Maezli by Johanna Spyri
Chapter VI. New Friends
Early next morning brother and sister started towards the valley. Before going Mrs. Maxa had given her orders and had arranged for Maezli to spend the day with Apollonie, in order to prevent her from getting into mischief. As it was a sunshiny morning and the paths were dry, walking was delightful. The distance they had to traverse occupied about two hours, but it did not seem long. As soon as brother and sister arrived in Sils, they went to see the two Misses Remke. Both ladies were kneeling before a large trunk, surrounded by heaps of clothes, shoes, books and boxes, and a hundred trifles besides. When the visitors arrived, they immediately stood before the open door of the room used for packing.
Mrs. Maxa's first impulse was to withdraw with an excuse, but the ladies had jumped up already and most cordially greeted their kind friend, Mr Falcon, whom they called their helper and saviour in all difficulties. They received his sister joyfully, too, for they had been most eager to know her. Both ladies regretted that their meeting had to take place in a moment when their house appeared in its most unfavorable light. Mrs. Maxa assured them, however, that she understood the preparations for their impending trip and said that she would not disturb them longer than was necessary. She intended, therefore, to voice her request immediately. Mr. Falcon, steering straight for some chairs he had discovered, brought them for the ladies despite all the assorted objects on the floor. Mrs. Maxa spoke of her intention of taking the child to her house and her sincere hope that there would be no objection and the ladies could feel their visitor's great eagerness manifested in her words. They on their part did not hide the great relief which this prospect gave them and were extremely glad to leave their young charge in such good hands.
"It has been very hard for us to decide to leave Leonore behind," one of them said. "Unfortunately we must go, and she is not able to travel. But as long as our plans seem to coincide so well, I shall ask you if it would be inconvenient to you if we put off the date of our return a week longer. You must realize that we are taking the journey for the sake of our sick mother, and that everything is uncertain in such a case. One can never tell what change may come, and we might wish to stay a little longer."
Mrs. Maxa hastened to assure them that nothing could suit her better than to keep Leonore in her house for several weeks and she promised to send frequent news about the little girl's state of health. She begged them not to be anxious about her and not to hurry back for Leonore's sake. As she was longing to see the child instead of remaining in their way, she begged to be allowed to greet Leonore. She was sure that her brother, who had already risen, also wanted to take his leave. As soon as he had seen how completely the ladies entered into his sister's plans, he wished to arrange the details and so said that he was now going to the doctor in order to get his permission for the little trip. After obtaining this, as he sincerely hoped to do, he would prepare the carriage and send it directly to the house, as it was important for the patient to make the journey during the best portion of the day. Thereupon he hastened off.
One of the ladies took Mrs. Maxa to the sick room, which was situated in the uppermost story.
"You won't find Leonore alone," she said, "her brother is with her. He is taking a trip through Switzerland with his teacher and some friends, and came here ahead of them in order to see his sister. His travelling companions will join him here to-morrow, and then they are all going back to Germany."
"I fear that the poor boy will lose his day with his sister if I take her with me," Mrs. Maxa said regretfully.
"Well, that can't be altered," the lady quickly replied. "We are all only too happy that you are willing to take Leonore into your house. Who knows how her stay in the hospital might have turned out? Poor Leonore was so frightened by the thought; but we knew no other way. It does not matter about her brother's visit, because they can see each other again in Hanover, for he is at a boarding school there."
The lady now opened a door and led Mrs. Maxa into a room.
"Leonore, look, here is Mrs. Bergmann, a great friend of your mother's." Miss Remke said, "and I am sure you will be glad of the news she is bringing you. I shall accept your kind permission to get back to my work now, Mrs. Bergmann. Everything is ready for Leonore, because she was to leave for the hospital very shortly."
With these words she went out. The sick child sat completely dressed on a bed in the corner of the room, half reclining on the pillows.
Mrs. Maxa had to agree with her brother who had said that she had her mother's large, speaking eyes, the same soft brown curls, and the same serious expression on her delicately shaped little face. Mrs. Maxa would have easily recognized the child even without knowing her name. Leonore only looked more serious still; in fact, her glance was extremely sad and at that moment tears were hanging on her lashes, for she had been crying. The boy sitting by her got up and made a bow to the new arrival. He had his father's gay blue eyes and his clear, open brow. After giving him her hand Mrs. Maxa stepped up to the bed to greet Leonore and was so deeply moved that she could barely speak.
