Erick and Sally by Johanna Spyri
Chapter X. Surprising Things Happen
Weeks had passed by since Erick had become an inhabitant of the parsonage, but 'Lizebeth had not changed her mind. Just now she was standing in the kitchen-door, when Erick came running up the steps, and hastily asked: "Where are Ritz and Edi?"
'Lizebeth measured him with a long look and said: "I should have thought that a boy in velvet would utter the names in a strange house more politely, and that he might say, 'Where are Eduardi and Moritzli?'"
Much frightened, Erick looked up to 'Lizebeth. "I did not know that I ought to talk so in the parsonage; I have never done it and I am sorry for it; now I will always remember to say it," he promised assuringly.
Now that did not suit 'Lizebeth. She had believed that he would answer, "That is none of your business." For that remark she had prepared a fitting answer. And now he answered her so nicely that she was caught, but if he really was going to carry out his promise, then the lady of the house might find out how she had schoolmastered him and that might draw upon her some unpleasantness, for she knew how tenderly the former treated the boy Erick. She therefore changed her tactics and said: "Well, you see, I always say the names in the proper way; it is different with you, you are their comrade, and as far as I am concerned, you can call them as you like."
"I should like to ask something else, if I may," said Erick, and politely waited for permission.
'Lizebeth liked this mannerly way very well and said encouragingly: "Yes, indeed, ask on, as much as you like."
"I wanted to ask whether I may say ''Lizebeth' like the others, or whether I ought to say 'Mistress 'Lizebeth'."
Now Erick had won over 'Lizebeth's whole heart for the reason that he wanted to know what title she ought to have by rights, and that showed her what a fine boy he was. She patted his shoulder protectingly, and his curly hair, and said: "You just call me ''Lizebeth', and if you want to ask anything, then come into the kitchen, and I will tell you everything you want to know and--wait a moment!" With these words she turned round and chased about the kitchen, then she came to him with two splendid, bright red apples in her hand.
"Oh, what beautiful apples! Thank you ever so much, 'Lizebeth!" he cried delightedly, and now ran out.
'Lizebeth looked after him with such pride as if she were his grandmother, and said to herself: "Let anyone come now and show me three finer little boys in the whole world than our three are." With this challenge, and the proud consciousness that no one could accept it, she turned to her pans and kettles.
So Erick had won over everyone, but there was still one who looked at him from the corner of his eyes and always with a look of wrath, for a few days after Organ-Sunday, the Mayor had ordered that Churi should appear before him, and the bold Churi could hardly keep on his feet when he had to appear before the judicial tribunal, for he expected to receive the well-earned punishment from the strong hand of the Mayor. But the latter only pinched his ear a little and said: "Churi, Churi! this time you get off better than you deserve, for I know now who got the grapes last year, and I also know who wanted to get them again a few days ago. If from now on, even one single little bunch is missing, I shall hold you responsible, and you will be surprised at what will happen to you, think of that! Now go."
Churi did not need to be told that twice; he was gone as if his life was at stake; but from that time on he thought of revenge on Erick, and when he met him, he shook his fist at him and said: "You wait! I will get you sometime." But so far he had never met Erick alone, and had never been able to do him the slightest harm. This secretly embittered Churi still more.
Now winter had set in. Upper Wood lay deeply buried in snow, and everyone was busy thinking of Christmas and New Year. In these days the pastor gave a gentle hint to his wife, that the time for Erick's change to the institute, for which the Mayor also had offered his help, was fast approaching. But the lady hardly let him finish his sentence for excitement, and answered at once: "How can you even think of such a thing! In the first place; we must wait for the answer from Denmark, before we do anything; and secondly, the whole Christmas joy would be spoiled completely for the children, through such news; thirdly, we ourselves, you and I, could not separate ourselves so suddenly and unprepared from a child who is as dear to us as one of our own--"
"Fourthly, 'Lizebeth will give notice at once," continued the pastor, "for she now is the worst of all, from all that I see. One thing is sure, dear wife, if the little fellow was not so guileless and had not such an exceptionally good disposition, you women would have ruined him so that he never could get straightened again, for you, one and all, spoil him quite terribly."
"It is just this harmless and exceptionally well-disposed character of the child which wins all hearts, so that one cannot help treating him with peculiar love. No talk of sending Erick away before Easter can be considered, and much can happen before then, my dear husband."
"Oh, yes," the latter agreed, "only do not look for an answer from Denmark, for it would be in vain. The guilelessness in that address went a little too far."
But the pastor's wife was contented that another respite had been granted, and she hoped on.
The winter passed, Easter was approaching, but no answer came. This time the pastor's wife got ahead of her husband. When shortly before Easter a belated April frost set in, she explained to him that new winter wraps had to be made for all the children, and before one could think of sending Erick away, summer clothing had to be prepared for him; his good velvet suit looked, indeed, still very fine, and would last some time yet, but her husband knew it was his only suit, and for mid-summer another must absolutely be procured for him, and for that, time and leisure were needed.
The pastor gave his consent to the postponement without opposition. In his heart he was heartily glad for the good excuse; for he, like all the rest, had learned to love Erick so much that the thought of his departure was very painful to him.
