JOHANNA SPYRI Author of "Heidi" & "Cornelli"
Translated by LOUISE BROOKS
Grosset & Dunlap, Publishers New York
I. AT THE COUNTRY-HOUSE ON THE RHINE
II. IN THE DOCTOR'S HOUSE AT BUCHBERG
III. IN THE VILLAGE AND IN THE SCHOOL
IV. FARTHER PROCEEDINGS AT BUCHBERG
V. ON OAK-RIDGE
VI. AUNTY IS IN DEMAND AGAIN
VII. WHAT OSCAR FOUNDED AND WHAT EMMA PLANNED
VIII. AT SUNSET
IX. A LAST JOURNEY AND A FIRST
I. THE NEW HOME
II. A JOURNEY
III. ON THE BEAUTIFUL RHINE
IV. IN THE FISHERMAN'S HUT
V. GREAT PREPARATIONS
VI. ANXIETY AT ROSEMOUNT
VII. AN UNEXPECTED TERMINATION
VIII. THE HAPPY END
AT THE COUNTRY-HOUSE ON THE RHINE.
The golden sunshine of a glorious June morning flooded the roses of the beautiful garden that surrounded a handsome stone villa on the banks of the Rhine. A thousand sweet perfumes borne upon the gentle breeze mounted like incense to the open windows, and sought entrance there. From a great basin in the middle of the garden, a slender shaft of water rose straight up into the blue sky, and then fell plashing back, sprinkling the flowers and the grass with sparkling moisture. Gay butterflies fluttered hither and thither, sipping sweets from the honey-laden flowers. Under the trees stood marble statues gleaming white through the shadows; and seats in sheltered nooks invited the loiterer to rest and listen to the concert of the myriad birds that made their happy homes in this paradise of summer beauty.
At the closed window of one of the upper rooms of this delightful house sat a little maiden, pressing her pale face against the wide, clear glass, as she peered out with longing eyes over the roses, toward the wavering fountain, and into the depths of the trees, whose graceful branches stirred in the light breeze. Her gaze passed over the shining flowers and the green terraces of the sunny garden, and rested far away on the glistening waves of the fast-flowing Rhine, that ran past the foot of the garden, bathing caressingly the long over-hanging branches of the old linden trees as it passed along. The rich foliage of the trees by the river-side was visible from the windows of the house; but not the stone bench which stood in the cool shade, so close to the water that one could look from it directly down into the eddying waves, and watch the drooping branches dip and rise again and again, as if in pure delight. What a spot for summer dreaming and castle-building! The pale child at the window knew the place well; and as her eyes turned in that direction, the expression of longing grew more and more painful as she gazed.
"Oh, mamma!" she cried presently, with tears in her voice, "may I not go out soon into the garden, and down to the seat under the lindens by the river?"
An hour before, the mother had brought her suffering little girl into this room, and placed her in her favorite resting-place in the window-seat, and her anxious gaze had scarcely left the pale little face, with its big eyes full of pain, that looked so longingly into the beautiful garden, which the poor child could not enjoy in any other way.
"Dear child," she said now, in a voice which trembled with anxiety and affection, "you know that you are too tired to go out in the morning; but this afternoon, perhaps, we will go down to the river. Will not that be better, my darling?"
"Oh, yes, I suppose so," sighed the child; but though she said no more, she did not turn her eyes away from the blooming roses and the waving leaves below her.
"Oh, it is so beautiful down there! Do let me go out, mamma!" she exclaimed again a little while afterwards. "Do let me go!" and her mother could not resist the beseeching tones. She arose, and at that moment an elderly woman entered the room—a woman who looked so exquisitely neat that one would have thought that she had no other business in life than that of keeping in perfect order her gray hair, with its snow-white cap, and her simple, spotless dress; but, on the contrary, she was the house-keeper, and had the whole charge of the big house, with all its complicated domestic arrangements. Both mother and daughter exclaimed on seeing her, "Oh, Clarissa, how glad I am that you've come!" And both began to ask her opinion as to the visit to the garden, which the invalid so longed for, but which her mother hesitated to grant.
Clarissa was a person of rare character, and a tower of strength in this household, where, from the lady of the house down to the lowest servant, her word was followed as law and obeyed with affection; and one took into the clear depths of her honest, loving eyes explained the secret of her power: they were "Mother's eyes."
"Say 'yes,' Clarissa, and let us go," begged the child, pathetically.
"The air is soft, all the birds are singing and calling us: why should we not try it to-day, dear Mrs. Stanhope?" said Clarissa.
"Yes; if you think best, we will," answered the mother. And Frederic, the tall footman, was summoned to carry the little girl down the long staircase and out of the house. Then, once out-of-doors, the two women, supporting the child tenderly between them, led her through the sunny garden.
"Nora, are you happy now?" asked the mother, tenderly.
"Yes; it is beautiful here," replied the child; "but I should like to go down to the stone bench by the river-side, where the branches dip into the water."
So they went on over the green terraces to the water-side, down to the seat almost hidden under the lindens, among the clusters of whose pendent, sweet-smelling blossoms the bees were busy, mingling their deep murmur with the song which the Rhine sang in passing. Nora's eyes followed the dancing waves that seemed like living, happy sprites.
"Oh! how I wish that I could leap and dance so, mamma! away! away! but I am so tired; I am always tired. I long to hop about as the birds do up in the trees there, and sing and be merry; but I am always so tired."
"My darling, when you are stronger you will dance," replied her mother, in a cheerful tone; but her looks belied her voice, for she was far from feeling the confidence which she tried to give.
"The doctor is coming to-day, and we will ask him what we can do this summer to make you stronger. Now we must go back to the house, Nora; you look pale and ill, my child. Is anything more than usual the matter with you?"
Nora assured her mother that she was only tired. After any unusual exertion, her face always grew paler and her expression more suffering. She reached the house with difficulty, and, when Frederic had carried her up to her bed-room, she lay on the sofa a long time without moving, thoroughly exhausted.
The doctor came towards noon, and declared that a complete change of air would be the best thing for the little Nora, who certainly seemed to be losing strength daily. He would write to a physician, a friend of his in Switzerland, to find a suitable place for her, and would come again as soon as he received an answer.
Towards evening, Nora sat once more in the window, gazing wearily at the long slanting rays of the setting sun that fell across the greensward in golden radiance, and lighted up the rose-leaves till they shone like lamps among the flowers. Clarissa sat at her work-table by Nora's side and from time to time, she raised her head and looked sadly at the frail form that lay so motionless in the window-seat.
"Clarissa," said the child, presently, "will you repeat the old song of Paradise to me?"
Clarissa laid aside her work.
"We will sing it together again some day, dear child, when you are strong enough; now I will say it to you if you wish" and she folded her hands and began:—
"A stream of water, crystal bright, Flows down through meadows green, Where lilies, shining in the light, Like twinkling starlets gleam.
"And roses blow, and roses glow, While birds in every tree Are singing loud, are singing low, 'In Paradise are we.'
"Here, gently blows the soft, sweet wind; Bright flowers grow all around; Men wake, as from a dream, to find They tread on holy ground.
"In blissful happiness they rove, At peace with each and all; United now in bonds of love, Freed from the grave's dark pall.
"All want and weariness are o'er, All sorrow and all pain; Their rapture gathers more and more; The sick are well again."
After Clarissa had finished her recitation, no sound broke the stillness for a long time; Nora seemed lost in thought. "Clarissa," she said at last, "that is a beautiful poem, and makes me long to go."
"Yes; go willingly, go gladly, dear child," replied Clarissa, with tears in her eyes. "Then you can wander joyfully among the bright flowers, and sing:
"'Our rapture gathers more and more; The sick are well again.'
"And we shall soon join you there, your mamma and I—"
At this moment the mother entered, and Clarissa stopped suddenly; for she knew well that Mrs. Stanhope could not endure the thought of losing little Nora, even though her child were called to heaven; but the mother had heard enough of what had been said, and looked at the child with renewed anxiety. Nora certainly looked very pale and weary; and, at her mother's request, she let herself be carried at once to bed in Clarissa's strong and tender arms.
Later in the evening when Mrs. Stanhope sat alone with her old friend, she began anxiously to question the suitableness of talking to the child upon such topics.
"Surely there is no need of dwelling on such mournful things, Clarissa. Nora is not so ill that we need think the worst, much less talk about it."
"Nora likes to hear me repeat her favorite poem," replied Clarissa; "and, dear Mrs. Stanhope, let me say one thing to you. If our darling is to live only to suffer through long years of pain, can you wish for life for her? Why should we wish to keep her here, where she cannot enjoy the smallest part of the wealth and beauty about her, rather than let her go to that heavenly home, where there is no more sorrow nor pain?"
