Infomotions, Inc.Maezli A Story of the Swiss Valleys / Spyri, Johanna, 1827-1901



Author: Spyri, Johanna, 1827-1901
Title: Maezli A Story of the Swiss Valleys
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): maezli; leonore; apollonie; kurt; maxa; salo; trius; lippo; bruno; mea; uncle philip; castle; philip; uncle; baron; loneli; mother
Contributor(s): Stork, Elisabeth P. (Elisabeth Pausinger) [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 67,094 words (short) Grade range: 7-10 (grade school) Readability score: 70 (easy)
Identifier: etext10142
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Title: Maezli
       A Story of the Swiss Valleys

Author: Johanna Spyri

Release Date: November 20, 2003 [EBook #10142]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK MAEZLI ***




Produced by Suzanne Shell, Gwidon Naskrent, Tom Allen and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team.





MAEZLI

A STORY OF THE SWISS VALLEYS

BY

JOHANNA SPYRI

AUTHOR OF "HEIDI, CORNELLI", ETC.

TRANSLATED BY

ELISABETH P. STORK

1921



FOREWORD


The present story is the third by Madame Spyri to appear in this series.
For many years the author was known almost entirely for her Alpine
classic, "Heidi". The publication of a second story, "Cornelli", during
the past year was so favorably received as to assure success for a
further venture.

"Maezli" may be pronounced the most natural and one of the most
entertaining of Madame Spyri's creations. The atmosphere is created by
an old Swiss castle and by the romantic associations of the noble family
who lived there. Plot interest is supplied in abundance by the children
of the Bergmann family with varying characters and interests. A more
charming group of young people and a more wise and affectionate mother
would be hard to find. Every figure is individual and true to life, with
his or her special virtues and foibles, so that any grown person who
picks up the volume will find it a world in miniature and will watch
eagerly for the special characteristics of each child to reappear.
Naturalness, generosity, and forbearance are shown throughout not by
precept but by example. The story is at once entertaining, healthy, and,
in the best sense of a word often misused, sweet. Insipid books do no
one any good, but few readers of whatever age they may be will fail to
enjoy and be the better for Maezli.

It may save trouble to give here a summary of the Bergmann household.
The mother is sometimes called Mrs. Rector, on account of her being the
widow of a former rector of the parish, and sometimes Mrs. Maxa, to
avoid confusion with the wife of the present rector. It is as if there
were two Mrs. John Smiths, one of whom is called Mrs. Helen; Maxa
being, of course, a feminine Christian name. Of the five children the
eldest is the high-spirited, impulsive Bruno, who is just of an age to go
away to a city school. Next comes his sister Mea, whose fault is that
she is too submissive and confiding. Kurt, the second boy, is the most
enterprising and humorous of the family; whereas, Lippo, another boy, is
the soul of obedience and formality. Most original of all is Maezli,
probably not over six, as she is too young to go to school.

The writer of this preface knows of one family--not his own,
either--which is waiting eagerly for another book by the author of
"Heidi" and "Cornelli." To this and all families desirous of a story
full of genuine fun and genuine feeling the present volume may be
recommended without qualification.

CHARLES WHARTON STORK



CONTENTS

     I. IN NOLLA
    II. DIVERS WORRIES
   III. CASTLE WILDENSTEIN
    IV. AN UNEXPECTED APPARITION
     V. OPPRESSIVE AIR
    VI. NEW FRIENDS
   VII. THE MOTHER'S ABSENCE HAS CONSEQUENCES
  VIII. MAeZLI PAYS VISITS
    IX. IN THE CASTLE



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

"I can shout very loud, just listen: 'Mr. Castle-Steward'!"

"No, I won't do it," said Lippo again, after scrutinizing the unusual
performance.

She went with folded hands from one bed to the other.

Before following her brother she wanted to see exactly what the Knight
looked like.

He shook the little girl's hand with all his might.

"Can you guess why I am taking you up there?"

A head was raised up and two sharp eyes were directed towards her.

It seemed to crown all the preceding pleasures to roam without restraint
in the woods and meadows.



CHAPTER I

IN NOLLA

For nearly twenty years the fine old castle had stood silent and deserted
on the mountain-side. In its neighborhood not a sound could be heard
except the twittering of the birds and the soughing of the old
pine-trees. On bright summer evenings the swallows whizzed as before
about the corner gables, but no more merry eyes looked down from the
balconies to the green meadows and richly laden apple trees in the
valley.

But just now two merry eyes were searchingly raised to the castle from
the meadow below, as if they might discover something extraordinary
behind the fast-closed shutters.

"Mea, come quick," the young spy exclaimed excitedly, "look! Now it's
opening." Mea, who was sitting on the bench under the large apple tree,
with a book, put aside the volume and came running.

"Look, look! Now it's moving," her brother continued with growing
suspense. "It's the arm of a black coat; wait, soon the whole shutter
will be opened."

At this moment a black object lifted itself and soared up to the tower.

"It was only a bird, a large black-bird," said the disappointed Mea.
"You have called me at least twenty times already; every time you think
that the shutters will open, and they never do. You can call as often as
you please from now on, I shall certainly not come again."

"I know they will open some day," the boy asserted firmly, "only we can't
tell just when; but it might be any time. If only stiff old Trius would
answer the questions we ask him! He knows everything that is going on up
there. But the old crosspatch never says a word when one comes near him
to talk; all he does is to come along with his big stick. He naturally
doesn't want anybody to know what is happening up there, but everybody in
school knows that a ghost wanders about and sighs through the pine
trees."

"Mother has said more than once that nothing is going on there at all.
She doesn't want you to talk about the ghost with the school-children,
and she has asked you not to try to find out what they know about it.
You know, too, that mother wants you to call the castle watchman Mr.
Trius and not just Trius."

"Oh, yes, I'll call him Mr. Trius, but I'll make up such a song about
him that everybody will know who it is about," Kurt said threateningly.

"How can he help it when there is no ghost in Wildenstein about which he
could tell you tales," Mea remarked.

"Oh, he has enough to tell," Kurt eagerly continued. "Many wonderful
things must have happened in a castle that is a thousand years old. He
knows them all and could tell us, but his only answer to every question
is a beating. You know, Mea, that I do not believe in ghosts or spirits.
But it is so exciting to imagine that an old, old Baron of Wallerstaetten
might wander around the battlements in his armor. I love to imagine him
standing under the old pine trees with wild eyes and threatening
gestures. I love to think of fighting him, or telling him that I am not
afraid."

"Oh, yes, I am sure you would run away if the armoured knight with his
wild eyes should come nearer," said Mea. "It is never hard to be brave
when one is as far away from danger as you are now."

"Oho! so you think I would be afraid of a ghost," Kurt exclaimed
laughing. "I am sure that the ghost would rather run away from me if I
shouted at him very loudly. I shall make a song about him soon and then
we'll go up and sing it for him. All my school friends want to go with
me; Max, Hans and Clevi, his sister. You must come, too, Mea, and then
you'll see how the ghost will sneak away as soon as we scream at him and
sing awfully loud."

"But, Kurt, how can a ghost, which doesn't exist, sneak away?" Mea
exclaimed. "With all your wild ideas about fighting, you seem to really
believe that there is a ghost in Wildenstein."

"You must understand, Mea, that this is only to prove that there is
none," Kurt eagerly went on. "A real ghost could rush towards us, mad
with rage, if we challenged him that way. You will see what happens. It
will be a great triumph for me to prove to all the school and the village
people that there is no restless ghost who wanders around Wildenstein."

"No, I shan't see it, because I won't come. Mother does not want us to
have anything to do with this story, you know that, Kurt! Oh, here comes
Elvira! I must speak to her."

With these words Mea suddenly flew down the mountainside. A girl of her
own age was slowly coming up the incline. It was hard to tell if this
measured walk was natural to her or was necessary to preserve the
beautiful red and blue flowers on her little hat, which were not able to
stand much commotion. It was clearly evident, however, that the
approaching girl had no intention of changing her pace, despite the fact
that she must have noticed long ago the friend who was hurrying towards
her.

"She certainly could move her proud stilts a little quicker when she sees
how Mea is running," Kurt said angrily. "Mea shouldn't do it. Oh, well,
I shall make a song about Elvira that she won't ever forget."

Kurt now ran away, too, but in the opposite direction, where he had
discovered his mother. She was standing before a rose bush from which
she was cutting faded blossoms and twigs. Kurt was glad to find his
mother busy with work which did not occupy her thoughts, as he often
longed for such an opportunity without success. Whenever he was eager to
discuss his special problems thoroughly and without being interrupted,
his young brother and sister were sure to intrude with their questions,
or the two elder children needed her advice at the same moment. So Kurt
rushed into the garden to take advantage of this unusual opportunity.
But today again he was not destined to have his object fulfilled. Before
he reached his mother, a woman approached her from the other side, and
both entered immediately into a lively conversation. If it had been
somebody else than his special old friend Mrs. Apollonie, Kurt would
have felt very angry indeed. But this woman had gained great distinction
in Kurt's eyes by being well acquainted with the old caretaker of the
castle; so he always had a hope of hearing from her many things that were
happening there.

To his great satisfaction he heard Mrs. Apollonie say on his approach:
"No, no, Mrs. Rector, old Trius does not open any windows in vain; he
has not opened any for nearly twenty years."

"He might want to wipe away the dust for once in his life; it's about
time," Kurt's mother replied. "I don't believe the master has returned."

"Why should the tower windows, where the master always lived, be opened
then? Something unusual has happened," said Mrs. Apollonie
significantly.

"The ghost of Wildenstein might have pushed them open," Kurt quickly
asserted.

"Kurt, can't you stop talking about this story? It is only an invention
of people who are not contented with one misfortune but must make up an
added terror," the mother said with animation. "You know, Kurt, that I
feel sorry about this foolish tale and want you to pay no attention to
it."

"But mother, I only want to support you; I want to help you get rid of
people's superstitions and to prove to them that there is no ghost in
Wildenstein," Kurt assured her.

"Yes, yes, if only one did not know how the brothers--"

"No, Apollonie," the rector's widow interrupted her, "you least of all
should support the belief in these apparitions. Everybody knows that you
lived in the castle more than twenty years, and so people think that you
know what is going on. You realize well enough that all the talk has no
foundation whatever."

Mrs. Apollonie lightly shrugged her shoulders, but said no more.

"But, mother, what can the talk come from then, when there is no
foundation for it, as you say?" asked Kurt, who could not let the matter
rest.

"There is no real foundation for the talk," the mother replied, "and no
one of all those who talk has ever seen the apparition with his own eyes.
It is always other people who tell, and those have been told again by
others, that something uncanny has been seen at the castle. The talk
first started from a misfortune which happened years ago, and later on
the matter came up and people thought a similar misfortune had taken
place again. Although this was an absolutely false report, all the old
stories were brought up again and the talk became livelier than ever.
But people who know better should be very emphatic in suppressing it."

"What was the misfortune that happened long ago in the castle and then
again?" Kurt asked in great suspense.

"I have no time to tell you now, Kurt," the mother declared decisively.
"You have to attend to your school work and I to other affairs. When I
have you all together quietly some evening I shall tell you about those
bygone times. It will be better for you to know than to muse about all
the reports you hear. You are most active of all in that, Kurt, and I do
not like it; so I hope that you will let the matter rest as soon as you
have understood how unfounded the talk really is. Come now, Apollonie,
and I will give you the plants you wanted. I am so glad to be able to
let you have some of my geraniums. You keep your little flower garden in
such perfect order that it is a pleasure to see it."

During the foregoing speeches Apollonie's face had clearly expressed
disagreement with what had been said; she had, however, too much respect
for the lady to utter her doubts. Bright sunshine spread itself over her
features now, because her flower garden was her greatest pride and joy.

"Yes, yes, Mrs. Rector, it is a beautiful thing to raise flowers," she
said, nodding her head. "They always do their duty, and if one grows a
little to one side, I can put a stick beside it and it grows straight
again as it ought to. If only the child were like that, then I should
have no more cares. But she only has her own ideas in her head, and such
strange whims that it would be hard to tell where they come from."

"There is nothing bad about having her own ideas," replied the rector's
widow. "It naturally depends on what kind of ideas they are. It seems
to me that Loneli is a good-natured child, who is easily led. All
children need guidance. What special whims does Loneli have?"

"Oh, Mrs. Rector, nobody knows what things the child might do,"
Apollonie said eagerly. "Yesterday she came home from school with
glowing eyes and said to me, 'Grandmother, I should love to go to Spain.
Beautiful flowers of all colors grow there and large sparkling grapes,
and the sun shines down brightly on the flowers so that they glisten! I
wish I could go right away!' Just think of a ten-year-old child saying
such a thing. I wonder what to expect next."

"There is nothing very terrible about that, Apollonie," said the rector's
widow with a smile. "The child might have heard you mention Spain
yourself so that it roused her imagination. She probably heard in school
about the country, and her wish to go there only shows that she is
extremely attentive. To think out how she might get there some time is a
very innocent pleasure, which you can indulge. I agree with you that
children should be brought up in a strict and orderly way, because they
might otherwise start on the wrong road, and nobody loves such children.
But Loneli is not that kind at all. There is no child in Nolla whom I
would rather see with my own."

Apollonie's honest face glowed anew. "That is my greatest consolation,"
she said, "and I need it. Many say to me that an old woman like me is
not able to bring up and manage a little child. If you once were obliged
to say to me that I had spoiled my grandchild, I should die of shame.
But I know that the matter is still well, as long as you like to see the
child together with yours. Thank you ever so much now. Those will fill
a whole bed," she continued, upon receiving a large bunch of plants from
her kind friend. "Please let me know if I can help in any way. I am
always at home for you, Mrs. Rector, you know that."

Apollonie now said good-bye with renewed thanks. Carrying her large
green bundle very carefully in order not to injure the tender little
branches, she hurried through the garden towards the castle height. The
rector's widow glanced after her thoughtfully. Apollonie was intimately
connected with the earliest impressions of her childhood, as well as with
the experiences of her youth, with all the people whom she had loved most
and who had stood nearest to her. Her appearance therefore always
brought up many memories in Mrs. Maxa's heart. Since her husband's
death, when she had left the rectory in the valley and had come back to
her old home, all her friends called her Mrs. Maxa to distinguish her
from the present rector's wife of the village. She had been used to see
Apollonie in her parents' house. Baroness Wallerstaetten, the mistress of
the castle at that time, had often consulted the rector as to many
things. Apollonie, a young girl then, had always been her messenger, and
everyone liked to see her at the rectory. When it was discovered how
quick and able young Apollonie was, things were more and more given into
her charge at the castle. The Baroness hardly undertook anything in her
household without consulting Apollonie and asking her assistance. The
children, who were growing up, also asked many favors from her, which she
was ever ready to fulfill. The devoted, faithful servant belonged many
years so entirely to the castle that everyone called her "Castle
Apollonie."

Mrs. Maxa was suddenly interrupted in her thoughts by loud and repeated
calls of "Mama, Mama!"

"Mama!" it sounded once more from two clear children's voices, and a
little boy and girl stood before her. "The teacher has read us a paper
on which was written--" began the boy.

"Shall I, too; shall I, too?" interrupted the girl.

"Maezli," said the mother, "let Lippo finish; otherwise I can't understand
what you want."

"Mama, the teacher has read us a paper, on which was written that in Sils
on the mountain--"

"Shall I, too? Shall I, too?" Maezli, his sister, interrupted again.

"Be quiet, Maezli, till Lippo has finished," the mother commanded.

"He has said the same thing twice already and he is so slow. There has
been a fire in Sils on the mountain and we are to send things to the
people. Shall I do it, too, Mama, shall I, too?" Maezli had told it all
in a single breath.

"You didn't say it right," Lippo retorted angrily. "You didn't start
from the beginning. One must not start in the middle, the teacher told
us that. Now I'll tell you, Mama. The teacher has read us a paper--"

"We know that already, Lippo," the mother remarked. "What was in the
paper?"

"In the paper was written that a big fire in Sils on the mountain has
destroyed two houses and everything in them. Then the teacher said that
all the pupils of the class--"

"Shall I too, shall I, too?" Maezli urged.

"Finish a little quicker now, Lippo," said the mother.

"Then the teacher said that all the pupils from all the classes must
bring some of their things to give to the poor children--"

"Shall I too, Mama, shall I go right away and get together all they
need?" Maezli said rapidly, as if the last moment for action had arrived.

"Yes, you can give some of your clothes and Lippo can bring some of his,"
the mother said. "I shall help you, for we have plenty of time.
To-morrow is Sunday and the children are sure not to bring their things
to school before Monday, as the teacher will want to send them off
himself."

Lippo agreed and was just beginning to repeat the exact words of the
teacher in which he had asked for contributions. But he had no chance to
do it.

Kurt came running up at this moment, calling so loudly that nothing else
could possibly be heard: "Mother, I forgot to give you a message. Bruno
is not coming home for supper. The Rector is climbing High Ems with him
and the two other boys. They will only be home at nine o'clock."

The mother looked a little frightened. "Are the two others his comrades,
the Knippel boys?"

Kurt assented.

"I hope everything will go well," she continued. "When those three are
together outside of school they always quarrel. When we came here first
I was so glad that Bruno would have them for friends, but now I am in
continual fear that they will clash."

"Yes, mother," Kurt asserted, "you would never have been glad of that
friendship if you had really known them. Wherever they can harm anybody
they are sure to do it, and always behind people's backs. And Bruno
always is like a loaded gun-barrel, just a little spark and he is on fire
and explodes."

"It is time to go in," said the mother now, taking the two youngest by
the hand. Kurt followed. It had not escaped him that an expression of
sorrow had spread over his mother's face after his words. He hated to
see his mother worried.

"Oh, mother," he said confidently, "there is no reason for you to be
upset. If Bruno does anything to them, they are sure to give it back to
him in double measure. They'll do it in a sneaky way, because they are
afraid of him in the open field."

"Do you really think that this reassures me, Kurt?" she asked turning
towards him. Kurt now realized that his words could not exactly comfort
his mother, but he felt that some help should be found, for he was always
able to discover such a good side to every evil, that the latter was
swallowed up. He saw an advantage now. "You know, mother, when Bruno
has discharged his thunder, it is all over for good. Then he is like a
scrubbed out gun-barrel, all clean and polished. Isn't that better than
if things would keep sticking there?"

Mea, standing at the open window, was beckoning to the approaching group
with lively gestures; it meant that the time for supper was already
overdue. Kurt, rushing to her side, informed her that their mother meant
to tell them the story of Wallerstaetten as soon as everything was quiet
that night and the little ones were put to bed: "Just mark now if we
won't hear about the ghost of Wallerstaetten," he remarked at the end.
Kurt was mistaken, however. Everything was still and quiet long ago, the
little ones were in bed and the last lessons were done. But Bruno had
not yet returned. Over and over again the mother looked at the clock.

"You must not be afraid, mother, that they will have a quarrel, because
the rector is with them," Kurt said consolingly.

Now rapid steps sounded outside, the door was violently flung open and
Bruno appeared, pale with rage: "Those two mean creatures, those
malicious rascals; the sneaky hypocrites!--the--the--"

"Bruno, no more please," the mother interrupted. "You are beside
yourself. Come sit down with us and tell us what happened as soon as you
feel more quiet; but no more such words, please."

It took a considerable time before Bruno could tell his experience
without breaking out again. He told them finally that the rector had
mentioned the castle of High Ems in their lessons that day. After asking
his pupils if they had ever inspected the famous ruins they had all said
no, so the rector invited the three big boys to join him in a walk to see
the castle. It was quite a distance away and they had examined the ruins
very thoroughly. Afterwards the rector had taken them to a neighboring
inn for a treat, so that it was dark already when they were walking down
the village street. "Just where the footpath, which comes from the large
farmhouse crosses the road," Bruno continued, "Loneli came running along
with a full milk-bottle in her arm. That scoundrel Edwin quickly put out
his foot in front of her and Loneli fell down her whole length; the milk
bottle flew far off and the milk poured down the road like a small white
stream. The boys nearly choked with laughter and all I was able to do
was to give Edwin a sound box on the ear," Bruno concluded, nearly
boiling with rage. "Such a coward! He ran right off after the Rector,
who had gone ahead and had not seen it. Loneli went silently away,
crying to herself. I'd like to have taken hold of both of them and given
them proper--"

"Yes, and Loneli is sure to be scolded by her grandmother for having
spilled the milk," Mea interrupted; "she always thinks that Loneli is
careless and that it is always her own fault when somebody harms her.
She is always punished for the slightest little fault."

"But she never defends herself," Kurt said, half in anger, partly with
pity. "If those two ever tried to harm Clevi, they would soon get their
faces scratched; Apollonie has brought Loneli up the wrong way."

"Should you like to see Loneli jump at a boy's face and scratch it,
Kurt?" asked the mother.

After meditating a while Kurt replied, "I guess I really shouldn't."

"Don't you all like Loneli because she never gets rough and always is
friendly, obliging and cheerful? Her grandmother really loves her very
much; but she is a very honest woman and worries about the child just
because she is anxious to bring her up well. I should be extremely sorry
if she scolded Loneli in the first excitement about the spilled milk.
The boys should have gotten the blame, and I am sure that Apollonie will
be sorry if she hears later on what really happened."

"I'll quickly run over and tell her about it," Kurt suggested. The
mother explained to him, however, that grandmother and grandchild were
probably fast asleep by that time.

"Are we going to have the story of Castle Wildenstein for a finish now?"
he inquired. But his mother had already risen, pointing to the wall
clock, and Kurt saw that the usual time for going to bed had passed. As
the following day was a Sunday, he was satisfied. They generally had
quiet evenings then and there would be no interruptions to the story.
Bruno, too, had now calmed down. It had softened him that his mother had
found the Knippel boys' behaviour contemptible and that she had not
excused them in the least. He might have told the Rector about it, but
such accusations he despised. He felt quite appeased since his mother
had shared his indignation and knew about the matter. Soon the house lay
peacefully slumbering under the fragrant apple trees. The golden moon
above was going her way and seemed to look down with friendly eyes, as if
she was gratified that the house, which was filled all day with such
noise and lively movement, was standing there so calm and peaceful.



CHAPTER II

DIVERS WORRIES

Before the mother went off to church on Sunday morning she always glanced
into the living-room to see if the children were quietly settled at their
different occupations and to hope that everything would remain in order
during her absence. When she looked in to-day everything was peaceful.
Bruno and Mea were both sitting in a corner lost in a book, Kurt had
spread out his drawings on a table before him, and Lippo and Maezli were
building on their small table a beautiful town with churches, towers and
large palaces. The mother was thoroughly satisfied and went away. For
awhile everything was still. A bright ray of sunshine fell over Kurt's
drawing and gaily played about on the paper. Kurt, looking up, saw how
the meadows were sparkling outside.

"The two rascally milk-spillers from yesterday ought to be locked up for
the whole day," Kurt suddenly exploded.

Mea apparently had been busy with the same thought for she assented very
eagerly. The two talked over the whole affair anew and had to give vent
to their indignation about the scoundrels and their pity for poor Loneli.
Maezli must have found the conversation entertaining, for glancing over to
the others, she let Lippo place the blocks whichever way he pleased,
something that very seldom happened. Only when the children said no more
she came back to her task.

"Goodness gracious!" Kurt exclaimed suddenly, starting up from his
drawing; "you ought to have reminded me, Mea, that we have to bring some
clothes to school for the poor people whose houses were burnt up. You
heard it, but mother does not even know about it yet."

"I forgot it, too," said Mea quietly, continuing to read.

"Mother knows about it long ago. I told her right away," Lippo declared.
"Teacher told us to be sure not to forget."

"Quite right, little school fox," Kurt replied, while he calmly kept on
drawing. As long as his mother knew about the matter he did not need to
bother any more.

But the last words had interested Maezli very much. Throwing together the
houses, towers and churches she said to Lippo, "Come, Lippo, I know
something amusing we can do which will please mama, too."

Lippo wondered what that could be, but he first laid every block neatly
away in the big box and did not let Maezli hurry him in the least.

"Don't do it that way," Maezli called out impatiently. "Throw them all in
and put on the lid. Then it's all done."

"One must not do that, Maezli; no one must do it that way," Lippo said
seriously. "One ought to put in the first block and pack it before one
takes up the second."

"Then I won't wait for you," Maezli declared, rapidly whisking out by the
door.

When Lippo had properly filled the box and set it in its right place, he
quickly followed Maezli, wondering what her plan was. But he could find
her nowhere, neither in the hall nor in the garden, and he got no answer
to his loud, repeated calls. Finally a reply came which sounded
strangely muffled, as if from up above, so he went up and into her
bedroom. There Maezli was sitting in the middle of a heap of clothes, her
head thrust far into a wardrobe. Apparently she was still pulling out
more things.

"You certainly are doing something wonderful," said Lippo, glancing with
his big eyes at the clothes on the floor.

"I am doing the right thing," said Maezli now in the most decided tone.
"Kurt has said that we must send the poor people some clothes, so we must
take them all out and lay together everything we don't need any more.
Mama will be glad when she has no more to do about it and they can be
sent away to-morrow. Now get your things, too, and we'll put them all in
a heap."

The matter, however, seemed still rather doubtful to Lippo. Standing
thoughtfully before all the little skirts and jackets, he felt that this
would not be quite after his mother's wish.

"When we want to do something with our clothes, we always have to ask
mother," he began again.

But Maezli did not answer and only pulled out a bunch of woolen stockings
and a heavy winter cloak, spreading everything on the floor.

"No, I won't do it," said Lippo again, after scrutinizing the unusual
performance.

"You don't want to do it because you are afraid it will be too much
work," Maezli asserted with a face quite red with zeal. "I'll help you
when I am done here."

"I won't do it anyhow," Lippo repeated resolutely; "I won't because we
are not allowed to."

Maezli found no time to persuade him further, as she began to hunt for her
heavy winter shoes, which were still in the wardrobe. But before she had
brought them forth to the light, the door opened and the mother was
looking full of horror at the devastation.

"But children, what a horrible disorder!" she cried out, "and on Sunday
morning, too. What has made you do it? What is this wild dry-goods shop
on the floor?"

"Now, you see, Maezli," said Lippo, not without showing great satisfaction
at having so clearly proved that he had been in the right. Maezli tried
with all her might to prove to her mother that her intention had solely
been to save her the work necessary to get the things together.

But the mother now explained decidedly to the little girl that she never
needed to undertake such actions in the future as she could not possibly
judge which clothes she still needed and which could be given away.
Maezli was also told that such help on her part only resulted in double
work for her mother. "Besides I can see Maezli," the mother concluded,
"that your great zeal seems to come from a wish to get rid of all the
things you don't like to wear yourself. All your woolen things, which
you always say scratch your skin. So you do not mind if other children
have them, Maezli?"

"They might like them better than to be cold," was Maezli's opinion.

"Oh, mother, Mrs. Knippel is coming up the road toward our house; I am
sure she is coming to see us," said Lippo, who had gone to the window.

"And I have not even taken my things off on account of your disorder
here," said the mother a little frightened. "Maezli, go and greet Mrs.
Knippel and take her into the front room. Tell her that I have just come
from church and that I shall come directly."

Maezli ran joyfully away; the errand seemed to please her. She received
the guest with excellent manners and led her into the front room to the
sofa, for Maezli knew exactly the way her mother always did. Then she
gave her mother's message.

