Chapter VIII. What Happens on Organ-Sunday
 

Early in the morning, long before the nine o'clock church service, large crowds of people were walking toward Upper Wood, for everybody wanted to hear the new organ. It was a beautiful Sunday and everyone preferred to go to Upper Wood to church. The women all carried a few beautiful flowers on their hymnbooks, and when they had arrived at the open place before the church they stopped and greeted each other and stood talking in different groups. Gradually the men came along and did the same.

The Mayor was standing a little on one side with the Justice of Peace. They were in deep conversation in which many threats occurred, for the Mayor several times held up his finger and waved it threateningly in the air.

Kaetheli stood close beside her father and pricked up her ears. Now the church bells began to ring. Soon after the pastor's wife and Sally came out of their house door, and behind them quiet, devout Edi and Ritz with hymn-books under their arms. After a few steps they all stopped to wait for the pastor. Now the old wife of the sexton ran to the pastor's wife; she always had to report something as soon as she caught sight of her. Kaetheli took advantage of the opportunity. Like a flash she was from her father's side and whispered with the greatest rapidity in Sally's ear: "Just think what I know now. Last evening Neighbor Rudi, who belongs to Churi's officers, told me that it was not on account of the fight that they were going away in the morning; but that they were going into the Mayor's vineyard and were going to take his early grapes; that Churi had persuaded Erick to come along, because he wants to send him ahead through the vineyard, because a trap might be set there. Of course Erick would be caught and the others could be warned and pass by, without harm. But imagine what the Mayor has just told father: he has had something placed in the narrow pathway which leads through the grape vines which no one can see; but if anyone steps on it, it discharges a shot in the face and burns it so that no one could recognize him any more, for it would mar him so badly. Just think, Erick's curls will be burned off and his handsome face will be so marred that we shall not know him."

Sally had become as white as snow from fright. "Come quickly, Kaetheli," she said urgently, "we will run after Erick and tell him everything, come!"

"It is much too late, why, what do you think," Kaetheli said, "they started early this morning. Erick is already burned."

Now the pastor came out. The mother turned and took Sally's hand, who tried to stay behind. Kaetheli went toward the church, and Sally knew that she too had to go in; but she could hardly walk from fear and anguish, and as she sat on her bench within, she saw and heard nothing of the whole organ festivities, for she only saw the disfigured Erick before her, how he was sitting in the vineyard and moaning, and her tears fell so plentifully that she could no longer look up.

Churi and his officers had assembled at the set time. Erick also had kept his word and was there. Although the companions had started early, they met single churchgoers on their way to Upper Wood, for these people wanted to look around on their way to church, to see how things were in the fields and gardens, and so they had set off in good time.

Now Churi had commanded his officers that they must each bring a basket, for there was no time to eat the grapes in the vineyard; they must cut them quickly and throw them into their baskets, then they would go into the woods, to a safe place, and eat them in peace. But armed with baskets the officers appeared somewhat suspicious; Churi himself thought so and he now ordered, when they arrived at Upper Wood, that his officers should hide the baskets behind a barn, until all the church-goers had entered the church and the roads were safe.

Erick had already asked twice what the baskets were needed for on an inspection march, but he had received no answer. As now the warriors sat hidden behind the heap of straw and had time for questions and answers, Erick asked again: "What are you going to put in the baskets?"

"Grapes, if you insist on knowing!" Churi shouted at him, "and you too will find them good when you eat them."

After the bells had stopped ringing and all was quiet round about, Churi commanded them to start. "But you will be very quiet when you pass the church, do you hear?" he ordered; "for the doors are still open."

Full, bright organ tones came through the opened doors toward the boys when they silently approached the church, and now, suddenly, the whole congregation joined with the tones of the organ and sang in loud, full chorus:

     "How shall I then receive Thee?
     And how shall I then meet Thee?
     Oh, Thou, the world's desire
     Who set'st my heart on fire!"

Like lightning Erick was away out of the midst of his companions to the church-door and into the church.

Churi grew pale from fright; he believed nothing less than that Erick had rushed into the church to betray publicly to the whole congregation the intended grape-theft. Instantly he turned around and ran away like a madman, for he firmly believed that half the congregation was on his heels, since he heard a crowd running after him. But the runners were his companions, who followed him in greatest haste, for since they saw the brave Churi run like fire, they thought that there must be great danger, and they rushed with always longer and longer leaps after him.

Erick had run into the midst of a crowd of people, who all stood in the passage of the church because there were no more seats on the benches, so full was the church. Now the hymn, accompanied by the organ, rushed like a big, full stream on through the church:

     "Thy Zion scatters palms
     And greening twigs for Thee,
     But I in glorious psalms
     Will lift my soul to Thee!
     My heart be overflowing
     In constant love and praise
     In service will be growing,
     Will Thy dear name then grace."

In breathless attention Erick stood there, for it was his mother's song! He was trembling in every limb and large tears ran down his cheeks. A woman who sat near him noticed the trembling little fellow; she drew him compassionately close to her and made a little room for him, so that he could sit down.

The singing had stopped and the pastor began to preach. During the sermon Erick recovered a little from the strong emotion which had quite overpowered him when he suddenly heard in such powerful tones his lost song again.

He now looked round and saw that he was firmly wedged in and could not move, for two more women had forced themselves between the sitters, and the whole passage the full length of the church was densely thronged with people. So Erick sat, quiet as a mouse, and did not stir until the sermon and prayer were at an end. Then once more the full tones of the organ sounded and the congregation rose and sang:

     "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."

