Maezli by Johanna Spyri
Chapter VII. The Mother's Absence Has Consequences
Next morning Salo was allowed to go into his sister's room in order to say good-bye to her. She looked at him so cheerfully that he asked with eager delight, "Do you feel so much better already, Leonore?"
"Oh, yes, I feel as if I were at home," she replied with shining eyes. "I feel as if our mother had come down from heaven to take care of me."
"When you can get up and go downstairs you will be happier still. I know how much you will enjoy meeting the whole family," said Salo. "Then you will feel as if you were in a real home that belongs to you."
"It is such a shame that you have to go," Leonore sighed, but this time the tears did not come quite so urgently. How things had changed since yesterday--how different it was now to stay behind!
At this moment Mrs. Maxa entered the room.
She had left it as she wanted to give brother and sister an opportunity to see each other alone, but the time had come for Salo to depart, and he was obliged to leave his sister. To-day it seemed harder for him to go away than leave Leonore behind.
"I can't even say that I wish you to come soon. I have to hope that you can remain here a long while," he said cheerily, while Leonore was smiling bravely. Uncle Philip, ready for the journey, stood beside the carriage. All the children ran towards Salo as soon as he appeared, and when he said good-bye, he was treated like a friend of the family of many years' standing. Each of the children showed his grief in a special manner. Maezli cried loudly over and over again, "Oh, Salo, please come soon again, please come soon again."
When the carriage was rolling away and the handkerchiefs that fluttered him last greetings were all Salo could see from the distance, he rapidly brushed away a few tears. He had never felt so thoroughly at home anywhere in the world before. How happy he had been! The thought of going far away and possibly never coming back gave him a little pang of grief.
When the children returned at noon from school they were still full of their vivid impression of Salo's sudden appearance and departure. They were all anxious to tell their mother about it, because they knew that they could always count on her lively sympathy. One or the other of the children kept forgetting that the mother must not be sought and would absent-mindedly make an attempt to go upstairs, but they were always met by unexpected resistance. Lippo on his arrival home from school had posted himself there to see that his mother's orders were strictly kept. He also had missed her desperately, but he had nevertheless remembered her injunctions and was quite certain that the others might forget and act contrary to her orders. Placing himself on the first step, he would hold any of his brothers or sisters with both hands when they came towards him as they dashed upstairs. When he cried out loudly, "We mustn't do it, we mustn't do it," they ran away again, quite frightened, for his horrified shrieks might have penetrated into the sick-room. Kathy was the only one who appreciated Lippo's worth. She had received orders to remind the children of the strict command, and she knew quite well from previous experiences that she could never have succeeded as effectively as he. Maezli, meanwhile, was sitting at Apollonie's table, gayly eating a snow-white milk-pudding which Apollonie knew so well how to prepare. Whenever Maezli came to a meal at her house, she always set this favorite dish before the child.
The days when Maezli came for a visit here were happy days for Loneli. There was always something funny going on at meal-time, because Maezli had so many amusing things to speak about. On those days she was never obliged to tell her grandmother exactly what lessons she had known in school and which she had not. Usually Apollonie was dreadfully anxious to hear how punctually she had fulfilled her duties, and she always chose lunch-time for that purpose because then no other affair interfered with talking. Beaming with joy, Loneli now sat beside Maezli, who was telling uninterruptedly about Salo. She told them that he was friendlier and nicer than any boy she had ever seen, and she quoted Bruno, Mea and Kurt as saying exactly the same thing. Usually they disagreed on such points. Apollonie was quite absorbed in listening, too, and nodding her head once in a while, she seemed to say: "Yes, yes, I know that he couldn't be called Salo for nothing." This interesting subject of conversation kept her longer than usual to-day.
"Suddenly she started up, quite frightened. Oh, is it possible? It is nearly one o'clock. Hurry up, Loneli, or you'll be late for school. Maezli, you and I have something to do, too, this afternoon. I shall take you on a walk and I'll tell you where we are going as soon as we start."
As the dishes had to be washed first, Apollonie thought that Maezli might go out to play in the garden. But Maezli preferred to see the plates washed and dried and afterwards set in neat rows. After these tasks Apollonie put on a good apron, a beautiful neck-cloth, and after packing up several shirts, cloths and stockings into a large basket the two set out.
"Where are we going?" Maezli asked, inspecting the basket. "Who are you taking these things to?"
"They belong to Mr. Trius," replied Apollonie. "We are going all the way up to the castle, as far as the great iron door. When I pull the bell-knob, Mr. Trius comes and gets this basket. You'll be able to peep in through the door till he comes back again with the empty basket."
"Can one look into the garden from there and see the big mignonette-bushes that mama liked so much?" Maezli asked.
"Yes, yes, the garden is there," Apollonie replied with a profound sigh, "but the great rose and mignonette beds are gone. It would take a long time nowadays to find even a couple of the flowers."
"We could surely find them inside," Maezli said with great certainty.
"But Maezli, what are you thinking of? Nobody is allowed to go in. You see, Mr. Trius lets nobody either into the garden or into the castle," Apollonie repeated with great emphasis. "I should have gone in long ago if he had let me. Oh, how I should have loved to go, and I know how badly needed I am. What a dreadful disorder all the rooms must be in! If I could only go a single time to do the most necessary things!" Apollonie in her great trouble had quite forgotten that she was speaking to little Maezli.
