Maezli by Johanna Spyri
Chapter II. Divers Worries
Before the mother went off to church on Sunday morning she always glanced into the living-room to see if the children were quietly settled at their different occupations and to hope that everything would remain in order during her absence. When she looked in to-day everything was peaceful. Bruno and Mea were both sitting in a corner lost in a book, Kurt had spread out his drawings on a table before him, and Lippo and Maezli were building on their small table a beautiful town with churches, towers and large palaces. The mother was thoroughly satisfied and went away. For awhile everything was still. A bright ray of sunshine fell over Kurt's drawing and gaily played about on the paper. Kurt, looking up, saw how the meadows were sparkling outside.
"The two rascally milk-spillers from yesterday ought to be locked up for the whole day," Kurt suddenly exploded.
Mea apparently had been busy with the same thought for she assented very eagerly. The two talked over the whole affair anew and had to give vent to their indignation about the scoundrels and their pity for poor Loneli. Maezli must have found the conversation entertaining, for glancing over to the others, she let Lippo place the blocks whichever way he pleased, something that very seldom happened. Only when the children said no more she came back to her task.
"Goodness gracious!" Kurt exclaimed suddenly, starting up from his drawing; "you ought to have reminded me, Mea, that we have to bring some clothes to school for the poor people whose houses were burnt up. You heard it, but mother does not even know about it yet."
"I forgot it, too," said Mea quietly, continuing to read.
"Mother knows about it long ago. I told her right away," Lippo declared. "Teacher told us to be sure not to forget."
"Quite right, little school fox," Kurt replied, while he calmly kept on drawing. As long as his mother knew about the matter he did not need to bother any more.
But the last words had interested Maezli very much. Throwing together the houses, towers and churches she said to Lippo, "Come, Lippo, I know something amusing we can do which will please mama, too."
Lippo wondered what that could be, but he first laid every block neatly away in the big box and did not let Maezli hurry him in the least.
"Don't do it that way," Maezli called out impatiently. "Throw them all in and put on the lid. Then it's all done."
"One must not do that, Maezli; no one must do it that way," Lippo said seriously. "One ought to put in the first block and pack it before one takes up the second."
"Then I won't wait for you," Maezli declared, rapidly whisking out by the door.
When Lippo had properly filled the box and set it in its right place, he quickly followed Maezli, wondering what her plan was. But he could find her nowhere, neither in the hall nor in the garden, and he got no answer to his loud, repeated calls. Finally a reply came which sounded strangely muffled, as if from up above, so he went up and into her bedroom. There Maezli was sitting in the middle of a heap of clothes, her head thrust far into a wardrobe. Apparently she was still pulling out more things.
"You certainly are doing something wonderful," said Lippo, glancing with his big eyes at the clothes on the floor.
"I am doing the right thing," said Maezli now in the most decided tone. "Kurt has said that we must send the poor people some clothes, so we must take them all out and lay together everything we don't need any more. Mama will be glad when she has no more to do about it and they can be sent away to-morrow. Now get your things, too, and we'll put them all in a heap."
The matter, however, seemed still rather doubtful to Lippo. Standing thoughtfully before all the little skirts and jackets, he felt that this would not be quite after his mother's wish.
"When we want to do something with our clothes, we always have to ask mother," he began again.
But Maezli did not answer and only pulled out a bunch of woolen stockings and a heavy winter cloak, spreading everything on the floor.
"No, I won't do it," said Lippo again, after scrutinizing the unusual performance.
"You don't want to do it because you are afraid it will be too much work," Maezli asserted with a face quite red with zeal. "I'll help you when I am done here."
"I won't do it anyhow," Lippo repeated resolutely; "I won't because we are not allowed to."
Maezli found no time to persuade him further, as she began to hunt for her heavy winter shoes, which were still in the wardrobe. But before she had brought them forth to the light, the door opened and the mother was looking full of horror at the devastation.
"But children, what a horrible disorder!" she cried out, "and on Sunday morning, too. What has made you do it? What is this wild dry-goods shop on the floor?"
"Now, you see, Maezli," said Lippo, not without showing great satisfaction at having so clearly proved that he had been in the right. Maezli tried with all her might to prove to her mother that her intention had solely been to save her the work necessary to get the things together.
