AT HOME WHERE ALL ARE HAPPY.
When Otto and his sister came noisily in through the deep stone entrance of their father's house, the old servant Trine appeared in a doorway holding a light high above her head to see whence came all the uproar, and from whom. "So," at last she said, half scoldingly, half pleasantly; "your mother has been asking for you for a long time, but there was no trace of you, although it struck eight nobody knows how long ago." Old Trine had been maid-servant in the family when the children's mother came into the world, so she was an authority in the household, and felt that she was one of its members,—to tell the truth, the very head of the establishment; for surely she was the oldest in age and experience. The dear old woman was fairly foolish in her fondness for her master's children, and very proud of all their qualities and acquisitions. She would not let this be seen, however, but employed an indignant tone when speaking to them; for she thought it best for their education not to appear perfectly satisfied with their conduct.
"Off with your shoes, on with your slippers!" she called out at once, according to rule; but her order was immediately executed by the commander, for she knelt before Otto while she spoke, to take off his wet shoes. He had sunk down upon the nearest seat. His little sister stood perfectly still in the middle of the room without stirring, which was such an unusual circumstance, that Trine looked over her shoulder two or three times to see what it could mean. Now that Otto was equipped, it was Pussy's turn to sit down and be attended to; but she stood stock still, and did not stir. "Well, well! if we wait there until summer comes, our shoes will get dry of themselves," said Trine, still on her knees. "Hsh, hsh, Trine! I hear something. Who is in the big parlor?" said Pussy, lifting her forefinger up a little threateningly. "Everybody who has dry shoes: nobody else admitted. Now make up your mind to sit down," said Trine. But instead of sitting down, Pussy made a spring upward, and cried, "Now I hear it again; Uncle Max laughs just like that." "What!" cried Otto, and reached the parlor-door with one leap.
"Wait, wait!" Pussy called after him, and ran to the door at the same time; but she was caught and placed on the seat, although old Trine had hard work to get the shoes off the little kicking feet; but perseverance at last accomplished the business, and off ran Pussy out of one door and through the other into the big parlor, where truly sat Uncle Max in the arm-chair. Now there was a fine jubilee, and a hugging and kissing over and over. Uncle Max certainly made as much noise as the children, and it was a long time before they were quieted enough to speak a rational word to each other. A visit from this uncle was always a time of great delight for the children, and with good reason, for he was extravagantly fond of them. He was a great traveller, and only came to see them once in two years; but then he made up for his long absence by giving himself entirely to his little friends as if he were no older than they; and the queer and enchanting presents that he had stuffed into every pocket for his little niece and nephew would be hard to describe.
Uncle Max was a naturalist, and travelled to every corner of the world, bringing back something curious and interesting from each place.
At last supper was served, to the immense satisfaction of the whole party,—for the children always brought home new appetites from the coasting-ground, and were prepared, both old and young, to do full justice to the steaming dishes set before them.
"Well," said Colonel Ritter, glancing across the table at his little daughter, who was seated beside her mother, and already too busily engaged in satisfying her hunger to look up from her plate. "Well, well; it seems rather strange to think that Pussy has no hand to spare for her papa to-day. I have not had one single kiss, and now it is too late."
With a contrite air Pussy pushed back her plate, saying, "O papa, I forgot! I will give you"—
But her father said, quickly, "No, no; do not make a disturbance now, child. Give me your hand across the table; we will have the rest later. That will do now, Pussy."
"What was this child christened, Marie? I was certainly present at the ceremony, but I have utterly forgotten her name. Not Pussy, I am sure," said Uncle Max, laughing.
"You certainly were present, Max," replied his sister, "for you are the child's godfather. She was named Marie. At this time her father nicknamed her Pussy, and Otto has multiplied that in the most nonsensical manner."
"Oh, no, mamma; not nonsensical," cried Otto, quite seriously. "You see, uncle, it follows in very sensible order. When the little thing is gentle and good, then I call her 'Pussy.' That is not always the case, however, and 'Puss' does for some of her moods; but when she is angry, and looks like a regular cross-patch, then I call her 'Old Cat.'"
"Yes, yes, Otto," answered his sister; and when you are angry, you look like a—like a"—
"Like a man," said Otto; and as Pussy had no better comparison ready, she went on busily eating her pudding.
Uncle Max laughed heartily. "Pussy is right," he said. "She does far better in pursuing her present occupation than in answering back such slanders. But, children," he began again, after a pause, "it is more than a year since I was here, and you have not told me about any thing that has taken place during my absence."
The latest events were those that occurred first to the children; and they began to tell, generally both speaking together, the story of Cheppi's rude treatment of Wiseli on the coast, and of how cold the girl was, and how she stood shivering in the snow, and had no sled of her own, but got a chance to coast down twice after all.
"That is right, Otto," said his father. "You must honor your name. You must always be a true knight for the persecuted and unprotected. Who is this Wiseli?"
"You cannot know any thing about the girl nor her mother," said his wife. "But Uncle Max knows Wiseli's mother very well. You remember that thin weaver who was our neighbor, don't you, brother? He had an only daughter with big brown eyes, who often came to us at the parsonage, and sang so sweetly. Can't you remember her now?"
While Uncle Max was trying to recall the somewhat fading recollections of his youth, old Trine put her head into the room, saying,—
"The carpenter Andrew would like to speak to you, Mrs. Ritter, if it will not disturb you too much."
This apparently innocent message produced a wonderful effect upon the whole family. Mrs. Ritter put down the tablespoon, with which she was about to help her brother a second time to fruit, and said hastily, "If you will excuse me, gentlemen," and left the room. Otto sprang up so quickly that he knocked his chair over backwards, and then fell over it himself in his haste to get away. Pussy was about to follow the others; but her uncle, seeing the movement, put his arms about her, and held her fast. She struggled, however, and said, entreatingly,—
"Let me go, uncle; let me go. Really, I must go."
"Where do you want to go, Pussy?"
"To see the carpenter Andrew. Let me go quickly. Help, papa; help!"
"If you will tell me what you have to say to the carpenter, I will let you go."
"The sheep has only two legs left, and no tail at all; and the carpenter is the only person who can mend him. Now do let me go!" And now Pussy was off too.
The gentlemen looked at each other, and Max burst out into a merry laugh. "Who is this carpenter Andrew, pray, who seems to have the power of attracting your whole family to his feet?"
"You ought to be able to answer that question better than I," replied the colonel. "He must also be one of the friends of your youth. The fever of adoration you ought to understand also: it must be one of your family characteristics; and your sister has introduced it into her family. I can only tell you this much: this Andrew is the very corner-stone of my house. Every thing depends upon him, and we should all fall to pieces if his support were withdrawn from us. Andrew is the counsellor, comforter, safety, and aid in any trouble. If my wife thinks she wants any utensil for household use, even if she does not know how it should look, nor what use to put it too, Andrew the carpenter invents it, and makes it on the spot. If the kitchen is on fire, or the water gives out there, or in the laundry, Andrew the carpenter smothers the fire, and procures floods of water. If my son does some sad piece of mischief, Andrew the carpenter repairs the damage in a trice. If my daughter smashes all the crockery, Andrew the carpenter glues it together at once. So you see that this man is really the very pillar of my edifice; and if any thing should happen to him, we should straightway go to pieces."
Mrs. Ritter had returned to the room during this account of Andrew the carpenter's virtues, and her husband had heightened the description for her benefit. Uncle Max shouted with laughter.
"Yes, laugh away; laugh away!" said she. "For all that, I know very well what a treasure I possess in Andrew the carpenter."
"So do I, for that matter," said her husband, laughing merrily.
"I do, too," said Pussy, heartily, who was again on her seat at table.
"So do I," grumbled Otto, while he rubbed his shins, that ached from his recent fall over the chair.
"Well, now we are all of one mind about it, and the children can go quietly to bed," said their mother. These words did not tend to restore quiet, for the children became rebellious; but it was useless. Old Trine stood on the threshold, and was ready to carry out the family rules and regulations. Off marched the children, and presently their mother also disappeared again; for there were the evening prayers to be said, and she never failed to be at their bedside for that.
When, at last, every thing was in order in the house, Mrs. Ritter joined the gentlemen once more.
"At last!" said the colonel, with a sigh of relief, as if he had vanquished the enemy. "Now you see how it is, Max. My wife belongs first of all to the carpenter Andrew, then to the children, and only to her husband when there is nothing else for her to do."
"And now you see, Max," said his sister, laughing, "that, although my husband speaks scornfully of Andrew the carpenter, he does assign him a very high rank after all. Now acknowledge that, won't you? He has just given me a message for you. He has brought his yearly savings with him to-day, and begs for your assistance."
"That is true," said the colonel. "A more orderly, industrious, reliable man I do not know. I would trust my wife, my children, my goods and chattels to him rather than to any one else. He is the most honorable, trustworthy man in this parish, or in any other, I do believe."
"Now you see, Max," said his sister, laughing, "I could not say more than that." Her brother joined with her in her amusement at the zest which the colonel showed. Then he said,—
"You have all been so full of the praises of your marvel, that I have become curious, at last, to know where he comes from, and how he looks. Have I never seen him when I have visited you?"
"Oh, yes! you used to know him perfectly well," replied his sister. "You must remember Andrew, with whom we went to school. Don't you recall the two brothers who were always in the same classes with you? The elder was even then a perfect good-for-nothing,—he was not stupid, but would not study, and did not get on, and was put down into one of the lower classes with his brother and you. You must remember him,—his name was Jorg, and he had stiff, black hair. He always pelted us with something whenever he got a chance,—with green apples or pears, and in winter with snow-balls,—and always called us 'aristocrats.'"