"My dear child," she said, seizing both slender hands, "you resemble your mother so much that I have to greet you as my own beloved child. I loved her very much and we meant a great deal to each other. You remind me of both your father and mother, Salo. What happiness my friendship with your parents has brought me! I want you both to be my children now, for your parents were the best friends I ever had in the world."
This speech apparently met a response in the two children's hearts. As answer Leonore took Mrs. Maxa's hand and held it tight between her own, and Salo came close to her to show what confidence he felt. Then he said joyfully: "Oh, I am so glad that you have come; you must help me comfort Leonore. She is terribly afraid of the hospital and all the strange people there. She even imagines that she will die there alone and forsaken and was crying because she thinks that we won't see each other again. I have to go so far away and I can't help it. To-morrow they are coming to fetch me and then I have to go back to school. What shall we do?"
"As to that," Mrs. Maxa replied, "nothing can be done. But if Leonore has to spend a little while in the hospital, she won't be an absolute stranger there. I won't let you be lonely for I shall often go to see you, dear child, and it is not even quite certain that you have to go there."
"Oh, yes, they are going to take me there this morning, maybe quite soon," said Leonore. Listening anxiously, she again grasped Mrs. Maxa's hand as if it were her safety anchor.
Mrs. Maxa did not gainsay her, because she did not yet know what the doctor might decide. All she could do to calm Leonore was to tell her that she was not dangerously ill. She might recover very quickly if she only stayed quiet for a while. In that case she could soon see her brother again, for the ladies had promised to take her home as soon as she was well.
Mrs. Maxa had hardly said that when Leonore's eyes again began to fill with tears.
"But I don't feel at home there. We really have no home anywhere," she said with suppressed sobs.
"Yes, it is true; we have no home anywhere," Salo exclaimed passionately. "But, Leonore, you must have faith in me!" Fighting against his rising agitation, he quickly wiped away a tear from his eyes, which were usually so bright. "It won't be so long till I have finished my studies and then I can do what I please. Then I shall try to find a little house for us both, which will be our home. I am going to get that if I have to work for twenty years in the fields till it is paid for."
Salo's eyes had become sunny again during this speech. He looked as if he would not have minded seizing a hoe that very moment.
Rapid steps were now heard approaching, the door was quickly opened, and Miss Remke called out on entering: "The carriage is at the door. Let us get ready, for I do not want the gentleman to wait. I am sure you will be so kind as to help me lift Leonore out of bed and to carry her down stairs."
Leonore had grown as white as a sheet from fright.
"May I ask if it is my brother's carriage, or--" Mrs. Maxa hesitated a little.
"Yes, certainly," the lady interrupted, while she rapidly pulled some covers and shawls out of a wardrobe. "Your brother has come himself in order to see that the carriage is well protected. He also means to give the coachman the directions himself, but we must not keep him waiting. What a kind friend he is!"
Mrs. Maxa had already lifted Leonore from her bed and was carrying her out.
"Please bring all the necessary things downstairs. I can do this easily alone, for she is as light as a feather," she called back to the lady who had hastened after her in order to help.
Going downstairs Mrs Maxa said, "Leonore, I am going to take you home with me now. The doctor is letting me do what I wished: you will stay with me till you are well again, and I shall take care of you. Shall you like to come with me? We know each other a little already and I hope you won't feel so strange with us."
Leonore, flinging both arms about Mrs. Maxa's neck, held her so tight that she could feel the little girl considered her no stranger any longer.
Suddenly Leonore called back in jubilating tones, "Salo, Salo, did you hear?"
Salo had heard her call but comprehended nothing further. Miss Remke had piled such heaps of shawls and covers on his arms that one always slid down after the other and he was obliged to pick them up again. As quickly as the circumstances allowed, he ran after his sister.
Arrived at the carriage, Mrs. Maxa immediately looked about for her brother. She wanted to hand Leonore to him while she prepared everything in the conveyance for the child's comfort.
He was already there. Understanding his sister's sign, he took the child into his arms, then lifted her gently into the carriage. His glance was suddenly arrested by the boy, who was standing beside the carriage with his burdens.
With the most joyful surprise he exclaimed, "As sure as I am born this must be a young Salo. It is written in his eyes. Give me your hand, boy. Your father was my friend, my best friend in the world; so we must be friends, too."
