"What are you doing in here, you black Satan?" cried the surprised man as Pixy ran in. "Out with you! Out with you!"
But Pixy had seen the open door into the balcony, had spied his master, and ran to greet him with every evidence of delight.
"Whom does that black beast belong to?" asked the watchman, hurrying out.
"To me," replied Fritz, "but—"
"How dare you bring him in here? Come out, both of you."
Uncle Braun advised Fritz to pacify the angry man by telling how it happened that Pixy got in, but the watchman would not listen, so Fritz hurried out to his much-tried relative, followed by the others.
"Oh, Aunt Fanny, dear Aunt Fanny, I am so sorry that Pixy acted so badly," he exclaimed.
"No, no; don't blame Pixy for your own fault. You should not have called him. The affectionate creature was rejoiced to hear your voice. You called him and he was glad to obey."
"Yes, it was my fault. I should have known what Pixy would do."
"Oh, no one is to blame. It was merely a mistake," said Uncle Braun, joining in the conversation; "but you are all tired, especially the aunt, and you must ride home."
He called a carriage, and before they could make objection they were helped in, with Pixy at their feet.
"Bornheimer street, number 37," said Uncle Braun to the coachman as he put a coin in his hand, and they were off.
"Oh, how nice it is to live in a great city!" remarked Franz. "In the country when any of the people wish to ride out, the horse must be brought up from the field and curried, the harness be put on, the carriage taken from the carriage-house, the whip and carriage robe gotten from their places, the horse put to the carriage, and then when the drive is over everything has to be put back in its place."
"Yes, child, all one needs in a city in order to obtain these things is money; and Uncle Braun has certainly done us a favor to-day to add to his many kindnesses. I really don't know how I could have walked home, for my knees trembled and my back ached. Never in my life did I take such long steps, and run and bound as I had to do while trying to keep back that black rascal."
"But it was not Pixy's fault. You said so yourself, Auntie!"
"Yes, I did say it. It was your fault in calling 'Pixy! Pixy!'"
The moment the dog heard his name he sprang up, put his paws on her lap, and looked into her face with such an affectionate expression in his brown eyes, that she could not help patting his head and saying, "With it all, one cannot help loving you."
The carriage stopped at number 37, and Pixy sprang to the pavement, followed closely by the boys, who helped Mrs. Steiner out carefully, and with one on each side she went slowly up the long steps.
"Certainly such help is not to be despised," she said. "You are my gallant cavaliers."
She took out her key as she spoke and unlocked the door, and was surprised to see several letters which had been pushed under it during her absence.
"They are only business circulars, I suppose," she said as the boys gathered them up and put them on the table.
She put on her glasses, took one up, broke the seal and read:
"In reference to your notice in the 'Intelligencer' that you offer a reward for the recovery of your dog, I write to say that it can be found at 395 New street. If you send ten marks between twelve and one o'clock, and a rope, you can have your dog.
"Now just hear that, boys! Whoever heard the like of this? If he asks two marks for catching the dog, then he asks eight marks for one day's feed. He must have fed it on pound cake and champagne."
"It would take my gold-piece to pay it, if the dog were really Pixy," remarked Fritz.
"Yes, but it is not Pixy. Let me see what this one says."
"We have your dog, and you can have it, if you will put a notice in the paper that you will put twenty-five marks in our hand for it. If you agree to this, then you can come to the Hessen statue with the money, and take your dog.
"Wonderful that P.P. promises to bring a dog that we already have and who is lying comfortably on his piece of carpet by the window. Now here is a stylish looking letter. Let us see who is the writer.
"Highborn gentleman (or lady).
"I see that you speak of having lost your dog. Do not imagine that it was lost; it was stolen. It is evident that you like dogs, so I write to say that I have a fine Spitz which I will sell you. His brother sold for twelve marks and I think you will be willing to give that sum. If so, bring the money to Roderberg square at four o'clock. With due respect,
"Fritz! Fritz! Your dog has shown me that there is more rascality in Frankfort than I ever imagined," exclaimed Aunt Steiner; "or, upon second thought, I believe they are foreigners. I am sure that no Frankforter would do such tricky things."
"Here is a postal, Aunt, that you have not seen," said Fritz.
"Read it, my boy. Of course it is from another swindler," and Fritz read:
"To No. 37 Bornheimer street:
"I have found your dog, and will bring it to you if you will tell me through the paper how much the reward is.
"Will bring us Pixy, and Pixy sitting by looking at us! Well, well, I would never have believed it! But just see, it wants ten minutes of our dinner hour. Franz, do you and Paul wash your hands and set the table, and Fritz can help clear off when we have finished."
"But Aunt Fanny!" exclaimed the astonished Fritz, "when did you cook dinner?"
"I did not cook any, yet we will have it, and a good one, and all we have to do is to set the table, and as quickly as possible."
This was a mystery which the boys could not unravel, yet they hurried to wash and dry their hands, the cloth was spread neatly, napkins put to the places, and the dishes on, when a trim-looking girl came in carrying a long basket in which was a bucket of lentil soup, a roast of veal with vegetables and a plate of fine summer pears.
She nodded pleasantly to all, put the dinner quickly and deftly upon the table, set the basket on a chair, and with a smile and a nod went out and down the steps.
"Well, I never!" ejaculated Fritz. "How did you get this dinner cooked, Aunt Fanny?"
"Very easily. All I had to do was to leave an order at a cook shop, and you see the result. Yes, little Fritz, as I said in regard to the carriage, in a large city one can get the comforts and luxuries of life if he has the money. Without that, many doors and also hearts have to remain closed. I ordered a dinner to-day because it is a change for me as well as for you, for it is very seldom I have a meal except as I prepare it myself. Now let us eat our dinner."
They took their seats, the blessing was asked as usual, and Mrs. Steiner carved the roast, giving generous pieces to the hungry boys.
The soup was all that could be desired, as was each dish of the prepared meal, and they sat at the table after they finished until the girl came for her basket and bucket and departed, and Fritz was helping take the dishes to the kitchen, when the door bell rang.
"Now I wonder if that is another policeman?" ejaculated Aunt Steiner, as she went to the door and opened it.
There stood a stout young man with a cigarette between his teeth, who set one of his feet within the room, so that she could not have closed the door had she tried. He was leading a black dog by a rope—which squeezed past him into the room—and he did not appear to think it necessary to remove his cap, as he said with a foreign accent: "Dog lost—I got him, yes, I brought him."
The dog was black, but much larger than Pixy, was shaggy and unkempt, and had a cross and savage look, very different from the well-kept and gentle Pixy.
"We have found our dog," replied Mrs. Steiner. "I am sorry that you went to the trouble of bringing one."
"Found your dog? Where is he?"
"Fritz, bring Pixy here," called his aunt, and Fritz came with his dog, followed by Franz and Paul.
"I have been more than half an hour coming here with this dog in answer to your advertisement, and should be paid for my trouble," said the young man, gruffly.
"It is not our fault that you came. It is not our dog. See, he is not at all like ours and he does not answer to the name of Pixy."
"See if he don't," and he jerked the dog's head up by the cord as he called "Pixy!"
"No matter if his name is Pixy, he is not our dog. Our dog is here, as you see."
The man grew angry and raised his voice, and the dogs, who had been eyeing each other with no friendly looks, snarled and sprang upon each other, and the small entry was the scene of such a fierce battle, and resounded with such shrill yelps and much thumping and bumping about that the very coats and hats on the pegs trembled. Pixy was full of fight, but the strange dog was much the larger, and scored a victory, while Pixy ran howling under the sofa in the dining-room.
Mrs. Steiner was so weak from fright that she had to hold to the open door for support; and tears were running down Fritz's cheeks. They all hoped that the man would leave, but no, he wanted money. He changed his reason for demanding it, claiming that he should have payment for the injury to his dog.
"Asking for money when your wild beast dragged our poor Pixy over the floor as if he were a bundle of old rags?" cried Mrs. Steiner in astonishment.
"Your dog commenced it! He snarled at my dog."
"He did it from fright, I think, and your dog bit him and tore out some of his silky, black hair, and Pixy is now lying under the sofa, his teeth chattering from fear."
"What do I care where he is! If my Turk mastered him, that is not saying that my dog is not hurt."
"So your dog is not named Pixy but Turk," commented Mrs. Steiner.
The man took no notice of this; his object was money and he resolved to get it.
"I should have a dollar at least for my trouble," he said.
"I wish a policeman would happen along. There are not enough of them in Frankfort," remarked Mrs. Steiner. "Look out of the windows, boys, and if you see one beckon to him to come. I would give a dollar this minute to see one."