"Oh, that fellow!" cried Max. "Yes; now I do remember all about him. Certainly he always called us 'aristocrats.' I wonder how he got hold of that word. He was a disagreeable fellow: I remember that well. I caught him once thrashing a little fellow most cruelly. I helped the little one, and he shouted after me at least twelve times in succession, 'Aristocrat, aristocrat!' And now it comes back to me about the other one, the lean Andrew, his brother. He was your Andrew, was he not, Marie?—the Andrew with the violets? Oh, now I comprehend this great friendship," said Max, laughing again.
"What is this about the violets? I want to know all about that," said the colonel.
"Oh! I can see the whole thing just as it happened as plainly as if it were only yesterday," said Max, quite animated over his recollections. "I must tell you all about it, Otto. You have probably heard from your wife that we had here, in the happy time of our childhood, an old schoolmaster, whose creed was that all faults could be whipped out of, and all virtues be whipped into, the children under his care. So he felt himself constrained to whip a great deal either for one thing or the other, and very often for both at once. Andrew's turn came one day, and the master applied his well-meant rule so heartily that poor, thin Andrew screamed with pain. At this moment my little sister, who had only entered the school a short time before, and did not understand the rules very well, stood up from her seat and hastened to the door. The teacher held his hand for a moment, and shouted after her, 'Where are you running to?' Marie turned about. The tears were running down her cheeks, and she said, very decidedly, 'I am going home to tell my father.' 'Wait, I will teach you!' cried the master, in the greatest surprise, and sprung after the girl. He did not strike her, however, but took her roughly by the arm, and set her down very hard upon the bench; then he said again, 'Wait, I will teach you!'
"It was the end of that, however. He did not touch Andrew again, and every thing passed off quietly that day. But the tears that Marie had shed for Andrew, and her protest against the whippings, were not forgotten. From that day forward a big bunch of violets was always placed on Marie's desk, and the whole room was perfumed with them; and later a still better scent filled the air, for there were every day great bunches of dark red strawberries, such as nobody else knew how to find. And so it went on for the whole year; but how the friendship reached the height at which it now stands, that I will leave to my sister to relate, for I do not know myself."
The colonel was much pleased with this story of the tears and the violets, and begged his wife to tell more about it. She said, "According to you, Max, violets and strawberries grow all the year round; but, in truth, it is not exactly the fact. But it is true that the good Andrew was never tired of bringing in any thing that he thought would give me pleasure all through the time we were in the school together. He left long before I did, and went to learn his trade of a joiner in the city. He came home very often, however, so that I never really lost sight of him; and when my husband bought this piece of land and we were married, it happened, also, that Andrew bought property, and wished to be settled. He had lost his parents, and was quite by himself, and a first-rate workman. He wanted the little house with the neat, pretty garden down there half-way to the church; but was not able to purchase it, because the owner wished for full payment at once, and Andrew could only pay in instalments, as he earned the money.
"But we knew all about him and his work. My husband purchased the place for him, and he has never had the least reason to regret it."
"No, indeed I have not," added the colonel. "Andrew has long ago paid for his house, and now he always brings me the yearly amount of his labor; and a very pretty sum it is, too. I invest it well for him, and have a sincere satisfaction in the welfare of the sturdy fellow. He is already a very well-to-do man, and adds to his property every year, and can make his little house into a big one if he have a mind to do so, the good Andrew. It is too bad that he is such a hermit, and cannot, therefore, properly enjoy his home and his possessions."
"Has he, then, neither wife nor family?" asked Max. "And what has become of his disagreeable brother Jorg?"
"No; he has really nobody," replied his sister. "He lives entirely alone, and really like a hermit. He has had a long and very sad history that I have been witness to, and which has taken away all the desire he once might have felt to look for a wife. His brother Jorg wandered about here in a disreputable way for several years, never working, but in the hope of getting something, by his infamous behavior, out of his family, who were respectable people, quite unlike himself. But, at last, he saw that there was no chance of this, and even the kind Andrew refused to pay any more of his debts, or to help him out of any more scrapes, so he disappeared, nobody knows where; but everybody rejoiced that he was out of the way."
"What was the sad story of which you spoke, Marie?" asked her brother. "I want to hear that, too."
"So do I," said the colonel; and lighted another cigar, in order to enjoy the tale more thoroughly.
"But, my dear husband," objected his wife, "I have at least told you this story ten times over."
"Really," said the colonel, quietly, "it seems that it pleases me then, if I ask for it again."
"Oh, do begin!" said her brother.
"You cannot have forgotten the child, Max," began his sister, "of whom I was speaking yesterday, who lived quite near to us. She belonged to the pale, thin weaver, whose shuttle we could always hear moving back and forth when we stood in our garden. The child always looked clean and neat, and had great lively, sparkling eyes, and beautiful brown hair. Her name was Aloise."
"I never knew anybody by the name of Aloise in my life," interrupted Max at this point.
"Oh! to be sure not," said his sister. "We never called her so, you especially. 'Wisi' we called her, to the horror of our dear departed mother. Don't you remember, now, how often you said yourself that we must get Wisi to sing with us when mamma played songs for us on the piano, and we could not make it go at all without Wisi's help?"
At last Max seemed to remember about it, and laughed at the recollection. "Oh, yes! I remember Wisi," he cried. "Yes, certainly that was Wisi. I can see her now, before my eyes, with her bright face, as she stood by the piano and sang so cheerily. I was very fond of her. I was very fond of her,—of Wisi. She was very pretty, too. I remember, too, what a shock it always seemed to mamma when I said, 'Wisi.' I really never knew her proper name."
"Oh, yes, you did," replied his sister; "because mamma always said it was perfectly barbarous to change the pretty name of Aloise into 'Wisi.'"
"I certainly never heard it each time," said Max. "But pray what has become of this Wisi?"
"You remember she was in my class at school, and we kept along together; and I often think of how Andrew always befriended and stood up for the girl through thick and thin, and that she knew well how to turn his friendship to good account.
"When she came with her slate full of examples, like the rest of us, her figures were not often correct; but she put the slate, with a merry laugh, on her desk, and lo! soon the sums were all rightly set down, for Andrew had put them in order. It often happened that she smashed a pane in the schoolroom window, or shook down the schoolmaster's plums in the garden; and yet Andrew was always the one who took the blame of these misdeeds,—not that anybody accused him, but he himself used to say, half aloud, that he believed it was his fault that the glass was broken, or the plums shaken down, and so he got the punishment. We children all knew well enough who was to blame; but we let it go, we were so used to it, and were so fond of the merry Wisi, that we all were pleased when she escaped punishment.
"Wisi had always pocketfuls of apples, pears, and nuts, that all came from Andrew; for every thing that he had, or could procure, he used to stuff into Wisi's satchel. I used often to wonder how it happened that the quiet Andrew liked the very most unruly and gayest girl in the school, and I also wondered whether she returned his affection. She was always very friendly with him, but she was the same with others; and as I once asked our mother how it could be, she shook her head a little, and said, 'I am afraid,—I am afraid that the nice little Aloise is a trifle heedless, and may have to suffer for it.' These words gave me much food for thought, and recurred to me again and again.
"We went together to the Bible-class; and every Sunday evening Wisi used to come regularly to our house, and we sang hymns together to the piano. She particularly enjoyed this. She knew all the lovely songs by heart, and sang them clearly and well; and mamma and I were very much pleased to know that Wisi liked to sing, and went gladly to the Bible-class, and seemed to take the religious teaching very much to heart. She had grown into a fine large girl now, with bright eyes; and, although she did not look very strong, like the peasant girls in the villages, still she had a fine color, and was far prettier than any of them.
"At this time Andrew was learning his trade in the town, but invariably came home on Sundays. He always came up to the parsonage to call, and was inclined to talk to me about our former schooldays; and gradually we worked round to Wisi, and talked about her most of the time. Andrew spoke most eloquently and feelingly on this subject; and, although everybody else had adopted the name 'Wisi' for Aloise, he never called her so, but said 'Wiseli' so softly and prettily, that it was very sweet to hear.
"But one Sunday (we were not quite eighteen years old, Wisi and I,—mamma was with us that evening) Wisi came in looking very rosy, and said that she had come to tell us that she was betrothed to a young workman who had come lately to live in the village, and that they would soon be married, as he had a good position, and it was arranged that they could be married in about twelve days. I was so surprised, and so sorry, that I could not say a word. Neither did my mother speak for a long time, but looked very much troubled.
"After a time she talked very seriously with Wisi,—told her that it was foolish in her to have taken up so quickly with a workman of whom she really could know very little, and especially when there was another who had sought her for long years, and plainly shown her how much he loved her; and, at last, she asked her if it could not be broken off, this engagement,—or, at least, put off for a while, Wisi was still so young, and ought to remain with her father. Then Wisi began to cry, and said that it was all arranged; that she had given her promise, and that her father was pleased. So my mother said no more about it; but poor Wisi cried bitterly, until my mother took her by the hand, and led her to the piano, and said kindly, 'Dry your tears: we will sing together.' And she played the accompaniment, and we sang,—
"'To God you must confide Your sorrow and your pain; He will true care provide, And show you heaven again.
"'For clouds and air and wind He points the path and way; Your road He'll also find, Nor let your footsteps stray.'
"After this, Wisi left us apparently comforted, and my mother spoke kindly to her at parting; but I felt very sadly about the whole affair. I had a conviction that poor Wisi had passed her happiest days, and would never be light-hearted again; and I could not express my sorrow for Andrew. What would he say? He said nothing,—not one word,—but went about for several years like a shadow, and became more silent than ever, and had no longer the quietly happy expression that formerly distinguished him."
