How Wiseli was Provided For.
Chapter VII. Andrew is Better, and Somebody Else, Also.
 

Mrs. Ritter went, as usual, to visit her friend, but no longer remained closeted with Trine, for she could now go freely into his room, talk with him for a little while, and mark his daily improvement. Otto and Pussy also paid several visits, armed with dainties for their favorite. So that Andrew said to the old Trine, with great feeling, "If I were a king, they could not show me more kindness."

The doctor was well pleased with the rapidity of the cure, and said to the colonel, whom he met on the threshold one day,--

"Every thing has worked wonderfully well. Your wife can have her Trine back again; and tell her she was worth her weight in gold. I only wish there were some one to stay with Andrew for a little while; or who could come in, now and then, to help him. The poor fellow must have something to eat, and he has no wife nor child,--in fact, nobody. Do ask Mrs. Ritter if she cannot think of something that will help us."

The colonel carried his message correctly, and his wife went the next day to Andrew's, as usual; and, seating herself by his bedside, said, without circumlocution, "I have something to say to you, Andrew. Are you inclined to listen to me?"

"Certainly, certainly. Every thing you do is right," said Andrew, supporting his head on his hand, and prepared to give her all his attention.

"I am going to take Trine away, now that you are so well," began Mrs. Ritter.

"Oh, dear lady, I beg you to believe me, I have wished to send her home for a long time past. I know how much you must miss her."

"I would not have allowed her to enter my house, if she had tried to come back before," replied Mrs. Ritter. "But now it is different: the doctor has dismissed her. He says, however,--and I fully agree with him,--that you need some one who can wait upon you, cook for you, or fetch your food from my house, and do a hundred little things: somebody for at least a few weeks. Now, Andrew, why cannot you have little Wiseli to do this?"

The words were scarcely spoken, when Andrew almost sprang up in his bed.

"No, no, Mrs. Ritter; certainly not!" he said, and became very red from excitement. "I could not dream of such a thing. Could I lie here in bed, and let that delicate little thing work for me out there in the kitchen? Oh! in Heaven's name, how could I think of her poor mother, where she lies buried? How she would look at me, if she knew of my doing such a thing. No, no, Mrs. Ritter; I would rather not get well at all."

Mrs. Ritter did not try to stop him; but, when he sunk back again upon his pillow, she said quietly,--

"It is not any thing very shocking, however, that I have proposed, Andrew: think it over now. You know what kind of care Wiseli is getting, do you not? Do you suppose she has nothing to do there, or even light work suitable to her strength? Hard work she has, and hard words with it. Would you give her any thing like that? Do you know what the child's mother would do, if she were standing here by our side? She would thank you, with tears in her eyes, if you would take her child into your house, where she could be happy. I am sure of that. And you would soon see how useful she would make herself."

After these touching words, Andrew began to take another view of the matter. He wiped his eyes, and said softly, "How can I be sure that the child would be willing? And how can I get her? Her cousin would not wish to part with her, probably."

"That is all right. You need not trouble yourself about that, Andrew," said his friend, cheerfully, as she rose to go. "I will attend to it all for you. It is a thing about which I have thought long and anxiously."

She took her leave; but, as she was passing out of the door, Andrew called out again,--

"Only in case Wiseli herself is perfectly willing: you will not forget that, please, Mrs. Ritter."

She promised again that the child should come gladly, or not at all, and left the house.

She went down the hill at once to the beech grove, for she was impatient to take Wiseli where she could think of her in safety. She met the cousin Gotti just as he was himself entering his own house. He saluted her, without concealing his surprise at her visit. But she did not leave him in doubt for a moment over the object that brought her there, and how anxious she was that Wiseli should take charge of the wounded Andrew at once, as she was sure she could do, if they were willing. His wife, who was in the kitchen, came directly she heard their voices, and was at once informed of Mrs. Ritter's proposition. But she answered that it was not possible, for the child was not able to be of use to anybody. But her husband interposed. The truth should be told: Wiseli was able and willing to work, and did so, well and intelligently. He did not wish to have her go, for she was useful and obedient. He would not refuse, for two weeks or so, to let her nurse Andrew. He would not probably need her longer than that, and then she must come back; for there was a great deal of work on hand against the spring.