"I cannot bear the thought of parting from her; it must not, it cannot be. Why may not all yet go well, and Nora get strong again?" said the poor mother; and the heart within her was heavy with grief. She could say no more, and withdrew in silence to her own room.
The great stone mansion was soon wrapped in stillness; and as the light of the summer moon shone down upon it, whoever had seen it standing there in stately beauty, its high white pillars gleaming through the dark trees, would surely have thought:
"How beautiful it must be to live there! No care nor sorrow can reach the inmates of that lovely dwelling!"
Mrs. Stanhope occupied her paternal home on the banks of the Rhine. She had married an English-man when very young, and had lived in England until his death, when she returned to the home of her childhood, unoccupied since the death of her parents, bringing with her two little children, the brown-eyed Philo, and his delicate, fair-haired sister, Nora. The faithful Clarissa, who had taken care of Mrs. Stanhope in her childhood and who had accompanied her to her foreign home, loved these children as if they were her own. The little family had now lived several years in this beautiful house on the Rhine; a very peaceful and regular life it was, one day like another; for the children were delicate and could bear no exciting pleasures. Two years ago a heavy sorrow dropped its dark shadow over the household. Little Philo closed his dark eyes forever, and was laid to rest under the old linden-tree in the garden, where the roses bloomed all summer long. Nora, who was only a year younger than her brother, was now in her eleventh year.
In about a week after his first visit, the doctor came again. He had heard from his friend, the physician, who had willingly offered to find a house for Mrs. Stanhope near his own, in the little village of Buchberg, among the mountains. Mrs. Stanhope might set out as soon as she pleased. He would answer for all being in readiness to receive her.
In a few days they were ready to start. Clarissa was to remain behind to put the house in order, and only a young maid-servant went with them. As the carriage rolled away, bearing Mrs. Stanhope and her little daughter on the way to Switzerland, Clarissa gave them many a God-speed, and, turning back into the empty house, she wiped away the tears she could no longer repress, saying softly to herself:
"'Their rapture gathers more and more; The sick are well again.'"
IN THE DOCTOR'S HOUSE AT BUCHBERG.
The kitchen-garden is the especial delight of the true German housewife; that is, of one who lives in the country where such a luxury is possible. The flower-garden is a source of pleasure to the whole family; but the vegetable-garden is her own, so to speak; she cares for it herself; she watches each little plant with her own eyes, and removes each encroaching weed with her own hands. Now this year the cauliflowers were of unusually fine promise, and they excited the hopes of their owner that a wonderful harvest would before long reward her care; not a trace of a noxious worm was as yet to be detected.
"Good evening," said some one from the other side of the hedge; "your vegetables are always the best and the most forward of any in the neighborhood; they show the care you take of them."
The doctor's wife came nearer to the hedge, and over the low barrier Heiri, the day-laborer, stretched his hand, stained and knotted with work, to clasp that of his old friend and schoolmate. How often had he been to her for counsel and aid since those school-days, and when had that willing and helpful hand ever failed him?
"How are you all at home, Heiri?" she asked heartily. "Have you plenty of work? Are your wife and children well?"
"Yes, yes, thank God!" replied Heiri, as he lifted his heavy tools from his shoulder and set them on the ground. "There is work enough; I am just taking these tools to be sharpened. I have to keep hard at it, for the family is growing big."
"The three little boys look finely; I saw them go by yesterday with Elsli," continued the doctor's wife. "But Elsli herself looks quite too pale and delicate. Do not forget how her mother died, Heiri. The little girl ought not to have too much to do; she is not strong, and she is growing too fast. Do take it in time, Heiri; you know by sad experience how rapidly disease gains ground when it has once got hold of a young girl."
"Yes, yes, I can never forget that. It was terrible to see how quickly Gritli sank,—and she so young, so young! Marget is a good wife and an industrious woman; but nothing will ever make me forget my poor Gritli"; and Heiri wiped away a few tears with his hard hand.
Tears were also in the eyes of the doctor's wife, as she said, "Neither can I ever forget her, nor how gladly she would have lived for you and the children, nor how quickly it was all over. Elsli is the very image of her mother, Heiri, and I cannot help fearing that she is working beyond her strength."
"She's a poor, thin little creature, to be sure," said Heiri; "and it strikes me, now and then, that she is delicate; but usually she is so quiet that I don't take much notice of her. Now, the boy is much more like his mother; he's always busy about something, especially about keeping things clean. He can't abide dirt, any more than Gritli could, and he is always at the little ones to make them come and be washed at the spout. Of course the little boys won't stand that, and they set up a scream, and then out comes their mother, and there's a grand row! I scarcely ever come home at night that Marget doesn't come complaining of the boy for plaguing the younger children. She wants me to punish him, but when the little fellow stands up before me, and looks straight into my eyes with such a look of his mother about him, I cannot bring myself to strike him. Then Marget is vexed and begins to scold, and I do not like to vex her, for she works hard and means all right. I have often thought that perhaps you, Mrs. Stein, would speak a word for me to Marget about punishing the boy; for anything from you would have great weight with her."
"Certainly I will, with pleasure. But tell me about Elsli; is Marget kind to her?"
"Well, this is how it is,"—and Heiri drew a little nearer the hedge and spoke in a confidential tone—"the little girl is more like me, and gives in easily and is not obstinate about having her own way, as her poor mother was. She does what she is bid, and never answers back when Marget scolds, nor ever complains, though she has to work from the time she gets home from school till she goes to bed; always carrying the baby, or doing something about the house."
"But you must not let her do too much, Heiri," said Mrs. Stein seriously. "I am very anxious about her. Ask Marget to come over and see me: tell her I have some clothes which my children have out-grown, and I should like to give them to her if she will come for them."
"Thank you; I will certainly send her. Good-night I hope you will have good luck with the cauliflowers"; and, with another shake of his good friend's hand, Heiri went off to the smithy.
The doctor's wife stood lost in thought for several minutes. She was looking towards her vegetables, but she was thinking of neither beet nor cauliflower, though her eyes were resting on the neat rows before her. This talk with Heiri had brought the old days of her childhood forcibly back to her memory. She saw the pretty Gritli with her big brown eyes, as she used to sit weaving forget-me-nots into pretty wreaths with her skilful fingers; always putting a few into her belt and into her hair. Gritli was the child of poor parents, but she was always neatly dressed, and, though her clothes were of the coarsest stuff, yet there was a peculiar look of daintiness about her, which, with the bit of color in flower or ribbon that was never wanting in her costume, gave the impression that she had just been dressed by an artist, as a model for a picture. Many criticised this daintiness and many laughed at it, but it made no difference to Gritli; for indeed it was only the instinctive expression of the girl's natural longing for the beautiful.
At eighteen, Gritli married Heiri, a good-hearted fellow who had long loved her. But after five years of married life she died, of a rapid consumption; leaving two children, Stefan and Elsli, four and three years old. It was not long before Heiri found that he needed help in the care of these little ones, and, taking the advice of friends and neighbors, he married Marget, who was recommended to him as specially capable of looking after his house and children. She proved indeed a good house-keeper; but for ornaments and flowers she had no taste, and she did not see the use of being over particular about neatness either, so that Heiri's household soon lost the air of refinement which had been noticeable during Gritli's life.
Marget's three children did not get by any means the nice care that Fani and Elsli had received from their own mother, and Gritli's children retained an air of distinction that was ineffaceable, and that marked them as quite different from the younger set.
The memories that passed almost like a vision before the eyes of the doctor's wife, as she stood apparently studying her kitchen-garden, were rudely dispelled by a piercing scream that resounded from the house; and presently an eight-year-old girl came running round the corner, pursued by her older brother; a big lad, who held a huge volume under his left arm, and had something tightly clutched in his right hand.
"Rikli! what a fearful noise! come here to me! what has happened now?"
The girl screamed louder and hid her face in the skirts of her mother's dress.
"Now, just look at the innocent cause of this ridiculous disturbance, mother," said Fred. "Only this pretty, dear little froggy, that I caught, and was holding out for Rikli to admire. Just let me read you this description, and you will see how exactly it agrees with Mr. Frog himself. Look, mamma, look!" and Fred opened his hand and showed a small green frog.
"Stand still, and be quiet, Rikli," said her mother to the crying girl, "and, Fred, why do you persist in showing the silly child these creatures, when you know how much she is afraid of them?"