His wife was contented again and thought in her heart: "Who knows what may happen before summer."
But something did happen which seemed to destroy with one blow all her hopes. The warm June had come and on the sunny hillsides around Upper Wood the strawberries, which grew there in plenty, were beginning to give out most delightful fragrance, and to turn red. That was a glorious time for all children round about. The children of the parsonage, too, undertook daily strawberry-expeditions and every evening belated they returned home. The order-devoted aunt, who, after a winter's absence, had returned with the summer to the parsonage, did not leave any remedy untried to restore at least the usual condition of things.
Below near the Woodbach the berries grew largest and most plentifully. But to go there they had to wait till Saturday afternoon, when they had no school, for it was too far to take the walk after afternoon school. When Saturday came and the sun was shining brightly in the sky, then the whole company in joyous mood left the parsonage, Sally and Erick ahead, Ritz and Edi following. All were armed with baskets, for to-day, so they had decided, Mother was to receive a great quantity of strawberries instead of their eating all on the spot as usually happened. Having arrived on the hillside over the Woodbach, the best spots were sought; if one was found which was plentifully sprinkled over with strawberries, then the whole company was called together and the place cleared, and afterwards each went out again for new discoveries.
Erick was a good climber; without any trouble he swung himself down over the steepest hillsides, and jumped up the high rocks like a squirrel. Sally saw him, how he swung himself down a rock where he had espied on the lowest end a spot that shone bright red in the sun, as if covered with rubies. Were they berries or flowers which were growing there so beautifully? Erick must see them nearer. Sally shouted after him: "Call us if you find something, but be careful, it is steep there."
Erick answered with a yodel and disappeared. Having arrived below, he met the Middle Lotters, who were bending in groups here and there, or lying on the ground, eating the berries which they picked. Erick could not find the red spot which he had seen from above; but not far away from him stood Churi, who had seen him coming down. Churi called to him:
"Come here, velvet pants, here are berries such as you have never seen."
Erick went quite calmly to him and when he now had stepped quite close to Churi, the latter unexpectedly gave him such a severe push that Erick rolled down the rest of the mountain side and right into the gray waves of the Woodbach.
When Churi saw that, he was frightened. For a moment he stared at the gray waves; but Erick had disappeared, not a speck of him could be seen. Then Churi softly turned round and ran away as quickly as he could, without looking round, for his conscience bit him and drove him along, and he dared not look anyone in the face for fear that someone could read there what he had done. The other Middle Lotters had not paid attention to what was going on. Perhaps once in a while one of the crowd would ask, "What has become of Churi all of a sudden?" and another would answer, "He can go, wherever he likes," and they would turn again to their berries and think no more of him.
Meanwhile Sally had remained standing in the same spot and had waited for Erick's call. When it did not come, she began to call, but received no answer. She now called to Edi, and he came running with Ritz, and all three called together for Erick, but in vain. The sun had long since set, and it was beginning to grow dark. All children, even the Middle Lotters, went past them on their homeward way, and they were always the very last. "Show me once more, and be quite sure, the very spot where he began to climb down," said Edi, "I will go down, in the same path."
Sally showed the exact spot, where Erick had descended over the rock, and Edi began the descent a little timidly. But he arrived safely down below and ran hither and thither, calling with a loud voice: "Erick! Erick!" But only the echo from the rocks, round about, answered mockingly: "'Rick! 'Rick!"
Now it really began to be dark, and round about not a human sound, only the rushing of the Woodbach, sounded through the stillness. Edi began to feel a little uncomfortable; he climbed as quickly as possible up the rock and said hastily: "Come, we will go home. Perhaps Erick is already at home, he may have gone by another road."
But Sally opposed this proposition with all her power, and assured him firmly that Erick had not gone home; that he would have first come back to her; and she was not going a step away from where he had left her, until Erick came, for if he were to come and she was not there, then he would wait for her again, if he had to wait the whole night, she was sure of that.
"We must go home, you know it," declared Edi. "Come, Sally, you know we must."
"I cannot, I cannot!" lamented Sally. "You go with Ritz and tell them at home how it is; perhaps Erick cannot find the road again." At this conjecture which, only now after she had uttered it, Sally saw plainly, she began to weep and sob piteously, while Edi took Ritz by the hand and ran toward home as quickly as possible.
Mother and Aunt were standing before the parsonage, looking in all directions to see if the children would not make their appearance somewhere. 'Lizebeth ran to and fro, hither and thither, and asked of the returning children of the neighborhood, where the parsonage children were. She received the same answer from all: the three were still below by the Woodbach, and were waiting for Erick, who had gone alone. At last Ritz and Edi came running through the darkness. Both panted in confusion, one interrupting the other. They shouted: "Sally sits--"--"Erick is over"--"Yes, Erick is over"--"But Sally still sits and"--
"Sally sits and Erick is over!" cried the aunt. "Now let anyone make sense of that!" But the mother drew Edi aside and said; "Come, tell me quietly what has happened."
Then Edi told everything, how Erick had climbed over the rock and how Sally now was sitting alone below near the Woodbach, and Erick gave no answer to all his calling.