"Poor fellow!" cried Max. "And did he never marry?"
"Oh, no, Max!" replied his sister, rather reproachfully. "How could he do so? How can you ask such a question? He is faithfulness personified."
"How could I know that, dearest sister?" said Max soothingly. "I could not be expected to know that your gifted and inestimable friend possessed also the quality of steadfastness. But tell me some more about Wisi. I hope, truly, that the merry creature was not unfortunate. It would grieve me sadly to think that."
"I see plainly, brother, that all your sympathies are secretly with Wisi; and that you are not sorry for the faithful Andrew, whose heart was nearly broken when he found that he had lost her."
"Yes, yes," said Max. "I have the greatest sympathy for the good fellow. But do tell me how it was with Wisi: did she cry her pretty eyes out?"
"Almost, I believe," replied Marie. "I did not see her very often, and she had a great deal of work to do. I believe that her husband was not a bad fellow; but there was something very rough about him, and he was rude and unkind even to his own little children. Wisi had a hard time of it. She had a good many pretty children; but they were very delicate, and she lost them one after the other. Five she buried, and has only now one tender little girl,—a little Wiseli,—who is not much larger than our Pussy, though she is several years older. Naturally Wisi's health has been sadly tried with all this, and it is plainly visible now that it has almost reached the end with her. She is rapidly wasting away in consumption. I fear that there is no hope for her."
"Oh!" cried Max, "is this possible? Is it really so bad as that? Can nothing be done, Marie? Let us look after her, and try if we cannot mend matters somewhat."
"Oh, no! there is no chance for her," said his sister, sadly. "From the very beginning Wisi was too delicate for all the work and care that came upon her."
"And what became of her husband?"
"Oh! I quite forgot the sad trouble that poor Wisi had to endure with him also.
"About a year ago, he broke an arm and a leg in the workshop, and was brought home half dead. He was very ill, and could not work, and certainly was not a patient sufferer. Wisi had the care of him in his sickness, in addition to every thing else, and he died about six months after the accident. Wisi has lived alone with her child since that time."
"Then there will soon be nothing left but a little Wiseli, and what will become of her? But, no; it will not turn out so sadly, I am sure. Wisi will get well, and every thing be right again, as it should have been in the beginning."
"No, not so, Max; it is too late for that," replied his sister, decidedly. "Poor Wisi had to suffer sadly for her folly. But it is too late indeed!" she said, rising, almost frightened to see that it was after midnight, and that the colonel, who had been silent for some time past, was now sleeping in his arm-chair.
Max was not in the least sleepy, however. All this story of poor Wisi had awakened in him such lively recollections of his childhood, that he wanted to talk about many other events and people; but his sister was not to be persuaded. She took her bed-candle, and insisted upon going to bed.
There was nothing to be done but to awaken his brother-in-law, which he did with such a tremendous thump on the back, that the colonel sprang up with the feeling that he had been struck by an enemy's bomb-shell. But Max tapped him kindly on the shoulder, saying, "It is only a gentle warning from your wife that we must all beat a retreat." This was accomplished, and soon the house on the height stood quietly in the moonlight; and half way down the hill stood another house, where it would soon be silent, too, though a still feeble light glimmered there, casting a pale shadow through the little window out into the brilliant moonlit night.
ALSO AT HOME.
At the same time that the colonel's children were going home, the little Wiseli ran along down the hill as fast as she could scamper, for she knew she had remained away longer than her mother liked that she should, and she very rarely did any thing of the kind. This evening had been one of such unusual pleasure for her that she had quite forgotten to go home at the usual time, and therefore ran all the faster, and so almost fell against a man, in her haste, who came out of the door of their cottage as she was rushing in. He stepped quietly to one side, and Wiseli hastened into the room, and went to her mother's side. To her great surprise, she found no light in the room,—her mother was sitting in the twilight, on a low chair by the window. "Mother," said the child, "are you angry because I was away such a long time?" and she put her arms around her mother's neck as she spoke. "No, no, Wiseli," said her mother, kindly; "but I am glad that you have come at last." The girl began at once to tell her mother about the delightful coast she had had on Otto's pretty sled,—how she had gone twice down the hill, and how pleasant it was. When she had finished her little story, she noticed, for the first time, how very quiet her mother was,—much more so than usual,—and she asked anxiously, "Why have you not lighted the lamp, mother?"
"I feel so weary this evening, Wiseli," replied her mother, "that I could not get up to light it. Go get it now, my child, and bring me a little water to drink at the same time, I am so very thirsty." Wiseli hastened to the kitchen, and soon returned with the light in one hand, and in the other a bottle filled with red syrup, that looked so temptingly clear and good, that the thirsty invalid called out eagerly, "What is that you are bringing me? It looks so good!"
"I do not know," said the child; "it was standing on the kitchen-table. See how it sparkles!" Her mother took the bottle, and smelled at it. "Oh!" she said, smelling again, "it is like fresh, wild strawberries. Give me some water, quickly, Wiseli; I must drink." The child poured some of the red syrup into a glass, and filled it with water, which her mother swallowed eagerly, as one parched with thirst. "You do not know how refreshing it is, child," as she handed back the empty glass. "Put it away, Wiseli, but not far. It seems to me as if I could drink it all the time, I am so thirsty. Who brought me this refreshment, Wiseli: do you know? It must be from Trine: she brought it from the colonel's."
"Did Trine come in here, mother?" asked the child.
"No; I have not seen her at all," said her mother.
"Then it is not Trine, I am sure," said Wiseli, decidedly. "She always comes into the room when she brings anything for you. But Andrew the carpenter came today: did not he bring this with him?"
"What, Wiseli," said her mother, very eagerly, "what are you saying? Andrew the carpenter never came to see me: what made you think of that?"
"He was here, certainly; certainly he was here within this house. He went out of the door so quickly that I almost ran into him. Did you not hear him at all?"
Her mother was quiet for a long time without speaking; then she said, "I did hear the kitchen door softly opened. At first I thought it might be you, and—it is true, I did not hear you enter until later. Are you sure, Wiseli, that Andrew the carpenter was the person who went out from our door?"
Wiseli was sure of her affair, and told her mother exactly how the coat and how the cap looked that Andrew wore, and how frightened he was when she almost ran into him; so that, at last, she convinced the good woman, who said softly, as if to herself, "Yes, it must be Andrew; he knows what I like best."
"Now I remember something else, mother," cried Wiseli, quite excitedly. "Now I know for sure who once placed a big pot of honey in the kitchen,—you remember how much you liked that,—and then the apple-cakes a day or two ago,—do not you remember? You wished to send your thanks by Trine when she brought you something from the colonel's kitchen, and she said that she knew nothing at all about them. Now I am sure that Andrew the carpenter brought them, and secretly placed them in the kitchen for you."
"Now I believe so, also," said her mother, and softly wiped her eyes.
"There is nothing sad about it, mother," said Wiseli, rather shocked to see how often her mother kept wiping her eyes.
"You must thank him for me, Wiseli: I cannot. Tell him that I send him my thanks for all the goodness he has shown me,—he has always been kind to me. Come, sit down here by me a little," said she, softly. "Give me some more of the syrup, and then come and repeat the verse that I taught you the other day."
Wiseli brought more water, and mixed it with the syrup again, and her mother drank of it eagerly; then she laid her head wearily upon the low window-sill, and beckoned her little daughter to come to her side. It seemed to the child that her mother could not be comfortable, and she fetched a pillow from the bed, and placed it carefully under her mother's head. Then she sat down close to her side on a footstool, and held her mother's hand in her own, and complied with her request to repeat the verses, thus,—
"'To God you must confide Your sorrow and your pain; He will true care provide, And show you heaven again.
"'For clouds and air and wind He points the path and way; Your road He'll also find, Nor let your footsteps stray.'"
As Wiseli finished, she observed that her mother was almost asleep; but she heard her say, softly, "Think of this, my Wiseli; and when you do not know which way to turn, and every thing seems difficult and perplexing, then say to yourself these words,—
"'Your road He'll also find, Nor let your footsteps stray.'"
Now the weary head sank down to rest, and little Wiseli would not awaken her mother by a movement, but nestled up to her quietly, and slept also. And the feeble light of the little lamp burned dimly in the quiet room,—more and more feebly it burned, until it slowly flickered and went out, and the cottage stood a dark object in the bright moonlight.
The next morning the neighbor from the nearest house stopped, as usual, on her way to the fountain, to look through the window of the cottage to see if all was well within. She saw that the sick woman was sleeping on the pillow, with her head against the window-sill, and that Wiseli stood weeping by her side. This seemed so strange, that she put her head a little way into the room, and asked, "What is the matter, Wiseli? Is your mother worse?" The child sobbed dreadfully, and could scarcely say, "I do not know what ails my mother."
The poor child had a strong suspicion of what it all meant, but she could not realize that her mother was lost to her. For she was still there, but asleep,—asleep for all the rest of her daughter's life on earth,—and could not hear how sadly the child called to her. The neighbor stepped to the window and looked at the sleeping head upon the pillow; then she started back in alarm. "Run quickly, Wiseli; run and fetch your cousin Gotti. He must come at once. You have no other relation, and somebody must look after things here. Run as fast as you can: I will wait here until you come back."