"She was the only person near," answered Fred. "But do listen to this, mamma." Fred opened his book, and began to read:—
"'The green or water frog, esculenta, is about three inches in length, grass-green, with black spots. His eyes have a golden color, and the toes of his hind legs are webbed. His voice, which is often heard on warm summer nights, sounds Brekekex! He passes the winters hidden in the mud and slime. He feeds upon'—"
At this moment a carriage was heard approaching. "It is the lady with the sick child," said Mrs. Stein, putting Fred aside rather hastily, for he tried to detain her. He followed her, crying out:—
"Do listen, mamma; you do not know what he eats. He eats—"
The carriage was at the door. Hans came from the stable, and Kathri, in her best white apron, from the kitchen, to lift out the sick girl and carry her into the house. Fred and Rikli stood back by the hedge, as still as mice, watching the proceedings.
First, a lady alighted from the carriage, and beckoned to Kathri, who came forward, lifted out the pale child, and carried her up the steps into the house. The lady followed with Mrs. Stein.
"That girl is a great deal bigger than you are, if mother did say that she was only eight or nine years old," said Fred to Rikli. "She is more nearly Emma's age, and what do you suppose she would think to hear you screaming as you did just now? I don't think she'd like you for a friend."
"Well, at any rate, she wouldn't always have centipedes and frogs and spiders in her pockets, as you have, Fred," retorted Rikli; and she was about to add some farther excuse for her screams, when Fred opened his hand to see how his frog was getting on, and lo! the little creature made one big jump right towards Rikli's face! With a piercing cry, the child flew into the house, but was instantly stopped by Kathri, with:
"Hush! hush! When there is that sick little girl in there, how can you make such a noise?"
"Where is aunty?" asked Rikli; a question that the maid answered before it was fairly uttered, for it was asked hundreds of times in that household every day.
"In the other room. The sick girl is in here, and you mustn't go in, your mother says. And as for screaming like a pig, you mustn't do that either, in a respectable house," added Kathri, on her own account.
Rikli hastened into the room where her aunt was, to tell her about Fred's horrid frog, and how it had jumped almost into her very face. Her aunt was listening to Oscar, the eldest brother, who was talking earnestly.
"You see, aunty," he was saying, "that if Feklitus does not object, we can put the two verses together; then ours could go here, and the other there, and both would be used. Won't that do?"
"Yes, that will be very nice indeed," said his aunt in a tone of conviction; "that will remove all difficulties; and the verses are really very suitable, as such verses ought to be."
"You will help Emma with the embroidery, won't you, aunty? You know she will never finish the banner by herself. She is always up to so many pranks, and she cannot keep at one thing half an hour at a time."
His aunt promised her assistance, and he ran off, well pleased, to tell his friends of their new ally. Rikli thought her chance had come now, but before she could begin her story Emma rushed in, crying, almost out of breath:—
"Aunty! aunty! They are all going to gather strawberries—a lot of boys and girls—may I go too? Say 'yes' quick, for I can't get at mamma and they won't wait."
"Strawberries to-day, violets yesterday, and blueberries to-morrow; always something or other; that is the way with you, Emma. Well, go, but do not stay out too late."
"I want to go too," cried Rikli, and started after her sister.
But Emma, clearing the steps in two jumps, called back:—
"No, you can't go into the woods; there are red snails there and beetles and—"
But Rikli did not wait to hear more; she was reminded of the frog, and turned back to tell her story, when she saw Fred coming in with his book under his arm. He seated himself by his aunt and opened the book.
"How nice it is to find you, aunty," he began, "Mamma couldn't wait to hear the end of this description; and it was a pity, for I had found such a perfect specimen. But I'll find another to-morrow to show you."
"No! no!" cried Rikli. "Say 'no,' aunty; it will jump right into your face, and it has yellow eyes like a dragon's."
Fred had doubled up his fist as if he had something in it, and now he suddenly opened it into his sister's face. She sprang back with a cry, and away through the door.
"Now we can have a little peace," said Fred, well pleased at the success of his trick; and he began to read.
"'The green or water-frog, esculenta'—"
At this moment the house-door was opened, and they heard footsteps and voices in the passage-way.
"Come," said his aunt, "let us look out at the little sick girl who is going away; then we will come back to the frog."
They went to the window and looked out. A sad expression came into the good aunt's face as she saw the little girl lifted into the carriage.
"How sick and pale she looks, poor little thing! or, rather, poor sorrowful mother!" she said, as her eyes fell on the face of the lady who was at this moment pressing Mrs. Stein's hand, while tears were running, unheeded, down her cheeks.
The carriage rolled away. Fred returned to his book; but he had no chance to go on with the description of the frog, for his mother, greatly excited over the sight of the suffering child and the anxious mother, came to talk it over with her sister, with whom she consulted about everything that took place in the family, so that the household would have been as much at a loss without "aunty" as without father or mother. Fred saw that this was not his opportunity; so, exacting a promise from his aunt that she would give him a chance with his frog just before bed-time, he took himself off.
Then Mrs. Stein told her sister all about her painful interview with Mrs. Stanhope. The child, she said, was so pale and transparent-looking that she seemed already to belong more to heaven than to earth; but the mother would not believe it, and had eagerly explained, in a burst of tears, that it was only the fatigue of the journey which made Nora look so ill, and that she was sure that the mountain air would soon restore her darling to health. Was she trying to deceive herself?
While Mrs. Stein was speaking, the sound of a horse's hoofs was heard, and she hurried out to meet her husband and to tell him of Mrs. Stanhope's arrival. The doctor hastened away on foot to pay a visit to his new patient. Not until late in the evening did he return; long after the children were safe in their beds. Fred, by the way, had persevered till he had secured his aunt long enough to give her a thorough account of the appearance of the "green or water-frog." It had been no easy task, for each of the children had some special need of her that evening, and his mother, too; and even Kathri asked for "one word"; but Fred was not to be cheated, and he came out triumphant at last.
The doctor sat down hungry at the supper-table, and not one word did he speak to his expectant wife and sister, until he had satisfied his appetite. He shook his head doubtfully, in answer to their questions about Nora.
"There is nothing to build upon," he said; "the little plant has no strength. It is not a case of failing health, but of utter want of vitality from the very beginning. If our mountain air can work a miracle, we may see her restored; if not, there is no hope."
His wife and "aunty" were grieved at this reply, though they had expected nothing better; but they tried to take a more cheerful view.
"While there is life, there is hope," they said, "and our mountain air does certainly work wonders."
"I should like to have Emma go to see the little girl, and try to amuse her now and then," said the doctor presently; "Emma has too many schemes in her head; perhaps she will drop some of them if she gets interested in this child, and I am sure it would be a good thing; for her projects almost always end in some kind of mishap. Nora will be rather astonished, probably, at some of her suggestions, but it will do no harm to the poor child to have some new and interesting ideas introduced into her restricted life, and there is no chance of her being enticed into joining in Emma's wild pranks. It will be good for both of them to be together."
Mrs. Stein was pleased at the idea of a friendship between the girls. Nora's gentleness and delicacy might have a softening influence on her impulsive little daughter, while, on the other hand, Emma's active, happy spirits could not fail to attract Nora, and to draw her out of herself.
Later in the evening, while the doctor was busy with his arrangements for the next day's work, his wife and her sister sat together, as usual, over the great basket that stood always well supplied with mending and sewing of various kinds. They talked over the experiences of the day, the conduct of the children, and the general affairs of the household, and took counsel together for the day to come. This was the only time in the twenty-four hours that they could call their own, and they could hardly have got along without it; for their lives were so closely interwoven that they needed this interchange of thoughts to help each other and themselves. Naturally, the children were first discussed, with their varied joys and sorrows, wants and wishes; next, the doctor's patients, who came to the house from far and near; and last, the many calls for sympathy and advice that reached their ears and their hearts from all the country round about; for many were those who brought their troubles of all kinds to this hospitable house, where they were always sure of help and encouragement, of support in word and deed. So the two sisters, on this, as on many another evening, had so many things of interest to discuss and decide, that, under their busy hands, the heap of unmended stockings in the work-basket melted away unobserved, while many a neighborly plan and kindly conspiracy were hatched by their warm hearts and busy heads; and it was very late when at last they separated to their well earned rest.
IN THE VILLAGE AND IN THE SCHOOL.
The village of Buchberg consisted of several scattered farms, and of groups of houses and cottages that peeped out from among thriving fruit trees. Only a few houses stood near the church; the school-house, the sexton's house, the substantial old-fashioned dwelling of the mayor of the little community, and two or three peasants' cottages. Dr. Stein's house stood quite by itself at a little distance from the others, on a slight elevation, quite surrounded by trees. The biggest buildings in all Buchberg stood on the principal street of the town; these were the fine house and the enormous factory of Mr. Bickel, who had built them both.