"For heaven's sake," the mother cried, now thoroughly frightened, "I hope that nothing has happened to Erick! Or could he have lost his way?" She ran into the house to ask her husband what was to be done. At once 'Lizebeth ran to seven or eight neighbors and brought them together with a good deal of noise, all armed with staves and lanterns, as 'Lizebeth had ordered. Also several women hastened up, they too wanted to help in the seeking. Now the pastor had come out and joined them, for he himself wanted to do everything to find Erick, and at any rate to bring Sally home. 'Lizebeth came last in the procession, with a large basket hanging from her arm, for without a basket, 'Lizebeth could not leave the house.
Two long hours went by, while the mother walked ceaselessly to and fro, now to the window, then to the house door, now up and down the sitting-room; for the longer no news came the greater grew her fear. At last the house-door was opened and in came the father, holding the weeping Sally by the hand, for he had not been able to comfort her. They had at that time not been able to get a trace of Erick; but the neighbors were still seeking for him and had promised not to stop seeking until he was found. 'Lizebeth was still with them, and she was the most energetic of all the seekers.
Only after many comforting words from the mother, and after she had prayed with her whole heart with the child to the dear God, that He would protect the lost Erick and bring him home again, could Sally at last be quieted. She fell then into a deep sleep, and slept so soundly that she did not wake until late the next morning, and the mother was glad to know that her daughter was sleeping, as her grief would be awakened again, when she woke up.
Sunday morning passed quietly and sadly in the parsonage. Father and Mother came out of church, before which the people of Upper Wood and Lower Wood, from Middle Lot, and the whole neighborhood round about, had assembled to talk over the calamity.
So far Ritz and Edi had kept very quiet, each busy with his own occupation. Edi, a large book on his knees, was reading. Ritz was very busy with breaking off the guns from all his tin soldiers, as now, having peace in the land, they did not need them.
"So," Edi, who had looked now and then over his book, said quite seriously: "if war breaks out again, then the whole company can stay at home, for they have no more guns; with what are they supposed to fight?"
Ritz had not thought of that. Quickly he threw all the gunless soldiers into the box and said: "I do not care to play any more today," no doubt with the unexpressed hope that the guns, by the time he should open the box again, might be somehow mended. But now he became restless and asked to go out, and Edi, who had seen the large gathering by the church, also decided to go out doors, for he too wanted to hear what was going on.
The aunt opposed their going out for some time, but finally gave her consent for half an hour, to which the mother, who had just come in, agreed. Now Sally appeared and rushed at once to her mother, to hear about Erick, whether he had come home and how, where and when, or whether news had come. But before the mother had time to tell her child gently that no news had come from Erick, but that more people had gone out, early in the morning, to seek him, the two brothers came rushing in with unusual bluster and shouted in confusion:
"There comes a large, large"--"A very tall gentleman"--"A gentleman who walks very straight out of a coach with two horses."
"I believe it is a general," Edi brought out finally and very importantly.
"No doubt," laughed the aunt. "Next you will see nothing but old Carthaginians walking about Upper Wood and the whole neighborhood."
But the mother did not laugh. "Could it not be someone who might bring news of Erick?" she asked. She ran to the window. At the entrance of the house was an open traveling coach, to which were harnessed two bay horses which pawed the ground impatiently, and shook their heads so that the bright harness rattled loudly. Ritz and Edi disappeared again. These sounds were irresistible to them.
Now 'Lizebeth rushed in. "There is a strange gentleman below with the master," she reported. "I have directed him to the pastor's study, so that the table can be set here, for I must go out again to the little boy. The gentleman has snow-white hair but he has a fresh, ruddy face and walks straight like an army man or a commander."
"And he came alone?" asked the mistress. "Then he does not bring Erick? Who may he be?"
Meanwhile the tall, strange gentleman had entered the pastor's study below, with the words: "Colonel von Vestentrop, of Denmark. The gentleman will excuse me if I interrupt him."
The pastor was so surprised that for a moment he could not collect his wits. Erick's grandfather! There stood the man bodily before him, whose existence had been to him a mere fairy tale, and the man looked so stately and so commanding, that everyone who beheld him must be inspired with respect. But at the same time there was something winning in his expression, which was familiar to the reverend gentleman from Erick's dear face. And this gentleman had traveled so far to fetch his grandson, and Erick had disappeared.
All this passed through the pastor's head with lightning speed; he stood for a moment like one paralyzed. But the colonel did not give much time to the surprised man to recover himself. He quickly took the offered easy chair, drew the pastor down on another, looked straight into his eyes and said: "Dear Sir, you sent through the French pastor in Copenhagen a letter addressed to me, in which you inform me of things of which I do not believe one single word."
The surprise of the pastor increased and was reflected in his face.
"Please understand me rightly, dear Sir," the speaker continued, "not that I mean that you would make an incorrect statement; but you yourself have been duped, your kindness has been shamefully misused. Because I knew that, I did not wish to answer your letter in writing, for we would have exchanged many letters uselessly and yet would never have come to an understanding. Behind all this is a clever fellow, who wants to trick you and me for the sake of gain. So I have let everything rest until I could combine the present explanation with a journey to Switzerland. So here I am, and I will tell you, in as few words as possible, the unfortunate story which led to this deception. But let me look at once at the object in question. I want to see what the boy is like, whom the man dares to place before my eyes as my grandson."