The child ran, but not fast, her heart was so heavy within her, and her limbs trembled; and at last she had to stop and give way to her tears, for she became more and more sure, with every step, that her mother would never waken more. But she went on again soon, although she could not stop her tears, for her sorrow increased as she went. In the beech grove, full a quarter of an hour's walk from the church, stood the house of her cousin Gotti; and presently Wiseli entered the door, still crying bitterly. Her cousin's wife stood in the kitchen, and asked harshly, "What is the matter with you?" Wiseli replied, between her sobs, that the neighbor had sent her to ask her cousin Gotti to come quickly to her mother. Probably the woman suspected, from the child's look, that her mother was more ill, for she spoke a little less roughly than usual. "I will tell him. You can go home: he is not here now." So Wiseli turned about, and reached home more quickly than she came, for she was returning to her mother. The neighbor stood by the doorstep,—she could not wait inside the room: it was not pleasant to her. But the child stepped in, and went to her place by her mother's side that she had kept all through the night. There she sat weeping, and only said, now and then, softly, "Mother." But no answering word came to her. At last Wiseli said, bending over her, "Mother, you can hear me, although you are in heaven now, and I cannot hear your answer." And the child sat holding her mother's hand tightly until long after noontime. About that time her cousin Gotti entered the room, looked about him a little, and then called for the neighbor. "You must arrange things here a little,—you know what I mean," he said,—"so that things will be ready for the removal. Then carry the keys away with you, so that nothing will be taken." He then turned to Wiseli and said, "Where are your clothes, little one? Get them together and tie them up in a bundle, and we will go away."
"Where shall we go?" asked the child.
"We will go home to the beech grove. You can stay there with us, for you have nobody else in the world now but your cousin Gotti."
At these words, Wiseli felt herself stiff with fear. Go to the beech grove, and live with them there,—was that her fate? She had always had the greatest fear of the wife of her cousin Gotti, and always stood a long time before the door, when she was sent there with a message, before she could summon courage to enter. The eldest son, Cheppi,—that rough fellow,—lived there, and Hannes and Rudi; and they threw stones at all the children. Was that to be her home?
Fear caused the child to turn pale and immovable.
"You must not be frightened, my child," said her cousin Gotti, in a kindly tone. "There are more people in our house than there are here, but it is all the more lively for that."
Wiseli put her things silently together in a shawl, and tied the two corners together crosswise; then she tied her scarf about her head, and stood ready.
"So," said her cousin, "now we will go," and turned towards the door; but Wiseli sobbed out suddenly,—
"Then I must leave my mother all alone."
With these words she ran to her mother, and clasped her in her arms again.
Her cousin Gotti stood rather disconcerted, and looked on. He did not know how to explain how things were with her mother, if she did not understand without words; for he was not strong in the matter of expressing himself: he had never given himself the trouble to try. At last, he said,—
"Now come, come along. A little child like you must be obedient. Come; and, after this, no crying. That does not mend matters one bit."
The child swallowed her sobs, and followed the cousin Gotti silently through the door. Once only she glanced backward, and said softly, "God will watch over you, mother;" and then went forth with her bundle on her arm, and left the little house which had been home to her. Just as she and her cousin Gotti went together across the field, Trine came towards them down the road, with a covered basket on her arm. The neighbor stood in the doorway, and looked after the departing couple. Trine went towards her, saying,—
"To-day I am bringing the sick woman something good. A little late, to be sure. We have Uncle Max on a visit to us: that always makes me late."
"And even if you had come early in the morning, you would have come too late to-day. She died last night."
"That cannot be!" cried Trine, startled. "Oh, goodness me! what will my lady say?"
With these words she turned sharp about, and ran home as fast as possible. The neighbor went back into the quiet room, and performed the last kind offices for Wiseli's mother.
AT COUSIN GOTTI's.
When Wiseli made her entry into her cousin Gotti's house at Beech Grove, the three boys came running out of the barn, and, behind Wiseli, into the room, where they placed themselves in front of her in a row, and stared at the timid little thing with all their eyes. Her cousin's wife came out of the kitchen, and stared also at the little thing, as if she had never seen her before.
Her cousin Gotti seated himself behind the table, and said,—
"I think she can eat something: she has not had much to-day. Come here," he said, turning to Wiseli, who stood all this time in the same place, with her bundle under her arm. She obeyed. Now her cousin's wife put new wine and cheese on the table, also a huge loaf of black bread. Cousin Gotti cut a big slice, put a lump of cheese upon it, and pushed it towards the child. "There, eat, little one," he said. "You must be hungry, I'm sure."
"No, I thank you," said Wiseli, softly. She could not have swallowed even a crumb. She felt as if she were crushed under her load of sorrow and anxiety, and could scarcely even breathe.
The boys stood there all the time, and stared at her.
"Don't be frightened," said cousin Gotti, encouragingly. "Do eat something." But the child sat motionless, and did not touch her bread. Her cousin's wife came again; and, putting her hands on her hips, stood looking her over from head to foot.
"If you don't want it," she said, "you can leave it;" and turned on her heel, and went again into the kitchen.
When cousin Gotti had refreshed himself sufficiently he arose, and said, "Put it in your pocket. By and by you will feel like eating, only do not feel frightened;" and he went into the kitchen. Wiseli tried to do as he told her, to put the bread and cheese into her pocket; but they were too large, and she put them back upon the table again.
"I will help you," said Cheppi, snatching the pieces from the table; and was about to stuff them into his open mouth, but they flew up into the air instead, for Hannes had knocked Cheppi's hand up with a smart blow, and so the plunder was scattered, and Rudi darted upon it, and carried part of it away. With this the two oldest boys fell upon him, and they kicked and cuffed, and screamed and shouted, until Wiseli was terribly frightened. Presently their father opened the kitchen-door, and called out, "What does this all mean?" Then the boys all answered at once, from the floor; and one said, "Wiseli did not want it;" and another, "Wiseli had not any;" and "As long as Wiseli did not want any"—
Their father called out, loudly, "If you do not stop that, I will come in with the thong, and whip you." And he slammed the door again.
"It" did not "stop," however; but, as soon as the door was shut again, it began worse than ever, for Hannes found that the best way to treat the enemy was to grasp him by the hair; and so they all seized each other by the hair, and stood in a ring, uttering terrible noises. In the kitchen their mother sat on a stool, and peeled potatoes. When her husband closed the door again, she asked,—
"What is your idea about that child? Why did you bring her home with you at once?"
"I thought she would have to stay with somebody. I am her cousin Gotti, and she has no other relatives. You can make her useful. She can do what you are doing now. Then you will be able to do other things. You are always saying that the boys give you so much work,—more than is right."
"Yes, as regards them, a great help she will be! You can hear now what a racket there is in there, and she is only a quarter of an hour in the house."
"I have heard that sort of thing a good many times before the little one came. I do not think that she has much to do with it," said the cousin Gotti quietly.
"Oh, you did not hear them!" said his wife sharply; "how they kept calling out something about Wiseli?"
"Well, they may call out, if they want to," said their father. "You will soon have the little one in hand. I think she is not a troublesome child,—I noticed that in the beginning,—and is much more obedient than those boys of yours."
This was too much for his wife.
"I do not see what is the use of finding fault with the boys," she said; and she peeled the potatoes faster and faster. "And I should like to know where the girl is to sleep."
Her husband pushed his cap back and forth several times upon his head, and said, soothingly,—
"One can't think of every thing at once. She must have had a bed to sleep in; and she can, at least, have that. Tomorrow I will go to the pastor. To-night she can sleep on the bench by the stove. It is always warm there; and I can put a partition in the little passage that goes into our room later, and set her bed in there."
"I never heard of bringing home a child and getting a bed for it a week afterwards," said the woman crossly; "and I should like to know who will pay for it if we must build something more for her into the bargain."
"When the parish assigns the child to us, they will allow us something for her maintenance. I shall take her cheaper than any one else would do, and she will be more comfortable here too."
With this the cousin went out into the shed, and called out for Cheppi to come with him. It was hard for the cousin's wife to make herself heard in the room when she wished to give this message. They were all fighting away, and shouting angrily and loudly.
"I am surprised that you sit there looking on, and do not try to quiet them in the least," said their mother to Wiseli, who sat cowering against the wall, and did not dare even to move. Cheppi, however, was dispatched to the barn, and the two others ran after him.
"Do you know how to knit?" the cousin's wife asked Wiseli, who replied, timidly, "Yes, I can knit stockings."
"Well, then, take this," she said; and took from the cupboard a big brown stocking, with yarn almost as stout as Wiseli's little fingers. "Go on with the foot," she said, "and take care to make it big enough: it is for your cousin Gotti." Then she went back into the kitchen, and the little girl took her seat on the bench by the stove, with the long stocking coiled up in her lap,—for it was so heavy that she could scarcely knit if it hung down: it pulled the needles out of her hand. She had scarcely begun to work, however, before her cousin's wife came in again.
"I think you had better come out into the kitchen with me," she said. "Then you can see how I do things, and be able to help me a little by and by." Wiseli obeyed, and watched her cousin's wife at her work as well as she was able; but the tears kept coming into her eyes so that she could scarcely see, for she thought all the time of how she used to go about in the kitchen with her mother, who chattered so pleasantly with her, and how they would stop to kiss each other now and then. She knew very well that she ought not to give way to her tears, and tried to swallow her sobs, until she felt almost strangling.
"See here, look here," said the cousin's wife, every now and then; "then you will know how to do it by and by." And she went about, here and there, in the kitchen, letting Wiseli stand, and said nothing else to her. This went on for some time, when there was a terrible stamping in the entry, and the woman said, "Open the door as quick as you can: they are coming." The noise was made by the cousin and his sons, who were knocking the snow off their shoes before entering. Wiseli opened the door into the inner room as quickly as possible; and the cousin's wife lifted an enormous pan off the fire, and ran with it into the room, where she shook a great heap of potatoes out over the slate-topped table. Then she brought out a big jug of sour milk, and said, "Put the things that are in the table-drawer on the table, and then they can all sit down at once."