Between the street and the dwelling lay a sunny flower-garden; not a tree nor a shrub was planted in it, lest the grandeur of the mansion should be concealed in the least from public view. Here lived the wealthy manufacturer, with his wife and their only son. The family occupied only the lower floor; upstairs the six great splendid rooms were always closed and their shining green blinds always drawn down. No one ever entered there except Mrs. Bickel, who now and then came up to air and to dust and to admire them. Her little boy was allowed to go with her sometimes; but he had to leave his shoes at the door; and he stood just inside, half awe-struck in the gloom; staring at the unused chairs and the stiff furniture. Mr. Bickel was a very important person in the village, for in his factory he employed a great many persons, both young and old; he was very clever at finding out what people were good for, and knew just how much they could work, and what they could do best, and how much they were worth to him. It was said that whenever a child was born in Buchberg, Mr. Bickel began at once to calculate how many years would pass before it would be old enough to be put upon his pay-roll. And almost all the children knew that their future destiny would surely bring them under Mr. Bickel's management, and they learned early to stand respectfully aside when he came along the street, with his thick gold-headed cane, and his shining watch chain with the bunch of seals, that shook and glittered and jingled majestically from afar.
From this fine house every morning came young Feklitus, Mr. Bickel's son, and through the sunny garden and up the street he went on his way to school. Over his back was slung a leather satchel, wondrously embroidered with the big initials "F.B.," surrounded with a garland of beautiful roses; a Christmas gift from his mother.
"Feklitus" was only a nickname, and this is the way it originated. His grandfather was a tailor by trade; a person of very small stature and obscure position; altogether a very humble personage to be the father of a great man, such as his son afterwards became, and, because he was so diminutive in every way, he went, in the neighborhood, by the nickname of "Tailorkin." His only son was christened Felix, and as the common nickname of Felix is Fekli, the boy became universally known as "Tailorkin-Fekli." This was very displeasing to Felix, who early in life determined to make something of himself, and who soon began to rise and grow rich. The Buchbergers, however, were not disposed to drop the name which amused them, merely because it vexed the owner; so even now, although when they met the great man they always addressed him with due respect as Mr. Bickel, yet behind his back he was still Tailorkin-Fekli. He suspected this underhand familiarity, and was not a little disturbed by it.
When, after he had become a great man, and had built himself a splendid new house, he had a son born to him, he determined to find a name for the child which could not be tampered with as his own had been; and he delayed the baptism as long as possible, while searching for one to suit his purpose. It so happened that about this time he was called upon in his capacity as School-Inspector to be present at the yearly examinations at the school-house; and he heard the teacher explain to the children the meaning of the name Fortunatus. No sooner did this name reach Mr. Bickel's ear, than he was struck with its appropriateness to his son. Was not the boy destined to be the fortunate heir to his father's wealth and position? He went home full of satisfaction and announced to his wife that the long-sought name was found, and the child might be taken to church for baptism. So Fortunatus he was christened; and Mr. Bickel felt sure now that the hated nickname would be dropped and soon forgotten.
Not so; for as soon as the boy went to school, his playmates decided that Fortunatus was far too long and pretentious a name for common use; so they peremptorily shortened it to "Tus"; then, adding it to the father's appellation, it became "Tailorkin-Fekli-Tus." The first word of this lengthy and awkward combination was soon dropped off, and the other two were combined into one word and became Feklitus. With this the critics were satisfied, and long usage fixed the name so completely on the boy that at last very few recalled the fine name Fortunatus, and almost every one supposed that he had been christened Feklitus.
Oscar Stein and Feklitus Bickel both sat at the head of the sixth class in the village school. This odd arrangement came about in this way. When, six years before, both entered the school together, Oscar seated himself at once at the head of the bench; for he was a boy born to lead, and never thought of being second anywhere. But Feklitus came and stood in front of him, saying "That is my place"; for his father had told him that the first place was no more than his right. Oscar would not yield, and the case came before the teacher, who, finding that Oscar was the senior by two days, decided in his favor. Feklitus, however, was not to be put down so; he would not sit below Oscar, so he took the first place on the next bench, and, as the class was so large a one as to occupy both benches, the teacher allowed the affair to be settled so, and so it had continued ever since. And thus both boys were first.
Oscar was well pleased with this arrangement, because it brought next him a boy whom he much preferred to Feklitus; Fani, the son of Heiri, the day-laborer. Fani was a lively and courageous fellow, who was always ready to join Oscar in any undertaking he might have in view, no matter how bold it might be. Oscar even thought Fani far better looking than the broad-shouldered Feklitus; who, in his fine cloth suit with the high collar that made his short neck look as if it was no neck at all, was boxed up so stiff and tight that he could hardly move; while Fani was slender and nimble as a lizard, and, though he wore all summer long nothing more than a shirt and linen trousers, yet he looked so slight and so graceful that no one noticed how sparely he was clad. When with both hands he tossed his long dark brown locks back from his forehead, and looked about with great shining expectant eyes, then instantly some new plan of comradeship darted into Oscar's busy brain; some new play in which Fani would be of use, either in the role of Artist, or Noble Bandit, or Tragedy-King. Oscar was always planning the establishment of something grand; a Club, or Association, or Band of Fellowship of some kind; and he needed for carrying out his numerous and complicated projects, a skilful, intelligent, and enthusiastic assistant like Fani.
Feklitus, on the other hand, was nothing but a hindrance to these schemes, because he would go into a thing only if he was allowed to take the principal part in it, and he always behaved as if he had devised the plan himself as much as Oscar. Still, it was necessary to take him in, and ensure his favor; as otherwise he would take his whole party into opposition, and ensure the failure of the enterprise. For the class was divided into two nearly equal parties, and indeed this party-spirit had spread so far that the whole school, even down to the primary class, was divided into two camps, the Oscarians and the Feklitusians. Oscar had on his side all the independent fellows, all the sons of well-to-do peasants, all the sons of mechanics who were to follow in their fathers' footsteps, and all those whose future vocation was decided on, from the coachman to the teacher.
All the other boys were followers of Feklitus; for he had a terrible phrase, which he used with great effect, when he wished to press them into his ranks; it was, "Just you wait till you come into our factory!" It was curious to see how this would work like a charm with the wavering boys; for the very indefiniteness of what would happen when they came to the factory, lent a mysterious force to this dark threat. But no threat, no promise, no hint had the slightest effect upon Fani. He was to enter the factory the coming Easter, at the close of the school-year; and this he knew very well; but he adhered firmly to Oscar's side, and when Feklitus would angrily call out to him, "Just you wait," he would turn on his heel, and answer laughing, "Oh yes! I'll wait! I'm not in the least hurry"; an answer which did not lessen Feklitus' anger, and which made him long for the time when the boy should be "in the factory," when he promised himself that things should not go too easily for him.
Still, in spite of all these little jealousies, the two parties generally worked peaceably together; for it was important for Oscar to be on the right side of Feklitus, as his plans required large numbers for their successful execution. Just now they were on a most cordial footing. Oscar had started the idea of a grand Musical Festival. Every one in the school who wished might take part, and after all necessary preparations they were to have a grand celebration. The assistance of Feklitus had been secured by giving him a prominent place in the arrangements for the great occasion. The embroidered banner, which was to be a salient feature, was sure to be ready, since Oscar's aunt had undertaken it, which was quite a different thing from being dependent on Emma. Fani was to be the bearer. To-day the motto must be selected for it, and at the close of school several of the boys were stationed at the door, to summon the others, as they came out, to a meeting for the decision of this important matter. On a knoll in a field near by, the boys assembled; and then Oscar announced that he had found a pretty couplet, suitable to the occasion, which he proposed as a motto for the banner, and he read in a loud voice:—
"Music the truest pleasure gives, So sing we merrily."
But Feklitus did not approve. He said that he had often been present on occasions of this kind and had seen many prettier mottoes than this. He could recall one which he thought ought to be chosen.
"Our Fatherland shall ever live; May freedom never die!"
Oscar said that this motto would do very well for some patriotic occasion, but was not exactly the thing for a musical festival. Feklitus would not yield, and called on his followers to stand by him and his motto. Then followed loud discussion on both sides, which soon grew into an uproar. The Oscarians and Feklitusians screamed so loud that not one word could be distinguished from another. Presently Oscar seized Feklitus by the arm, and drew him aside out of the mob.
"Don't you see, you mar-plot, that this hubbub is all your fault? and that you are very provoking? What do you gain by it? Nothing. What do you lose? Everything. But to show you that I am not like you, I propose to you to put the two couplets together, and use both. Luckily they rhyme. See how this will do:—
"Music the truest pleasure gives; So sing we merrily— 'Our Fatherland shall ever live, And Freedom never die.'"