"Very well, very well, And what do you want to do on this beautiful
Sunday?" the lady asked,

"Take a walk," Maezli answered rapidly. "Are they still locked up?" she
then casually asked.

"Who? Who? Whom do you mean?" and the lady looked somewhat disapprovingly
at the little girl.

"Edwin and Eugen," Maezli answered fearlessly.

"I should like to know where you get such ideas," the lady said with
growing irritation. "I should like to know why the boys should be locked
up."

"Because they are so mean to Loneli all the time," Maezli declared.

The mother entered now. To her friendly greeting she only received a
very cold reply.

"I only wonder, Mrs. Rector," the guest began immediately in an
irritated manner, "what meanness that little poison-toad of a Loneli has
spread and invented about my boys. But I wonder still more that some
people should believe such things."

Mrs. Maxa was very much astonished that her visitor should have already
heard what had taken place the night before, as she knew that her sons
would not speak of it of their own free will.

"As long as you know about it already, I shall tell you what happened,"
she said. "You have apparently been misinformed. It had nothing to do
whatever with a meanness on Loneli's part. Maezli, please join the other
children and stay there till I come," the mother interrupted herself,
turning to the little girl, whose eyes had been expectantly glued on the
visitor's face in the hope of hearing if the two boys were still locked
up.

Maezli walked away slowly, still hoping that she would hear the news
before she reached the door. But Maezli was doomed to be disappointed, as
no word was spoken. Then Mrs. Maxa related the incident of the evening
before as it occurred.

"That is nothing at all," said the district attorney's wife in answer.
"Those are only childish jokes. All children hold out their feet
sometimes to trip each other. Such things should not be reckoned as
faults big enough to scold children for."

"I do not agree with you," said Mrs. Maxa. "Such kinds of jokes are
very much akin to roughness, and from small cruelties larger ones soon
result. Loneli has really suffered harm from this action, and I think
that joking ceases under such circumstances."

"As I said, it is not worth the trouble of losing so many words about. I
feel decidedly that too much fuss is made about the grandmother and the
child. Apollonie does not seem to get it out of her head that her name
was Castle-Apollonie and she carries her head so high that the child will
soon learn it from her. But I have come to talk with you about something
much more important."

The visitor now gave her listener some information that seemed to be far
from pleasing to Mrs. Maxa, because the face of the latter became more
and more worried all the time. Mrs. Knippel and her husband had come to
the conclusion that the time had come when their sons should be sent to
the neighboring town in order to enter the lowest classes of the high
school. The Rector's teaching had been sufficient till now, but they
felt that the boys had outgrown him and belonged to a more advanced
school. So they had decided to find a good boarding place for the three
boys together, as Bruno would naturally join them in order that they
could remain together. Since the three would, in later years, have great
authority in the little community, it would be splendid if they were
educated alike and could agree thoroughly in everything. "My husband
means to go to town in the near future and look for a suitable house
where they can board," the speaker concluded. "I am sure that you will
be grateful if the question is solved for Bruno, as you would otherwise
be obliged to settle it yourself."

Frau Maxa's heart was very heavy at this news. She already saw the
consequences and pictured the terrible scenes that would result if the
three boys were obliged to live closely together.

"The thought of sending Bruno away from home already troubles me
greatly," she said finally. "I do not see the necessity for it. Our
rector, who has offered to teach them out of pure kindness, means to keep
the boys under his care till a year from next spring. They are able to
learn plenty still from him. However, if you have resolved to send your
sons away, I shall be obliged to do the same, as the Rector could not
continue the lessons for Bruno alone." Mrs. Maxa declined the offer of
her visitor to look up a dwelling-place for Bruno, as she had to talk the
matter over first with her brother. He was always her counsellor in
these things, because he was the children's guardian.

The district attorney's wife did not seem gratified with this
information. As she was anxious to have the matter settled then and
there, she remarked rather sarcastically that a mother should be able to
decide such matters alone. "The boys are sensible enough to behave
properly without being constantly watched," she added. "I can certainly
say that mine are, and where two hold to the right path, a third is sure
to follow."

"My eldest is never one to follow blindly," Mrs. Maxa said with
animation. "I should not wish it either in this case. I shall keep him
at home as long as it is possible for me, and after that I shall send him
away under God's protection."

"Just as you say," the other lady uttered, rising and taking leave. "We
can talk the question of boarding over again another time," she remarked
as she was going away; "when the time comes, my husband's preparation for
the future will be welcome, I am sure."

When the mother, after escorting her guest, came back to the children's
room, Maezli immediately called out, "Did she say if the two are still
locked up?"

"What are you inventing, Maezli?" said the mother. "You probably don't
know yourself what it means."

"Oh, yes, I know," Maezli assured her. "I asked her if the boys were
still locked up because Kurt said that."

Kurt laughed out loud: "Oh, you naughty child to talk so wild! Because I
say that those two ought to be locked up, Maezli runs over and immediately
asks their mother that question."

Mrs. Maxa now understood clearly where her visitor had heard about her
boy's behaviour of yesterday.

"Maezli," she said admonishingly, "have you forgotten that you are not to
ask questions of grown-up people who come to see me?"

"But why shouldn't I ask what the locked-up children are doing?" Maezli
declared, feigning great pity in her voice.

"Now the foxy little thing wants to incline mother to be comforted by
pretending to pity them," Kurt declared.

Suddenly a terrific shout of joy sounded from all voices at once as they
all called: "Uncle Phipp! Uncle Phipp!" In a moment they had disappeared
through the door.

Kurt jumped out through the window, which was not dangerous for him and
was the shortest way to the street. The mother also ran outside to greet
Uncle Phipp who was her only brother. He lived on his estate in Sils
valley, which was famous for its fruit. He was always the most welcome
guest in his sister's house. He had been away on a journey and had not
made his appearance for several weeks in Nolla, and his coming was
therefore greeted with special enthusiasm. One could hardly guess that
there was an uncle in the midst of the mass which was moving forward and
taking up the whole breadth of the road. The five children were hanging
on to him on all sides in such a way that it looked as if one solid
person was walking along on many feet.

"Maxa, I have no hand for you as you can see," the brother saluted her.
"I greet you heartily, though, with my head, which I can still nod."

"No, I want to have your hand," Mrs. Maxa replied. "Lippo can let your
right hand go for a moment. How are you, Philip? Welcome home! Did you
have a pleasant journey and did you find what you were looking for?"

"All has gone to my greatest satisfaction. Forward now, young people,
because I want to take off my overcoat," the uncle commanded. "It is
filled with heavy objects which might pull me to the ground."

Shouting with joy, the five now pushed their uncle into the house; they
had all secretly guessed what the heavy objects in his long pockets were.
When the uncle had reached the house, he insisted on taking off his coat
alone in order to prevent the things from being hurt. He had to hang it
up because the mother insisted that they should go to lunch and postpone
everything else till the afternoon. The next difficult and important
question to be settled was, who should be allowed to sit beside Uncle
Philip at dinner, because those next had the best chance to talk to him.
He chose the youngest two to-day. Leading him in triumph to the
inviting-looking table, they placed him in their midst with joyfully
sparkling eyes. It was a merry meal. The children were allowed to ask
him all they wanted to and he told them so many amusing things about his
travels that they could never get weary of listening. Last of all the
good things came the Sunday cake, and when that was eaten, Maezli showed
great signs of impatience, as if the best of all were still to come.

"I think that Maezli has noticed something," said the uncle; "and one must
never let such a small and inquisitive nose point into empty air for too
long. We must look now what my overcoat has brought back from the ship."

Maezli who had already jumped up from her chair seized her uncle's hand as
soon as he rose. She wanted to be as close to him as possible while he
was emptying the two deep pockets. What lovely red books came out first!
He presented them to Bruno and Kurt who appeared extremely pleased with
their presents.

"This is for mother for her mending" Maezli called out looking with
suspense at her uncle's fingers. He was just pulling out a dainty little
sewing case.

"You guessed wrong that time, Maezli," he said. "Your mother gets a
present, too, but this is for Mea, who is getting to be a young lady.
She will soon visit her friends with the sewing case under her arm."

"Oh, how lovely, uncle, how lovely!" Mea cried out, altogether enchanted
with her gift. "I wish you had brought some friends for me with you;
they are hard enough to find here."

"I promise to do that another time, Mea. To-day there was no more room
for them in my overcoat. But now comes the most important thing of all!"
and with these words the uncle pulled a large box out of each pocket.
"These are for the small people," he said, "but do not mix them up. In
one are stamping little horses, and in the other little steaming pots.
Which is for Maezli?"

"The stamping horses," she said quickly.

"I don't think so. Take it now and look," said the uncle. When Lippo
had received his box also, the two ran over to their table, but Maezli
suddenly paused half-way.

"Uncle Philip," she asked eagerly, "has mother gotten something, too,
something nice? Can I see it?"

"Yes, something very nice," the uncle answered, "but she has not gotten
it yet; one can't see it, but one can hear it."

"Oh, a piano," Maezli guessed quickly.

"No, no, Maezli; you might see as much as that," said the uncle. "You
couldn't possibly guess it. It can't come out till all the small birds
are tucked into their nests and everything is still and quiet."

Maezli ran to her table at last and when she found a perfect array of
shining copper kettles, cooking pans and pots in her box she forgot
completely about the horses. She dug with growing astonishment into her
box, which seemed to be filled with ever new and more marvellous objects.
Lippo was standing up his beautifully saddled horses in front of him, but
the thing he liked best of all was a groom in a red jacket. He put him
first on one horse and then on all the others, for, to the boy's great
delight, he fitted into every saddle. He sat secure, straight and
immovable even when the horses trotted or galloped.

Uncle Philip was less able to stand the quiet which was reigning after
the presentation of his gifts than were the children, who were completely
lost in the new marvels. He told them now that he was ready to take them
all on a walk. Maezli was ready before anyone, because she had thrown
everything into her box and then with a little pushing had been able to
put on the lid. This did not worry her further, so she ran towards the
uncle.

"Maezli, you mustn't do that; no, you mustn't," Lippo called after her.
But the little girl stood already outside, holding her uncle's hand ready
for the march. Everybody else was ready, as they all had only had one
object to put away, and the mother gave her orders to Kathy, the cook.

"Come, Lippo, don't stay behind!" the uncle called into the room.

"I have to finish first, then I'll come right away," the little boy
called back.

The mother was ready to go, too, now. "Where is Lippo?" she asked,
examining her little brood.

"He sits in there like a mole in his hole and won't come out," said Kurt
"Shall I fetch him? He'll come quickly enough then."

"No, no," the mother returned. "I'll attend to it." Lippo was sitting at
his little table, laying one horse after the other slowly and carefully
in the box so that they should not be damaged.

"Come, Lippo, come! We must not let Uncle Philip wait," the mother said.

"But, mother, one must not leave before everything is straightened up and
put into the wardrobe," Lippo said timidly. "One must always pack up
properly."

"That is true, but I shall help you to-day," said the mother, and with
her assistance everything was soon put in order.

"Oh, here comes the slow-poke at last," Kurt cried out.

"No, you must not scold him, for Lippo did right in putting his things in
order before taking a walk," said his mother, who had herself given him
that injunction.

"Bravo, my god-son! I taught you that, but now we must start," said the
uncle, extending his hand to the little boy. "Where shall we go?"

"Up to the castle," Kurt quickly suggested. Everybody was satisfied with
the plan and the mother assented eagerly, as she had intended the same
thing.

"We shall go up towards the castle hill," the uncle remarked as he set
out after taking the two little ones by the hand. "We shall have to go
around the castle, won't we? If cross Mr. Trius is keeping watch, we
won't get very close to it, because the property is fenced in for a long
way around."

"Oh, we can go up on the road to the entrance," said Kurt with animation.
"We can look into the garden from there, but everything is overgrown. On
the right is a wooden fence which we can easily climb. From there we can
run all the way up through the meadows to a thick hawthorn hedge; on the
other side of that begin the bushes and behind that the woods with the
old fir and pine trees, but we can't climb over it. We could easily
enough get to the castle from the woods."

"You seem to have a very minute knowledge of the place," said the uncle.
"What does Mr. Trius say to the climbing of hedges? In the meadows there
are beautiful apple-trees as far as I remember."

"He beats everybody he can catch," was Kurt's information, "even if they
have no intention of taking the apples. Whenever he sees anyone in the
neighborhood of the hedge, he begins to strike out at them."

"His intention is probably to show everybody who tries to nose around
that the fences are not to be climbed. Let us wait for your mother, who
knows all the little ways. She will tell us where to go."

Uncle Philip glanced back for his sister, who had remained behind with
Mea and Bruno. While the uncle was amusing the younger ones, the two
others were eagerly talking over their special problems with her, so that
they got ahead very slowly.

"To which side shall we go now? As you know the way so well, please tell
us where to go," said the uncle when the three had approached.

The mother replied that Uncle Philip knew the paths as well as she, if
not even better. As long as the decision lay with her, however, she
chose the height to the left from which there was a clear view of the
castle.

"Then we'll pass by Apollonie's cottage," said Kurt. "I am glad! Then we
can see what Loneli is doing after yesterday's trouble. She is the
nicest child in school."

"Let us go there," the uncle assented. "I shall be glad to see my old
friend Apollonie again! March ahead now!"

They had soon reached the cottage at the foot of the hill, which lay
bathed in brilliant sunshine. Only the old apple-tree in the corner
threw a shadow over the wooden bench beneath it and over a part of the
little garden. Grandmother and grandchild were sitting on the bench
dressed in their Sunday-best and with a book on their knees. A delicious
perfume of rosemary and mignonette filled the air from the little
flower-beds. Uncle Philip looked over the top of the hedge into the
garden.

"Real Sunday peace is resting on everything here. Just look, Maxa!" he
called out to his sister. "Look at the rose-hushes and the mignonette!
How pleasant and charming Apollonie looks in her spotless cap and shining
apron with the apple-cheeked child beside her in her pretty dress!"

Loneli had just noticed her best friends and, jumping up from the bench,
she ran to them.

Apollonie, glancing up, now recognized the company, too. Radiant, she
approached and invited them to step into her garden for a rest. She was
already opening the door in order to fetch out enough chairs and benches
to seat them all when Mrs. Maxa stopped her. She told Apollonie that
their time was already very short, as they intended to climb the hill,
but they had wished to greet her on their way up and to see her
well-ordered garden.

"How attractively it is laid out, Mrs. Apollonie!" Uncle Philip
exclaimed. "This small space is as lovely as the large castle-garden
used to be. Your roses and mignonette, the cabbage, beans and beets, the
little fountain in the corner are so charming! Your bench under the
apple-tree looks most inviting."

"Oh, Mr. Falcon, you are still as fond of joking as ever," Apollonie
returned. "So you think that my rose-beds are as fine as those up there
used to be? Indeed, who has ever seen the like of them or of my wonderful
vegetable garden in the castle-grounds? There has never been such an
abundance of cauliflower and peas, such rows of bean-poles, such
salad-beds. What a delight their care was to me. Such a garden will
never be seen again. I have to sigh every time when I think that
anything so beautiful should be forever lost."

"But that can't be helped," Uncle Philip answered. "There is one great
advantage you have here. Nobody can possibly disturb your Sunday peace.
You need not throw up your hands and exclaim: 'Falcon is the worst of
all.'"

"Oh, Mr. Falcon, so you still remember," Apollonie exclaimed. "Yes, I
must admit that the three young gentlemen have trampled down many a young
plant of mine. Still I should not mind such a thing if I only had the
care of the garden back again, but it doesn't even exist any more. Mr.
Trius's only harvest is hay and apples, and that is all he wants
apparently, because he has thrown everything else out. Please do not
think that I am swimming in pure peace here because no boys are stamping
down my garden. Oh, no! It is very difficult to read my Sunday psalm in
peace when I am given such a bitter soup of grief to swallow as I got
yesterday. It keeps on burning me, and still I have to swallow it."

"You probably mean the Knippel-soup from yesterday?" Kurt interrupted,
full of lively interest. Loneli had only just told him that things had
gone very badly the day before when she had returned home all soiled from
her fall and with the empty milk-bottle. So he felt more indignant than
before and had immediately interpreted Apollonie's hint. "I want to tell
you, Apollonie, that it was not Loneli's fault in the least. Those
rascals enjoy sticking out their feet and seeing people tumble over
them."

"The child can't possibly have behaved properly, Kurt, or the district
attorney's sons would not have teased her."

"I'll fetch Bruno right away and he'll prove to you that Loneli did
nothing whatever. He saw it," Kurt cried eagerly with the intention of
fetching his brother, who had already started up the hill. But his
mother detained him. It was not her wish to fan Bruno's rage afresh by
the discovery that Loneli had been considered guilty. She therefore
narrated the incident to Apollonie just as Bruno had reported it.

Loneli's blue eyes glistened with joy when the story was told according
to the truth. She knew that the words spoken by the rector's widow had
great weight with her grandmother.

"Can you see now that it was not Loneli's fault?" Kurt cried out as soon
as his mother had finished.

"Yes, I see it and I am happy that it is so," said Apollonie. "How could
one have suspected that boys who had a good education should want to hurt
others without cause? The young Falcon would never have done such a
thing, I know that. He only ran into the vegetable garden because his
two friends were chasing him from both sides."

Uncle Philip laughed: "I am glad you are so just to me, Mrs. Apollonie.
Even when you scolded the Falcon properly for tramping down your plants,
you knew that it was not in maliciousness he did it but in self-defence.
I am afraid it is time to go now" and with these words he heartily shook
his old acquaintance by the hand. The two little ones, who had never
left his side, were ready immediately to strike out once more.

They soon reached the hill and the castle, which was bathed in the soft
evening light, lay openly before them. A hushed silence reigned about
the gray building and the old pine trees under the tower, whose branches
lay trailing on the ground. For years no human hand had touched them.
Where the blooming garden had been wild bushes and weeds covered the
ground.

The mother and uncle, settling down on a tree-trunk, looked in silence
towards the castle, while the children were hunting for strawberries on
the sunny incline.

"How terribly deserted and lonely it all looks," Uncle Philip said after
a while. "Let us go back. When the sun is gone, it will get more dreary
still."

"Don't you notice anything, Philip?" asked his sister, taken up with her
own thoughts. "Can you see that all the shutters are closed except those
on the tower balcony? Don't you remember who used to live there?"

"Certainly I do. Mad Bruno used to live there," the brother answered.
"As his rooms alone seem to be kept in order, he might come back?"

"Why, he'll never come back," Uncle Philip exclaimed. "You know that we
heard ages ago that he is an entirely broken man and that he lay deadly
sick in Malaga. Mr. Tillman, who went to Spain, must certainly know
about it. Restless Baron Bruno has probably found his last resting-place
long ago. Why should you look for him here?"

"I only think that in that case a new owner of the place would have
turned up by now," was his sister's opinion. "Two young members of the
family, the children of Salo and Eleanor, are still alive. I wonder
where these children are. They would be the sole owners after their
uncle's death."

"They have long ago been disinherited," the brother exclaimed. "I do not
know where they are, but I have an idea on that subject. I shall tell
you about it to-night when we are alone. Here you are so absent-minded.
You throw worried looks in all directions as if you were afraid that this
perfectly solid meadow were a dangerous pond into which your little brood
might fall and lose their lives."

The children had scattered in all directions. Bruno had gone far to one
side and was deeply immersed in a little book he had taken with him. Mea
had discovered the most beautiful forget-me-nots she had ever seen in all
her life, which grew in large masses beside the gurgling mountain stream.
Beside herself with transport, she flew from place to place where the
small blue flowers sparkled, for she wanted to pick them all.

Kurt had climbed a tree and from the highest branch he could reach was
searchingly studying the castle, as if something special was to be
discovered there. Maezli, having discovered some strawberries, had pulled
Lippo along with her. She wanted him to pick those she had found while
she hunted for more in the meantime. The mother was very busy keeping an
eye on them all. Kurt might become too daring in his climbing feats.
Maezli might run away too far and Lippo might put his strawberries into
his trousers-pocket as he had done once already, and cause great harm to
his little Sunday suit.

"You fuss and worry too much about the children," Uncle Philip said.
"Just let the children simply grow, saying to them once in a while, 'If
you don't behave, you'll be locked up.'"

"Yes, that certainly sounds simple," said his sister. "It is a pity you
have no brood of your own to bring up, Philip, as lively as mine, and
each child entirely different from the others, so that one has to be
urged to a thing that another has to be kept from. I get the cares
without looking for them. A new great worry has come to me to-day, which
even you won't be able to just push aside."

Mrs. Maxa told her brother now about the morning's interview with the
wife of the district attorney. She told him of the problem she had with
Bruno's further education, because the lessons he had been having from
the Rector would end in the fall, and of her firm intention of keeping
him from living together with his two present comrades. The three had
never yet come together without bringing as a result some mean deed on
one side and an explosion of rage on the other.

"Don't you think, Philip, that it will be a great care for me to think
that the three are living under one roof? Don't you think so yourself?"
Mrs. Maxa concluded.

"Oh, Maxa, that is an old story. There have been boys at all times who
fought together and then made peace again."

"Philip, that does not console me," the sister answered. "That has never
been Bruno's way at all. He never fights that way. But it is hard to
tell what he might do in a fit of anger at some injustice or meanness,
and that is what frightens me so."

"His godfather of the same name has probably passed that on to him.
Nobody more than you, Maxa, has always tried to wash him clean and excuse
him for all his deeds of anger. In your indestructible admiration ..."

Uncle Philip got no further, as all the children now came running toward
them. The two little ones both tried hard to put the biggest
strawberries they had found into the mouths of their mother and uncle.
Mea could not hold her magnificent bunch of forget-me-nots near enough to
their eyes to be admired. The two older boys had approached, too, as
they had an announcement to make. The sun had gone down behind the
mountain, so they had remembered that it was time to go home.

Mother and uncle rose from their seats and the whole group started down
the mountainside. The two little ones were gaily trotting beside the
uncle, bursting into wild shouting now and then, for he made such leaps
that they flew high into the air sometimes. He held them so firmly,
however, that they always reached the ground safely.

At the entrance to the house Kurt had a brilliant idea. "Oh, mother," he
called out excitedly over the prospect, "tonight we must have the story
of the Wallerstaetten family. It will fit so well because we were able to
see the castle today, with all its gables, embrasures and battlements."

But the mother answered: "I am sorry to say we can't. Uncle is here
today, and as he has to leave early tomorrow morning, I have to talk to
him tonight. You have to go to bed early, otherwise you will be too
tired to get up tomorrow after your long walk."

"Oh, what a shame, what a shame!" Kurt lamented. He was still hoping
that he would find out something in the story about the ghost of
Wildenstein, despite the fact that one could not really believe in him.
Sitting on the tree that afternoon, he had been lost in speculations as
to where the ghost might have appeared.

When the mother went to Maezli's bed that night to say prayers with her
she found her still very much excited, as usual, by the happenings of the
day. She always found it difficult to quiet the little girl, but to-day
she seemed filled by very vivid impressions. Now that everything was
still, they seemed to come back to her.

Maezli sat straight up in her bed with shining eyes as soon as her mother
appeared. "Why was the Knippel-soup allowed to spoil Apollonie's Sunday
peace?" she cried out.

"Where have you heard that, Maezli?" the mother said, quite frightened.
She already saw the moment before her when Maezli would tell the district
attorney's wife that new appellation. "You must never use that
expression any more, Maezli. You see, nobody would be able to know what
you mean. Kurt invented it apparently when Apollonie spoke about having
so much to swallow. He should not have said it. Do you understand,
Maezli, that you must not say it any more?"

"Yes, but why is anyone allowed to spoil Apollonie's Sunday peace?" Maezli
persevered. Apollonie was her special friend, whom she wanted to keep
from harm.

"No one should do it, Maezli," the mother replied. It is wrong to spoil
anybody's Sunday peace and no one should do it."

"But our good God should quickly call down, 'Don't do it, don't do it!'
Then they would know that they were not allowed," was Maezli's opinion.

"He does it, Maezli! He does it every time anybody does wrong," said the
mother, "for the evil-doer always hears such a voice that calls out to
him: 'Don't do it, don't do it!' But sometimes he does it in spite of the
voice. Even young children like you, Maezli, hear the voice when they
feel like doing wrong, and they do wrong just the same."

"I only wonder why God does not punish them right away; He ought to do
that," Maezli eagerly replied.

"But He does," said the mother. As soon as anybody has done wrong, he
feels a great weight on his heart so that he keeps on thinking, 'I wish I
hadn't done it!' Then our good God is good and merciful to him and does
not punish him further. He gives him plenty of time to come to Him and
tell Him how sorry he is to have done wrong. God gives him the chance to
beg His pardon. But if he does not do that, he is sure to be punished so
that he will do more and more evil and become more terribly unhappy all
the time."

"I'll look out, too, now if I can hear the voice," was Maezli's
resolution.

"The chief thing is to follow the voice, Maezli," said the mother. "But
we must be quiet now. Say your prayers, darling, then you will soon go
to sleep."

Maezli said her little prayer very devoutly. As there was nothing more to
trouble her, she lay down and was half asleep as soon as her mother
closed the door behind her.

She was still expected at four other little beds. Every one of the
children had a problem to bring to her, but there was so little time left
to-day that they had to be put off till to-morrow. In fact, they were
all glad to make a little sacrifice for their beloved uncle. When she
came back into the room, she found him hurrying impatiently up and down.
He could hardly wait to make his sister the announcement to which he had
already referred several times.

"Are you coming at last?" he called to her. "Are you not a bit curious
what present I have brought you?"

"Oh, Philip, I am sure it can only be a joke," Mrs. Maxa replied. "I
should love to know what you meant when you spoke of the children of
Wallerstaetten."

"It happens to be one and the same thing," the brother replied. "Come
here now and sit down beside me and get your mending-basket right away so
that you won't have to jump up again. I know you. You will probably run
off two or three times to the children."

"No, Philip, to-day is Sunday and I won't mend. The children are all
sleeping peacefully, so please tell me about it."

Uncle Philip sat down quietly beside his sister and began: "As surely as
I am now sitting here beside you, Maxa, so surely young Leonore of
Wallerstaetten was sitting beside me three days ago. I am really as sure
as anything that it was Leonore's child. She is only an hour's distance
away from you and is probably going to stay in this neighborhood for a
few weeks. I wanted to bring you this news as a present."

Mrs. Maxa first could not say a word from astonishment.

"Are you quite sure, Philip?" she asked, wishing for an affirmation.
"How could you become so sure that the child you saw was Leonore's little
daughter?"

"First of all, because nobody who has known Leonore can ever forget what
she looked like. The child is exactly like her and looks at one just the
way Leonore used to do. Secondly, the child's name was Leonore, too.
Thirdly, she had the same brown curls rippling down her shoulders that
her mother had, and she spoke with a voice as soft and charming. For the
fifth and sixth reasons, because only Leonore could have such a child,
for there could not be two people like her in the whole world." Uncle
Philip had grown very warm during these ardent proofs.

"Please tell me exactly where and how you saw the child," the sister
urged.

So the brother related how he had come back three days ago from a trip
and, arriving in town, had given orders in the hotel for a carriage to be
brought round to take him back to Sils that same evening. The host had
then informed him that two ladies had just ordered a carriage to take
them to the same destination. He thought that as long as they had seemed
to be strangers and were anxious to know more about the road, they would
be very glad to have a companion who was going the same way. So the host
had made all necessary arrangements, as there were no objections to the
plan on either side. When the carriage had driven up, he had seen that
the ladies had with them a little daughter who was to occupy the
back-seat of the carriage.

