Maezli by Johanna Spyri
Chapter III. Castle Wildenstein
When Maezli and Lippo were neatly washed and dressed the next morning, they came downstairs to the living-room chattering in the most lively manner. Maezli was just telling Lippo her plans for the afternoon when he should be back from school. The mother, after attending to some task, followed the children, who were standing around the piano.
As soon as she entered, Kurt broke out into a frightened cry. "Oh, mother, we have forgotten all about the poor people whose houses burnt down and we were supposed to take the things with us this morning."
"Yes, the teacher told us twice that we must not forget it," Lippo complained, "but I didn't forget it."
"Don't worry, children, I have attended to it," said the mother. "Kathy has just gone to the school with a basket full of things. It was too heavy for you to carry."
"Oh, how nice and convenient it is to have a mother," Kurt said quite relieved.
The mother sat down at the piano.
"Come, let us sing our morning song, now," she said. "We can't wait for uncle, because he might come back too late from his walk." Opening the book, she began to sing "The golden sun--with joy and fun."
The children taking up the melody sang it briskly, for they knew it well. Maezli was singing full of zeal, too, and wherever she had forgotten the words, she did not stop, but made up some of her own.
Two stanzas had been sung when Kurt said, "We must stop now or it will get too late. After breakfast it is time to go to school."
The mother, assenting, rose and went to the table to fill their cups.
But Lippo broke into a loud wail. Pulling his mother back, he cried, "Don't go! Please don't! We must finish it. We have to finish it. Come back, mother, come back."
She tried to loosen the grip of the boy's firm little fingers on her dress and to calm him, but she did not succeed, and he kept on crying louder and louder: "Come back! You said one must not leave anything half done. We didn't finish the song and we must do it."
Kurt now began to cry out, too: "Let go your pincher-claws--we'll get to school late."
Mea's voice joined them with loud exclamation against Lippo, who was trying hard to pull his mother back, groaning loudly all the time.
Uncle Philip entered at this moment.
"What on earth is going on here?" he cried loudly into the confusion.
Everybody began to explain.
Lippo let go his grip at last and, approaching his uncle, solicited his help. Kurt's voice, however, was the loudest and he got the lead in telling about Lippo's obstinacy.
"Lippo is right," the uncle decided. "One must finish what one has begun. This is a splendid principle and ought to be followed. Lippo has inherited this from his god-father and so he shall also have his help. Come Lippo, we'll sit down and finish the song to the last word."
"But, Uncle Philip, the song has twelve stanzas, and we have to go to school. Lippo must go, too," Kurt cried out in great agitation. "He can't get an excuse for saying that he had to finish his morning song."
"That is true, Kurt is right," said the uncle. "You see, Lippo, I know a way out. When you sing to-night, mother must promise me to finish the song. Then you will have sung it to the end."
"We can't do that," Lippo wailed. "This is a morning song and we can't sing it at night. We must finish it now. Wait, Kurt!" he cried aloud, when he saw that the boy was taking up his school-bag.
"What can we do? Where is your mother? Why does she run away at such a moment?" Uncle Philip cried out helplessly. "Call for your mother! You mustn't go on like that."
Lippo had run back to the piano and, leaning against it, was crying bitterly. Kurt, after opening the door, called loudly for his mother in a voice that was meant to bring her from a distance. This exertion proved unnecessary, as she was standing immediately behind the door. Bruno, in order to question her about something, had drawn her out with him.
"Oh, mother, come in!" Kurt cried in milder accents. "Come and teach our two-legged law-paragraph here to get some sense. School is going to start in five minutes."
The mother entered.
"Maxa, where did you go?" the brother accosted her. "It is high time to get this boy straightened out. Just look at the way he is clutching the piano in his trouble. He ought to be off. Kurt is right."
The mother, sitting down on the piano-stool, took the little boy's hand and pulled him towards her.
"Come, Lippo, there is nothing to cry about," she said calmly. "Listen while I explain this. It is a splendid thing to finish anything one has begun, but there are things that cannot be finished all at once. Then one divides these things into separate parts and finishes part first with the resolution to do another part the next day, and so on till it is done. We shall say now our song has twelve stanzas and we'll sing two of them every morning; in that way we can finish it on the sixth day and we have not left it unfinished at all. Can you understand, Lippo? Are you quiet now?"
"Yes," said the little boy, looking up to his mother with an expression of perfect satisfaction.
The leave-taking from the uncle had to be cut extremely short. "Come soon again," sounded three times more from the steps, and then the children started off.
The mother, looking through the window, followed them with her eyes. She was afraid that Kurt and Mea would leave the little one far behind on account of having been kept too long already, and it happened as she feared. She saw Lippo trudging on behind with an extraordinarily full school-bag on his back.
"Can you see what Lippo is carrying?" she asked her brother.
The lid of the bag was thrust open and a thick unwieldy object which did not fit into it was protruding.
"What is he carrying along, I wonder? Can you see what it is?"