Feklitus was pacified; which was fortunate, for nothing would have induced him to give up his verse, whose great merit in his eyes was just that it was his; he had remembered it, repeated it, proposed it; so it was naturally better than any other could be. The meeting was informed of the compromise, applauded it, and immediately adjourned, dispersing in all directions, and making the quiet summer evening resound with their merry shouts. Oscar alone went his way with an air of deep depression, and with anger in his heart. Fani had again disappeared directly after school, as he had often done before, and had not waited for the meeting, though he knew how much Oscar cared to have him there. Fani certainly took everything too lightly, Oscar thought; it was his only great fault; he went too easily from one thing to another; and Oscar knew too who aided him in this changeableness, and had indeed just the same failing herself; and that was his own sister Emma. Indeed, the girl was the worse of the two, for she was continually proposing new schemes, and urging Fani to help her carry them out. Oscar knew all this, and was very much vexed with Fani for yielding so easily to Emma's persuasions. And to think of his disappearing so this afternoon, when he had relied on his support at the meeting! It was too provoking!
As Oscar drew near home, he came suddenly upon his brother Fred, who was kneeling down in the vegetable garden and digging in the earth with both hands, as if seeking a hidden treasure.
"Where is Emma?" asked Oscar; adding hurriedly, "Oh, don't touch me with those hands!"
"Well, I should scarcely mistake you for a grub, and that's what I want to 'touch' with these hands," said Fred, rather scornfully. "As to Emma, I don't know where she is; but one thing I do know, and that is that one of you two has carried off all the paper again, so that when a fellow wants to do his exercises he may whistle for it! I know that much."
"I haven't used any," said Oscar; "but Emma is getting up some new scheme; I am sure of that, and I suppose she has taken the paper. I don't know what will happen if somebody doesn't put a stop to her carrying-on!"
With which negative kind of a prophecy, Oscar went into the house.
FARTHER PROCEEDINGS IN BUCHBERG.
Oscar's suspicions were correct; as soon as the school-house door was opened, the nimble Fani had slipped out among the very first; and had joined Emma, who at once claimed his attention by saying:—
"Come, Fani, I know of a splendid tree for you to draw, and I have the paper and everything all ready."
Fani was more than willing; and off they scampered, first down the road, and then by a path across the meadow to a small green hill, known as Oak-ridge. As they slackened their pace in the ascent, Emma explained her plan. A short time before, the two higher classes in the school had begun to take drawing lessons, a new experiment. Emma and Elsli were in the fifth class, and so was the studious Fred, who, though more than a year younger, was so much in advance of those of his age that he had quite outstripped the fourth class to which he properly belonged, and was, indeed, more clever than most of the members of the fifth. Not in drawing, however. In that, Fani led the whole school, and he was, indeed, so successful with his pencil that the teacher often said to him:—
"Now, Fani, just see what you can do, if you only try! You could do far better than this, even, if you would only take pains, and not be so indifferent and light-minded."
On this very day the teacher had said that he should like to have the children sketch something from nature; a tree or a flower, perhaps; and he assured Fani that he copied trees remarkably well, and that he would, probably, succeed out-of-doors. Emma was very much interested in Fani's drawing; and he had made several pictures especially for her, which she used for book-marks; a rose and a bunch of strawberries, a fisherman, rod in hand, seated by a stream under a tree.
So now Emma told Fani how excited she was when she heard what the teacher said, and how she instantly bethought herself of a splendid oak-tree that she had noticed a few days before when walking with her mother in the meadow, not far from the village; and how impatient she felt to carry Fani off, the moment school was over, that he might set to work that very day to copy it. Talking thus, they reached the top of the ridge and the tree was before them. It was, in truth, a magnificent sight, as it stood on the brow of the hill, and threw its heavy shadow far out all round on the short meadow grass. Fani stood gazing with wonder up into its rich foliage.
"Oh, how beautiful!" he exclaimed. "I'm so glad, Emma, that you thought of it; it is splendid to draw! I'll begin directly; not exactly here, but a little farther off." And Fani stepped slowly back till he had reached the right point of view. There he sat down on the ground, and Emma, placing herself at his side, drew out from her satchel a perfect wealth of paper and pencils.
"There's paper enough there to make a great many sketches," said the boy, as he looked with longing eyes at all this fine material.
"I will give you a lot of it to take home," said Emma. "I thought I would bring a good deal, because you might have to try several times before you got a good picture. Now pick out a pencil, Fani."
It seemed to Fani a wonderful mine of wealth; all this fresh paper, and such an assortment of pencils to choose from. He selected two pencils, and then, spreading a sheet of white paper before him, he began his sketch. Emma watched every stroke with silent intentness. But, as the picture grew under the boy's fingers, she could not control her excitement.
"Oh! oh! Now it looks exactly like the real oak! How nicely you make the branches and all the dear little twigs! Oh! it is the very best thing you ever did, Fani! How pleased the teacher will be! I'm sure none of the others will do anything half so good! How can you do it, Fani? I never could in the world."
"I only just copy what I see," said Fani, whose eyes constantly moved back and forth between the tree and his paper, while his cheeks glowed and his eyes sparkled with excitement. "How lovely those twigs are! and then the leaves! I don't think any leaf is as handsome as an oak-leaf, and just look up there! see how perfectly round the shape of the tree stands out against the sky, as if it had been marked by a pair of compasses. Oh, I wish I could sit all day long drawing this tree; there isn't anything more beautiful in the whole world!"
"I know something!" cried Emma, suddenly; "you must be an artist, Fani. That's the way a painter begins, I'm sure; no one else would ever think of saying that he could sit all day long drawing one tree."
"It's all very well to say that I must be an artist," said Fani, sighing; "but next spring, when I leave school, I shall have to go into the factory and just work hard from morning till night; I couldn't learn to paint then, if I wanted to ever so much, could I?"
"But you do want to ever so much; don't you, Fani? Think how glorious it would be! Wouldn't you do anything in the world for the sake of being a painter?"
"Of course I would, but what can I do? How could I possibly manage it?"
"You just wait; I'll think and think till I can invent some way. Only imagine how fine it will be when you are a famous painter and have nothing to do but to paint and draw all the time. Won't that be just the very best thing you can think of, Fani?"
Emma's enthusiasm was infectious. The pencil dropped from the boy's hand, and he gazed up into the sky as if already looking upon the future canvases which he should cover with pictures when he was a great painter.
"Do you really believe it, Emma? Do you really think that I can ever do it? I should like to begin directly; I feel as if I couldn't wait. But what can I do? How shall I begin?"
"I can't think exactly, but I'm sure I shall get hold of some plan; don't be in too great a hurry," said the girl; "I dare say I shall have something to propose when I go to school to-morrow. But now come; hurry up and finish the oak, and then take the paper and pencils home with you and do something else. You know your drawings will be shown at examination, and will need nice paper and pencils; you have nothing but brown paper; so take this."
Fani was delighted with the gift; it was for want of material that he had not drawn at home, and now there was nothing to prevent him from working to his heart's content. As he put the finishing touches to his sketch, while Emma looked on and admired, the sun went down, the shadows began to fall, and reminded the children that it was quite time to return home.
Fred had meanwhile finished his researches for grubs, and stood outside the hedge, looking up the road, in the hope of seeing his sister Emma, with whom he wished to have a very plain talk on the subject of the paper. On the inside of the hedge, in the garden, stood Oscar, with the same intentions, but in a more seriously displeased state of mind, for had not Emma robbed him of his friend? and just now, too, when he was so important to Oscar; for the preparations for the Festival could not go on without Fani.
Feklitus was of no real assistance, for he was so slow-witted that it was impossible to get an idea into his head; while Fani took every suggestion like a flash, and had things at his finger-ends in a moment. As Oscar thought and fretted over his injuries, his anger with Emma grew apace; he was sure that she had in hand some project, such as she was famous for; it was a shame, and he was determined to ferret it out, and spoil it for her; he would punish her for taking possession of his useful friend; and so on and so on, while Oscar, in growing excitement, paced to and fro with hasty steps.
In the meantime, Fred was peering into the twilight, and along the road, awaiting the coming of the culprit. At last, he saw some one coming along the sidewalk; but it could hardly be Emma, for it was too wide, it took up the whole width of the path. He ran forward, and found that it was Elsli, who was toiling along, her brother Rudi hanging to her skirts on one side, and Heili on the other, while in her arms she was carrying Hans, a solid child of two years. The poor patient girl was quite weighed down under the burden of her three brothers.
"Oh, put that big boy down on his own feet!" cried Fred, who was shocked at the sight of such needless labor, "you are not fit to carry such a load."