"This daughter, as I thought, was Leonore's child. I am as certain of
that as of my relation with you," the brother concluded.

Mrs. Maxa was filled with great excitement.

Could one of the children for whom she had vainly longed and inquired for
such long years be really so near her? Would she be able to see her? Who
were the ladies to whom she belonged?

To all her various questions the brother could only answer that the
ladies with whom Leonore was living came from the neighborhood of
Hannover. They had taken a little villa in Sils on the mountain, which
they had seen advertised for the summer months. He had shown the ladies
his estate in Sils and had offered to serve them in whatever way they
wished. Then they had taken leave.

Leonore's name had wakened so many happy memories of her beautiful
childhood and youth in Mrs. Maxa that she began to revive those times
with her brother and tirelessly talked of the days they had spent there
together with her unforgettable friend Leonore and her two cousins. The
brother seemed just as ready to indulge in those delightful memories as
she was, and whenever she ceased, he began again to talk of all the
unusual happenings and exploits that had taken place with their dear
friends.

"Do you know, Maxa, I think we had much better playmates than your
children have," he said finally. "If Bruno beats his comrades, I like it
better than if he acted as they do."

Brother and sister had not talked so far into the night for a long time.
Nevertheless, Mrs. Maxa could not get to sleep for hours afterwards.
Leonore's image with the long, brown curls and the winning expression in
her eyes woke her lively desire to see the child that resembled her so
much.



CHAPTER III

CASTLE WILDENSTEIN

When Maezli and Lippo were neatly washed and dressed the next morning,
they came downstairs to the living-room chattering in the most lively
manner. Maezli was just telling Lippo her plans for the afternoon when he
should be back from school. The mother, after attending to some task,
followed the children, who were standing around the piano.

As soon as she entered, Kurt broke out into a frightened cry. "Oh,
mother, we have forgotten all about the poor people whose houses burnt
down and we were supposed to take the things with us this morning."

"Yes, the teacher told us twice that we must not forget it," Lippo
complained, "but I didn't forget it."

"Don't worry, children, I have attended to it," said the mother. "Kathy
has just gone to the school with a basket full of things. It was too
heavy for you to carry."

"Oh, how nice and convenient it is to have a mother," Kurt said quite
relieved.

The mother sat down at the piano.

"Come, let us sing our morning song, now," she said. "We can't wait for
uncle, because he might come back too late from his walk." Opening the
book, she began to sing "The golden sun--with joy and fun."

The children taking up the melody sang it briskly, for they knew it well.
Maezli was singing full of zeal, too, and wherever she had forgotten the
words, she did not stop, but made up some of her own.

Two stanzas had been sung when Kurt said, "We must stop now or it will
get too late. After breakfast it is time to go to school."

The mother, assenting, rose and went to the table to fill their cups.

But Lippo broke into a loud wail. Pulling his mother back, he cried,
"Don't go! Please don't! We must finish it. We have to finish it. Come
back, mother, come back."

She tried to loosen the grip of the boy's firm little fingers on her
dress and to calm him, but she did not succeed, and he kept on crying
louder and louder: "Come back! You said one must not leave anything half
done. We didn't finish the song and we must do it."

Kurt now began to cry out, too: "Let go your pincher-claws--we'll get to
school late."

Mea's voice joined them with loud exclamation against Lippo, who was
trying hard to pull his mother back, groaning loudly all the time.

Uncle Philip entered at this moment.

"What on earth is going on here?" he cried loudly into the confusion.

Everybody began to explain.

Lippo let go his grip at last and, approaching his uncle, solicited his
help. Kurt's voice, however, was the loudest and he got the lead in
telling about Lippo's obstinacy.

"Lippo is right," the uncle decided. "One must finish what one has
begun. This is a splendid principle and ought to be followed. Lippo has
inherited this from his god-father and so he shall also have his help.
Come Lippo, we'll sit down and finish the song to the last word."

"But, Uncle Philip, the song has twelve stanzas, and we have to go to
school. Lippo must go, too," Kurt cried out in great agitation. "He
can't get an excuse for saying that he had to finish his morning song."

"That is true, Kurt is right," said the uncle. "You see, Lippo, I know a
way out. When you sing to-night, mother must promise me to finish the
song. Then you will have sung it to the end."

"We can't do that," Lippo wailed. "This is a morning song and we can't
sing it at night. We must finish it now. Wait, Kurt!" he cried aloud,
when he saw that the boy was taking up his school-bag.

"What can we do? Where is your mother? Why does she run away at such a
moment?" Uncle Philip cried out helplessly. "Call for your mother! You
mustn't go on like that."

Lippo had run back to the piano and, leaning against it, was crying
bitterly. Kurt, after opening the door, called loudly for his mother in
a voice that was meant to bring her from a distance. This exertion
proved unnecessary, as she was standing immediately behind the door.
Bruno, in order to question her about something, had drawn her out with
him.

"Oh, mother, come in!" Kurt cried in milder accents. "Come and teach our
two-legged law-paragraph here to get some sense. School is going to
start in five minutes."

The mother entered.

"Maxa, where did you go?" the brother accosted her. "It is high time to
get this boy straightened out. Just look at the way he is clutching the
piano in his trouble. He ought to be off. Kurt is right."

The mother, sitting down on the piano-stool, took the little boy's hand
and pulled him towards her.

"Come, Lippo, there is nothing to cry about," she said calmly. "Listen
while I explain this. It is a splendid thing to finish anything one has
begun, but there are things that cannot be finished all at once. Then
one divides these things into separate parts and finishes part first with
the resolution to do another part the next day, and so on till it is
done. We shall say now our song has twelve stanzas and we'll sing two of
them every morning; in that way we can finish it on the sixth day and we
have not left it unfinished at all. Can you understand, Lippo? Are you
quiet now?"

"Yes," said the little boy, looking up to his mother with an expression
of perfect satisfaction.

The leave-taking from the uncle had to be cut extremely short. "Come
soon again," sounded three times more from the steps, and then the
children started off.

The mother, looking through the window, followed them with her eyes. She
was afraid that Kurt and Mea would leave the little one far behind on
account of having been kept too long already, and it happened as she
feared. She saw Lippo trudging on behind with an extraordinarily full
school-bag on his back.

"Can you see what Lippo is carrying?" she asked her brother.

The lid of the bag was thrust open and a thick unwieldy object which did
not fit into it was protruding.

"What is he carrying along, I wonder? Can you see what it is?"

"I can only see a round object wrapped up in a gray paper," her brother
replied. "I am sure it must be something harmless. I have to say that
Lippo is a wonderfully obedient and good boy and full of the best sense.
As soon as one says the right word to him, he comes 'round. Why did you
wait so long though, Maxa, before saying it to him?" was Uncle Philip's
rather reproachful question. "Why did you run away and leave him crying
and moaning? He needed your help. What he wanted was perfectly correct
but was not just suitable at that moment, and he needed an explanation.
How could you calmly run away?"

"It was just as necessary to hear Bruno's question," the sister said. "I
knew that Lippo was in good hands. I thought naturally that you would be
able to say the right word to him. You know yourself how he respects
you."

"Oh, yes, that is right," Uncle Philip admitted. "It is not always easy
to say the right word to a little fellow who has the right on his side
and needs to have the other side shown to him, too; he is terribly
pedantic besides, and says that one can't sing a morning song in the
evening, and when he began to wail in his helplessness, it made me
miserable. How should one always just be able to say the right word?"

His sister smiled.

"Do you admit now, Philip, that bringing up children is not a very simple
matter?"

"There is a truth in what you say. On the other hand, it does not look
very terrible, either," the brother said with a glance at Maezli, who was
quietly and peacefully sitting at the table, eating her bread and milk in
the most orderly fashion.

She had been compelled to stop in the middle of breakfast by the
excitement caused by Lippo. It had been very thrilling, but now she
could calmly finish.

Uncle Philip suddenly discovered that the tune set for his departure was
already past. Taking a rapid leave of his sister, he started to rush
off, but she held him for a moment.

"Please, Philip, try to find out for me about the little girl, to whom
she belongs, and with whom she is travelling," she begged him eagerly.
"Please do that for me! If your supposition, that she is Leonore's child
is right, I simply must see her. Nobody can prevent me from seeing her
once at least."

"We'll see, we'll see," the brother answered hurriedly, and was gone the
next moment.

The day had started with so much agitation and it had all taken so much
time that Mrs. Maxa had her hands full now in order to complete the most
necessary tasks before the children came back from school.

Maezli was very obedient to-day and had settled down on her little chair.
She was virtuously knitting on a white rag, which was to receive a bright
red border and was destined to dust Uncle Philip's desk. It was to be
presented to him on his next birthday as a great surprise. Maezli had in
her head this and many other thoughts caused by the morning's scene, so
she did not feel the same inclination to set out on trips of discovery as
usual, and remained quietly sitting on her chair. Her mother was
extremely preoccupied, as could easily be seen. Her thoughts had nothing
to do with either the laundry or the orders she was giving to Kathy, nor
the cooking apples she had sorted out in the cellar. Her hand often lay
immovably on these, while she absently looked in front of her. Her
thoughts were up in the castle-garden with the lovely young Leonore, and
in her imagination she was wandering about with her beloved friend,
singing and chattering under the sounding pine trees.

Her brother's news had wakened all these memories very vividly. Then
again she would sigh deeply and another communication filled her full of
anxiety. Bruno had asked her not to wait for him at dinner, as he had
resolved to stop his comrades from a wicked design and therefore would
surely be a trifle late. What this was and what action he meant to
prevent the boy had not had time to say, for Kurt had opened the door at
that moment calling for her with his voice of thunder. All she had been
able to do was to beg Bruno, whatever happened, not to let his anger
become his master. Sooner than the mother had expected Kurt's steps
could be heard hurriedly running into the house followed by a loud call
for her.

"Here I am, Kurt," sounded calmly from the living-room, where his mother
had finally settled down after her tasks, beside Maezli's chair. "Come in
first before you try to make your announcements; or is it so dreadfully
urgent?"

Kurt had already reached his mother's side.

"Oh, mother, when I come home from school I'm never sure if you are in
the top or the bottom of the house," he said, "so I have to inquire in
plenty of time, especially when there is so much to tell you as there is
to-day. Now listen. First of all, the teacher thanks you for the
presents for the poor people. He lets you know that if you think it
suitable to send them a helmet of cardboard with a red plume, he will put
it by for the present. Or did you have a special intention with it?"

"I do not understand a word of what you say, Kurt," the mother replied.

That moment Lippo opened the door. He was apt to come home after the
older boy, for Kurt was not obliged to wait for him after school.

"Here comes the one who will be able to explain the precious gift you
sent, mother," said Kurt.

Lippo, trotting cheerfully into the room, had bright red cheeks from his
walk. The mother began by asking, "Tell me, Lippo, did you take
something to school this morning in your school-bag for the poor people
whose houses were burnt?"

"Yes, mother, my helmet from Uncle Philip," Lippo answered.

"I see! You thought that if a poor little chap had no shirt, he would be
glad to get a fine helmet with a plume for his head," Kurt said laughing.

"You don't need to laugh!" Lippo said, a little hurt. "Mother told us
that we must not only send things we don't want any more. So I gave the
helmet away and I should have loved to keep it."

"Don't laugh at him, Kurt; I really told him that," the mother affirmed.
"He wanted to do right but he did not quite find the right way of doing
it. If you had told me your intention, Lippo, I could have helped you to
do some positive good. Next time you want to help, tell me about it, and
we'll do it together."

"Yes, I will," Lippo said, quite appeased.

"Oh, mother, listen!" Kurt was continuing. "I have to tell you something
you won't like and we don't like either. Just think! Loneli had to sit
on the shame-bench to-day. But all the class is on Loneli's side."

"But why, Kurt? The poor child!" the mother exclaimed. "What did she do?
I am afraid that her honest old grandmother will take it terribly to
heart. She'll be in deep sorrow about it and will probably punish Loneli
again."

"No, indeed, she must not do that," Kurt said eagerly. "The teacher said
himself that he hated to put Loneli there, as she was a good and obedient
child, but that he had to keep his word. He had announced that he was
tired of the constant chattering going on in the school. To stop it he
had threatened to put the first child on the shame-bench that was caught.
So poor Loneli had to sit there all by herself and she cried so terribly
that we all felt sorry. But of course, mother, a person doesn't talk
alone, and Loneli should not have been obliged to stay there alone. The
teacher had just asked: 'Who is talking over there? I can hear some
whispering. Who is it?' Loneli answered 'I' in a low voice, so she had
to be punished. One of her neighbors should have said 'I,' too, of
course; it was perfectly evident that there was another one."

"Loneli might have asked somebody a question which was not answered," his
mother suggested.

"Mea will know all about it, for she followed Loneli after school. Now
more still, mother," Kurt continued. "Two boys from my class were beaten
this morning by Mr. Trius. Early this morning they had climbed over the
castle hedge to inspect the apples on the other side of the hedge. But
Mr. Trius was already about and stood suddenly before them with his
heavy stick. In a jiffy they had a real Trius-beating, for the hedge is
high and firm and one can't get across it quickly. Now for my fourth
piece of news. Farmer Max who lives behind the castle has told everybody
that when his father came back late yesterday night from the cattle-fair
in the valley, he saw a large coach, which was right behind his own,
drive into the castle-garden. He was quite certain that it went there,
but nobody seems to know who was in it. So you are really listening at
last, mother! I noticed that you have been absentminded till now.
Farmer Max told us something else about his father that you wouldn't like
me to repeat, I know."

"You would not say so if it were not wrong; you had better not repeat it,
Kurt," said the mother.

"No, indeed, it is not bad, but very strange. I can tell you though,
because I don't believe it myself. Max told that his father said there
was something wrong about the coach and that he went far out of its way.
The coachman looked as if he only had half a head, and his coat-collar
was rolled up terribly high in order to hide what was below. He was
wildly beating the horses so that they fairly flew up the castle-hill,
while sparks of fire were flying from their hoofs."

"How can you tell such rubbish, Kurt? How should there be something
unnatural in such a sight?" the mother scolded him. "I am sure you think
that the Wildenstein ghost is wandering about again. You can see every
day that horses' hoofs give out sparks when they strike stone, and to see
a coachman with a rolled up collar in windy weather is not an unusual
sight either. In spite of all I say to you, Kurt, you seem to do nothing
but occupy yourself with this matter. Can't you let the foolish people
talk without repeating it all the time?"

Kurt was very glad when Mea entered at that moment, for he had really
disobeyed his mother's repeated instructions in the matter. But he
comforted himself with the thought that he was only acting according to
her ideas if he was finally able to prove to the people that the whole
thing was a pure invention and could get rid of the whole thing for good.

"Why are your eyes all swollen?" he accosted his sister.

Mea exploded now. Half angry and half complaining, she still had to
fight against her tears. "Oh, mother, if you only knew how difficult it
is to stay friends with Elvira. Whenever I do anything to offend her,
she sulks and won't have anything to do with me for days. When I want to
tell her something and run towards her, speaking a little hurriedly, she
is hurt. Then she always says I spoil the flowers on her hat because I
shake them. And then she turns her back on me and won't even speak to
me."

"Indeed! I have seen that long ago," Kurt broke in, "and I began a song
about her yesterday. It ought to be sung to her. I'll recite it to you:

    A SONG ABOUT A WELL KNOWN YOUNG LADY.

    I know a maiden fair of face,
    Who mostly turns her back.
    All noise she thinks a great disgrace,
    But tricks she does not lack.

"No, Kurt, you mustn't go on with that song," Mea cried with indignation.

"Mea is right when she doesn't want you to celebrate her friends in that
way, Kurt," said the mother, "and if she asks you to, you must leave
off."

"But I am her brother and I do not wish to see my sister being tyranized
over and treated badly by a friend. I certainly wouldn't call her a real
friend," Kurt eagerly exclaimed. "I should be only too glad if my song
made her so angry that she would break the friendship entirely. There
would be nothing to mourn over."

Mea, however, fought passionately for her friend and never gave way till
Kurt had promised not to go on with his ditty. But her mother wanted to
know now what had given Mea such red eyes. So she told them that she had
followed Loneli in order to comfort her, for she was still crying.
Loneli had told her then about being caught at chattering. Elvira, who
was Loneli's neighbor, had asked her if she would be allowed to go to
Sils on dedication day, next Sunday, and Loneli had answered no. Then
Elvira wanted to know why not, to which Loneli had promised to give her
an answer after school, as they were not allowed to talk in school. That
moment the teacher had questioned them and Loneli had promptly accused
herself.

"Don't you think, mother, that Elvira should have admitted that she asked
Loneli a question? Then Loneli would not have had to sit on the
shame-bench alone. He might have given them both a different
punishment," Mea said, quite wrought up.

"Oho! Now she sent Loneli to the shame-bench besides, and Loneli is a
friend of mine!" Kurt threw in. "Now she'll get more verses after all."

"Elvira should certainly have done so," the mother affirmed.

"Yes, and listen what happened afterwards," Mea continued with more ardor
than before. "I ran from Loneli to Elvira, but I was still able to hear
poor Loneli's sobs, for she was awfully afraid to go home. She knew that
she had to tell her grandmother about it and she was sure that that would
bring her a terrible punishment. When I met Elvira, I told her that it
was unfair of her not to accuse herself and to let Loneli bear the
punishment alone. That made her fearfully angry. She said that I was a
pleasant friend indeed, if I wished this punishment and shame upon her.
She should not have said that, mother, should she? I told her that the
matter was easy enough for her as it was all settled for her, but not for
Loneli. I asked to tell the teacher how it all happened, so that he
could say something in school and let the children know what answer
Loneli had given her. Then he would see that she was innocent. But
Elvira only grew angrier still and told me that she would look for
another friend, if I chose to preach to her. She said that she didn't
want to have anything to do with me from now on and, turning about, ran
away."

"So much the better!" Kurt cried out. "Now you won't have to run humbly
after Elvira any more, as if you were always in the wrong, the way you
usually do to win her precious favor."

"Why shouldn't Mea meet her friend kindly again if she wants to, Kurt?"
said the mother. "Elvira knows well enough who has been offended this
time and has broken off the friendship. She will be only too glad when
Mea meets her half-way."

Kurt was beginning another protest, but it was not heard. Lippo and
Maezli arrived at that moment, loudly announcing the important news that
Kathy was going to serve the soup in a moment and that the table was not
even set.

The mother had put off preparations for dinner on purpose. During the
foregoing conversation she had repeatedly glanced towards the little
garden gate to see if Bruno was not coming, but he could not be seen yet.
So she began to set the table with Mea, while Lippo, too, assisted her.
The little boy knew exactly where everything belonged. He put it there
in the most orderly fashion, and when Mea put a fork or spoon down
quickly a little crookedly, he straightway put them perfectly straight
the way they belonged.

Kurt laughed out loud, "Oh, Lippo, you must become an inn-keeper, then
all your tables will look as if they had been measured out with a
compass."

"Leave Lippo alone," said the mother. "I wish you would all do your
little tasks as carefully as he does."

Dinner was over and the mother was looking out towards the road in
greater anxiety, but Bruno had not come.

"Now he comes with a big whip," Kurt shouted suddenly. "Something must
have happened, for one does not usually need a whip in school."

The younger boy opened the door, full of expectation. Bruno could not
help noticing his mother's frightened expression, despite the rage he was
in, which plainly showed in his face.

He exclaimed, as he entered, "I'll tell you right away what happened,
mother, so that you won't think it was still worse. I have only whipped
them both as they deserved, that is all."

"But, Bruno, that is bad enough. You seem to get more savage all the
time," the mother lamented. "How could you do such a thing?"

"I'll explain it right away and then you will have to admit that it was
the only thing to do," Bruno assured her. "The two told me last Saturday
that they had a scheme for to-day in which I was to join. They had
discovered that the lovely plums in the Rector's garden were ripe and
they meant to steal them. When the Rector is through with his lessons at
twelve o'clock he always goes to the front room and then nobody knew what
is going on in the garden. Their plan was to use this time to-day in
order to shake the tree and fill their pockets full of plums. I was to
help them. I told them what a disgrace it was for them to ask me and I
said that I would find means to prevent it. So they noisily called me a
traitor and told me that accusing them was worse than stealing plums. I
said that it wasn't my intention to tell on them, but I would come and
use my whip as soon as they touched the tree. So they laughed and
sneered at me and said that they were neither afraid of me nor of my
whip. As soon as our lessons were done at twelve o'clock, they ran to
the garden and, getting the whip I had hidden in the hallway, I ran after
them. Edwin was already half way up the tree and Eugene was just
beginning to climb it. First I only threatened and tried in that way to
force Edwin down and keep Eugene from going further. But they kept on
sneering at me till Edwin had reached the first branch and was shaking it
so hard that the lovely plums came spattering to the ground. I got so
furious at that that I began to beat first the boy higher up and then the
lower one. First, Edwin tumbled down on top of Eugene and then they both
ran away moaning, while I kept on striking them. They left the plums on
the ground and I followed them."

"It is terrible, Bruno, that such scenes have to come up between you all
the time," the mother lamented. "You are always the one who gets wild
and loses control. It is hard to excuse that, even if your intention is
good, Bruno. I wish I could keep you boys apart."

"It was a good thing he became furious at them to-day, mother," Kurt
remarked. "You see it shows that even two can't get the better of him.
If he had not been so mad, the two would have been stronger, and our poor
Rector would have lost his plums."

It was hard to tell if this explanation comforted the mother. She had
gone out with a sign to attend to Bruno's belated lunch. The time was
already near at hand when all the children had to get back to school.

When that same evening the little ones were happily playing and the big
children were busy with their school work, Kurt stole up to his mother's
chair and asked her in a low voice, "Shall we have the story to-day?"

The mother nodded. "As soon as the little ones are in bed." At this
Maezli pricked up her ears.

When all the work was done in the evening, all the family usually played
a game together. Kurt, who was usually the first to pack up his papers,
was still scribbling away after Mea had laid hers away. Looking over his
shoulder into the note-book, she exclaimed, "He is writing some verses
again! Who is the subject of your song, Kurt?"

"I'll read it to you, then you can guess yourself," said the boy. "The
first verse is already written somewhere else. Now listen to the
second."

   She stares about with stately mien:
   "O ho, just look at me!
   If I am not acknowledged queen,
   I surely ought to be."

   Her friend agrees with patient air
   And fastens up her shoes.
   Then queenie thinks: That's only fair,
   She couldn't well refuse.

   But if the friend should try to show
   The queen her faults, look out!
   She'd break the friendship at a blow
   And straightway turn about.

Mea had been obliged to laugh a little at first at the description of the
humble behaviour which did not seem to describe her very well. Finally,
however, sad memories rose up in her.

"Do you know, mother," she cried out excitedly, "it is not the worst that
she shows me her back, but that one can't ever agree with her. Every
time I find anything pleasant and good, she says the opposite, and when I
say that something is wrong and horrid, she won't be of my opinion
either. It is so hard to keep her friendship because we always seem to
quarrel when I haven't the slightest desire to."

"Just let her go. She is the same as her brothers," said Bruno. "I
never want their friendship again, and I wish I might never have anything
more to do with them."

"It is better to give them things, the way you did to-day," Kurt
remarked.

"I can understand Mea," said the mother. "As soon as we came here she
tried to get Elvira's friendship. She longs for friendship more than you
do."

"Oh, mother, I have six or eight friends here, that is not so bad," Kurt
declared.

"I couldn't say much for any of them," Bruno said quickly.

"It must hurt Mea," the mother continued, "that Elvira does not seem to
be capable of friendship. You only act right in telling her what you
consider wrong, Mea. If you show your attachment to her and try not to
be hurt by little differences of opinion, your friendship might gradually
improve."

As Lippo and Maezli felt that the time for the general game had come, they
came up to their mother to declare their wish. Soon everybody was
merrily playing.

It happened to-day, as it did every day, that the clock pointed much too
soon to the time which meant the inexorable end of playing. This usually
happened when everybody was most eager and everything else was forgotten
for the moment. As soon as the clock struck, playing was discontinued,
the evening song was sung and then followed the disappearance of the two
little ones. While the older children put away the toys, the mother went
to the piano to choose the song they were to sing.

Maezli had quickly run after her. "Oh, please, mama, can I choose the
song to-day?" she asked eagerly.

"Certainly, tell me which song you would like to sing best."

Maezli seized the song-book effectively.

"But, Maezli, you can't even read," said the mother. "How would the book
help you? Tell me how the song begins, or what lines you know."

"I'll find it right away," Maezli asserted. "Just let me hunt a little
bit." With this she began to hunt with such zeal as if she were seeking
a long-lost treasure.

"Here, here," she cried out very soon, while she handed the book proudly
over to her mother.

The latter took the book and read:

   "Patience Oh Lord, is needed,
   When sorrow, grief and pain"--

"But, Maezli, why do you want to sing this song?" her mother asked.

Kurt had stepped up to them and looked over the mother's shoulder into
the book. "Oh, you sly little person! So you chose the longest song you
could find. You thought that Lippo would see to it that we would sing
every syllable before going to bed."

"Yes, and you hate to go to bed much more than I do," said Maezli a little
revengefully. It had filled her with wrath that her beautiful plan had
been seen through so quickly. "When you have to go, you always sigh as
loud as yesterday and cry: 'Oh, what a shame! Oh, what a shame!' and you
think it is fearful."

"Quite right, cunning little Maezli," Kurt laughed.

"Come, come, children, now we'll sing instead of quarrelling," the mother
admonished them. "We'll sing 'The lovely moon is risen.' You know all
the words of that from beginning to end, Maezli."

They all started and finished the whole song in peace.

When the mother came back later on from the beds of the two younger
children, the three elder ones sat expectantly around the table, for Kurt
had told them of their mother's promise to tell them the story of the
family of Wallerstaetten that evening. They had already placed their
mother's knitting-basket on the table in preparation of what was to come,
because they knew that she would not tell them a story without knitting
at the same time.

Smilingly the mother approached. "Everything is ready, I see, so I can
begin right away."

"Yes, and right from the start, please; from the place where the ghost
first comes in."

The mother looked questioningly at Kurt. "It seems to me, Kurt, that you
still hope to find out about this ghost, whatever I may say to the
contrary. I shall tell you, though, how people first began to talk about
a ghost in Wildenstein. The origin of these rumors goes back many, many
years."

"There is a picture in the castle," the mother began to relate, "which I
often looked at as a child and which made a deep impression upon me. It
represents a pilgrim who wanders restlessly about far countries, despite
his snow-white hair, which is blowing about his head, and despite his
looking old and weather-beaten. It is supposed to be the picture of the
ancestor of the family of Wallerstaetten. The family name is thought to
have been different at that time.

"This ancestor is said to have been a man extremely susceptible to
violent outbreaks. In his passion he was supposed to have committed many
evil deeds, on account of which his poor wife could not console herself.
Praying for him, she lay whole days on her knees in the chapel. She died
suddenly, however, and this shocked the baron so mightily that he could
not remain in the castle. In order to find peace for his restless soul
he became a repentant pilgrim. So he took the emblem of a pilgrim into
his coat of arms and called himself Wallerstaetten. Leaving his estate
and his sons, he nevermore returned.

