Part 3 out of 4
hurried and jumped onto the sleds, and flew down and ran up again in a
A rule had been established to the end that no one should go down the
coast while the others were still climbing up, but that all should go
down one after the other in good order, to prevent confusion or
accidents. Notwithstanding this good rule, there were often many
lawless proceedings, especially towards the close of the day, when
nobody wished to be the last, and when they all crowded onto the coast
very closely together.
This was the state of affairs on a clear evening in January, when the
snow fairly crackled under the children's feet as they mounted the hill,
and the fields in every direction were frozen so firmly that you could
have gone anywhere over them in a sleigh as if they were the highway.
The children were all rosy and glowing with their exertions, for they
were hurrying up the steep hill, pulling their sleds behind them,
turning them about in a flash, jumping upon them, and off again head
foremost, not to lose a second of the precious time until the moon shone
brightly in the crisp sky, and the evening bells were ringing. All the
boys were shouting, "Once more; just once more!" and the girls were as
eager as they. At the top, however, where they all threw themselves upon
their sleds, there was great excitement and uproar. Three boys each
claimed to have reached the top first, and would not yield an inch to
each other, but all must go down at once. And so they pushed this way
and that, until a big boy called Cheppi was hustled quite against the
bank of snow at the side of the coast, and found that his heavily ironed
sled was fast in the snow. He was furious, for he saw that now all the
other fellows would get off before he could extricate himself. He looked
about, and presently espied a little slender girl standing near by in
the snow. She was very pale, and held both arms wrapped in her apron to
keep them warmer, for all that she trembled and shivered with cold from
head to feet. She looked so feeble and miserable, that she seemed to
Cheppi just the proper object upon whom to vent his rage.
"Can't you get out of a fellow's way, you stupid thing? What are you
standing there for? You have not even a sled with you. Just wait a
moment; I'll help you to get along!"
So saying, he thrust his boot into the snow, intending to kick it over
the girl. She sprang back, however, quickly, so that she went quite up
to her knees in the snow, and said timidly, "I was only looking on."
Cheppi was thrusting his boot into the snow again with the same
intention towards the child, when he received such a tremendous box
on the ear from behind, that it almost knocked him off his sled.
"Just you wait a minute," he shouted, beside himself with anger, for
his ear tingled as it had never tingled before; and doubling up his
fists, he turned himself to see who was his hidden foe. A boy stood
behind him, and looked on very quietly, holding his sled in position
for another coast.
"Come on," he said calmly.
It was Otto Ritter, a class-mate of Cheppi, with whom he was always
engaged in some little quarrel. Otto was a tall, slender boy, about
eleven years old, and not nearly of the same strength as Cheppi; but
the latter had learned more than once that with hands and feet Otto was
much the more skilful of the two. He did not strike out, but held his
fists doubled up, and cried out angrily, "Let me alone: I am not
meddling with you."
"But I am with you," replied Otto, in a very warlike tone. "What
business have you to chase Wiseli away like that, and then to kick snow
at her, I should like to know? I have been looking at you, you coward!
teasing a little girl who cannot defend herself."
With these words he turned his back contemptuously towards Cheppi, and
called out to Wiseli, who was standing shivering all this time in the
"Come out of the snow, Wiseli. Oh, how you are shivering, child! Have
you no sled really, and only been able to look on? Here, take mine, and
go down once quickly. Do you know how?"
The pale, timid girl did not know what to make of this kindness. She had
been looking on for some little time, watching the sleds as they flew
down the hill, and thinking, "Oh, how I should like to go down to the
very bottom just once!" when she saw two, and sometimes three, going
down on the same sled. But now she might go down all alone by herself,
and that, too, on the very handsomest sled on the coast,--the one with a
lion's head, that went faster than any other, because it was light, and
was bound with iron. She was so happy that she stood still, looking
after Cheppi with a half feeling that he might strike her if she dared
to enjoy such a piece of good fortune. But there he stood quite
tranquilly, as if nothing whatever had happened; and by him stood Otto,
with such a protecting air, that she took courage, and seated herself on
the handsome sled; and when Otto called out, "Go on; go on, Wiseli!" she
obeyed, and away she flew as if the wind were behind her. Very soon Otto
heard the coasters all toiling up the hill again, and he called out,
"Stay among the first, Wiseli, and go down again; after that we must go
home." Wiseli was only too happy to do as she was bid, and enjoyed for a
second time the long-wished-for pleasure. Then she brought the sled to
its owner, thanking him shyly for his kindness, but more with her
beaming eyes than with words; and off she scampered as fast as she could
go. Otto felt decidedly happier. "Where is Pussy?" he called out,
peering into the already scattering crowd. "Here she is!" replied a
merry voice; and out of the knot of children appeared a red-cheeked,
plump little girl, who slipped her hand into her big brother's
protecting palm, and went with him towards their father's house as
quickly as possible. It was very late, and they had over-passed the
allotted time for coasting.
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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?"
[Illustration: WISELI HASTENED INTO THE ROOM, AND WENT TO HER
"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
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
"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
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
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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
"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
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
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
"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
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
"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
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
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
"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
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
"Oh, oh!" cried Wiseli in distress; "now they are all to be picked
"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
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
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
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
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.
All traces of her tears had long vanished, and nothing betrayed their
secret to the family.
Both children slept quietly in their beds soon after, and Pussy dreamed
of the red candy cock, and shouted out with pleasure in her dreams.
Presently there was a loud knocking at the house-door, that made Colonel
Ritter and his wife spring up from the table, where they were
comfortably talking about the children; and old Trine called out of the
window, in an angry tone,--
"What sort of a way of knocking is that?"
"A terrible thing has happened," said some one from below. "We want the
colonel to come down the hill. They have found Andrew the carpenter
dead." And off ran the messenger again.
Mr. and Mrs. Ritter had heard enough, however, for they had heard this
sad news from the window. The colonel threw his cloak about his
shoulders, and hastened down to the carpenter's. As he entered the room,
he found that there were already a crowd of people assembled. The
justice of the peace and the chief magistrate had been fetched, and a
number of curious and sympathetic people had come along with them.
Andrew lay on the floor, in his blood, and gave no sign of life. The
colonel went to his side.
"Has nobody been for the doctor?" he asked. "We want a doctor at once."