"Why should you give a dollar to a policeman? Give the dollar to me, and I will go and take my dog."
"Not a penny, Aunt Fanny!" called Paul. "He would better leave now, and quickly, or he will see what he will get."
It would have been hard for Paul to have told what the man would get, but his determined manner had its effect and the man ran down the steps, instantly followed by Turk.
Mrs. Steiner sank upon the sofa, pale and nervous; Fritz sat by her shedding tears of regret that he had brought his dog to Frankfort; and Pixy crept out from his covert and tried to comfort them.
"I feel nervous and exhausted over the dog fight, and the rudeness of that man," said Mrs. Steiner, "and will lie down upon the sofa and rest awhile. Franz, you and Paul can take the dishes and other things to the kitchen and Fritz can put water on the gas stove to heat."
"Oh, Aunt Fanny, let us wash the dishes," said Paul.
"Certainly you may," and in great glee the two boys did the work nicely, while Fritz fed Pixy and gave him fresh water.
"Now I feel rested," said Mrs. Steiner, rising, "and you boys have been such a help that I have time to go out on business in the city. Who will go with me?"
"I will go!" said Franz, "and I!" exclaimed Paul.
"Aunt Fanny, if you will excuse me, I will stay at home and write a letter. Besides, I can rest," said Fritz.
"Certainly I will excuse you, dear child; and if you get tired of staying alone and wish to take a walk, leave the key on the first floor with the Steerers," and the three went cheerily down the steps and Fritz was alone with his black friend.
"Pixy," he said as he commenced to write, "whom do you suppose my letter is to? It is to Aunt Fanny for we are going home, Pixy; yes, going home. We will surprise them. I will tell you how we will do, Pixy. When we are near our house I will take off your cord, and you can run in the open door of the store and see papa. Then you can run in the open door of the house and see mamma and sister. Mamma will say, 'Why, here's Pixy! Fritz cannot be far away.'"
This plan seemed to suit Pixy admirably, and Fritz continued with his letter. When it was finished he folded and addressed it to "Dear Aunt Fanny," and laid it upon the table. He hurried into the bedroom, put such things in his knapsack as he would need before Paul and Franz came home, strapped it over his shoulder, put his rain-coat over his left arm, took the end of Pixy's cord in his right, and descended the steps after carefully locking the door, and putting the key into the hands of the Steerer servant, he set out for home.
THEY VISIT THE CLOTHING HOUSE
When Mrs. Steiner and the boys returned they found the door locked.
"Run down, Franz, and get the key. I told Fritz to leave it there if he went out for a walk and the boy took my advice."
Franz soon returned, the door was opened and they entered, Mrs. Steiner sinking down upon the sofa with the sigh, "Oh, those steps, those steps!"
"Aunt Fanny, here is a letter upon the table. It is for you, and written by Fritz," said Paul.
"By Fritz!" laughed Aunt Fanny, "gone out for a walk and left a letter for me! Read it, Paul."
The boy opened the missive and read, each sentence meeting with comments from his interested listeners.
"Dear Aunt Fanny: Pixy was not to blame for the dog fight; and the time he ran into the Council House he was not to blame, because I called 'Pixy! Pixy!' I should have kept my mouth shut."
"The dear Fritz! He is right, but I am sorry he takes it so much to heart."
"You know, Aunt Fanny, that Pixy is but a dog, and has not a man's understanding."
"Yes, Fritz, I remember that much of my studies in natural history," laughed his aunt.
"I have not as much understanding as a man, either, or I would not have brought Pixy to Frankfort."
"The boy is certainly right there."
"I am sorry that you stood and held him while we were in the buildings and you had to run and jump when I called 'Pixy!' If he had not come he would have been disobedient or stupid; and my father will tell you that he is neither disobedient nor stupid. You will not have to hold his cord again."
"Now what does he mean by saying I will not have to stand and hold his cord again?"
"We are now on our way home," continued Paul, "and papa will be glad to see me and Pixy."
"For heaven's sake! Has the boy run off?"
"Yes, he must mean that," replied Paul.
"Oh, he is only joking. Run to your room, Franz, and see if he has taken his knapsack."
"Yes, and his rain-coat is gone. Shall we finish reading the letter?"
"Yes," said Mrs. Steiner with tears in her eyes.
"Dear Aunt Fanny, I thank you for your goodness, and for the mark you gave me; and want to say that I will never again bring a dog to visit Frankfort."
"Oh, that boy has made my heart heavy! I feel as if I will never see him again and it is all Pixy's fault. Is that all?"
"Yes, and oh, Aunt Fanny, I wish we had not been so harsh with Fritz in regard to Pixy," said Paul.
"Now you are trying to make me more unhappy than I am when I am enough distressed that the boy has run away without bidding us good-bye."
"No, but we are to blame. We were as glad as was Fritz that Pixy was with us on the way to Frankfort; then when he became a trouble we blamed Fritz. I wish we could do something now. Perhaps the train has not left for the Odenwald, and if we go to the depot he may be there, and we can bring him and Pixy back."
"Oh, you dear boy, to think of this! Yes, go quickly. But hark! I hear a step on the porch. He is at the hall door. Yes, thank heaven, the boy has come back of his own free will!" And she ran and opened the door.
"Fritz! Fritz!" she called as she saw the tall form of her brother, and, clasping his hand, she led him to the sitting-room. "Did you see Fritz at the station?"
"No, is he not here?"
"He left for home without bidding us good-bye, and it is all on account of the dog. The boys were just going to the depot to see if he is there."
"It is no use to go. If he had been there, I would have seen him, and Pixy would have found me."
"What are we to do about it?"
"Do nothing. It will be an experience for him to be allowed to follow his own inclination in the matter. He will be surprised when he reaches home to know that I am here. I am on my way to Cassel on business and stopped off to see you and my boy."
"But I feel so anxious about him," said his sister. "I would ask the police to see to it but am ashamed, for I had to apply to them when his purse was lost, then when his dog was lost and now it would be to tell them that both dog and boy are gone. Uncle Braun put a notice in the paper about the dog, and oh dear! there seems to be no end to what that notice brought;" and she told of the letters and the dog fight.
"I am sorry you bothered about it for there is no need. He can take care of himself. He is eleven years old, has money in his purse, and is afraid of nothing, so what is the need of worrying? Yet it may be that he has not left Frankfort, and if it will be a comfort to you we will try to find the young rascal. There are two railways which he could take to go home, so you and the two boys can go to the Eastern station, and I will go to the other, which will leave us plenty of time to see both departures for the Odenwald and one of us will catch him if he is there to be caught. Have you a schedule?"
"No, I have no need of one from one year's end to another. But suppose he refuses to come back with us?"
"No danger of that when he hears that I am here. He will not think that he can get back quickly enough."
Mrs. Steiner locked the hall door and they hurried away, taking the shortest way to the two depots. It was not likely that one spy at the one and the three at the other would miss seeing the runaway, especially as he would be accompanied by his four-footed traveling companion, and would perhaps be the only boy in the crowd with a dog.
"Fritz will have to travel in a freight car," remarked Paul as the three neared the depot; "the guard will not allow Pixy in a passenger car, and Fritz will not let his dog go in there alone."
"Oh, Paul, you should have mentioned this before! Brother Fritz will never think of it, and the boy will be stowed in a freight car without his father finding him, and we here, not knowing whether or not he is in Frankfort."
"Mr. Heil will think of it, I am sure," said Franz, "for Fritz wrote a letter home on Thursday, and in it he told them about Pixy and the chickens."
"We can only hope so," sighed Mrs. Steiner, "and when we reach the depot, you, Paul, can watch the freight cars, Franz can watch the passenger cars, and I will go first into the waiting-rooms to see if he is there. Then we can all watch the crowd upon the platform and see if Fritz is among them."
This program was followed, but Fritz and his dog were not to be seen, and they could only hope that Mr. Heil would be more successful.
"But I will not see him until we get home," said Mrs. Steiner, "so will send a telegram to Fritz's mother, telling her that the boy set out for home about noon, and when he arrives there, she would please send me a telegram to that effect, as I am extremely anxious about him."
No sooner thought of than done. She hurried into the office, gave her message to the operator who made quite a reduction in the number of words, thus lessening the expense, and then the three would have set out for home had not Paul made a study of the schedule and found that the train which Mr. Heil had gone to watch would not leave for fifteen minutes.
"Oh, I am glad of that!" exclaimed Mrs. Steiner. "We can board an electric car and get there in time to tell Brother Fritz about the freight car, and you boys can help watch for the boy."
