Gritli's Children by Johanna Spyri
Chapter II. A Journey.
Great was the excitement in the doctor's house at Buchberg. July had come at last, and the long-looked-for journey was at hand. Only one more day! The big trunk was packed and locked and placed in the lower hall, ready to go. Now there were only the hand-bags and satchels to be filled with the last needful articles. This task was not so easy as one might expect, however. On the contrary, mother and aunty found it the most difficult part of the whole. For the three older children had received permission to choose each the things which he wanted most to fill up his own bag, with the express understanding that these must be useful things. But the three had their own definitions of "useful." So they worked with all their might, running, breathless, up stairs and down, loaded with most extraordinary articles, most of which were rejected by the packers as utterly unsuitable, and consigned to the places whence they came.
Fred came first with four great boxes under each arm, which were tied up with so many strings, that no accident could have opened them if they had gone all the way round the world. These he brought to his aunt, while Emma was, at the same time, pressing upon her mother a heavy roll, which she had brought under one arm, and an enormous package which she could scarcely carry.
"Those can't go, Fred," said his aunt, decidedly. "I couldn't possibly get those eight boxes into this bag, and what's the use? You certainly can't need whatever there is in them."
"Yes, I do, aunty; six of them are full of living creatures which I must carry with me to take care of them, or they would all die. The other two have in them specimens of beetles and snails and other things of the same kinds as those I expect to find near the Rhine, but, of course, they are somewhat different, and I want to carry these to compare with those, don't you see, aunty? Perhaps if we squeeze the boxes with all our might we can get them in, except those that have the live creatures."
"No, Fred, it can't be done," said his aunt, kindly. "Take them back into your room; and you needn't be in the least anxious. I'll take care of the live ones while you are gone, and, as to the others, when you want to compare any of them with what you find, write to me about it, and I will send you as good a description as I can make."
Meantime, Mrs. Stein had been gazing in despair at the two huge, misshapen packages which Emma had placed upon the table to be put into her hand-bag.
"What have you in that big roll? It is too large to go even into the trunk! What are you thinking about?" she cried.
"Oh, mamma, can't they be tied on the outside of the bag? I could carry them all together myself. I do want to take them with me so much. In the roll are ever so many drawing-copies, such as we had at school, and some that were given us on the Christmas-tree. Fani spoke of them in one of his letters, and I'm sure he'll be delighted to have them. I put in all ours, and I borrowed some from the master, who said I could have them if I would take great care of them and bring them safely back again."
"What foolishness, Emma! You seem to forget that, for the last year, Fani has had his own drawing-teacher, who gives his pupils what he thinks best for them to copy, and, doubtless, has plenty of patterns of all kinds. So take the roll away; it would be absurd to carry it. And that hideous bundle, what is in it? It is twice too big to go in here."
"I was afraid it would be," said Emma, rather crestfallen. "But I thought I could carry it in my lap, and, really, I must take it, mamma. It is that book which I chose for a Christmas present, you know; the 'Lives of Distinguished Painters.' I want to carry it for Fani to read; and, for fear of hurting the handsome binding, I wrapped it up in two petticoats and a waterproof cloak and a small table-cloth, and then I put some enamel-cloth outside the whole."
"You do get hold of most unfortunate ideas, my child! we shall never get ready at this rate. Come, we'll take the book out of all these wrappings, and then perhaps we can get it in. But you haven't brought anything that you really need, though you have had such a long time to think about it all. And here aunty and I are standing waiting and can't get through, because you have nothing ready for us."
At this moment aunty exclaimed, in a tone of alarm:--
"For pity's sake, Oscar! what is that that you are tugging along?"
With a tremendous racket Oscar came into the room, dragging behind him a drum, which he could not carry, because in one hand he had a large bunch of bells and in the other a harmonica and a flute.
"Oscar dear, your own good-sense can tell you that you can't get a drum into this bag; to say nothing of the other instruments. What in the world do you want with them? Mrs. Stanhope wouldn't thank you for such music!"
"It isn't for the house, aunty," answered the boy. "It is for the festival out-of-doors. I've taken only Fred's small drum, because mine is too large. See if it won't go in here!" and Oscar measured the drum against his travelling-bag, only to be compelled to acknowledge that it was too large by half. The bells, too, had to be laid aside, though the boy complained that they were absolutely needed to call the guests together at the festival.
