Chapter VI. A Lost Hymn
 

The next morning, when the mother lay still and pale on her bed, Erick woke up; Marianne, who had watched for his wakening, came to his couch and said:

"Dear Erick, your mother has gone, last night, to heaven, and now she feels very happy, and looks down on you and watches to see whether you stay good and honest so that sometime you may come to her."

First he had answered quite quietly: "Yes, I know, Mother has told me that it would come so." But when he went to his mother and looked at her for a long, long time and she did not open her eyes, then he sat down on a footstool and cried quietly. As long as his mother lay there he could not be made to leave her, and when she was carried out, then he sat down in the spot where she always had sat, and did not go away the whole day. But he was quite still, and although he wept, he did it so quietly that no sound could be heard.

The day after the officials had been there and Marianne had taken Erick from the empty room upstairs to her little home, she thought that it would be best if he were to go to school and again come in contact with other children, so that he might become happy again and make a little noise with them; for this quiet weeping seemed sadder to Marianne than if he had sobbed aloud. So she told him on that morning, that it would be best for him if he were to go to school. In an instant Erick obeyed, took out his books, packed them in his bag and started on his way to school. So it went on from day to day, and gradually it seemed to Marianne that Erick grew more and more as he used to be; but the sunny, joyous face which he used to have had not yet returned, and something like shyness had come to him, which never before had been noticed in him. It seemed as if a safe, strong wall, which formerly had protected him, had fallen down, and as though he looked for the first time on things and people which surrounded him and which were strange to him. The safe wall had been the great love of his mother, which had encircled him everywhere.

Two weeks had passed since Erick had again gone to school. When lessons were over, he had never waited until the scholars of the Middle Lot had gathered to make a noisy journey home, but he had run away at once and had walked the long way alone. When he came home, he found his piece of bread and his cup of milk ready on the table if Marianne was not there to give it to him. When she was there, she often said: "Go out a little to play with the children, Erick, it will be good for you and you will have time afterwards to do your lessons." Erick had always gone out, as far as the hedge before the house, and had stopped and watched how here and there the children were running about and playing all kinds of games; but he had never joined them.

So also today, he stood there and looked with surprised eyes across at the freshly mown meadow, where a crowd of Middle Lot children were playing with much noise "Catch me if you can." Big Churi was running after Kaetheli and as she knew what heavy blows from those big fists would fall upon her back if she should be caught, she rushed over the field toward the hedge and into Marianne's little garden, almost throwing down Erick on her way. At this instant the quick-running Churi would have caught Kaetheli; but quick as a deer, Erick rushed forth, opened his arms wide and so stopped Churi until Kaetheli had shot around the cottage, fleet as an arrow, and again to her goal on the meadow, where she could get her breath without fear of being caught.

Churi grumbled: "Another time you leave me alone, or--" With this he shook his fist at Erick and then ran away, for he hoped to catch Kaetheli before she should reach her goal. When the latter had rested a little she came running back again, for she indeed had felt Erick's chivalrous service and she was very grateful to him. She therefore could not see him standing so alone, but ran up to him and said cheeringly: "Come and play with us, you must not always stand so alone, that is lonesome."

"No," said Erick, "I cannot play with you. I do not want to shout so terribly."

"You need not scream, that does not belong to the game. Come along!" Saying this, Kaetheli took Erick's hand firmly in hers and pulled him along.

Erick played with the rest, and now he had begun he played with all his might. They had stopped the game of "Catch" and were playing a circle game. The children had formed a large circle and held each other's hands. In the middle of the circle stood the excluded child. This child had to strike someone's hand at random and then there was a race around the circle to see who would first get in the open space inside. This game was played with the greatest zeal; but suddenly Erick pulled his hands away from his neighbors' and ran away, so that great confusion arose.

"We will not let him play any more," cried Churi, much angered.

"Indeed we will," maintained Kaetheli firmly, "perhaps a wasp has stung him, or perhaps they play the same game where he used to live. When he returns he can take my hand. Now we will go on."

So it was done, and soon after they were playing again with great glee, and Erick was forgotten.

Not far from their playground stood a blind man with a barrel-organ playing his melodies. When Erick had heard the first notes, he had freed himself and had run away. Now he stood at a little distance from the organ grinder and listened with strained attention to all the melodies. When the man left, the boy went quietly toward the cottage, and when Marianne saw him come, she said to herself: "I had hoped that the children would make him merry again, and now it seems to me that he is sadder than he was before."