The car came, and they lost no time in boarding it, and Paul and Franz enjoyed the swift run through the streets.
But Mrs. Steiner was far from enjoying it. The car had to halt at so many corners that she dreaded that the train would leave for the Odenwald before they reached the depot, and she would have to return home without knowing the whereabouts of her nephew.
"Oh, there is Mr. Heil on that car that has whirled past us," exclaimed Franz. "He saw us and signaled us not to go to the depot, but to go home."
"Now isn't that too provoking! Let us get out," and she sprang up, and would have hurried to the platform had not the guard caught her arm.
"Do you wish to fall off and be killed, or have your limbs broken?" he asked. "Wait until we stop at the next corner—so; now you can step off, and in safety."
The three quickly took his advice, and waited on the curb until a car came that was going in an opposite direction, and hurried aboard.
"I wish to get home as quickly as possible," said Mrs. Steiner, "for Brother Fritz will have to stand outside until we come with the key. I am afraid this has hindered him from leaving for Cassel. And oh, boys, we are on the wrong car! See, it is turning in another direction. We will have to get off and wait for a car to take us back."
She gave the signal, they stepped off, and again waited on the curb, Mrs. Steiner feverish with impatience.
"I am completely bewildered or I should not have made that mistake," she explained. "That boy's rash act of running away has upset me so that I cannot think. There was not the least excuse for it. Surely he could have waited until Monday, when all three would go, your time of holiday being over. It is all the fault of that miserable Pixy."
After some delay they returned home and found Mr. Heil waiting for them.
"I am sorry you took the trouble to go to the other depot, sister," he said kindly. "You knew that I would wait there until the train left for the Odenwald."
"But did you see Fritz?" she asked anxiously.
"No, and no boy of about his age had bought a ticket for the Odenwald, so he is yet here in Frankfort."
"Oh, where is the poor boy?" exclaimed Mrs. Steiner, tearfully. "I cannot forgive myself for finding fault with his dog. You must not go to Cassel, Fritz, until we know where he is."
"No, there is nothing to prevent my waiting for the evening train. I have written to my wife's brother that I would pass Sunday with them, but there was no time set to reach there."
In the meantime where were Fritz and Pixy?
Fritz had set out for home in splendid spirits. It seemed to him that he had been away for months, and wondered if there had been many changes during his absence. He hurried along, for he wished to stop on his way to the depot and get a present for his little sister.
He knew that she wished a canary-bird, and went into a store to see how much one would cost. To his surprise and delight, he found that he could buy a singer and a cage for two marks, and he purchased both.
"Is there no one else that you would take a present to?" asked the shop-keeper.
"Yes, I would like to take a present to my baby brother, and something to my mother."
"What would you like?"
"A tin trumpet to my brother, but I don't know what my mother would like."
"There is a nice trumpet, and here is a tin grater. I think she would like it."
"Yes, and I will take it, if it and the trumpet do not cost too much. I must have enough money left for my journey home."
It was found by counting that he would have enough without disturbing his beloved gold-piece, and the shop-keeper strapped the three articles on his back, drawing the grater around to his side, and the happy Fritz set out for the depot, when a street urchin slipped up behind him and blew a shrill blast upon the trumpet. Fritz turned quickly and at that moment he heard a call, "Pixy! Pixy!" and the dog turned joyously and looked back at a tall policeman who laid his hand upon the shoulder of Fritz.
"How did you come by this dog?" he enquired, sternly.
"It belonged to my father and he gave it to me. He has no tag or muzzle because I am only visiting in Frankfort."
"I am not asking about muzzle or tag, but wish to know if the dog's name is Pixy."
"Yes, his name is Pixy."
"Now listen. A black dog of that name was stolen yesterday; and the lady from whom it was stolen not only put the case in the hands of the police, but put an advertisement in the paper, giving an exact description of the dog."
"Yes, this is the dog," assured Fritz. "He first ran away, then was stolen by a man."
"And the man gave him to you to take away. Is that it?"
"No. Franz and Paul and I had a hard fight to get him; and I am taking him to the depot to go to Odenwald."
"What is you name?"
"And that of your father?"
"His name is also Fritz."
"So you say that the dog belongs to Fritz Heil, yet it was the Widow Steiner who put the case in the hands of the police. How does that story agree with yours?"
Fritz was so bewildered and frightened that he stammered over his explanation. "Yes—no. It did run away—Yes, it was stolen; I was there, but I am going away."
"You were where?"
"At my Aunt Steiner's."
"Does she know that you are going away?"
"No, I did not tell her. Yes, I did in my letter."
"That is a beautiful story! Now I know that you are taking her dog away without her knowledge."
"No; she knows it," howled Fritz.
"Yes, but all the world knows how cunning dog thieves are in Frankfort. You come with me that we may learn the straight story of how you got this dog."
"Oh, Mr. Policeman, do not take me to prison! I would die there."
"No, not to prison, but to the Widow Steiner's. There we will hear a full account of Pixy."
"But I do not want to go there, because I have just run off from her house and it shames me to go back."
"I believe that, but you need not be ashamed if you are telling the truth."
"But, Mr. Policeman, I am only taking my own dog to my own home."
"Perhaps so. We will see what Mrs. Steiner says about it," and the tall policeman set out for 37 Bornheimer street, followed by the weeping Fritz, and a motley crowd of onlookers.
"He has been stealing tinware," commented one of them. "While he was about it he might as well have taken silver or something worth while."
"Poor boy, he has not been trained right by his parents," remarked a woman standing in the door of her bakery. "People who take no care of their children but let them run the streets must expect arrests."
This remark was so trying to Fritz that he halted to set the woman right in regard to his parents, but the policeman bade him hurry along, and they soon reached 37, where the returned ones were still upon the porch. Mrs. Steiner was weeping, and Mr. Heil and the boys were anxious, believing that Fritz had lost his way in going to the depot and was wandering about the streets.
"Look, brother!" exclaimed Mrs. Steiner, eagerly; "look at that crowd coming up the street following a policeman. Among them is a black dog. Yes, it is Fritz and Pixy, and with them a policeman! What can be the matter now?"
Fritz had one arm over his eyes, trying to hide his tears but looked out when his captor told him that they had reached his aunt's home and there were people on the porch.
"Oh, it is father! dear, dear father!" exclaimed Fritz in delight, and running up the steps he was clasped in the arms of his relieved parent.
But the boy's joy was no greater than that of the dog, for Pixy danced and pranced about his master, jumped upon him and tried to lick his face and hands.
"It is of no use for me to ask to whom the dog belongs," remarked the policeman as he reached the group upon the porch. "The dog tells me that the boy has told the exact truth."
"See, Mr. Policeman, the dog does belong to papa and me, and not to Aunt Steiner," exclaimed Fritz, jubilantly.
"Yes; and is this lady the Widow Steiner?"
"Yes," she replied, stepping forward.
"You gave a false statement in the paper, and to the police," he said in an injured tone. "You said you had lost your dog."
"It was a misleading statement, that is true," she replied, "but many people know me who do not know Fritz. The dog ran away from my house while under my care, and my wish was to state correctly in a few words where the dog could be returned if found. It was a friend who advertised."
"It would have taken but a few words more to have said that your nephew, Fritz Heil, had lost his dog, then when the boy told me his name and where he had been staying, I would not have arrested him, knowing that he was telling the exact truth."
"Yes, you are quite right, and I am sorry that my mistake has given you trouble, and I thank you heartily. It has all turned out right. Had you not arrested him, he would have been on his way home, and his father here to see him."
"All right. I have nothing to say, except to tell you that when you call upon the police to help you, you will state the case correctly."
"I, too, thank you heartily," added Mr. Heil. "You have done us a good service."
The policeman gave the military salute and passed down the steps and Aunt Steiner and the others went inside.
"Now tell me, Fritz, what was your reason for starting for Odenwald with such a motley array of things upon your back? You looked like a traveling tinker," enquired his father.
"They were presents for mother, and sister and baby brother, and the shop-keeper said I could carry them better if strapped upon my back, and he strapped them which I thought was very kind. I got the canary bird so very cheap that I could not bear to go home without it."
"No wonder it was cheap! It is not a singer, the man cheated you."
Fritz looked so sad over this information that his aunt tried to think of something to cheer him.
"Do you know, brother, that Fritz can make excellent coffee and all three boys are learning to cook?" she said.
"No, indeed! I never imagined such a thing," he replied, looking as surprised and pleased as the boys could possibly desire.
"Yes; they can cook, and as it is nearly time for our afternoon meal, we will give you a sample of how they can help me."
"Set them at it as early as convenient, sister, and when finished I can pass an hour or more with you at the forest park before starting to Cassel, if you care to go."