Salo's eyes expressed more and more surprise. This manner of being taken to a hospital seemed very odd to him. The strangest of all, however, was that Leonore sat in the corner of the carriage smiling contentedly, for Mrs. Maxa had just whispered something into her ear.
"Do we have to say good-bye now, Leonore," Salo asked, jumping up the carriage step, "and can't I see you any more?"
"Salo," Mrs. Maxa said, "I was just thinking that you could sit beside the coachman if you want to. You can drive to Nolla with us, for you will want to see where Leonore is going. I can have you brought back to-morrow in time to meet your friends. Do you approve of that, Philip?"
"Certainly, certainly," the brother answered, "but if that is the plan, I am going along. I thought at first that this trip would prove a very mournful one. It seems more like a festal-journey to me now, so I've come, too. Salo and I will sit high up and to-morrow I promise to bring him back here."
With shining eyes the boy climbed to the seat which the coachman had just relinquished. He understood now that the hospital was not to be their destination. With many hearty handshakes and good wishes the two Remke ladies at last let their friend and adviser go. After many more last greetings to all the party the carriage finally rolled towards the valley.
Leonore was so exhausted that, leaning against her companion, she fell asleep, but she staunchly held on to Mrs. Maxa's hand, which seemed to her that of a loving mother. It was the first time in her life that she had felt this.
On the high seat outside the conversation was extremely lively. Young Salo had to tell where and how he lived, and then his companion explained in turn the places they were passing through and told him whatever unusual had happened in the neighborhood. The uncle found out that neither Salo nor his sister had the slightest remembrance of their parents. The boy's earliest memory went back to an estate in Holstein where they had lived with an elderly great-aunt, his grandmother's sister. They were about five or six years old when the aunt died, after which they were sent to Hanover to their present abode.
Twice a year a relation of their great-aunt came to see them, but he was such a stiff, quiet gentleman that they could not enjoy his visits. It was, however, this man who always decided what was to be done with them. For the present they were to remain where they were till Salo had finished his studies. After that the choice where to settle was left to them.
"But I know what I shall do first of all," Salo added with sparkling eyes.
Just then the old castle came in view.
"Oh, what a wonderful castle with great towers!" Salo exclaimed. "It is all closed up; there can't be anybody living there. It doesn't seem to be in ruins, though. What is it called?"
"This is Castle Wildenstein," the boy's companion curtly answered, throwing a searching glance at the young Baron. The latter looked innocently up at the gray towers, remarking that anybody who owned a castle like that would simply be the happiest man in the world.
"He knows nothing about the castle of his ancestors and the whole tragic story. So much the better," said Uncle Philip to himself.
When the carriage drove up before Mrs. Maxa's door, everything was very quiet there, for the children were still in school. Kathy came running towards them with astonished eyes. She did not know at all what was going on, and that was a novelty for her.
Salo had the reins pressed into his hands before he knew it. With a bound his new friend had jumped to the ground and called back, "If you don't move, the horses will stay quiet, too." Quickly opening the carriage, he lifted Leonore out and carried her up to the little room which had been got ready for her. Mrs. Maxa followed at his heels. He then turned hurriedly back to his young substitute, for he felt a little uneasy at the thought of what might happen to the horses and carriage. The boy might want to drive about and the horses might begin to jump. But no; stiff and immovable, the boy sat at his post, firmly holding the reins.
Even now when a party of eight feet came running towards him, Salo did not move. The calls of "Uncle Philip, Uncle Philip!" sounded with more vigor than usual, because the children had not expected him back so soon, and therefore had to celebrate his coming with double energy. Uncle Philip was immediately surrounded, and eight arms held him so tight that there was no use in struggling.
"Just look at my young nobleman up there," he said, vainly trying to get free. "He certainly knows what it means to remain firmly at his post and do his duty. If he had not held the reins tightly, your wild cries would have driven horses and carriage down the ravine long ago."
All arms suddenly dropped and all eyes were directed towards the figure on the coachman's seat. In the unexpected joy of their uncle's return nobody had noticed the boy. Uncle Philip, who was free now, let Salo get down and introduced him to the children.
Salo had a friendly greeting for every one and his eyes sparkled gaily when he shook their hands. His whole appearance was so attractive and engaging that the children immediately took a liking to him. With lively gestures they surrounded him like an old acquaintance, so that Salo quickly felt that he had come among good friends. Even the reserved Bruno, whom nobody had ever been able to approach, linked Salo's arm confidentially in his in order to conduct the guest into the house.