"I can only see a round object wrapped up in a gray paper," her brother replied. "I am sure it must be something harmless. I have to say that Lippo is a wonderfully obedient and good boy and full of the best sense. As soon as one says the right word to him, he comes 'round. Why did you wait so long though, Maxa, before saying it to him?" was Uncle Philip's rather reproachful question. "Why did you run away and leave him crying and moaning? He needed your help. What he wanted was perfectly correct but was not just suitable at that moment, and he needed an explanation. How could you calmly run away?"
"It was just as necessary to hear Bruno's question," the sister said. "I knew that Lippo was in good hands. I thought naturally that you would be able to say the right word to him. You know yourself how he respects you."
"Oh, yes, that is right," Uncle Philip admitted. "It is not always easy to say the right word to a little fellow who has the right on his side and needs to have the other side shown to him, too; he is terribly pedantic besides, and says that one can't sing a morning song in the evening, and when he began to wail in his helplessness, it made me miserable. How should one always just be able to say the right word?"
His sister smiled.
"Do you admit now, Philip, that bringing up children is not a very simple matter?"
"There is a truth in what you say. On the other hand, it does not look very terrible, either," the brother said with a glance at Maezli, who was quietly and peacefully sitting at the table, eating her bread and milk in the most orderly fashion.
She had been compelled to stop in the middle of breakfast by the excitement caused by Lippo. It had been very thrilling, but now she could calmly finish.
Uncle Philip suddenly discovered that the tune set for his departure was already past. Taking a rapid leave of his sister, he started to rush off, but she held him for a moment.
"Please, Philip, try to find out for me about the little girl, to whom she belongs, and with whom she is travelling," she begged him eagerly. "Please do that for me! If your supposition, that she is Leonore's child is right, I simply must see her. Nobody can prevent me from seeing her once at least."
"We'll see, we'll see," the brother answered hurriedly, and was gone the next moment.
The day had started with so much agitation and it had all taken so much time that Mrs. Maxa had her hands full now in order to complete the most necessary tasks before the children came back from school.
Maezli was very obedient to-day and had settled down on her little chair. She was virtuously knitting on a white rag, which was to receive a bright red border and was destined to dust Uncle Philip's desk. It was to be presented to him on his next birthday as a great surprise. Maezli had in her head this and many other thoughts caused by the morning's scene, so she did not feel the same inclination to set out on trips of discovery as usual, and remained quietly sitting on her chair. Her mother was extremely preoccupied, as could easily be seen. Her thoughts had nothing to do with either the laundry or the orders she was giving to Kathy, nor the cooking apples she had sorted out in the cellar. Her hand often lay immovably on these, while she absently looked in front of her. Her thoughts were up in the castle-garden with the lovely young Leonore, and in her imagination she was wandering about with her beloved friend, singing and chattering under the sounding pine trees.
Her brother's news had wakened all these memories very vividly. Then again she would sigh deeply and another communication filled her full of anxiety. Bruno had asked her not to wait for him at dinner, as he had resolved to stop his comrades from a wicked design and therefore would surely be a trifle late. What this was and what action he meant to prevent the boy had not had time to say, for Kurt had opened the door at that moment calling for her with his voice of thunder. All she had been able to do was to beg Bruno, whatever happened, not to let his anger become his master. Sooner than the mother had expected Kurt's steps could be heard hurriedly running into the house followed by a loud call for her.
"Here I am, Kurt," sounded calmly from the living-room, where his mother had finally settled down after her tasks, beside Maezli's chair. "Come in first before you try to make your announcements; or is it so dreadfully urgent?"
Kurt had already reached his mother's side.
"Oh, mother, when I come home from school I'm never sure if you are in the top or the bottom of the house," he said, "so I have to inquire in plenty of time, especially when there is so much to tell you as there is to-day. Now listen. First of all, the teacher thanks you for the presents for the poor people. He lets you know that if you think it suitable to send them a helmet of cardboard with a red plume, he will put it by for the present. Or did you have a special intention with it?"
"I do not understand a word of what you say, Kurt," the mother replied.
That moment Lippo opened the door. He was apt to come home after the older boy, for Kurt was not obliged to wait for him after school.
"Here comes the one who will be able to explain the precious gift you sent, mother," said Kurt.
Lippo, trotting cheerfully into the room, had bright red cheeks from his walk. The mother began by asking, "Tell me, Lippo, did you take something to school this morning in your school-bag for the poor people whose houses were burnt?"
"Yes, mother, my helmet from Uncle Philip," Lippo answered.
"I see! You thought that if a poor little chap had no shirt, he would be glad to get a fine helmet with a plume for his head," Kurt said laughing.
"You don't need to laugh!" Lippo said, a little hurt. "Mother told us that we must not only send things we don't want any more. So I gave the helmet away and I should have loved to keep it."
"Don't laugh at him, Kurt; I really told him that," the mother affirmed. "He wanted to do right but he did not quite find the right way of doing it. If you had told me your intention, Lippo, I could have helped you to do some positive good. Next time you want to help, tell me about it, and we'll do it together."
"Yes, I will," Lippo said, quite appeased.