"That will be charming. Fritz, you may go now and grind the coffee, and put in a tablespoonful more, now that we are having a guest to share it with us. Franz, you will please peel and chop the cold boiled potatoes, and brown them nicely and cut thin slices from the cold boiled ham, and put them upon the pink plate. Paul will please set the table, and then go to the bakery and get a seed cake in honor of the returned prodigal."
The boys set to work and the odor of the mocha coffee as it was being ground floated into the sitting-room.
"You always have fine coffee, sister," remarked Mr. Heil.
"Yes, it is good, and the reason is that it is genuine coffee, no chicory or other mixture. Yet I have seen passable coffee made of poor material by an adept. Our dear old grandmother was compelled in war-times to make it from chicory, but would use no deception, so when she invited friends to take supper she would not say, 'Come to afternoon coffee,' but 'Come to chicory.'"
Paul in the meantime had set the table neatly, and had returned from the bakery with a fine large seed cake, Mrs. Steiner having given him two marks to pay for it.
The potatoes, ham, good brown and white bread, butter and lettuce was now upon the table, Fritz brought the coffee, and all took seats at the hospitable board.
Mr. Heil at his sister's request asked the blessing, then with pleasant chat the meal progressed, the guest assuring the boys that he did not know that he had ever enjoyed one more.
"If it would not tire you too much, sister, I would prefer that we walk to the Forest-house, as I would like to call on the way at the Stayman cloth house and leave an order for cloth and ready-made clothing."
"I prefer walking this lovely evening."
"And oh, papa, we are glad to go there, for we know Mr. Stayman! We spent part of the time with him watching the fireworks," exclaimed Fritz. "Do you know, papa, that he is a tailor?"
"Yes, and I hope that you will have as good knowledge of how the work should be done as has Mr. Stayman when old enough to go in business."
"But I would rather be a merchant."
"He is a merchant and a successful one; and his success lies in the fact that he understands thoroughly how the work of making the clothing should be done."
"He invited us to come to his store and I am glad you will take us. Will we see him on his work-table with a needle in his hand?"
"I am not sure; but if so, we should have double respect for him, for it would prove that he is not above his business. You appear to have the foolish opinion that it is the kind of work that demeans or elevates a man. I know of but two classes of men, the worker and the drone. The king who rules wisely and the tailor who does honest work are pleasing to God in the position in which he has placed them. But the man who thinks the world owes him a living and will not work but begs from door to door is like a parasite that lives upon the fruit tree."
As soon as the meal was finished the boys helped Mrs. Steiner put the place in order, and they set out for the Forest-house, Mr. Heil leading the way with his sister, the boys following, and Pixy enjoying the freedom of running along without the restriction of his cord, but always keeping near his master. They halted at the house of Uncle Braun and invited him to meet them at the Forest-house which he gladly accepted; then they passed on and soon stood before the palatial clothing house of the Staymans and to the surprise of the boys it was the very one which Franz and Paul had visited and near which Fritz was robbed. They were met by a young man, dressed in the latest-style business-suit, who welcomed them courteously and asked how he could serve them.
"Please tell Mr. Stayman that Frederick Heil of the Odenwald wishes to leave an order with his firm," said Mr. Heil.
Mr. Stayman appeared immediately, and welcomed them all cordially.
"Come to my office," he said, "and I will give you comfortable seats; we can converse there without interruption." They followed him, passing through a small room lined with mirrors from floor to ceiling, and while Mr. Heil gave his order, one of the young clerks took Mrs. Steiner and the boys over the building.
"Where are the workrooms?" asked Fritz.
"They are in a large building back of this one. Here we have only suits, and cloth in the piece."
Soon the city lay behind them and they entered the avenue lined with great trees which led to the Forest-house, a favorite resort of the people of Frankfort.
As soon as they reached the beautiful grounds, Mrs. Steiner rested upon a rustic chair and her brother took a seat beside her, and rolling his handkerchief in a ball, as he had often done before in playful mood, he showed it to Pixy and then while Fritz held his hands over his pet's eyes, he threw it far away. Pixy bounded away the moment the hands were removed, sniffed about through the grass, and in a very short time returned with the handkerchief. As it was white, it was easily seen in the grass, so Mr. Heil showed Pixy the black leather letter-case that he always carried with him, and threw it near a clump of tall bushes. Pixy ran off, brought it back, but instead of waiting to be applauded and petted he hurried away, and soon returned with a new pocketbook which he would deliver to no one but Mr. Heil.
"Some visitor has lost it," said Mrs. Steiner, "and no doubt is worrying over the loss."
"Yes, and it feels bulky. There may be things of value in it," replied her brother. "We must try to find the owner."
"Open it, father," said Fritz, "it may be that the owner's name is in it."
"Yes, it may be, but I prefer to wait until we have a witness other than ourselves for we are strangers here."
"Why should we not be witnesses enough, father?"
"Because some one may have found it, taken money from it and thrown it away, and we might be blamed."
"What can you do about it, father?"
"I will take it to the music pavilion. Perhaps some one in the crowd is the owner."
At that moment the band stationed in the pavilion began playing The Watch on the Rhine, and Mr. Heil and his party left their place under the trees and joined the listeners within. As soon as the music was finished, he called a waiter to him. "Will you please ask the proprietor to favor me by coming here? I have something I wish to say to him."
"Yes," replied the waiter, "but I am sure he cannot come just yet, for he is intending to speak to the assembly, but I will tell him as soon as he is at liberty."
A little later the proprietor requested the attention of the guests, and announced that an English visitor had lost his pocketbook and would be very grateful if the finder would return it to him as it contained some valuable papers and some English money. It had also German money which he would give freely to the finder for restoring the pocketbook.
As soon as the announcement was made, the waiter told the proprietor of Mr. Heil's request and he came immediately to hear what he wished to say.
"I will announce the finding of it as soon as the band has finished this number; and I am sure the owner will be rejoiced to hear it for he is much concerned at the loss of the papers," said the proprietor, "and I am glad for his sake."
"And please say that the pocketbook was found by Pixy," requested Fritz.
The proprietor promised and hurried away and soon the little party heard the announcement that a pocketbook answering the description given had been found by young Mr. Pixy from the Odenwald. The boys could scarcely restrain their laughter to hear that Pixy had been honored with the title of "Mr." and they clustered about him, toyed with his ears and his curly mane, until the dog wondered what he had done that they should laugh at him.
The Englishman quickly made his way to the group and said with warmth, as he clasped the hand of Mr. Heil, "I have heard of the Odenwald, and will from this time hold it in grateful remembrance, knowing that in that retired place are just and honorable people, and that Mr. Pixy is one of them."
Mr. Heil and his sister could scarcely restrain their smiles at hearing this, and were about to enlighten him as to who found the pocketbook and how it happened when he looked around at the three boys.
"Now tell me," he said, "which of the three is Mr. Pixy?"
"No one of them; it was our dog that found your pocketbook and his name is Pixy."
"Your dog! Now how shall I reward him? Will you please tell me your name?"
"Yes, my name is Frederick Heil, and in reply to your first question, I will say that my dog does not need anything, although I thank you for your kind wish to reward him."
"Pray, Mr. Heil, accept this five hundred marks to use to the advantage of your dog in any way you think best."
"Please excuse me," replied Mr. Heil. "There is no way that I can think of that it could be used for Pixy. He really needs nothing."
"But, my friend, please respect my wish to express my gratitude in the only way I can. You cannot know what the finding of these papers has been to me. You will do me the greatest of favors if you will tell me if there is any way that you can use this money."
"I believe you fully and will tell you where your five hundred marks would do more good than can be told. In my neighborhood has been founded a home and school for poor children. It is but a short distance from my home, and every day at noon our Pixy goes to the schoolyard to play with the children. The matron calls him her black servant, for he is so helpful in caring for the children. If you will give the five hundred marks to the school, Pixy shall take it to it, and there will be great joy over the gift, for we have a hard struggle to keep up supplies for the home."
"It will be a great pleasure to me to give it to such a worthy cause, and you can do me no greater service than to accept it."
"I do accept it gratefully, for just at this time there are changes to be made in the building, and there was no money to buy the materials and pay for the work. Only assure me that it will not inconvenience you, and I will accept the generous gift gladly."
"I can give you this assurance truthfully. I do not need it and am glad to help in a worthy cause."
"It is indeed a worthy cause. At first it appeared to be a hopeless undertaking to try to establish a home on such slender means as we could command, but we have struggled along, and now this sum of money is indeed a Godsend."