From that time on Kaetheli looked every evening, when the games began, to see whether Erick was standing near the hedge, and when she saw him there she ran to get him. Erick now played every day with the children and when he was in the spirit of the game, he looked quite happy. But almost every evening the same thing occurred as on the first. In the midst of the game Erick stopped, ran away and did not return. Once a number of wandering journeymen had passed by; they had sung loud and joyously their wander-songs, one after the other. Away was Erick, and one could see him far away, quietly following the singing men. Once trumpet blasts sounded across the meadow to the playing children--for one of Middle Lot was with the players in the army and was practising his marches--at once Erick ran away in the direction of the sounds. Another time a boy with a harmonica had approached the playing children; it was Erick's turn just then to seek the hiders, but threatenings and pleadings were of no avail, he did not seek any more. He placed himself in front of the boy and listened to him; there he remained standing and did not stir.

Churi in his hiding-place was about to burst with anger because Erick stopped seeking. He had hoped that Erick would exhaust himself looking for him, for Churi had climbed up the high pear-tree which stood in the centre of their playground, and from there he could overlook Erick's inactivity and his stubborn resistance to being moved. Kaetheli too had become impatient, for in the farthest corner of the goat-shed, whither she had crawled, she felt herself secure from being found, and now, all at once, she discovered that there was no more seeking, and she could easily guess the cause. With a good deal of trouble she crawled out again, with many signs of her hiding-place on her dress for she had been obliged to sit crouched. She ran to Erick, who was still in the same spot, near the harmonica player.

"I should like to know what is the matter with you," she called out. "Every evening, just when we have the greatest fun, all at once you run away like a hare, or you stand there like a statue and let everything go as it will. But that will not do! Come and seek us. But first I must hide again."

The tones of the harmonica had just stopped and the boy had gone. Erick took a deep breath and said: "I cannot play any more. I must go home."

He turned away and went; but that annoyed Kaetheli. She ran after him and talked angrily at him. "That is not nice of you, Erick; you need not have done that. You have spoiled the game now four or five times--that is surely not kind of you, do you think it is?" They had by this time arrived at Marianne's cottage. Erick stopped at the hedge and turned round. He said, quite friendly: "Do not be angry, Kaetheli, you see I have to act so."

"Yes, but why? Tell me now, what you do and why you have to spoil everything?" demanded Kaetheli, rather huffed, for she could not yet get over the fact that she had crawled all for nothing into the incomparable hiding-place in the goat-shed.

"I will tell you, Kaetheli, for you must not think that I purposely spoil everything for you. I did not think of that," said Erick, excusing himself. "Do you see, there is a beautiful song which my mother sang every day, and also on the last day, and I should so much like to hear that song again. But no one sings it, and I may listen wherever I like, I hear only other things. Oh, if I could only hear that song again, just once!"

Now Kaetheli saw how Erick's eyes filled with big tears, and in an instant her anger turned into pity. "You must not be sad on that account, for I can help you," she said readily. "I know so many songs; tell me what the name of yours is, then I will say it to you right away."

"I try to remember it all the time, but I cannot get the words together; but I remember well the melody. Do you think you could guess the words, if I sing the melody?"

"Of course I can, you just sing on," encouraged Kaetheli, with confidence.

Erick sang a line, and then another, and still a bit, then he could not go further. Kaetheli, surprised, shook her head. "I never have heard that song, but perhaps we sing it, only a little differently. I am sure I shall find it. Tell me what it is about, about people or animals?"

"At the beginning about flowers, green trees, you know, with those beautiful branches and--"

"Stop, I know all," Kaetheli interrupted him; "now I am going to sing it to you." And with a firm voice and full tones Kaetheli began seriously:

     "'Three roses in the garden,
     Three birds are in the wood,
     In summer it is lovely
     In winter it is good.'

"Is that it?" she now asked, full of confidence that it must be it. But Erick shook his head decidedly, and said:

"No, no, that is not my song, there is no similarity between it and what you sing."

Kaetheli was much surprised. "But the flowers and the trees are in the song," she said, "or perhaps, Erick, you have forgotten the song and do not know how it goes?"