"Oh, mother, listen!" Kurt was continuing. "I have to tell you something you won't like and we don't like either. Just think! Loneli had to sit on the shame-bench to-day. But all the class is on Loneli's side."
"But why, Kurt? The poor child!" the mother exclaimed. "What did she do? I am afraid that her honest old grandmother will take it terribly to heart. She'll be in deep sorrow about it and will probably punish Loneli again."
"No, indeed, she must not do that," Kurt said eagerly. "The teacher said himself that he hated to put Loneli there, as she was a good and obedient child, but that he had to keep his word. He had announced that he was tired of the constant chattering going on in the school. To stop it he had threatened to put the first child on the shame-bench that was caught. So poor Loneli had to sit there all by herself and she cried so terribly that we all felt sorry. But of course, mother, a person doesn't talk alone, and Loneli should not have been obliged to stay there alone. The teacher had just asked: 'Who is talking over there? I can hear some whispering. Who is it?' Loneli answered 'I' in a low voice, so she had to be punished. One of her neighbors should have said 'I,' too, of course; it was perfectly evident that there was another one."
"Loneli might have asked somebody a question which was not answered," his mother suggested.
"Mea will know all about it, for she followed Loneli after school. Now more still, mother," Kurt continued. "Two boys from my class were beaten this morning by Mr. Trius. Early this morning they had climbed over the castle hedge to inspect the apples on the other side of the hedge. But Mr. Trius was already about and stood suddenly before them with his heavy stick. In a jiffy they had a real Trius-beating, for the hedge is high and firm and one can't get across it quickly. Now for my fourth piece of news. Farmer Max who lives behind the castle has told everybody that when his father came back late yesterday night from the cattle-fair in the valley, he saw a large coach, which was right behind his own, drive into the castle-garden. He was quite certain that it went there, but nobody seems to know who was in it. So you are really listening at last, mother! I noticed that you have been absentminded till now. Farmer Max told us something else about his father that you wouldn't like me to repeat, I know."
"You would not say so if it were not wrong; you had better not repeat it, Kurt," said the mother.
"No, indeed, it is not bad, but very strange. I can tell you though, because I don't believe it myself. Max told that his father said there was something wrong about the coach and that he went far out of its way. The coachman looked as if he only had half a head, and his coat-collar was rolled up terribly high in order to hide what was below. He was wildly beating the horses so that they fairly flew up the castle-hill, while sparks of fire were flying from their hoofs."
"How can you tell such rubbish, Kurt? How should there be something unnatural in such a sight?" the mother scolded him. "I am sure you think that the Wildenstein ghost is wandering about again. You can see every day that horses' hoofs give out sparks when they strike stone, and to see a coachman with a rolled up collar in windy weather is not an unusual sight either. In spite of all I say to you, Kurt, you seem to do nothing but occupy yourself with this matter. Can't you let the foolish people talk without repeating it all the time?"
Kurt was very glad when Mea entered at that moment, for he had really disobeyed his mother's repeated instructions in the matter. But he comforted himself with the thought that he was only acting according to her ideas if he was finally able to prove to the people that the whole thing was a pure invention and could get rid of the whole thing for good.
"Why are your eyes all swollen?" he accosted his sister.
Mea exploded now. Half angry and half complaining, she still had to fight against her tears. "Oh, mother, if you only knew how difficult it is to stay friends with Elvira. Whenever I do anything to offend her, she sulks and won't have anything to do with me for days. When I want to tell her something and run towards her, speaking a little hurriedly, she is hurt. Then she always says I spoil the flowers on her hat because I shake them. And then she turns her back on me and won't even speak to me."
"Indeed! I have seen that long ago," Kurt broke in, "and I began a song about her yesterday. It ought to be sung to her. I'll recite it to you:
A SONG ABOUT A WELL KNOWN YOUNG LADY. I know a maiden fair of face, Who mostly turns her back. All noise she thinks a great disgrace, But tricks she does not lack.
"No, Kurt, you mustn't go on with that song," Mea cried with indignation.
"Mea is right when she doesn't want you to celebrate her friends in that way, Kurt," said the mother, "and if she asks you to, you must leave off."
"But I am her brother and I do not wish to see my sister being tyranized over and treated badly by a friend. I certainly wouldn't call her a real friend," Kurt eagerly exclaimed. "I should be only too glad if my song made her so angry that she would break the friendship entirely. There would be nothing to mourn over."
Mea, however, fought passionately for her friend and never gave way till Kurt had promised not to go on with his ditty. But her mother wanted to know now what had given Mea such red eyes. So she told them that she had followed Loneli in order to comfort her, for she was still crying. Loneli had told her then about being caught at chattering. Elvira, who was Loneli's neighbor, had asked her if she would be allowed to go to Sils on dedication day, next Sunday, and Loneli had answered no. Then Elvira wanted to know why not, to which Loneli had promised to give her an answer after school, as they were not allowed to talk in school. That moment the teacher had questioned them and Loneli had promptly accused herself.
"Don't you think, mother, that Elvira should have admitted that she asked Loneli a question? Then Loneli would not have had to sit on the shame-bench alone. He might have given them both a different punishment," Mea said, quite wrought up.