"Whose flute is that?" asked the aunt; "it is a beauty."
"It belongs to Feklitus. He is learning to play on it; and he was glad enough to lend it to me, because while it's gone he can't be made to practise!"
Mother and aunt agreed that the flute must not be packed without the consent of Feklitus' parents.
Fred came now with an armful of articles of various kinds for his bag, and behind him appeared Kathri, saying:--
"Mrs. Bickel wants to see Mrs. Stein."
"This isn't a very good time to choose," said Mrs. Stein, with a sigh. "I shall have to leave this all to you," she added, turning to her sister; "and, children, you really must make up your minds what is necessary to take, and not bring all sorts of useless stuff, that only has to be carried back again."
With these words Mrs. Stein went into the room where her guest was sitting. It was easy to see that Mrs. Bickel had something very important on her mind. She had on her fine red and yellow shawl, and on her hat a bunch of large white feathers, higher and bushier than Mrs. Stein had ever seen in her life. The doctor's wife greeted her guest with the fervent though unspoken hope that that lady would immediately unfold the object of her coming, so that the visit might speedily come to a close, and she herself go back to her children's packing. Not so; Mrs. Bickel opened the conversation with a remark upon the weather, which she thought was growing worse and worse. Mrs. Stein agreed with her. Then followed "the cherries"; they had not ripened well this summer. From "cherries" she came to "apples," a natural association of ideas. Mrs. Stein burned with impatience. Her mind would run on the travelling-bags. Could aunty pack them alone? Would not the most important things be left out, after all, and a great many useless ones put in? That reminded her of the flute, and she hastened to ask whether Feklitus had his parents' permission to lend it. This gave Mrs. Bickel the opening she had been wanting. She said that it was a good thing that Oscar wanted to take the flute; for her husband had decided to let Feklitus take the trip to the Rhine; and he could play on the flute to Mrs. Stanhope; all the more, because none of the doctor's children were musical.
She and Mr. Bickel thought, too, that it would be pleasant for their son to be there with the others, and that it would show people that the doctor's children had other and better acquaintances at home than the two poor children whom Mrs. Stanhope had taken with her.
But here Mrs. Stein interrupted the stream of words to say that there was no occasion for that, as Mrs. Stanhope had seen for herself that Fani and Elsli were her children's most intimate friends. She then inquired whether Mrs. Bickel wished Feklitus to go with her children.
Mrs. Bickel declared that she should not think of such a thing as that. In that case Mrs. Stanhope would naturally ask him to stay at her house, which of course they would not allow; as if he could not afford to pay for his lodging! But she would be glad if Oscar would write as soon as convenient and tell Feklitus the best way to go, and also find out the chief hotel in the neighborhood. Then, if Oscar would meet him on his arrival, and show him the way to it, Feklitus would take a room there, and spend the time between meals with the children at Mrs. Stanhope's. His father meant to go himself very soon to visit his young relatives, as it was only proper that he should do; and he would bring the boy home.
Mrs. Stein listened patiently to this long discourse, but her thoughts often wandered away into the next room, to aunty and the bags. How were they getting on all this time?
She promised Mrs. Bickel that Oscar would do what she asked, and now she hoped the visit was coming to a close. But there was more to ask. How many suits of clothes did she think needed for such a journey? Would six new ones be enough? Wouldn't it be well to fill one trunk entirely with new shirts, so that they needn't be washed away from home; hotel laundry work was so bad. Mrs. Stein only replied that she had not so many suits to give her children, and that Mrs. Bickel must decide such questions for herself.
It was growing dark before the visit came to an end, and Mrs. Stein hastened back into the other room. The packing was done, and aunty had gone away with Oscar. The other children were complaining that they wanted her, and they didn't see why Oscar should keep her all to himself.
Little Rikli had been watching all the preparations with the keenest interest, and, as it turned out, with an unfortunate effect. For mother and aunty, having decided that the child was too young to go so far from home, had persuaded her, by the prospect of many delightful treats and excursions with them, to make up her mind that she would far rather stay at home, than go on this long, uncertain journey without them. But alas! all this delightful stir of preparation had fascinated the child, and completely changed her views on the subject. She was seized with a desire to go too, and she suddenly burst into a loud scream, which increased every instant under Emma's scolding, and was only intensified by Fred's taunting song:--
"Hanseli is a cry-baby, Rikli is another; She's so exactly like him, He must be her brother."
