a peculiar way. At each side of 'Lizebeth one crawled into the room, then shot straight across the room, like the birds before a storm shoot through the air so that one fears they will run their heads against something. Fortunately the two boys did not run their heads against anything, but each landed quite safely on his chair, and at once 'Lizebeth placed the soup on the table; but so decidedly and with such an angry face, as if she wanted to say: "There! If you had to put up with what I have to, then you would not trouble about your soup."
When she was again out of the room the father said, looking at his wife: "There will be a thunder storm, sure signs are visible." Then turning to his sons he continued: "But what do boys deserve, who come so late to table and from pure bad conscience almost knock it over?"
Ritz looked crestfallen into his plate, and from there in a somewhat roundabout way past his mother's plate, slyly across to his aunt, to see whether it looked like an order to go to bed at once. And it was so beautiful today, how beautiful the running about this evening after school would be!
There was no order, for the general attention was claimed by 'Lizebeth, who with the same signs of snorting anger threw more than placed the rest of the meal on the table and then grumbled herself out again.
As soon as dinner was over the father put on his little velvet cap and went in perfect silence out into the garden. For the storms in the house were more unpleasant to him than those that come from the sky. As soon as he had left the room 'Lizebeth stood in the doorway, both arms akimbo and looking quite warlike; she said: "I should think it would make no difference if I were to make a call on Marianne. I should think it is fully four years since I went to see her in the Middle Lot."
The pastor's wife had listened with astonishment to this speech, which sounded very reproachful. Now she said soothingly: "But, 'Lizebeth, I should hope that you do not think that I would oppose your going to Marianne or anywhere else; or that I ever have done so. Do go as soon as you feel like it."
"Just as if nothing had to be done, and as if I were and had been on a visit in the parsonage at Upper Wood for fifty years and more," was the answer. "No, no, I know what has to be done if no one else does. I can wait until Sunday afternoon; that is a time when the likes of me may go out, and if it suits the lady then, then I go, and shall not stay away very long. Why? I know why if no one else knows it."
"Of course that suits me, too," the lady pacified again, "do just what you think best." She did not say more for she had already noticed that a fire of anger was kindled in 'Lizebeth which would blaze up if another word fell in it. She could not imagine what had struck 'Lizebeth, but she found it more advisable not to touch on it. So 'Lizebeth grumbled for a little while, then she went away, since no further chance for outbreaks was offered. But there was no peace during the whole week; all noticed that, and each went carefully by 'Lizebeth as if she were a powder magazine which, at a careless touch, might fly up in the air at any moment. At last Sunday came. 'Lizebeth, after dinner, rushed about the kitchen with such a great noise, one could notice that many thoughts were working in her which she tried to give vent to. But she went into her room only after everything was bright and in its place.
She dressed herself in her Sunday-best and entered the sitting-room to take leave, just as though she was going on a long journey, for it was an event for 'Lizebeth to leave the parsonage for several hours. Now she wandered with slow steps along the road and looked to the right and left on the way to see what was growing in the field belonging to this or that neighbor. But her thoughts began again to work in her; one could see that, for she began to walk quicker and quicker and to talk half aloud to herself. Now she had arrived. Marianne had seen her from her little window and was surprised that this time 'Lizebeth was so soon keeping her promise. For years she had promised, had sent the messages that she would soon come; but she had never come and now she was there after the message had been brought only three days ago. Marianne went to meet her friend with a pleasant smile and welcomed her near the hedge before the cottage; then she conducted her guest around the cottage and up the narrow, wooden stairs. 'Lizebeth did not like this way and before she had reached the top of the stairs she had to speak out.
"Listen, Marianne," she said, "formerly one dared to come in the front door and through the kitchen, but now your oldest friends have to come by the back way, which, no doubt, is on account of the strange people whom you have taken into your house. I have heard much of them and now I see for myself that they, from pure pride, do not know what to order next, that you dare not go through your own house."
"Dear me, 'Lizebeth, what queer thoughts you do have," said Marianne, quite frightened. "That is not true, no one has forbidden me anything. And the people are so good and not a bit proud, and so friendly, and so kind and humble."
"Catch your breath, Marianne," 'Lizebeth interrupted her; "with all your excitement you cannot prove that white is black, and when such people come along, no one knows whence, and take a living-room and a bedroom in such a hut, so hidden as yours is, Marianne, where they pay next to nothing, and the woman struts about in a silk skirt and her little son in velvet; then there is something behind it all, and if she has silk skirts then she must have other things too, and she must know why she hides all these things in a hut which really does not look larger than a large henhouse. I wanted only to warn you, Marianne; you surely will be the loser with such a crowd."