"Oho! Now she sent Loneli to the shame-bench besides, and Loneli is a friend of mine!" Kurt threw in. "Now she'll get more verses after all."
"Elvira should certainly have done so," the mother affirmed.
"Yes, and listen what happened afterwards," Mea continued with more ardor than before. "I ran from Loneli to Elvira, but I was still able to hear poor Loneli's sobs, for she was awfully afraid to go home. She knew that she had to tell her grandmother about it and she was sure that that would bring her a terrible punishment. When I met Elvira, I told her that it was unfair of her not to accuse herself and to let Loneli bear the punishment alone. That made her fearfully angry. She said that I was a pleasant friend indeed, if I wished this punishment and shame upon her. She should not have said that, mother, should she? I told her that the matter was easy enough for her as it was all settled for her, but not for Loneli. I asked to tell the teacher how it all happened, so that he could say something in school and let the children know what answer Loneli had given her. Then he would see that she was innocent. But Elvira only grew angrier still and told me that she would look for another friend, if I chose to preach to her. She said that she didn't want to have anything to do with me from now on and, turning about, ran away."
"So much the better!" Kurt cried out. "Now you won't have to run humbly after Elvira any more, as if you were always in the wrong, the way you usually do to win her precious favor."
"Why shouldn't Mea meet her friend kindly again if she wants to, Kurt?" said the mother. "Elvira knows well enough who has been offended this time and has broken off the friendship. She will be only too glad when Mea meets her half-way."
Kurt was beginning another protest, but it was not heard. Lippo and Maezli arrived at that moment, loudly announcing the important news that Kathy was going to serve the soup in a moment and that the table was not even set.
The mother had put off preparations for dinner on purpose. During the foregoing conversation she had repeatedly glanced towards the little garden gate to see if Bruno was not coming, but he could not be seen yet. So she began to set the table with Mea, while Lippo, too, assisted her. The little boy knew exactly where everything belonged. He put it there in the most orderly fashion, and when Mea put a fork or spoon down quickly a little crookedly, he straightway put them perfectly straight the way they belonged.
Kurt laughed out loud, "Oh, Lippo, you must become an inn-keeper, then all your tables will look as if they had been measured out with a compass."
"Leave Lippo alone," said the mother. "I wish you would all do your little tasks as carefully as he does."
Dinner was over and the mother was looking out towards the road in greater anxiety, but Bruno had not come.
"Now he comes with a big whip," Kurt shouted suddenly. "Something must have happened, for one does not usually need a whip in school."
The younger boy opened the door, full of expectation. Bruno could not help noticing his mother's frightened expression, despite the rage he was in, which plainly showed in his face.
He exclaimed, as he entered, "I'll tell you right away what happened, mother, so that you won't think it was still worse. I have only whipped them both as they deserved, that is all."
"But, Bruno, that is bad enough. You seem to get more savage all the time," the mother lamented. "How could you do such a thing?"
"I'll explain it right away and then you will have to admit that it was the only thing to do," Bruno assured her. "The two told me last Saturday that they had a scheme for to-day in which I was to join. They had discovered that the lovely plums in the Rector's garden were ripe and they meant to steal them. When the Rector is through with his lessons at twelve o'clock he always goes to the front room and then nobody knew what is going on in the garden. Their plan was to use this time to-day in order to shake the tree and fill their pockets full of plums. I was to help them. I told them what a disgrace it was for them to ask me and I said that I would find means to prevent it. So they noisily called me a traitor and told me that accusing them was worse than stealing plums. I said that it wasn't my intention to tell on them, but I would come and use my whip as soon as they touched the tree. So they laughed and sneered at me and said that they were neither afraid of me nor of my whip. As soon as our lessons were done at twelve o'clock, they ran to the garden and, getting the whip I had hidden in the hallway, I ran after them. Edwin was already half way up the tree and Eugene was just beginning to climb it. First I only threatened and tried in that way to force Edwin down and keep Eugene from going further. But they kept on sneering at me till Edwin had reached the first branch and was shaking it so hard that the lovely plums came spattering to the ground. I got so furious at that that I began to beat first the boy higher up and then the lower one. First, Edwin tumbled down on top of Eugene and then they both ran away moaning, while I kept on striking them. They left the plums on the ground and I followed them."
"It is terrible, Bruno, that such scenes have to come up between you all the time," the mother lamented. "You are always the one who gets wild and loses control. It is hard to excuse that, even if your intention is good, Bruno. I wish I could keep you boys apart."
"It was a good thing he became furious at them to-day, mother," Kurt remarked. "You see it shows that even two can't get the better of him. If he had not been so mad, the two would have been stronger, and our poor Rector would have lost his plums."
It was hard to tell if this explanation comforted the mother. She had gone out with a sign to attend to Bruno's belated lunch. The time was already near at hand when all the children had to get back to school.
When that same evening the little ones were happily playing and the big children were busy with their school work, Kurt stole up to his mother's chair and asked her in a low voice, "Shall we have the story to-day?"