Fritz saw an opportunity for him to speak and going to Mr. Heil took his hand. "Father," he said, "I have often thought since leaving home that I should not have brought Pixy to Frankfort, and I knew that you all thought it very foolish in me. You see now that it was after all a good thing, for through him you have gotten money needed for the home and school. Had it not been for him, some one might have found it who would not have given it to the owner."
"Yes, in this instance your foolishness has brought a good result, but, as a rule, trouble follows when a boy does what he knows that his parents would disapprove. Give the gentleman your hand and thank him for the good gift to our Children's Home."
This was done and the stranger thanked him in turn for the good turn Pixy had done him, and Fritz returned to his place beside Aunt Steiner prouder than ever of his dog.
"I have great interest in the Odenwald for the reason that my ancestors belonged to that green mountain region," remarked the Englishman, "but it has not been in my time that any of them have lived there. My great grandfather was a German and a native of the Odenwald country. He married an English lady, and would have lived in England had she not been willing to come to Odenwald which was, in those early days, a wilderness. She knew that he longed to return to his native land, and said, 'Whither thou goest I will go.' When my great-grandfather died, she returned to England with her two sons and her daughter. One of these sons was my grandfather. I have held in remembrance my German ancestry, and have wondered if any of the descendants of my great-grandfather's relatives are in the Odenwald."
"I think that I can give you some information, Mr. Urich," replied Mr. Heil.
"How did you know my name?" asked the Englishman in surprise. "I did not mention it, and you did not ask."
"There was no need, for I know the history of your family. Forest-master Urich was the first of the name in the Odenwald, and his son—your great-grandfather—was also my great-grandfather on his sister's side of the house.
"Your great-grandfather was named Otto, and was an educated and cultured gentleman. Your great-grandmother was named Mary Beyer and was one of four sisters. Your grandfather, also named Otto, was the second son of the forest-master. So you see that your family history is also mine, and the same blood runs in our veins, although we do not bear the same name. The old people of Odenwald have told me what their ancestors have told them of the forest-master, Otto Urich."
"Mr. Heil, was he the forest-master who lived in the same forest-house where we live?" asked Franz.
"Yes, the same log-building. Has your father ever told you of these forest-masters who once inhabited it?"
"Yes, he told us that once a member of the consistory came from Hanover to learn of the customs of the people of the Odenwald that he might write an article for publication. Some one had told him that one curious custom was that the fathers whipped their children every morning, and this punishment was to last all day. No matter how badly the children acted the rest of the day, they had received their punishment and there would be no more that day. The sons of Forest-master Urich were so amused at hearing this that every morning while the stranger staid in the neighborhood they yelled as if being cruelly beaten, and the visitor published the article in which was mentioned the barbarous custom of the people of the Odenwald. Forest-master Urich would often say in jest to his boys, 'Come now, and get your cudgeling, which is to serve you for the day.'"
"Yes, Franz, that has ever since been one of the sayings in our neighborhood," laughed Mr. Heil, and Mr. Urich heartily enjoyed hearing the tradition.
"Friends, relatives!" he commented, "I thought I had not one on my father's side of the house, and now I have found not only a helping friend, but one bound to me by the ties of blood. You are rejoicing over a few paltry marks for your children's home, while I rejoice that through the unlooked-for incident we have met. I had passed by that tall shrubbery hours before the pocketbook was found, and I had entirely forgotten that I had been there when my pocketbook was missing. Had it not been for the sharp scent of little Pixy, I am quite sure I would have been compelled to return to England without it."
"Yes, Pixy did help us all," said Mrs. Steiner, "and I have done the poor little dog much injustice. He is a prince in disguise, and has done two beautiful deeds at one and the same time by earning five hundred marks for the poor children's home, and introducing us to a relative of whom we are proud."
"Who is this relative?" was asked in the well-known voice of Uncle Braun, and the welcome visitor stepped into the circle of friends.
"Dear Uncle Braun," cried Fritz, "we are so glad to tell you that Pixy found a new uncle from England, and five hundred marks for the poor children's home. Now, wasn't it good that I brought him to Frankfort?"
"It certainly was. And is this the new relation? Perhaps he is mine also," and he held out his hand to Mr. Urich, which was grasped cordially.
As Mr. Heil and Mr. Braun were cousins on their mother's side and descended from the Forest-master Urich, their relation to the Englishman was equal and they sat and conversed with hearty appreciation of each other's society, at the same time listening to the sweet music which floated out from the pavilion.
"Excuse me a moment from your congenial company," said Mr. Urich, finally, and went to the part of the ground where vehicles of all kinds were kept.
"I have ordered an excursion carriage," he said to Mrs. Steiner, upon returning, "which will take us all to your door, if you will allow us the pleasure."
"I accept the kindness gladly," replied Mrs. Steiner, "and hope that Brother Fritz can accompany us. He is on his way to Cassel."
"Yes, I will have time to go with you, and will then have time to take the evening train for Cassel."
"You shall not lose any time by it," said Mr. Urich, "for I will take you directly to the depot from your sister's house."
"And you can leave Uncle Braun at his own door," suggested Fritz.
"Certainly I will, unless he will return with me and pass the evening."
It was a speedy and pleasant trip with a pair of spirited horses and a good driver and the boys could scarcely believe that they had reached 37 Bornheimer street. They bade Mr. Urich good-bye and thanked him for the pleasure he had given, and Mr. Heil accompanied his sister up the steps to her door. There they found a boy from the telegraph office who was just about to depart with his message, having had no response to his ringing of the bell.
"Whom is it for?" asked Fritz.
"For Mrs. Steiner."
"Oh, Brother Fritz," she said, "it is from your wife. I telegraphed to her this afternoon that Fritz had gone home, and asked her to send a message to me upon his arrival."
"Open it and see what she says," requested Mr. Heil, and she complied quickly and read: "Last train in. No Fritz. I am terribly anxious."
"Of course she is, but don't worry, sister," said Mr. Heil, noticing the tears in her eyes. "I will stop off at the telegraph office and send word to her that Fritz is here and will be home on Tuesday."
This was a great satisfaction to Mrs. Steiner. They all bade him good-night and entered her little home, going almost immediately to their rooms, weary with the excitements and pleasures of their day.
They slept soundly all night and until late the next morning, but ate breakfast in time to dress carefully for church, for Mrs. Steiner would not permit any one under her roof to remain at home if able to go. They came home to a good luncheon which Mrs. Steiner had prepared before the boys were up, and then attended a service in the great Cathedral that afternoon. They had passed a profitable day, and in the evening sat on the porch and chatted a little while before going to bed.
"Papa told me at the Forest-House last evening what we are to do to-morrow," remarked Fritz. "We are to leave here on the train at eleven o'clock and go to Umstadt. There we are to take dinner at the Swan hotel, and walk in the afternoon as far as that little village where we took dinner the day we came and stay there all night, and the next day we will walk on home. The Trojans will see that we are walking and will not know but we walked all the way unless we tell them."
"But why need you care if they do know that you rode part of the way both in coming to Frankfort, and going home?" asked his aunt.
"Because we told them that we were going to walk all the way, and we expected to do so, and they will plague us, and say we couldn't do it."
"Your satchel is to be sent by express, is it, Fritz?" asked Mrs. Steiner.
"No, Aunt Fanny. While you were talking to Uncle Braun and the new cousin, papa said that he would stop here on his way from Cassel and bring it home with him, and he will bring the bird cage and bird for sister. So we will have only our knapsacks as we had when we came. He said for me to put the tin horn and the grater in the satchel and not come through our village looking like a traveling tinker. I told him not to tell anybody about my being arrested, for the Trojans might hear it and would plague me."
The next morning at eleven the boys set out for home, Mrs. Steiner accompanying them to the depot. The fates seemed to favor Fritz, for when they reached the platform an old lady called from the car window, "You can bring your dog in here if no one else objects; I am a friend to dogs," and another lady and an old gentleman in the compartment agreed that they had no objection to having Pixy for a fellow traveler.
The triplets bade Mrs. Steiner good-bye and thanked her for her kindness to them, and she in turn invited them to come to visit her whenever their parents were willing.
"Your dog is young, I think," remarked the old gentleman.
"Yes," replied Fritz, "he is young, but he is very smart."
"Indeed!" commented the old gentleman. "In what way has he given evidence of his intelligence?"
"He earned five hundred marks on Saturday."
The old gentleman frowned, but Fritz, not noticing it, continued, "and he found a cousin of my father, who lives in England."
"Indeed! Then if your dog has such keen scent as to reach to England, perhaps he will go a step farther and tell us whether the old man in the moon smokes cigars or a pipe."