Here Bruno sat down beside Salo and the two were immediately immersed in the most eager conversation. Mea, Kurt and Lippo were hunting everywhere for their mother, for they had not the faintest idea where she had gone.
When Uncle Philip came back, he called them together and told them where their mother was and what she wished them to know through him. As she had brought a sick child with her, she could have no intercourse with the children for two or three days. The doctor had also forbidden them to go up to the sick-room, and they were to do the best they could during that time. If the sickness should get worse, a nurse was to come to the house and then the mother would be free again. If the illness was to be slight, on the contrary, the children would be admitted to the sick-room and make Leonore's acquaintance. They could even help a little in her care, for the mother would not then be obliged to keep them apart. Maezli was to be sent to Apollonie every morning and was to spend the day there. Not to be able to have a glimpse of their mother for two or three days was depressing news indeed. The three children's faces were absolutely disconcerted, for the obstacles were clearly insurmountable.
"Well, is this so terrible?" Uncle Philip said cheerily. "Who needs to let his wings droop? Just think if you were in the place of the sick girl, who has no mother at all! Can't you let her have yours for a few days? No? Just think what is to follow. Your mother will come down then and bring you a new playmate. Leonore is friendly and charming and has sweeter manners than you have ever seen. Kurt is sure to make dozens of songs about her and Mea will be carried away with enthusiasm for her. Lippo will find an affectionate protectress in her who will be able to appreciate his little-recognized virtues. Are you satisfied now?"
This speech really had splendid results. All three were willing enough now to let the sick Leonore have their mother, and they were anxious besides to do everything in their power to make Leonore's recovery speedy. The uncle's description of the new playmate had wakened such a lively sympathy in them that they were ready to assist him in many ways, and he was even obliged to cool their zeal. As their guest was to remain such a short while, Uncle Philip suggested a walk in order to show him the surroundings, but when they looked around for Salo, they could not find either him or Bruno.
"They thought of the same thing," Uncle Philip said. "It will be great fun to hunt for them." So they started off.
Uncle Philip had guessed right. Bruno had found his new friend so much to his liking that he wanted to keep him entirely to himself. While the uncle had talked with the younger children, he had led Salo out to take him on a stroll in the beautiful sunset. Salo was perfectly satisfied, too, as he felt himself likewise drawn towards Bruno. In this short time the two boys had grown as confiding as if they had known each other for years and they were just then wandering towards the castle hill, absorbed in lively conversation.
"Can you guess why I am taking you up there?" Bruno suddenly asked, interrupting the talk.
"Because it is so lovely," Salo replied quickly.
He had stopped walking and was looking across the flowering meadows towards the castle over which rosy clouds were floating on the bright evening sky.
"No, not for that reason," said Bruno, "but because it belongs to an uncle of yours."
Salo looked at him, full of astonishment.
"But Bruno, what an idea!" he called out laughing. "That would not be so bad, but it can't be true. We only have one uncle, who has been living in Spain for a number of years and who expects to stay there."
"The castle belongs to just that uncle who lives in Spain," Bruno asserted.
He reminded Salo of the fact that their mothers had known each other while living in the castle and had grown to be such friends there. Salo admitted this but was firmly persuaded that the castle had long since been sold and that his uncle would never come back, he had heard that from his great-aunt. So Bruno had to agree with him that the castle had probably been sold, if the uncle did not think of returning.
"Do you know, Salo," said Bruno while they continued their walk, "I should love to do what your uncle did. I want to go away from here and disappear for a long time. Then I would not be obliged to be fettered to those two horrid boys. I can't stand it, and you now know yourself what they are like."
Bruno had described his two comrades to his new friend, their mean attitude and their frequent and contemptible tricks. Salo had repeatedly shown his feeling by sudden exclamations and he said now with comforting sympathy, "I am sure it must make you feel like running away if you are obliged to spend all your days with two such boys. But don't listen to them, pay no attention to them, and let them do and say what they please. If they want to be mean, let them be, for they can't make you different."
"Oh, if you could be with me, that would be much easier," Bruno said. "I should know then that you felt with me and shared my anger. When I am compelled to be alone with them and they do sneaky acts to people who can't defend themselves, I always get so mad that I have to beat them. That always brings nasty talk and makes my mother unhappy, and then I feel worse than ever. If only I could go far away and never have to meet them any more!"