The mother nodded. "As soon as the little ones are in bed." At this Maezli pricked up her ears.
When all the work was done in the evening, all the family usually played a game together. Kurt, who was usually the first to pack up his papers, was still scribbling away after Mea had laid hers away. Looking over his shoulder into the note-book, she exclaimed, "He is writing some verses again! Who is the subject of your song, Kurt?"
"I'll read it to you, then you can guess yourself," said the boy. "The first verse is already written somewhere else. Now listen to the second."
She stares about with stately mien: "O ho, just look at me! If I am not acknowledged queen, I surely ought to be." Her friend agrees with patient air And fastens up her shoes. Then queenie thinks: That's only fair, She couldn't well refuse. But if the friend should try to show The queen her faults, look out! She'd break the friendship at a blow And straightway turn about.
Mea had been obliged to laugh a little at first at the description of the humble behaviour which did not seem to describe her very well. Finally, however, sad memories rose up in her.
"Do you know, mother," she cried out excitedly, "it is not the worst that she shows me her back, but that one can't ever agree with her. Every time I find anything pleasant and good, she says the opposite, and when I say that something is wrong and horrid, she won't be of my opinion either. It is so hard to keep her friendship because we always seem to quarrel when I haven't the slightest desire to."
"Just let her go. She is the same as her brothers," said Bruno. "I never want their friendship again, and I wish I might never have anything more to do with them."
"It is better to give them things, the way you did to-day," Kurt remarked.
"I can understand Mea," said the mother. "As soon as we came here she tried to get Elvira's friendship. She longs for friendship more than you do."
"Oh, mother, I have six or eight friends here, that is not so bad," Kurt declared.
"I couldn't say much for any of them," Bruno said quickly.
"It must hurt Mea," the mother continued, "that Elvira does not seem to be capable of friendship. You only act right in telling her what you consider wrong, Mea. If you show your attachment to her and try not to be hurt by little differences of opinion, your friendship might gradually improve."
As Lippo and Maezli felt that the time for the general game had come, they came up to their mother to declare their wish. Soon everybody was merrily playing.
It happened to-day, as it did every day, that the clock pointed much too soon to the time which meant the inexorable end of playing. This usually happened when everybody was most eager and everything else was forgotten for the moment. As soon as the clock struck, playing was discontinued, the evening song was sung and then followed the disappearance of the two little ones. While the older children put away the toys, the mother went to the piano to choose the song they were to sing.
Maezli had quickly run after her. "Oh, please, mama, can I choose the song to-day?" she asked eagerly.
"Certainly, tell me which song you would like to sing best."
Maezli seized the song-book effectively.
"But, Maezli, you can't even read," said the mother. "How would the book help you? Tell me how the song begins, or what lines you know."
"I'll find it right away," Maezli asserted. "Just let me hunt a little bit." With this she began to hunt with such zeal as if she were seeking a long-lost treasure.
"Here, here," she cried out very soon, while she handed the book proudly over to her mother.
The latter took the book and read:
"Patience Oh Lord, is needed, When sorrow, grief and pain"--
"But, Maezli, why do you want to sing this song?" her mother asked.
Kurt had stepped up to them and looked over the mother's shoulder into the book. "Oh, you sly little person! So you chose the longest song you could find. You thought that Lippo would see to it that we would sing every syllable before going to bed."
"Yes, and you hate to go to bed much more than I do," said Maezli a little revengefully. It had filled her with wrath that her beautiful plan had been seen through so quickly. "When you have to go, you always sigh as loud as yesterday and cry: 'Oh, what a shame! Oh, what a shame!' and you think it is fearful."
"Quite right, cunning little Maezli," Kurt laughed.
"Come, come, children, now we'll sing instead of quarrelling," the mother admonished them. "We'll sing 'The lovely moon is risen.' You know all the words of that from beginning to end, Maezli."
They all started and finished the whole song in peace.
When the mother came back later on from the beds of the two younger children, the three elder ones sat expectantly around the table, for Kurt had told them of their mother's promise to tell them the story of the family of Wallerstaetten that evening. They had already placed their mother's knitting-basket on the table in preparation of what was to come, because they knew that she would not tell them a story without knitting at the same time.
Smilingly the mother approached. "Everything is ready, I see, so I can begin right away."
"Yes, and right from the start, please; from the place where the ghost first comes in."
The mother looked questioningly at Kurt. "It seems to me, Kurt, that you still hope to find out about this ghost, whatever I may say to the contrary. I shall tell you, though, how people first began to talk about a ghost in Wildenstein. The origin of these rumors goes back many, many years."
"There is a picture in the castle," the mother began to relate, "which I often looked at as a child and which made a deep impression upon me. It represents a pilgrim who wanders restlessly about far countries, despite his snow-white hair, which is blowing about his head, and despite his looking old and weather-beaten. It is supposed to be the picture of the ancestor of the family of Wallerstaetten. The family name is thought to have been different at that time.