"Why should you bring him so many shirts and stockings if he doesn't let you in? Don't bring him anything," Maezli cried out indignantly.
"No, no, Maezli. You see, these are his shirts and stockings, and I have only washed and mended them for him," Apollonie explained.
"Besides, Mr. Trius can't do as he pleases. Do you see the open windows up there? No, you couldn't see them from here. Well, up there lives a sick gentleman, a baron, who won't let anybody come into the garden. He is the master there and can give orders, and people must not disobey him. Look, one can see the open windows quite plainly now."
"Can we see the bad baron, too?" asked Maezli peeping up searchingly.
"I did not say that he was bad, Maezli, I only said that he can give orders," Apollonie corrected. "And you can't see him because he is lying sick in bed. Look, look! the fine, thick raspberry bushes used to be there." Apollonie was pointing to wild-looking shrubs that were climbing up the castle incline. "Oh, how different it all used to be! Two splendid hedges used to run up there, then across and down again on the other side. Both girls and boys used to feast on them for whole days at a time, and there were always enough left for pots and pots full of jam. And now how terrible it all looks! Everything is growing wild. Nobody who has known the place the way I knew it could have ever thought that it would look like this."
Maezli was not very deeply moved by the change. She had long been gazing at the high gate which was to be their destination and which they were nearing rapidly.
"Does Mr. Trius take his big stick along when he comes down to the gate?" she asked, looking cautiously about her.
"Yes, yes, he never goes about without it, Maezli, but you need not be afraid," Apollonie calmed her. "He won't hurt you, and I should advise him not to. Look! there he comes already. He has been spying about, and nothing ever escapes him."
Mr. Trius was already standing at the gate with his stick and opened it. "That is fine," he said, receiving the basket, and was in the act of closing the door again immediately.
"No, no, Mr. Trius, don't do that!" said Apollonie, restraining him. She had vigorously pushed back the door and posted herself firmly in the opening. "I always do my duty punctually and I like to do it because you belong to the castle. But you can at least let me have a word about the master's health."
"The same," was the reply.
"The same; what does that mean?" Apollonie retorted. "Do you watch him while he sleeps? Are you cooking the right things for him? What does the master eat?"
"What? How can you cook such things for him? Such rich and heavy meat for a sick man! What does the doctor say to that?"
"What, nothing? He certainly must say what his patient ought to eat. Who is his doctor? I hope a good one. I am afraid the master is not troubling much about it. Did you fetch the one from Sils? He is very careful, I know."
"Who do you have?"
Apollonie threw up her arms in violent agitation. "So the baron lies up there sick and lonely and nobody even fetches a doctor. Oh, if his mother knew this! That simply won't do, and I am going in. Please let me in. The master won't have to see me at all. All I want to do is to cook something strengthening for him. I shall only put his room in order, and if he happens to get up, I can make his bed. Oh, please let me in, Mr. Trius! You know that I'll do anything in the world for you. Please let me nurse the sick master!"
Apollonie's voice had grown supplicating.
"Forbidden," was the curt reply.
"But I am no stranger here. I have served in this house for more than thirty years," Apollonie went on eagerly. "I know what is needed and what the master ought to have. Things are not attended to at all, I fear, and indeed I know it. After all I am an old acquaintance, and I'll only come an hour a day to do the most urgent task."
"Nobody is allowed to come," Mr. Trius said again in his unchangeable, dry tone. It was all the same to him whether Apollonie begged or scolded. In her anxiety about the sick master she had forgotten everything else.
"Where is the child?" she suddenly cried out in great anxiety. "Good gracious, where is she? She must have run into the garden."
Mr. Trius had suddenly grown more lively. Throwing the gate to with great violence, he turned the huge key before pulling it rapidly out. He realized that Apollonie was capable of doing anything in her excitement about the lost child.
"Witch's baggage!" he murmured angrily. Swinging his stick in a threatening way, he ran towards the castle.
"Mr. Trius," Apollonie screamed after him with all her might, "if you touch the child you will have to reckon with me, do you hear? Hold the stick down. She can't help being frightened if she sees you."
But he had quickly been lost from view. While Apollonie and Mr. Trius had been absorbed in their violent altercation and had stared at each other, she in wild excitement and he in stiff immovability, Maezli had slipped from between the two as swiftly as a little mouse. Then she had merrily wandered up towards the castle hoping that she would soon see the garden with the lovely flowers. But all she could see were wild bushes and stretches of grass with only the yellow sparkling flowers which grow in every common meadow. This was not what Maezli had expected, so she went up to the terrace of the castle and looked about from there for the flower garden. At the end of the terrace where the little pine wood began she saw something that looked like fiery yellow flowers and quickly ran there. But instead of flowers she saw a lion skin shining in the sun. To see what was under the skin Maezli came closer. A head was raised up and two sharp eyes were directed towards her. It was a man who had half raised himself on the long chair which was covered by the skin. As soon as she saw that it was a human being and not a lion, she came nearer and asked quite confidentially, "Do you happen to know where the beautiful old mignonette is, that mama saw in the garden here?"