"'Lizebeth," Marianne said now more emphatically than she had ever been known to speak, "it would be well, if all people were as this woman is, and you and I could thank God if we were like her. I have never in this world seen a better and a more patient and a more amiable human being. And in regard to the silk skirt, please be still and do not talk about it, 'Lizebeth; many a thing looks different to what it really is, and it would be better for you, if you would not load your conscience with wrong against a suffering woman on whom God has His eye."
Marianne did not wish to tell what she knew, that the lady had only the one skirt and no other whatsoever, and so, of course, was obliged to wear it. She did not want to tell that to 'Lizebeth now she heard how the latter judged.
"I do not think of loading my conscience with anything," 'Lizebeth continued, "and that much is not as it looks, that I know; but when a little boy of whom no one knows from where he came, wears velvet pants on bright week-days and even a velvet jacket, then they are velvet pants and do not only look so, that is certain. There is something behind that and it will come out and it will not look the best. Yes indeed, wearing velvet pants, such a little tramp of whom no one knows from where he comes, yes indeed."
"Do not sin against the dear boy," Marianne said seriously. "Look at him and you will see that he looks like a little angel, and he is one."
"So, that too," 'Lizebeth continued, "and pray when did you see an angel, Marianne, that you know he looks just like them? I should like to know! But I have served over fifty years in a respectable house, and I have helped to bring up the old parson, and the present one and his two sons; but we have never known anything of velvet pants, no, never, and we were, I should think, different people from these. That is what I wanted to tell you, Marianne, and that is the main reason why I came to you, so that you should know what one is forced to think. And with regard to the angels, I can tell you that we have a little boy that looks exactly like the angels that blow the trumpets in the picture; such fat, firm, red cheeks has our Moritzli, like painted, and such round arms and legs."
"Yes, it is true, little Ritz was always a splendid little fellow, I should like to see him again," Marianne answered good-naturedly.
This reconciled 'Lizebeth a little; in a much friendlier tone she said: "Then come again to Upper Wood, you will have time, more than I. Then you can look at the other, too, and can see what a pretty, straight nose he has, that no angel could have a prettier one, and in the whole school he is by far the brightest,—that the teacher himself says of Eduardi."
'Lizebeth always called the boys by their full names, for the shortening of the names, Ritz and Edi, seemed to her a degrading of their names and an injustice to her favorites.
"Yes, yes, I believe you. What a delight it must be to see such a well-ordered household and all so happy together and so joyous," Marianne said with a sigh, and she threw a glance at the room of the stranger, and now 'Lizebeth was completely pacified, for she felt the parsonage again on the top.
"What is the matter with the people?" she asked with compassion.
"I do not know what to say," was the answer, "I do not understand it all myself."
"I thought as much, with such strangers one is never secure."
"No, no, I did not mean anything like that," Marianne opposed. "I tell you they are the best people one could find. I would do anything for the woman."
Marianne did not like to tell her friend what she knew and to consult with her about things she could not comprehend, for 'Lizebeth had evidently no love for the two and was full of distrust, and Marianne had taken them both into her heart so that she could not bear sharp remarks about them even from her good friend. She therefore was silent and 'Lizebeth could get nothing more out of her concerning her lodgers.
During this long talk a good deal of time had passed. 'Lizebeth rose from the wooden bench behind the table where she and Marianne had been sitting and was about to bid good-bye. But Marianne would not allow that, for the friend must first drink a cup of coffee; then she was going to walk with her. So they did, and as the two friends wandered together through the evening, they had much to tell each other and were very talkative; only when 'Lizebeth began to talk about the strangers in Marianne's house, was the latter silent and hardly spoke. Where the road went into the woods, they parted, and Marianne had to promise to return the call as soon as possible. Then 'Lizebeth stepped out vigorously and arrived at home in such good spirits that the parson's wife resolved to send her often to Marianne on a visit.