But the mother now explained decidedly to the little girl that she never needed to undertake such actions in the future as she could not possibly judge which clothes she still needed and which could be given away. Maezli was also told that such help on her part only resulted in double work for her mother. "Besides I can see Maezli," the mother concluded, "that your great zeal seems to come from a wish to get rid of all the things you don't like to wear yourself. All your woolen things, which you always say scratch your skin. So you do not mind if other children have them, Maezli?"
"They might like them better than to be cold," was Maezli's opinion.
"Oh, mother, Mrs. Knippel is coming up the road toward our house; I am sure she is coming to see us," said Lippo, who had gone to the window.
"And I have not even taken my things off on account of your disorder here," said the mother a little frightened. "Maezli, go and greet Mrs. Knippel and take her into the front room. Tell her that I have just come from church and that I shall come directly."
Maezli ran joyfully away; the errand seemed to please her. She received the guest with excellent manners and led her into the front room to the sofa, for Maezli knew exactly the way her mother always did. Then she gave her mother's message.
"Very well, very well, And what do you want to do on this beautiful Sunday?" the lady asked,
"Take a walk," Maezli answered rapidly. "Are they still locked up?" she then casually asked.
"Who? Who? Whom do you mean?" and the lady looked somewhat disapprovingly at the little girl.
"Edwin and Eugen," Maezli answered fearlessly.
"I should like to know where you get such ideas," the lady said with growing irritation. "I should like to know why the boys should be locked up."
"Because they are so mean to Loneli all the time," Maezli declared.
The mother entered now. To her friendly greeting she only received a very cold reply.
"I only wonder, Mrs. Rector," the guest began immediately in an irritated manner, "what meanness that little poison-toad of a Loneli has spread and invented about my boys. But I wonder still more that some people should believe such things."
Mrs. Maxa was very much astonished that her visitor should have already heard what had taken place the night before, as she knew that her sons would not speak of it of their own free will.
"As long as you know about it already, I shall tell you what happened," she said. "You have apparently been misinformed. It had nothing to do whatever with a meanness on Loneli's part. Maezli, please join the other children and stay there till I come," the mother interrupted herself, turning to the little girl, whose eyes had been expectantly glued on the visitor's face in the hope of hearing if the two boys were still locked up.
Maezli walked away slowly, still hoping that she would hear the news before she reached the door. But Maezli was doomed to be disappointed, as no word was spoken. Then Mrs. Maxa related the incident of the evening before as it occurred.
"That is nothing at all," said the district attorney's wife in answer. "Those are only childish jokes. All children hold out their feet sometimes to trip each other. Such things should not be reckoned as faults big enough to scold children for."
"I do not agree with you," said Mrs. Maxa. "Such kinds of jokes are very much akin to roughness, and from small cruelties larger ones soon result. Loneli has really suffered harm from this action, and I think that joking ceases under such circumstances."
"As I said, it is not worth the trouble of losing so many words about. I feel decidedly that too much fuss is made about the grandmother and the child. Apollonie does not seem to get it out of her head that her name was Castle-Apollonie and she carries her head so high that the child will soon learn it from her. But I have come to talk with you about something much more important."
The visitor now gave her listener some information that seemed to be far from pleasing to Mrs. Maxa, because the face of the latter became more and more worried all the time. Mrs. Knippel and her husband had come to the conclusion that the time had come when their sons should be sent to the neighboring town in order to enter the lowest classes of the high school. The Rector's teaching had been sufficient till now, but they felt that the boys had outgrown him and belonged to a more advanced school. So they had decided to find a good boarding place for the three boys together, as Bruno would naturally join them in order that they could remain together. Since the three would, in later years, have great authority in the little community, it would be splendid if they were educated alike and could agree thoroughly in everything. "My husband means to go to town in the near future and look for a suitable house where they can board," the speaker concluded. "I am sure that you will be grateful if the question is solved for Bruno, as you would otherwise be obliged to settle it yourself."
Frau Maxa's heart was very heavy at this news. She already saw the consequences and pictured the terrible scenes that would result if the three boys were obliged to live closely together.