"No," the man answered curtly.
"Maybe Mr. Trius knows, but one can't ask him. Are you afraid of Mr. Trius, too?" Maezli asked.
"But he always goes about with a big stick. Kurt has made a song about him where he tells everything that Mr. Trius does," Maezli chattered on. "It begins like this:
Old Trius lives in our town, A haughty man is he, And every one that he can catch He beats right heartily.
I don't remember the rest, but it is quite long. But he wants to make a song about Salo now, because he is so awfully nice. He said it as soon as Salo went away today. We all like him, and Bruno said that if he made a stupid song he would tear it up."
"Is everybody here called Salo and Bruno?" the gentleman burst out angrily.
"No, nobody except Bruno, you know; he is my big brother," Maezli explained. "Salo only came yesterday and went away again to-day. But he did not want to go and we wanted to keep him. But he was not allowed to. If his sister is well again, she has to go away, too. But we don't know her yet. Her name is Leonore."
"Who sent you here?" the gentleman ejaculated harshly. But Maezli only looked at him in astonishment.
"Nobody has sent me. Nobody knows where I am, not even Apollonie," Maezli began to explain. "I only ran away because Apollonie had to tell Mr. Trius so many things and I wanted to see the mignonette. I am visiting Apollonie because mama has to nurse Leonore, who is ill and can't come down. Because I don't obey Kathy very well and she has to cook, I spend the days with Apollonie. Oh, here he comes!" Maezli interrupted herself suddenly, for she was frightened. Coming close to her new acquaintance, as if to seek his protection, she whispered confidentially. "Oh, won't you help me, please, if he tries to hurt me?"
Mr. Trius was rushing towards them, holding out his stick in front like an emblem of his profession. The gentleman only made a light gesture with his hand, and Mr. Trius disappeared as he had come.
"Won't he hurt me if I come down to the door where he stands?" Maezli asked. She retreated slightly from her protector, whom she had held tightly in her fear of the stick.
"No," he replied curtly, but his voice did not sound as severe as before, a fact which Maezli noticed immediately. She was very grateful to him for chasing Mr. Trius away and she now felt desirous of doing him a service in return.
"Do you always have to sit alone here all the time? Does no one come to see you?" she asked, full of sympathy.
"Oh, then I must come to you another time and I'll keep you company," Maezli said consolingly. "Does the bad baron never come down to you here?" she asked anxiously.
"Where is he?" came a second question.
"Don't you know that?" Maezli said in great surprise. "He is up there where the windows are open." With this Maezli looked up, and walking close to the chair, whispered cautiously, "A sick baron lies up there. Apollonie says that he is not bad, but I know that one has to be afraid of him. Are you afraid of him?"
"Then I won't be afraid of him either," Maezli remarked, quite reassured. The gentleman who had chased away Mr. Trius so easily and was not afraid of the bad baron gave her all the confidence in the world. Under his protection she could face every danger.
"I'll go home now, but I'll come soon again," and with this Maezli gave her hand in a most winning way. When she wanted to say good-bye she realized that she did not know either the gentleman's name or title, so she stopped.
"I am the Castle Steward," said the gentleman, helping Maezli. When the leave-taking was done Maezli ran back towards the door. Sure enough, Mr. Trius was standing inside the portals and Apollonie on the outside, for the careful man had not opened them again. He thought that the excited woman might forcibly enter the garden in order to seek the child.
"God be thanked that you are here again!" she cried when Maezli came out. She quickly took her hand. Mr. Trius, after violently shutting the gate, had immediately turned his back upon the visitors.
"I was simply frightened to death, Maezli. How could you run away from me? I did not know where you had got to."
"You didn't need to be so frightened," Maezli said with calm assurance. "I was with the Castle-Steward. I don't need to be afraid of anything with him, not even of Mr. Trius."
"What, the Castle-Steward! What are you saying, Maezli? Who said it was the Steward?" Apollonie's words were full of anxiety, as if Maezli might be threatened with great danger.
"He told me so himself. He was sitting all alone under a big tree. He sits there alone all the time. But I am going up to see him soon again," Maezli informed her.
"No, no, Maezli, what are you thinking of? You can't do it if he has not told you to. I am sure Mr. Trius will see that you won't get in there any more," said Apollonie, and she was quite sure that Maezli's plan would never succeed.
But if Maezli ever made a discovery, she was not easily led away.
"Yes, but he won't be allowed to stop me," she said a little scornfully.
That evening Loneli was allowed to bring Maezli home. She always loved to go to Mrs. Maxa's house, because Kurt and Mea were her best friends. Loneli was always so friendly and obliging to everybody that the school children often asked her to deliver messages. This often took place in cases of estrangements when a third person was needed. Loneli had been asked after school to-day to give a message to Mea and she was glad of the chance to deliver it.
Mea had sent a proposal of peace to Elvira through Loneli, for she hated the constant sulking of her friend and the unpleasant new manner she exhibited in turning her back upon her. Mea had twice before tried to be reconciled to the embittered Elvira, but unfortunately in vain. She did not dare to admit this to Kurt, who would not have approved of her behaviour but would have even made a horrible song about it. But one could always rely on Loneli, who was discreet. Mea, standing at the window, saw Loneli coming towards the house and ran down to meet her.