When Marianne on her return came near her cottage, she heard lovely singing; she well knew the song. Every evening at twilight the stranger sat down at the piano and sang, and she sang so beautifully and with a voice that came from such depths that it touched Marianne's heart so that she could not tear herself away when she heard the song, until it was ended. But there was one song in particular which Marianne loved to hear and which the woman sang every day, either at the beginning or the end of her songs. It always seemed as if a great joy came into her voice and as if she wanted to make this joy appeal to all who listened. And yet this song touched Marianne's heart so deeply that she wept every time she heard it. So it happened this evening. There was a log lying before the house-door which served her for a resting-place when, in the evening, she wanted to get a little fresh air. She rolled it under the window so that she might look for a moment into the room. There sat the lady, and her large blue eyes looked up to the evening sky so seriously and sorrowfully, and yet there was something which sounded again like a great joy in the beautiful song she was singing. The little boy sat on a footstool beside her and looked at his mother with his joyful, bright eyes, and listened to the singing.
Marianne could not look long. A strange feeling came over her, and she stepped down from the log, put her apron to her eyes and wept and wept, until the singing had died away.
The Same Night in Two Houses
When on this evening Edi and Ritz were lying in their bed and Mother had finished saying evening prayer with them and had closed the door after her, Edi began: "Have you noticed, Ritz, that Father is almost like God? He already knows the thing before one has told half of it."
"No, I have never noticed that," Ritz replied. "But it is all right, for then he can do everything he wants to and also make fine weather."
"Oh, Ritz, you only look at the profit! but just look at the other side." Here Edi rose up in bed from pure zeal and continued: "Do you remember, not long ago I recited our songs, which we made about the others, to Papa; then he knew at once that we were preparing a big fight and has forbidden us to take part in it. And this evening they all have talked it over that I should lead the boys of Upper Wood into battle, and I have thought it all over and prepared ahead. Then I would be Fabius Cunctator, and would lead my troops above on the hill round and round it and would not attack, for you must know that is much safer, and so Hannibal could do nothing and could not attack me."
"Is Hannibal still living then?" asked Ritz serenely.
"Oh, Ritz, how indescribably ignorant you are!" Edi remarked compassionately. "He died more than a thousand years ago. But big Churi, the leader of the Middle Lotters, our enemies, is Hannibal. But you see, I just remember something: Churi is not a real Hannibal, for he was a great and noble general, and Churi cannot represent him; but do you know what, we can take the strange boy Erick, for Hannibal!—he looks quite different from Churi,—shall we?"
"That is all the same to me since we cannot be in the fight," remarked Ritz.
"That is true, we dare not, I had quite forgotten that," lamented Edi. "If I only knew what we could do to be in this fight and yet not do anything that is forbidden."
"Don't you know an example in the world's history?" asked Ritz, to whom his brother presented so often, in cases of need, examples out of this rich fountain.
"No. If we only lived like the old Greeks," Edi answered with a deep sigh. "When they wanted to know anything of which no one knew the answer, they quickly drove to Delphi to the oracle and asked advice. Then there was an answer at once and they knew what was to be done. But now there are no more oracles, not even in Greece. Isn't that too bad?"
"Yes, that is too bad," said Ritz rather sleepily, "but I am sure you will think of another example."
Edi began at once to think, but however much he thought, and groped in his memory and upheaved what he had stored away in his brain, he could not find in the whole history of the world one single case where some one had carried out something that the father had forbidden, and yet stood afterwards with honor before him. For that was what Edi was trying to find; and he was sitting straight up in his bed in the dark, and in spite of all his endeavors he could find no way out. And when he now heard the deep breathing of the sweetly sleeping Ritz, he became too discouraged to try any more. He lay down on his pillow and was soon dreaming about the uniform of Fabius Cunctator.
Soon after this Marianne too lay down on her couch, but for a long time sleep would not come. The singing of the lady downstairs had made her very, very sad; this voice had never before touched her so deeply as it had done this evening, and she still heard the sound of weeping and rejoicing in confusion. So Marianne heard the old clock on the wall strike eleven, then twelve, and yet she could not go to sleep. Now it seemed to her as if she heard a gentle knocking below in the house. Who could want anything of her so late in the night? She must be mistaken, she said to herself. But no, she now heard it quite plainly, somebody was knocking somewhere. She quickly dressed herself and hastened down to the kitchen. She opened the front door—no one was there. But the knocking came again and now Marianne thought that it came from the sleeping room of her boarders. Softly she opened the door of the room. Within the pale lady sat on her bed, but she was much paler than usual, so that Marianne stepped quickly into the room, and much frightened, she exclaimed: "Dear me! What is the matter? Oh how bad you do look!"
"Yes, I feel very ill, my good Marianne," the lady answered with her friendly voice. "I am so sorry that I frightened you so in the middle of the night; but I had no rest, I was obliged to call you. I have a few things to tell you and it might have been too late."