"Later on two of his descendants lived in the castle. Both were well
loved and respected, because they did a great deal to have the land
cultivated for a long distance around and as a result all the farmers
became rich. But both had inherited the violent temper of their
ancestor, and the truth is that there always were members in the family
with that fatal characteristic. Nobody knew what happened between the
brothers, but one morning one of them was found dead on the floor of the
big fencing-hall. All that the castle guard knew about it was that his
two masters had settled a dispute with a duel. The other brother had
immediately disappeared, but was brought back dead to the castle a few
days afterwards.

"Climbing up a high mountain, he had fallen down a precipice and had been
found dead. These events threw all the neighborhood into great
consternation.

"That is when the rumors first spread that the restless spirit of the
brother murderer was seen wandering about the castle. All this happened
many years before my father and your grandfather moved into Nolla as
Rector. The rumor had somewhat faded then and all that we children heard
about it was that my father was very positive in denying all such reports
that reached his ears. Your grandfather was the closest friend of the
master of Wallerstaetten, whom everybody called the Baron. I can only
remember seeing him once for a moment, but he made an unusual impression
upon me. I remember him very vividly as a very tall man going with rapid
steps through the courtyard and mounting a horse, which was trying to
rear. He died before I was five years old, and I have often heard my
father say to my mother that it was a great misfortune for the two sons
to have lost their father. I felt so sorry for them that I would often
stop in the middle of play to ask her, 'Oh, mother, can nobody help
them?' To comfort me she would tell me that God alone could help. For a
long time I prayed every night before going to sleep: 'Dear God, please
help them in their trouble!' Both were always very kind and friendly with
me. I was up at the castle a great deal, because the Baroness
Maximiliana of Wallerstaetten was my godmother. My father instructed the
two sons and acted as helper and adviser to the Baroness in many things.
He went up to her every morning, holding me by one hand and Philip by the
other. My brother had lessons together with the boys, who were one year
apart in age, while Philip was just between them. Bruno, the elder--"

"I was named after him, mother, wasn't I?" Bruno interrupted here.

"Salo was a year younger--"

"I was called after him," Mea said quickly. "You wanted a Salo so much
and, as I was a girl, you called me Malomea, didn't you?"

The mother nodded.

"And I was called after father," Kurt cried out, in order to prove that
his name also had a worthy origin.

"I went up to the castle because my godmother wished it. She would have
loved to have a little daughter herself, therefore she occupied herself
with me as if I belonged to her. She taught me to embroider and to do
other fine handwork. Whenever she went with me into the garden and
through the estate, she taught me all about the trees and flowers. I was
often allowed to pick the violets that grew in great abundance beneath
the hedges and in the grass at the border of the little woods. Oh, what
beautiful days those were! Soon they were to become more perfect still
for us.

"But I received an impression in those days which remained in my heart
for a long while like a menacing power, often frightening me so that I
was very unhappy. Once my father came down very silently from the
castle. When my mother asked him if anything had happened he replied,
and I still hear his words 'Young Bruno has inherited his ancestor's
dreadful passion. His mother is naturally more worried about this than
about anything else.'"

"Look at him," Kurt said dryly, glancing at Bruno, who was sitting beside
his mother. For answer Bruno's eyes flashed threateningly at his
brother.

"Oh, please go on, mother," Mea urged. She was in no mood to have the
tale interrupted by a fight between her brothers.

"It seemed terrible to me," the mother continued again, "that Bruno, my
generous, kind friend, should have anything in his character to worry his
mother. Often I cried quietly in a corner about it and wondered how such
a thing could be. I had to admit it myself, however. Whenever the three
boys had a disagreement or anybody did something to displease Bruno, he
would get quite beside himself with rage, acting in a way which he must
have been sorry for later on. I have to repeat again, though, that he
had at bottom a noble and generous nature and would never have willingly
harmed anyone or committed a cruel deed. But one could see that his
outbreaks of passion might drive him to desperate deeds.

"Salo, his brother, never became angry, but he had a very unyielding
nature just the same. He was just as obstinate in his way as his
brother, and never gave in. Philip was always on his side, for the two
were the best of friends. Bruno was much more reserved and taciturn than
Salo, who was naturally very gay and could sing and laugh so that the
halls would re-echo loudly with his merriment. The Baroness herself
often laughed in that way, too. That is why Bruno imagined that she
loved her younger son better than him, and because he himself loved his
mother passionately, he could not endure this thought. It was not true,
however. She loved his eldest boy passionately and everybody who was
close to her could see it.

"When I was ten years old and Philip fifteen, an unusually charming girl
was added to our little circle. I above everybody else was enchanted
with her. Our friends at the castle and even Philip, who certainly was
not easily filled with enthusiasm, were extremely enthusiastic about our
new playmate. She was a girl of eleven years old, you see just a year
older than I was. She was far, far above me, though, in knowledge,
ability, and especially in her manners and whole behaviour, so that I was
perfectly carried away by her charm.

"Her name was Leonore. She was related to the baroness and had come down
from the far north, in fact from Holstein, where my godmother came from
and all her connections lived. Leonore, the daughter of one of her
relations, had very early lost her father and mother, as her mother had
died soon after the Baroness decided to adopt the child. She knew that
Leonore would otherwise be all alone in the world, and she hoped that a
gentle sister would have an extremely beneficial influence on the two
self-willed brothers. Now a time began for me which was more wonderful
than anything I could ever have imagined. Leonore was to continue her
studies, of course, and take up new ones. For that purpose a very
refined German lady came to the castle very soon after Leonore's arrival.
Only years afterwards I realized what a splendid teacher she had been.

"My godmother had arranged for me to share the studies with Leonore, and
therefore I was to live all day at the castle as her companion, only
returning in the evenings. So we two girls spent all our time together,
and in bad weather I also remained there for the night. Leonore had a
tremendous influence on me, and I am glad to say an influence for my
good, for I was able to look up to her in everything. Whatever was
common or low was absolutely foreign to her noble nature. This close
companionship with her was not only the greatest enjoyment of my young
years, but was the greatest of benefits for my whole life."

"You certainly were lucky, mother," Mea exclaimed passionately.

"Yes, and Uncle Philip was lucky, too, to have two such nice friends,"
Bruno added.

"I realize that," the mother answered. "You have no idea, children, how
often I have wished that you, too, could have such friends."

"Please go on," Kurt begged impatiently. "Where did they go, mother?
Doesn't anyone know what has become of them?"

"Whenever our brothers, as we called them, were free," the mother
continued, "they were our beloved playmates. We valued their stimulating
company very much and were always happy when through some chance they
were exempt from some of their numerous lessons. They always asked us to
join them in their games and we were very happy that they wanted our
company. Baroness von Wallerstaetten had guessed right. Since Leonore
had come into our midst, the brothers fought much more seldom, and
everybody who knew Bruno well could see that he tried to suppress his
outbursts of rage in her presence. Once Leonore had become pale with
fright when she had been obliged to witness such a scene, and Bruno had
not forgotten it. Four years had passed for us in cloudless sunshine
when a great change took place. The young barons left the castle in
order to attend a university in Germany, and Philip also left for an
agricultural school. So we only saw the brothers once a year, during
their brief holidays in the summer. Those days were great feast days
then for all of us, and we enjoyed every single hour of their stay from
early morning till late at night. We always began and ended every day
with music, and frequently whole days were spent in the enjoyment of it.

"Both young Wallerstaettens were extremely musical and had splendid
voices, and Leonore's exquisite singing stirred everybody deeply. The
Baroness always said that Leonore's voice brought the tears to her eyes,
no matter if she sang merry or serious songs. It affected me in that
way, too, and one could never grow weary of hearing her. I had just
finished my seventeenth and Leonore her eighteenth year when a summer
came which was to bring grave changes. We did not expect Philip home for
the holidays. Through the Baroness' help he was already filling the post
of manager of an estate in the far north. The young barons had also
completed their studies and were expected to come home and to consult
with their mother about their plans for the future. She fully expected
them to travel before settling down, and after that she hoped sincerely
that one of them would come to live at home with her; this would mean
that he would take the care of the estate on his shoulders with its
troubles and responsibilities. Soon after their arrival the sons seemed
to have had an interview with their mother which clearly worried her, for
she went about silently, refusing to answer any questions. Bruno strode
up and down the terrace with flaming eyes whole hours at a time, without
saying a word. Salo was the only sociable one left, and sometimes he
would come and sit down beside us; but if we questioned him about their
apparent feud, he remained silent. How different this was from our
former gay days! But this painful situation did not last long. On the
fifth or sixth day after their arrival the brothers did not appear for
breakfast. The Baroness immediately inquired in great anxiety if they
had left the castle, but nobody seemed to have noticed them. Apollonie
was the only one who had seen them going upstairs together in the early
morning, so she was sent up to look for them in the tower rooms. When
she found them empty, she opened the door of the old fencing-hall by some
strange impulse. Here Salo was crouching half fainting on the floor. He
told her that it was nothing to worry about, and that he had only lost
consciousness for a moment. She had to help him to get up, however, and
he came downstairs supported on her arm. The Baroness never said a word.
She stayed in her son's chamber till the physician who had been sent for
had gone away again. Then returning to us, she sat down beside Leonore
and me and told us that we ought to know what had happened. Apparently
she was very calm, but I had never seen her face so pale. She informed
us that when she had spoken to her sons about their future plans, she had
discovered that neither of them had ever spoken about it to the other.
Now they both declared to her that their full intention had been for
years to come home after the completion of their studies and to live in
Wildenstein with her and Leonore. Bruno was quite beside himself when he
found that Salo had apparently no intention to yield to him in the
matter, so he challenged his brother to a duel in order to decide which
of them was to remain at home. Salo had been wounded and, losing
consciousness, had fallen to the ground. Bruno, fearing something worse,
had disappeared. The doctor had not found Sale's wounds of a serious
nature, but as he had a delicate constitution, great care had to be
taken. When I left the castle that day I felt that all the joy and
happiness I had ever known on earth was shattered, and this feeling
stayed with me a long while after. Soon after that sad event the
Baroness got ready for a journey to the south, where she meant to go with
Salo and Leonore. Salo had not recovered as quickly as she had hoped,
and Leonore, instead of getting more robust in our vigorous mountain-air,
only became thinner and frailer. Only once Bruno sent his mother some
news. In extremely few words he let her know that he was going to Spain,
and that she need not trouble more about him. But the news of his
brother's survival reached him, nevertheless. Now all those I had loved
so passionately had gone away, and I felt it very deeply. There the
castle stood, sad and lifeless, and its lighted windows looked down no
more upon us from the height. All its eyes were closed and were to
remain so."

"Oh, oh, did they never come back?" cried out Kurt with regret.

"No, never," the mother replied. "At that time, too, apparently, all the
reports which had long ago faded were revived as to a ghost who was
supposed to wander about the castle. There were many who asserted they
had seen or heard him, and till to-day the ghost of Wildenstein is
haunting people's heads."

"Look at him," said Bruno dryly, pointing to the lower end of the table
where Kurt was sitting.

"Finish, please, mother," the latter quickly urged. "Where did they all
get to? And where is the brother who disappeared?"

"All I still have to tell you is short and sad," said the mother.
"Leonore faithfully wrote to me. After spending the first winter in the
south it became apparent that the Baroness's health was shattered. She
refused to return to the castle and sent her instructions to Apollonie,
who had married the gardener of Wildenstein, and who now with her husband
became caretaker of the castle, Three years afterwards the Baroness died
without ever having returned. A short time after that Leonore became
Salo's wife, but they were not fated to remain together long. Not more
than three years later Salo died of a violent fever and Leonore followed
him in a few months, but they left a little boy and a little girl. After
Salo's death Leonore was left alone in life, so an aunt from Holstein
came to live with her in Nice. After Leonore's death this aunt took the
two children home with her. I heard this from Apollonie, who had been
sent Leonore's last instructions by this aunt. I never learned anything
further about the two children, and only once did I receive word from
Baron Bruno through Apollonie. Your late father, young Rector Bergmann,
had married me just about the time when we heard of the Baroness's death.
I followed him very gladly to Sils, because Philip had just bought an
estate there and was very anxious to have me close to him. One day
Apollonie came to me in great agitation. Baron Bruno, never once sending
word, had arrived in the castle after an absence of eight years and had
brought with him a companion by the name of Mr. Demetrius. The Baron
had naturally expected to find his mother, his brother and his erstwhile
playmates gathered there as before. When he heard from Apollonie
everything that had happened in his absence, he broke into a violent
passion, because he believed that the news had been purposely kept from
him. Apollonie was able to show him his late mother's letters where she
had given her exact orders in case of his return. He could also see from
them that she wrote to him frequently and had tried to reach him in vain.
Baron Bruno had lived an extremely unsettled existence and all the
letters had miscarried, despite the orders he had left in big cities to
have them forwarded. Full of anger and bitterness the Baron immediately
left, and till the present hour he has not been heard of. Mr.
Demetrius, later on called Mr. Trius by everybody, came back a few years
ago to the deserted castle. Apollonie had meanwhile lost her husband,
had closed up all the rooms at the castle, and had gone to live again in
the former gardener's cottage, where she is living now. From the time
when he reappeared till to-day, Mr. Trius has led a solitary life and
sees no one except Apollonie, and her only when he is in need of her.
However hard Apollonie tried to make him tell about his master, he would
not do it. You know now about my happy life in Wildenstein and will be
able to understand the reason why I moved here again after the death of
your father. Another inducement was that our dear Rector, an erstwhile
friend of my father's, promised to give Bruno instruction which he could
not get at a country school, so that I was able to keep him at home
longer, you see. Now you know why the deserted castle attracts me so
despite its sad aspect, for it brings back to me my most beautiful
memories."

"Oh, please, mother, tell us a little more," Kurt begged eagerly, when
his mother rose.

"Oh, mother," Mea joined in, "tell us more about your friend, Leonore."

"Oh, yes, tell us more, mother," Bruno supplicated. "There must be more
to know still. Did Baron Bruno keep on travelling in Spain?"

"I think most of the time, but I can't tell you for sure," the mother
replied. "I know everything only from Apollonie, who had these reports
from Mr. Trius, but he either does not choose to talk or does not know
very much himself about his master. I have told you everything now and
you must go to bed as quickly as you can. It was your bedtime long ago."

No questions or supplications helped now, and soon the house was silent,
except for the mother's quiet steps as she once more visited the
children's beds. Her eldest, who could become so violent, lay before her
with a peaceful expression on his clear brow. She knew how high his
standard of honor was, but how would he end if his unfortunate trait
gained more ascendancy over him? Soon she would be obliged to send him
away, and how could she hope for a loving influence in strange
surroundings, which was the only thing to quiet him? The mother knew that
she had not the power to keep her children from pain and sin, but she
knew the hand which leads and steadies all children that are entrusted to
it, that can guard and save where no mother's hand or love can avail.
She went with folded hands from one bed to the other, surrendering her
children to their Father's protection in Heaven. He knew best how much
they were in need of His loving care.



CHAPTER IV

AN UNEXPECTED APPARITION

Kurt had so many plans the next day that he already rushed to school as
if he had not a minute to lose. Mea and Lippo, who started with him,
looked full of astonishment at his unusual speed. Arriving at the
school, he saw Loneli coming along with a drooping head and not, as
usual, with a happy stride.

"What is it, Loneli?" asked Kurt coming nearer. "Why are your eyes
swollen already before it is even eight o'clock? Just he happy. I'll
help you. Did anybody hurt you?"

"No, Kurt, no one, but I can't be happy any more," and with these
words Loneli's eyes filled again with tears. "I wish you could see
grandmother since I've been on the shame-bench. I would not mind if
she were angry, for she generally forgives me again after a while; but
she is sad all the time. It is worst when I go to school in the
morning, because she says that I brought down shame on us both, and
that I have given her gray hairs. She said to me that after having
lived an honorable life and spent most of it with the most noble
family, this was very hard for her. She felt as if she had raised me
only to bring down shame on both for the rest of our lives."

Loneli broke out anew into tears. This neverending disgrace, together
with the constant reproaches she had had to bear, seemed to choke her,

"No, no, Loneli, you don't need to cry any more. It is not at all the
way your grandmother is taking it," Kurt said consolingly. "I'll go to
her ever so soon to explain what happened. Please be happy and
everything will come out all right."

"Do you think so?" Loneli asked, pleasantly surprised. Her eyes were
clear again, for she always believed whatever Kurt said to her. Now he
rushed over to the noisy crowd of children, who seemed to have been
waiting for him. Kurt was always glad to have such numerous friends, for
he usually needed a large following for the execution of his schemes.
To-day he had two large undertakings in his head, and he needed to
persuade his comrades to join him. He was explaining with such violent
gestures and eager words that they entirely neglected the first strokes
of the tower bell. At the last and eighth stroke the little crowd
dispersed as suddenly as a flock of frightened birds. Then they rushed
into the school house. Kurt was home to-day ahead of everybody, too. He
approached his mother with a large sheet of paper.

"Look, mother, Mr. Trius got a song. Yesterday evening he threatened
two more of my friends with the stick, but they were luckily able to save
themselves. It seems as if he had at least four eyes and ears which can
see and hear whatever is going on. I finished the song. Can I read it
to you?"

"I wish you had no friends that Mr. Trius has occasion to frighten with
a stick," said the mother. "I hope that it won't ever happen to you."

"Oh, he often threatens innocent people," Kurt replied. "Listen to a
true description of him."

   A SONG ABOUT MR. TRIUS, THE BOY BEATER.

   Old Trius lives in our town,
   A haughty man is he,
   And every one that he can catch
   He beats right heartily.

   Old Trius wears a yellow coat,
   It's very long and thick,
   But all the children run away
   At sight of his big stick.

   Old Trius of the pointed hat
   He wanders all around,
   And if he beats nobody, why
   There's no one to be found.

   Old Trius thinks: To spank a boy
   Is really very kind,
   And all he cannot hit in front
   At least he hits behind.

   Old Trius makes a pretty face
   With every blow he gives.
   He'll beat us all for many years,
   I'm thinking, if he lives.

The mother could not help smiling a little bit during the perusal, but
now she said seriously: "This song must under no condition fall into Mr.
Trius' hands. He might not look at it as a joke, and you must not offend
him. I advise you, Kurt, not to challenge Mr. Trius in any way, for he
might reply to you in some unexpected fashion. He has his own ways and
means of getting rid of people."

Kurt was very anxious to get his mother's permission to run about that
same evening by moonlight with his friends, and his mother granted it
willingly.

"I hope you are not going on one of the unfortunate apple-expeditions I
hear so much about," she added.

Kurt quite indignantly assured her that he would never do such a thing.
Lippo was pushing him to one side now. The little boy had made attempts
to reach his mother for several minutes, and he was delighted at his
brother's quick departure.

"Mr. Rector sends you his regards and he wants to know if you wanted to
give him an answer. Here is a letter," said Lippo.

"Where did you bring the letter from?" asked the mother.

"I didn't bring the letter. Lise from the rectory brought it," was
Lippo's information. "But Lise saw me in front of the door and said that
I should take the letter up with me and give it to you, and tell her
whether you wanted to give the Rector an answer or not."

"Oh, that is just the way a message ought to be given," the mother said
with a smile. "Did you hear it, Maezli? I wish you could learn from Lippo
how to do it. Whenever you have one to give, I have such trouble to find
out what really happened and what you have only imagined."

Maezli, whose knitting-ball was at that moment in the most hopelessly
knotted condition, was ever so glad when her mother suggested a new
activity. Quickly flinging her knitting away, she jumped up from her
stool. Then she began to repeat Lippo's speech, word for word: "I did
not bring the letter. Lise from the rectory--"

"No, no, Maezli, I do not mean it that way," the mother interrupted her.
"I mean that the reports you bring me so often sound quite impossible. I
want you to be as careful and exact in them as Lippo."

In the meantime the mother had opened the letter and looked suddenly
quite frightened.

"Tell the girl that I shall go to Mr. Rector myself and that she need
not wait for an answer," was her message entrusted to Lippo.

The thing she had dreaded so much was settled now. The Rector let her
know in his letter that he had realized the time had come for his pupils
to be put into different hands. He wrote that he had decided to
discontinue the studies with them next fall, but that he would be only
too glad to be of assistance to Mrs. Maxa in consulting about Bruno's
further education. He closed with an assurance that he would be the
happier to do so because Bruno had always been very dear to him.

Mrs. Maxa, sitting silently with folded hands, was lost in thought.
This was something that happened very seldom.

But Mea stood before her and trying to get her sympathy with passionate
gestures. "Just think, mother," she cried out, "Elvira is so angry now
that she will never have anything more to do with me, no never. But she
was most offended because I told her that it was wrong of her; not to
admit that she had chattered in school. She said quite sarcastically
that if I chose to correct her on account of that raggedy Loneli, I
should keep Loneli for a friend and not her."

"Let her be for once," said the mother. "Till now you have always gone
after her; so do what she wishes this time. It is wrong to call Loneli
raggedy; few people are as honest and agreeable as Apollonie and her
grandchild."

Mea was ready with many more complaints, for whenever anything bothered
her, she felt the need to tell her mother. She realized, though, that
she had to put off further communications for a quiet evening hour.

Bruno had approached, and turning to his mother, asked in great suspense:
"Mother, what did Mr. Rector write to you? Have the plum-thieves been
discovered?"

"I do not think that they have brought his decision about, but I am sure
they hastened it. Read the letter," said his mother, handing it to him.

"That is not so bad," Bruno said after reading it. "As soon as you send
me to town I shall be rid of them at last, and I won't have to bother
about them any more. You know, mother, that all they care about is to do
mean and nasty things."

"But they will go to town, too, and then you will be thrown together.
There won't be anybody then who cares for you and will listen to you,"
the mother lamented.

"Do not worry, mother, the town is big and we won't be so close together.
I'll keep far enough away from them, you may be sure. Don't let it
trouble you," Bruno reassured her.

Kurt was so much occupied at lunch with his own plans and ideas that he
never even noticed when his favorite dessert appeared on the table.
Lippo, seriously looking at him, said quite reproachfully, "Now you don't
even see that we have apple-dumpling." Such an indifference seemed wrong
to the little boy.

But Kurt even swallowed the apple-dumpling absent-mindedly. After lunch
he begged his mother's permission to be allowed to leave immediately,
because he still had so much to talk over with his friends. "I'll tell
you all about it afterwards, mother. Be sure that I am doing something
right that ought to be done," he reassured her. "If only I can go now."
Having obtained permission, he shot away, and arriving at the
school-house, flew into the midst of a crowd of boys. But before their
plan could be carried out the children were obliged to sit two whole
hours on the school-benches. It truly seemed to-day as if they would
never end.

Lux, the sexton's boy, who preferred pulling the bell-rope and being
violently drawn up by it to sitting in school, tapped his neighbor's
sleeve.

"How late is it, Max?" he asked.

"I don't know."

"Max," Lux whispered again, "the second expedition will be more fun than
the first. I look forward to it more, don't you?"

"You can look forward to the shame-bench if you don't keep quiet," Max
retorted, squinting with his eyes in the direction of the teacher.

The latter had actually directed his eyes to the side where the
whisperers sat. Lux, bending over his book, kept quiet at last. Finally
the longed-for hour came and in a few minutes the whole swarm was
outside. With a great deal of noise, but in a quick and pretty orderly
fashion they now formed a procession, which began to move in the
direction of Apollonie's little house. Here a halt was made. Kurt,
climbing to the top of a heap of logs, which lay in the pathway, stood
upright, while the others grouped themselves about him. Apollonie opened
the window a little, but hid behind it, for she was wondering what was
going on. Loneli stood close behind her. She had just come back
breathlessly, for she had heard that a procession was coming towards her
grandmother's house.

"Mrs. Apollonie," Kurt cried out with loud voice, "two whole classes
from school have come to you to tell you that it was not Loneli's fault
when she had to sit on the shame-bench. It only happened because her
character is so good. Out of pure politeness she answered a question
somebody asked her. When the teacher wanted to know who was chattering,
she honestly accused herself. She did not tell him that she answered a
question in fear of accusing somebody else. We wanted to tell you all
about it so that you won't think you have to be ashamed of Loneli. We
think and know that she is the friendliest and most obliging child in
school."

"Long live Loneli!" Lux suddenly cheered so that the whole band
involuntarily joined him. "Long live Loneli!;" it sounded again and the
echo from the castle-mountain repeated, "Loneli."

Apollonie opened the window completely, and putting out her head, cried:
"It is lovely of you, children that you don't want Loneli disgraced. I
thank you for justifying her. Wait a minute. I should like to do you a
favor, too."

With that Apollonie disappeared from the window. Soon after she came out
by the door with a large basket of fragrant apples on her arm. Putting
it in front of the children, she said encouragingly, "Help yourselves."

"Good gracious," cried out Lux, with one of the juicy apples between his
teeth, "I know these. They only grow in the castle-garden, on the two
trees on the right, in the corner by the fence. Do you know that, Kurt,"
he said confidentially, "I only wonder how she could get hold of such a
basket full, you know, without being--you know--" With this he made the
unmistakable motion of Mr. Trius with his tool of correction.

"What on earth do you mean?" Kurt cried out full of indignation. "Mrs.
Apollonie did not need to steal them. Mr. Trius certainly could give
her a few baskets of apples for all the shirts she sews and mends for
him."

"Oh, I see, that is different," said Lux, now properly informed.

In the shortest time the huge basket was emptied of its delicious apples
and the whole band had dispersed after many exclamations of thanks. They
all ran home and Kurt outran them all. It was important now to do his
home-work as speedily as possible, as the second expedition was to take
place a little later. When he reached the front door he noticed that
Mrs. Knippel was coming up behind him.

Running ahead quickly, he flung open the living-room door and called in,
"Take Maezli out of the way or else something horrible will happen again."

After saying this he ran away. Bruno and Mea, who were busy in the room
with their work, did not find it necessary to follow Kurt's command. If
he found it so necessary, why didn't he do it himself, they thought,
remaining seated. Maezli had risen rapidly and looked towards the door
with large expectant eyes, wondering what was going to happen. Mrs.
Knippel now entered.

"Why does something horrible always happen when Mrs. Knippel comes?"
Maezli asked in a loud voice.

Mea, quickly getting up, went out of the door, pulling Maezli after her;
to explain her hasty retreat, she said that she wanted to fetch her
mother. She simply had to take that horrible little Maezli out of the
way; who could know what she might say next. She always brought forward
her most awful ideas when it was least suitable. The mother, who was on
the way already, entered just when Mea was running out with Maezli. Bruno
also slipped quickly after them. He had only waited for his mother's
appearance in order to fly.

"Your children are certainly very peculiar," the district attorney's wife
began. "I have to think so every time I see them. What do all your
admonitions help, I should like to know? Nature will have its way! Not
one of my children has ever been so impertinent, to say the least, as
your little daughter is already."

"I am very sorry you should have to tell me that," Mrs. Maxa replied.
"Isn't it possible that the child should have unconsciously said an
impertinence? I hope you have never had a similar experience with my
older children."

"No, I could not say that," Mrs. Knippel answered. "But I should say
that all of them have inherited the love of preaching, especially your
daughter Mea. Children can be unlike by disposition without its being
necessary that one of them should constantly make sermons to the other."

"My children are very often of different opinions, but I could not say
that they preach much to each other," said Mrs. Maxa.