"If you had an idea what it is like not to have any home at all, you would not wish to leave yours without even knowing where to go," said Salo. "You would not think that anything was too hard to bear if you could go home and tell your mother all about it. If you have that consolation, it should make you able to stand a lot of trouble. I shouldn't mind living with those two during school term, if I could go to a place during the holidays that were a real home for me and Leonore. Every time I come to her she cries about having no home in the whole wide world. I try to think out something so that we won't have to wait so long before we can live together. But that is hard to carry out, for the gentleman in Holstein who decides about our upbringing wants me to study for many years. That will take much too long. Leonore might even die before that, and I want to do it all for her. I am so glad now that Leonore has fallen ill and has therefore come to you," he said with a brighter glance. "I wish she would stay sick for a while--of course not awfully sick," he corrected himself rapidly, "I mean just sick enough so that your mother would not let her go. I know quite well how happy Leonore will be with her. She was so kind and friendly with us right away. Since our old aunt died nobody has been so good and sweet with us as your mother and that will do more good to Leonore than anything else on earth."
Salo's words made a deep impression on Bruno. He had never before realized that everyone did not have a lovely home like his, and a mother besides who was always ready to greet him affectionately, who could be told everything, could help him bear everything, who shared all his experiences and had a sympathy like no one else. All this he had accepted as if it could not be otherwise. Now came the realization that things might be different. Poor Salo and his sister, for instance, had to suffer bitterly from missing what he had always enjoyed to the full without thinking about it. He was seized with a sudden sympathy for his new friend, who looked so refined and charming, and who already had to bear such sorrow for himself and his sister. Bruno now flung behind him all the thoughts and schemes he had had in connection with his coming fate and with all the fire of his nature he fastened on the thought of doing everything in his power to help Salo. He wanted to further his friend's plan to found a home for himself and his sister as soon as possible. That was something much more important than his disinclination to DC with the Knippel boys.
"Now I shall not think about anything but what you can do to make your plan come true," he said at the conclusion of his meditation. "If there are two of us who are so set on finding a way we are sure to succeed somehow."
"It seems so wonderful to me," said Salo, quite overcome by Bruno's warm sympathy. "I have various friends in boarding school, but there isn't one to whom I could have told what I am always thinking about, as I have told you. You are so different from them. Will you be my friend?"
Bruno firmly grasped Salo's proffered hand and cried out with beaming eyes, "Yes, Salo, I will be your friend my whole life long. I wish I could do you a favor, too, as you have done me."
"But I have not done anything for you," Salo said with surprise.
"Oh, yes, you have. Now that I know I have a friend I have lost my dread of living with the Knippel boys. I know that I can let them do as they please, for I'll know that I have a friend who thinks as I do and would have the same feeling about their actions, I'll be able to tell you everything, and you will tell me what you think. I can let them alone and think of you."
"Do you know, Bruno, the way I feel a real friendship ought to be?" Salo said with glowing eyes, for this had made him happy, too. "I think it ought to be this way: if we have to hear of anything that is ugly, mean or rough, we ought to think right away: I have a friend who would never do such a thing. If we hear of something though that pleases us, because it is fine, noble and great, we should think again: My friend would do the same. Don't you agree with me?"
Bruno judged himself very severely, because his mother had held up his own faults to him so that he knew them very well. He replied hesitatingly, "I wish one could always be the way one wants to be. Would you give up trusting a friend right away if he did not act the way you expected him to?"
"No, no," Salo said quickly, "such a friend could not trust me any more either. I mean it differently. The friend ought to hate to do wrong and ought to want to do right. He ought to be most sorry if he did not come up to the best."
Bruno could now gladly and joyfully assent. Suddenly the two boys heard their names called out loudly. Turning round they saw Kurt and Lippo hurrying towards them and the uncle following with Mea at a slower pace.
"Wait, wait!" Kurt cried out so loudly that the echo sounded back again from the castle, "Wait, wait!"
The two friends were doing just what had been asked of them, for they were sitting quietly on the turf. The brothers had now reached them, and Mea soon followed with the uncle, whose face showed signs of perturbation.
"I hope you have not run up to the castle with Salo, Bruno," he cried out with agitation.