"Dear, dear! what do you mean?" lamented Marianne. "I will get the doctor at once from Lower Wood,—he is the nearest."
"No, Marianne, I thank you, I know my condition," said the sick woman soothingly, "it is a cramp in my heart, which often comes and this time more terribly than usual, and so, my good Marianne, I wanted to tell you that if I am no longer here tomorrow, will you give this," (and she gave a small paper to Marianne), "to him who has to prepare for my last resting-place. It is the only thing that I leave, and which I have saved for a long time, so that I need not be buried in a pauper's grave. That must not be, for my father's sake," she added, very softly.
"Dear, dear Lord!" Marianne lamented, "grant that it may not be that! Do think of the dear little boy! Dear Mrs. Dorn, do not take it amiss, I have never before asked anything at all, but if you leave nothing, what have I to do with the dear boy? Has he no relatives? Has he no father?"
The mother looked at the sleeping Erick, who, with his golden curls encircling his rosy face, lay there so peacefully and so carefree. She put her hand on his forehead—for his narrow bed stood quite close to hers—and said softly: "On earth you have no father any more, my child, but above in heaven there lives a Father who will not forsake you. I have given you long since to Him. I know He will care for you and protect you, so I can go quietly and joyfully. Yes, my good Marianne," she turned again to the latter, "I have done a great wrong; I have hurt deeply the best of fathers through disobedience and selfishness. For that I have suffered much; but in my suffering it was permitted me to learn how great the love and compassion of our Father in heaven is for His children, and since then a song of deepest gratitude sounds ever and ever in my heart:
"'I lay in heaviest fetters, Thou com'st and set'st me free; I stood in shame and sorrow, Thou callest me to Thee; And lift'st me up to honor And giv'st me heavenly joys Which cannot be diminished By earthly scorn and noise.'"
The sick woman had folded her hands while she spoke, and in her eyes there was a wonderful light; but now she sank back on her pillows, exhausted and pale. Marianne stood there quietly and now and then had to wipe her eyes.
"But now I must run to the doctor,—it is high time," she said, frightened. "Mrs. Dorn, can I give you anything?"
"No, I thank you," the sick woman answered softly. "I thank you for everything, my good Marianne."
The latter now hastily left the house and ran as fast as she could through the silent night toward Lower Wood. From time to time she had to stop to get her breath. Then she looked up to the bright star-covered sky and prayed: "Dear God, help us all." She had great difficulty in awakening the doctor in Lower Wood at two o'clock in the night; but at last he heard her knocking and followed her soon after on the road to her house. When they entered together the room of the sick woman, the light had burned down and threw a faint light on the quiet, pale face. The mother had stretched out her arm upon the bed of her child. The boy had encircled her slender, white hand with both his plump hands, and held it firmly. The doctor approached and looked closer at the sleeper; he bent over her for some moments.
"Marianne," he said, "loosen the hand out of the little boy's. The woman is sleeping her eternal sleep, she will nevermore awaken on this earth. She must have died suddenly from heart failure, while you were away to fetch me."
The doctor left the quiet house at once, and Marianne did as he had told her. She folded the hands of the departed one on her breast, then she sat down on Erick's bed, looking now at the serious face of the dead mother, now at the care-free sleeping boy, and wept quietly, until the rays of the morning sun fell into the quiet room and roused Marianne to the consciousness that a new, sad day had begun—a day on which Erick had to be told that he never again on this earth could take hold of the loving hand of his mother.
Disturbance in School and Home
Never before had the schoolmaster of Upper Wood had such hard work with his schoolchildren as on the morning after this night. Of course there were times that some were more restless and more dense than usual; but there were usually a good many with whom he could work successfully. But today it seemed as though a crowd of excited spirits had taken possession of the children. All the boys cast uncanny, warlike glances at each other, even suppressed threatenings were thrust hither and thither, and when the teacher turned his back such threatening gestures were made to those who faced him, that they, one and all, rolled their eyes with wrath and gave the most ridiculous answers. They all were so eager for the battle, that they could no longer distinguish between friend and foe, and each shook his clenched fist at the other.