Wiseli pulled out the drawer as quickly as possible. There lay five spoons and five knives. She put these upon the table, and the supper was ready. The father and his sons came in, and sat down at once on the seats along the wall behind the table. At the other end stood a chair. Cousin Gotti made a motion towards the chair and said, "She can sit there, I think; or do you say no?"
"Oh, certainly!" said his wife, whose seat was nearest the kitchen-door. She did not remain seated a moment; but ran out into the kitchen and came back, took a spoonful of milk, and was off again.
Nobody knew why she ran about in this way, for there was nothing cooking in the kitchen, and nothing to bring out, but she always did so; and when, sometimes, her husband would say, "Do sit still, and eat something," then she seemed more hurried than ever, and said she had no time to sit still, there were so many things to be looked after.
When she had made two visits to the kitchen and returned, and began to peel a potato in great haste, she noticed, for the first time, that Wiseli sat idly by her side, her hands on her lap. "Why don't you eat something?" she said, angrily. "She has no spoon," said Rudi, who was seated on the other side, and had long been wondering why anybody should sit at table and not eat as long as there was any thing left. "Oh, yes, of course," said his mother. "Who would ever have thought that we should need six spoons? We have always found five enough; and we must have another knife too. Why can't you speak? You know well enough that to eat you want a spoon." These last words were addressed to Wiseli.
The child glanced timidly at the woman and said, "It is no matter: I do not need any. I am not hungry."
"Why not?" asked the woman. "Are you used to a different kind of food? I don't mean to change, if you are."
"I think it would be better to let the child alone for a while; we must not frighten her," said her cousin Gotti, soothingly. "She will feel better soon."
So Wiseli was unmolested, and the others were busily employed for a while. She sat there motionless until her cousin rose, took his fur cap from the nail, and began to look for the stable lantern; for "Spot" was sick, and must be looked after again that night. The table was quickly cleared. The empty potato-skins were brushed off into the empty milk-jug, the slate-top wiped off; and when the woman was done with this, she said, turning to Wiseli, "You have seen what I did; now you can do it the next time." Now Cheppi took his seat firmly behind the table again. He had his slate-pencil and arithmetic book, and prepared himself to do his examples. First, however, he stared for a while at Wiseli, who had again taken up her brown stocking, but did not make any progress; for she could not see a thing in the dark corner where she was seated, and she did not dare to draw nearer to the table where the dim lamp was placed. "You must have something to do," cried Cheppi, in an irritated tone. "You are not the smartest scholar in the school." The girl did not know what to answer. She had not been to school that day, and did not know what lessons were given out; and, besides, was quite out of her usual habits and life generally. "If I must do my examples, so must you, or I won't do them at all," cried Cheppi again. Wiseli kept as still as a mouse. "Well, then, it is all right," said the boy noisily. "I won't do another stroke of work." And he threw away his pencil.
"Then I won't do any thing, either," cried Hannes, and stuffed his multiplication-table into his satchel again; for learning his lessons was the hardest thing in the world for him.
"I will tell the master whose fault it is," began Cheppi again. "You can see, then, what you will get."
Probably Cheppi would have gone on in this unpleasant style for a long time, if his father had not soon returned from the barn. He brought in two big, empty grain-bags on his shoulders, and came up to the table with them.
"Make room," he said to Cheppi, who sat with his elbows on the table, supporting his head on his hands. Then he spread out his two bags, folded them together again, and then again. At last he went towards the bench behind the stove, and put them down on it. "There," he said, with an air of satisfaction, "that is good. Where is your bundle, little one?" Wiseli fetched it from her corner,—where it had lain ever since she arrived,—and looked with surprise at her cousin Gotti as he placed the bundle at the upper end of the folded bags, and pressed it down, so that it was not perfectly round.
"There, now you may go to sleep," he said, turning round to Wiseli. "You cannot be cold, for the stove is hot; and you can put your head on your bundle, and you will be as comfortable as if you were in your bed.
"And it is time for you three to go to bed, too. Off with you: make haste!" So saying, he took the oil-lamp from the table, and went towards the kitchen. The three boys clattered along after him.
When he reached the door, he turned again and said, "There, sleep soundly. Must not think any more to-night, and it will be better for you by and by," and he went out. Presently his wife came into the room with an oil-lamp in her hand, and looked at the place where Wiseli was to sleep. "Can you lie there?" she asked. "You will find it warm enough by the stove. There are plenty of people who have neither bed nor a warm place to be in. You won't suffer in that way, and ought to be thankful that you are under a good roof. Good-night."
"Good-night," replied Wiseli, softly; but the woman could not have heard her, for she was already away when she spoke, and had closed the door behind her immediately. Now Wiseli sat alone in the dark room. Every thing about her was suddenly silent,—not a sound to be heard. A straggling moonbeam shone through the little window,—enough to show the child where the bench by the stove was, upon which she must find her bed. She crossed the room, and seated herself there. For the first time that day since she had left her dear mother, she found herself alone, and able to think over what had befallen her. She had been constantly under excitement until this moment; for every thing that had happened frightened her. All that she heard or saw since she left her home had been so very unpleasant that she could not stop to think at all, but went from one alarm to another. Now there she sat alone, without her mother, and began to realize that it was all over,—that they would never see nor hear each other again in this world. And such a sense of loneliness, of utter desolation, took possession of Wiseli, that she believed herself uncared for and forgotten by everybody, and feared that she should be left there alone to die in the dark. The poor child laid her head down upon her bundle, and began to cry, bitterly and despairingly, "Mother, can you not hear me? Mother, do not you hear me call?"
Now Wiseli's mother had often told her little girl, that when things went very badly with us here below, then was the moment to lift up our voices and cry to God for help; for he would hear us in our trouble when all other's ears were deaf, and help us when no other help was possible. At this moment the child remembered these words, and she sobbed aloud, "Oh, you dear God in heaven! help me also, I am so unhappy, and my mother cannot hear me when I call!"
And when she had prayed thus several times over, she felt calmer. It comforted her poor little heart; for now she felt that God was really there in heaven, and could help her, and that she was no longer alone. And presently she recalled her mother's words,—almost the very last that she spoke: "My child, when you cannot see your way clearly before you, and every thing seems strange and difficult"—And now it was so; and how little she thought that it ever would be so, when her mother was talking to her. Her mother told her to remember the words of the hymn,—
"Your road He'll also find, Nor let your footsteps stray."
Now Wiseli first rightly understood these words, and felt their full meaning. Before she had repeated them mechanically, for not until now did she need them. But it was just her present case. Was not she full of perplexity? and what could she possibly have in her cousin Gotti's house but fear and trouble? And so she repeated, again and again,—
"Your road He'll also find, Nor let your footsteps stray."
The child had found her way to her heavenly Father, and knew that he was sure to help her; and she felt comforted. Folding her little hands, she began the hymn at the beginning, for it seemed like talking to a kind friend; and she said each word from her very heart:—
"To God you must confide Your sorrow and your pain; He will true care provide, And show you heaven again.
"For clouds and air and wind He points the path and way; Your road He'll also find, Nor let your footsteps stray."
A quiet trust now took possession of the child's heart. She fell asleep soon after, her head supported on her little bundle, still repeating the last lines of the hymn. And a pleasant dream followed. She saw before her a dry bright pathway in the full sunlight, and the road led between beautiful red roses and lovely pinks that were so attractive that she longed to run to gather them. And by her side stood her dear mother, and held her hand tenderly in her own, as she always did; and her mother pointed along the pathway in her dream, and said, "See, my Wiseli; did not I tell you so? That is your way."
"'Your road He'll also find, Nor let your footsteps stray.'"
And the child was happy in her dream, and slept as soundly on her little bundle as if she were on a soft bed.
HOW TIME WENT ON, AND SUMMER CAME.
When old Trine carried the news back to the heights, and told them there that Wiseli's mother was dead, and the child taken at once to her cousin Gotti's, the whole family became greatly agitated. Mrs. Ritter could not cease bewailing her neglect in not visiting the sick woman before, for she had been postponing it from day to day; but, of course, had not in the least realized how near the end might be. She was sadly cast down, and sorrowful. And Otto: he went raging up and down the room with great strides, and kept calling out angrily, "It is an injustice! It is a great injustice! But if he dares to lay a hand on her to harm her, he may look to his own bones, how many of them will be left whole in his skin!"
"Who do you mean, Otto? Who are you talking about in that way?" said his mother, looking curiously at her excited boy.
"About that Cheppi," he replied. "I do not know what dreadful things he will do to Wiseli when he has her there in his own house. It is not right, but just let him try"—But now Otto was interrupted by a repeated and heavy stamping that prevented his being heard. "Why do you make such a deafening noise, you pussy cat, there behind the stove?" he cried, turning his indignation towards another quarter. Pussy came out from behind the stove, but stamped more violently than before; for she was trying to force her feet into her wet boots, which it had taken the old Trine ever so long to pull off a while before. It was dreadfully hard work; and Pussy became as red as fire, while she said,—
"Don't you see that I have to do so? Nobody in the world could get these boots on without stamping."
"And what in the world do you want to put those wet boots on again for? I have just pulled them off, so that you should not have them on. I should just like to know what this means?" said Trine, who stood looking on all this time.
"I am going to the beech grove this very minute to fetch Wiseli to our house. She can have my bed," said Pussy, decidedly. But quite as decidedly old Trine stalked over to Pussy, at these words, lifted her up, placed her firmly on a chair, while she pulled off the boot that was half on; but said, in a pacifying tone, to the kicking and excited child,—
"That is all right! that is all right! but I will take care of you first. You must not get two pair of shoes and two pair of stockings wet through in one day. You can give up your bed. You can go up into the lumber-room, if you want to: there is room enough there."