"I can't put him down; he begins to scream as soon as I do, and he gets so naughty," said Elsli, as she walked painfully along.
"Are you going to our house?" asked Fred, following her.
"Yes, I am going to fetch something; I have brought a bag to put it into," and Elsli lifted her arm a little and showed a large bag hanging from it.
"You can't carry anything more; do put that fat child down; he will break you in two," said Fred indignantly.
By this time they had reached the house.
"Now I shall have to put you down a minute, Hanli," said Elsli wearily, "for my arm aches so that I cannot bear it any longer." With these words she put the child upon his feet; but he forthwith set up a shriek that brought all the women out of the house with a bound; Mrs. Stein and her sister and Kathri were on the spot in an instant.
"I should like to give you something to scream for!" cried the maid, suiting a significant gesture to her words with the open palm of her hand, as she turned away into the house again. Elsli snatched up the child hastily, and tried to quiet him.
"Mamma, do tell that big cry-baby to stand on his own legs. He'll kill Elsli at this rate; he is far too much for her to lift." Fred spoke in great excitement.
This made the child cry louder than ever, and he clung to his slender sister with such increased force, that she staggered a little and seemed about to fall.
"You really ought to put him down, my child," said the mother; "he would soon get used to it. Come here!" and she tried to take the child from Elsli's arms. It was harder than she expected; for the little fellow clung tight with arms and legs, and kicked with his feet and pounded with his fists, and when at last Mrs. Stein succeeded in detaching him and placing him on the ground, he flung himself upon his sister's skirts, and screamed so lustily that she took him up again, saying resignedly:—
"It's of no use; he's a very naughty little boy; and begins to call to me to carry him as soon as I get home from school."
"Such a big boy as Hans ought to be able to go alone by this time, and then there is the baby besides; how do you manage to do it all, Elsli?"
"Oh, Hans is in a dreadful way if I take the baby; he screams and kicks as hard as he can, and then his mother hears him, and she comes running in, and says that she can't have such a noise, and I mustn't let the children scream so. So I have to put the baby into the cradle to quiet Hans, and then I rock the cradle with my foot to quiet the baby."
"Come into the house, Elsli," said the doctor's wife; "you look very tired. Hans, if you will get down and come into the house yourself, you shall have a piece of bread and an apple. Come."
"If you won't come," said her sister, "you can stay here, while Rudi and Heili come with me and get bread and apples. They can walk, without hanging on to Elsli's skirts and tearing her to pieces. Come, boys!"
The two boys did not need urging, but followed their kind friend into the house. And even obstinate little Hans understood what bread and apple meant; when his sister put him down on his feet, he made no resistance, but, taking her hand, stumped along into the house without a word. Fred followed them, switching a willow wand, as if to suggest the most efficient method of teaching Hans to walk by himself. When they reached the dining-room, the boys opened their eyes wide to see the big loaf from which Mrs. Stein cut each a slice, and they were not slow in setting their teeth into the rosy apples, of which each had one for his own. Elsli too had an apple and a slice of bread.
Elsli explained that she had come to get the clothes which Mrs. Stein had told her father to send for.
"You cannot carry them, my child," said Mrs. Stein, "it is enough for you to take the boys home. Tell your mother that I have something to say to her; and when she comes to see me, she can carry the clothes home."
"Don't you care to eat the bread and apple, Elsli?" asked the aunt, noticing that the girl put the apple into her pocket, and held the bread in her hand.
Elsli blushed, as if she were guilty of a breach of good manners, and said, timidly:—
"I should like to take them home to Fani; he will not get any supper to-night."
"It is very nice of you to take it to him," said Mrs. Stein kindly, "but why will he not have his supper?"
"We have done supper at home, and we ate up everything, all the sour milk and potatoes, for there was not a great deal; and father said those who are not there at supper-time are not hungry, and can go without But I know that Fani is hungry, only he is busy about something, and forgets that it is time for supper."
"Where is he? Does he never help you with all these heavy children?"
"No, he is never allowed to help with the children. Mother says he's of no use; he only makes the children naughtier, and he'd better keep out of the way. So he does keep out of the way, and half the time doesn't get any supper, and I can't keep any for him. But he is always good and kind to me. When he does come home he writes my exercises for me; for I never can get time for my lessons, I am so busy all the evening, till mother comes and takes the lamp, and I go to bed."
"It's Fani's own fault if he doesn't come home in time for supper," said aunty. "And you never will learn anything, my child, if he always does your lessons for you."
Elsli turned very red, and her big blue eyes filled with tears.
"I know it. I am the stupidest and most backward scholar in the whole school."
"No, you're not stupid at all," cried Fred eagerly. "It is only that you never know the things that we have to learn by heart. And, now that I know why, I should just like to catch any one laughing at you again! They'd better try it!"
Elsli was seldom merry and lighthearted, like other girls of her age; she was too much weighed down with care and hard work. She looked gratefully at Fred for his kind confidence; but no real joy came into her worn face. She stood up presently and took up her burden again, for Hanseli had given several signs that he was ready to start for home, and wanted her to carry him. The two ladies stood at the door, and watched her as she walked away with slow and weary steps.
"Ah! how I wish that some ray of sunshine could come into that sweet girl's lot!" exclaimed the doctor's wife, and her sister was responding with the same thought, when the sound of noisy voices was heard, which became louder and louder, as Emma came running through the garden, a brother on each side, and both accosting her in vehement tones.
"What made you carry Fani off again?"
"What have you done with all the exercise-paper?"
"What are you and he up to now?"
"It's all your fault if we can't do our lessons."
"Where have you hidden him, so that he doesn't keep his promise and come to the meeting?"
"Where have you put all the paper; I haven't even begun on my exercises!"
The angry questioners, with Emma between them, came up the steps. Their mother was just then called away; their aunt exclaimed:—
"Be still, boys; how can Emma answer either of you, if you both keep up such a fire of questions?"
Emma darted to her aunt's side, and eagerly whispered in her ear what she had done with the paper; adding:—
"Do help me, aunty; you know if Oscar knew that, it would only make him more angry."
Her aunt could not find it in her heart to blame Emma for the use she had made of the paper.
"Come in, boys," she said, "and learn your lessons, and be quiet for a while; I'll give you plenty of paper"; adding, as a farther argument, "your father will be at home directly, and you know he will not want a noise in the house."
They came in quietly enough, and soon the four brothers and sisters were industriously at work over their lessons, around the table; even Oscar forgetting Fani for the time, in the interest of his studies. It seemed as if peace and quiet were ensured for the rest of the evening. But suddenly the silence was disturbed by a harrowing cry from Rikli, who pushed her chair back from the table, and ran out of the room into the passage-way, as if some monster were after her. All looked up from their work and looked around in alarm for the cause of the outburst.
"Here, here!" cried Emma, pointing to the table, where a shining green gold-chafer was gravely walking over the white paper, evidently an escaped prisoner from the pocket of the indefatigable collector.
"Oh, Fred! you shouldn't carry live creatures about in your pockets," said his mother, gently. "You have plenty of boxes for them. Just see what discomfort you give your neighbors, to say nothing of yourself and the poor little animals."
"Fred is nothing but a wandering menagerie-cage; and no decent person is safe anywhere near him," said Oscar, returning to his book.
"At any rate, my collections are not all the time falling through and coming to nothing, like your clubs," retorted Fred. "And see here, mamma, what a handsome and useful little fellow this is; let me read you what it says about him"; and Fred opened his book, which was always close at hand:—
"'The gold-chafer, Auratus, with its arched wing-coverings, and its strong pincers, lives upon caterpillars, larvae, and other injurious insects, and thus makes itself very useful. But instead of being protected on this account, as it deserves to be, it is everywhere persecuted and trodden upon.' So you see, mamma."
"We will not persecute your chafer, Fred; but his place is not in your pocket, nor on the study-table, my boy; take him away," said his mother; and at the same time his aunt called to Rikli through the open door:—
"Come back, dear little girl, and don't behave as if a little beetle could eat you up alive! If you go through life shrieking out over every trifle, you will some time or other be punished for it; for no one will pay any attention to your screams, even when there is something really the matter."
Rikli came back into the room just as Fred was carrying the beetle out, and, as they met in the door-way, Fred said:—
"I'll make up a poem about you. You are the musician with the sweet tones of your voice, and I am a brother-artist, a poet"
"Yes, yes! a lovely piece of poetry can be made about your pockets full of long-legged creatures, that come crawling out and stretch their horrid long legs all over the table!"
"Of course there could," said Fred stoutly, and went off to lodge his useful persecuted gold-chafer in his cabinet.