"The thought of sending Bruno away from home already troubles me greatly," she said finally. "I do not see the necessity for it. Our rector, who has offered to teach them out of pure kindness, means to keep the boys under his care till a year from next spring. They are able to learn plenty still from him. However, if you have resolved to send your sons away, I shall be obliged to do the same, as the Rector could not continue the lessons for Bruno alone." Mrs. Maxa declined the offer of her visitor to look up a dwelling-place for Bruno, as she had to talk the matter over first with her brother. He was always her counsellor in these things, because he was the children's guardian.
The district attorney's wife did not seem gratified with this information. As she was anxious to have the matter settled then and there, she remarked rather sarcastically that a mother should be able to decide such matters alone. "The boys are sensible enough to behave properly without being constantly watched," she added. "I can certainly say that mine are, and where two hold to the right path, a third is sure to follow."
"My eldest is never one to follow blindly," Mrs. Maxa said with animation. "I should not wish it either in this case. I shall keep him at home as long as it is possible for me, and after that I shall send him away under God's protection."
"Just as you say," the other lady uttered, rising and taking leave. "We can talk the question of boarding over again another time," she remarked as she was going away; "when the time comes, my husband's preparation for the future will be welcome, I am sure."
When the mother, after escorting her guest, came back to the children's room, Maezli immediately called out, "Did she say if the two are still locked up?"
"What are you inventing, Maezli?" said the mother. "You probably don't know yourself what it means."
"Oh, yes, I know," Maezli assured her. "I asked her if the boys were still locked up because Kurt said that."
Kurt laughed out loud: "Oh, you naughty child to talk so wild! Because I say that those two ought to be locked up, Maezli runs over and immediately asks their mother that question."
Mrs. Maxa now understood clearly where her visitor had heard about her boy's behaviour of yesterday.
"Maezli," she said admonishingly, "have you forgotten that you are not to ask questions of grown-up people who come to see me?"
"But why shouldn't I ask what the locked-up children are doing?" Maezli declared, feigning great pity in her voice.
"Now the foxy little thing wants to incline mother to be comforted by pretending to pity them," Kurt declared.
Suddenly a terrific shout of joy sounded from all voices at once as they all called: "Uncle Phipp! Uncle Phipp!" In a moment they had disappeared through the door.
Kurt jumped out through the window, which was not dangerous for him and was the shortest way to the street. The mother also ran outside to greet Uncle Phipp who was her only brother. He lived on his estate in Sils valley, which was famous for its fruit. He was always the most welcome guest in his sister's house. He had been away on a journey and had not made his appearance for several weeks in Nolla, and his coming was therefore greeted with special enthusiasm. One could hardly guess that there was an uncle in the midst of the mass which was moving forward and taking up the whole breadth of the road. The five children were hanging on to him on all sides in such a way that it looked as if one solid person was walking along on many feet.
"Maxa, I have no hand for you as you can see," the brother saluted her. "I greet you heartily, though, with my head, which I can still nod."
"No, I want to have your hand," Mrs. Maxa replied. "Lippo can let your right hand go for a moment. How are you, Philip? Welcome home! Did you have a pleasant journey and did you find what you were looking for?"
"All has gone to my greatest satisfaction. Forward now, young people, because I want to take off my overcoat," the uncle commanded. "It is filled with heavy objects which might pull me to the ground."
Shouting with joy, the five now pushed their uncle into the house; they had all secretly guessed what the heavy objects in his long pockets were. When the uncle had reached the house, he insisted on taking off his coat alone in order to prevent the things from being hurt. He had to hang it up because the mother insisted that they should go to lunch and postpone everything else till the afternoon. The next difficult and important question to be settled was, who should be allowed to sit beside Uncle Philip at dinner, because those next had the best chance to talk to him. He chose the youngest two to-day. Leading him in triumph to the inviting-looking table, they placed him in their midst with joyfully sparkling eyes. It was a merry meal. The children were allowed to ask him all they wanted to and he told them so many amusing things about his travels that they could never get weary of listening. Last of all the good things came the Sunday cake, and when that was eaten, Maezli showed great signs of impatience, as if the best of all were still to come.
"I think that Maezli has noticed something," said the uncle; "and one must never let such a small and inquisitive nose point into empty air for too long. We must look now what my overcoat has brought back from the ship."
Maezli who had already jumped up from her chair seized her uncle's hand as soon as he rose. She wanted to be as close to him as possible while he was emptying the two deep pockets. What lovely red books came out first! He presented them to Bruno and Kurt who appeared extremely pleased with their presents.