"This ancestor is said to have been a man extremely susceptible to violent outbreaks. In his passion he was supposed to have committed many evil deeds, on account of which his poor wife could not console herself. Praying for him, she lay whole days on her knees in the chapel. She died suddenly, however, and this shocked the baron so mightily that he could not remain in the castle. In order to find peace for his restless soul he became a repentant pilgrim. So he took the emblem of a pilgrim into his coat of arms and called himself Wallerstaetten. Leaving his estate and his sons, he nevermore returned.
"Later on two of his descendants lived in the castle. Both were well loved and respected, because they did a great deal to have the land cultivated for a long distance around and as a result all the farmers became rich. But both had inherited the violent temper of their ancestor, and the truth is that there always were members in the family with that fatal characteristic. Nobody knew what happened between the brothers, but one morning one of them was found dead on the floor of the big fencing-hall. All that the castle guard knew about it was that his two masters had settled a dispute with a duel. The other brother had immediately disappeared, but was brought back dead to the castle a few days afterwards.
"Climbing up a high mountain, he had fallen down a precipice and had been found dead. These events threw all the neighborhood into great consternation.
"That is when the rumors first spread that the restless spirit of the brother murderer was seen wandering about the castle. All this happened many years before my father and your grandfather moved into Nolla as Rector. The rumor had somewhat faded then and all that we children heard about it was that my father was very positive in denying all such reports that reached his ears. Your grandfather was the closest friend of the master of Wallerstaetten, whom everybody called the Baron. I can only remember seeing him once for a moment, but he made an unusual impression upon me. I remember him very vividly as a very tall man going with rapid steps through the courtyard and mounting a horse, which was trying to rear. He died before I was five years old, and I have often heard my father say to my mother that it was a great misfortune for the two sons to have lost their father. I felt so sorry for them that I would often stop in the middle of play to ask her, 'Oh, mother, can nobody help them?' To comfort me she would tell me that God alone could help. For a long time I prayed every night before going to sleep: 'Dear God, please help them in their trouble!' Both were always very kind and friendly with me. I was up at the castle a great deal, because the Baroness Maximiliana of Wallerstaetten was my godmother. My father instructed the two sons and acted as helper and adviser to the Baroness in many things. He went up to her every morning, holding me by one hand and Philip by the other. My brother had lessons together with the boys, who were one year apart in age, while Philip was just between them. Bruno, the elder--"
"I was named after him, mother, wasn't I?" Bruno interrupted here.
"Salo was a year younger--"
"I was called after him," Mea said quickly. "You wanted a Salo so much and, as I was a girl, you called me Malomea, didn't you?"
The mother nodded.
"And I was called after father," Kurt cried out, in order to prove that his name also had a worthy origin.
"I went up to the castle because my godmother wished it. She would have loved to have a little daughter herself, therefore she occupied herself with me as if I belonged to her. She taught me to embroider and to do other fine handwork. Whenever she went with me into the garden and through the estate, she taught me all about the trees and flowers. I was often allowed to pick the violets that grew in great abundance beneath the hedges and in the grass at the border of the little woods. Oh, what beautiful days those were! Soon they were to become more perfect still for us.
"But I received an impression in those days which remained in my heart for a long while like a menacing power, often frightening me so that I was very unhappy. Once my father came down very silently from the castle. When my mother asked him if anything had happened he replied, and I still hear his words 'Young Bruno has inherited his ancestor's dreadful passion. His mother is naturally more worried about this than about anything else.'"
"Look at him," Kurt said dryly, glancing at Bruno, who was sitting beside his mother. For answer Bruno's eyes flashed threateningly at his brother.
"Oh, please go on, mother," Mea urged. She was in no mood to have the tale interrupted by a fight between her brothers.
"It seemed terrible to me," the mother continued again, "that Bruno, my generous, kind friend, should have anything in his character to worry his mother. Often I cried quietly in a corner about it and wondered how such a thing could be. I had to admit it myself, however. Whenever the three boys had a disagreement or anybody did something to displease Bruno, he would get quite beside himself with rage, acting in a way which he must have been sorry for later on. I have to repeat again, though, that he had at bottom a noble and generous nature and would never have willingly harmed anyone or committed a cruel deed. But one could see that his outbreaks of passion might drive him to desperate deeds.
"Salo, his brother, never became angry, but he had a very unyielding nature just the same. He was just as obstinate in his way as his brother, and never gave in. Philip was always on his side, for the two were the best of friends. Bruno was much more reserved and taciturn than Salo, who was naturally very gay and could sing and laugh so that the halls would re-echo loudly with his merriment. The Baroness herself often laughed in that way, too. That is why Bruno imagined that she loved her younger son better than him, and because he himself loved his mother passionately, he could not endure this thought. It was not true, however. She loved his eldest boy passionately and everybody who was close to her could see it.
"When I was ten years old and Philip fifteen, an unusually charming girl was added to our little circle. I above everybody else was enchanted with her. Our friends at the castle and even Philip, who certainly was not easily filled with enthusiasm, were extremely enthusiastic about our new playmate. She was a girl of eleven years old, you see just a year older than I was. She was far, far above me, though, in knowledge, ability, and especially in her manners and whole behaviour, so that I was perfectly carried away by her charm.