"Oh, no, uncle," Bruno replied, "we sat down here on the way up. I just wanted to show Salo the castle that belonged to his uncle, but he does not know anything about it. He thinks that it has been sold long ago because he never heard about it."
"Good!" said Uncle Philip with satisfaction. "Now let us quickly go home. It is not right to starve a guest on his first visit; he might never come again."
"Oh, I certainly shall, Mr.--," here Salo hesitated, "I do not remember the name," he added, quite concerned.
"My name here is Uncle Philip," the kind gentleman answered, "just Uncle Philip, nothing else!"
"Am I allowed to call you Uncle, too? That makes me feel so much at home!" Salo exclaimed after nodding cordially. "Well, Uncle Philip, I mean to come to you again with the keenest pleasure every time I am invited. I would even come with the greatest joy if you never gave me anything to eat."
"No, no, we don't have institutions for starving people," Uncle Philip replied. "We are returning home now to a little feast I have told Kathy to get ready. It will consist mostly of country dishes. Our guest must know he has been received by friends."
"Oh, Uncle Philip, I felt that the first moment I met you," Salo exclaimed.
The little group now strolled happily down the incline towards the house.
Maezli was standing in the doorway with eyes as big as saucers. She had received the news from Kathy that they were to have omelette apple-souffle, ham-pudding, sour milk and sweet biscuits for supper in honour of a charming guest and Uncle Philip, who had come back. So Maezli looked out at them, and as soon as they were near enough, studied Salo very carefully.
He must have pleased her, for she quickly ran towards him and, reaching out her hand, said, "Won't you stay with us for a while?"
Salo laughed: "Yes, I should love to."
Taking him by the hand, Maezli led him into the house and to the room where the inviting table was already set. Kathy had been so many years in the house that she knew exactly how things ought to be. Everyone sat down now and Uncle Philip was amusingly talking. Everything he had ordered for the meal tasted so delightfully that it seemed like a feast to them and Salo said, "I should never have been able to conceive such a wonderful end of my holidays, if I had imagined the most marvellous thing in the world."
"If Salo could only stay here a few days, if only one day more," Bruno urged. All the rest were of the same opinion and they loudly begged Uncle Philip to persuade him to spend the next day with them. They thought that even one day together would be perfect for everyone.
"Yes, and for me most of all," said Salo, "but I cannot. My teacher and comrades are coming to fetch me at Sils to-morrow at ten o'clock. This is absolutely settled and there is not the slightest chance for my staying here, even if I wished it more than anything in the world."
"That is right, Salo, that is the way to talk," Uncle Philip said. "What has to be, has to be, even if we don't like it. Please do not beg him any more to stay. Let us play a nice game now and let us enjoy ourselves while he is with us."
Uncle Philip soon started the game, and their merry mood returned with the fun.
At the exact time when their mother always called the little ones for bed Lippo cried, "Uncle Philip, we must sing the evening song now and after that Maezli and I must go to bed."
This did not suit Maezli at all, however, for she was full of the game just then. Salo, who was sitting beside her, had been so funny, that it suited her better to stay here than to go to bed, Quickly climbing up the uncle's chair from behind, she put both round arms caressingly about his neck and whispered in his ear, "Oh, darling Uncle Philip, to-day is a feast-day, isn't it? Can't we stay up a little longer? The game is such fun and it's so tiresome to go to bed."
"Yes, yes, it is a feast-day," the uncle assented; "the little ones can stay up a little longer. Let us all keep on playing."
Maezli joyfully skipped back to her place, and the merriment was resumed. The game, which was very amusing, was made more so by Uncle Philip's funny remarks. Nobody had noticed therefore how quiet Maezli had grown.
Salo suddenly remarked, "Oh, look! Maezli is sound asleep. She is nearly tumbling from her chair." And the little girl would have dropped had not Salo held her by quickly putting his arm about her.
Uncle Philip went to her.
"Come, Maezli, come," he said encouragingly, "open your eyes quickly and Mea will take you to bed."
"No, no," Maezli lamented, and would not move.
"But you must! Just look, we are all going," the uncle said vigorously. "Do you want to stay behind?"
"No, no, no," Maezli moaned, full of misery.
"Mea, give her some cake," the uncle ordered, "then she'll wake up."
"We have no cake, uncle," Mea replied.