"But I am telling you the truth!" insisted Fritz.
The old gentleman paid no attention to him, but, taking up his paper, commenced reading attentively.
"Fritz, you ought to tell him how Pixy earned the money and found the cousin," whispered Paul.
"No, he won't listen," replied Fritz. And he was right; the old gentleman believed that the boy was treating him with disrespect by telling him such a wild story.
When the train reached Umstadt, and the boys came in sight of the Swan inn, they saw the landlord on the stone steps, his thumbs in his vest pockets and his fingers moving as if playing the piano.
"So, here you are again!" he exclaimed heartily. "Did you get homesick?"
"No, but school begins on Wednesday, and we wished to be on time."
"That was sensible. How did your dog act in that ant-hill, Frankfort?"
"He did well. He earned five hundred marks."
"Five hundred marks! Did he perform tricks in a circus? Of course, we know that he is a cute dog. Of course you have plenty of nickels now, and if you had sent on your order for dinner, you could have had spring chicken, peas, early apples, and other good things."
"Pixy did not perform in a circus, but he found a pocketbook belonging to an English gentleman. It had valuable papers in it, and English money, beside five hundred marks of German money."
"And that you kept."
"No, no! Please don't think so meanly of us."
"That is what I understood by what you said."
"No; let me tell you how it was. The gentleman who owned the pocketbook gave it to my father for the poor children's home in our neighborhood."
"Well, now I call that generous; and I am glad to know that we have such people in the world. If you are ready for dinner, come right to the table and take seats."
The boys were glad that they did not have to wait, and followed the broad-shouldered man to the dining-room. The landlady was already at the table, as were Letta and Peter, and all welcomed the young travelers cordially.
The soup was finished and the boys looked toward the kitchen door, wondering what substantials would be forthcoming. They had not long to wait, for the cook appeared with a veritable Chimborazo of an apple-dumpling mountain, piled tier upon tier; and there had to be a scattering of dishes to make place for the platter. The three Grecian heroes gave glances of approval and satisfaction. They had a special fondness for apple-dumplings, and approved of the size of each, calculating that there would be enough for all, no matter how insatiable the appetites. They took their forks in hand as a warrior would his spear, and the landlady had the gratification of seeing that city delicacies had not depreciated her humble country food in the opinion of the three.
After they had paid the cook the compliment of eating to the limit of possibility, and had laid down their forks preparatory to leaving the table the landlord gave them a bit of excellent advice.
"Boys," he said, "did you ever hear this rule for keeping in good health?"
'After breakfast work and toil; After dinner rest awhile; After supper walk a mile.'
"I would advise that you do not set out upon your journey so soon after eating, but rest at least half an hour, and for that purpose we will go to the reception-room, where there are comfortable chairs."
As soon as they were seated, and the landlady had taken her knitting, she asked if they had learned anything new in Frankfort.
"Yes," said Fritz, eagerly; "we learned to make coffee, and to cook potatoes and other things. My aunt let us help her."
"That was good; people ought to learn everything that comes in their way. Now tell us what you saw in Frankfort."
Nothing could have been pleasanter to the triplets than to live over again those hours of sight-seeing, and all three helped tell of their visit.
"Now listen to this," said the landlord, who had picked up a Frankfort paper:
"An Englishman lost his pocketbook on Saturday evening in the grounds of the Forest-house, in the suburbs of Frankfort. It contained valuable papers and money, and was found by a young man named Pixy from the Odenwald country, and delivered to the owner."
The landlord and his wife laughed at the mistake of the reporter until tears stood in their eyes; and then the three boys repeated the story again, and told of the English cousin, and of Uncle Braun, and ended by saying that they felt that they knew everybody and every place in Frankfort.
When they put on their knapsacks to depart, each took out his purse to pay their bill.
"Oh, no, boys," said the landlord, "I cannot take pay for your very plain dinner. You were our guests and were not the least trouble."
"Oh, thank you! thank you!" they said in concert, and Paul voiced the opinion of all, when he said that had they ordered it, they could not have gotten anything they would have enjoyed more.
The three then took generous tips from their purses, and put the money in the hand of their host.
"Will you please give this to Letta and Peter?" they asked.
"Certainly, certainly! and I thank you in their names for it. And now, boys, you will have to walk several miles to reach the little village where Fritz's father said you would stay over night on your way home."
"Did you see father?" asked the boy in surprise.
"Certainly! He would not think of going to Frankfort without stopping to see me."
They shook hands with the innkeeper and his wife, who invited them to come to see them the next time they went to Frankfort, and then took their departure for the Odenwald.
IN THE DESERTED CABIN
They walked along chatting until they were several miles from Umstadt, when Pixy stopped and looked intently toward a thicket of tall grass, giving one of his low growls, a sign of warning. The boys halted, for at that moment three rough heads were raised from the grass and three pairs of eyes were gazing intently at the travelers from three faces, which were not only dark but not entirely clean. The three were about seventeen years of age, and were apprentices of mechanics out upon a week's vacation. One was learning to be a butcher, another a blacksmith, and the third a basket maker. They had been walking all the morning and had lain down in the cool, tall grass to rest and sleep. They were rough-looking boys, and the triplets were rather sorry that Pixy's growl had caused them to rise and look about them.
"So you are three school boys out on your slide!" exclaimed the blacksmith, eyeing them curiously.
"Slide!" echoed Paul. "How can we slide when it is summer and no ice?"
"Oh, you greenhorns," laughed the boy. "You do not know that 'slide' means a holiday."
"We have been on our holiday, and are on our way home to go to school."
"School! I should run away from that instead of running to it," remarked the blacksmith, "no one there learns how to use the hammer and anvil to make a horse-shoe."
"But he learns other useful things," said Paul.
"What are you going to be when you grow up?"
"A teacher, like my father."
"Bah, a teacher! I suppose it is a great pleasure to cudgel some boy every day. Oh, what I have endured from teachers is more than I can tell."
"A good teacher knows how to manage a bad boy without using the cudgel. It is a weak teacher who knows no other way."
"Oh, just hear our wise one! Let me tell you that your father, great as you appear to think him, could not manage me."
"No, not now, but if you were a boy under his care you would see that he would manage you."
"What are you going to be?" he asked of Fritz.
"A clothing merchant, like my father."
"And cheat buyers by selling poor cloth."
"My father is no swindler," cried Fritz.
Franz had stood back; he did not like the looks of the group, but the roughest looking of the three now put the same question to him.
"A forest-keeper, like my father."
"Then it would be well for you to learn to be a butcher, as I am doing, so you could kill wild animals and dress them."
"Dress them!" exclaimed the boys in surprise.
"Yes, cut them up for packing, as we do cattle. Do you see this butcher knife?" and he held it up to view.
The triplets did not like the look of the butcher and his knife. They were anxious to move on and let the three strangers finish their sleep in the grass, but this was not the wish of their new acquaintances.
"I will tell you what we will do," said the butcher after the three had talked a moment in a low tone. "We are not far from a village where we intend begging food. We will each take one of you boys to help, and when we reach the end of the village we will divide what we have begged."
"No, we have never done that," cried Fritz. "We will not go from door to door holding out our hands."
"No, we cannot do that, but we will each give you a nickel," said Paul quickly, for he noticed frowns upon the faces of the strangers.
"Agreed!" said the three in a breath, and, rising to their feet, they held out their hands.
Paul and Franz gave out their share immediately, but Fritz fingered so long that the gold-piece fell out, and was seen by the three pairs of eyes. Fritz picked it up quickly and replaced it in his purse, and the three nickels were in the grimy hands of the strangers, who set out for the village.
"You should not have let that butcher boy see your gold-piece," said Paul. "We are traveling the same way, and we don't know what they are planning. The thief in Frankfort got your money out of your pocket with smooth words, but this butcher boy might take a shorter way."
"Let us lose no time in getting out of their path," advised Franz. "I believe the better plan would be to take a train home."
"Oh, no!" objected Fritz; "the Trojans would never get done laughing at us. It is bad enough that we have ridden part of the way, when we boasted so much of taking the whole trip on foot."
"But Paul is right about that butcher boy. I believe that he would stick a boy as willingly as he would a calf."
"I will tell you my plan," said Paul. "Those three tramps have taken the main road; we will take the forest, and walk along where we can see them, and they cannot see us. Then if they strike off in another direction we will come out in the road again."
"That is a first-rate plan," said Fritz; "and it will be so cool and pleasant in the woods."