"Her name was Leonore. She was related to the baroness and had come down from the far north, in fact from Holstein, where my godmother came from and all her connections lived. Leonore, the daughter of one of her relations, had very early lost her father and mother, as her mother had died soon after the Baroness decided to adopt the child. She knew that Leonore would otherwise be all alone in the world, and she hoped that a gentle sister would have an extremely beneficial influence on the two self-willed brothers. Now a time began for me which was more wonderful than anything I could ever have imagined. Leonore was to continue her studies, of course, and take up new ones. For that purpose a very refined German lady came to the castle very soon after Leonore's arrival. Only years afterwards I realized what a splendid teacher she had been.
"My godmother had arranged for me to share the studies with Leonore, and therefore I was to live all day at the castle as her companion, only returning in the evenings. So we two girls spent all our time together, and in bad weather I also remained there for the night. Leonore had a tremendous influence on me, and I am glad to say an influence for my good, for I was able to look up to her in everything. Whatever was common or low was absolutely foreign to her noble nature. This close companionship with her was not only the greatest enjoyment of my young years, but was the greatest of benefits for my whole life."
"You certainly were lucky, mother," Mea exclaimed passionately.
"Yes, and Uncle Philip was lucky, too, to have two such nice friends," Bruno added.
"I realize that," the mother answered. "You have no idea, children, how often I have wished that you, too, could have such friends."
"Please go on," Kurt begged impatiently. "Where did they go, mother? Doesn't anyone know what has become of them?"
"Whenever our brothers, as we called them, were free," the mother continued, "they were our beloved playmates. We valued their stimulating company very much and were always happy when through some chance they were exempt from some of their numerous lessons. They always asked us to join them in their games and we were very happy that they wanted our company. Baroness von Wallerstaetten had guessed right. Since Leonore had come into our midst, the brothers fought much more seldom, and everybody who knew Bruno well could see that he tried to suppress his outbursts of rage in her presence. Once Leonore had become pale with fright when she had been obliged to witness such a scene, and Bruno had not forgotten it. Four years had passed for us in cloudless sunshine when a great change took place. The young barons left the castle in order to attend a university in Germany, and Philip also left for an agricultural school. So we only saw the brothers once a year, during their brief holidays in the summer. Those days were great feast days then for all of us, and we enjoyed every single hour of their stay from early morning till late at night. We always began and ended every day with music, and frequently whole days were spent in the enjoyment of it.
"Both young Wallerstaettens were extremely musical and had splendid voices, and Leonore's exquisite singing stirred everybody deeply. The Baroness always said that Leonore's voice brought the tears to her eyes, no matter if she sang merry or serious songs. It affected me in that way, too, and one could never grow weary of hearing her. I had just finished my seventeenth and Leonore her eighteenth year when a summer came which was to bring grave changes. We did not expect Philip home for the holidays. Through the Baroness' help he was already filling the post of manager of an estate in the far north. The young barons had also completed their studies and were expected to come home and to consult with their mother about their plans for the future. She fully expected them to travel before settling down, and after that she hoped sincerely that one of them would come to live at home with her; this would mean that he would take the care of the estate on his shoulders with its troubles and responsibilities. Soon after their arrival the sons seemed to have had an interview with their mother which clearly worried her, for she went about silently, refusing to answer any questions. Bruno strode up and down the terrace with flaming eyes whole hours at a time, without saying a word. Salo was the only sociable one left, and sometimes he would come and sit down beside us; but if we questioned him about their apparent feud, he remained silent. How different this was from our former gay days! But this painful situation did not last long. On the fifth or sixth day after their arrival the brothers did not appear for breakfast. The Baroness immediately inquired in great anxiety if they had left the castle, but nobody seemed to have noticed them. Apollonie was the only one who had seen them going upstairs together in the early morning, so she was sent up to look for them in the tower rooms. When she found them empty, she opened the door of the old fencing-hall by some strange impulse. Here Salo was crouching half fainting on the floor. He told her that it was nothing to worry about, and that he had only lost consciousness for a moment. She had to help him to get up, however, and he came downstairs supported on her arm. The Baroness never said a word. She stayed in her son's chamber till the physician who had been sent for had gone away again. Then returning to us, she sat down beside Leonore and me and told us that we ought to know what had happened. Apparently she was very calm, but I had never seen her face so pale. She informed us that when she had spoken to her sons about their future plans, she had discovered that neither of them had ever spoken about it to the other. Now they both declared to her that their full intention had been for years to come home after the completion of their studies and to live in Wildenstein with her and Leonore. Bruno was quite beside himself when he found that Salo had apparently no intention to yield to him in the matter, so he challenged his brother to a duel in order to decide which of them was to remain at home. Salo had been wounded and, losing consciousness, had fallen to the ground. Bruno, fearing something worse, had disappeared. The doctor had not found Sale's wounds of a serious nature, but as he had a delicate constitution, great care had to be taken. When I left the castle that day I felt that all the joy and happiness I had ever known on earth was shattered, and this feeling stayed with me a long while after. Soon after that sad event the Baroness got ready for a journey to the south, where she meant to go with Salo and Leonore. Salo had not recovered as quickly as she had hoped, and Leonore, instead of getting more robust in our vigorous mountain-air, only became thinner and frailer. Only once Bruno sent his mother some news. In extremely few words he let her know that he was going to Spain, and that she need not trouble more about him. But the news of his brother's survival reached him, nevertheless. Now all those I had loved so passionately had gone away, and I felt it very deeply. There the castle stood, sad and lifeless, and its lighted windows looked down no more upon us from the height. All its eyes were closed and were to remain so."