"This is for mother for her mending" Maezli called out looking with suspense at her uncle's fingers. He was just pulling out a dainty little sewing case.
"You guessed wrong that time, Maezli," he said. "Your mother gets a present, too, but this is for Mea, who is getting to be a young lady. She will soon visit her friends with the sewing case under her arm."
"Oh, how lovely, uncle, how lovely!" Mea cried out, altogether enchanted with her gift. "I wish you had brought some friends for me with you; they are hard enough to find here."
"I promise to do that another time, Mea. To-day there was no more room for them in my overcoat. But now comes the most important thing of all!" and with these words the uncle pulled a large box out of each pocket. "These are for the small people," he said, "but do not mix them up. In one are stamping little horses, and in the other little steaming pots. Which is for Maezli?"
"The stamping horses," she said quickly.
"I don't think so. Take it now and look," said the uncle. When Lippo had received his box also, the two ran over to their table, but Maezli suddenly paused half-way.
"Uncle Philip," she asked eagerly, "has mother gotten something, too, something nice? Can I see it?"
"Yes, something very nice," the uncle answered, "but she has not gotten it yet; one can't see it, but one can hear it."
"Oh, a piano," Maezli guessed quickly.
"No, no, Maezli; you might see as much as that," said the uncle. "You couldn't possibly guess it. It can't come out till all the small birds are tucked into their nests and everything is still and quiet."
Maezli ran to her table at last and when she found a perfect array of shining copper kettles, cooking pans and pots in her box she forgot completely about the horses. She dug with growing astonishment into her box, which seemed to be filled with ever new and more marvellous objects. Lippo was standing up his beautifully saddled horses in front of him, but the thing he liked best of all was a groom in a red jacket. He put him first on one horse and then on all the others, for, to the boy's great delight, he fitted into every saddle. He sat secure, straight and immovable even when the horses trotted or galloped.
Uncle Philip was less able to stand the quiet which was reigning after the presentation of his gifts than were the children, who were completely lost in the new marvels. He told them now that he was ready to take them all on a walk. Maezli was ready before anyone, because she had thrown everything into her box and then with a little pushing had been able to put on the lid. This did not worry her further, so she ran towards the uncle.
"Maezli, you mustn't do that; no, you mustn't," Lippo called after her. But the little girl stood already outside, holding her uncle's hand ready for the march. Everybody else was ready, as they all had only had one object to put away, and the mother gave her orders to Kathy, the cook.
"Come, Lippo, don't stay behind!" the uncle called into the room.
"I have to finish first, then I'll come right away," the little boy called back.
The mother was ready to go, too, now. "Where is Lippo?" she asked, examining her little brood.
"He sits in there like a mole in his hole and won't come out," said Kurt "Shall I fetch him? He'll come quickly enough then."
"No, no," the mother returned. "I'll attend to it." Lippo was sitting at his little table, laying one horse after the other slowly and carefully in the box so that they should not be damaged.
"Come, Lippo, come! We must not let Uncle Philip wait," the mother said.
"But, mother, one must not leave before everything is straightened up and put into the wardrobe," Lippo said timidly. "One must always pack up properly."
"That is true, but I shall help you to-day," said the mother, and with her assistance everything was soon put in order.
"Oh, here comes the slow-poke at last," Kurt cried out.
"No, you must not scold him, for Lippo did right in putting his things in order before taking a walk," said his mother, who had herself given him that injunction.
"Bravo, my god-son! I taught you that, but now we must start," said the uncle, extending his hand to the little boy. "Where shall we go?"
"Up to the castle," Kurt quickly suggested. Everybody was satisfied with the plan and the mother assented eagerly, as she had intended the same thing.
"We shall go up towards the castle hill," the uncle remarked as he set out after taking the two little ones by the hand. "We shall have to go around the castle, won't we? If cross Mr. Trius is keeping watch, we won't get very close to it, because the property is fenced in for a long way around."
"Oh, we can go up on the road to the entrance," said Kurt with animation. "We can look into the garden from there, but everything is overgrown. On the right is a wooden fence which we can easily climb. From there we can run all the way up through the meadows to a thick hawthorn hedge; on the other side of that begin the bushes and behind that the woods with the old fir and pine trees, but we can't climb over it. We could easily enough get to the castle from the woods."