When the children were clearing away their work, before going to bed, their mother said:—
"To-morrow afternoon is a holiday, and I want you, Emma, to go and visit the little sick girl, Nora Stanhope; and it will be well for you to go every holiday and Sundays too. She will be very glad to see you."
"It will be a good thing for Emma to have a friend of her own; then perhaps she'll let other people's friends alone," said Oscar, in a tone of satisfaction.
Emma made no reply, but went quietly to bed; she had not the least idea of giving up her friendship for Fani, to please anybody.
As they were all going upstairs in a little family procession,—first Oscar, then Emma, then the aunt, and last the two younger children,—Fred turned to Rikli and said:—
"Haha, Rikli, this goes capitally!" and he sang in a loud voice to a tune of his own making:—
"Hanseli is a cry-baby, Rikli is another; She is so much like him, He must be her brother."
Rikli was breaking out into an indignant cry at this unflattering comparison, but her aunt turned and took her by the hand, saying:—
"Not again to-day, my dear, nor yet to-morrow, I hope. Show Fred that he is wholly wrong in likening you to that spoilt child."
It often happened, as to-night, that the mother was prevented by other duties from going up with the children to see them safe in their beds; and then the aunt had to go the rounds alone, and the children often came near quarrelling over her, for each one thought that the others had more than their fair share of her time and attention. To-night Fred was the unlucky one, and when his turn came, at last, he said quite earnestly:—
"I wish, aunty, that you could be divided in two and then multiplied by four, so that we could have two of you apiece; and then we should all get our rights."
Aunty was all ready to give Fred his full rights now; but at that moment came Kathri with imperative need of her in the kitchen, so she had to rob him of his share to-night; but she promised to make it up by giving him a double portion before the others to-morrow night.
When Dr. Stein received from his medical brother on the Rhine a letter, asking him to look out for a suitable summer lodging for Mrs. Stanhope and her little invalid daughter, he naturally turned the matter over to his wife, who of course took her sister into consultation. The first thing that suggested itself was the unused second story of Mr. Bickel's great house. The doctor's wife immediately went to make inquiries, but she met with no encouragement. Mrs. Bickel declared that she could not spare any rooms; in the first place, she needed them herself; and then she wondered how any one could think of such a thing as that she should let strangers into her beautifully furnished apartments, which no one had ever yet occupied. Mrs. Stein hastened to apologize; she only asked for a friend, and meant no harm by asking; but it was so difficult to find lodgings in Buchberg, and this was a case of great need. Mrs. Bickel could not get over it, however, and long afterwards from time to time she would break out to her husband, "Do you suppose that doctor's wife thought we built this house to let?" and Mr. Bickel, equally indignant, would add, "And to people that we know nothing whatever about; nor even whether they would pay their rent!"
Mrs. Stein, disappointed in her first trial, bethought herself, as she turned away from the Bickel mansion, of a certain new house that had just been built on Oak-ridge by a man who occupied only the lower floor; the upper story standing empty, waiting for the owner's son, who was to be married in the autumn. There was a wonderfully beautiful view from the windows out and far away over the green hills, with a background of snow-covered mountains, and westward down the wooded valley, through which rushed the waters of a mountain stream. Mrs. Stein immediately turned her steps towards the Oak-ridge; and in a few moments' interview all was happily arranged, to the satisfaction of both parties; and in a few days, with her assistance, the rooms were nicely furnished and stood ready for the reception of the lodgers.
Mrs. Stanhope and her daughter had now been settled in these lodgings several days, and no one but the doctor and his wife had yet visited them; for Nora had been very much fatigued by the journey and could see no one. But to-day the doctor had promised that Emma should come to see her, and Nora was seated at the window that looked towards the west, her favorite view; for there she could see the foaming brook as it poured from the mountain-side down through the valley; and there too the sunset-clouds were painted each evening by the setting sun, and made glorious pictures that delighted her sick and weary eyes.
Presently Nora saw a young girl coming up the hill-side towards the house. Could it be Emma? Nora saw with amazement how she came springing up the steep path without once pausing to take breath. It was inconceivable! She would surely fall from sheer exhaustion! But the next moment there was a knock at the door, and in came Emma with bright red cheeks, and in her hand a bunch of red and blue wild-flowers, which she held out to the pale little invalid, displaying by the gesture a brown, well-rounded arm. Mrs. Stanhope greeted her kindly and gave her a seat near Nora, who took the flowers with grateful thanks. No two girls could have offered a greater contrast to each other than these two, as they sat side by side. Emma, glowing, active, hearty, her every movement speaking of healthy energy; and Nora, pale, languid, like a broken lily, that would be wafted away by the next passing breeze. Mrs. Stanhope looked at them for a few moments, and then, as the tears rose to her eyes, she hastened away into the other room.
"Where did you find those beautiful flowers?" asked Nora.
"In the meadow, as I came along; it is full of them; red and white marguerites and forget-me-nots, such a quantity! you ought to see them! As soon as you are well enough, we will go and pick forget-me-nots, and later will come strawberries and then bilberries."
Nora shook her head. "I should not enjoy it."
Emma did not know what to make of this, for she could think of nothing more delightful, but immediately she bethought herself.
"Oh, of course you don't know how pleasant it is, because you don't have such flowers where you live, and strawberries don't grow wild there; but you will enjoy going out to pick them; you can't help it, it seems as if you could never pick enough; it's such fun that you hate to have it time to go home."
"Yes, I always think it must be beautiful to be out-of-doors," said Nora thoughtfully. "But when I go it tires me terribly, and there's not a bit of fun when I'm all tired out."
Emma looked at her companion as puzzled as if she were speaking in a foreign tongue. "Tired" was a word unknown to Emma's vocabulary. Her greatest sorrow when evening came, was that the day was done and she must go to bed. No day was long enough to tire her nimble feet, and her only regret was that she ever had to stop walking and running and climbing. She stared at Nora a moment, not knowing what to say, and then the very face at which she was gazing put a thought into her head, and she said cheerfully:—
"I see now what you mean, but that is only because you are not strong and well; pretty soon you will be well, and then you will feel very differently; you will be like me, and I am never tired."
Nora shook her head. "I shall never be like you. I was always so, always tired. I can't bear even to think about running; the very thought tires me. I shall never enjoy it."
Emma began to feel very much worried.
"Oh, but there must be something that you enjoy doing; you must have something to think about at night that you are going to do the next day; some plan, some game, some fun or other! Oh, my father will make you well and strong, and you must believe that he will, or else you won't be happy and will grow worse and worse."
"I do have something that I love to think about and to look forward to. When I see other children jumping and running easily, as you did when you came up the hill just now, I think how much more beautiful it is in heaven than it is here; and how I shall not be sick or tired there, but can run about as much as I please among the beautiful flowers that grow there; roses and lilies that never fade. Sha'n't you be glad to go to heaven?"
Emma was nonplussed. She knew that it was beautiful in heaven, to be sure; but she did not want to go there now; the earth too was beautiful and she was happy enough here; she had not half exhausted the pleasures and delights of her life. Nora seemed waiting for an answer, and Emma stammered out:—
"I never thought about it at all!"
Nora looked disappointed.
"Oh! that is too bad that we cannot talk about heaven. There is no one but Clarissa whom I can speak to about it, and she did not come with us; I don't mention it to mamma, because she begins to cry directly. I thought when you came you would like it; I'm sorry you don't."
Emma did not answer. She was trying to think of something which Nora would like to talk about instead of heaven. A gleam of hope came to her.
"I know one thing you will enjoy," she said; "very soon they will begin to cut the grass on the meadow, and they will pile it into beautiful soft hay-cocks, and we will go and lie down upon them all day long; it cannot tire you to lie in the hay, and it's perfectly lovely."
But Nora only shook her head again, and said nothing; she had no belief in the power of hay to make her well again, and the prospect was not to be compared to the pleasures of a heavenly garden. Emma thought it time for her to say good-bye. Mrs. Stanhope came in, and begged her to stay a while longer; her mother knew where she was, and there was no reason for her hurrying away. Nora, however, did not second her mother's efforts, and Emma was anxious to go. It was getting late, she said, confusedly. She had better be at home; and she hastily took her leave. As soon as she stood outside the house, she made one big spring, and never stopped running, downhill and then up, till she stood on her own door-step; and then she suddenly reflected that she was not expected to come back so soon, and that her brothers were sure to make some unpleasant remarks on her quick return; so she tried to think what she could do with herself for a while. "I'll find aunty," was her speedy decision, "and I'll tell her all about my visit, and how different it was from what I expected, and how I had to come away because I couldn't think of anything more to say to Nora. Aunty'll understand, and she won't let the boys laugh at me."