"I have to tell you something terribly sad about Elvira," Loneli said, quite downcast.
"What is it? What is it?" Mea asked.
"She doesn't ever want to renew her friendship with you and she has asked me to tell you that. You may be sure that I should not tell you if I did not have to," Loneli added, "because it makes me so sad."
Mea reflected a moment, wondering what she had really done. All she had been guilty of was accusing Elvira of an act of injustice. So all friendly feelings between them were to be withdrawn for all time as her punishment.
"Elvira can sulk for the rest of eternity, if she wants to," Mea said now without the slightest trace of sadness. Loneli was greatly surprised. "There are other people in this world besides her. I should have loved to tell Elvira who was staying with us. Never has anybody been so nice and pleased us so. I wish I could have told her who is here now, though we don't know her yet; but Elvira keeps on turning her back on me. You see, Loneli, the nicest boy, about Bruno's age, came to see us, and his sister is sick upstairs. We are not allowed to see her just yet, but I can hardly wait till she comes down. If she is as nice as her brother, she is the nicest child any of us have ever seen."
At this description Loneli's vivacious eyes fairly gleamed with sympathy.
"What is her name," she asked expectantly.
"Leonore," Mea answered.
"Oh," Loneli immediately began, "my grandmother also knew a young lady called Leonore. She always says that that young lady was as lovely as an angel and that there could not be anybody in the world as wonderful as she."
"I am rather glad if Leonore is not like an angel, for she might not be my friend then," Mea said quickly. "Elvira even, who certainly is not at all like an angel, has to break her friendship with me every few weeks."
"Maybe she does that because she is so little like an angel," Loneli suggested.
At this both children laughed. Often Loneli found exactly the right word to say which would throw light on the matter. Kurt always enjoyed these remarks of hers.
At that moment shrieks of joy sounded from the house: "Mama is coming! Mama is coming!"
Lippo, the watchman, had posted himself again on the stairs as soon as he had returned from school, and he had found ample work there. Kurt had again forgotten the command and had to be chased away, and even Bruno had made an attempt to quietly steal up to his mother. But all this had only brought horrified cries from the little boy.
They had both meant no wrong whatever. All they had wanted was to quickly say a word to the mother through the open door. Nevertheless, Lippo had grown terribly wrought up about it. A firm command had been given, and they had tried to break it, so they all had been obliged to give way before his violent noise.
A strange gentleman had come, too, who was half-way up the stairs with two leaps. But Lippo had grabbed the tails of his coat and, holding on to them with both hands, shrieked, "Nobody is allowed to go up. You must not go up."
Laughingly turning about, the gentleman said, "Just let me go, little one. I am allowed because I am the doctor. Your uncle told me where to go, so I'll easily find my way. But I'll make use of you some day, for you are a splendid sentinel."
When the doctor on his return found him still on the same spot, he called him a pillar of good order and told him that he would send for him if he should ever need a reliable watchman.
Soon after, Lippo uttered sudden shouts of joy, for he saw his mother coming downstairs. What a surprise it was to see her when they had thought that she would be shut up for one or two days longer!
"Mama is coming! Mama is coming!"
All had heard his exclamations and Mea was the first to appear, pulling Loneli after her. Bruno came rushing from one side and Kurt from the other, and Maezli shot like an arrow right into their midst. The mother found herself solidly surrounded.
"Mama, just think--"
"Oh, listen, mama!"
"Oh, mama, I want to tell you--"
"Do you know, mama?"
This came from all sides and all at once.
"To-morrow, children, to-morrow," said the mother. "We must be very happy that we can see each other so soon again. I wanted to send one of you to Apollonie, but I am glad to see you here, Loneli."
Mrs. Maxa now told Loneli the message she was to take to her grandmother. The doctor had just been there and had found Leonore much better already. As her fever had gone down, he feared no serious illness. Leonore was to spend several more days in bed and therefore she was to have a nurse who could also take care of her at night-time. For this nobody better than grandmother Apollonie could be found, and Mrs. Maxa would be so glad for her patient's and her own sake if she could arrange to come to the house for several days and nights. She told Loneli to tell her grandmother that the little girl was named Leonore and that Mrs. Maxa was quite sure she would not be hard to take care of.
The mother would not allow herself to be detained any longer. To all the questions which stormed in upon her she only had one answer: "To-morrow, children, to-morrow." Then she disappeared again into the sick room.
"Please tell me what she is like, when you have seen her. I am so curious," said Loneli, taking leave, and Mea promised to give the sympathetic Loneli a full report of everything.
Next morning extremely early Apollonie appeared at Mrs. Maxa's house. As the door was not open yet, she knocked quietly and after a while Kathy appeared with heavy, sleepy eyes.
"Why should anybody rush about at this early hour," she said a little angrily. It did not suit her at all that Apollonie should have found out what a short time she had been astir.
"I begin my day at this hour," said Apollonie, "and there is no need for me to rush about. I can leave that to those who get up late. I have come to take Mrs. Rector's place in the sick room."
"She hasn't even called yet," Kathy flung out.
"So much the better, then I have at least not come too late. I can find some work everywhere," and with this Apollonie entered the living room and began to set it in order.