"What, you don't have a thing so necessary as that in a house full of children! Well, I shall get some to-morrow," he said, quite agitated. "Do you want a candy, Maezli? Come, just taste how sweet it is."
"No, no, no," Maezli moaned again in such sorrowful tones as no one had ever heard from the energetic little child.
Suddenly a most disturbing thought shot through the uncle's brain: "Suppose the child has already caught the fever? What should I do? What ought one to do?" he cried out with growing anxiety.
Kathy had entered the room in the meantime to see if anything more was needed.
"That is the way, Mr. Falcon," she said, going up to Maezli, and quickly lifting her in her strong arms, she carried her upstairs. Despite all her lamenting the child was then undressed and put to bed. In the shortest time she was sound asleep again without a trace of fever.
"Well, that's over now," Uncle Philip said, quite relieved when Kathy came back with the news. "I really think that the time has come for us all to seek our beds. Lippo actually looks as if he could not stand on his little legs."
The boy was as white as chalk from staying up so late. From time to time he tried to open his eyes, but they always fell shut again. The uncle, taking his hand, wanted to lead him away, but he fought against it.
"Uncle Philip, we have not sung the evening song yet," he said, clutching the piano.
"Mercy!" the uncle cried out disturbed. "Is this going to start now? No, no, Lippo, it is much too late to-night. You can sing two songs to-morrow, then everything will be straightened out."
"Then we shall have sung two songs to-morrow, but none to-day," Lippo began in a complaining voice, holding on to the piano and pulling his uncle towards him.
"Nothing can be done, we have to do it," Uncle Philip said with resignation, for he knew the obstinacy of his godson in regard to all customs.
"Kurt, you can tell me about the songs; please find the shortest in the song-book, or we shall have to sing till to-morrow morning. Please spare us such a miserable scene. But wait, Kurt! The song must have a tune I can sing, for as nobody plays the piano, I have to set the tune. Do you want to sing with us, too, Salo, or is it too late for you? You can retire if you prefer. You go upstairs to the room at the right corner."
"Oh, no, I want to stay as long as anybody is left," Salo replied. "I shall enjoy singing and doing everything with you. It is all so funny and strange."
Kurt had chosen a suitable song and Uncle Philip began it so vigorously that everybody could join and a full-voiced chorus was formed. Lippo's voice sounded dreadfully weak, but he sang every note to the last word, fighting mightily against his growing sleepiness. Now the little company could wander upstairs to their respective rooms without further obstacle.
"Oh," Uncle Philip breathed relieved when they had reached the top. "At least we are as far as this. It really is an undertaking to keep in order a handful of children where one always differs from the last. Now I have luckily gotten through for today. What? Not yet? What is the matter, Bruno?"
The latter, approaching his uncle with clear signs that he wanted him for something, had pulled him aside.
"I want to ask you for something," said Bruno. "I wonder if you will do me a great favor, Uncle Philip. Salo and I have so much to talk about still and he must leave to-morrow, I wanted to ask you if Kurt can sleep beside you in the guest room and Salo could sleep in Kurt's bed in my room."
"What are you thinking of," the uncle said irritably. "You should hear what your mother would say to that. The idea of having a Wallerstaetten for a guest and offering him a bed which has been used already. That would seem a real crime in her eyes. That can't be; no, it mustn't. I hope you can see it, too, don't you?"
"Yes," Bruno said, much depressed, for he had to agree. But Uncle could not stand such downcast spirits.
"Listen, Bruno," he said, "you realize that we can't do it that way. But an uncle knows how to arrange things and that is why he is here. This is the way we'll do. I'll sleep in your bed, and Salo and you can sleep in the guest-room. Will that suit?"
"Oh, thank you, Uncle Philip! There is no other uncle like you," Bruno cried out in his enthusiasm.
So Uncle Philip's last difficulty was solved for to-day and everybody was willing to go to bed. Soon the house lay in deep quiet: even the sick child in the highest story lay calmly sleeping on her cool pillows. She did not even notice when Mrs. Maxa stepped up once more to her bedside with a little lamp. Before herself retiring she wanted to listen once more to the child's breathing. Only the two new friends were still talking long after midnight.
They understood each other so thoroughly and upon all points that Bruno had proposed in his enthusiasm that they would not waste one minute of the night in sleep. Salo expressed his wish over and over again that Bruno might become his comrade in the boarding school. But finally victorious sleep stole unperceived over the two lads and quietly closed their eyes.