"You seem to have a very minute knowledge of the place," said the uncle. "What does Mr. Trius say to the climbing of hedges? In the meadows there are beautiful apple-trees as far as I remember."
"He beats everybody he can catch," was Kurt's information, "even if they have no intention of taking the apples. Whenever he sees anyone in the neighborhood of the hedge, he begins to strike out at them."
"His intention is probably to show everybody who tries to nose around that the fences are not to be climbed. Let us wait for your mother, who knows all the little ways. She will tell us where to go."
Uncle Philip glanced back for his sister, who had remained behind with Mea and Bruno. While the uncle was amusing the younger ones, the two others were eagerly talking over their special problems with her, so that they got ahead very slowly.
"To which side shall we go now? As you know the way so well, please tell us where to go," said the uncle when the three had approached.
The mother replied that Uncle Philip knew the paths as well as she, if not even better. As long as the decision lay with her, however, she chose the height to the left from which there was a clear view of the castle.
"Then we'll pass by Apollonie's cottage," said Kurt. "I am glad! Then we can see what Loneli is doing after yesterday's trouble. She is the nicest child in school."
"Let us go there," the uncle assented. "I shall be glad to see my old friend Apollonie again! March ahead now!"
They had soon reached the cottage at the foot of the hill, which lay bathed in brilliant sunshine. Only the old apple-tree in the corner threw a shadow over the wooden bench beneath it and over a part of the little garden. Grandmother and grandchild were sitting on the bench dressed in their Sunday-best and with a book on their knees. A delicious perfume of rosemary and mignonette filled the air from the little flower-beds. Uncle Philip looked over the top of the hedge into the garden.
"Real Sunday peace is resting on everything here. Just look, Maxa!" he called out to his sister. "Look at the rose-hushes and the mignonette! How pleasant and charming Apollonie looks in her spotless cap and shining apron with the apple-cheeked child beside her in her pretty dress!"
Loneli had just noticed her best friends and, jumping up from the bench, she ran to them.
Apollonie, glancing up, now recognized the company, too. Radiant, she approached and invited them to step into her garden for a rest. She was already opening the door in order to fetch out enough chairs and benches to seat them all when Mrs. Maxa stopped her. She told Apollonie that their time was already very short, as they intended to climb the hill, but they had wished to greet her on their way up and to see her well-ordered garden.
"How attractively it is laid out, Mrs. Apollonie!" Uncle Philip exclaimed. "This small space is as lovely as the large castle-garden used to be. Your roses and mignonette, the cabbage, beans and beets, the little fountain in the corner are so charming! Your bench under the apple-tree looks most inviting."
"Oh, Mr. Falcon, you are still as fond of joking as ever," Apollonie returned. "So you think that my rose-beds are as fine as those up there used to be? Indeed, who has ever seen the like of them or of my wonderful vegetable garden in the castle-grounds? There has never been such an abundance of cauliflower and peas, such rows of bean-poles, such salad-beds. What a delight their care was to me. Such a garden will never be seen again. I have to sigh every time when I think that anything so beautiful should be forever lost."
"But that can't be helped," Uncle Philip answered. "There is one great advantage you have here. Nobody can possibly disturb your Sunday peace. You need not throw up your hands and exclaim: 'Falcon is the worst of all.'"
"Oh, Mr. Falcon, so you still remember," Apollonie exclaimed. "Yes, I must admit that the three young gentlemen have trampled down many a young plant of mine. Still I should not mind such a thing if I only had the care of the garden back again, but it doesn't even exist any more. Mr. Trius's only harvest is hay and apples, and that is all he wants apparently, because he has thrown everything else out. Please do not think that I am swimming in pure peace here because no boys are stamping down my garden. Oh, no! It is very difficult to read my Sunday psalm in peace when I am given such a bitter soup of grief to swallow as I got yesterday. It keeps on burning me, and still I have to swallow it."
"You probably mean the Knippel-soup from yesterday?" Kurt interrupted, full of lively interest. Loneli had only just told him that things had gone very badly the day before when she had returned home all soiled from her fall and with the empty milk-bottle. So he felt more indignant than before and had immediately interpreted Apollonie's hint. "I want to tell you, Apollonie, that it was not Loneli's fault in the least. Those rascals enjoy sticking out their feet and seeing people tumble over them."