"It is certainly Mea's habit to do so, and that is why she is not able to
keep peace with her friends. I suppose you received a letter from our
Rector telling you of the refusal to teach the boys any further."

This was said with a less severe intonation.

Mrs. Maxa confirmed the statement.

"So the change we have looked forward to has really come," the visitor
continued, "and my husband agrees with me that prompt action should be
taken. He is going to the city to-morrow; in fact, he has left already
in order to visit his sister on the way. He will look for a suitable,
attractive home in town that the three boys can move into next fall."

"You do not mean to tell me, Mrs. Knippel, that your husband is ordering
living-quarters for Bruno, too?" Mrs. Maxa said in consternation.

"Oh, yes, and this is why my husband has sent me here, to let you know
how glad he is to do it for you," the attorney's wife said soothingly.
"He was positively sure that you would be glad if he decided and ordered
everything to suit himself and you."

"But, Mrs. Knippel, I am not prepared for this. I have not even spoken
to my brother about it. You know very well that he is the children's
guardian."

Mrs. Maxa was quite unable to hide her excitement.

"You can be reassured, for we have thought of that, too," the visitor
said with a slightly superior smile. "My husband's sister does not live
very far from Mr. Falcon in Sils. So he planned to visit your brother
and talk the plan over with him."

This calmed Mrs. Maxa a trifle, for her brother knew already how it
stood between the three comrades and how little she wanted them to live
together. But she could not help wondering why these people were trying
to force the boys to live together.

"I do not really understand why the boys should have to live together,"
she said with animation; "they do not profess to feel much friendship for
each other, and never seek each other out. You yourself, Mrs. Knippel,
do not seem to get a very good impression from my children's ways. I do
not see why you wish your sons to live with mine at all."

"It is a matter of decorum," the attorney's wife replied, "and my husband
agrees with me. What would people in town say if the sons of the two
best families here, who have always studied together, should not live
together? Everybody would think that something special had happened
between the families. Both parties will only gain in respect by
joining."

"I do not believe that people in the city will be interested in what the
three boys are doing," said Mrs. Maxa, smiling a little.

That same moment the door was flung wide open. With a triumphant face as
if she wanted to say, "Just look whom I bring you here," Maezli stood on
the threshhold leading Apollonie in. The latter hastily retreated.

"No, no, Maezli," she said quite frightened, "you should have told me that
there was company."

Mrs. Knippel had risen to take her departure: "It seems to me that other
visitors are greeted very joyfully by your children. Well, I must say
they have rather odd tastes," she said, walking towards the door.

"Apollonie is a very old friend of ours. All the children love her very
much. They may have inherited this attachment, though," Mrs. Maxa
replied with a smile.

"I only want to say one more word," said the lady turning round before
stepping outside the door. "The scene your son Kurt enacted to-day in
front of Apollonie's cottage with his crowd of miscellaneous friends can
only be called a vulgar noise."

But Mrs. Maxa did not yet know what Kurt had done. The visitor turned
to go now, as it seemed not worth her while to waste words about it. As
soon as the field was clear, Maezli rushed out of a hiding-place, pulling
Apollonie with her. The old woman was terribly apologetic about having
gone into the room. When she had told Maezli that she wanted to see her
mother, the little girl had taken her there without any further ado. She
informed the Rector's widow that she had come to her with a quite
incredible communication.

Mrs. Maxa found it necessary at this point to interrupt her friend. She
had noticed that Maezli was all ears to what was coming.

"Maezli, go and play with Lippo till I come," she said.

"Please tell me all about it afterwards, Apollonie," was Maezli's
instruction before going to do as she was bid.

Apollonie's communication took a considerable time. She had just left
when the family sat down to a belated supper.

Kurt swallowed his meal with signs of immoderate impatience. As soon as
possible he rushed away, after having given his promise not to come home
late. The friends that were to join him in this expedition had to be
sought out first. When he neared the meeting place, he felt a little
disappointed. In the twilight he could see that there was a smaller
number assembled than he had hoped for. This certainly was not the crowd
he had had together at noon when at least all the boys had promised to
take part in his new enterprise.

"They were afraid, they were afraid," all voices cried together. Kurt
heard now, while each screamed louder than the other that many boys and
girls had left when the darkness was beginning to fall. Among the few
that were left there were only four girls.

"It doesn't matter," said Kurt. "There are enough people still. Whoever
is afraid may leave. We must start, though, because we have rather far
to go. We are not going up the well-known path, because Mr. Trius
watches for apple-hunters there till midnight, I think. That suits us
exactly, for he must not hear us. We are going up to the woods at the
back of the castle. First, we'll sing our challenge, then comes the
pause, to give the ghost enough time, then again and after that for the
third and last time. If there really is a ghost, he will have appeared
by then. You can understand that he won't let himself be teased by us.
So when he hasn't come, we can tell everybody what we did. Then they'll
see that it is only a superstition and that there is no wandering ghost
in Wildenstein. Forward now!"

The little crowd set out full of spirits and eagerness for the adventure,
for Kurt had clearly shown them that there could be no ghost. To go up
there and sing loudly to a non-existent ghost was capital fun.
Furthermore, they looked forward to boasting of their daring deed
afterwards. Faster and faster they climbed, so that only half of the
usual time was taken in reaching their destination. It was dark at
first, but the moon suddenly came out from behind the clouds, cheerfully
lighting up the fields.

Having reached the rear of the castle hill, they hurried up the incline
and into the pinewoods, where the trees stood extremely close together.
This made it very dark, despite the fact that the wood was small. Soon
clouds covered the moon, and the little band became stiller and stiller.
Here and there one of the children sneaked off and did not reappear.
Three of the girls, after mysteriously whispering together, were gone,
too, and with them several more stole away, for there was a strange
rustling in the bushes. Kurt with Lux and his enterprising sister Clevi
were at the extreme front.

When it became very still, Kurt turned around.

"Come along! Where are you all?" he called back.

"We are coming," several voices answered from some children immediately
behind him. It was Max, Hans and Simi, and then Stoffi and Rudi behind
them, but they were all. Kurt halted.

"Where is the whole troup?" asked Kurt. "Let us wait till they catch up.
We must all stay together up there."

But none followed. All the answer Kurt got to his question was the
screaching of an owl.

"Oh, they've gone, they were afraid," said Max. "They were there,
though, when we came into the woods."

"The cowards!" Clevi cried indignantly,

"To be afraid of trees! That certainly is funny."

"Well, we aren't afraid anyway; otherwise we shouldn't be here any more.
Call to those who are gone," Max called back.

"Come on now, come!" Kurt commanded. "There are eight of us left to
sing, so we must all sing very loud."

On they went speedily till they could see the end of the woods. One of
the gray towers was peering between the trees. They had at last reached
their goal.

"Here we stop!" said Kurt, "but we must not go outside the woods. The
Wildenstein ghost might otherwise step up to us, if he walks around the
terrace. Here we go!"

Kurt began and all the others vigorously joined him:

   Come out, you ghost of Wildenstein!
     For we are not afraid,
   We've come here in the bright moonshine
     To sing the song we've made
   Come out, come out, and leave your den;
     You'll never scare the folks again.

Everything was quiet roundabout, only the night wind was soughing in the
old pine-trees. Between them there was a clear view of the terrace,
which the moon was now flooding with light; the space before the castle
lay peaceful and deserted.

"We must sing again," said Kurt. "He didn't hear us. If he doesn't give
us an answer this time we'll tell him what we know. Then we'll sing
fearfully loud:

   Hurrah! We have a certain sign,
   There is no ghost in Wildenstein.

   "Then we'll start again."

Clevi, who was gifted with a far-carrying voice, began:

   "Come out, you ghost of Wildenstein!"

And the boys with voices of thunder chimed in:

   "For we are not afraid."

"Just look! Who is coming there? Who can it be?" said Kurt, staring at
the terrace.

An incredibly tall figure, which could not possibly be human, was
wandering across the terrace with slow steps. It could not be a tree
either, for it slowly moved over towards the woods. Did he really see
straight, or was it the moonlight which was throwing a flitting shadow.

That moment Max, who was very big, turned about and fled. The four
others followed headlong, leaving only Lux and Clevi beside Kurt.

The horrible figure came nearer and nearer, and it could now be clearly
discerned. Full moonlight fell on the armor he was garbed in and made
it, as well as the high helmet with waving plumes, glitter brightly. A
long mantle fell from his shoulders down to his high riding boots, half
hiding his fearful figure. Could this be a human creature? No,
impossible! No living man could be as enormous as that. With measured
steps the apparition walked silently towards the pine trees. Here the
three singers stood horror-stricken, not uttering a sound.

Lux, like one crazed, suddenly rushed headlong away between the trees and
down the hill. Clevi once more looked at the approaching figure with
wide-open eyes. Before following her brother she wanted to see exactly
what the knight looked like.

Kurt was left quite alone, and still the fearful creature stalked nearer.
With a desperate leap he sprang to one side and left the woods abruptly.
Hurrying towards the meadow, he ran down the mountain, leaped over first
one hedge and then a second. Then he flew on till he stood in the little
garden at home where a peaceful light from the living-room seemed to
greet him.

Breathing deeply, he ran in and his mother met him at the door.

"Oh, is it you, Kurt?" she said kindly. "But you are a little late after
all. Was it so hard to leave the beautiful moonlight? Or was it such fun
rushing about? But, Kurt, you are entirely out of breath. Come sit down
a moment with me. After that you have to go to bed; all the others have
gone already."

Usually Kurt would have adored being able to sit alone with his mother
and have all her attention directed towards him. This he could not enjoy
now. Might not his mother ask him further details about his walk? So he
said that he preferred to go to bed right away, and his mother understood
that he was glad to get to rest after running about so ceaselessly. Only
when Kurt lay safely and quietly in bed could he think over what had
happened and how cowardly he had acted.

After all, his mother had clearly told him that there was no ghost in
Wildenstein. Whom then, had he seen in armor and helmet and with a long
mantle? It could not have been Mr. Trius, because he was a short, stout
person, whereas the apparition was a tree-high figure. Might it be a
sentinel at the castle who was ordered to go about? May be the old
castle-barons had always wished an armed sentinel to keep watch. If only
he had not run away! He could have let the sentinel walk up to him and
then he could have told him of his intention. The sentinel could only
have been pleased by his endeavor to get rid of such an old superstition.
If only he had not run away!

Oh, yes, now that Kurt was safely under cover and Bruno's breathing
beside him spoke of his big brother's nearness, it seemed easy enough to
act bravely! If only he had done it! The thing he could not explain to
himself was how anybody could be so horribly tall. That was hardly
credible. Kurt felt at bottom quite sure that it was impossible for
anybody to look like that.

"If only I could have told mother about it!" he sighed. But he felt
dreadfully ashamed. She had absolutely forbidden him troubling himself
about this matter. Even with his intention to get rid of the talk he had
acted against her command. Well, and what had he accomplished? More than
ever the whole village would say to-morrow that the ghost of Wildenstein
was wandering about again. Furthermore he did not know how to gainsay
it. If it only had not been so huge!

When the mother stepped up to her children's bedside later on as usual,
she stopped a little while before Kurt. Hearing him moaning in his
sleep, she thought he was ill.

"Kurt," she said quietly, "does something hurt you?"

He woke up. "Oh, mother," he said, seizing her hand, "is it you? I
thought the ghost of Wildenstein was stretching out his enormous arm
towards me!

"You were dreaming; don't think about such things in daytime," the mother
said kindly. "Have you forgotten your evening prayer after the
excitements of the day?"

"Yes, I had so much to think about that I forgot it," Kurt admitted.

"Say it now, then you will fall asleep more quietly," said the mother.
"But please, Kurt, never forget that God hears our prayers and comforts
and calms us only when we open our hearts entirely to him. You know,
Kurt, don't you, that we must hide nothing from him?"

Kurt moaned "Yes" in a very low voice.

After giving him a good-night kiss the mother withdrew.



CHAPTER V

OPPRESSIVE AIR

It seemed as if for several days a heavy atmosphere was weighing down the
limbs of all Mrs. Maxa's household, so that its wonted cheerfulness was
entirely absent. Even the mother went about more silently than usual,
for the worry about Bruno's future weighed heavily on her heart. She had
written to her brother to come to her as soon as possible, so that they
could talk the matter over and come to a united decision. He had
answered her that urgent business was forcing him to a journey to South
Germany, and that it would be time enough to settle the matter after his
return. Bruno, having heard about the situation, was already wrought up
by the mere possibility of his being obliged to live with the two boys.
Secretly he was already making the wildest plans in order to escape such
an intolerable situation. Why shouldn't he simply disappear and go to
Spain like the young Baron of Wallerstaetten? Probably the young gentleman
had had some money to dispose of, while he had none. He might hire
himself out as a sailor, however, and travel to China or Australia. He
might study the inhabitants and peculiarities of these countries and
write famous books about them. In that way he could make a good
livelihood. Might he not join a band of wandering singers? His mother
had already told him how well his voice sounded and that she wanted him
to develop it later on. With wrinkled brows Bruno sat about whole
evenings, not saying one word but meditating on his schemes. He found it
extremely hard to tell which one of them was best and to think of means
to carry it out.

Mea's forehead, also, was darkened by heavy clouds, but she was not as
silent as her brother. Every few moments exclamations of pain or
indignation escaped her. But had she not fared badly?

When they had moved from Sils to Nolla, Elvira had immediately approached
Mea as if she wanted to become her friend. Mrs. Knippel had sent her an
invitation in order to cement the bonds of friendship, and she had done
the same with Bruno, who was to become her sons' close comrade. It was
quite true that Bruno had declared from the beginning that he would not
make friends with the two who were to share his studies, and every time
they came together fights and quarrels were the result.

But Mea had a heart which craved friendship. She was overcome with
happiness by the advances of the Knippel family, and immediately gave
herself to her new friend with absolute confidence and warm love. Soon
many differences of opinion and of natural disposition showed themselves
in the two girls, but Mea, in her overflowing joy of having found a
friend, was little troubled by this at first. She thought that all these
things would come right by and by when they came closer to each other.
She hoped that the desired harmony would come when they became better
acquainted. But the more the two girls got to know know each other, the
deeper their differences grew, and every attempt at a clear understanding
only ended in a wider estrangement.

Mrs. Maxa had always tried to fill her children with a contempt not only
of all wrong, but also of low and ugly actions. She had made an effort
to keep her children from harmful influences and to implant in them a
hate for these things. Whenever Mea found Elvira of a different opinion
in such matters, she was assured that she was in the right by the
mother's opinion, which coincided with her own; so she felt as if Elvira
should be shown the right way, too. Whenever this happened, Elvira
turned from her and told her that she wanted to hear no sermons.

So the two had not yet become friends, despite the fact that Mea was
still hoping and wishing for it, and her brother Kurt had proved himself
in the right when he had doubted it from the beginning. Since the
incident with Loneli, when Mea had told her friend her opinion in
perfectly good faith, Elvira had not spoken to her any more and had
remained angry. But Mea's nature was not inclined to sulk. Whenever she
felt herself injured, words of indignation poured out from her like fiery
lava from a crater. After that everything was settled. She had been
obliged to sit day after day on the same bench with the sulking girl,
and to come to school and leave again without saying a word. Should this
situation, which had already become intolerable to her, continue forever?
Mea could only moan with this prospect in view. She was glad that Kurt
was in a strangely depressed mood, too, and hardly ever spoke. He would
otherwise have been sure to make several horrible songs about her
experiences with the moping Elvira.

Kurt, who was usually cheerful, had been as terribly depressed for the
last few days as if he had been carrying a heavy weight around with him
all the time. He had kept something from his mother, and therefore the
weight seemed to get heavier and heavier. It oppressed Kurt more than he
could say that he had not immediately confessed his fault. But how could
the mother have believed him when he told her that he had seen a figure
which could not possibly be human. He really felt like a traitor towards
his mother. All people in Nolla believed anew that a ghost of
Wildenstein went about, for the apparition had actually been seen. Kurt
knew quite well that it was all his fault. He hardly dared to look at
his mother and he longed for somebody to help him. He was filled with
the craving to be happy again.

Only Lippo and Maezli pursued their usual occupations and were untroubled
by heavy thoughts. As soon as Maezli noticed that the usual cheerfulness
had departed from the house, she tried to get into a different atmosphere
at once. She always knew a place of refuge in such a case. "Oh, mama, I
have to go and see Apollonie," she would repeatedly say with firm
conviction to her mother. Having the greatest confidence in Apollonie's
guarding hand, and knowing, besides, that Maezli's visits always were
welcome, the mother often let her youngest go there. The little girl was
well able to find her way to the cottage and always went without
attempting any digressions from the path. In the evening Loneli
generally accompanied her home. Maezli would arrive carrying a large
bunch of flowers, the inevitable gift from Apollonie, Presenting them to
her mother, she would shout: "There they are again, just look! I have
some for you again, mother."

The mother then looked full of delight at the bunch and said, "Yes, those
are the same lovely mignonette that used to grow in the castle-garden,
Apollonie has transplanted them into her own. But they were much finer
in the castle, nowhere could their equal have been found," she concluded,
inhaling the delicious fragrance of the flowers.

Maezli promptly poked her little nose into the bouquet, uttering an
exclamation of unspeakable delight.

Loneli's eyes were very merry again, and was full of her usual gaiety.
Since Kurt had made his little speech and had rehabilitated Loneli's
honour before the school children, the grandmother was as kind to her as
of yore and never mentioned the shame-bench again. Loneli's heart was
simply filled with gratefulness for what he had done and she often wished
in turn for an opportunity to help him out of some trouble. She had
noticed that Kurt was no longer the merriest and most entertaining of the
children, and had given up being their leader in all gay undertakings.
What could be the matter? Loneli hated to see him that way and could not
help pondering about this remarkable change. Being extremely observant,
she had noticed that it was very hard to find out the truth about the
night expedition to the castle. All the boys' answers consisted in dark
allusions to the fact that the ghost was wandering about Wildenstein more
than ever. As not one of them wanted to admit the hasty retreat before
the ghost had even been properly inspected, they only dropped vague and
terrifying words about the matter.

Brave little Clevi, who usually relished telling of her dangerous
adventures when they had turned out well, was as silent as a mouse about
it all. Whenever Loneli asked her a straight question needing a straight
answer, Clevi ran away, and Loneli got none. The report was sure to have
some foundation, and the most noticeable thing of all was that Kurt's
change had come since that night. That same day he had taken the load
off her heart and had been so gay and merry. So Loneli put two and two
together, and having made these observations, was filled with sudden
wrath.

As soon as school was ended, she rushed to the astonished Clevi: "Oh, I
know what you have done, Clevi. Kurt was your leader and you didn't obey
him; you all ran away because you were afraid. Oh, you have spoiled it
all for him."

"Yes, and what about him? He was afraid himself," Clevi cried out
excitedly, for the reproach had stung her. "I could see with what
terrified bounds he flew down the mountain-side."

"Was he afraid, too, do you really mean? But of what?" Loneli questioned
further.

"Of what? That is easily said: of what! You ought to have seen that huge
creature coming towards us from the castle."

Since it had come out that they had been so frightened, Clevi now told in
detail about the horribly tall armoured knight with the high boots and
the long cloak hanging down to his boot-tops.

"Was the mantle blue?" Loneli, who had been listening intensely,
interrupted.

"It was night-time, and you can imagine we did not see the color
clearly," Clevi said indignantly. "But the color has nothing to do with
it, it was the length, the horrible, horrible length of that thing! It
looked just too awful. He had a high helmet on his head besides, with a
still higher bunch of black plumes that nodded in the most frightful
way."

A gleam of joy sparkled in Loneli's eyes. Flying away like an arrow, she
sought out Mrs. Maxa's house. Kurt was standing at the hawthorn hedge
in front of the garden with his schoolbag still slung around him. He had
not rushed in ahead of the others according to his custom.

With puckered brow he was pulling one leaf after another from the hedge.
Then he flung them all away, as if he wanted with each to rid himself of
a disagreeable thought.

"Kurt," Loneli called to him, "please wait a moment. Don't go in yet,
for I want to tell you something."

When Loneli stood beside Kurt she was suddenly filled with embarrassment.
She knew exactly what she had to say, but it would sound as if she was
trying to examine Kurt. This kept her from beginning.

"Tell me what you want, Loneli," Kurt encouraged her, when he saw her
hesitation.

So Loneli began:

"I wanted to ask you if--if--oh, Kurt! Are you so sad on account of what
happened at the castle and because you thought there was no ghost?"

"I don't want to hear anything more about it," Kurt said evasively,
pulling a handful of leaves from the hedge and throwing them angrily to
the ground.

"But it might only have been a man after all," Loneli continued quietly.

"Yes, yes, that is easily said, Loneli. How can you talk when you
haven't even seen him?"

Kurt flung the last leaves away impatiently and tried to go. But Loneli
would not yield.

"Just wait a moment, Kurt," she entreated. "It is true that I did not
see him, but Clevi told me all about him. I know why he looked that way
and why he was so enormous. I also know where he got the armour, the
long blue mantle, and the high black plumes."

"What!" Kurt exclaimed, staring at Loneli as if she were a curious ghost
herself. How can you know anything about it?"

"Certainly I know about it," Loneli assured him. "Listen! You must
remember that grandmother lived a long time at the castle, so she has
told me everything that went on up there. In the lowest story there is a
huge old hall, and the walls are covered with weapons and things like
armour and helmets. In one corner there is an armoured knight with a
black-plumed helmet on his head. Whenever the young gentlemen from the
castle wanted to play a special prank, one of them would take the knight
on his shoulders, and the knightly long mantle would be hung over his
shoulders so as to cover him down to his high boot-tops. This figure
looked so terrible coming along the terrace that everybody always ran
away, even in bright daylight. Once the two young ladies shrieked loudly
when they suddenly saw the fearful knight. That pleased the young
gentlemen more than anything."

"Oh, then my mother saw him, too, and knows what he looks like," Kurt
exclaimed with a sudden start, for he had been breathlessly listening.

"Certainly, for she was one of the young ladies," Loneli said.

"But now nobody is at the castle except Mr. Trius, and he couldn't have
been there," Kurt objected. "I know that he sneaks about the meadows
till late in the evening in order to catch apple-thieves. That is so far
from the little woods that he could not possibly have heard us."

"But it was Mr. Trius just the same, you can believe me, Kurt," Loneli
assured her friend. "My grandmother has often said that Mr. Trius
always knows everything that is going on. He seems to hide behind the
hedges and then suddenly comes out from behind the trees when one least
expects him. You know that the boys have known about your plan several
days and that they don't always talk in a low voice. Besides, they have
been trying to get hold of apples every night. You can be sure that Mr.
Trius heard distinctly what your plan was."

"Yes, that is true, but I have to go to mother now," Kurt exclaimed, as
he started toward the house. Then, turning back once more, he said:
"Thank you ever so much, Loneli, you have done me a greater service than
you can realize by telling me everything. Nothing could have made me
happier than what you have said." As he spoke these words he shook the
little girl's hand with all his might.

The boy ran into the house, while Loneli hastened home with leaps and
bounds, for her heart was thrilling with great joy.

"Where is mother, where is mother?" Kurt impetuously asked Lippo, whom he
met in the hall carrying a large water-pitcher entrusted to him by Kathy.

"One knows well enough where mama must be when it is nearly lunch-time.
You came home late from school," Lippo answered, carefully trotting away
with his fragile burden.

"Yes, I did, you little sentinel of good order," Kurt laughed out,
passing Lippo in order to hasten to the dining-room.

Now Kurt could laugh again.

"Oh, are you as far as that already," he cried out in surprise when he
found everybody settling down to lunch. "What a shame! I wanted to tell
you something, mother."

She gazed at him questioningly. He had not had any urgent news for her
lately, and she was glad to hear his clear voice and see his merry eyes
again.

"You must wait now till after lunch, Kurt," she said kindly, "for you
were rather late to-day."

"Yes, I was rather slow at first," Kurt informed her. "Then Loneli ran
after me to tell me something she has found out. I have often said
before that Loneli is the most clever child in all Nolla, besides being
the most friendly and obliging one could possibly find. Even if she is
only brought up by simple Apollonie, she is more refined at bottom than a
girl I know who adorns her outside with the most beautiful ribbons and
flowers. I would rather have a single Loneli than a thousand Elviras."

Lippo had been anxiously looking at Kurt for some time.

"Here come the beans and you have your plate still full of soup," he said
excitedly.

"Kurt, I think that it would be better for you to eat your soup instead
of uttering such strange speeches. Besides, we all agree with you about
Loneli. I think that she is an unusually nice and sympathetic child."

"Oh, Kurt," the observant little Maezli exclaimed, "do you have to talk so
much all at once because you talked so little yesterday, the day before
yesterday and the day before that?"

"Yes, that is the exact reason, Maezli," Kurt said with a laugh. His soup
was soon eaten, for his spirits had fully come back now, and in the
shortest time he had emptied his plate.

Kurt was only able to get his mother to himself after school. The elder
children were busy at that time and the two little ones had taken a walk
to Apollonie. His mother, having clearly understood his wish to have a
thorough talk with her, had reserved this quiet hour for him. Kurt made
an honest confession of his disobedience without once excusing himself by
saying that he had only done it to destroy all foolish superstition and
by this means to become her helper. He could therefore tell her without
reserve how terribly he had been cast down the last few days. The weight
had been very heavy on his heart before his confession, because he had
been so ashamed of the miserable end of the undertaking. He had,
moreover, been very much afraid that she would tell him that no ghost of
Wildenstein existed, after he himself had seen the incredible apparition.
What Loneli had told him had relieved him immensely. Now his mother, who
had seen the terrible sight herself, could understand his fright.

"Oh, little mother, I hope you are not angry with me any more," Kurt
begged her heartily. "I shall never do anything any more you don't want
me to, for I know now what it feels like. I know that this was my
punishment for doing what you had forbidden me to do."

When his mother saw that Kurt had realized his mistake and had humbly
borne the punishment, she did not scold him any further. She confirmed
everything Loneli had told him about the knight. She also agreed with
the little girl that the watchful Mr. Trius had probably discovered long
ago what Kurt had planned to do that night. With the horrible apparition
he had probably meant to punish and banish the boys for good.

"Oh, Kurt," the mother concluded, "I hope I can rely on you from now on
not to have anything more to do with the matter of the fabulous ghost of
Wildenstein."

Kurt could give his honest promise, for he had enough of his endeavour to
prove the non-existence of the ghost. It put him into the best spirits
that there had been nothing supernatural about it, and that he was able
again to talk with his mother as before. With a loud and jubilant song
he joined his brothers and sisters.

Mrs. Maxa was also very happy that Kurt had regained his cheerfulness.
What met her ears now, though, was not Kurt's singing, but loud cries of
delight. Opening the door, she distinguished the well-known calls of
"Uncle Philip, Uncle Philip!" So her longed-for brother was near at last.
Her two little ones, who had met with him on their stroll home, were
bringing him along. All five children shouted loudly in order to let
their uncle know how welcome he was.

"Oh, how glad I am that you have come at last! Welcome, Philip! Please
come in," Mrs. Maxa called out to him.

"I'll come as soon as it is possible," he replied, breathing heavily. He
held a child with each hand, and three were between his feet, all
welcoming him tumultuously, so that for the moment it was impossible for
him to move forward.

Gradually the whole knot moved into the house and towards the uncle's
armchair. Here ten busy hands fastened him down so that he should not at
once get away.