The pastor had now to tell of the unfortunate accident of Erick's disappearance, how they had searched so far in vain, but how everything was being done to find the dear boy; therefore he might make his appearance at any moment.
The colonel only smiled a little, but that smile was a little sarcastic and he said: "My good Sir, let us stop the seeking. The boy will not return. The fellow who has placed him in your hands has calculated wrongly this time. He, no doubt, hoped that I, at such a distance, would credulously accept everything that he wanted, and would do what he wished. Now he has found out that I myself was on the way to see you; and to bring before my eyes some foundling as my daughter's child, that he did not dare to do. On that account the child has disappeared, Reverend Sir; that man knows me."
However much the pastor might assure the colonel that no one had interfered in the case, that the boy, after his mother's death, without anyone's intercession had come into the parsonage, and that from the boy himself, without himself knowing it, had come the suggestions about the country and the name of the grandfather,--all explanation of the pastor did no good, the sturdy gentleman adhered to his firm opinion that the whole thing was the invented trick of a man who wished to make money, and that the disappearance of the boy at the necessary moment confirmed it.
"But how should, how could the man of whom you speak--"
The colonel did not listen to the end of the sentence. "You do not know this man," he threw in, "you do not know his knavery, Sir! I had a daughter, an only child; I had lost my wife soon after marriage; the child was all in all to me. She was the sunshine of my house, beautiful as few, always joyous, amiable to everyone and full of talents. She had a voice which delighted everyone; it was my joy. I had her instructed in the house, also in music. Then, a young teacher came and settled in the town, near which my estate lies. People talked much about the young musician, and of his artistic skill. He was engaged to teach on all our neighboring estates. I did the same. I had him come to my house every day and had no suspicion of misfortune. After a few months, my daughter, who was hardly eighteen years old, told me that she wanted to marry that man. I answered her that that never would happen; she should never again speak of such a thing. She did not say another word, nor did she complain--that was not her way. I thought all was past and settled, but found it safer to stop the lessons, and I dismissed the instructor. The same evening my daughter asked me, whether I could ever in my life change my opinion. 'Never in my life,' I said, 'that is as sure as my military honor'. The next morning, she had disappeared. A letter left for me told me that she was going away with that man and would become his wife. From that time on,--it is now twelve years ago,--I have never heard anything from my child, till your letter came.
"That my daughter is dead, I can well believe, but that she has left a helpless little boy, that I do not believe, for she would have sent such a boy, of whom she had a right to dispose, to me; she knows me, she would have known that I would give him my name, and the remembrance would be wiped away. But this boy, who has disappeared again at the right time, has been substituted by the music-teacher, who no doubt lives somewhere in this neighborhood, and has done it for the purpose of receiving a sum of money from me. And now, dear Sir, we are through. The only thing left for me is to express my regret that, your kindness has been misused through my name; good-bye."
With these words the colonel rose and offered his hand to the pastor. The latter held it firmly, saying: "Only one more word, Colonel! Consider one thing: you know your daughter's character. After she had done you the great wrong, she might have decided not to send the boy to you before he in some way could make good the mother's wrongdoing--perhaps not until the time when he would do honor to your name, when he should prove to you through his own character that he was worthy of your name."
"You are a splendid man, who means well with me; but you have not had the experience I have had. You know no distrust, I can see that, and that is why you have been imposed upon. Let us part."
Saying this the colonel again shook the pastor's hand and opened the door. There the lady of the house met him, who for some time with impatience had been walking up and down in the garden, for she was sure that this caller, who stayed so long, was somehow connected with the lost Erick, and she could not understand why her husband did not call her. Sally, from the same expectation and greater impatience, followed her every step. When now the mother had seen from the garden, that the strange gentleman had risen, she could bear it no longer; she must know what was going on. When she stepped on the threshold at the moment when the stranger opened the door, then politeness demanded that the parson introduce his wife, and the stranger from politeness was obliged to step back into the room when the master of the house introduced his wife to him with the words: "Colonel von Vestentrop from Denmark. You indeed will be delighted to hear this name."
The lady stepped toward the colonel with visible delight and said excitedly: "Is it possible? But at what a moment! But you will stay with us, Colonel, for your dear grandchild must be found. The sweet boy cannot be lost, he must have lost his way."
"Pardon me, my gracious lady," the colonel here interrupted her politely, but somewhat stiffly, "I shall start at once. You are under a delusion; I have no grandchild, and I must bid you good-bye."
At mention of the name "Vestentrop", Sally had grown very red; and she trembled all over, during the conversation that followed. Now she restrained herself no longer. Tears poured from her eyes, and with the greatest agitation she sobbed: "Indeed, indeed, he is, I know it, he has told me himself; but I dared not tell it to anyone."
"Well, the boy has found at least one good friend and defender," said the colonel well-pleased, and wanted to pat Sally's cheeks, but she withdrew quickly, for she first wanted to know whether the gentleman would believe and recognize Erick, before she would let him touch her.