"The child can't possibly have behaved properly, Kurt, or the district attorney's sons would not have teased her."
"I'll fetch Bruno right away and he'll prove to you that Loneli did nothing whatever. He saw it," Kurt cried eagerly with the intention of fetching his brother, who had already started up the hill. But his mother detained him. It was not her wish to fan Bruno's rage afresh by the discovery that Loneli had been considered guilty. She therefore narrated the incident to Apollonie just as Bruno had reported it.
Loneli's blue eyes glistened with joy when the story was told according to the truth. She knew that the words spoken by the rector's widow had great weight with her grandmother.
"Can you see now that it was not Loneli's fault?" Kurt cried out as soon as his mother had finished.
"Yes, I see it and I am happy that it is so," said Apollonie. "How could one have suspected that boys who had a good education should want to hurt others without cause? The young Falcon would never have done such a thing, I know that. He only ran into the vegetable garden because his two friends were chasing him from both sides."
Uncle Philip laughed: "I am glad you are so just to me, Mrs. Apollonie. Even when you scolded the Falcon properly for tramping down your plants, you knew that it was not in maliciousness he did it but in self-defence. I am afraid it is time to go now" and with these words he heartily shook his old acquaintance by the hand. The two little ones, who had never left his side, were ready immediately to strike out once more.
They soon reached the hill and the castle, which was bathed in the soft evening light, lay openly before them. A hushed silence reigned about the gray building and the old pine trees under the tower, whose branches lay trailing on the ground. For years no human hand had touched them. Where the blooming garden had been wild bushes and weeds covered the ground.
The mother and uncle, settling down on a tree-trunk, looked in silence towards the castle, while the children were hunting for strawberries on the sunny incline.
"How terribly deserted and lonely it all looks," Uncle Philip said after a while. "Let us go back. When the sun is gone, it will get more dreary still."
"Don't you notice anything, Philip?" asked his sister, taken up with her own thoughts. "Can you see that all the shutters are closed except those on the tower balcony? Don't you remember who used to live there?"
"Certainly I do. Mad Bruno used to live there," the brother answered. "As his rooms alone seem to be kept in order, he might come back?"
"Why, he'll never come back," Uncle Philip exclaimed. "You know that we heard ages ago that he is an entirely broken man and that he lay deadly sick in Malaga. Mr. Tillman, who went to Spain, must certainly know about it. Restless Baron Bruno has probably found his last resting-place long ago. Why should you look for him here?"
"I only think that in that case a new owner of the place would have turned up by now," was his sister's opinion. "Two young members of the family, the children of Salo and Eleanor, are still alive. I wonder where these children are. They would be the sole owners after their uncle's death."
"They have long ago been disinherited," the brother exclaimed. "I do not know where they are, but I have an idea on that subject. I shall tell you about it to-night when we are alone. Here you are so absent-minded. You throw worried looks in all directions as if you were afraid that this perfectly solid meadow were a dangerous pond into which your little brood might fall and lose their lives."
The children had scattered in all directions. Bruno had gone far to one side and was deeply immersed in a little book he had taken with him. Mea had discovered the most beautiful forget-me-nots she had ever seen in all her life, which grew in large masses beside the gurgling mountain stream. Beside herself with transport, she flew from place to place where the small blue flowers sparkled, for she wanted to pick them all.
Kurt had climbed a tree and from the highest branch he could reach was searchingly studying the castle, as if something special was to be discovered there. Maezli, having discovered some strawberries, had pulled Lippo along with her. She wanted him to pick those she had found while she hunted for more in the meantime. The mother was very busy keeping an eye on them all. Kurt might become too daring in his climbing feats. Maezli might run away too far and Lippo might put his strawberries into his trousers-pocket as he had done once already, and cause great harm to his little Sunday suit.
"You fuss and worry too much about the children," Uncle Philip said. "Just let the children simply grow, saying to them once in a while, 'If you don't behave, you'll be locked up.'"
"Yes, that certainly sounds simple," said his sister. "It is a pity you have no brood of your own to bring up, Philip, as lively as mine, and each child entirely different from the others, so that one has to be urged to a thing that another has to be kept from. I get the cares without looking for them. A new great worry has come to me to-day, which even you won't be able to just push aside."