Sally and Kaetheli, those model scholars, kept putting their heads together and whispered continuously like the ripple of a brook. Yes, indeed, Kaetheli was so brim full of news that she even kept on whispering to Sally while the latter had to answer questions in arithmetic and of course got into the most inexplicable confusion. Even Edi, the very best scholar, forgot his studies and was staring sadly before him. For just now had come before his mind's eye, during the rest-period, the great bravery of his troops who, from want of a real enemy, had put each other in a sorry shape. And he was not allowed to lead these courageous soldiers against the boasting Churi, and to show this fellow how a great general does his work! The teacher was just standing before him and called on him, continuing in the geography lesson: "Edi, will you tell me the most important productions of Upper Italy?"
Italy! At the sound of that name, the whole war operation stood before Edi's eyes, for he had studied the minutest details of that region where the Romans had met their enemies, and Churi, as Hannibal, stood triumphant before him. Edi, heaving a deep sigh, answered nothing for the present.
"Edi," the master said when no answer came, "I cannot understand what sadness can be found in our topic, nor what can burden your mind, but one thing I can see, that today you all are like a herd of thoughtless sheep with whom nothing can be done. Kaetheli, you magpie, can you stop a moment and listen to what I am saying? You all are going home. I have had enough, and everyone—do you understand?—everyone takes home some home-work for punishment. As you go out, come to my desk, one after the other, and each will receive his special task."
So it was done, and at once the whole crowd rushed with joyous hearts into the open. For the home-work did not at all suppress the joy that school had closed a whole half-hour early. Outside on the playground, the groups who had common interests at once crowded together. The largest throng pressed around Edi, to listen with much shouting and noise to his battle plans.
At once after leaving the schoolroom Kaetheli took Sally by the hand and said: "I will go with you for a while, then I can finish telling you what Marianne told Mother this morning." With this Kaetheli continued her story, which she had begun in school, and told Sally everything that had happened last night in Marianne's cottage. Sally listened very quietly and never said a word. When they arrived at the garden, Kaetheli had just finished her sad tale; she stood still for a moment and was surprised that Sally did not say anything; then she said, "Good-bye!" and ran away.
At the noon meal Ritz related faithfully all that had happened in school: for now, since Sally and even Edi had received home-tasks, he found that to be more remarkable than sorrowful. Edi seemed somewhat dejected. When now the small, golden, roasted apples were placed on the table, Ritz stopped his report and applied himself thoroughly to the work of eating them. When he had cleared his plate, which was done very quickly, he looked slyly at the plates of his brother and sister, for he knew that the second supply of the things on the table came only after all three had finished their first. When he looked at Sally, his eyes stayed on her, and after he had watched her attentively for some time, he said: "Sally, you keep on swallowing as much as you can, but you see, nothing can go down, because you have put nothing into your mouth, and your plate stays filled."
Now Sally could not restrain her tears longer, for she had with great difficulty swallowed them, and had been very quiet. Now she burst out into loud sobbing and said through her tears: "Poor Erick, too, cannot eat today. Now he has neither father nor mother and is all alone in the world."
Sally's weeping grew louder and louder, for she could not stop, since she had restrained herself so long. Ritz looked, surprised and startled, from one to the other; he did not quite understand whether he was to blame for this. The mother rose, took Sally by the hand, and led her out of the room.
This incident caused a great disturbance at the midday meal. The father was annoyed and sat without saying a word. The aunt, with great animation, tried to point out to him with this proof, how excitable children become when they do not go to bed in good time. Edi, too, sat quite ill-humoredly before his plate, as if he had to swallow sorrel instead of little golden apples; for he felt much troubled that his father had heard of his inattention in the school. Ritz had expected a kind of admonishing speech from him, because the outburst had taken place right after he had spoken to Sally. Since it did not come and no one seemed to trouble about him, he settled himself firmly in his seat and ate everything that was on Sally's and his mother's plates.
When the father went out in the garden soon after, the mother followed him and led him to the small bench under the apple tree. Seated there she told him what Sally, continuously interrupted by loud sobbing, had told her: what had happened during the past night in Marianne's cottage. And she now asked her husband whether he did not think that some enquiries ought to be made about these strangers, and whether one ought not to do something for the little boy who, as it seemed, was standing all alone in the world. But the pastor was not of her opinion, and said that these people had turned to Lower Wood for school and church, therefore he could not interfere at present. His colleague in Lower Wood would no doubt take everything in hand and see what could be done with the boy. He was sure that the pastor in Lower Wood would find some relations of the boy, and he perhaps knew already more about the strangers, than was suspected. The woman, no doubt, had confided in his colleague about herself, since she would have had to do that as she had sent her boy to Lower Wood to school, and perhaps also to Sunday school. One could not possibly give in to Sally in all her manifold emotions and pay attention to them. The child had too vivid an imagination and was yet too young to have the gift of discrimination, and if one should give in to her fancies one soon would fill the house with Leopoldys and other creatures, who soon would be turned out of the house or, at least, be pushed aside by the same Sally, as soon as she saw that the good people were not as she had imagined them.