"Yes, yes," said his wife. "I have no mind to begin it all over again teaching her, it has given me so much trouble already. If Andrew wants anybody to help him, let him get somebody for himself."

"Well, well; for two weeks, as I have promised, she shall go. It is our duty to help a neighbor, if we can."

"I thank you for your kindness," said Mrs. Ritter, rising. "And Andrew will himself show his gratitude. May I take Wiseli with me at once?"

Although his wife grumbled out that there could not be any such hurry, her husband said it was better the child should go at once. The sooner she went, the more quickly she would be back again; and repeated that it was only for fourteen days in all.

Wiseli was called, and told to get her clothes together, and tied in a bundle. The child obeyed, not daring to ask for a reason. It was exactly a year since she had brought the little bundle into the house. Nothing had been added to her scanty wardrobe in that time but a black frock. She wore that now, but it had been so long in use, that it hung about her almost in rags; and Wiseli looked shyly at Mrs. Ritter as she stood before her now, with her little bundle on her arm. The colonel's wife understood the look, and answered it. "Come, my dear; we are not going far away. You can go as you are."

Quickly taking leave, she waited only for Wiseli to give her cousin Gotti her hand. He said,--

"Oh, you are soon coming back; this is not a separation."

Off trotted Wiseli in silence, and much astonished, behind Mrs. Ritter, who walked rapidly across the snow-covered fields, as if she feared they both might be recalled; but as soon as they were out of sight of the beech grove, she turned about, and stood still. "Wiseli," she said kindly, "do you know Andrew the carpenter?"

"Certainly, I do," said the child; and glanced at her friend with such a happy expression, that Mrs. Ritter was rather surprised.

"He is ill," she proceeded. "Would you like to take care of him, and wait upon him a little, for about two weeks?"

"Yes, indeed!" replied the child promptly; and her face, that became suddenly rosy with pleasure, told Mrs. Ritter more than her short answer.

The good lady was pleased, but did not understand the child's feeling, for she knew nothing of her gratitude for Andrew's kindness to her mother. After they had gone on a while, Mrs. Ritter said,--

"You can tell Andrew the carpenter that you are very glad to go to take care of him, or he will not believe it. Don't forget to tell him that."

"No, no; I won't forget," said Wiseli. "I was just thinking about it myself."

They reached the house at last. Mrs. Ritter told Wiseli to go in alone, promising to come down in the morning to see how things went on; and, if she needed any thing for her patient, she could come up to the "Heights" to fetch it herself.

Wiseli stole into the garden, and opened the house-door. She knew that Andrew lay within in the bed-room behind the sitting-room. She entered the room softly. No one was there; but it was in good order, as old Trine had left it when she went away.

The child looked about to see that every thing was in the right place. Against the wall, in the back part of the room, stood a big wooden bedstead called a coach, and which was all arranged like a proper bed. The curtain was almost closed across it, but Wiseli could see how neat and clean it looked, and wondered who slept there usually. Presently she knocked quietly at the bedroom door; and when Andrew called out, "Come in," she entered, and shyly stood before him. Andrew raised himself in his bed to see who was there.

"Oh, oh!" he said, partly glad and partly startled. "Is that you, Wiseli? Come here; give me your hand." The child obeyed.

"You did not come to me against your will?"

"No, no," replied the child; "surely not." But Andrew was not satisfied.

"I mean, Wiseli," he continued, "perhaps you would have liked better not to come; but perhaps you wanted to do a kindness to the good colonel's wife, she is so kind."

"No, no," repeated the child again; "she did not say any thing to me about it being for her. She only asked me if I was willing to go to you, and there is nobody in all the world to whom I would go so gladly as to you."

These words must have quieted all Andrew's scruples, for he did not ask any more questions, but let his head sink back on his pillow, and lay gazing silently at Wiseli; and presently he turned his head aside, and wiped his eyes several times.

"What shall I do now?" asked Wiseli, as Andrew did not move his head. He turned at the sound of her voice, and said, very kindly, "I do not know, I am sure, Wiseli. You may do any thing that you like, if you will only stay with me a little while."

