How Wiseli was Provided For.
Chapter III. Also at Home.
 

At the same time that the colonel's children were going home, the little Wiseli ran along down the hill as fast as she could scamper, for she knew she had remained away longer than her mother liked that she should, and she very rarely did any thing of the kind. This evening had been one of such unusual pleasure for her that she had quite forgotten to go home at the usual time, and therefore ran all the faster, and so almost fell against a man, in her haste, who came out of the door of their cottage as she was rushing in. He stepped quietly to one side, and Wiseli hastened into the room, and went to her mother's side. To her great surprise, she found no light in the room,--her mother was sitting in the twilight, on a low chair by the window. "Mother," said the child, "are you angry because I was away such a long time?" and she put her arms around her mother's neck as she spoke. "No, no, Wiseli," said her mother, kindly; "but I am glad that you have come at last." The girl began at once to tell her mother about the delightful coast she had had on Otto's pretty sled,--how she had gone twice down the hill, and how pleasant it was. When she had finished her little story, she noticed, for the first time, how very quiet her mother was,--much more so than usual,--and she asked anxiously, "Why have you not lighted the lamp, mother?"

"I feel so weary this evening, Wiseli," replied her mother, "that I could not get up to light it. Go get it now, my child, and bring me a little water to drink at the same time, I am so very thirsty." Wiseli hastened to the kitchen, and soon returned with the light in one hand, and in the other a bottle filled with red syrup, that looked so temptingly clear and good, that the thirsty invalid called out eagerly, "What is that you are bringing me? It looks so good!"

"I do not know," said the child; "it was standing on the kitchen-table. See how it sparkles!" Her mother took the bottle, and smelled at it. "Oh!" she said, smelling again, "it is like fresh, wild strawberries. Give me some water, quickly, Wiseli; I must drink." The child poured some of the red syrup into a glass, and filled it with water, which her mother swallowed eagerly, as one parched with thirst. "You do not know how refreshing it is, child," as she handed back the empty glass. "Put it away, Wiseli, but not far. It seems to me as if I could drink it all the time, I am so thirsty. Who brought me this refreshment, Wiseli: do you know? It must be from Trine: she brought it from the colonel's."

"Did Trine come in here, mother?" asked the child.

"No; I have not seen her at all," said her mother.

"Then it is not Trine, I am sure," said Wiseli, decidedly. "She always comes into the room when she brings anything for you. But Andrew the carpenter came today: did not he bring this with him?"

"What, Wiseli," said her mother, very eagerly, "what are you saying? Andrew the carpenter never came to see me: what made you think of that?"

"He was here, certainly; certainly he was here within this house. He went out of the door so quickly that I almost ran into him. Did you not hear him at all?"

Her mother was quiet for a long time without speaking; then she said, "I did hear the kitchen door softly opened. At first I thought it might be you, and--it is true, I did not hear you enter until later. Are you sure, Wiseli, that Andrew the carpenter was the person who went out from our door?"

Wiseli was sure of her affair, and told her mother exactly how the coat and how the cap looked that Andrew wore, and how frightened he was when she almost ran into him; so that, at last, she convinced the good woman, who said softly, as if to herself, "Yes, it must be Andrew; he knows what I like best."

"Now I remember something else, mother," cried Wiseli, quite excitedly. "Now I know for sure who once placed a big pot of honey in the kitchen,--you remember how much you liked that,--and then the apple-cakes a day or two ago,--do not you remember? You wished to send your thanks by Trine when she brought you something from the colonel's kitchen, and she said that she knew nothing at all about them. Now I am sure that Andrew the carpenter brought them, and secretly placed them in the kitchen for you."

"Now I believe so, also," said her mother, and softly wiped her eyes.

"There is nothing sad about it, mother," said Wiseli, rather shocked to see how often her mother kept wiping her eyes.

"You must thank him for me, Wiseli: I cannot. Tell him that I send him my thanks for all the goodness he has shown me,--he has always been kind to me. Come, sit down here by me a little," said she, softly. "Give me some more of the syrup, and then come and repeat the verse that I taught you the other day."

Wiseli brought more water, and mixed it with the syrup again, and her mother drank of it eagerly; then she laid her head wearily upon the low window-sill, and beckoned her little daughter to come to her side. It seemed to the child that her mother could not be comfortable, and she fetched a pillow from the bed, and placed it carefully under her mother's head. Then she sat down close to her side on a footstool, and held her mother's hand in her own, and complied with her request to repeat the verses, thus,--

  "'To God you must confide
    Your sorrow and your pain;
  He will true care provide,
    And show you heaven again.

  "'For clouds and air and wind
    He points the path and way;
  Your road He'll also find,
    Nor let your footsteps stray.'"

As Wiseli finished, she observed that her mother was almost asleep; but she heard her say, softly, "Think of this, my Wiseli; and when you do not know which way to turn, and every thing seems difficult and perplexing, then say to yourself these words,--

  "'Your road He'll also find,
  Nor let your footsteps stray.'"