Mrs. Maxa told her brother now about the morning's interview with the wife of the district attorney. She told him of the problem she had with Bruno's further education, because the lessons he had been having from the Rector would end in the fall, and of her firm intention of keeping him from living together with his two present comrades. The three had never yet come together without bringing as a result some mean deed on one side and an explosion of rage on the other.
"Don't you think, Philip, that it will be a great care for me to think that the three are living under one roof? Don't you think so yourself?" Mrs. Maxa concluded.
"Oh, Maxa, that is an old story. There have been boys at all times who fought together and then made peace again."
"Philip, that does not console me," the sister answered. "That has never been Bruno's way at all. He never fights that way. But it is hard to tell what he might do in a fit of anger at some injustice or meanness, and that is what frightens me so."
"His godfather of the same name has probably passed that on to him. Nobody more than you, Maxa, has always tried to wash him clean and excuse him for all his deeds of anger. In your indestructible admiration ..."
Uncle Philip got no further, as all the children now came running toward them. The two little ones both tried hard to put the biggest strawberries they had found into the mouths of their mother and uncle. Mea could not hold her magnificent bunch of forget-me-nots near enough to their eyes to be admired. The two older boys had approached, too, as they had an announcement to make. The sun had gone down behind the mountain, so they had remembered that it was time to go home.
Mother and uncle rose from their seats and the whole group started down the mountainside. The two little ones were gaily trotting beside the uncle, bursting into wild shouting now and then, for he made such leaps that they flew high into the air sometimes. He held them so firmly, however, that they always reached the ground safely.
At the entrance to the house Kurt had a brilliant idea. "Oh, mother," he called out excitedly over the prospect, "tonight we must have the story of the Wallerstaetten family. It will fit so well because we were able to see the castle today, with all its gables, embrasures and battlements."
But the mother answered: "I am sorry to say we can't. Uncle is here today, and as he has to leave early tomorrow morning, I have to talk to him tonight. You have to go to bed early, otherwise you will be too tired to get up tomorrow after your long walk."
"Oh, what a shame, what a shame!" Kurt lamented. He was still hoping that he would find out something in the story about the ghost of Wildenstein, despite the fact that one could not really believe in him. Sitting on the tree that afternoon, he had been lost in speculations as to where the ghost might have appeared.
When the mother went to Maezli's bed that night to say prayers with her she found her still very much excited, as usual, by the happenings of the day. She always found it difficult to quiet the little girl, but to-day she seemed filled by very vivid impressions. Now that everything was still, they seemed to come back to her.
Maezli sat straight up in her bed with shining eyes as soon as her mother appeared. "Why was the Knippel-soup allowed to spoil Apollonie's Sunday peace?" she cried out.
"Where have you heard that, Maezli?" the mother said, quite frightened. She already saw the moment before her when Maezli would tell the district attorney's wife that new appellation. "You must never use that expression any more, Maezli. You see, nobody would be able to know what you mean. Kurt invented it apparently when Apollonie spoke about having so much to swallow. He should not have said it. Do you understand, Maezli, that you must not say it any more?"
"Yes, but why is anyone allowed to spoil Apollonie's Sunday peace?" Maezli persevered. Apollonie was her special friend, whom she wanted to keep from harm.
"No one should do it, Maezli," the mother replied. It is wrong to spoil anybody's Sunday peace and no one should do it."
"But our good God should quickly call down, 'Don't do it, don't do it!' Then they would know that they were not allowed," was Maezli's opinion.
"He does it, Maezli! He does it every time anybody does wrong," said the mother, "for the evil-doer always hears such a voice that calls out to him: 'Don't do it, don't do it!' But sometimes he does it in spite of the voice. Even young children like you, Maezli, hear the voice when they feel like doing wrong, and they do wrong just the same."
"I only wonder why God does not punish them right away; He ought to do that," Maezli eagerly replied.
"But He does," said the mother. As soon as anybody has done wrong, he feels a great weight on his heart so that he keeps on thinking, 'I wish I hadn't done it!' Then our good God is good and merciful to him and does not punish him further. He gives him plenty of time to come to Him and tell Him how sorry he is to have done wrong. God gives him the chance to beg His pardon. But if he does not do that, he is sure to be punished so that he will do more and more evil and become more terribly unhappy all the time."