Kathy did not hinder her and, to show her gratitude, attempted to start a little conversation. But Apollonie was not in the mood for that. She was solely filled by the question who the sick Leonore was that she was going to nurse. Could it be possible?
That moment a bell sounded from upstairs, and Apollonie obeyed the call. Mrs. Maxa, opening the door, let her enter. Wide awake, Leonore was sitting up in bed. Her thick, curly hair was falling far down below her shoulders, and her dark, solemn eyes were gazing with surprise at Apollonie. The latter looked immovably at the little girl, while tears were coursing down her cheeks.
"Oh, oh," she said, as soon as she was able to control her emotion, "one does not need to ask where our little Leonore comes from. It seems to me as if old times had come back again. Yes, she looked exactly like that when she came to the castle; only she was not quite so pale."
"Leonore," Mrs. Maxa said, "Mrs. Apollonie has known both your father and mother very well. So I thought that you would like to have her for a nurse."
"Certainly," Leonore replied happily, while she stretched out her hand in a friendly manner towards Apollonie. "Won't you tell me everything you know about them?" Apollonie was only too glad to do that, but in her agitation she had first to wipe her eyes.
There was no end to the children's enthusiasm when they found that their mother was to be their own again. The unaccustomed separation had seemed much longer and harder to bear than they had imagined, but it was all over now, she was back and would be theirs now for all time to come.
Bruno suggested that they should divide up their mother's time between them to-day. This would make it possible for all to get her hearing separately. In all this time a great deal of matter had accumulated which was crying to be heard. If they were all to talk to her at once, as had happened several times before, no one would have any satisfaction, as she might not even be able to understand them. So it was settled that every child should have their mother alone for an hour, and they were to take their turns according to age.
"So of course the first hour after school from eleven till twelve belongs to me," was Bruno's statement.
"From one till two I shall have my turn," Mea cried out. She was counting on asking her mother so many questions that they might easily take three hours. She had no communications to make but she was terribly eager to hear all about Leonore.
"I'll get the time between four and five o'clock," said Kurt. This term suited him exactly, as he had a secret hope of prolonging it somewhat. The two little ones were to have the remaining time before supper, and Kurt thought that they could not have very much to tell, whereas he was in need of a great deal of advice.
The mother had been quite certain that Bruno in his interview with her would make a last, desperate effort to escape having to live with the Knippel boys. What was her surprise when she found that this had been entirely pushed into the background by his lively sympathy in Salo's destiny.
Bruno's thoughts were constantly occupied by the thought that his new, charming friend stood entirely alone in the world. As Salo had no one who could help him to find a home, Bruno hoped that his mother would be able to give him some advice. He felt sure that she would gladly do this, for she loved both children tenderly, as she had formerly loved their parents.
The boy had been absolutely right when he supposed that Mrs. Maxa would be glad to help them, but she had to tell Bruno frankly that there was no advice she was able to give. She had no authority over the children and could therefore do nothing, as everything depended on Salo's early completion of his studies so that he could choose an occupation. This would have to be settled by the gentleman of whom Salo had spoken. He was probably a relation of their mother's who had undertaken the care of the children.
Bruno was terribly cast down when he heard this. When his mother did not give him help and counsel right away, she usually gave him some hope by saying, "We shall see." As she had not said this to-day, he felt certain that nothing could be done. But the mother's unhappy face showed to Bruno that her disability did not come from a lack of sympathy, and that it pained her very much that she could do nothing.
When Bruno came out of the room he was very silent and sadder than he had ever been in his life.
Mea, on the contrary, came skipping out from her interview. Her mother had told her that Leonore was charming, refined and modest, besides being extremely grateful for every little favor. But what thrilled Mea beyond everything was that Leonore had repeatedly told her mother how much she looked forward to meeting her, because the two were of an age. Leonore's only fear was that Mea might find her rather tiresome. All the girls in the boarding school had always accused her of that, for she was often terribly unhappy, and she could not help it. Mea was more eager than ever now to meet Leonore, for she was already filled with a warm love for the sick child. She could talk and think of practically nothing but Leonore.
"I certainly have to make a song about this violent new friendship," Kurt said in the evening, when Mea had urged more than once, "Oh, mother, I hope you won't let Leonore go as soon as she can come down and the doctor says she is well; otherwise we shall barely be able to become acquainted."
Mea flared like a rocket at her brother's suggestion, crying violently, "Indeed you won't, Kurt."
"Mea, Mea," the mother admonished her, "I propose to do all I can to keep Leonore here as long as possible, but--"
"But, Mea, she might be put to flight with fear and never be seen again if you attack your poor brothers in such a way," Kurt quickly concluded the mother's sentence.
Mea had to laugh over this speech, which little resembled her mother's style of talking.
"My dear Kurt," she said, "I am quite able to complete a sentence without your assistance. I wanted to say that I should not be able to do very much, because the ladies will take Leonore when it suits them best. I have to admit, however, that there was some truth in Kurt's reply. Leonore has such a delicate, refined nature that it might frighten her to see you carried away by such passion, Mea."
When the doctor came back again in two days he was surprised at the improved condition of his little patient. "If she was not so very young," the doctor said to Mrs. Maxa while she accompanied him out of the room, "I should say that her illness came largely from some hidden sorrow and inner suffering. She has apparently been able to shake it off in the good care and affectionate treatment she is getting here. But I can scarcely believe this of a child."