The mother too was struck to the core by this incredulity. Her husband had whispered a few words to her, so she understood at once the whole situation.
"Colonel," she now said, placing herself before him, "do not act in such haste. Let me prevail on you to stay a few days, yes, even this one day! The dear child must, and will be found, please God! See him first. Learn to know the treasure which you are about to give up so lightly. If you could know what sunshine you want to withhold from your house, you could never be happy again. Do not think, sir, that I would give the child away; how shall I, how shall we all be able to bear it, when the dear, sunny face shall have disappeared forever from among our children." The tears came into the mother's eyes also, and she could say no more.
"Well, I have to declare that the little wanderer has fallen into good hands," said the colonel, giving his hand to the pastor's wife in an approving way. "You will allow me now to depart."
This time the gentleman was determined to go. He went out and walked along the long corridor with head lifted proudly, followed by the pastor, who tried in vain to overtake him so that he could open the door for his guest. But before the door could be opened from within, it was pushed open with great force from outside, and like an arrow the slender Edi shot straight into the tall colonel, who had been standing directly behind the closed door; and at once after Edi, Ritz rushed into Edi, and the tall gentleman received the second push, and in his ears rang confused screamings of mixed words: "They are coming--they come--Marianne--Erick--Marianne--they come--they come." And really! In the house door appeared Marianne, quite broad in her Sunday best, holding Erick, of whom she kept a firm grasp, as if he might fall from there down again into the Woodbach. Behind both the partaking scholars of the parishes pressed in with shouts of rejoicing.
There was no possibility for the military gentleman to get out; the crowd pressed into the house with great force. He gave in and did what he had never done before in his life--he retreated, step by step, until he had arrived, backwards, over the threshold of the study, together with the whole of the pastor's family, old and young; and at last the fighting Sally pressed in. She had taken Erick by the hand and did not want to let go of him, and on the other side Marianne held his hand as in a clamp, and she herself was held back from all sides, for the schoolfellows wanted to know first the story of how Erick was lost and found again.
It was an indescribable uproar. Only after the efforts of Sally had succeeded in pulling Erick and Marianne out of the human ball and into the study, was there sufficient calm so that one could understand the other, for the school friends had stayed respectfully before the door; they did not dare to press into the study-room of their pastor.
Now only could the information be understood, which Erick and Marianne--each relieving the other--gave about the whole occurrence. Erick told how he, after a strong push, had fallen into the water and then had known nothing more, and had wakened again when somebody was rubbing him firmly. That had been Marianne, who now related further. She had gone yesterday afternoon from Oakwood, where she was living now, upward along the Woodbach, to the place where the berries grew the most plentifully, as she knew these many years that she had sought and sold them in the taverns of Upper and Lower Wood. As she was seeking for berries close by the water, bending down behind the willow bush, she saw how the bush was being shaken and how something had remained hanging to it. She bent around the bush to find out what it might be, and saw the black velvet jacket on the water! "Oh, dear God!" she then cried out with unutterable horror, and never stopped crying until, under her desperate rubbing with skirt and apron, Erick opened his eyes and looked with surprise at Marianne. Now she quickly took the large market-basket in which she intended to put the many small baskets, when they were filled; threw the latter all in a heap, put the dripping Erick in it, and carried him, as quickly as she could, toward her small cottage, far beyond Oakwood, in which she lived together with her cousin. Here she at once undressed the wet boy, wound him closely in a large blanket so that nothing was to be seen of him besides a tuft of yellow, curly hair, put him in bed with the heavy cover far above his head, for, "getting him warm is the principal thing for the little boy," she kept on saying to herself. Then she went into her kitchen and soon came back with a cup of steaming hot milk, lifted Erick's head from under the covers, so that his mouth became free, and poured the hot milk in it to make the little fellow warm. When she now had packed him in the blanket again, and the fright at finding the unconscious Erick and the fear of his taking cold had passed a little, then it came into her mind that the people of the parsonage did not know what had become of him, and that they too would be anxious about him. She went again to the bed and tried to bring the deeply hidden Erick up again. But Erick was already half asleep, and when Marianne told him her thoughts, he said comfortingly: "No, no, they will know that I will come back again, and if they are anxious, then 'Lizebeth will come and look for me."
Of that Marianne was sure: 'Lizebeth would come and take him home. No doubt Erick had started to come and see Marianne, his friend in Oakwood, and on his way there had fallen into the Woodbach by accident, Marianne thought, for in her anxiety for his welfare, she had not spoken a word with Erick about the accident. Now he was fast asleep.
Marianne sat down beside him and lifted the cover now and then to listen whether he was breathing properly. After she had sat thus a while and noticed how the little fellow's cheeks began to glow like the reddest strawberries, then she feared no longer that he would catch cold, and she also felt sure that 'Lizebeth would not come and thought that the people in the parsonage would assume that he was going to spend the night at the cottage. So Marianne had peacefully locked her cottage and gone to sleep.