In the midst of this hubbub, the mother entered, and at once interposed her tranquillizing influence. She lifted Rikli from the floor, where she sat in the midst of the luggage, and called the other two to sit quietly down at her side. On this last evening, she said, she wanted to have a little peaceful time with them; and Emma and Fred were very glad to consult her about the various questions which lay on their minds, which they had meant to ask aunty about, when Oscar so unceremoniously usurped her.
As Rikli listened to the conversation which followed, and learned how many things her brother and sister were in doubt about,--as to their behavior in Mrs. Stanhope's house, and what they should say and do there, and what they could not,--she made up her mind that it was far better for her to stay quietly at home with her mother and aunty; and the prospect of walks and drives with them, and of the biggest share of all the cherry and apple cakes, seemed more attractive than the very doubtful circumstances in which the others would be placed. So Rikli became quite reconciled to her lot, and was in good-humor again.
Oscar had meantime led his aunt into an unused bedroom on the ground floor, and, having locked the door for farther security from interruption, he announced that he had something very important to consult her about. He had been all winter hunting for suitable mottoes for his new banner, and had pressed so many friends into the service, that he had collected no fewer than thirty-five beautiful mottoes, any one of which would have been perfectly satisfactory. From such wealth it seemed impossible to choose, yet some choice must be made. One banner would hold only one motto, and even Oscar, with all his enthusiasm, could scarcely hope to have thirty-five banners for the sake of using them all. Aunty must help him decide, and already before this last afternoon they had had at least a dozen consultations on the subject, in which they had gradually succeeded in reducing the number of candidates to three. And now the final selection must be made, and Oscar and his aunt could not agree upon it. His aunt wanted him to make his own choice, but he was not willing to decide against her opinion; yet he could not give up his own; he hoped by farther argument to bring her over to his side.
"Now, aunty," he said, when the door was safely locked, "we must settle this about the motto. I will repeat them all three over again, and you really must choose. First I'll say the one you like best:--
"'Drums beat and banners fly Our Festival to grace; Long live all men, we cry; But guests we forward place.'
"Now that's a good motto, aunty, but you see I can't pack the drum, and so it won't suit very well to say 'drums beat,'--will it?"
"There must be plenty of drums there, and perhaps Fani has one," said his aunt. "And I'm sure the motto is a very good one. However, let me hear the second. I've forgotten just how it goes."
"'Come to our Festival! come all! Come from Switzerland! Conductor, let your tickets fall! And, fireman, stay your hand! You who make boots, or who brew beer, You one and all are welcome here.'
"Don't you think that is, after all, better than the other, aunty?"
"Yes, it is certainly very good, but it is too long. It would take Elsli such a time to embroider it."
"That settles it, then," said Oscar, well pleased that his aunt found a decisive reason for rejecting another. "Now, then, for the last, short and energetic:--
"'Freedom we shout! Freedom for all! Freedom for ever and aye! We will not yield till all chains fall, And tyrants are banished or die!'
"Do you hear that, aunty?"
"Yes, my dear, I can't help hearing it, and it's very spirited, but it doesn't mean anything. I don't know of any 'tyrants' that need to be banished or die, do you? It isn't to be thought of. Take the first, or, if you don't like that, choose another from the list."
But Oscar was obstinate. The first he wouldn't have, and he must somehow or other bring his aunt over to accept this one.
"But, aunty," he began in a tone of remonstrance, "there were tyrants once; don't you remember the poem about Dionysius, the tyrant? And if there have been once, there may be again, and then this verse would be splendid; don't you think so?"
Before aunty could respond to this appeal, came a fearful pounding at the door, which put a stop to the discussion. Fred and Emma, having hunted over the rest of the house in vain, had at last bethought themselves of this apartment; and, finding the door locked, they felt sure that the objects of their search were within.
Emma called through the keyhole:--
"Come, aunty, please, quick! Supper is ready, and papa has come, and mamma sent us to call you."
And Fred shouted in a still louder tone:--
"Come along, Oscar; papa is asking for you."
All was over. His aunt opened the door at once, and Oscar had to follow her.