"I'll look out, too, now if I can hear the voice," was Maezli's resolution.
"The chief thing is to follow the voice, Maezli," said the mother. "But we must be quiet now. Say your prayers, darling, then you will soon go to sleep."
Maezli said her little prayer very devoutly. As there was nothing more to trouble her, she lay down and was half asleep as soon as her mother closed the door behind her.
She was still expected at four other little beds. Every one of the children had a problem to bring to her, but there was so little time left to-day that they had to be put off till to-morrow. In fact, they were all glad to make a little sacrifice for their beloved uncle. When she came back into the room, she found him hurrying impatiently up and down. He could hardly wait to make his sister the announcement to which he had already referred several times.
"Are you coming at last?" he called to her. "Are you not a bit curious what present I have brought you?"
"Oh, Philip, I am sure it can only be a joke," Mrs. Maxa replied. "I should love to know what you meant when you spoke of the children of Wallerstaetten."
"It happens to be one and the same thing," the brother replied. "Come here now and sit down beside me and get your mending-basket right away so that you won't have to jump up again. I know you. You will probably run off two or three times to the children."
"No, Philip, to-day is Sunday and I won't mend. The children are all sleeping peacefully, so please tell me about it."
Uncle Philip sat down quietly beside his sister and began: "As surely as I am now sitting here beside you, Maxa, so surely young Leonore of Wallerstaetten was sitting beside me three days ago. I am really as sure as anything that it was Leonore's child. She is only an hour's distance away from you and is probably going to stay in this neighborhood for a few weeks. I wanted to bring you this news as a present."
Mrs. Maxa first could not say a word from astonishment.
"Are you quite sure, Philip?" she asked, wishing for an affirmation. "How could you become so sure that the child you saw was Leonore's little daughter?"
"First of all, because nobody who has known Leonore can ever forget what she looked like. The child is exactly like her and looks at one just the way Leonore used to do. Secondly, the child's name was Leonore, too. Thirdly, she had the same brown curls rippling down her shoulders that her mother had, and she spoke with a voice as soft and charming. For the fifth and sixth reasons, because only Leonore could have such a child, for there could not be two people like her in the whole world." Uncle Philip had grown very warm during these ardent proofs.
"Please tell me exactly where and how you saw the child," the sister urged.
So the brother related how he had come back three days ago from a trip and, arriving in town, had given orders in the hotel for a carriage to be brought round to take him back to Sils that same evening. The host had then informed him that two ladies had just ordered a carriage to take them to the same destination. He thought that as long as they had seemed to be strangers and were anxious to know more about the road, they would be very glad to have a companion who was going the same way. So the host had made all necessary arrangements, as there were no objections to the plan on either side. When the carriage had driven up, he had seen that the ladies had with them a little daughter who was to occupy the back-seat of the carriage.
"This daughter, as I thought, was Leonore's child. I am as certain of that as of my relation with you," the brother concluded.
Mrs. Maxa was filled with great excitement.
Could one of the children for whom she had vainly longed and inquired for such long years be really so near her? Would she be able to see her? Who were the ladies to whom she belonged?
To all her various questions the brother could only answer that the ladies with whom Leonore was living came from the neighborhood of Hannover. They had taken a little villa in Sils on the mountain, which they had seen advertised for the summer months. He had shown the ladies his estate in Sils and had offered to serve them in whatever way they wished. Then they had taken leave.
Leonore's name had wakened so many happy memories of her beautiful childhood and youth in Mrs. Maxa that she began to revive those times with her brother and tirelessly talked of the days they had spent there together with her unforgettable friend Leonore and her two cousins. The brother seemed just as ready to indulge in those delightful memories as she was, and whenever she ceased, he began again to talk of all the unusual happenings and exploits that had taken place with their dear friends.
"Do you know, Maxa, I think we had much better playmates than your children have," he said finally. "If Bruno beats his comrades, I like it better than if he acted as they do."
Brother and sister had not talked so far into the night for a long time. Nevertheless, Mrs. Maxa could not get to sleep for hours afterwards. Leonore's image with the long, brown curls and the winning expression in her eyes woke her lively desire to see the child that resembled her so much.