When Mrs. Maxa asked him how soon Leonore could leave the room and spend the day with her very active children, he answered, "She can do it from to-morrow on. Nothing can possibly refresh her more than some lively playmates."
With this he took his leave. Going downstairs, he met Apollonie, who was just coming up with a supper-tray laden with delicate dishes for the sick child.
"That is right," said the doctor; "it gives one an appetite only to look at it."
"Yes, the poor child eats like a little bird," said Apollonie; "but Mrs. Rector says that there must be things to choose from in order to tempt her. How is she getting along, doctor? Do you think she'll get well again? Isn't she just like a little angel?"
"That is hard for me to say, as I do not know any angels," he said smiling, "but she might be for all I know. I am sure that she will get well with careful nursing, and you are sure to see to that, Mrs. Apollonie. You seem to think that in being given care of the child you have drawn the big prize in the lottery."
"Indeed I have. I really have," she cried after him.
No event had ever been looked forward to with such great suspense in Mrs. Maxa's house as the appearance of Leonore. As soon as all the children were home from school the next morning, their mother fetched her down. The three older ones were standing expectantly together in a little group, while the two smaller ones had placed themselves with wide-open eyes near the door. Leonore, entering, greeted one after the other in such an engaging, confidential way that she made them feel as if they were old friends. She loved their mother so much and had been so closely drawn to her that she was fond of the children before she had even seen them. This pleased them tremendously, for they had expected Leonore to be very different from themselves and had been rather afraid of her. As soon as they saw her, they felt that they might each be special friends with their charming guest. Leonore found herself surrounded by them all in a corner of the sofa. As she did not look at all strong yet, the mother had led her there. Leonore tried to answer all the questions, listen to all the projects and information which were showered upon her, while her eyes danced with merriment. These unusual surroundings made Leonore so happy that her face became quite rosy. Mea had been already completed in her mind a plan which, if it succeeded, would make it possible for her to have Leonore to herself sometimes. Since all her brothers and sisters liked the visitor so much, it was not easy to get her off alone. If only her mother would sanction the plan! That day Mea had to set the table, and when lunch time had come, she quickly ran to her mother to ask her if she might take Apollonie's place in Leonore's room, and to her great delight she willingly consented. Mea told her she would only be too glad to wait on Leonore at night if she could but be with her. Leonore really needed no more special care, and in case of an emergency Mea could easily run down to fetch her mother.
"Leonore will mean more to you than she will ever realize," the mother concluded, "and I feel very gratified if you can do something for her, too."
Mrs. Maxa then informed Apollonie of the new plan, and she felt sure that the latter would be glad to get home again.
"I do everything in my power for that angel," she exclaimed. "I should go to live in the desert if only I could procure a home for her."
After dinner she went to Leonore to say good-bye, and the child pressed her hand most warmly, thanking her for the good care she had received.
"I shall never forget how kind you have been, Apollonie," she said heartily. "I shall come to see you as soon as I am allowed to go. I hope that we shall see each other very often."
"Oh, yes, I hope so! Please ask Mrs. Rector to let you come to me as often as possible," said Apollonie before leaving.
Leonore now told the children that Apollonie had very vividly described to her the lovely home of her parents and the wonderful life in the castle. She had said frankly that she would never desire such a fine home, if only Salo and she could call a little house their own, so the good-hearted Apollonie had suggested that they might live with her. She could easily let them have the whole cottage with the exception of a tiny chamber. She could wait on them, and what more could they desire? Leonore had felt that this would be better than anything she had dreamed of, as she could come over to Mrs. Maxa and her children as often as she pleased. How happy Salo would be if she wrote him about it.
"Yes, you can," Maezli declared. "Her house is a lovely place to live in. Loneli is there, who does everything one wants her to, and Apollonie always cooks what one likes best."
Kurt made a little enigmatical remark to Maezli about her greed, but before she could have it explained to her, the mother turned to Leonore.
"I do not want you to be deluded by this thought, dear child," she said, "for that might only bring you disappointment. As soon as you are well, you can walk to Apollonie's cottage and then you will see what a tiny place it is. The great obstacle of Salo's studies would not be put aside in that way, either, for he could not join you there for years."
"Oh, I was thinking all the time how lovely it would be to live with Apollonie! It would be so wonderful--I could live with her there and Salo could come to us in the holidays till he is through with his studies. Then we could both settle here in the neighborhood."
Leonore had been counting on this new scheme and she looked up at Mrs. Maxa as if she longed for her consent. As Mrs. Maxa did not have the heart to shatter the child's hopes completely, she decided to let the matter rest for the present. As soon as they could visit Apollonie, Leonore could judge for herself how impossible the plan was.