She ran into the house, and at her aunt's door she ran plump into Fred, who was coming out.
"Oh, ho! what happened over there between you and your new friend, Emma? Something has gone wrong, or you wouldn't be at home so soon!" cried Fred, far too cleverly.
Emma did not answer, but went into the room, where her aunt was alone, sewing at her work-table. Emma sat down as close as she could to her, to show that she was in possession, and no one else could have aunty now.
In the kitchen, Marget was standing; Mrs. Stein offered her a chair and gave her a cup of coffee steaming hot, saying:—
"Do take a moment to rest, Marget; I've been for some time wanting a chance to talk with you. I sent for you not only to give you the clothes, but to talk with you a little about Elsli. I am worried about that child; she looks so pale and thin. Hanseli is far too heavy for her to carry, and then the other two boys are always hanging about her and pulling her down. She will soon break down at this rate; you must see for yourself how miserably she looks, and you ought not to let her be so overworked."
"Oh, yes, Mrs. Stein, it's very easy to say that," interrupted Marget; "but what can people like us do? I have all I can do from morning till night to get the children clothed and fed; and how could I do it if I had to have all the little crybabies round me all the time? There's nobody but Elsli to help me with them. That big Fani might help her to be sure, but he always forgets; he means well enough, but he's thoughtless. Elsli does have to work pretty hard, I know; but she may as well get used to it, for it'll only be harder by and by."
"But, Marget," resumed Mrs. Stein, "I tell you Elsli will break down and be sick, and then where will you be?"
"Where shall I be? God only knows. Such as us can't afford to stop and think what's going to happen; it's all we can do to get along to-day, without thinking about to-morrow. All I know is, I can't spare Elsli from the children, and the older she grows the harder it will be for her; for she'll have to go into the factory as soon as she can earn wages, and that's harder work than looking after the children. Fani will go first Old Cousin Fekli has his eye on him for Easter, and has said to me two or three times that he wanted the boy as soon as possible. Cousin Fekli wouldn't want him if he didn't think he could make something out of him; he doesn't forget to look out for his own profits."
"Are you really related to Mr. Bickel?"
"To be sure I am; we had the same great-grandfathers, so we are second cousins. He doesn't care to acknowledge us, but when he passes me, I always say distinctly, 'Good-day, cousin'; and I don't mind if he does look rather askance as if he didn't know who I was—that's his look-out. I'm glad he knows Fani and has his eye on him; if the boy can earn a trifle by working for him, it will be something to help keep the pot boiling."
Mrs. Stein now brought the bag which Elsli had left behind, which she had filled with clothing for Marget's children.
"Do try to remember about Elsli," she said. "I will do all I can to help you, if you will only spare the child as much as you can."
"Well, as much as I can, yes," said the woman. "But you must understand that I have my work to do, and the boys must be kept from under my feet while I am at work, and there's no one but Elsli to see to them. We are all well now; and yet I have to use both hands to keep things going, and feed all these mouths every day. How can I make things easier? If sickness comes, it will be time enough then to change our ways. It comes hardest on me, after all. No one knows what poverty is but those that have been through it; but I can't help thinking sometimes that the Lord God loves some of his children better than he does others."
"Try not to think that, Marget," said the doctor's wife in her kindest tones, for the hard lot of the poor was a sad trial to her tender heart. "There are many sufferings besides poverty, and some which are much harder to bear. Our Father in heaven knows why he sends them to us. Still, I know how hard poverty is, and it is a great grief to me that I cannot help the poor as I should like to."
Marget took up the bag and went away. Mrs. Stein went back into the sitting-room with a heavy heart; for she was fully convinced that Elsli's fate was to succumb under the heavy load that poverty pressed down upon her delicate frame; and, sighing deeply, she sat down by her sister's side, intending to lay the case before her, and see what impression Marget's words would make upon her; for aunty had always a cheerful word to say and she took a bright view of possibilities. But, before Emma could get through her confidences and give her mother a chance to speak, Kathri put her head into the room with:—
"Here's another woman wants you; will you come out into the kitchen again?"
"Another? who is it now?" asked her mistress in a weary tone.
"Oh, as if I could pronounce or remember such an outlandish name!"
"It can't be Mrs. Stanhope that you've left standing out in the kitchen!" asked aunty, anxiously.
"Yes, that's it," said Kathri, adding impatiently: "If she'd only call herself hop-stand or hop-pole or something sensible, I could remember it; but to twist it upside down so, it's just nonsense."
However, Kathri thought she should never make a mistake in that name again; for the picture of a hop-pole standing upside down would always come up when she thought of it.
Mrs. Stein hastened out and asked her visitor to come into the parlor. Mrs. Stanhope had come to inquire if it would be possible to find a child to come between school-hours, twice a day, to do errands and small household chores, such as the maid-servant could not find time for.
In a moment Elsli's pale face came up before Mrs. Stein's mind's eye, and she thought how much better off the girl would be going on errands for Mrs. Stanhope than carrying her big little brother about in her arms. And she thought that if Marget could be sure of a little ready money every day, she would manage to let Elsli go.
"I know of a very neat, respectable young girl, who would please you, I am sure," she said; "only I am not quite sure whether her mother will let her go, because she needs the child so much at home."
"Promise her good pay," said Mrs. Stanhope, eagerly. "I will give the mother whatever she asks, if she will let me have the girl."
Mrs. Stein was so delighted with such a prospect for Elsli that she started out immediately to see what Marget would say to it, accompanying Mrs. Stanhope for some distance on her way home, and then turning off on the lane that led to Heiri's cottage. Marget was alone, at the wash-tub. It did not take much persuasion to obtain her consent, for of course the money was a great inducement.
"It will not be for long," she said, "and the children must manage to get along without Elsli." So it was settled that Elsli should go the next day, at eleven o'clock, to Mrs. Stanhope's, to begin her new duties.
Late that evening, when the two sisters sat down at the work-table together, after the children were in bed, aunty repeated Emma's confidences to her mother; how the visit to the sick girl had been a complete failure, for Emma was sure that Nora did not care to have her come again, any more than she herself cared to go; for she couldn't think of anything to say, and Nora didn't want to talk either, and they didn't like the same things at all.
Mrs. Stein was surprised and disappointed. Emma's stock of conversation had never been known to give out before, and her mother had been confident that her merry talk would be a real pleasure to the sick child, and help to pass happily many a tedious hour of her long day; and, on the other hand, she relied much on the benefit which her romping little girl would receive from the refined and gentle Nora. She saw, however, that there was nothing to be done about it, and that she could only trust to time, which often works wonders when things seem hopeless.
"By and by, perhaps, they will come together. Children often do, just when you least expect it," she said.
Her sister shook her head. "Emma and Nora were not made for each other, any more than fire and water," she said; and then they quitted the subject, and talked about Elsli's prospects, and rejoiced at the thought that the days of servitude to her burdensome little brothers were over, at least for the present.
AUNTY IS IN DEMAND AGAIN.
On the following day, at eleven o'clock, Elsli entered the house at Oak-ridge as quietly as a little mouse; so quietly that Nora did not hear her come into the house, and was startled when she suddenly saw her standing just inside the door of the sitting-room. Elsli had brushed her light brown hair carefully back from her forehead, leaving only a few soft curls to wave about her eyes. Her mother had allowed her to put on a fresh white apron and a bright kerchief, as she was going among the gentry. The little pale face had a somewhat anxious look, and her big blue eyes had a timid expression as she glanced toward Nora, doubting whether she ought to come into the room or not.
"Come in," said Nora; "are you the girl who is coming to do our errands?"
Elsli answered in so gentle a voice, and her whole air was so winning, that Nora felt instantly drawn towards her, and she stretched out her hand, saying, "Come here, and sit down by me, and let us have a little talk. Isn't your name Elsli?" she continued; "mamma has some errands for you this morning; sewing-silk and pencils and eggs to get; but can't you sit down and talk with me a little first, or will that give you too little time for them, so that you'll have to hurry and so you'll get tired."
"Oh, no, the errands will not tire me," replied Elsli. "I get tired at home, because I have to carry the little boys about so much."
"Then you do know what it is to feel tired, very tired?"
"Yes, indeed, I know only too well. I am almost always tired, and sometimes I think I should like to lie down and never get up again. Hanseli is getting dreadfully heavy, and I can scarcely carry him any longer, but he won't walk, and only screams and kicks if I put him down."
"I'm glad to find somebody who knows what it is to be tired; now we can talk about it, can't we? Don't you feel sometimes as if you never wanted to stand up again, and wouldn't you like to have something happen that would make you over new and take all the tired feelings away?"