"Oh, oh, did they never come back?" cried out Kurt with regret.
"No, never," the mother replied. "At that time, too, apparently, all the reports which had long ago faded were revived as to a ghost who was supposed to wander about the castle. There were many who asserted they had seen or heard him, and till to-day the ghost of Wildenstein is haunting people's heads."
"Look at him," said Bruno dryly, pointing to the lower end of the table where Kurt was sitting.
"Finish, please, mother," the latter quickly urged. "Where did they all get to? And where is the brother who disappeared?"
"All I still have to tell you is short and sad," said the mother. "Leonore faithfully wrote to me. After spending the first winter in the south it became apparent that the Baroness's health was shattered. She refused to return to the castle and sent her instructions to Apollonie, who had married the gardener of Wildenstein, and who now with her husband became caretaker of the castle, Three years afterwards the Baroness died without ever having returned. A short time after that Leonore became Salo's wife, but they were not fated to remain together long. Not more than three years later Salo died of a violent fever and Leonore followed him in a few months, but they left a little boy and a little girl. After Salo's death Leonore was left alone in life, so an aunt from Holstein came to live with her in Nice. After Leonore's death this aunt took the two children home with her. I heard this from Apollonie, who had been sent Leonore's last instructions by this aunt. I never learned anything further about the two children, and only once did I receive word from Baron Bruno through Apollonie. Your late father, young Rector Bergmann, had married me just about the time when we heard of the Baroness's death. I followed him very gladly to Sils, because Philip had just bought an estate there and was very anxious to have me close to him. One day Apollonie came to me in great agitation. Baron Bruno, never once sending word, had arrived in the castle after an absence of eight years and had brought with him a companion by the name of Mr. Demetrius. The Baron had naturally expected to find his mother, his brother and his erstwhile playmates gathered there as before. When he heard from Apollonie everything that had happened in his absence, he broke into a violent passion, because he believed that the news had been purposely kept from him. Apollonie was able to show him his late mother's letters where she had given her exact orders in case of his return. He could also see from them that she wrote to him frequently and had tried to reach him in vain. Baron Bruno had lived an extremely unsettled existence and all the letters had miscarried, despite the orders he had left in big cities to have them forwarded. Full of anger and bitterness the Baron immediately left, and till the present hour he has not been heard of. Mr. Demetrius, later on called Mr. Trius by everybody, came back a few years ago to the deserted castle. Apollonie had meanwhile lost her husband, had closed up all the rooms at the castle, and had gone to live again in the former gardener's cottage, where she is living now. From the time when he reappeared till to-day, Mr. Trius has led a solitary life and sees no one except Apollonie, and her only when he is in need of her. However hard Apollonie tried to make him tell about his master, he would not do it. You know now about my happy life in Wildenstein and will be able to understand the reason why I moved here again after the death of your father. Another inducement was that our dear Rector, an erstwhile friend of my father's, promised to give Bruno instruction which he could not get at a country school, so that I was able to keep him at home longer, you see. Now you know why the deserted castle attracts me so despite its sad aspect, for it brings back to me my most beautiful memories."
"Oh, please, mother, tell us a little more," Kurt begged eagerly, when his mother rose.
"Oh, mother," Mea joined in, "tell us more about your friend, Leonore."
"Oh, yes, tell us more, mother," Bruno supplicated. "There must be more to know still. Did Baron Bruno keep on travelling in Spain?"
"I think most of the time, but I can't tell you for sure," the mother replied. "I know everything only from Apollonie, who had these reports from Mr. Trius, but he either does not choose to talk or does not know very much himself about his master. I have told you everything now and you must go to bed as quickly as you can. It was your bedtime long ago."
No questions or supplications helped now, and soon the house was silent, except for the mother's quiet steps as she once more visited the children's beds. Her eldest, who could become so violent, lay before her with a peaceful expression on his clear brow. She knew how high his standard of honor was, but how would he end if his unfortunate trait gained more ascendancy over him? Soon she would be obliged to send him away, and how could she hope for a loving influence in strange surroundings, which was the only thing to quiet him? The mother knew that she had not the power to keep her children from pain and sin, but she knew the hand which leads and steadies all children that are entrusted to it, that can guard and save where no mother's hand or love can avail. She went with folded hands from one bed to the other, surrendering her children to their Father's protection in Heaven. He knew best how much they were in need of His loving care.