His mother had sung that at the very last. Erick saw her again before him, as she had sat the last evening at the piano and had spoken to him with words so full of love; and then, in the morning, she had lain there so still and pale. He laid his head on the arm of the bench and sobbed as if his heart would break. The people passed by him, and here and there one woman said to another: "The poor little fellow, he has no one on this earth," and then they went out.

The pastor in the pulpit had seen Erick rush into church. He now looked again in that direction, and noticed the little chap, how he sat there on the empty bench, so forsaken, his head resting on his arm. The pastor now walked behind the last of the congregation toward the bench. He stepped into the pew and put his hand on Erick's shoulder and asked kindly: "Why are you weeping so hard, my boy?"

"Because--because--because they sang Mother's song," sobbed Erick.

"What is your name?" the pastor asked again.

"Erick Dorn," was the answer.

Now the pastor knew what to do. He took the boy's hand in his fatherly hand, pulled him down from the high bench and said: "Come with me, my boy!"

At the parsonage the three children stood waiting for the father's return, as they did every Sunday. Sally had not said a word since they had left church; now she came close to her mother and said, quite excited: "Please, please, Mamma, may I go now at once to Kaetheli? I have to talk over something with her, really I must."

Sally had made up her mind to go out into the vineyards to look for Erick, but she did not know the way, so Kaetheli was to go with her. But the mother opposed Sally's urging and said: "You know, dear, that we have dinner at once, and father does not allow such running away on Sunday. There he comes now. Who is the little boy whose hand he is holding?"

Sally uttered a loud shout of joy and tore away. "Oh, Erick! you are not burnt!" she cried, beside herself with joy, when she now saw Erick before her with his abundant curls and bright eyes.

"Of course not," said Erick, politely lifting his little cap and offering his hand to her, a little surprised, for he did not know when he could have burned himself. Quickly she took his hand and so the three met the surprised mother who, however, at the sight of Erick, guessed at once who the fine boy in the velvet jacket was. She greeted him lovingly and stroked his tear-stained eyes and flushed cheeks.

Sally would have liked to ask at once how all had happened, and would have urged him to tell everything; but when she saw how he must have wept, she shrank from enquiring and held his hand quietly. Edi and Ritz also noticed at once the traces of tears and greeted him quite calmly.

The pastor left his family to go to his room and the mother took his place and conducted Erick, whom Sally on the other side held firmly by the hand, up the stairs; Ritz and Edi followed. When 'Lizebeth, who was standing in the kitchen door, saw the procession come and noticed that the mother held the little stranger so tenderly by his hand, as though he were her own small Ritz, then 'Lizebeth at once shut the kitchen door, and grumbled: "There is something wrong about this!"

Soon after, the whole family sat around the noonday table, and if Sally could not eat yesterday from sorrow, today she could not swallow anything from pure joy, not even the apple cake, which surprised Ritz very much. But he was glad that the sad Erick also got some, for he thought that that must comfort him.

In the evening of this Sunday, Erick sat in the midst of the pastor's family around the four-cornered sitting-room table, as snugly and familiarly as if he long since belonged there. He had been treated, the whole afternoon, with such kindness by all, that his whole heart, which had been accustomed to a mother's great love, opened, and he felt more happy than he had in all the sad days since he had had to miss this love. Sally did not know how she could do enough to give him pleasure. Now she had brought the most beautiful picture book that she owned, and Erick looked with her at the pictures, which she eagerly explained to him; all the time beaming with joy that everything, she had believed lost, had come to her; that Erick was in the midst of them at home like a near friend, and was to stay over the night, for the father had arranged that at once.

Edi sat over his history book and Ritz had a book of his own before him, but looked over it at Sally and listened to her explanation. Now Edi lifted his head--he must have come upon something very particular.

"Papa," he said, "now I know for certain what I want to be: a sea-captain. Then I can sail around the world, for sometime I must see all the lands where all these things have happened."

"So, I thought you wanted to be a professor of history," remarked the father, not much disturbed by this piece of news.

"I want to be that, too," said Ritz, "I, too, want to sail in ships."

"No, you see, Ritz, two brothers must not be the same thing, else they get in each other's way," instructed Edi.

"Then I will be a sea-robber, they too sail in ships," Ritz comforted himself.

"We will not hope anything of the kind," said the father behind his church paper.

"And do you remember, Ritz, what I once told you about Julius Caesar?" Edi reminded him. "If I were to catch you like that, then I should be obliged to have you killed."

"No, I do not want that! But what can one be with ships?" Ritz asked plaintively, for if Edi expressed a thought, then it usually remained firmly in Ritz's head.

"One can be also something very good without ships, my dear Ritz," the mother said comfortingly, "and that is much safer; then one stays on firm land, and I should advise you to stay. And what does our Erick want to be? Has he too thought of that?"

"I must become an honorable man," answered Erick at once.

"That is no calling," instructed Edi.

But the father put down his book and said, nodding at the boy: "That is right, Erick, go toward that goal: first, and above all, an honorable man; after that, every calling is all right."

Now the mother rose, for it was time to go to bed. Edi and Ritz took Erick between them and thus marched ahead of the mother to conduct him to his little room which was beside their bedroom, so that the door between could be left open, with the advantage that Erick also could be drawn into the nightly conversation. Both Edi and Ritz were delighted with that.

So the Organ-Sunday, which had begun so hostilely, ended quite peacefully.