"I have to take Sally's part somewhat, dear husband," said the mother. "You are right, she feels very strongly, and she shows these feelings to everyone whom she meets; but I do not find that wrong, for, wherever she meets with a response, there she remains faithful to her feelings, and she loves her friends warmly and constantly. With what devotion has she adhered to Kaetheli from babyhood! And I much prefer that she go through life with her warm heart, and expect to find a friend in every human being, than that she should pass people indifferently, and have no conception of friendship, although she may meet with many a disappointment and many a condemnation through this trait."
"Both will be her share, in plenty," said the father. "In this direction we therefore will do our share in saving her from these things as much as she can be saved."
So the mother saw that the best that could be done was to pacify Sally and to explain to her that nothing could be done at present but something would be done later from another source.
When it became known that the strange woman had died, there was a great deal of talk, especially among the Middle Lotters, in whose midst the woman had lived, but had never been seen—a fact which had always caused suspicion. Since no one knew anything about her past life, then everyone had the more to say about who she might have been. At any rate, nothing very good, in that they all agreed, else she would have been friendly with them and would not have kept herself so apart. When now no relations appeared and she had to be buried without any mourners, then a number of stories began to circulate which became more and more mysterious. For the official of the community had said that, no doubt, she had been an exile, and the Justice of Peace had added that then she must have committed very great political crimes. 'Lizebeth was not loath to bring these stories to the pastor and his wife, for she had never been able to overcome the thought of the velvet pants. The pastor's wife shook her head incredulously and forbade 'Lizebeth to carry the stories further. The pastor said: "There must have been something crooked, but the woman is now buried, and we will say nothing more about it."
Marianne alone stood opposed to all and told them to their faces that it was an injustice and wickedness to talk as they did; none of them had known the woman, else they would know that there was nothing bad about her, but that she had been an angel of goodness, gentleness and kindly deeds. And although the lady had appeared as aristocratic as a princess, she had been more friendly with humble folk, such as Marianne, than many a Middle Lotter who ran about in torn stockings. But if Marianne was asked if she had known the woman well, who she was, and why not a single relative enquired after her, although the notice of her death was put into all the papers; then she too could give no explanation, since she did not know anything.
A few wicked people then said: "No doubt Marianne will have had her profit from it." But she had not, and never had looked for it. The woman had paid the low rent in advance for the month, which had just ended; it had been the month of August. When now, immediately after the funeral of the poor woman, the officials came and looked to see what the inheritance of the little boy would be, then it was found that there was nothing but the piano and the black silk skirt. The officials decided to give the latter to Marianne, since she had rendered her the last services and put her in her last bed.
The dress had once been very beautiful, for the material was heavy and costly, but it was much worn, and yet Marianne thought: "It is too handsome for me. I will not wear it but it is a dear remembrance," for she had only seen the dear woman in that one dress. While they were still talking over what should be done with the piano, the landlord of the Krone in Lower Wood drove up with an empty wagon and took the piano, the beds, the table and the two easy chairs, for everything had been hired from him; but he had been paid in advance up to this time.
So nothing was left for the little boy but the velvet suit that he wore. Now they began to talk about what was to be done with the boy, and some propositions were made as to how he could be cared for. At this point Marianne stepped forth and said that she would keep the little boy until she was leaving. In three weeks she was going to move down to Oakwood to her cousin's, for her house was as good as sold. The officials were greatly pleased with this offer; many things could turn up in three weeks, and for the time being the little waif was cared for. So they parted from one another satisfied with their work.
A Lost Hymn
The next morning, when the mother lay still and pale on her bed, Erick woke up; Marianne, who had watched for his wakening, came to his couch and said:
"Dear Erick, your mother has gone, last night, to heaven, and now she feels very happy, and looks down on you and watches to see whether you stay good and honest so that sometime you may come to her."
First he had answered quite quietly: "Yes, I know, Mother has told me that it would come so." But when he went to his mother and looked at her for a long, long time and she did not open her eyes, then he sat down on a footstool and cried quietly. As long as his mother lay there he could not be made to leave her, and when she was carried out, then he sat down in the spot where she always had sat, and did not go away the whole day. But he was quite still, and although he wept, he did it so quietly that no sound could be heard.