But Pussy had a very different plan in her little head. She thought that she could free herself, in this wise, of a great and daily recurring trouble, that often gave her both inward and outward annoyance; namely, the being ordered off to bed every evening, and obliged to go, into the bargain, just as she was in the mood to enjoy herself especially. She thought that, if she gave up her bed to Wiseli, there would be none other at hand for her, and so she could stay up as long as she wanted to.
She was so delighted at this prospect, that she did not, at first, notice how the sly Trine had wisked off her wet boots, and that now there was no chance to fetch Wiseli.
When she fairly understood how she had been tricked, she set up such an outcry that Otto put his fingers in his ears, and her mother came in, a good deal alarmed at the uproar. She promised Pussy to talk over the matter with her father as soon as he came home; for he had gone away that very morning, with their Uncle Max, to pay a long-promised visit to an old friend. After a while peace and quiet were restored in the household. The gentlemen did not return for two weeks, however; but Mrs. Ritter kept her promise. The first thing that she mentioned to her husband, on the very evening of his return, was the fact of Wiseli being an orphan, and her new shelter; and the colonel promised to go to the pastor the very next day, to see what better arrangement could be made for the child; and, having visited the pastor, the colonel brought back the sad news, that, on the Sunday just past, the parish had taken the matter into consideration, and that it was now settled. Wiseli must be housed somewhere; and, as her mother had not left any property whatever, she must also be maintained at the expense of the parish until she could support herself. Moreover, her cousin Gotti had offered, in the first instance, to take the child for a very slight compensation. He wished to do an act of charity as far as he could afford it. He was known to be a well-conducted man; and, as he made so slight a demand, it was agreed and settled that the child should henceforth find her home with him.
"It seems to me a very good arrangement," said the colonel to his wife. "The child will be well cared for there; besides, what else could be done? She is much too small to be placed anywhere in service, and certainly you cannot take every orphan child in the neighborhood into your own house. You might as well turn it into an asylum at once."
Mrs. Ritter was very much disturbed by the news that every thing had been settled so soon. She had hoped to be able to have found a different home for Wiseli, who was, she knew, much too sensitive and delicate a child to be happy in a home where rudeness and roughness were the rule; but she had not a definite plan in her mind, and now there was nothing to be done but to try to look after the child's comfort a little, and to protect her, if possible.
Otto and Pussy did not take the affair so quietly, however. They were in great excitement when they heard it all on the following morning.
Otto declared Wiseli's lot to be the lot of Daniel in the lion's den, and brought his fist down on the table with the evident wish that he were pommelling Cheppi's head. Pussy screamed, and cried a little; partly out of pity for Wiseli, and partly from disappointment that she could not now carry out her little plan of being able to sit up later in the evenings.
But this excitement was at last quieted down, like every other, by time; and the days rolled on in their wonted manner.
In the meantime Wiseli has become somewhat accustomed to the life in her cousin Gotti's house. For one thing, her bed had come; and she no longer slept on the bench by the stove, but in a little place partitioned off from the passage between her cousin's room and that of the boys. There was just room enough in this little place for her bed, and a little chest, in which she placed her clothes, and upon which she had to climb when she wished to get into her bed; for there was no space between.
She was obliged to go to the well when she washed; and, if it was very cold, then her cousin's wife said she could give up washing for that day, and do it on another when it was warmer. Now Wiseli was not used to this style of thing at all. Her mother had taught her that cleanliness was absolutely necessary; and Wiseli would have frozen rather than to look untidy, and, therefore, displease her mother. To be sure, every thing was different for her at home; for she washed and dressed herself in her mother's room always; and many a loving word they exchanged until the coffee was on the table, and they sat down together, and ate their breakfast happily, before Wiseli started off for school.
But what a difference for her now! All, all was changed,—her whole life from morning till evening; and often, at the thought of her mother, the tears started into the poor child's eyes, and her heart ached so sadly, that she felt as if she could go no farther, but must drop down, and die. But she held herself bravely, for it distressed her cousin Gotti to see her cry, and his wife scolded more than ever; for she, too, disliked to see her dull.
The happiest part of the twenty-four hours for Wiseli was when she climbed into her little bed at night, and had a moment's time to think about her dear mother in peace.
At this time she always obtained comfort. She thought about her beautiful dream, and felt perfect confidence that the good God would find a way for her out of her troubles, as her mother had told her; and she hoped that her mother was also in heaven, and would pray to God not to forget her poor little child left alone in the wide world. Then Wiseli always repeated her hymn, and slept quietly.
So the winter slipped away, and the spring with its sunshine followed. The trees were green again, and the meadows were gay with primroses and white anemones, and in the wood the cuckoo sang lustily; and soft, warm breezes were all abroad, making every heart beat more cheerily; and one rejoiced that life was still possible.
Wiseli also rejoiced over the flowers and the sunshine, especially when she went to and from school. Beyond this she had little time for enjoyment, for she had so much work to do. Every moment out of school she had to employ in some useful occupation; and, indeed, often was obliged to stay away from school for a half-day at a time, there was so much to be done that could not be neglected, as her cousin Gotti, and particularly his wife, were forever telling her. The cultivation of the fields had begun, and also the garden work; and when her cousin's wife was in the garden, then Wiseli had to wash the cooking utensils, and had the hogs' trough to cleanse and carry back to the barn; and then the boys' stockings and shirts must be mended, and her cousin's wife always said, "Oh, the child can do that, she has nothing else to do;" and yet she never was idle a single moment, and felt almost giddy at times, because she was called from one piece of work to another before she had time to breathe. Moreover, she found that if, for example, she ran over to the field with the seed-potatoes that her cousin Gotti was calling for, then his wife would scold because she had not made the kitchen-fire for the supper, as she was bidden to do; but if she stopped to make the fire, then she was found fault with by Cheppi because she had not mended the hole in his jacket-sleeve he had told her to long ago; and everybody called out, "Why don't you do this, or why don't you do that? you have nothing else to do." She was glad to go to school whenever she was allowed to go, for she was quiet for a while then; and, moreover, in that place the poor child heard a pleasant word now and again. For each time that recess came, or they left school to go home, Otto would come to her, and talk with her pleasantly for a while, or give her an invitation from his mother to visit them on Sunday evening and play games with the children. Poor Wiseli could never avail herself of these charming invitations, because on Sunday she had always to make the coffee for the family; and her cousin's wife said that she could not think of letting the child go away to visit on the only day when she was really of some use to her. But the child was glad that Otto always asked her, though she could not go, and that he always spoke kindly to her; for those were the only friendly acts or words that she knew of nowadays. There was still another reason that made it pleasant for Wiseli to go to school, and that was the passing by Andrew the carpenter's pretty garden on her way there. She always paused and looked over the low hedge, hoping that she might catch sight of the carpenter; for she had her mother's message to deliver, and never ceased hoping to find the opportunity. She was far too shy to go into the house for that purpose. She felt that she did not know Andrew well enough to venture to do that. She was particularly timid with him, because he was so very quiet, and always looked at her kindly when they met, but never spoke; or, at least, never said more than a kindly word in passing. And she had never succeeded in catching even a glimpse of him, no matter how long she stood by the hedge and looked over.
May passed, and June. The long days of summer came, with more and more work to be done in the fields, and work that was ever hotter and hotter. Wiseli felt this keenly when her cousin Gotti called her out to help with the haymaking, and the heavy rake was so hard for her to lift; or, worse still, to handle the clumsy wooden fork when the hay needed spreading in the sun to dry.
She often was obliged to work in the fields, and in the evening was so tired out that she could scarcely move her poor little arms. She never fretted, however, for she thought it was necessary and right; but often, when she was still for a moment in the evening, it hurt her sadly to hear Cheppi call out, "You ought to do your examples in arithmetic now, as I do. You are never doing any thing out of school, and in the classes you are always behind the others."
She would have liked to study and get on at her lessons, if she could only have gone regularly to school, and been able to keep up with the class. She was well aware that she was far behind her schoolmates; but what could she do, when she only got a little here and there, and all was confused for her, and she never knew what lessons were given out for the out-of-school studies. When she came quite unprepared to school, and could not answer the questions put to the class, she was overwhelmed with mortification, especially when the teacher would say, before all the other children, "I did not expect to see you so behindhand, Wiseli,—you of all others, who used to be so clever at your books." Then she used to feel fit to sink through the floor for shame, and would cry all the way as she walked home. But she did not dare to answer Cheppi back when he taunted her, because then he would begin to cry and scold, and make a noise, until his mother came in, when she, too, would reproach her with being behind her classes, because Cheppi said she was. So Wiseli often kept back her tears, and only gave way when she was alone; and sometimes it did seem to her as if she were quite forgotten by her heavenly Father and her mother, and as if nobody in the whole world cared for her; and she was too sad at heart even to say her comforting hymn for a long time; but she could not rest nor sleep until she had done so, even though there was little satisfaction for her in the words.
One beautiful evening in July Wiseli slept, after a sad time of weeping, and could not obtain an answer, the next morning, to her question of whether she might go to school with the boys.
Off scampered the boys. She looked sadly after them through the open window as they sprang away gayly through the flower-besprinkled grass, and chased a cloud of white butterflies along in front of them as they ran through the brilliant sunshine.
Her cousin's wife had prepared the big wash,—this was the work laid out for the whole week. Must Wiseli work there too?
Yes: already she heard a calling from the kitchen, and her cousin Gotti called her by name,—he stood at the well, and saw her looking out of the window.