"You rascals, you!" the uncle said, quite exhausted. "A man is lucky to
escape from you with his life. Are you trying to throttle your
godfather, Lippo? Whoever put two fat little arms about a godfather's
neck like that? You seem to have climbed the chair from behind and to
have only your foot on the arm of the chair. If you slip, I shall be
strangled. Who then will find out for whom I brought a harmonica that's
buried in the depths of my coat-pocket? It gives forth the most beautiful
melodies you ever heard, when you have learned to play it."

A harmonica was the most wonderful thing Lippo could imagine. His
neighbor in school, a little girl called Toneli, owned one and could play
whole songs on it--he had always thought it splendid. If a harmonica was
really destined for him, he had better let go his uncle's arm.

Uncle Philip dove into his deep pockets with both hands, and soon the
wonderful, coveted object really came to light. And how much bigger and
finer it was than Toneli's little instrument. Such a one must be able to
sound the loveliest tones. Lippo, holding his treasure in his hand,
could hardly believe it to be his own property, but Uncle Philip
reassured him, saying: "Come, Lippo, take it, the harmonica is meant for
you."

There were presents for all the children in the depths of the pockets,
and one child after another ran away to show his gift to his mother.
Lippo saw and heard nothing else just then. In expectation of the
melodies which would well up he blew with all his might quite horrible,
ear-shattering sounds.

"Lippo, you must learn how to play a little first. Everything has to be
learned. Give it to me," said Uncle Philip; "you see you must do this
way." Setting the instrument to his lips and pushing it up and down, he
played the merriest tunes. Lippo looked up in speechless admiration at
his god-father. He was tremendously impressed that Uncle Philip could do
everything, even blow a harmonica, which generally only boys were able to
do. How fine it sounded! He was sure that nobody else could bring forth
such beautiful melodies.

Lippo was interrupted by his brothers and sisters, who were noisily
announcing supper. So Uncle Philip was taken in their midst into the
dining-room, and he might have been likened to a prisoner-of-war captured
by the victors amidst shouts of triumph.

The mother had purposely ordered supper a little early, and she noticed
that her brother was satisfied with the arrangement. If his intention
had been to shorten the time he could have with the children, he had no
intention of cheating them of amusement, and he told them so many
entertaining things that they felt they had never had a better time with
him. At last, however, it was quiet in the living-room. Uncle Philip
was sitting there alone, waiting for his sister, who had gone upstairs
with the children.

"First of all, Philip," she said on her return, as she settled down
beside him, "what shall be done with Bruno? I am sure you told Mr.
Knippel not to engage board and lodging for him."

"On the contrary, I gave him full power to do so," the brother replied.
"Mr. Knippel gave me the impression that you would agree to it and would
be very grateful if he took the matter in hand, so I thought that that
would be the simplest way out. It won't be so very terrible if the boys
live together. Don't always imagine the worst. But I must tell you
something else."

Uncle Philip seemed to be rather glad to pass quickly over the hard
problem. He guessed in fact that his communication would cause his
sister great consternation. And he had guessed rightly. In her fright
over his first words she had not even heard the last.

"How could you do such a thing," she began to complain. "I can see quite
clearly what will happen without unduly imagining anything. The low
nature and character of the two boys rouses Bruno's ire, and he
constantly flies into a rage when he is with them. It is my greatest
sorrow that he can't control himself. What on earth will happen if the
three are compelled to be together daily, nay constantly, and will even
live together. The matter frightens me more than you can realize,
Philip, and now you have made it impossible for me to change the plan."

"But, Maxa, can't you see that I could not act otherwise. Mr. Knippel
was terribly anxious to arrange it all, and you know how quickly he is
offended. He always imagines that his low birth is in his way, for he
cannot understand our utter indifference to all the money he has heaped
up. You must not be so anxious about it. It can't possibly last very
long," the brother consoled her. "There is sure to be a violent quarrel
between them soon, and as soon as that happens, I promise to take the
matter in hand. That will give us good grounds to separate them."

The prospect of a horrible fight was, however, no consolation to Mrs.
Maxa. But she said nothing more for the matter was irrevocably settled.

"I have to tell you something now which will put you into a happier
mood," he began, clearly relieved that his unpleasant communication had
been made. "Yesterday evening the two ladies from Hanover who were my
travelling companions some time ago came to me to ask my advice about
something which troubled them very much. They have received an urgent
call to return home to their aged mother, who has fallen very ill and has
asked to see them. The little girl who is in their care, however, has
been so sick for a few days that they had to call the doctor. They
summoned him again yesterday in order to consult him as to whether there
might be danger if the child travelled. He told them positively that
they could not think of letting her go now, and that she might not be
able to go for weeks. A slow fever showed that she was on the point of
serious illness, Which would not quickly pass. The ladies were extremely
frightened and told the doctor their dilemma, for they were both
absolutely compelled to leave. One of them might be able to return in
about two weeks, but they had to find a reliable person in the meantime
who could nurse the child. This was terribly difficult for them as
strangers. The doctor's advice was to bring the young invalid to the
hospital in Sils, where she would be well taken care of and he could see
her every day. The ladies wanted my opinion before deciding. They
realize that doctors always favor hospitals because the care of their
patients is made simple and easy, so they wondered if I advised them to
have the young girl sent there. I told them that the place was not at
all badly equipped, but that it was rather small, and the patients were
of course very mixed. When I asked the ladies if it would not be better
if the child's parents decided that difficult question, I received the
information that Leonore von Wallerstaetten was an orphan and that the
aunt who had put her in their care had also died."

"Oh, Philip, now there is no doubt any more that she is our Leonore's
little daughter," Mrs. Maxa cried in the greatest agitation. "Oh,
Philip, how could you ever advise them to send her to the hospital? Why
didn't you say right away that your sister would immediately take the
child into her house."

"How could I do that? Just think a moment, Maxa!" said the brother. "Did
you want me to add to your troubles and anxieties by bringing a patient
sick with fever into your house? It might turn out to be a dangerous
illness, which all your five might catch; what should you have said to me
then?"

"Philip, I shall go to Sils with you to-morrow and I'll ask you to take
me to the ladies. I want them to know who I am, of course. I shall tell
them that I have the right as her mother's nearest friend to receive
Leonore into my house and to nurse her. I am sure that the little
patient can take the trip in your closed carriage. You can quickly go to
the doctor to tell him of our plan and have the carriage sent to us.
Please do this for me, Philip! I can't stand that the child of our
Leonore should go to a strange hospital all by herself."

Mrs. Maxa had spoken with such decision that her brother had listened to
her in greatest surprise.

"So you have resolved to carry this through, Maxa? Are you sure that you
won't have to take it all back after your excitement has vanished?" he
asked her.

"You can rely on me, Philip. I have absolutely made up my mind to do
it," the sister assured him. "You must help me now to put it through. I
shall be able to take care of things when she gets here, but do all in
your power to prevent the ladies from putting obstacles in my path. You
see, I do not even know them."

"I shall do whatever you wish," the listener said willingly. "It
certainly is hard to tell where a woman will set up complaints and where
she will suddenly not know either fear or obstacles! I have already told
the two Miss Remkes about you. As soon as I knew the child's name, I
realized the situation. I told the ladies about your being the best
friend of their charge's mother, and that you would surely go to see her
now and then in the hospital. This pleased them greatly."

Uncle Philip began now to lay minute plans for the morrow. His sister
had to give her promise to be ready very early in order to reach Sils in
good time, for the patient was to be taken to the hospital in the course
of the forenoon. He also gave her all the needed instructions relating
to the coachman and the carriage.

She listened quietly till he had finished and then said, "I have some
news for you, too. Just think! Baron Bruno has come back. He arrived in
the middle of the night when nobody could see him. He is absolutely
alone now in the desolate castle. Just imagine how he must feel to be
within those walls again where he spent his happy years with all those
loved ones he has not seen since he left the castle in a fit of terror."

"Yes, and why did it happen? Wasn't it his own will?" the brother said
harshly. "Whenever you speak about him, your voice takes on a tone as if
you were speaking about a misunderstood angel. Why did the raging lion
come back all of a sudden?"

"Please, Philip, don't be so hard!" his sister said, "He is entirely left
alone now. Is sorrow easier to bear when it is our own doing? I heard
that he was ill. That is probably the reason why he has come home. I
know all this from Apollonie, who is in communication with Mr. Trius.
She keeps on scheming to find a way to set the rooms in order for her
young master, as she still calls him. She knows how his mother would
wish everything to be for her son. I understand quite well that she
worries night and day about the state things are in at the castle. Her
former master has for nurse, servant, cook and valet only that peculiar
and ancient Mr. Trius. She can hardly think about it without wishing
that she might do something for her old friend. The poor woman is so
anxious to make his life at the castle a little more the way it used to
be in the old times."

"For heaven's sake, Maxa, I hope you are not trying to interfere. Do you
intend to undertake that, too?" the brother exclaimed in perturbation.
"If he wanted things different, he certainly would find a way. Please
have nothing to do with it, otherwise you'll be sorry."

"You can be perfectly reassured, for unfortunately nothing whatever can
be done," Mrs. Maxa replied. "If I had known a way to do something for
him, I should have done it. My great wish is to let a little sunshine
into the closed up, sombre rooms, and may be even a little deeper. I had
great hopes of doing something through Apollonie, who knows so much about
the castle, but she has explained the state of affairs to me. She was
going to enter and take things in hand as soon as she heard from Mr.
Trius that her master had returned, for she still considers herself his
servant as in times gone by. It was her intention, naturally, to put
everything into the usual order in the house. But Mr. Trius won't even
let her go into the garden. He let her know that he had received orders
not to let anyone into the place. His master knew no one here and had no
intention of meeting anyone. I know quite well, therefore, that I shall
he unable to gratify my great desire of doing something for that
miserable, lonely man."

"So much the better," the brother said, quite relieved. "I am glad that
the villain has bolted you out himself. If I should have tried to keep
you out, you certainly would have found means to resist me, I know."

"I willingly admit it," Mrs. Maxa replied with a smile. "But Philip, I
should consider it wise for us to go to bed now, if we have to make an
early start to Sils to-morrow."

Brother and sister separated, but Mrs. Maxa had many arrangements to
make before she came to rest. If the ladies would consent to put the
little girl in her charge, she meant to bring her immediately home with
her. Therefore everything had to be made ready for the little patient.

About midnight Mrs. Maxa still went to and fro in a bedroom on the top
floor, which was entirely isolated. When everything necessary had been
made ready, she tried to place various embellishments in the little
chamber. Finally she placed in the middle of the table a round bowl,
which was to be filled to-morrow with the most beautiful roses from her
garden. Mrs. Maxa wanted the child of her adored Leonore to receive a
pleasant impression from her room in the strange new house. When the
morning sun would shine in through the open windows and the green slope
of the castle would send its greeting to her, she did not want little
Leonore to feel dissatisfied with her new quarters. With this thought
Mrs. Maxa happily closed the door of the room behind her and sought out
her own chamber.



CHAPTER VI

NEW FRIENDS

Early next morning brother and sister started towards the valley. Before
going Mrs. Maxa had given her orders and had arranged for Maezli to spend
the day with Apollonie, in order to prevent her from getting into
mischief. As it was a sunshiny morning and the paths were dry, walking
was delightful. The distance they had to traverse occupied about two
hours, but it did not seem long. As soon as brother and sister arrived
in Sils, they went to see the two Misses Remke. Both ladies were
kneeling before a large trunk, surrounded by heaps of clothes, shoes,
books and boxes, and a hundred trifles besides. When the visitors
arrived, they immediately stood before the open door of the room used for
packing.

Mrs. Maxa's first impulse was to withdraw with an excuse, but the ladies
had jumped up already and most cordially greeted their kind friend, Mr
Falcon, whom they called their helper and saviour in all difficulties.
They received his sister joyfully, too, for they had been most eager to
know her. Both ladies regretted that their meeting had to take place in
a moment when their house appeared in its most unfavorable light. Mrs.
Maxa assured them, however, that she understood the preparations for
their impending trip and said that she would not disturb them longer than
was necessary. She intended, therefore, to voice her request
immediately. Mr. Falcon, steering straight for some chairs he had
discovered, brought them for the ladies despite all the assorted objects
on the floor. Mrs. Maxa spoke of her intention of taking the child to
her house and her sincere hope that there would be no objection and the
ladies could feel their visitor's great eagerness manifested in her
words. They on their part did not hide the great relief which this
prospect gave them and were extremely glad to leave their young charge in
such good hands.

"It has been very hard for us to decide to leave Leonore behind," one of
them said. "Unfortunately we must go, and she is not able to travel.
But as long as our plans seem to coincide so well, I shall ask you if it
would be inconvenient to you if we put off the date of our return a week
longer. You must realize that we are taking the journey for the sake of
our sick mother, and that everything is uncertain in such a case. One
can never tell what change may come, and we might wish to stay a little
longer."

Mrs. Maxa hastened to assure them that nothing could suit her better
than to keep Leonore in her house for several weeks and she promised to
send frequent news about the little girl's state of health. She begged
them not to be anxious about her and not to hurry back for Leonore's
sake. As she was longing to see the child instead of remaining in their
way, she begged to be allowed to greet Leonore. She was sure that her
brother, who had already risen, also wanted to take his leave. As soon
as he had seen how completely the ladies entered into his sister's plans,
he wished to arrange the details and so said that he was now going to the
doctor in order to get his permission for the little trip. After
obtaining this, as he sincerely hoped to do, he would prepare the
carriage and send it directly to the house, as it was important for the
patient to make the journey during the best portion of the day.
Thereupon he hastened off.

One of the ladies took Mrs. Maxa to the sick room, which was situated in
the uppermost story.

"You won't find Leonore alone," she said, "her brother is with her. He
is taking a trip through Switzerland with his teacher and some friends,
and came here ahead of them in order to see his sister. His travelling
companions will join him here to-morrow, and then they are all going back
to Germany."

"I fear that the poor boy will lose his day with his sister if I take her
with me," Mrs. Maxa said regretfully.

"Well, that can't be altered," the lady quickly replied. "We are all
only too happy that you are willing to take Leonore into your house. Who
knows how her stay in the hospital might have turned out? Poor Leonore
was so frightened by the thought; but we knew no other way. It does not
matter about her brother's visit, because they can see each other again
in Hanover, for he is at a boarding school there."

The lady now opened a door and led Mrs. Maxa into a room.

"Leonore, look, here is Mrs. Bergmann, a great friend of your mother's."
Miss Remke said, "and I am sure you will be glad of the news she is
bringing you. I shall accept your kind permission to get back to my work
now, Mrs. Bergmann. Everything is ready for Leonore, because she was to
leave for the hospital very shortly."

With these words she went out. The sick child sat completely dressed on
a bed in the corner of the room, half reclining on the pillows.

Mrs. Maxa had to agree with her brother who had said that she had her
mother's large, speaking eyes, the same soft brown curls, and the same
serious expression on her delicately shaped little face. Mrs. Maxa
would have easily recognized the child even without knowing her name.
Leonore only looked more serious still; in fact, her glance was extremely
sad and at that moment tears were hanging on her lashes, for she had been
crying. The boy sitting by her got up and made a bow to the new arrival.
He had his father's gay blue eyes and his clear, open brow. After giving
him her hand Mrs. Maxa stepped up to the bed to greet Leonore and was so
deeply moved that she could barely speak.

"My dear child," she said, seizing both slender hands, "you resemble your
mother so much that I have to greet you as my own beloved child. I loved
her very much and we meant a great deal to each other. You remind me of
both your father and mother, Salo. What happiness my friendship with
your parents has brought me! I want you both to be my children now, for
your parents were the best friends I ever had in the world."

This speech apparently met a response in the two children's hearts. As
answer Leonore took Mrs. Maxa's hand and held it tight between her own,
and Salo came close to her to show what confidence he felt. Then he said
joyfully: "Oh, I am so glad that you have come; you must help me comfort
Leonore. She is terribly afraid of the hospital and all the strange
people there. She even imagines that she will die there alone and
forsaken and was crying because she thinks that we won't see each other
again. I have to go so far away and I can't help it. To-morrow they are
coming to fetch me and then I have to go back to school. What shall we
do?"

"As to that," Mrs. Maxa replied, "nothing can be done. But if Leonore
has to spend a little while in the hospital, she won't be an absolute
stranger there. I won't let you be lonely for I shall often go to see
you, dear child, and it is not even quite certain that you have to go
there."

"Oh, yes, they are going to take me there this morning, maybe quite
soon," said Leonore. Listening anxiously, she again grasped Mrs. Maxa's
hand as if it were her safety anchor.

Mrs. Maxa did not gainsay her, because she did not yet know what the
doctor might decide. All she could do to calm Leonore was to tell her
that she was not dangerously ill. She might recover very quickly if she
only stayed quiet for a while. In that case she could soon see her
brother again, for the ladies had promised to take her home as soon as
she was well.

Mrs. Maxa had hardly said that when Leonore's eyes again began to fill
with tears.

"But I don't feel at home there. We really have no home anywhere," she
said with suppressed sobs.

"Yes, it is true; we have no home anywhere," Salo exclaimed passionately.
"But, Leonore, you must have faith in me!" Fighting against his rising
agitation, he quickly wiped away a tear from his eyes, which were usually
so bright. "It won't be so long till I have finished my studies and then
I can do what I please. Then I shall try to find a little house for us
both, which will be our home. I am going to get that if I have to work
for twenty years in the fields till it is paid for."

Salo's eyes had become sunny again during this speech. He looked as if
he would not have minded seizing a hoe that very moment.

Rapid steps were now heard approaching, the door was quickly opened, and
Miss Remke called out on entering: "The carriage is at the door. Let us
get ready, for I do not want the gentleman to wait. I am sure you will
be so kind as to help me lift Leonore out of bed and to carry her down
stairs."

Leonore had grown as white as a sheet from fright.

"May I ask if it is my brother's carriage, or--" Mrs. Maxa hesitated a
little.

"Yes, certainly," the lady interrupted, while she rapidly pulled some
covers and shawls out of a wardrobe. "Your brother has come himself in
order to see that the carriage is well protected. He also means to give
the coachman the directions himself, but we must not keep him waiting.
What a kind friend he is!"

Mrs. Maxa had already lifted Leonore from her bed and was carrying her
out.

"Please bring all the necessary things downstairs. I can do this easily
alone, for she is as light as a feather," she called back to the lady who
had hastened after her in order to help.

Going downstairs Mrs Maxa said, "Leonore, I am going to take you home
with me now. The doctor is letting me do what I wished: you will stay
with me till you are well again, and I shall take care of you. Shall you
like to come with me? We know each other a little already and I hope you
won't feel so strange with us."

Leonore, flinging both arms about Mrs. Maxa's neck, held her so tight
that she could feel the little girl considered her no stranger any
longer.

Suddenly Leonore called back in jubilating tones, "Salo, Salo, did you
hear?"

Salo had heard her call but comprehended nothing further. Miss Remke had
piled such heaps of shawls and covers on his arms that one always slid
down after the other and he was obliged to pick them up again. As
quickly as the circumstances allowed, he ran after his sister.

Arrived at the carriage, Mrs. Maxa immediately looked about for her
brother. She wanted to hand Leonore to him while she prepared everything
in the conveyance for the child's comfort.

He was already there. Understanding his sister's sign, he took the child
into his arms, then lifted her gently into the carriage. His glance was
suddenly arrested by the boy, who was standing beside the carriage with
his burdens.

With the most joyful surprise he exclaimed, "As sure as I am born this
must be a young Salo. It is written in his eyes. Give me your hand,
boy. Your father was my friend, my best friend in the world; so we must
be friends, too."

Salo's eyes expressed more and more surprise. This manner of being taken
to a hospital seemed very odd to him. The strangest of all, however, was
that Leonore sat in the corner of the carriage smiling contentedly, for
Mrs. Maxa had just whispered something into her ear.

"Do we have to say good-bye now, Leonore," Salo asked, jumping up the
carriage step, "and can't I see you any more?"

"Salo," Mrs. Maxa said, "I was just thinking that you could sit beside
the coachman if you want to. You can drive to Nolla with us, for you
will want to see where Leonore is going. I can have you brought back
to-morrow in time to meet your friends. Do you approve of that, Philip?"

"Certainly, certainly," the brother answered, "but if that is the plan, I
am going along. I thought at first that this trip would prove a very
mournful one. It seems more like a festal-journey to me now, so I've
come, too. Salo and I will sit high up and to-morrow I promise to bring
him back here."

With shining eyes the boy climbed to the seat which the coachman had just
relinquished. He understood now that the hospital was not to be their
destination. With many hearty handshakes and good wishes the two Remke
ladies at last let their friend and adviser go. After many more last
greetings to all the party the carriage finally rolled towards the
valley.

Leonore was so exhausted that, leaning against her companion, she fell
asleep, but she staunchly held on to Mrs. Maxa's hand, which seemed to
her that of a loving mother. It was the first time in her life that she
had felt this.

On the high seat outside the conversation was extremely lively. Young
Salo had to tell where and how he lived, and then his companion explained
in turn the places they were passing through and told him whatever
unusual had happened in the neighborhood. The uncle found out that
neither Salo nor his sister had the slightest remembrance of their
parents. The boy's earliest memory went back to an estate in Holstein
where they had lived with an elderly great-aunt, his grandmother's
sister. They were about five or six years old when the aunt died, after
which they were sent to Hanover to their present abode.

Twice a year a relation of their great-aunt came to see them, but he was
such a stiff, quiet gentleman that they could not enjoy his visits. It
was, however, this man who always decided what was to be done with them.
For the present they were to remain where they were till Salo had
finished his studies. After that the choice where to settle was left to
them.

"But I know what I shall do first of all," Salo added with sparkling
eyes.

Just then the old castle came in view.

"Oh, what a wonderful castle with great towers!" Salo exclaimed. "It is
all closed up; there can't be anybody living there. It doesn't seem to
be in ruins, though. What is it called?"

"This is Castle Wildenstein," the boy's companion curtly answered,
throwing a searching glance at the young Baron. The latter looked
innocently up at the gray towers, remarking that anybody who owned a
castle like that would simply be the happiest man in the world.

"He knows nothing about the castle of his ancestors and the whole tragic
story. So much the better," said Uncle Philip to himself.

When the carriage drove up before Mrs. Maxa's door, everything was very
quiet there, for the children were still in school. Kathy came running
towards them with astonished eyes. She did not know at all what was
going on, and that was a novelty for her.

Salo had the reins pressed into his hands before he knew it. With a
bound his new friend had jumped to the ground and called back, "If you
don't move, the horses will stay quiet, too." Quickly opening the
carriage, he lifted Leonore out and carried her up to the little room
which had been got ready for her. Mrs. Maxa followed at his heels. He
then turned hurriedly back to his young substitute, for he felt a little
uneasy at the thought of what might happen to the horses and carriage.
The boy might want to drive about and the horses might begin to jump.
But no; stiff and immovable, the boy sat at his post, firmly holding the
reins.

Even now when a party of eight feet came running towards him, Salo did
not move. The calls of "Uncle Philip, Uncle Philip!" sounded with more
vigor than usual, because the children had not expected him back so soon,
and therefore had to celebrate his coming with double energy. Uncle
Philip was immediately surrounded, and eight arms held him so tight that
there was no use in struggling.

"Just look at my young nobleman up there," he said, vainly trying to get
free. "He certainly knows what it means to remain firmly at his post and
do his duty. If he had not held the reins tightly, your wild cries would
have driven horses and carriage down the ravine long ago."

All arms suddenly dropped and all eyes were directed towards the figure
on the coachman's seat. In the unexpected joy of their uncle's return
nobody had noticed the boy. Uncle Philip, who was free now, let Salo get
down and introduced him to the children.

Salo had a friendly greeting for every one and his eyes sparkled gaily
when he shook their hands. His whole appearance was so attractive and
engaging that the children immediately took a liking to him. With lively
gestures they surrounded him like an old acquaintance, so that Salo
quickly felt that he had come among good friends. Even the reserved
Bruno, whom nobody had ever been able to approach, linked Salo's arm
confidentially in his in order to conduct the guest into the house.

Here Bruno sat down beside Salo and the two were immediately immersed in
the most eager conversation. Mea, Kurt and Lippo were hunting everywhere
for their mother, for they had not the faintest idea where she had gone.

When Uncle Philip came back, he called them together and told them where
their mother was and what she wished them to know through him. As she
had brought a sick child with her, she could have no intercourse with the
children for two or three days. The doctor had also forbidden them to go
up to the sick-room, and they were to do the best they could during that
time. If the sickness should get worse, a nurse was to come to the house
and then the mother would be free again. If the illness was to be
slight, on the contrary, the children would be admitted to the sick-room
and make Leonore's acquaintance. They could even help a little in her
care, for the mother would not then be obliged to keep them apart. Maezli
was to be sent to Apollonie every morning and was to spend the day there.
Not to be able to have a glimpse of their mother for two or three days
was depressing news indeed. The three children's faces were absolutely
disconcerted, for the obstacles were clearly insurmountable.

"Well, is this so terrible?" Uncle Philip said cheerily. "Who needs to
let his wings droop? Just think if you were in the place of the sick
girl, who has no mother at all! Can't you let her have yours for a few
days? No? Just think what is to follow. Your mother will come down then
and bring you a new playmate. Leonore is friendly and charming and has
sweeter manners than you have ever seen. Kurt is sure to make dozens of
songs about her and Mea will be carried away with enthusiasm for her.
Lippo will find an affectionate protectress in her who will be able to
appreciate his little-recognized virtues. Are you satisfied now?"

This speech really had splendid results. All three were willing enough
now to let the sick Leonore have their mother, and they were anxious
besides to do everything in their power to make Leonore's recovery
speedy. The uncle's description of the new playmate had wakened such a
lively sympathy in them that they were ready to assist him in many ways,
and he was even obliged to cool their zeal. As their guest was to remain
such a short while, Uncle Philip suggested a walk in order to show him
the surroundings, but when they looked around for Salo, they could not
find either him or Bruno.

"They thought of the same thing," Uncle Philip said. "It will be great
fun to hunt for them." So they started off.

Uncle Philip had guessed right. Bruno had found his new friend so much
to his liking that he wanted to keep him entirely to himself. While the
uncle had talked with the younger children, he had led Salo out to take
him on a stroll in the beautiful sunset. Salo was perfectly satisfied,
too, as he felt himself likewise drawn towards Bruno. In this short time
the two boys had grown as confiding as if they had known each other for
years and they were just then wandering towards the castle hill, absorbed
in lively conversation.

"Can you guess why I am taking you up there?" Bruno suddenly asked,
interrupting the talk.

"Because it is so lovely," Salo replied quickly.

He had stopped walking and was looking across the flowering meadows
towards the castle over which rosy clouds were floating on the bright
evening sky.

"No, not for that reason," said Bruno, "but because it belongs to an
uncle of yours."

Salo looked at him, full of astonishment.

"But Bruno, what an idea!" he called out laughing. "That would not be so
bad, but it can't be true. We only have one uncle, who has been living
in Spain for a number of years and who expects to stay there."

"The castle belongs to just that uncle who lives in Spain," Bruno
asserted.

He reminded Salo of the fact that their mothers had known each other
while living in the castle and had grown to be such friends there. Salo
admitted this but was firmly persuaded that the castle had long since
been sold and that his uncle would never come back, he had heard that
from his great-aunt. So Bruno had to agree with him that the castle had
probably been sold, if the uncle did not think of returning.