The next morning Marianne first had to brush and press the velvet suit, for she would not bring the boy back to the parsonage in disorder; she would not have done that for the sake of his blessed mother. Then she too must dress in her Sunday best, and so the morning had almost passed before they both had started on their way, quite contented and without any suspicion of the enormous fear and excitement which had been in the parsonage and had spread over the whole of Upper Wood. At the church they had been greeted by the assembled crowd with great noise and much confused talking, and then they were accompanied to the parsonage by the schoolmates, who were crazed with joy at seeing Erick.
In the general excitement and joy, the colonel had been quite forgotten. He had sat down unnoticed on a chair, and had listened attentively to the reports, following with his eyes the lively gestures which the excited Erick was making in the zeal of telling his story. Now the reports were finished and for the first time Erick's eyes beheld the stranger in the crowd. The latter beckoned him to come to him; Erick obeyed at once.
"Come here, my boy, hither," and the colonel placed him right before him. "So, just look straight in my eyes. What is your name?"
Erick with his bright eyes looked directly into those of the strange gentleman, and without hesitation he said: "Erick Dorn."
The gentleman looked at him still more directly. "After whom were you called, boy, do you know?"
Erick hesitated a moment with the answer, but he did not divert his glance. It seemed as if the eyes of the stranger attracted and conquered him. "After my grandfather," he now said with a clear voice.
"My boy--your mother used to look at me just so,--I am your grandfather--" and now big tears ran down the austere gentleman's cheeks. Erick must have been seized by the attraction of kinship, for without the least shyness, he threw both arms around the old gentleman's neck and rejoicingly exclaimed: "Oh, Grandfather, is it really you? I know you well! And I have so much to tell you from Mother, so much."
"Have you? Have you, my boy?" But the grandfather could say no more.
When Erick noticed that his grandfather kept on wiping away the tears, then sad thoughts gained the upper hand in him and all at once the rejoicing expression disappeared, and he said quite sadly: "Oh, Grandfather, I was not to come to you now, and not for a long time. Only when I had become an honorable man, was I to step before you and say to you: 'My mother sends me to you, that you may be proud of me, and that I may make good the sorrow, which my mother has caused you.'"
The grandfather put his arms lovingly around Erick and said: "Now everything is all right. It is enough that your mother has sent you to me. She meant it well with the 'honorable man', in this I recognize my child; and you do not disobey her, my boy, for you see, you did not come to me, but I came to you. And an honorable man you will also become with me."
"Yes, that I will, and I know too, how one becomes one, for the reverend pastor has told me how."
"That is lovely of him, we will thank him for it. And now we start, this very day, on our journey to Denmark."
"To Denmark, Grandfather, to the beautiful estate, right now?" Erick's eyes grew larger and larger with astonishment and expectation, for he only now comprehended, what he was going to meet: all that had stood before his mental eyes as the highest and most splendid, ever since he could think, and that his mother had painted for him in the bright coloring of her childhood's remembrances, again and again, the distant, beautiful estate, the handsome horses, the pond with the barge, the large house with the winter-garden,--everything he was now to see, and live there with this grandfather, for whom his mother had planted such a love and reverence in her boy's heart, that he saw in him the highest of what could be found on this earth,--all this over-powered Erick so much that he was not able to comprehend his good fortune, and with a deep breath he asked: "Are you sure, Grandfather?"
"Yes, yes, my boy," the grandfather assured him, laughing. "Come, I hope you can start at once. You will not have much to pack?"
"Oh, no," said Erick. "You see,"--and he counted on his fingers: "three writing-books, three school-books, the pen-box and the beautiful Christmas present that I received here in the parsonage."
"That is well, that will make a small bundle," but the old gentleman looked at his grandson, rather surprised, and said: "I am astonished, little waif, that you look so fine."
"Yes, I believe you, Grandfather," answered Erick. "That is good stuff that I am wearing; it comes from you. You see, when in the old suit which I had worn so long, the patches became holes, then Mother brought out the beautiful velvet cloak, with the broad lace, and said: 'That is good, that comes from Grandfather, you can wear that a long time.' And then she cut everything apart and sewed everything together again, and so there came out what I am now wearing. And Mother received a great deal of money for the broad lace. But only when all was finished and I was wearing it, she became glad again; during the cutting and the sewing together, she was very quiet."
The grandfather too had become still, and he turned away for a while. No doubt he too thought of the time and what happy days they were when he had hung around his beloved child the rich mantle, and how sweetly she stood before him, she whom he was never to see again.
"Come, my boy," he said, turning again to Erick. "What has become of your foster-parents? It is time that we thank them."
The pastor's wife had seen at once that the grandfather had recognized his grandson, and as the latter was standing before him, she gently urged her husband and children, as well as Marianne, out of the room and closed the door after her; and outside, in the long passage, she let the interested crowd ask their loud questions, and give their loudest answers, undisturbed. But when the colonel, holding Erick by the hand, came out of the study, she at once made an open path for them through the assembled people, to bring them upstairs to the quiet reception room, where at last the family and their guest could be among themselves. Here the beaming grandfather went first to the lady of the house, and then to the master and then again to the lady, and every time he took each by both their hands with indescribable heartiness and kept on saying: "I have no words, but thanks, eternal thanks!" And all at once he saw Sally's head peeping out from behind her mother. He suddenly took it between his two hands and cried: "There is, I believe, the great friend and defender of my boy. Well, now will you forgive me?"