The day after the officials had been there and Marianne had taken Erick from the empty room upstairs to her little home, she thought that it would be best if he were to go to school and again come in contact with other children, so that he might become happy again and make a little noise with them; for this quiet weeping seemed sadder to Marianne than if he had sobbed aloud. So she told him on that morning, that it would be best for him if he were to go to school. In an instant Erick obeyed, took out his books, packed them in his bag and started on his way to school. So it went on from day to day, and gradually it seemed to Marianne that Erick grew more and more as he used to be; but the sunny, joyous face which he used to have had not yet returned, and something like shyness had come to him, which never before had been noticed in him. It seemed as if a safe, strong wall, which formerly had protected him, had fallen down, and as though he looked for the first time on things and people which surrounded him and which were strange to him. The safe wall had been the great love of his mother, which had encircled him everywhere.
Two weeks had passed since Erick had again gone to school. When lessons were over, he had never waited until the scholars of the Middle Lot had gathered to make a noisy journey home, but he had run away at once and had walked the long way alone. When he came home, he found his piece of bread and his cup of milk ready on the table if Marianne was not there to give it to him. When she was there, she often said: "Go out a little to play with the children, Erick, it will be good for you and you will have time afterwards to do your lessons." Erick had always gone out, as far as the hedge before the house, and had stopped and watched how here and there the children were running about and playing all kinds of games; but he had never joined them.
So also today, he stood there and looked with surprised eyes across at the freshly mown meadow, where a crowd of Middle Lot children were playing with much noise "Catch me if you can." Big Churi was running after Kaetheli and as she knew what heavy blows from those big fists would fall upon her back if she should be caught, she rushed over the field toward the hedge and into Marianne's little garden, almost throwing down Erick on her way. At this instant the quick-running Churi would have caught Kaetheli; but quick as a deer, Erick rushed forth, opened his arms wide and so stopped Churi until Kaetheli had shot around the cottage, fleet as an arrow, and again to her goal on the meadow, where she could get her breath without fear of being caught.
Churi grumbled: "Another time you leave me alone, or—" With this he shook his fist at Erick and then ran away, for he hoped to catch Kaetheli before she should reach her goal. When the latter had rested a little she came running back again, for she indeed had felt Erick's chivalrous service and she was very grateful to him. She therefore could not see him standing so alone, but ran up to him and said cheeringly: "Come and play with us, you must not always stand so alone, that is lonesome."
"No," said Erick, "I cannot play with you. I do not want to shout so terribly."
"You need not scream, that does not belong to the game. Come along!" Saying this, Kaetheli took Erick's hand firmly in hers and pulled him along.
Erick played with the rest, and now he had begun he played with all his might. They had stopped the game of "Catch" and were playing a circle game. The children had formed a large circle and held each other's hands. In the middle of the circle stood the excluded child. This child had to strike someone's hand at random and then there was a race around the circle to see who would first get in the open space inside. This game was played with the greatest zeal; but suddenly Erick pulled his hands away from his neighbors' and ran away, so that great confusion arose.
"We will not let him play any more," cried Churi, much angered.
"Indeed we will," maintained Kaetheli firmly, "perhaps a wasp has stung him, or perhaps they play the same game where he used to live. When he returns he can take my hand. Now we will go on."
So it was done, and soon after they were playing again with great glee, and Erick was forgotten.
Not far from their playground stood a blind man with a barrel-organ playing his melodies. When Erick had heard the first notes, he had freed himself and had run away. Now he stood at a little distance from the organ grinder and listened with strained attention to all the melodies. When the man left, the boy went quietly toward the cottage, and when Marianne saw him come, she said to herself: "I had hoped that the children would make him merry again, and now it seems to me that he is sadder than he was before."
From that time on Kaetheli looked every evening, when the games began, to see whether Erick was standing near the hedge, and when she saw him there she ran to get him. Erick now played every day with the children and when he was in the spirit of the game, he looked quite happy. But almost every evening the same thing occurred as on the first. In the midst of the game Erick stopped, ran away and did not return. Once a number of wandering journeymen had passed by; they had sung loud and joyously their wander-songs, one after the other. Away was Erick, and one could see him far away, quietly following the singing men. Once trumpet blasts sounded across the meadow to the playing children—for one of Middle Lot was with the players in the army and was practising his marches—at once Erick ran away in the direction of the sounds. Another time a boy with a harmonica had approached the playing children; it was Erick's turn just then to seek the hiders, but threatenings and pleadings were of no avail, he did not seek any more. He placed himself in front of the boy and listened to him; there he remained standing and did not stir.