The boys now took a long look at the apprentices, fearing they would turn and see them enter the woods; but no, they were passing along quietly, and the three darted in, and felt that they had escaped a great misfortune. For a long time they kept the road in sight, then, without them knowing how, it disappeared from view, although they believed that they had been keeping a straight course. It seemed to have grown suddenly dark, and there was the low rumbling of thunder.
"That is the reason that it is growing dark; a storm is coming up," remarked Paul. "We must have a place of shelter. Let us hurry to the road, and it may be that we will see a house or barn."
It was raining fast by this time. It had not occurred to them to take their rain-coats from their knapsacks, but trudged along in the downpour, the woods now so dark that they could scarcely see each other.
"I wish I had something to eat," said Fritz. "I am as hungry as a wolf."
"And I," seconded Franz.
"And I," agreed Paul.
"Follow me, and we will soon be out of this dark woods," commanded Fritz.
The others obeyed, stumbling over stones, tripping over roots, and running against stumps and briars; but they kept along cheerfully, believing that they would soon reach the road where it would not be so dark.
"I wish I had a piece of that cake that Uncle Braun bought for us the day we went to the tower," remarked Fritz.
"Oh, don't speak of it! It makes me hungrier than ever," said Paul.
"Oh, boys, I see a light, a dim one, but it may be in a house, and the people will give us something to eat. I told you I would lead you right if you would follow me."
"If it is a house, and they will give us some straw to sleep on, we will not try to reach the village where we were to stay all night, for I believe it is growing late," suggested Paul.
"Oh, we have come to a swamp," cried Fritz. "Halt! my shoes are full of water. Now one of them has come off, and is sticking in the mud."
"Here it is," said Paul as he pulled it out, "take it and put it on."
"But I can't stand and put it on. What shall I do?"
"You cannot sit down in the swamp, that is certain. Here, Franz, do you get on one side of him and I on the other and we will hold him up while he puts it on. Now, Fritz, hurry."
Fritz took his shoe, shook out the water, and tried his best to make it go on, but without success. His comrades on either side put out a helping hand, but lost their balance, and all three sat down suddenly in the swamp.
"Now we are wet in the only place we were dry," exclaimed Paul.
"Yes," comforted Fritz, "but my shoe is on, so it is well that we did sit down."
"But there was no need for us all to sit down. If you had taken a seat at first, we could have kept dry."
"But see! the light is still there. Let us hurry. Oh, how glad I am to know that we will see people."
They soon reached a small, dark cabin, old and dilapidated, yet it was shelter; and they rejoiced that they had found it. As they neared it, they smelled the welcome odor of frying sausage.
The only light that came through the one little window was from the small fire on the hearth and in this dim light the boys saw two figures bending over the fire, and one by the door, which stood slightly ajar.
Only a few more steps and they were up to the door, and there stood the butcher-boy with knife in hand. Fritz felt that the knife was already at his throat. He fell back upon Franz, and Franz upon Paul, and they were about to flee.
"Here are the three stubborn little tramps that would not beg, but are willing to eat what we begged. But come in, boys, and keep quiet, or some prying forester will come along and drive us out in the rain."
The boys drew back, for they were startled and distressed at having run directly into the lion's claws.
"Come in, you simpletons! Are you afraid that I will kill you?"
"No wonder they are afraid when you are flourishing that big knife," said the basket-maker. "Come in, boys. He has it only to cut our meat and bread. He would not use it on a person because he knows he would have to suffer for it."
The boys were afraid of them all, but night was coming on, it was raining, and there seemed nothing else to do, so they stepped in, followed by Pixy, who had sniffed the odor of sausage.
"Now you can set the table. The sausage is done," said the blacksmith, and while the butcher shut the door, the basket-maker hung his coat across the little window to hide the light from outside, and more fuel was piled on the fire, which soon blazed up and brightened the dingy place.
A newspaper was placed in the centre of the floor and a large paper bag was emptied of its contents upon it, a motley mess of bread, brown and white, scraps of meat, cheese and other things they had begged.
"Now fall to, yellow bills," said the butcher to the triplets. "Your money bought this sausage, and you have a right to share it," and he gave them a liberal supply on slices of brown bread.
The boys were hungry and ate heartily, though realizing that they were beggars and were being entertained by beggars.
"Your dog must have his supper," said the butcher-boy when they had finished and, putting scraps of bread, meat and other things into the pan in which the sausage had been fried, he stirred it about and poured it upon a piece of paper, and Pixy devoured it greedily.
As soon as the supper was finished, the travelers prepared for sleep.
"Let us put on our rain-coats," suggested Paul. "They will help dry our clothes and keep us warm."
"Why didn't you put them on before it rained?" asked the basket-maker. "That is like locking the stable after the horse is stolen."
"We never thought of it," responded Fritz. They took the rain-coats from their knap sacks, put them on and felt immediate comfort; then all lay down with their feet toward the fire, Pixy close to Fritz.
"I am tired, and could sleep if I were not so thirsty," murmured Paul.
"Well, donkey, there is nothing to hinder you from getting a drink," said the rough voice of the butcher-boy. "Go quietly out the door, turn to the left and there is a spring of good water, which you can scoop up in your hands. Hurry in and shut the door, or some one of the forest-keepers will ferret us out."
The boys arose quickly and went out, followed by Pixy. It had stopped raining, but the woods looked very dark and gloomy.
"Let us run away and leave our knapsacks," said Fritz. "I don't like to be in the company of such people."
"Nor do I," agreed the other two, and there was a pause for reflection.
"Where could we go?" asked Paul. "We would only get lost again in the woods."
"But I am afraid of that butcher with his knife," said Fritz.
"That basket-maker would not let him hurt us."
"Are you coming in or not?" asked the rough voice of the butcher-boy at the door, so they hurried in, and closed the door.
The boys lay near each other for company, and Pixy crept close to Fritz, who rejoiced that he was with them.
After a time the butcher-boy raised his head and whispered, "Boys, are you asleep?"
"No," replied Fritz, with a thrill of alarm which almost deprived him of speech.
"Now keep your mouths shut," was the next whisper. "I hear something outside."
The boys obeyed, though they longed to cry out, "Come, whoever you are, and take us out of this miserable place."
There was one of the party who resolved not to obey the command, and that was Pixy. He, too, heard the noise outside, and sprang against the door, barking shrilly.
"I will kill that dog if he don't keep quiet," said the butcher-boy in an angry but subdued tone.
Fritz groped his way to his pet and put his hand over his mouth, but it was too late. The forest-keeper outside had heard the barking, and striking his musket upon the door, he asked, "Who's there?"
It was now no use to keep silent and Fritz took it upon himself to answer.
"Good friend, we are three boys on our holiday journey. We have been to Frankfort, and are on our way home to Michelstadt."
"Who is in there with you?"
"Three working people who allowed us to take shelter here from the rain."
The forest-keeper opened the door, struck a light in his lantern and stepped in.
"What brought you in here?" he asked of the three grown travelers.
"There is no need to ask. You know that it has been raining," replied the butcher-boy doggedly.
"Yes, but it is not raining now. Go out of here! You might set the cabin on fire, and then the woods would be ablaze."
The triplets were ready in a moment's time, and eager to go, but not so the others.
"The fire is out. What is the use of moving on until daylight?"
"Because it is against orders to allow anyone to stay in this cabin. Wake up your comrade, and all of you leave."
This was a hard task, for the blacksmith was a sound sleeper, but by dint of calling and pushing they got him partly awake.
"What is it you want?" he said, looking sleepily at the forest-keeper. "Go out of here. There is no room for you."
"Nor for you! Up, up, and out!"
"Out in the rain? No. I will not go," and he lay down again.
The other two drew him to his feet, and told him that it was the forest-keeper who was commanding them to leave the cabin.
"But where are we to go?" he asked. "We cannot sleep out in the rain."
"No, you are all to follow me to my house. I can have an eye over you there, and it will be less of an anxiety than to leave you to yourselves in this cabin."
They all passed out, the triplets with Pixy keeping close to the forester and his lantern.
A WELL-SPRING OF PLEASURE
They walked what seemed to the boys a long distance through the forest. The rain had ceased, and the moon was trying to shed its rays through thin clouds, but in the dense shade the only light was the little circle upon the moist earth, given by the small lantern.
After a time a voice cried, "Who goes there?"
"Hans Hartman, my good friend," replied the forest-keeper.
"All right!" and another forest-keeper stood before them, much surprised to see seven instead of one.
"Have you captured poachers?"
"No, the older ones are gypsies," for in the dim light of the cabin he was quite sure that they belonged to that army of rovers.
"Are we then so dark?" asked the basket-maker, amused at the mistake.
"All animals look dark at night."
"Except a white cow," suggested the butcher.