"Do you know, Salo," said Bruno while they continued their walk, "I
should love to do what your uncle did. I want to go away from here and
disappear for a long time. Then I would not be obliged to be fettered to
those two horrid boys. I can't stand it, and you now know yourself what
they are like."

Bruno had described his two comrades to his new friend, their mean
attitude and their frequent and contemptible tricks. Salo had repeatedly
shown his feeling by sudden exclamations and he said now with comforting
sympathy, "I am sure it must make you feel like running away if you are
obliged to spend all your days with two such boys. But don't listen to
them, pay no attention to them, and let them do and say what they please.
If they want to be mean, let them be, for they can't make you different."

"Oh, if you could be with me, that would be much easier," Bruno said. "I
should know then that you felt with me and shared my anger. When I am
compelled to be alone with them and they do sneaky acts to people who
can't defend themselves, I always get so mad that I have to beat them.
That always brings nasty talk and makes my mother unhappy, and then I
feel worse than ever. If only I could go far away and never have to meet
them any more!"

"If you had an idea what it is like not to have any home at all, you
would not wish to leave yours without even knowing where to go," said
Salo. "You would not think that anything was too hard to bear if you
could go home and tell your mother all about it. If you have that
consolation, it should make you able to stand a lot of trouble. I
shouldn't mind living with those two during school term, if I could go to
a place during the holidays that were a real home for me and Leonore.
Every time I come to her she cries about having no home in the whole wide
world. I try to think out something so that we won't have to wait so
long before we can live together. But that is hard to carry out, for the
gentleman in Holstein who decides about our upbringing wants me to study
for many years. That will take much too long. Leonore might even die
before that, and I want to do it all for her. I am so glad now that
Leonore has fallen ill and has therefore come to you," he said with a
brighter glance. "I wish she would stay sick for a while--of course not
awfully sick," he corrected himself rapidly, "I mean just sick enough so
that your mother would not let her go. I know quite well how happy
Leonore will be with her. She was so kind and friendly with us right
away. Since our old aunt died nobody has been so good and sweet with us
as your mother and that will do more good to Leonore than anything else
on earth."

Salo's words made a deep impression on Bruno. He had never before
realized that everyone did not have a lovely home like his, and a mother
besides who was always ready to greet him affectionately, who could be
told everything, could help him bear everything, who shared all his
experiences and had a sympathy like no one else. All this he had
accepted as if it could not be otherwise. Now came the realization that
things might be different. Poor Salo and his sister, for instance, had
to suffer bitterly from missing what he had always enjoyed to the full
without thinking about it. He was seized with a sudden sympathy for his
new friend, who looked so refined and charming, and who already had to
bear such sorrow for himself and his sister. Bruno now flung behind him
all the thoughts and schemes he had had in connection with his coming
fate and with all the fire of his nature he fastened on the thought of
doing everything in his power to help Salo. He wanted to further his
friend's plan to found a home for himself and his sister as soon as
possible. That was something much more important than his disinclination
to DC with the Knippel boys.

"Now I shall not think about anything but what you can do to make your
plan come true," he said at the conclusion of his meditation. "If there
are two of us who are so set on finding a way we are sure to succeed
somehow."

"It seems so wonderful to me," said Salo, quite overcome by Bruno's warm
sympathy. "I have various friends in boarding school, but there isn't
one to whom I could have told what I am always thinking about, as I have
told you. You are so different from them. Will you be my friend?"

Bruno firmly grasped Salo's proffered hand and cried out with beaming
eyes, "Yes, Salo, I will be your friend my whole life long. I wish I
could do you a favor, too, as you have done me."

"But I have not done anything for you," Salo said with surprise.

"Oh, yes, you have. Now that I know I have a friend I have lost my dread
of living with the Knippel boys. I know that I can let them do as they
please, for I'll know that I have a friend who thinks as I do and would
have the same feeling about their actions, I'll be able to tell you
everything, and you will tell me what you think. I can let them alone
and think of you."

"Do you know, Bruno, the way I feel a real friendship ought to be?" Salo
said with glowing eyes, for this had made him happy, too. "I think it
ought to be this way: if we have to hear of anything that is ugly, mean
or rough, we ought to think right away: I have a friend who would never
do such a thing. If we hear of something though that pleases us, because
it is fine, noble and great, we should think again: My friend would do
the same. Don't you agree with me?"

Bruno judged himself very severely, because his mother had held up his
own faults to him so that he knew them very well. He replied
hesitatingly, "I wish one could always be the way one wants to be. Would
you give up trusting a friend right away if he did not act the way you
expected him to?"

"No, no," Salo said quickly, "such a friend could not trust me any more
either. I mean it differently. The friend ought to hate to do wrong and
ought to want to do right. He ought to be most sorry if he did not come
up to the best."

Bruno could now gladly and joyfully assent. Suddenly the two boys heard
their names called out loudly. Turning round they saw Kurt and Lippo
hurrying towards them and the uncle following with Mea at a slower pace.

"Wait, wait!" Kurt cried out so loudly that the echo sounded back again
from the castle, "Wait, wait!"

The two friends were doing just what had been asked of them, for they
were sitting quietly on the turf. The brothers had now reached them, and
Mea soon followed with the uncle, whose face showed signs of
perturbation.

"I hope you have not run up to the castle with Salo, Bruno," he cried out
with agitation.

"Oh, no, uncle," Bruno replied, "we sat down here on the way up. I just
wanted to show Salo the castle that belonged to his uncle, but he does
not know anything about it. He thinks that it has been sold long ago
because he never heard about it."

"Good!" said Uncle Philip with satisfaction. "Now let us quickly go
home. It is not right to starve a guest on his first visit; he might
never come again."

"Oh, I certainly shall, Mr.--," here Salo hesitated, "I do not remember
the name," he added, quite concerned.

"My name here is Uncle Philip," the kind gentleman answered, "just Uncle
Philip, nothing else!"

"Am I allowed to call you Uncle, too? That makes me feel so much at
home!" Salo exclaimed after nodding cordially. "Well, Uncle Philip, I
mean to come to you again with the keenest pleasure every time I am
invited. I would even come with the greatest joy if you never gave me
anything to eat."

"No, no, we don't have institutions for starving people," Uncle Philip
replied. "We are returning home now to a little feast I have told Kathy
to get ready. It will consist mostly of country dishes. Our guest must
know he has been received by friends."

"Oh, Uncle Philip, I felt that the first moment I met you," Salo
exclaimed.

The little group now strolled happily down the incline towards the house.

Maezli was standing in the doorway with eyes as big as saucers. She had
received the news from Kathy that they were to have omelette
apple-souffle, ham-pudding, sour milk and sweet biscuits for supper in
honour of a charming guest and Uncle Philip, who had come back. So Maezli
looked out at them, and as soon as they were near enough, studied Salo
very carefully.

He must have pleased her, for she quickly ran towards him and, reaching
out her hand, said, "Won't you stay with us for a while?"

Salo laughed: "Yes, I should love to."

Taking him by the hand, Maezli led him into the house and to the room
where the inviting table was already set. Kathy had been so many years
in the house that she knew exactly how things ought to be. Everyone sat
down now and Uncle Philip was amusingly talking. Everything he had
ordered for the meal tasted so delightfully that it seemed like a feast
to them and Salo said, "I should never have been able to conceive such a
wonderful end of my holidays, if I had imagined the most marvellous thing
in the world."

"If Salo could only stay here a few days, if only _one_ day more," Bruno
urged. All the rest were of the same opinion and they loudly begged
Uncle Philip to persuade him to spend the next day with them. They
thought that even one day together would be perfect for everyone.

"Yes, and for me most of all," said Salo, "but I cannot. My teacher and
comrades are coming to fetch me at Sils to-morrow at ten o'clock. This
is absolutely settled and there is not the slightest chance for my
staying here, even if I wished it more than anything in the world."

"That is right, Salo, that is the way to talk," Uncle Philip said. "What
has to be, has to be, even if we don't like it. Please do not beg him
any more to stay. Let us play a nice game now and let us enjoy ourselves
while he is with us."

Uncle Philip soon started the game, and their merry mood returned with
the fun.

At the exact time when their mother always called the little ones for bed
Lippo cried, "Uncle Philip, we must sing the evening song now and after
that Maezli and I must go to bed."

This did not suit Maezli at all, however, for she was full of the game
just then. Salo, who was sitting beside her, had been so funny, that it
suited her better to stay here than to go to bed, Quickly climbing up the
uncle's chair from behind, she put both round arms caressingly about his
neck and whispered in his ear, "Oh, darling Uncle Philip, to-day is a
feast-day, isn't it? Can't we stay up a little longer? The game is such
fun and it's so tiresome to go to bed."

"Yes, yes, it is a feast-day," the uncle assented; "the little ones can
stay up a little longer. Let us all keep on playing."

Maezli joyfully skipped back to her place, and the merriment was resumed.
The game, which was very amusing, was made more so by Uncle Philip's
funny remarks. Nobody had noticed therefore how quiet Maezli had grown.

Salo suddenly remarked, "Oh, look! Maezli is sound asleep. She is nearly
tumbling from her chair." And the little girl would have dropped had not
Salo held her by quickly putting his arm about her.

Uncle Philip went to her.

"Come, Maezli, come," he said encouragingly, "open your eyes quickly and
Mea will take you to bed."

"No, no," Maezli lamented, and would not move.

"But you must! Just look, we are all going," the uncle said vigorously.
"Do you want to stay behind?"

"No, no, no," Maezli moaned, full of misery.

"Mea, give her some cake," the uncle ordered, "then she'll wake up."

"We have no cake, uncle," Mea replied.

"What, you don't have a thing so necessary as that in a house full of
children! Well, I shall get some to-morrow," he said, quite agitated.
"Do you want a candy, Maezli? Come, just taste how sweet it is."

"No, no, no," Maezli moaned again in such sorrowful tones as no one had
ever heard from the energetic little child.

Suddenly a most disturbing thought shot through the uncle's brain:
"Suppose the child has already caught the fever? What should I do? What
ought one to do?" he cried out with growing anxiety.

Kathy had entered the room in the meantime to see if anything more was
needed.

"That is the way, Mr. Falcon," she said, going up to Maezli, and quickly
lifting her in her strong arms, she carried her upstairs. Despite all
her lamenting the child was then undressed and put to bed. In the
shortest time she was sound asleep again without a trace of fever.

"Well, that's over now," Uncle Philip said, quite relieved when Kathy
came back with the news. "I really think that the time has come for us
all to seek our beds. Lippo actually looks as if he could not stand on
his little legs."

The boy was as white as chalk from staying up so late. From time to time
he tried to open his eyes, but they always fell shut again. The uncle,
taking his hand, wanted to lead him away, but he fought against it.

"Uncle Philip, we have not sung the evening song yet," he said, clutching
the piano.

"Mercy!" the uncle cried out disturbed. "Is this going to start now? No,
no, Lippo, it is much too late to-night. You can sing two songs
to-morrow, then everything will be straightened out."

"Then we shall have sung two songs to-morrow, but none to-day," Lippo
began in a complaining voice, holding on to the piano and pulling his
uncle towards him.

"Nothing can be done, we have to do it," Uncle Philip said with
resignation, for he knew the obstinacy of his godson in regard to all
customs.

"Kurt, you can tell me about the songs; please find the shortest in the
song-book, or we shall have to sing till to-morrow morning. Please spare
us such a miserable scene. But wait, Kurt! The song must have a tune I
can sing, for as nobody plays the piano, I have to set the tune. Do you
want to sing with us, too, Salo, or is it too late for you? You can
retire if you prefer. You go upstairs to the room at the right corner."

"Oh, no, I want to stay as long as anybody is left," Salo replied. "I
shall enjoy singing and doing everything with you. It is all so funny
and strange."

Kurt had chosen a suitable song and Uncle Philip began it so vigorously
that everybody could join and a full-voiced chorus was formed. Lippo's
voice sounded dreadfully weak, but he sang every note to the last word,
fighting mightily against his growing sleepiness. Now the little company
could wander upstairs to their respective rooms without further obstacle.

"Oh," Uncle Philip breathed relieved when they had reached the top. "At
least we are as far as this. It really is an undertaking to keep in
order a handful of children where one always differs from the last. Now
I have luckily gotten through for today. What? Not yet? What is the
matter, Bruno?"

The latter, approaching his uncle with clear signs that he wanted him for
something, had pulled him aside.

"I want to ask you for something," said Bruno. "I wonder if you will do
me a great favor, Uncle Philip. Salo and I have so much to talk about
still and he must leave to-morrow, I wanted to ask you if Kurt can sleep
beside you in the guest room and Salo could sleep in Kurt's bed in my
room."

"What are you thinking of," the uncle said irritably. "You should hear
what your mother would say to that. The idea of having a Wallerstaetten
for a guest and offering him a bed which has been used already. That
would seem a real crime in her eyes. That can't be; no, it mustn't. I
hope you can see it, too, don't you?"

"Yes," Bruno said, much depressed, for he had to agree. But Uncle could
not stand such downcast spirits.

"Listen, Bruno," he said, "you realize that we can't do it that way. But
an uncle knows how to arrange things and that is why he is here. This is
the way we'll do. I'll sleep in your bed, and Salo and you can sleep in
the guest-room. Will that suit?"

"Oh, thank you, Uncle Philip! There is no other uncle like you," Bruno
cried out in his enthusiasm.

So Uncle Philip's last difficulty was solved for to-day and everybody was
willing to go to bed. Soon the house lay in deep quiet: even the sick
child in the highest story lay calmly sleeping on her cool pillows. She
did not even notice when Mrs. Maxa stepped up once more to her bedside
with a little lamp. Before herself retiring she wanted to listen once
more to the child's breathing. Only the two new friends were still
talking long after midnight.

They understood each other so thoroughly and upon all points that Bruno
had proposed in his enthusiasm that they would not waste one minute of
the night in sleep. Salo expressed his wish over and over again that
Bruno might become his comrade in the boarding school. But finally
victorious sleep stole unperceived over the two lads and quietly closed
their eyes.



CHAPTER VII

THE MOTHER'S ABSENCE HAS CONSEQUENCES

Next morning Salo was allowed to go into his sister's room in order to
say good-bye to her. She looked at him so cheerfully that he asked with
eager delight, "Do you feel so much better already, Leonore?"

"Oh, yes, I feel as if I were at home," she replied with shining eyes.
"I feel as if our mother had come down from heaven to take care of me."

"When you can get up and go downstairs you will be happier still. I know
how much you will enjoy meeting the whole family," said Salo. "Then you
will feel as if you were in a real home that belongs to you."

"It is such a shame that you have to go," Leonore sighed, but this time
the tears did not come quite so urgently. How things had changed since
yesterday--how different it was now to stay behind!

At this moment Mrs. Maxa entered the room.

She had left it as she wanted to give brother and sister an opportunity
to see each other alone, but the time had come for Salo to depart, and he
was obliged to leave his sister. To-day it seemed harder for him to go
away than leave Leonore behind.

"I can't even say that I wish you to come soon. I have to hope that you
can remain here a long while," he said cheerily, while Leonore was
smiling bravely. Uncle Philip, ready for the journey, stood beside the
carriage. All the children ran towards Salo as soon as he appeared, and
when he said good-bye, he was treated like a friend of the family of many
years' standing. Each of the children showed his grief in a special
manner. Maezli cried loudly over and over again, "Oh, Salo, please come
soon again, please come soon again."

When the carriage was rolling away and the handkerchiefs that fluttered
him last greetings were all Salo could see from the distance, he rapidly
brushed away a few tears. He had never felt so thoroughly at home
anywhere in the world before. How happy he had been! The thought of
going far away and possibly never coming back gave him a little pang of
grief.

When the children returned at noon from school they were still full of
their vivid impression of Salo's sudden appearance and departure. They
were all anxious to tell their mother about it, because they knew that
they could always count on her lively sympathy. One or the other of the
children kept forgetting that the mother must not be sought and would
absent-mindedly make an attempt to go upstairs, but they were always met
by unexpected resistance. Lippo on his arrival home from school had
posted himself there to see that his mother's orders were strictly kept.
He also had missed her desperately, but he had nevertheless remembered
her injunctions and was quite certain that the others might forget and
act contrary to her orders. Placing himself on the first step, he would
hold any of his brothers or sisters with both hands when they came
towards him as they dashed upstairs. When he cried out loudly, "We
mustn't do it, we mustn't do it," they ran away again, quite frightened,
for his horrified shrieks might have penetrated into the sick-room.
Kathy was the only one who appreciated Lippo's worth. She had received
orders to remind the children of the strict command, and she knew quite
well from previous experiences that she could never have succeeded as
effectively as he. Maezli, meanwhile, was sitting at Apollonie's table,
gayly eating a snow-white milk-pudding which Apollonie knew so well how
to prepare. Whenever Maezli came to a meal at her house, she always set
this favorite dish before the child.

The days when Maezli came for a visit here were happy days for Loneli.
There was always something funny going on at meal-time, because Maezli had
so many amusing things to speak about. On those days she was never
obliged to tell her grandmother exactly what lessons she had known in
school and which she had not. Usually Apollonie was dreadfully anxious
to hear how punctually she had fulfilled her duties, and she always chose
lunch-time for that purpose because then no other affair interfered with
talking. Beaming with joy, Loneli now sat beside Maezli, who was telling
uninterruptedly about Salo. She told them that he was friendlier and
nicer than any boy she had ever seen, and she quoted Bruno, Mea and Kurt
as saying exactly the same thing. Usually they disagreed on such points.
Apollonie was quite absorbed in listening, too, and nodding her head once
in a while, she seemed to say: "Yes, yes, I know that he couldn't be
called Salo for nothing." This interesting subject of conversation kept
her longer than usual to-day.

"Suddenly she started up, quite frightened. Oh, is it possible? It is
nearly one o'clock. Hurry up, Loneli, or you'll be late for school.
Maezli, you and I have something to do, too, this afternoon. I shall take
you on a walk and I'll tell you where we are going as soon as we start."

As the dishes had to be washed first, Apollonie thought that Maezli might
go out to play in the garden. But Maezli preferred to see the plates
washed and dried and afterwards set in neat rows. After these tasks
Apollonie put on a good apron, a beautiful neck-cloth, and after packing
up several shirts, cloths and stockings into a large basket the two set
out.

"Where are we going?" Maezli asked, inspecting the basket. "Who are you
taking these things to?"

"They belong to Mr. Trius," replied Apollonie. "We are going all the
way up to the castle, as far as the great iron door. When I pull the
bell-knob, Mr. Trius comes and gets this basket. You'll be able to peep
in through the door till he comes back again with the empty basket."

"Can one look into the garden from there and see the big
mignonette-bushes that mama liked so much?" Maezli asked.

"Yes, yes, the garden is there," Apollonie replied with a profound sigh,
"but the great rose and mignonette beds are gone. It would take a long
time nowadays to find even a couple of the flowers."

"We could surely find them inside," Maezli said with great certainty.

"But Maezli, what are you thinking of? Nobody is allowed to go in. You
see, Mr. Trius lets nobody either into the garden or into the castle,"
Apollonie repeated with great emphasis. "I should have gone in long ago
if he had let me. Oh, how I should have loved to go, and I know how
badly needed I am. What a dreadful disorder all the rooms must be in! If
I could only go a single time to do the most necessary things!" Apollonie
in her great trouble had quite forgotten that she was speaking to little
Maezli.

"Why should you bring him so many shirts and stockings if he doesn't let
you in? Don't bring him anything," Maezli cried out indignantly.

"No, no, Maezli. You see, these are his shirts and stockings, and I have
only washed and mended them for him," Apollonie explained.

"Besides, Mr. Trius can't do as he pleases. Do you see the open windows
up there? No, you couldn't see them from here. Well, up there lives a
sick gentleman, a baron, who won't let anybody come into the garden. He
is the master there and can give orders, and people must not disobey him.
Look, one can see the open windows quite plainly now."

"Can we see the bad baron, too?" asked Maezli peeping up searchingly.

"I did not say that he was bad, Maezli, I only said that he can give
orders," Apollonie corrected. "And you can't see him because he is lying
sick in bed. Look, look! the fine, thick raspberry bushes used to be
there." Apollonie was pointing to wild-looking shrubs that were climbing
up the castle incline. "Oh, how different it all used to be! Two
splendid hedges used to run up there, then across and down again on the
other side. Both girls and boys used to feast on them for whole days at
a time, and there were always enough left for pots and pots full of jam.
And now how terrible it all looks! Everything is growing wild. Nobody
who has known the place the way I knew it could have ever thought that it
would look like this."

Maezli was not very deeply moved by the change. She had long been gazing
at the high gate which was to be their destination and which they were
nearing rapidly.

"Does Mr. Trius take his big stick along when he comes down to the
gate?" she asked, looking cautiously about her.

"Yes, yes, he never goes about without it, Maezli, but you need not be
afraid," Apollonie calmed her. "He won't hurt you, and I should advise
him not to. Look! there he comes already. He has been spying about, and
nothing ever escapes him."

Mr. Trius was already standing at the gate with his stick and opened it.
"That is fine," he said, receiving the basket, and was in the act of
closing the door again immediately.

"No, no, Mr. Trius, don't do that!" said Apollonie, restraining him.
She had vigorously pushed back the door and posted herself firmly in the
opening. "I always do my duty punctually and I like to do it because you
belong to the castle. But you can at least let me have a word about the
master's health."

"The same," was the reply.

"The same; what does that mean?" Apollonie retorted. "Do you watch him
while he sleeps? Are you cooking the right things for him? What does the
master eat?"

"Venison."

"What? How can you cook such things for him? Such rich and heavy meat for
a sick man! What does the doctor say to that?"

"Nothing."

"What, nothing? He certainly must say what his patient ought to eat. Who
is his doctor? I hope a good one. I am afraid the master is not
troubling much about it. Did you fetch the one from Sils? He is very
careful, I know."

"No."

"Who do you have?"

"No one."

Apollonie threw up her arms in violent agitation. "So the baron lies up
there sick and lonely and nobody even fetches a doctor. Oh, if his
mother knew this! That simply won't do, and I am going in. Please let me
in. The master won't have to see me at all. All I want to do is to cook
something strengthening for him. I shall only put his room in order, and
if he happens to get up, I can make his bed. Oh, please let me in, Mr.
Trius! You know that I'll do anything in the world for you. Please let
me nurse the sick master!"

Apollonie's voice had grown supplicating.

"Forbidden," was the curt reply.

"But I am no stranger here. I have served in this house for more than
thirty years," Apollonie went on eagerly. "I know what is needed and
what the master ought to have. Things are not attended to at all, I
fear, and indeed I know it. After all I am an old acquaintance, and I'll
only come an hour a day to do the most urgent task."

"Nobody is allowed to come," Mr. Trius said again in his unchangeable,
dry tone. It was all the same to him whether Apollonie begged or
scolded. In her anxiety about the sick master she had forgotten
everything else.

"Where is the child?" she suddenly cried out in great anxiety. "Good
gracious, where is she? She must have run into the garden."

Mr. Trius had suddenly grown more lively. Throwing the gate to with
great violence, he turned the huge key before pulling it rapidly out. He
realized that Apollonie was capable of doing anything in her excitement
about the lost child.

"Witch's baggage!" he murmured angrily. Swinging his stick in a
threatening way, he ran towards the castle.

"Mr. Trius," Apollonie screamed after him with all her might, "if you
touch the child you will have to reckon with me, do you hear? Hold the
stick down. She can't help being frightened if she sees you."

But he had quickly been lost from view. While Apollonie and Mr. Trius
had been absorbed in their violent altercation and had stared at each
other, she in wild excitement and he in stiff immovability, Maezli had
slipped from between the two as swiftly as a little mouse. Then she had
merrily wandered up towards the castle hoping that she would soon see the
garden with the lovely flowers. But all she could see were wild bushes
and stretches of grass with only the yellow sparkling flowers which grow
in every common meadow. This was not what Maezli had expected, so she
went up to the terrace of the castle and looked about from there for the
flower garden. At the end of the terrace where the little pine wood
began she saw something that looked like fiery yellow flowers and quickly
ran there. But instead of flowers she saw a lion skin shining in the
sun. To see what was under the skin Maezli came closer. A head was
raised up and two sharp eyes were directed towards her. It was a man who
had half raised himself on the long chair which was covered by the skin.
As soon as she saw that it was a human being and not a lion, she came
nearer and asked quite confidentially, "Do you happen to know where the
beautiful old mignonette is, that mama saw in the garden here?"

"No," the man answered curtly.

"Maybe Mr. Trius knows, but one can't ask him. Are you afraid of Mr.
Trius, too?" Maezli asked.

"No."

"But he always goes about with a big stick. Kurt has made a song about
him where he tells everything that Mr. Trius does," Maezli chattered on.
"It begins like this:

   Old Trius lives in our town,
   A haughty man is he,
   And every one that he can catch
    He beats right heartily.

I don't remember the rest, but it is quite long. But he wants to make a
song about Salo now, because he is so awfully nice. He said it as soon
as Salo went away today. We all like him, and Bruno said that if he made
a stupid song he would tear it up."

"Is everybody here called Salo and Bruno?" the gentleman burst out
angrily.

"No, nobody except Bruno, you know; he is my big brother," Maezli
explained. "Salo only came yesterday and went away again to-day. But he
did not want to go and we wanted to keep him. But he was not allowed to.
If his sister is well again, she has to go away, too. But we don't know
her yet. Her name is Leonore."

"Who sent you here?" the gentleman ejaculated harshly. But Maezli only
looked at him in astonishment.

"Nobody has sent me. Nobody knows where I am, not even Apollonie," Maezli
began to explain. "I only ran away because Apollonie had to tell Mr.
Trius so many things and I wanted to see the mignonette. I am visiting
Apollonie because mama has to nurse Leonore, who is ill and can't come
down. Because I don't obey Kathy very well and she has to cook, I spend
the days with Apollonie. Oh, here he comes!" Maezli interrupted herself
suddenly, for she was frightened. Coming close to her new acquaintance,
as if to seek his protection, she whispered confidentially. "Oh, won't
you help me, please, if he tries to hurt me?"

Mr. Trius was rushing towards them, holding out his stick in front like
an emblem of his profession. The gentleman only made a light gesture
with his hand, and Mr. Trius disappeared as he had come.

"Won't he hurt me if I come down to the door where he stands?" Maezli
asked. She retreated slightly from her protector, whom she had held
tightly in her fear of the stick.

"No," he replied curtly, but his voice did not sound as severe as before,
a fact which Maezli noticed immediately. She was very grateful to him for
chasing Mr. Trius away and she now felt desirous of doing him a service
in return.

"Do you always have to sit alone here all the time? Does no one come to
see you?" she asked, full of sympathy.

"No."

"Oh, then I must come to you another time and I'll keep you company,"
Maezli said consolingly. "Does the bad baron never come down to you
here?" she asked anxiously.

"Where is he?" came a second question.

"Don't you know that?" Maezli said in great surprise. "He is up there
where the windows are open." With this Maezli looked up, and walking close
to the chair, whispered cautiously, "A sick baron lies up there.
Apollonie says that he is not bad, but I know that one has to be afraid
of him. Are you afraid of him?"

"No."