"Make haste, make haste, Wiseli; it is time to be off: the boys are half-way to school. All the hay is in: make haste and go too." She did not wait till he told this twice. Like a flash she snatched her satchel and was off.
"Tell the teacher that I have not sent him his money for a long time, but he must not be vexed at that, we have had so much work with the hay this summer."
How happy the child felt as she flew along! She need not stand all day at the wash-tub: she could go instead to school. How beautiful it was everywhere about! The birds sang more sweetly than ever from the trees, the grass was scented, and the pretty red and yellow flowers glistened in the sun. Wiseli could not stop to enjoy them,—it was too late for that,—but she felt the beauty as she ran along, and rejoiced at every step.
That same evening, just as all the children streamed out of the close schoolroom into the beautiful afternoon light, the teacher called out, with his serious face peering into the little crowd, "Whose week is this?"
"Otto's, Otto's," called the whole company at once, and ran off.
"Otto," said the teacher, earnestly, "yesterday it was not swept up here at all. I excuse you for once; but do not let it happen again, or I must punish you, boy."
Otto looked for a moment at all the nut-shells and apple-parings and bits of paper that lay scattered about the floor waiting to be brushed up; then he turned his head quickly away, and scampered out of the door, for the teacher had disappeared into his own part of the house. Otto stood outside and gazed about him at the golden sunset, and thought, "If I could go home now, I could get a capful of cherries, and I could ride the brown horse home from the field when the groom fetches the hay; and now I must stay here instead, and sweep up these scraps from the floor!" And Otto was so angry over this unpleasant task, that he scowled about him, saying, "I wish the day of judgment would come, and carry off the schoolhouse, and break it up into a thousand pieces!" But every thing was still and peaceful all about, and not a sign of any such ravaging earthquake to be seen or heard.
After a while Otto turned back towards the schoolroom-door with a savage determination, for he knew that he must bite into his sour apple, or be punished the next day by having to sit still during recess; and he would not run the risk of that disgraceful punishment. He entered the room, but stood still with surprise as soon as he stepped past the threshold. Every thing was brushed up in the school-room: not a scrap nor bit to be seen anywhere. The windows all stood wide open, and the soft evening breeze blew through the quiet room. Just then the teacher came out of his own room and looked about him, and at the staring Otto, and said, pleasantly, "You may well look about you with satisfaction. I did not think that you could do it so well. You are a good scholar; but you have surpassed yourself to-day in cleaning up, for I never saw it so neatly done before."
So saying, the teacher went away; and after Otto had convinced himself by a last glance that what he saw was fact, and no witchcraft, he dashed down the steps, two at a time, across the little place and up the hillside: and not until he began to tell it all to his mother did he begin to wonder to whom he was indebted for this good turn.
"Nobody has done it through a mistake, that is certain," said his mother. "Have not you some good friend who is noble enough to sacrifice himself in this way for you? Think over all of them: who can it be?"
"I know," cried Pussy, who had been listening eagerly.
"Yes; pray who?" said Otto, half curiously, half incredulously.
"Jack, the mouse," explained Pussy in a tone of conviction; "because you gave him an apple last year."
"Oh, yes; or William Tell, because I did not take away his, year before last. One would be quite as probable as the other, you wonderfully clever Puss." And Otto ran away barely in time to catch the groom, who was going for the hay.
Wiseli also ran about this time. Down the hill with a happy heart and a merry countenance, past Andrew's garden, she ran, jumping and leaping in her frolicsome mood; and then about she went, and jumped back again to the garden, for she had espied the pinks all in bloom just within the enclosure, and must look at them again, they, were so beautiful. "I shall soon overtake the boys," she thought; "they stop at every corner to play ball."
But the pinks were most lovely to look upon; and they had such a sweet perfume, too, that the child lingered, looking over the low hedge for a long time. Suddenly Andrew came out of his house-door, and stood in front of Wiseli. He offered her his hand over the hedge, and said most kindly,—
"Will you take a pink, Wiseli?"
"Yes, indeed," she replied; "and I have a message to give you from my mother."
"From your mother?" repeated Andrew the carpenter in great surprise, and let the pink that he had just gathered fall from his hand. Wiseli ran round the hedge and picked it up from the ground; then she looked up at the man who stood still and looked at her strangely, and said,—
"Yes; at the very end, when my mother could do nothing more, she drank up the nice syrup that you put on the kitchen-table for her, and it refreshed her very much; and she charged me to tell you that she thanked you for it very much indeed, and for all the many acts of kindness that you had shown her; and she said, 'He always felt kindly to me.'"
Now Wiseli perceived that big tears rolled from Andrew's eyes and fell over his cheeks. He tried to say something, but could not speak. He pressed the child's hand, turned him about, and went into the house.
Wiseli stood still and wondered. Nobody had wept for her mother. Even she had not dared to cry, except when nobody could see her; for her cousin said that he would not have any whining, and she was even more afraid of making his wife angry. And now here was some one who wept because she had spoken of her mother to him. It seemed to the child as if Andrew were her very best friend upon the earth, and she felt herself strongly drawn towards him. But now she ran with her pink as fast as possible towards the beech grove; and it was well that she did so, for she saw the boys also drawing near the house, and it would never have done for her to be later than they.
Wiseli said her prayer with a light heart that night, and could not understand why she had been so depressed the night before, and why she had felt no confidence in God's kindness, and could not even say her hymn. Now she felt sure that he had not forgotten her, and she would never allow herself to think that again. Had she not received many kind things from him? And as she fell asleep she saw before her the kind face of Andrew the carpenter, with the tears in his eyes.
On the following day—it was Wednesday—Otto was again surprised by the good deed performed for him by his unknown friend; for he could not refrain from going out with the others when school was first over, and making a few gambols here and there to refresh himself after the long confinement. When, at last, he returned somewhat sadly to his work, it was all done again, and the schoolroom perfectly tidy. Now his curiosity began to be excited, and also gratitude to his invisible benefactor began to stir in his heart. He would certainly find out on Thursday what it all meant.
So, when the classes were dismissed, and they all left the house as usual, Otto stood for a while by his seat, thinking how he could discover his helpful friend. But a knot of his schoolmates rushed in as he stood there, grasped him by arms and shoulders, and dragged him out, crying, "Come along! Come on! We are playing 'Robbers,' and you must be our leader."
Otto defended himself for a moment. "This is my week," he cried.
"Oh, nonsense! put it off," they said. "Only just for a quarter of an hour. Come along!"
And Otto went. To tell the truth, he relied secretly upon his unseen friend, who would certainly shield him from punishment. He found it extremely agreeable to feel such a support under his feet; and the quarter slipped into the full hour, and Otto was lost. He went back to the schoolhouse to fulfil his duty, and threw open the door with such a slam that the master rushed out of his room very quickly, and asked,—
"What do you want, Otto?"
"Only to look in again, to see if every thing is as it should be," stammered the boy.
"This is excellent," said the teacher; "but it is not necessary for you to slam the door in that way."
Otto went away in good spirits. On Friday he made up his mind not to do his work of cleaning until he was satisfied about the mystery; and then,—then there would only be Saturday morning left of his week.
"Otto," called out the teacher on Friday, as the clock struck four, "take this paper over to the pastor as quickly as you can. He will give you some papers to bring back. It will only take you a moment or two, and you will be here in time to brush out the room."
The boy did not like to go very well, but there was no help for it; and, of course, he could be back in a twinkling. He reached the parsonage in half a dozen bounds. The pastor was busy, just then, with a visitor. His wife called Otto to her in the garden. She wanted to know how his mamma found herself; if his father were well, and Pussy, too; how Uncle Max was employed; and if they had good news from their relations in Germany. Then the pastor made his appearance, and Otto had to explain why it was his business to bring the papers, and what the teacher was doing at present. At last he got his papers, and was off like an arrow, pulled open the door of the schoolroom,—to find every thing swept and garnished, and no living being visible.
"And I have not been obliged to stoop once, to clear away the tiresome bits, the whole week through," thought Otto contentedly. "But who can have done all this dirty work without being obliged to do it?" Now he determined, for once and all, to have that question settled.
The school hours ended at eleven o'clock on Saturday. Otto waited until all the children had gone, and the room was empty. Then he went outside, closed the door, and leaned with his back against it. There could no one enter without his seeing who it was. He preferred to do this, rather than to go at once to work at the sweeping and cleaning. He waited and waited: no one came. He heard the clock strike the half-hour. There were plans at home for an excursion that afternoon. The family were to dine early, to get away soon after dinner. He ought to begin with his work at once, if he wanted to get home in good season. How he hated it!
He opened the door. Now Otto stared about him even more than he had done the first time. The work was all done. It was certainly so, and nicer than ever before.
Things began to look rather queerly to Otto. He thought of ghost stories, and such things. Very much more softly than usual he slipped out, and closed the door behind him. Just at the same time, something slipped silently out of the teacher's kitchen, and they came together face to face. It was Wiseli. She grew red and redder, just as if Otto had detected her in something mischievous. Now the truth flashed into his mind.
"So it is you who have done my work all the week, Wiseli?" he said. "Nobody else would have thought of doing it unless obliged to, I am sure of that."
"You have no idea how glad I am to get the chance," said Wiseli, in reply.
"No, no; you must not say that, Wiseli. Nobody in the world can be glad to do such things," said the boy decidedly.
"But I mean it,—I really do," repeated the girl. "I have thought, all day long through the week, with pleasure of the chance the afternoon would give me; and, while I was working, I was more than ever glad, because I thought, when Otto comes, he will find the work done, and be pleased."
"But what put it into your head to do it for me?"