Leonore's eyes were usually very sad, but occasionally she would look quite merry, and it was so that she appeared that evening when the children were surrounding her on all sides. When each had to tell her so much and tried to be nearest her, she experienced the feeling that she had come to a family to which she really belonged. Each of the children had founded a special relation with Leonore. Bruno saw himself as her protector and adviser, and as her brother's close friend he meant to keep an active watch over her. Mea, whose thoughts had been completely absorbed for days in her new friend, brought her all the warmth of a heart which craved friendship passionately. Kurt had made it his duty to cheer up the rather melancholy child as much as was in his power. Lippo, still filled a little with his post of sentinel, always came close to her as if he still needed to watch over her. Maezli was of the firm opinion that she had to entertain the guest, so she would relate fragments of funny things she knew, passing from one to another. In this way Leonore got to hear of the Knippel family. The time passed so quickly that loud laments were heard when the mother announced that it was time for Leonore to retire. She did not want her strength to be overtaxed on her first day out of bed.
"We shall have many more days after this when we can be together," she added. "Let us be glad of that."
"There might not be so many, for I feel quite well already," Leonore said with a sigh.
Mrs. Maxa smiled.
"We must thank God for that. But you need to get strong, and I hope that you may find the needed recreation and change here." Then she accompanied the two girls up to their room at the top of the house. As Mea was to be Leonore's sole nurse from now on, Mrs. Maxa wanted to reassure herself that nothing was missing. It was in Mea's nature to endow every new friend with marvellous qualities. Her imagination was always as active as her heart, which she gave unreservedly on such occasions. Unfortunately Mea suffered many disappointments in that way, because on nearer acquaintance her friends very seldom came up to her expectations. She always tried hard to hold on to the original image, even if it did not in the least coincide with what her friends proved to be in reality and this brought on numberless fights with Kurt, who, with his usual shrewdness, could not help revealing to her the real state of affairs. This always disillusioned her finally, for it was hard to deny his proofs. Whenever another girl woke a passionate love in her, she was bound to expect something unusual from her.
A week had passed since Leonore had spent her first day as convalescent among the family. As Mea had the privilege of being in the closest, most intimate contact with her new friend in the late evening hours, she was in a state of perfect bliss. Every moment of the day that she was home she tried to be at Leonore's side and in her walks to and from school there existed for her no other subject of conversation than Leonore.
It was quite unusual that Kurt had not produced a rhyme about her great devotion. He had not once said: "Things will be different after a while." Brother and sister this time were entirely of one opinion about her: it even seemed as if Kurt himself had caught a touch of the friendship fever, as he used to call Mea's great devotion.
Apparently Bruno was of the same opinion, too. In all his free hours he used to sit in a corner of the room with his books, paying no attention to anything else, but since Leonore had come he always joined the merry group and generally had something to relate or to show for Leonore's entertainment. This he did in a quiet, gentler manner, such that it seemed as if he would hardly have behaved otherwise.
Lippo felt so comfortable in Leonore's presence that he always kept as close to her as possible. Even when he told his experiences at great length, she never became impatient, but encouraged him to go on when his brothers and sisters made sarcastic remarks about him.
From time to time he would confidentially say to her: "Just stay with us always, Leonore. You are at home here now, even if you have no home anywhere else." This was uttered in a spirit of utter conviction, as the little boy had heard it from her own lips and was sure that this would be the best for them all.
Leonore blushed a deep scarlet at these words, as if Lippo had pronounced a thought she did not dare to foster in her own heart. Once his mother had noticed this, so she told Lippo one evening, not to say this again. As it was impossible to keep Leonore, it was much better not to speak of it, as it only gave her pain. As this was a firm command, Lippo obeyed faithfully. He kept on, however, showing Leonore that he loved to be with her.
Maezli's love for Leonore showed itself more than anything in a wish to lend her a helping; hand in many things which the little girl felt her lovely friend stood in need of. She had seen quite plainly that Leonore often became very sad when everyone else about her was laughing and she herself had been quite bright a moment before. But Maezli knew how she was going to help. She meant to tell Apollonie how to fit up her cottage for Leonore and Salo, who, she hoped, would spend his holidays there, too. She meant to superintend these preparations herself and to have it all fixed as daintily as possible.
By this time Mea's new friend was adored by the whole family, and they showed it by doing all in their power for her. They had agreed that she differed absolutely from Mea's former friends. They could not analyze wherein lay the charm which pervaded her whole personality. The children had never known anybody who was so polite towards everyone, including Kathy, who only spoke affectionate, tender words, and always seemed so grateful when others were kind to her. This spirit was something new and extremely delightful. They had to admit to themselves that they wished everybody would act in such a way, as this would do away forever with the fights and altercations that had always arisen between them, and for which they were afterwards always sorry. The only thing they would have been glad to change in Leonore were her sudden fits of gloom, which affected them all. Leonore tried very hard to fight these depressing thoughts, but they went so deep that she seldom succeeded. Their mother consoled them by saying that Leonore would get stronger as soon as she could take walks with them in the woods and meadows, and that feelings which now weighed on her would then seem lighter.
A few days later the children, including Leonore, came back with rosy cheeks and glowing eyes from their first walk to the surrounding hills. The fresh mountain breeze had exhilarated them so much that the feeling of well-being was laughing from their young faces. Even Leonore's cheeks, that were usually so pale, were faintly tinged with a rosy hue. The mother stepped out of the garden into the road in order to welcome the children.
"Oh," she cried out joyfully. "This first walk has been splendid. Leonore looks like a fresh apple-blossom."