Sally pulled one of his hands down and pressed a hearty kiss on it, and now the colonel tenderly stroked her hair and said: "Such good friends are worth a great deal!"
But when he expressed his intention to start at once with Erick, there arose great opposition, and this time the mother distinguished herself in opposition against such quick separation. The grandfather of her Erick ought to spend at least one night beneath her roof, and give the family the chance of learning to know him a little better and to have Erick another day in their midst.
All the children as well as Erick supported, louder and always louder, the mother's request, and the beleaguered grandfather had to give in. Ritz and Edi ran with much delight and noise down the stairs to seat themselves proudly in the coach, and thus drive to the inn, where both must tell to the guests present, who had changed their consultation place from the church to the inn, what they knew of the strange gentleman. And so it came about that on the same Sunday afternoon, all Upper and Lower Wooders, as well as the Middle Lotters, knew Erick's family and fate, and they had to talk loud and zealously before every door, over this change of luck that had come to Erick.
In the parsonage, too, the evening was spent with unusually animated conversation. How much had to be told to the grandfather of the happenings of the last and all former days, and Erick had to throw in a question now and then, which referred to the distant estate, for his thoughts always travelled back to that spot.
"Is Mother's white pony still alive, Grandfather?" he once suddenly asked.
The beautiful pony had long been put away, was the answer. "But you shall have one just like your mother's, my boy. I can now bear the sight of it again," the grandfather said.
"Does old John still live, who made the barge and scraped the pebble-walks so nicely?" Erick asked another time.
"What, you know of that too? Yes, indeed, he is still living, but the joy of seeing my daughter's son whom I am bringing home will almost kill him," said the colonel, smiling contentedly at the prospect.
When Sally and Erick told of their first meeting and Sally's call in Marianne's cottage, and now it came out that it was the same Marianne who had pulled Erick out of the water, and who had stuck so faithfully to his mother, the colonel suddenly jumped up and demanded that Erick should go with him at once to Marianne for, from pure joy, they both had not thanked her as they ought to. But the lady had foreseen such a request, and had not let Marianne go home. And so she was called into the room and the colonel quickly took a chair and placed it in front of him. Marianne had to sit down there and tell everything that she knew of his daughter, and what she herself had heard and seen. Marianne was very glad to do that, and she spoke with such love and reverence of the dear one, that at the end of her story, the colonel took her hand and shook it heartily, but he could not speak. He rose and walked a few times up and down the room, then he beckoned to Erick, took out of his wallet two papers and said: "Give this to the good old woman, my boy; she shall have a few good days, she deserves it."
Erick had never before enjoyed the happiness of giving; never had he been able to give anything to anyone, for he himself had never owned anything. An enormous joy rose up in his heart and with bright eyes he stepped to Marianne and said: "Marianne, here is something for you, for which you can buy whatever you like."
But when Marianne saw that on the paper was a number and several zeros after it, she struck her hands together from astonishment and fright, and cried: "Dear God, I have not earned that, this is riches!" And when she still kept her hands away from the money, Erick stuck the papers deep into her pocket and said:
"Do you remember, Marianne, how you have said that you were growing old and could no longer work as you used to, and therefore you had to give up the little house and go to your old cousin? Now you can have your cottage again, with that money, and live in it happily."
"That I can, that I can," cried Marianne, forgetting in her joy that she did not want to take the large present. Tears of joy ran down her cheeks, and from happiness and emotion she could not utter a word of thanks, but kept on pressing the colonel's hand and then Erick's, and all were glad with Marianne that she could move again into the cottage and keep it for always. When at last they must separate for the night, the colonel pressed the house-mother's hand once more and said: "My dear friend, you will understand with what gratitude my heart is full, when I tell you that this is the first happy evening which I have had for the last twelve years."
Parting had to come the next morning. The mother took Erick in her arms and after she pressed him to her heart, she said: "My dear Erick, never forget your mother's song! It has already brought you once from the wrong road into the right one; it will guide you well as long as you live. Keep it in your heart, my Erick."
When Erick noticed tears in the mother's eyes, then his grew wet, and when Sally noticed that, she put both hands to her face and began to sob. Then Erick ran to his grandfather and pleadingly cried: "Oh, Grandfather, can we not take Sally along? Don't you think we could?"
The grandfather smiled and answered: "I could not wish anything I should like better, my boy, but we cannot rob the parsonage of all its children, all at once. But come, perhaps we can make some arrangement. What does the mother think about it, if we were to take our little friend next summer and bring her back for the winter, and do so every year?"
"Yes, yes," shouted Erick, "every, every year as long as we live! Will you give me your word on it, Grandfather, now, right away?"
"To give you my word on it that it shall be so long as we live, that is asking much, my boy," said the grandfather smiling. "If now you, both of you, should wish, all at once, to have things different--what then?"
"Oh, no, we are not so stupid," said Erick, "are we, Sally? Just you promise right away, Grandfather."