"But, Hartman, you have three boys with you," continued the forest-keeper. "So young and yet night-strollers!"
"No, these boys are all right. They have been passing their holiday in Frankfort, and are on their way home. They got lost in the forest, the rain came up and they took shelter in the abandoned cabin. One of them tells me that he is the son of Forest-keeper Krupp."
The forester said good-night, and they walked on for some distance and at length came to a clearing in the forest. Looking up, they could see the unchangeable stars, the same that looked down upon Mother Earth when she was fresh from the hands of her Creator. A tinkling brook lay across their path, which the forester cleared at a bound, and the three apprentices followed. The triplets halted to view the situation, but Pixy sprang across, then looked back as if to say, "It is nothing. Just give a spring and you are on this side," and they ran back, gave a long jump and were over.
A short distance beyond was the forest-keeper's cottage, a comfortable place for weary travelers on a wet night.
"I cannot give you all a sleeping place in my house," he said, "but can make room for the three smaller boys. You larger ones can go to the straw shed. You will find plenty of clean, dry straw, and there you can sleep until morning and shall have a good breakfast before you leave. But before we part for the night, you must turn your pockets inside out that I may see that you have no matches or anything else that will strike a spark."
They agreed willingly, and he then led the way to the shed, took from a feed box a number of coarse sacks for covering and said good-night.
"We are thankful to you for giving us this comfortable place to sleep," said the blacksmith. "We thought it harsh treatment to make us leave the cabin, but you have given us better quarters and we are truly obliged to you. You are certainly good to us."
"Yes, I try to be good to everybody, especially to hard-working boys out on their holiday, when I find that they are not common tramps who do not wish to work."
He left the shed and the boys followed him to his dwelling, and to a room adjoining the living-room.
"There are two straw-beds on this bedstead," he said. "One can be taken off and put on the floor, and one of you can sleep upon it, while the other two can have the one on the bedstead."
"I will take the one on the floor. Then Pixy can sleep with me," said Fritz.
"Suit yourselves about that, only take off your wet clothes, shoes and stockings, and my wife will put them about the kitchen fire, and they will be dry by morning."
The boys hurriedly disrobed, and the forest-keeper bade them good-night, and left the room.
Paul and Franz crept jubilantly under the coverings of the bed, and Fritz was equally glad for the piece of carpet which the forest-keeper had given him in lieu of a quilt, and with Pixy close to him, he was happier than many a king.
"Oh, it was good luck for us that Mr. Hartman came and took us away from that miserable place," exclaimed Paul the moment the door closed.
"I never was gladder in my life," affirmed Franz. "Now we feel safe, and are dry and warm and in good beds where we can sleep well."
"And whom have we to thank for it but the young gentleman from Odenwald—my Pixy," reminded Fritz. "If he had not barked, the forest-keeper would not have known we were there. Oh, we are so comfortable here, aren't we, Pixy? And we have you to thank for it."
Early the next morning the forester's wife went to the kitchen to make the wood fire on the hearth brighter, that the boys' garments might be thoroughly dry; for she had planned that they should sleep as long as they wished, and she would give the three apprentices their breakfast first that they might continue their journey. She made coffee and warm bread, and was putting them upon the table when she saw them come up from the brook, where they had washed hands and faces and combed their hair. Refreshed by rest and sleep, they looked much better than when the triplets first saw them.
The forest-keeper, who had risen early to attend to matters about the place, came in just as they finished their breakfast.
"I hope you slept well and have enjoyed your coffee," he said kindly.
"We enjoyed both heartily, Forest-master, and thank you for your goodness to us."
"Forest-master, you say? I am not that but only one of the keepers."
"We would do you honor, which is our reason for calling you by that name."
"But you do not honor one by giving him a higher title than he is entitled to. Instead it humiliates him, or he thinks you are making sport of him."
"We did not mean it in either way, Mr. Hartman."
"I believe you, so we will not say anything more about it."
"Then, good-bye, Mr. Forester, and we thank you and your wife for your goodness to us. We will long remember that coffee. Tell the boys good-bye for us. They were afraid of us, but we meant them no harm. Good-bye! Good-bye!"
The forester's wife now prepared breakfast for her husband and herself. The blazing fire upon the hearth was doing its duty in bringing the boys' clothing to the state desired while they were sleeping the sleep of tired boyhood. They did not waken until near noon, but this would allow them to reach home before night; and they enjoyed their first meal of the day, arrayed in their dry and neatly-brushed garments, and refreshed by bathing their hands, faces and feet in the brook.
The day was bright and delightfully cool after the rain, and in fine spirits they bade the forest-keeper's wife good-bye as they set out for home.
"Their parents will be rejoiced to see them," she said to herself as she watched them out of sight, "for no doubt they have felt somewhat anxious about them, for they are young to be allowed to take a journey. How helpless are our children! A young chicken will search for food while part of its shell is clinging to it, and the young of animals are upon their feet and helping themselves in a few weeks; but not so our children. They must be under the tender care of father and mother until past childhood, and it is best so, for it binds parents and children in the ties of family life and love. May the dear boys reach home safely and find all well."
The triplets had in the meantime nearly reached the main road to which they had been carefully directed by Mrs. Hartman, her husband having gone to his duties in the forest hours before. They were singing one of their school songs, when it occurred to Paul that something had been omitted.
"Oh, boys," he said, "we have forgotten to thank the lady for her goodness to us. She dried and brushed our clothes and gave us a good breakfast, and tried to restore our hats to good shape after they had been soaked with rain, and we came away and never thanked her!"
This was indeed an oversight which boys so well-bred felt must be rectified, and they turned their faces again toward the cottage. But they had not gone far when the forest-keeper, who had heard them singing, joined them; and they told him their trouble.
"Oh, I will make that all right!" he said. "You need not go back. I will tell her all that you wished to say."
"Tell her that we are very much obliged to her for her kindness to us," said Fritz, "and tell her our breakfast was first-class and we enjoyed it."
"And tell her," said Paul, "that she made our clothes dry and clean and it is not her fault that our hats could not be straightened to look like they did before it rained."
"Nor," added Franz, "was it her fault that they are stained by the color coming out of the bands and running into the straw. Please tell her we are obliged, just the same."
"I will tell her all," replied Hartman, making a laudable effort to keep from smiling, "and now good-bye, and a safe journey home."
The boys touched their hats, and turned their faces again toward the road, when Paul halted and looked back. "There now!" he said, "we forgot to thank the forest-keeper for his goodness to us, and we would have had to sleep in our wet clothes and had no good beds or breakfast, had it not been for him. Let us run back and thank him."
It seemed that Mr. Hartman had a presentiment that the triplets would have something more to say, for he had halted and was looking after them.
"We forgot to thank you for your goodness to us," they exclaimed when within speaking distance; "and we ran back to tell you."
"That is all right," he answered heartily. "We were glad to entertain you, and hope that you will come to see us again."
"Thank you; we will if we can," replied Paul, then all said good-bye, touched their hats and set out again for the road.
Presently Mr. Hartman saw their heads together in earnest conversation, and waited, believing that they had something more to say, and he was not mistaken, for they ran back, and Franz this time was spokesman.
"We forgot to invite you to come to see us," he said earnestly. "Fritz and Paul said that you would not care to visit boys not yet twelve years of age, but I said that my father is a forest-keeper like you, and I would invite you to visit him; so I do invite you and hope you will come."
"I thank you heartily and would be glad to make his acquaintance."
"And when you visit Franz's father, you can visit mine," suggested Fritz.
"And mine," echoed Paul.
"If it should suit me at any time to visit Michelstadt, I would certainly be pleased to make the acquaintance of the fathers of such gentlemanly boys."
The triplets smiled, touched their hats, started off again and were soon out of sight.
The journey that beautiful afternoon was truly charming, the sun shining brightly and all nature refreshed from its bath the evening before, and birds singing jubilantly in the trees by the roadside, but best of all, they were going home, would see all their loved ones before sunset, and would hear of the many, many things that had transpired during their absence.
"When we come in sight of the village, we will be as quiet as mice," remarked Fritz. "I would not have the Trojans see us for anything."
"Why?" asked Paul.
"Because we look so shabby with our battered hats and our rusty shoes."
"I will tell you what we can do," suggested Franz. "Our house comes first, and although it is only on the edge of the forest, it is easy for you two to go through the woods back of it, and come out at your own houses, and not a person in the village will know that we are at home until we choose to show ourselves."
This stroke of policy was such a comfort that the spirits of the boys grew so jubilant that they laughed, chatted and sang, and even organized a parade in which Franz was drummer and Fritz and Paul fifers.