Taking her hand with great tenderness between her own, she gazed at her very closely in order to rejoice over the rosy color on the child's delicate face. That moment a beggar-woman approached, holding by each hand a little girl. The children's clothes were so ragged that their little bodies were scarcely covered.
Looking at Mrs. Maxa, the beggar-woman said, "Yes, yes, children can make one happy enough when one has a home. You are a fortunate lady to have a good roof for your own. It would be better for two such homeless ones as these not to exist! They are sure to remain homeless all their lives, and that is the saddest thing of all."
With that she stretched out her hand, for Mrs. Maxa was looking at her intently. Leonore had quickly taken off her shawl and jacket.
"May I give it to them?" she asked Mrs. Maxa in a low voice.
The beggar-woman had already noticed the girl's gesture and stretched out her hands in her direction.
"I am glad, young lady, that you have pity for these homeless ones, even if you do not know what that means. God bless you!"
Leonore looked imploringly into Mrs. Maxa's face. The latter nodded, as it was too late now to explain to Leonore what action would have been better. She made up her mind to do it afterwards for similar occasions. With many words the poor woman thanked her for the gift. She was very anxious to kiss the young lady's hand for the two garments, but Leonore had immediately run away. Mea followed and found Leonore, who had been so merry on the walk, sitting in her sofa-corner, crying bitterly with her head between her hands.
"What is the matter, Leonore? Why do you cry so terribly?" Mea, asked, quite frightened.
She could not answer at once. The mother and the other children had come in, too, and now they all surrounded the sobbing girl in great amazement and sympathy.
"That is the way I am," she said at last, sobbing aloud, "I am homeless like them. Anyone who is homeless has to remain so always, and it is terrible. That is what the woman said, and I believe her. How should one find a home if one can't look for one?"
Leonore had never before broken out into such passionate grief. Mrs. Maxa looked at her very sorrowfully.
"She is a real Wallerstaetten at the bottom of her heart," she said to herself. "That will mean more struggles for her than I thought."
At a sign from her the children plainly understood that she asked them to go into the garden for a little while. Sitting down beside Leonore, she took her hand between her own and waited till the violent outbreak had ceased.
Then she said tenderly: "Oh, Leonore, don't you remember what you told me once when you were ill and I was sitting on your bed? You told me that you found a song among your mother's music which always comforted you when you seemed to lose courage and confidence in God. You said that it always made you feel that He was not forgetting you and your brother, and that he is looking after you in whatever way is best for you, even if you can't recognize it now. Have you forgotten this? Can you tell me your favorite verse in it?"
"Oh, yes, I can," said Leonore, "it is the verse:
God, who disposest all things well, I want but what thou givest me, Oh how can we thine acts foretell, When Thou art far more wise than we?
"Yes, I always feel better when I think of that," Leonore added after a time in a totally changed voice. "It makes me happy because I know that God can do for us what Salo and I can't do for ourselves. But when everything stays the same for so long and there is no prospect of any change, it is so hard to keep this faith. If we can't do anything for ourselves, it seems as if everything would have to be that way. The woman said that if anybody is homeless once, he has to remain that way for the rest of his life."
"No, no, Leonore," Mrs. Maxa answered, "you must not take a chance word seriously. The poor woman only said it because she saw no immediate help for her children. It is not true at all. Of course you can't look ahead into your future, but you can ask God to give you full confidence in Him. Then you can leave it all to Him, and the sense of His protection will make you calmer. It will also keep you from making uncertain plans, which might only bring fresh disappointments."
Leonore had attentively followed every word Mrs. Maxa had uttered. Looking thoughtfully in front of her for a moment, she said, "Aunt Maxa"--this was the mode of address she had long ago been granted--"don't you want me to think of Apollonie's cottage either? Shall we have a disappointment, if I hope that we can find a home there?"
"Yes, my dear child. It is entirely out of the question for you and your brother to live there. I should not tell you this if I were not absolutely certain, and you can imagine that I should not shatter such a hope if I did not have to."
It hurt Mrs. Maxa very much to say this, but she found it necessary. She knew that Apollonie in her measureless love and admiration would never be able to refuse a single one of Leonore's wishes, even if it meant the impossible.
"I shall not think about it any more then," said Leonore, embracing Mrs. Maxa with utter confidence, "and I shall be glad now that I can still remain with you."
Later that evening when the children were all together and Leonore had conquered her grief for that day, a letter came for their mother from Hanover. She had informed the ladies of Leonore's complete recovery and had added that the doctor thought it necessary for the child to enjoy the strengthening mountain air for a while longer. She herself had no other wish than to keep Leonore in her house as long as possible. The ladies' answer was full of warm thanks for her great help in their embarrassing situation. They were very glad to accept her great kindness for two more weeks, after which one of them would come to fetch Leonore home.
Mrs. Maxa glanced with a heavy heart at the child to whom she had grown as devoted as to her own. She felt dreadfully sad at the thought of letting her go away so soon. The worst of it was that she knew the ladies' abode had never really meant a home for poor Leonore. It only doubled her grief to know how hard it would be for the child to leave her, but as she had no right over her, she could do nothing. The only thing she could plan was to ask the ladies to let her have Leonore sometimes during the summer holidays. She decided not to dampen the children's good spirits that evening with the discouraging news in the letter.