Wiseli scarcely knew what to think. Since the death of her mother, nobody had spoken to her in such kindly, loving tones. It seemed as if her mother's voice and love were come into Andrew's words and tones. She took his hand in both hers, as she often took her mother's, and stood by the bedside. She did not even speak, but felt that her mother's loving presence was about them. Andrew, too, had a silent, peaceful conviction that Wiseli's mother was happy in their happiness.

Presently Wiseli said, "I think I ought to cook something for you: it is past twelve o'clock already. What shall I cook?"

"Whatever you like," said Andrew. But Wiseli knew that she was there for the purpose of making things comfortable for the sick man, and she did not cease her questioning until she found out what he usually had to eat,--a good nourishing soup, and a piece of the meat that was in the closet; and then Andrew said she must cook something with milk for herself.

The child was perfectly at home in the kitchen. She had really learned a great deal at her cousin Gotti's, even if she had received many cross words at the same time. She had every thing ready in a short time; and Andrew begged her to push a little table to the bedside, and sit down and eat with him, so that he could enjoy the pleasure of her company. Neither Wiseli nor Andrew had eaten such a pleasant meal for a long, long time. After eating, Wiseli rose; but Andrew looked at her sadly, and said, "Where are you going now, Wiseli? Won't you stay with me here a little longer, or is it too dull for you?"

"No, indeed, not dull; but after dinner the things must be washed and put away in their places in good order," said the child.

"I know," said Andrew; "but I thought that just for to-day--the first day, you know--you might put them away as they are, and to-morrow wash them all together."

"But if the colonel's wife should see them so, I should almost die of shame;" and Wiseli looked very grave while she spoke.

"Yes, yes; you are right," said Andrew. "Do whatever you think best."

So the child went to work, and cleaned and sorted and swept, so that every thing shone in the kitchen. Then she stood quietly, and looked on her work with satisfaction, saying softly, "Now Mrs. Ritter may come when she will."

Going into the room next the kitchen, she cast an admiring glance at the beautiful big bed on the "coach" behind the curtain; for Andrew the carpenter had told her that she was to sleep there, and that the little chest of drawers in the corner was also for her, and that she might put all her things there, if she liked.

So she laid away all the clothes in her little bundle in good order; but it did not take long to do that, they were so few. At last she returned to Andrew, and seated herself by his bedside. He had been looking towards the door very wistfully for a long time. She had scarcely seated herself before she asked, "Have not you a stocking to be knitted, or something else for me to do?"

Wiseli had been well drilled,--first by her mother, and then by her cousin's wife, whose words she never forgot, they frightened her so; and when Andrew said, "Oh, you have worked enough for to-day; let us sit still and talk over all sorts of things together now," the child replied, "I do not like to sit and do nothing, for it is not Sunday; but we can talk while I knit, you know."

Andrew was pleased at this sign of the little girl's industry, and he again bade her do whatever she thought right and best. She might get a stocking to knit, if she wanted to: he had not one for her, however.

So Wiseli fetched her own, and took her seat by the bedside; and, truly, she could talk and knit at the same time perfectly well.

Andrew chose the one subject for their conversation that was by far the most agreeable to Wiseli; namely, her mother. It was the first time she had been able to talk about her mother to anybody since her death. But now she had a listener who could not hear enough, and so she told all that she could remember of their happy life together.

And day after day slipped by. For every little thing that Wiseli did, Andrew thanked her over and over,--not from politeness or mere form, but because every thing pleased the good man, and he wanted to express his pleasure. He became strong and well very rapidly under Wiseli's care, and soon was able to leave his bed. And the doctor was much surprised to see how quickly his strength had returned, and how happy he looked besides. He sat at the window in the sunshine all day long, and watched Wiseli as she moved about, as if he could never get enough of her. His eyes followed her as she went here to a drawer, opened it and shut it again; and noticed how every thing that passed through her hands was done in an orderly, regular manner, such as he had never seen before. And Wiseli was so happy, so happy, in this quiet little house, where she never heard any but loving words, and moved constantly in an atmosphere of affection, that made it impossible for her to allow her thoughts to dwell on the sad fact that the fourteen days would soon be past, and then she must return to the beech grove.