"Oh! I knew how much you disliked it; and I have always wanted to give you something, as you once gave me your sled. Don't you remember? But I have nothing to give."
"What you have done is worth a great deal more than lending a sled. I won't forget your kindness, Wiseli." So saying, Otto offered her his hand, quite overcome for the moment.
Wiseli's eyes shone with satisfaction as they seldom did nowadays. Presently Otto wanted to know how she had managed to get into the room again, for he had always waited until all the children were gone.
"Oh! I never did go out," said the girl. "I hid myself quickly behind the closet-door. I thought you would go out for a few moments, as usual."
"How did you get out without my seeing you afterwards?" Otto wanted to know all about it.
"Oh! while you were running around with the other boys, I got out easily enough. I listened; but yesterday and to-day, as I was not certain where you were, I went through the teacher's kitchen, and asked his wife if she had any errand for me to do,—she often gives me a message to carry somewhere,—and then I went out that way. Yesterday I was behind the kitchen-door when you ran into the schoolroom."
Now Otto knew all the ghost story. He offered his hand again to Wiseli. "I thank you," he said; and they both ran off with happy hearts, each a separate way.
OLD AND NEW.
Summer was over, and Autumn had followed in her footsteps. The evenings were cool and misty. In the damp meadows the cows were eating the last grass of the season, and here and there little fires were visible where the sheep-boys cooked their potatoes and warmed their stiffened fingers.
It was on such a misty evening that Otto, on leaving the schoolhouse, ran home for a moment to tell his mother that he was going to see what kept Wiseli from school; for she had not been there since the autumn vacation,—certainly not for eight days.
As he approached the beech grove, he saw Rudi sitting before the door, eating pear after pear from a heap that lay before him.
"Where is Wiseli?" asked Otto.
"Outside," was the answer.
"In the meadow."
"In which meadow?"
"I don't know;" and Rudi went on munching his pears.
"You won't die early because you know too much," remarked Otto, and went haphazard towards the big meadow that stretched away from the house to the wood.
Presently he discovered three black spots under the pear-trees, and went towards them.
He was right. There was Wiseli stooping over the pears which she was sorting, while a little farther off Cheppi sat astride of his rake; and behind him Hannes lay on his back across the piled-up basket, and rocked it back and forth so violently, that it nearly fell over at each movement. Cheppi looked at him, laughing loudly.
When Wiseli saw Otto coming towards her, her whole countenance glowed with pleasure.
"Good evening, Wiseli," cried the lad from afar. "Why have you not been to school for so long?"
The girl stretched out her hand with a pleasant smile to her friend.
"We have had so much to do that I was not able to go," she said. "Just look, what a lot of pears we have! I have to sort them from morning till night, there are so many."
"Your shoes and stockings are all wet. It is not pleasant here. Are you not cold when you are so wet?"
"Yes, I do feel chilly sometimes; but, in general, I get very warm at this work."
At this moment Hannes gave his basket such a powerful twist that over it went, and there lay Hannes, the basket, and the pears all in a heap on the ground.
"Oh, oh!" cried Wiseli in distress; "now they are all to be picked up again."
"And this one, too," cried Cheppi, and laughed aloud as the pear that he had in his hand struck Wiseli's cheek with such force that it brought the tears to her eyes, and she turned quite white with the pain.
Scarcely had Otto seen this than he flew at Cheppi, threw him and his rake to the ground, and seized him by the nape of the neck.
"Stop, or I shall choke!" Cheppi was not laughing now.
"I want to make you remember that you will also have me to deal with in future, when you treat Wiseli in that way," said Otto, scarlet with anger. "Have you got enough? Will you remember it now?"
"Yes, yes! Let me go!" said Cheppi, in a very humble tone.
Otto released him.
"Now you have felt," he said, "how it will be whenever you hurt Wiseli again. I will give you some more of this each time, even if you are sixty years old. Good-by, Wiseli." And Otto went his way to carry his anger to his mother.
He unburdened himself to her as soon as he reached home. It was a terrible thing to the generous boy that Wiseli should be obliged to submit to such treatment. He was determined to go at once to the pastor to complain of him and of his whole family, and demand that Wiseli should be taken away from them at once. His mother listened quietly to him, and let his indignation have time to cool off a little; then she said,—
"I do not think, my dear boy, that there is the least use in your doing this. They would not take the child from her cousin Gotti, I am sure; and it would only irritate him, should he hear that such a thing was thought of. He himself does not feel unkindly towards Wiseli, and there is really no sufficient ground for removing her from his roof. I know very well that the poor girl has a hard time of it there. I have not forgotten her, and am constantly hoping to find some way to help her. It lies very heavily on my heart to know how much she has to suffer, you may be sure of that, Otto. And if you can at any time manage to shelter her and intimidate that brutal fellow Cheppi, without being too rough yourself, I shall be very glad."
Otto took what comfort he could in the knowledge that his mother was constantly looking out for some way to help Wiseli.
He was always planning some way to help her himself, but never hit upon any thing that could be carried out. He saw very well that she could not free herself; and the only idea that occurred to him as Christmas drew near was to write on his list of wishes, in huge letters so big that they could easily be read from heaven above, "I wish that the Christ child would set Wiseli at liberty."
Winter was come again, and the coast offered its feast of inexhaustible pleasure to the children, who never wearied of its charm. The moon shone with the most unusual brightness, it seemed to Otto, who, at last, had the cleverness to suggest that all the children should collect on the hillside at seven o'clock to take advantage of its beauty for an evening coasting-party.
This suggestion was received with universal approbation, and the children separated at five o'clock when it began to be dark, to meet again at seven for their favorite amusement.
Otto's mother was not so enthusiastic over this great scheme as were the children, and could not agree with them when they expressed their delight. She said it was too cold for them to be out late into the evening; that there was great danger of accidents in the uncertain moonlight; and particularly objected to allowing Pussy to expose herself. But her objections only served to enhance the interest the children felt for the expedition, and Pussy pleaded for her consent as if her very life hung on being one of this coasting-party. Otto promised, "upon his word of honor," that he would not let any thing happen to his sister, and would always keep near to her and protect her. At last their mother gave her consent; and, with great noise and rejoicing, the children went out into the beautiful, clear, cold moonlight.
Every thing went on without a drawback. The coast was in perfect condition; and the mysteriousness of the darker places, upon which the moonlight did not fall, heightened the interest of the occasion. There were a vast number of children assembled, and all were in the best humor. Otto let them all go down first; then he followed, and Pussy came last of all, so that no one could run her down. Otto had arranged it in this way, so that he could always glance backward to see that his little sister went safely down the coast.
As every thing went so smoothly and happily, somebody proposed that they should make a "train;" that is, bind all the sleds together, and so go down: it would be more delightful than ever by moonlight. No sooner said than done. Only Pussy's sled was not tied to her brother's, for he feared lest the straining and shocks that often took place in this kind of coasting might prove dangerous to her. She followed, therefore, as usual; but Otto could not stop his sled if she was delayed, for he had to go on with the "train." Off they went, and the long chain reached the bottom safely and happily.
Suddenly Otto heard a fearful cry, and he recognized at once his little sister's voice. What had happened? He had no choice, however, but to go down to the very end with the merry party to which he was closely fastened—down to the foot of the hill, no matter how great his fear might be. Once at the bottom, however, he tore his sled loose, and ran up the hill as quickly as possible, with all the others at his heels; for they had all heard the screams, and wanted to see what they meant. Half-way up the ascent stood Pussy by her sled, and screamed and cried rivers of tears. Out of breath with his haste, Otto could hardly call out, "What is the matter? What has happened?"
"He did—he did—he did," sobbed Pussy, and could get no further.
"What did he do? Who was it? Where? Who?" stammered Otto.
"That man there, that man; he did try to kill me, and said terrible words, too."
As much as this Otto understood, accompanied by screams and sobs.
"Be quiet now, Pussy: do not go on like that. He did not kill you, after all. Did he really strike you?" asked Otto, very gently and soothingly, for he was much alarmed.
"No," sobbed Pussy, beginning again; "but he was going to. He had a stick, and he held it out like that, and said, 'Wait a moment;' and such dreadful words he said, too."
"Then he really did not do any thing to hurt you?" asked Otto, and began to breathe more freely.
"But he did, he did; and you were all off down the hill, and I was all alone." And Pussy's tears and sobs continued to break forth.
"Hush, hush!" said Otto, consolingly. "Now try to be quiet. I will not leave you again, and the man will not trouble you any more; and if you will be quiet and good, I will give you the red candy cock that was on the Christmas-tree."
This made an impression upon Pussy. She dried her eyes, and did not make another sound; for that big red candy cock on the Christmas-tree was what the child had most wished for. In the division of the things it had fallen to Otto's share; but his little sister had never forgotten her longing for it. Now that every thing was quiet again, the children began to climb the hill, and they tried to make out who the man could be who had threatened to kill Pussy.
"Oh, kill! Not so bad as that," interposed Otto. "I saw a big man with a stick, who was obliged to step into the snow to get out of our way when we went down the coast on the 'train.' It made him angry to be obliged to go into the snow; and finding Pussy alone there, he scolded her a little to relieve himself."
This explanation satisfied everybody, it was so perfectly natural. Everybody wondered that they had not thought of it before,—indeed, thought they had,—and soon forgot all about it, and continued coasting. This, however, had an end, like all other pleasures; for eight o'clock had struck long ago, and that was the hour at which they were to break up and go home. On the way back, Otto charged Pussy not to speak of her adventure; otherwise their mother would never again let them go coasting in the moonlight. She should have the candy cock, but must promise not to say a word if she took it.