Churi in his hiding-place was about to burst with anger because Erick stopped seeking. He had hoped that Erick would exhaust himself looking for him, for Churi had climbed up the high pear-tree which stood in the centre of their playground, and from there he could overlook Erick's inactivity and his stubborn resistance to being moved. Kaetheli too had become impatient, for in the farthest corner of the goat-shed, whither she had crawled, she felt herself secure from being found, and now, all at once, she discovered that there was no more seeking, and she could easily guess the cause. With a good deal of trouble she crawled out again, with many signs of her hiding-place on her dress for she had been obliged to sit crouched. She ran to Erick, who was still in the same spot, near the harmonica player.
"I should like to know what is the matter with you," she called out. "Every evening, just when we have the greatest fun, all at once you run away like a hare, or you stand there like a statue and let everything go as it will. But that will not do! Come and seek us. But first I must hide again."
The tones of the harmonica had just stopped and the boy had gone. Erick took a deep breath and said: "I cannot play any more. I must go home."
He turned away and went; but that annoyed Kaetheli. She ran after him and talked angrily at him. "That is not nice of you, Erick; you need not have done that. You have spoiled the game now four or five times—that is surely not kind of you, do you think it is?" They had by this time arrived at Marianne's cottage. Erick stopped at the hedge and turned round. He said, quite friendly: "Do not be angry, Kaetheli, you see I have to act so."
"Yes, but why? Tell me now, what you do and why you have to spoil everything?" demanded Kaetheli, rather huffed, for she could not yet get over the fact that she had crawled all for nothing into the incomparable hiding-place in the goat-shed.
"I will tell you, Kaetheli, for you must not think that I purposely spoil everything for you. I did not think of that," said Erick, excusing himself. "Do you see, there is a beautiful song which my mother sang every day, and also on the last day, and I should so much like to hear that song again. But no one sings it, and I may listen wherever I like, I hear only other things. Oh, if I could only hear that song again, just once!"
Now Kaetheli saw how Erick's eyes filled with big tears, and in an instant her anger turned into pity. "You must not be sad on that account, for I can help you," she said readily. "I know so many songs; tell me what the name of yours is, then I will say it to you right away."
"I try to remember it all the time, but I cannot get the words together; but I remember well the melody. Do you think you could guess the words, if I sing the melody?"
"Of course I can, you just sing on," encouraged Kaetheli, with confidence.
Erick sang a line, and then another, and still a bit, then he could not go further. Kaetheli, surprised, shook her head. "I never have heard that song, but perhaps we sing it, only a little differently. I am sure I shall find it. Tell me what it is about, about people or animals?"
"At the beginning about flowers, green trees, you know, with those beautiful branches and—"
"Stop, I know all," Kaetheli interrupted him; "now I am going to sing it to you." And with a firm voice and full tones Kaetheli began seriously:
"'Three roses in the garden, Three birds are in the wood, In summer it is lovely In winter it is good.'
"Is that it?" she now asked, full of confidence that it must be it. But Erick shook his head decidedly, and said:
"No, no, that is not my song, there is no similarity between it and what you sing."
Kaetheli was much surprised. "But the flowers and the trees are in the song," she said, "or perhaps, Erick, you have forgotten the song and do not know how it goes?"
"Indeed, indeed I know," the latter assured her. "You see, first there is a great feast, where they all come and throw down many flowers and wreaths because a great lord is coming and—"
"Perhaps a count," Kaetheli interposed.
"Oh! now I know it! If you only had spoke of the count right away; now listen!" And again Kaetheli began with full tones:
"'I stood on a high mountain And looked into a vale, A little ship came swimming Three counts did hoist the sail.'
But Erick shook his head even more and said sadly: "Not at all, not a bit like it! Perhaps the song is lost and no one knows anything about it."
"I know something else to help you," said helpful Kaetheli, whose tender heart was filled with compassion. "To be sure, it is a little late, but I can still do it."
Then she ran away, and Erick looked after her with great surprise, and wondered where she was going to look for the song.
Running all the way, Kaetheli had reached the bottom of the hill in a quarter of an hour. On the garden wall stood Ritz. "Get Sally, Ritz, but be quick," Kaetheli called up to him. That just suited Ritz, for he hoped that something particular was in store, and before Kaetheli reached the wall, Sally was brought out.