"Indeed, indeed I know," the latter assured her. "You see, first there is a great feast, where they all come and throw down many flowers and wreaths because a great lord is coming and--"

"Perhaps a count," Kaetheli interposed.

"Perhaps so."

"Oh! now I know it! If you only had spoke of the count right away; now listen!" And again Kaetheli began with full tones:

     "'I stood on a high mountain
     And looked into a vale,
     A little ship came swimming
     Three counts did hoist the sail.'

"Well, Erick?"

But Erick shook his head even more and said sadly: "Not at all, not a bit like it! Perhaps the song is lost and no one knows anything about it."

"I know something else to help you," said helpful Kaetheli, whose tender heart was filled with compassion. "To be sure, it is a little late, but I can still do it."

Then she ran away, and Erick looked after her with great surprise, and wondered where she was going to look for the song.

Running all the way, Kaetheli had reached the bottom of the hill in a quarter of an hour. On the garden wall stood Ritz. "Get Sally, Ritz, but be quick," Kaetheli called up to him. That just suited Ritz, for he hoped that something particular was in store, and before Kaetheli reached the wall, Sally was brought out.

Breathlessly Kaetheli told her what she wanted and now expected, since Sally knew so many songs that she would bring out the desired one on the spot. But it was not accomplished so quickly and there followed a long explanation, for Sally must know all that was to be found in the song, whether it was joyous or sad, and then she began to guess and to try whether it could be this one or that, but none seemed to fit according to the descriptions, and suddenly Kaetheli jumped up and exclaimed: "The evening bells are ringing; I have to go home. I am afraid that father will be at supper before me and then he'll scold. I thought you would know it much quicker, Sally, such a simple song! Think it over and bring it to me at school, but sure, for else Erick will be sad again. Good night!"

Kaetheli was away like a shot, and Sally went thoughtfully back to the house. Very soon the sitting-room was lighted up, where mother and aunt were seated at the table, and now the father also sat down. Edi had long since waited with his book to see whether the lamp would be lighted in the room, for his mother had forbidden him to read in the twilight. Ritz sat down to finish, with many a sigh, a delayed arithmetic lesson. Now Sally entered the room; under each arm she carried four or five books of different sizes and makeup. Panting under the heavy load she threw them on the table.

"Oh, for heaven's sake," cried Auntie, frightened, "now Sally will turn into a historical searcheress."

"No, no," cried Sally, "only give me a little room, I am obliged to look for something." She sat down at once behind the heap of books and began her work in earnest. But she did not remain undisturbed for long, for the large amount of reading material which she had brought in attracted the eyes of all, and all at once the father, who had looked at the books from over his paper, said:

"Sally, I see a book which is little suited for you to read. Where did you get the Niebelungen song?"

"I was just going to ask," said the mother, "what you intended to do with A.M. Arndt's war songs?"

Sally had taken along from all tables and book-cases what seemed to her a collection of songs. These two books she had found in her father's study and now she explained that she had to find Erick's lost song, and what Kaetheli had told her about what was in it.

"Aha," said Edi, and giggled a little, "on that account you took that book from the piano. Erick will be pleased with the words you will get from this."

He held the book before his sister and pointed with his finger to the title: "Songs Without Words". Sally was not as thorough in her thinking as her brother was. She had, in the zeal of her intention, thought that these were some particular kind of songs, and she now looked with some confusion at the book in which only black notes were to be found. Ritz, too, was now roused to interest in the doings. He too had taken up a book and read rather laboriously: "Battle Sonnets" from--

"What! You have also been to my table, Sally?" the aunt interrupted the reader. "You children are really terrible! At any rate you ought to have been in bed long ago; it is high time, pack together."

But this time Sally showed herself unusually obstinate. She assured them that she could not sleep, not for the whole night, if she had not found the song. She must bring it to Kaetheli, as she had promised to do so, and from fear that she should not find the song Sally worked herself into such a state of excitement that the mother interfered. She explained to the child that they were not the kind of books where such a song could be found, and that the descriptions which Kaetheli had given were much too uncertain to find any song. Sally herself should speak with Erick about what he still knew of his song, and then they would search for it together, for she too would gladly help the poor boy to keep in memory the song his mother had loved.

These words pacified Sally and so she willingly packed together her books and put each in its place.