Now the weary head sank down to rest, and little Wiseli would not awaken her mother by a movement, but nestled up to her quietly, and slept also. And the feeble light of the little lamp burned dimly in the quiet room,--more and more feebly it burned, until it slowly flickered and went out, and the cottage stood a dark object in the bright moonlight.

The next morning the neighbor from the nearest house stopped, as usual, on her way to the fountain, to look through the window of the cottage to see if all was well within. She saw that the sick woman was sleeping on the pillow, with her head against the window-sill, and that Wiseli stood weeping by her side. This seemed so strange, that she put her head a little way into the room, and asked, "What is the matter, Wiseli? Is your mother worse?" The child sobbed dreadfully, and could scarcely say, "I do not know what ails my mother."

The poor child had a strong suspicion of what it all meant, but she could not realize that her mother was lost to her. For she was still there, but asleep,--asleep for all the rest of her daughter's life on earth,--and could not hear how sadly the child called to her. The neighbor stepped to the window and looked at the sleeping head upon the pillow; then she started back in alarm. "Run quickly, Wiseli; run and fetch your cousin Gotti. He must come at once. You have no other relation, and somebody must look after things here. Run as fast as you can: I will wait here until you come back."

The child ran, but not fast, her heart was so heavy within her, and her limbs trembled; and at last she had to stop and give way to her tears, for she became more and more sure, with every step, that her mother would never waken more. But she went on again soon, although she could not stop her tears, for her sorrow increased as she went. In the beech grove, full a quarter of an hour's walk from the church, stood the house of her cousin Gotti; and presently Wiseli entered the door, still crying bitterly. Her cousin's wife stood in the kitchen, and asked harshly, "What is the matter with you?" Wiseli replied, between her sobs, that the neighbor had sent her to ask her cousin Gotti to come quickly to her mother. Probably the woman suspected, from the child's look, that her mother was more ill, for she spoke a little less roughly than usual. "I will tell him. You can go home: he is not here now." So Wiseli turned about, and reached home more quickly than she came, for she was returning to her mother. The neighbor stood by the doorstep,--she could not wait inside the room: it was not pleasant to her. But the child stepped in, and went to her place by her mother's side that she had kept all through the night. There she sat weeping, and only said, now and then, softly, "Mother." But no answering word came to her. At last Wiseli said, bending over her, "Mother, you can hear me, although you are in heaven now, and I cannot hear your answer." And the child sat holding her mother's hand tightly until long after noontime. About that time her cousin Gotti entered the room, looked about him a little, and then called for the neighbor. "You must arrange things here a little,--you know what I mean," he said,--"so that things will be ready for the removal. Then carry the keys away with you, so that nothing will be taken." He then turned to Wiseli and said, "Where are your clothes, little one? Get them together and tie them up in a bundle, and we will go away."

"Where shall we go?" asked the child.

"We will go home to the beech grove. You can stay there with us, for you have nobody else in the world now but your cousin Gotti."

At these words, Wiseli felt herself stiff with fear. Go to the beech grove, and live with them there,--was that her fate? She had always had the greatest fear of the wife of her cousin Gotti, and always stood a long time before the door, when she was sent there with a message, before she could summon courage to enter. The eldest son, Cheppi,--that rough fellow,--lived there, and Hannes and Rudi; and they threw stones at all the children. Was that to be her home?

Fear caused the child to turn pale and immovable.

"You must not be frightened, my child," said her cousin Gotti, in a kindly tone. "There are more people in our house than there are here, but it is all the more lively for that."

Wiseli put her things silently together in a shawl, and tied the two corners together crosswise; then she tied her scarf about her head, and stood ready.

"So," said her cousin, "now we will go," and turned towards the door; but Wiseli sobbed out suddenly,--

"Then I must leave my mother all alone."

With these words she ran to her mother, and clasped her in her arms again.

Her cousin Gotti stood rather disconcerted, and looked on. He did not know how to explain how things were with her mother, if she did not understand without words; for he was not strong in the matter of expressing himself: he had never given himself the trouble to try. At last, he said,--

"Now come, come along. A little child like you must be obedient. Come; and, after this, no crying. That does not mend matters one bit."

The child swallowed her sobs, and followed the cousin Gotti silently through the door. Once only she glanced backward, and said softly, "God will watch over you, mother;" and then went forth with her bundle on her arm, and left the little house which had been home to her. Just as she and her cousin Gotti went together across the field, Trine came towards them down the road, with a covered basket on her arm. The neighbor stood in the doorway, and looked after the departing couple. Trine went towards her, saying,--

"To-day I am bringing the sick woman something good. A little late, to be sure. We have Uncle Max on a visit to us: that always makes me late."

"And even if you had come early in the morning, you would have come too late to-day. She died last night."

"That cannot be!" cried Trine, startled. "Oh, goodness me! what will my lady say?"

With these words she turned sharp about, and ran home as fast as possible. The neighbor went back into the quiet room, and performed the last kind offices for Wiseli's mother.