The next morning, when the carriage had been rolled out of the coach-house and stood waiting for the horses, to which the groom was giving the last polish in the stable, Dr. Stein came into the room where the mother and aunt were putting the final touches to the preparation of the children for the journey.
"I must say good-bye now. My patients cannot be kept waiting, and I must go. One word to you, Oscar. Be careful not to carry your schemes too far while you are visiting. Here, at home, every one knows you; and, if you do a foolish thing, they say: 'It's the doctor's boy; he'll soon be set right.' But now you will have only yourself to depend upon; so don't go into anything heedlessly. Don't undertake anything which you are not quite sure about, so that no unpleasant consequences may result either for yourself or for the lady whose guest you are to be. You must remember that you will displease Mrs. Stanhope if you do a wrong or foolish thing. You are old enough to understand me without farther explanation. Do not forget. Now good-bye, my boy, and you too, Emma; good-bye, Fred. Be happy and be good."
With these words the father shook all three pairs of outstretched hands and was off.
The mother drew Emma to the other side of the room for a word of admonition. The big roll of paper and the book that the little girl had been so anxious to have at Christmas, and was now so determined to take with her, roused anxious thoughts in the mother's mind, and she felt that she must speak seriously to the child, warning her not to instigate Fani to any undertaking which Mrs. Stanhope might not approve. She reminded Emma that Fani was now very well off, and that the prospect before him was very bright, if Mrs. Stanhope should decide to take him under her protection. But it was of the greatest importance that he should do nothing to displease Mrs. Stanhope, and Emma would certainly never forgive herself if she should be the means of leading him to act contrary to his benefactress' wishes.
Emma understood the value of her mother's suggestion and promised to heed her advice, adding earnestly that she would try to think of different ways in which Fani could make himself agreeable to Mrs. Stanhope.
"You'd far better not think about it at all, my child," replied her mother. "Enjoy with Fani the pleasures and advantages of his life, and don't try to bring about any special event, as you are so fond of doing. And one thing more: don't forget to pray every day to God to protect you and to help you to carry out all your good resolutions. Now that you are leaving home, my only comfort is that our Father's hand is still about you, there as well as here. Promise me that you will pray for the heavenly blessing every night, as we do together at home."
Emma promised not to neglect her morning and evening prayers, and begged her mother to have no anxiety about her.
Meanwhile, aunty had been standing by the window, talking with Fred.
"Pray be careful," she said, "never by any chance to let one of your small creatures, even the prettiest one, escape out of your pockets upon the table or the floor. In fact, you would do better not to put them into your pockets at all, for fear of some such mishap, as often occurs at home. It would spoil all the pleasure of your visit; for Mrs. Stanhope would neither understand nor forgive such carelessness."
"Don't worry, aunty," replied the boy; "I'll fix them so they can't stir. I'll bring them all safe home to you, and I'm sure you will be delighted with them."
Rikli had been meanwhile listening to one person and another, catching the words of warning and advice as they were given to the three travellers, and dwelling with pride and pleasure at the thought that she was the only one who did not need any caution.
To her aunt's closing words to Fred, she added quickly:--
"Yes, yes! how Mrs. Stanhope would stare to see a horrid frog or a red snail or a blind worm come hopping over her white table-cloth!"
"Well, I think any one would stare, to see a snail or a worm hop anywhere!" said the boy laughing.
"You'd see what she would say, and how she would put you out of the house in no time, and take all your food away."
"I don't believe I should see her say anything at all," retorted Fred, with another laugh.
"You'd find out how it would be, when you were sent home in disgrace; and you'd be ashamed to be seen in the railway carriage, and by the children in school."
"I don't mean to find out anything of the kind," said Fred, and the contest dropped.
The coachman cracked his whip as a signal that it was high time to start. Hurried good-byes were said; the children seized their bags, and seated themselves in the carriage; the horses started, and the journey was begun. Mother and aunt stood by the road-side, and waved their handkerchiefs till the carriage turned a corner and was lost to view.
"Oh! I wish I knew that they would meet with no accident, and would all come home safe!" said the mother, with a sigh, as she turned back to the house.
"That will be as God wills," said her sister; "we must trust them to him, and pray him to send his angels to watch over them; that will be a better protection than any that we two could afford them."