The latter held out his hand to the mother and said: "If it suits Mamma, then we both will promise, that it shall continue, as long as it pleases our children."
The mother gave her hand on it, and now the two hands were pressed most heartily.
And the pastor said: "So, so! Agreements are made between the colonel and the parson's wife behind my back, and I have nothing to do with it but say yes. Well, then, I will say at once a firm yes and Amen."
With these words he too shook his guest's hand firmly and there remained only to take leave from Ritz and Edi, both of whom he heartily invited to Denmark, wherein Erick strongly supported him, adding: "And you know, Edi, when you are in Denmark, then you can go on ships, and study there all about them. That will be a good thing for your calling." For Erick had not forgotten that Edi intended to sail around the whole world, and that Ritz too wanted to be something on the sea.
The grandfather was already entering the travelling coach, when Erick was held back by 'Lizebeth; he had pressed into her hand a valuable paper, but she had put her apron to her eyes and had begun to sob aloud behind it, and now she was holding Erick and said: "I think the Sir Grandfather, he means it well as far as he sees things; but that he takes the dear boy away from us,--to take one's little boy simply away--"
"I will come back again, 'Lizebeth, every year when the storks return. Therefore, good-bye, 'Lizebeth, until I come again."
Saying this, Erick quickly jumped into the carriage, and he wore the same velvet suit in which he had come. For a long, long time he saw the white handkerchiefs wave, and he waved his in answer, until the carriage, down below at the foot of the hill, turned around the corner and disappeared into the woods. But when the fleet horses, soon after, reached the first houses of the Middle Lot, there was another halt.
From the moment that Erick had disappeared, Churi had looked like a picture of horror. He had grown white and grayish looking, and at every sound that he heard, he trembled, for he thought: "Now they are coming to fetch you, to put you into prison." Churi had heard that someone who had thrown another boy into the water had been fetched by two gendarmes and had been put into prison, where he had been kept for twenty years in chains. Churi saw this picture always before him and for fear, he could no longer eat nor sleep; and he dared look at no one. And when the report came that Erick had turned up again, then his fear increased. For now, so he thought, it would surely come out that he had done the deed; and now he was sure that the police would come to get him. But when on Sunday, the story went round like lightning that Erick, in looking for berries, had fallen into the water, then it all at once was clear to Churi, that Erick had not told about him and that he again could go about quite free and without fear. A great, oppressive weight fell from Churi's heart, and he was so touched by Erick's kindness and generosity that he did not sleep from thinking what he could possibly do for Erick to show him his gratitude.
It had really been so. Erick had thought that Churi had not meant to push him into the water, so he had felt sorry for him, if he should be punished for what he did not mean to do, and so Erick had only said that he had received a push when looking for berries, and had fallen into the water. And they had assumed that the boys had knocked each other about as usual, and Erick had been pushed accidentally.
Churi had thought out his reward, and had arranged the following program. All the scholars of Middle Lot had to place themselves in a long line along the street, and when now the carriage with Erick came driving along, they, the scholars, all together must shout, "Hurrah for Erick."
As they one and all now shouted with all their might, there was a terrible noise, so that the horses jumped and shied. But the coachman had them well in hand and brought them in a short time to stand quietly. At this moment one of the boys shot out of the line and onto the carriage step. It was Churi. He bent to Erick's ear and whispered: "I will never again hurt you as long as I live, Erick, and when you come back again, you just reckon on me; no one shall ever touch you, and you shall have all the crabs and strawberries and hazel nuts which I can find."
But on the other side someone else had sprung on the carriage step and clamored for Erick's attention. He felt something under his nose from which came various odors. It was an enormous bunch of fire-red and yellow flowers, which Kaetheli held out to him, who with one foot on the step was balancing over the colonel, and called to Erick: "Here, Erick, you must take a nosegay from the garden with you, and when you come back, be sure you come and see us, do not forget."
"Thank you, Kaetheli," Erick called back, "I shall certainly come to see you, a year from now. Good-bye, Kaetheli, good-bye, Churi!"
Both jumped down, and the horses started.
"Look, look, Grandfather," cried Erick quickly, and pulled the grandfather in front of him, so that he could see better. "Look, there is Marianne's little house. Do you see the small window? There Mother always sat and sewed, and you see, close beside it stood the piano, where Mother sat the very last time and sang."
The grandfather looked at the little window and he frowned as though he were in pain.
"What did your mother sing last, my boy?" he then asked.
"I lay in heaviest fetters, Thou com'st and set'st me free; I stood in shame and sorrow, Thou callest me to Thee; And lift'st me up to honor And giv'st me heavenly joys Which cannot be diminished By earthly scorn and noise."
When Erick had ended, the grandfather sat for a while quiet and lost in thought; then he said: "Your mother must have found a treasure when in misery, which is worth more than all the good luck and possessions which she had lost. The dear God sent that to her, and we will thank Him for it, my boy. That, too, can make me happy again, else the sight of that little window would crush my heart forever. But that your mother could sing like that, and that you, my boy, come into my home with me, that wipes away my suffering and makes me again a happy father."
The grandfather took Erick's hand lovingly in his, and so they drove toward the distant home.