"Then I won't be afraid of him either," Maezli remarked, quite reassured.
The gentleman who had chased away Mr. Trius so easily and was not afraid
of the bad baron gave her all the confidence in the world. Under his
protection she could face every danger.

"I'll go home now, but I'll come soon again," and with this Maezli gave
her hand in a most winning way. When she wanted to say good-bye she
realized that she did not know either the gentleman's name or title, so
she stopped.

"I am the Castle Steward," said the gentleman, helping Maezli. When the
leave-taking was done Maezli ran back towards the door. Sure enough, Mr.
Trius was standing inside the portals and Apollonie on the outside, for
the careful man had not opened them again. He thought that the excited
woman might forcibly enter the garden in order to seek the child.

"God be thanked that you are here again!" she cried when Maezli came out.
She quickly took her hand. Mr. Trius, after violently shutting the
gate, had immediately turned his back upon the visitors.

"I was simply frightened to death, Maezli. How could you run away from
me? I did not know where you had got to."

"You didn't need to be so frightened," Maezli said with calm assurance.
"I was with the Castle-Steward. I don't need to be afraid of anything
with him, not even of Mr. Trius."

"What, the Castle-Steward! What are you saying, Maezli? Who said it was
the Steward?" Apollonie's words were full of anxiety, as if Maezli might
be threatened with great danger.

"He told me so himself. He was sitting all alone under a big tree. He
sits there alone all the time. But I am going up to see him soon again,"
Maezli informed her.

"No, no, Maezli, what are you thinking of? You can't do it if he has not
told you to. I am sure Mr. Trius will see that you won't get in there
any more," said Apollonie, and she was quite sure that Maezli's plan would
never succeed.

But if Maezli ever made a discovery, she was not easily led away.

"Yes, but he won't be allowed to stop me," she said a little scornfully.

That evening Loneli was allowed to bring Maezli home. She always loved to
go to Mrs. Maxa's house, because Kurt and Mea were her best friends.
Loneli was always so friendly and obliging to everybody that the school
children often asked her to deliver messages. This often took place in
cases of estrangements when a third person was needed. Loneli had been
asked after school to-day to give a message to Mea and she was glad of
the chance to deliver it.

Mea had sent a proposal of peace to Elvira through Loneli, for she hated
the constant sulking of her friend and the unpleasant new manner she
exhibited in turning her back upon her. Mea had twice before tried to be
reconciled to the embittered Elvira, but unfortunately in vain. She did
not dare to admit this to Kurt, who would not have approved of her
behaviour but would have even made a horrible song about it. But one
could always rely on Loneli, who was discreet. Mea, standing at the
window, saw Loneli coming towards the house and ran down to meet her.

"I have to tell you something terribly sad about Elvira," Loneli said,
quite downcast.

"What is it? What is it?" Mea asked.

"She doesn't ever want to renew her friendship with you and she has asked
me to tell you that. You may be sure that I should not tell you if I did
not have to," Loneli added, "because it makes me so sad."

Mea reflected a moment, wondering what she had really done. All she had
been guilty of was accusing Elvira of an act of injustice. So all
friendly feelings between them were to be withdrawn for all time as her
punishment.

"Elvira can sulk for the rest of eternity, if she wants to," Mea said now
without the slightest trace of sadness. Loneli was greatly surprised.
"There are other people in this world besides her. I should have loved
to tell Elvira who was staying with us. Never has anybody been so nice
and pleased us so. I wish I could have told her who is here now, though
we don't know her yet; but Elvira keeps on turning her back on me. You
see, Loneli, the nicest boy, about Bruno's age, came to see us, and his
sister is sick upstairs. We are not allowed to see her just yet, but I
can hardly wait till she comes down. If she is as nice as her brother,
she is the nicest child any of us have ever seen."

At this description Loneli's vivacious eyes fairly gleamed with sympathy.

"What is her name," she asked expectantly.

"Leonore," Mea answered.

"Oh," Loneli immediately began, "my grandmother also knew a young lady
called Leonore. She always says that that young lady was as lovely as an
angel and that there could not be anybody in the world as wonderful as
she."

"I am rather glad if Leonore is not like an angel, for she might not be
my friend then," Mea said quickly. "Elvira even, who certainly is not at
all like an angel, has to break her friendship with me every few weeks."

"Maybe she does that because she is so little like an angel," Loneli
suggested.

At this both children laughed. Often Loneli found exactly the right word
to say which would throw light on the matter. Kurt always enjoyed these
remarks of hers.

At that moment shrieks of joy sounded from the house: "Mama is coming!
Mama is coming!"

Lippo, the watchman, had posted himself again on the stairs as soon as he
had returned from school, and he had found ample work there. Kurt had
again forgotten the command and had to be chased away, and even Bruno had
made an attempt to quietly steal up to his mother. But all this had only
brought horrified cries from the little boy.

They had both meant no wrong whatever. All they had wanted was to
quickly say a word to the mother through the open door. Nevertheless,
Lippo had grown terribly wrought up about it. A firm command had been
given, and they had tried to break it, so they all had been obliged to
give way before his violent noise.

A strange gentleman had come, too, who was half-way up the stairs with
two leaps. But Lippo had grabbed the tails of his coat and, holding on
to them with both hands, shrieked, "Nobody is allowed to go up. You must
not go up."

Laughingly turning about, the gentleman said, "Just let me go, little
one. I am allowed because I am the doctor. Your uncle told me where to
go, so I'll easily find my way. But I'll make use of you some day, for
you are a splendid sentinel."

When the doctor on his return found him still on the same spot, he called
him a pillar of good order and told him that he would send for him if he
should ever need a reliable watchman.

Soon after, Lippo uttered sudden shouts of joy, for he saw his mother
coming downstairs. What a surprise it was to see her when they had
thought that she would be shut up for one or two days longer!

"Mama is coming! Mama is coming!"

All had heard his exclamations and Mea was the first to appear, pulling
Loneli after her. Bruno came rushing from one side and Kurt from the
other, and Maezli shot like an arrow right into their midst. The mother
found herself solidly surrounded.

"Mama, just think--"

"Oh, listen, mama!"

"Oh, mama, I want to tell you--"

"Do you know, mama?"

This came from all sides and all at once.

"To-morrow, children, to-morrow," said the mother. "We must be very
happy that we can see each other so soon again. I wanted to send one of
you to Apollonie, but I am glad to see you here, Loneli."

Mrs. Maxa now told Loneli the message she was to take to her
grandmother. The doctor had just been there and had found Leonore much
better already. As her fever had gone down, he feared no serious
illness. Leonore was to spend several more days in bed and therefore she
was to have a nurse who could also take care of her at night-time. For
this nobody better than grandmother Apollonie could be found, and Mrs.
Maxa would be so glad for her patient's and her own sake if she could
arrange to come to the house for several days and nights. She told
Loneli to tell her grandmother that the little girl was named Leonore and
that Mrs. Maxa was quite sure she would not be hard to take care of.

The mother would not allow herself to be detained any longer. To all the
questions which stormed in upon her she only had one answer: "To-morrow,
children, to-morrow." Then she disappeared again into the sick room.

"Please tell me what she is like, when you have seen her. I am so
curious," said Loneli, taking leave, and Mea promised to give the
sympathetic Loneli a full report of everything.

Next morning extremely early Apollonie appeared at Mrs. Maxa's house.
As the door was not open yet, she knocked quietly and after a while Kathy
appeared with heavy, sleepy eyes.

"Why should anybody rush about at this early hour," she said a little
angrily. It did not suit her at all that Apollonie should have found out
what a short time she had been astir.

"I begin my day at this hour," said Apollonie, "and there is no need for
me to rush about. I can leave that to those who get up late. I have
come to take Mrs. Rector's place in the sick room."

"She hasn't even called yet," Kathy flung out.

"So much the better, then I have at least not come too late. I can find
some work everywhere," and with this Apollonie entered the living room
and began to set it in order.

Kathy did not hinder her and, to show her gratitude, attempted to start a
little conversation. But Apollonie was not in the mood for that. She
was solely filled by the question who the sick Leonore was that she was
going to nurse. Could it be possible?

That moment a bell sounded from upstairs, and Apollonie obeyed the call.
Mrs. Maxa, opening the door, let her enter. Wide awake, Leonore was
sitting up in bed. Her thick, curly hair was falling far down below her
shoulders, and her dark, solemn eyes were gazing with surprise at
Apollonie. The latter looked immovably at the little girl, while tears
were coursing down her cheeks.

"Oh, oh," she said, as soon as she was able to control her emotion, "one
does not need to ask where our little Leonore comes from. It seems to me
as if old times had come back again. Yes, she looked exactly like that
when she came to the castle; only she was not quite so pale."

"Leonore," Mrs. Maxa said, "Mrs. Apollonie has known both your father
and mother very well. So I thought that you would like to have her for a
nurse."

"Certainly," Leonore replied happily, while she stretched out her hand in
a friendly manner towards Apollonie. "Won't you tell me everything you
know about them?" Apollonie was only too glad to do that, but in her
agitation she had first to wipe her eyes.

There was no end to the children's enthusiasm when they found that their
mother was to be their own again. The unaccustomed separation had seemed
much longer and harder to bear than they had imagined, but it was all
over now, she was back and would be theirs now for all time to come.

Bruno suggested that they should divide up their mother's time between
them to-day. This would make it possible for all to get her hearing
separately. In all this time a great deal of matter had accumulated
which was crying to be heard. If they were all to talk to her at once,
as had happened several times before, no one would have any satisfaction,
as she might not even be able to understand them. So it was settled that
every child should have their mother alone for an hour, and they were to
take their turns according to age.

"So of course the first hour after school from eleven till twelve belongs
to me," was Bruno's statement.

"From one till two I shall have my turn," Mea cried out. She was
counting on asking her mother so many questions that they might easily
take three hours. She had no communications to make but she was terribly
eager to hear all about Leonore.

"I'll get the time between four and five o'clock," said Kurt. This term
suited him exactly, as he had a secret hope of prolonging it somewhat.
The two little ones were to have the remaining time before supper, and
Kurt thought that they could not have very much to tell, whereas he was
in need of a great deal of advice.

The mother had been quite certain that Bruno in his interview with her
would make a last, desperate effort to escape having to live with the
Knippel boys. What was her surprise when she found that this had been
entirely pushed into the background by his lively sympathy in Salo's
destiny.

Bruno's thoughts were constantly occupied by the thought that his new,
charming friend stood entirely alone in the world. As Salo had no one
who could help him to find a home, Bruno hoped that his mother would be
able to give him some advice. He felt sure that she would gladly do
this, for she loved both children tenderly, as she had formerly loved
their parents.

The boy had been absolutely right when he supposed that Mrs. Maxa would
be glad to help them, but she had to tell Bruno frankly that there was no
advice she was able to give. She had no authority over the children and
could therefore do nothing, as everything depended on Salo's early
completion of his studies so that he could choose an occupation. This
would have to be settled by the gentleman of whom Salo had spoken. He
was probably a relation of their mother's who had undertaken the care of
the children.

Bruno was terribly cast down when he heard this. When his mother did not
give him help and counsel right away, she usually gave him some hope by
saying, "We shall see." As she had not said this to-day, he felt certain
that nothing could be done. But the mother's unhappy face showed to
Bruno that her disability did not come from a lack of sympathy, and that
it pained her very much that she could do nothing.

When Bruno came out of the room he was very silent and sadder than he had
ever been in his life.

Mea, on the contrary, came skipping out from her interview. Her mother
had told her that Leonore was charming, refined and modest, besides being
extremely grateful for every little favor. But what thrilled Mea beyond
everything was that Leonore had repeatedly told her mother how much she
looked forward to meeting her, because the two were of an age. Leonore's
only fear was that Mea might find her rather tiresome. All the girls in
the boarding school had always accused her of that, for she was often
terribly unhappy, and she could not help it. Mea was more eager than
ever now to meet Leonore, for she was already filled with a warm love for
the sick child. She could talk and think of practically nothing but
Leonore.

"I certainly have to make a song about this violent new friendship," Kurt
said in the evening, when Mea had urged more than once, "Oh, mother, I
hope you won't let Leonore go as soon as she can come down and the doctor
says she is well; otherwise we shall barely be able to become
acquainted."

Mea flared like a rocket at her brother's suggestion, crying violently,
"Indeed you won't, Kurt."

"Mea, Mea," the mother admonished her, "I propose to do all I can to keep
Leonore here as long as possible, but--"

"But, Mea, she might be put to flight with fear and never be seen again
if you attack your poor brothers in such a way," Kurt quickly concluded
the mother's sentence.

Mea had to laugh over this speech, which little resembled her mother's
style of talking.

"My dear Kurt," she said, "I am quite able to complete a sentence without
your assistance. I wanted to say that I should not be able to do very
much, because the ladies will take Leonore when it suits them best. I
have to admit, however, that there was some truth in Kurt's reply.
Leonore has such a delicate, refined nature that it might frighten her to
see you carried away by such passion, Mea."

When the doctor came back again in two days he was surprised at the
improved condition of his little patient. "If she was not so very
young," the doctor said to Mrs. Maxa while she accompanied him out of
the room, "I should say that her illness came largely from some hidden
sorrow and inner suffering. She has apparently been able to shake it off
in the good care and affectionate treatment she is getting here. But I
can scarcely believe this of a child."

When Mrs. Maxa asked him how soon Leonore could leave the room and spend
the day with her very active children, he answered, "She can do it from
to-morrow on. Nothing can possibly refresh her more than some lively
playmates."

With this he took his leave. Going downstairs, he met Apollonie, who was
just coming up with a supper-tray laden with delicate dishes for the sick
child.

"That is right," said the doctor; "it gives one an appetite only to look
at it."

"Yes, the poor child eats like a little bird," said Apollonie; "but Mrs.
Rector says that there must be things to choose from in order to tempt
her. How is she getting along, doctor? Do you think she'll get well
again? Isn't she just like a little angel?"

"That is hard for me to say, as I do not know any angels," he said
smiling, "but she might be for all I know. I am sure that she will get
well with careful nursing, and you are sure to see to that, Mrs.
Apollonie. You seem to think that in being given care of the child you
have drawn the big prize in the lottery."

"Indeed I have. I really have," she cried after him.

No event had ever been looked forward to with such great suspense in Mrs.
Maxa's house as the appearance of Leonore. As soon as all the children
were home from school the next morning, their mother fetched her down.
The three older ones were standing expectantly together in a little
group, while the two smaller ones had placed themselves with wide-open
eyes near the door. Leonore, entering, greeted one after the other in
such an engaging, confidential way that she made them feel as if they
were old friends. She loved their mother so much and had been so closely
drawn to her that she was fond of the children before she had even seen
them. This pleased them tremendously, for they had expected Leonore to
be very different from themselves and had been rather afraid of her. As
soon as they saw her, they felt that they might each be special friends
with their charming guest. Leonore found herself surrounded by them all
in a corner of the sofa. As she did not look at all strong yet, the
mother had led her there. Leonore tried to answer all the questions,
listen to all the projects and information which were showered upon her,
while her eyes danced with merriment. These unusual surroundings made
Leonore so happy that her face became quite rosy. Mea had been already
completed in her mind a plan which, if it succeeded, would make it
possible for her to have Leonore to herself sometimes. Since all her
brothers and sisters liked the visitor so much, it was not easy to get
her off alone. If only her mother would sanction the plan! That day Mea
had to set the table, and when lunch time had come, she quickly ran to
her mother to ask her if she might take Apollonie's place in Leonore's
room, and to her great delight she willingly consented. Mea told her she
would only be too glad to wait on Leonore at night if she could but be
with her. Leonore really needed no more special care, and in case of an
emergency Mea could easily run down to fetch her mother.

"Leonore will mean more to you than she will ever realize," the mother
concluded, "and I feel very gratified if you can do something for her,
too."

Mrs. Maxa then informed Apollonie of the new plan, and she felt sure
that the latter would be glad to get home again.

"I do everything in my power for that angel," she exclaimed. "I should
go to live in the desert if only I could procure a home for her."

After dinner she went to Leonore to say good-bye, and the child pressed
her hand most warmly, thanking her for the good care she had received.

"I shall never forget how kind you have been, Apollonie," she said
heartily. "I shall come to see you as soon as I am allowed to go. I
hope that we shall see each other very often."

"Oh, yes, I hope so! Please ask Mrs. Rector to let you come to me as
often as possible," said Apollonie before leaving.

Leonore now told the children that Apollonie had very vividly described
to her the lovely home of her parents and the wonderful life in the
castle. She had said frankly that she would never desire such a fine
home, if only Salo and she could call a little house their own, so the
good-hearted Apollonie had suggested that they might live with her. She
could easily let them have the whole cottage with the exception of a tiny
chamber. She could wait on them, and what more could they desire?
Leonore had felt that this would be better than anything she had dreamed
of, as she could come over to Mrs. Maxa and her children as often as she
pleased. How happy Salo would be if she wrote him about it.

"Yes, you can," Maezli declared. "Her house is a lovely place to live in.
Loneli is there, who does everything one wants her to, and Apollonie
always cooks what one likes best."

Kurt made a little enigmatical remark to Maezli about her greed, but
before she could have it explained to her, the mother turned to Leonore.

"I do not want you to be deluded by this thought, dear child," she said,
"for that might only bring you disappointment. As soon as you are well,
you can walk to Apollonie's cottage and then you will see what a tiny
place it is. The great obstacle of Salo's studies would not be put aside
in that way, either, for he could not join you there for years."

"Oh, I was thinking all the time how lovely it would be to live with
Apollonie! It would be so wonderful--I could live with her there and Salo
could come to us in the holidays till he is through with his studies.
Then we could both settle here in the neighborhood."

Leonore had been counting on this new scheme and she looked up at Mrs.
Maxa as if she longed for her consent. As Mrs. Maxa did not have the
heart to shatter the child's hopes completely, she decided to let the
matter rest for the present. As soon as they could visit Apollonie,
Leonore could judge for herself how impossible the plan was.

Leonore's eyes were usually very sad, but occasionally she would look
quite merry, and it was so that she appeared that evening when the
children were surrounding her on all sides. When each had to tell her so
much and tried to be nearest her, she experienced the feeling that she
had come to a family to which she really belonged. Each of the children
had founded a special relation with Leonore. Bruno saw himself as her
protector and adviser, and as her brother's close friend he meant to keep
an active watch over her. Mea, whose thoughts had been completely
absorbed for days in her new friend, brought her all the warmth of a
heart which craved friendship passionately. Kurt had made it his duty to
cheer up the rather melancholy child as much as was in his power. Lippo,
still filled a little with his post of sentinel, always came close to her
as if he still needed to watch over her. Maezli was of the firm opinion
that she had to entertain the guest, so she would relate fragments of
funny things she knew, passing from one to another. In this way Leonore
got to hear of the Knippel family. The time passed so quickly that loud
laments were heard when the mother announced that it was time for Leonore
to retire. She did not want her strength to be overtaxed on her first
day out of bed.

"We shall have many more days after this when we can be together," she
added. "Let us be glad of that."

"There might not be so many, for I feel quite well already," Leonore said
with a sigh.

Mrs. Maxa smiled.

"We must thank God for that. But you need to get strong, and I hope that
you may find the needed recreation and change here." Then she accompanied
the two girls up to their room at the top of the house. As Mea was to be
Leonore's sole nurse from now on, Mrs. Maxa wanted to reassure herself
that nothing was missing. It was in Mea's nature to endow every new
friend with marvellous qualities. Her imagination was always as active
as her heart, which she gave unreservedly on such occasions.
Unfortunately Mea suffered many disappointments in that way, because on
nearer acquaintance her friends very seldom came up to her expectations.
She always tried hard to hold on to the original image, even if it did
not in the least coincide with what her friends proved to be in reality
and this brought on numberless fights with Kurt, who, with his usual
shrewdness, could not help revealing to her the real state of affairs.
This always disillusioned her finally, for it was hard to deny his
proofs. Whenever another girl woke a passionate love in her, she was
bound to expect something unusual from her.

A week had passed since Leonore had spent her first day as convalescent
among the family. As Mea had the privilege of being in the closest, most
intimate contact with her new friend in the late evening hours, she was
in a state of perfect bliss. Every moment of the day that she was home
she tried to be at Leonore's side and in her walks to and from school
there existed for her no other subject of conversation than Leonore.

It was quite unusual that Kurt had not produced a rhyme about her great
devotion. He had not once said: "Things will be different after a
while." Brother and sister this time were entirely of one opinion about
her: it even seemed as if Kurt himself had caught a touch of the
friendship fever, as he used to call Mea's great devotion.

Apparently Bruno was of the same opinion, too. In all his free hours he
used to sit in a corner of the room with his books, paying no attention
to anything else, but since Leonore had come he always joined the merry
group and generally had something to relate or to show for Leonore's
entertainment. This he did in a quiet, gentler manner, such that it
seemed as if he would hardly have behaved otherwise.

Lippo felt so comfortable in Leonore's presence that he always kept as
close to her as possible. Even when he told his experiences at great
length, she never became impatient, but encouraged him to go on when his
brothers and sisters made sarcastic remarks about him.

From time to time he would confidentially say to her: "Just stay with us
always, Leonore. You are at home here now, even if you have no home
anywhere else." This was uttered in a spirit of utter conviction, as the
little boy had heard it from her own lips and was sure that this would be
the best for them all.

Leonore blushed a deep scarlet at these words, as if Lippo had pronounced
a thought she did not dare to foster in her own heart. Once his mother
had noticed this, so she told Lippo one evening, not to say this again.
As it was impossible to keep Leonore, it was much better not to speak of
it, as it only gave her pain. As this was a firm command, Lippo obeyed
faithfully. He kept on, however, showing Leonore that he loved to be
with her.

Maezli's love for Leonore showed itself more than anything in a wish to
lend her a helping; hand in many things which the little girl felt her
lovely friend stood in need of. She had seen quite plainly that Leonore
often became very sad when everyone else about her was laughing and she
herself had been quite bright a moment before. But Maezli knew how she
was going to help. She meant to tell Apollonie how to fit up her cottage
for Leonore and Salo, who, she hoped, would spend his holidays there,
too. She meant to superintend these preparations herself and to have it
all fixed as daintily as possible.

By this time Mea's new friend was adored by the whole family, and they
showed it by doing all in their power for her. They had agreed that she
differed absolutely from Mea's former friends. They could not analyze
wherein lay the charm which pervaded her whole personality. The children
had never known anybody who was so polite towards everyone, including
Kathy, who only spoke affectionate, tender words, and always seemed so
grateful when others were kind to her. This spirit was something new and
extremely delightful. They had to admit to themselves that they wished
everybody would act in such a way, as this would do away forever with the
fights and altercations that had always arisen between them, and for
which they were afterwards always sorry. The only thing they would have
been glad to change in Leonore were her sudden fits of gloom, which
affected them all. Leonore tried very hard to fight these depressing
thoughts, but they went so deep that she seldom succeeded. Their mother
consoled them by saying that Leonore would get stronger as soon as she
could take walks with them in the woods and meadows, and that feelings
which now weighed on her would then seem lighter.

A few days later the children, including Leonore, came back with rosy
cheeks and glowing eyes from their first walk to the surrounding hills.
The fresh mountain breeze had exhilarated them so much that the feeling
of well-being was laughing from their young faces. Even Leonore's
cheeks, that were usually so pale, were faintly tinged with a rosy hue.
The mother stepped out of the garden into the road in order to welcome
the children.

"Oh," she cried out joyfully. "This first walk has been splendid.
Leonore looks like a fresh apple-blossom."

Taking her hand with great tenderness between her own, she gazed at her
very closely in order to rejoice over the rosy color on the child's
delicate face. That moment a beggar-woman approached, holding by each
hand a little girl. The children's clothes were so ragged that their
little bodies were scarcely covered.

Looking at Mrs. Maxa, the beggar-woman said, "Yes, yes, children can
make one happy enough when one has a home. You are a fortunate lady to
have a good roof for your own. It would be better for two such homeless
ones as these not to exist! They are sure to remain homeless all their
lives, and that is the saddest thing of all."

With that she stretched out her hand, for Mrs. Maxa was looking at her
intently. Leonore had quickly taken off her shawl and jacket.

"May I give it to them?" she asked Mrs. Maxa in a low voice.

The beggar-woman had already noticed the girl's gesture and stretched out
her hands in her direction.

"I am glad, young lady, that you have pity for these homeless ones, even
if you do not know what that means. God bless you!"

Leonore looked imploringly into Mrs. Maxa's face. The latter nodded, as
it was too late now to explain to Leonore what action would have been
better. She made up her mind to do it afterwards for similar occasions.
With many words the poor woman thanked her for the gift. She was very
anxious to kiss the young lady's hand for the two garments, but Leonore
had immediately run away. Mea followed and found Leonore, who had been
so merry on the walk, sitting in her sofa-corner, crying bitterly with
her head between her hands.

"What is the matter, Leonore? Why do you cry so terribly?" Mea, asked,
quite frightened.

She could not answer at once. The mother and the other children had come
in, too, and now they all surrounded the sobbing girl in great amazement
and sympathy.

"That is the way I am," she said at last, sobbing aloud, "I am homeless
like them. Anyone who is homeless has to remain so always, and it is
terrible. That is what the woman said, and I believe her. How should
one find a home if one can't look for one?"

Leonore had never before broken out into such passionate grief. Mrs.
Maxa looked at her very sorrowfully.

"She is a real Wallerstaetten at the bottom of her heart," she said to
herself. "That will mean more struggles for her than I thought."

At a sign from her the children plainly understood that she asked them to
go into the garden for a little while. Sitting down beside Leonore, she
took her hand between her own and waited till the violent outbreak had
ceased.

Then she said tenderly: "Oh, Leonore, don't you remember what you told me
once when you were ill and I was sitting on your bed? You told me that
you found a song among your mother's music which always comforted you
when you seemed to lose courage and confidence in God. You said that it
always made you feel that He was not forgetting you and your brother, and
that he is looking after you in whatever way is best for you, even if you
can't recognize it now. Have you forgotten this? Can you tell me your
favorite verse in it?"

"Oh, yes, I can," said Leonore, "it is the verse:

   God, who disposest all things well,
   I want but what thou givest me,
   Oh how can we thine acts foretell,
   When Thou art far more wise than we?

"Yes, I always feel better when I think of that," Leonore added after a
time in a totally changed voice. "It makes me happy because I know that
God can do for us what Salo and I can't do for ourselves. But when
everything stays the same for so long and there is no prospect of any
change, it is so hard to keep this faith. If we can't do anything for
ourselves, it seems as if everything would have to be that way. The
woman said that if anybody is homeless once, he has to remain that way
for the rest of his life."

"No, no, Leonore," Mrs. Maxa answered, "you must not take a chance word
seriously. The poor woman only said it because she saw no immediate help
for her children. It is not true at all. Of course you can't look ahead
into your future, but you can ask God to give you full confidence in Him.
Then you can leave it all to Him, and the sense of His protection will
make you calmer. It will also keep you from making uncertain plans,
which might only bring fresh disappointments."

Leonore had attentively followed every word Mrs. Maxa had uttered.
Looking thoughtfully in front of her for a moment, she said, "Aunt
Maxa"--this was the mode of address she had long ago been granted--"don't
you want me to think of Apollonie's cottage either? Shall we have a
disappointment, if I hope that we can find a home there?"

"Yes, my dear child. It is entirely out of the question for you and your
brother to live there. I should not tell you this if I were not
absolutely certain, and you can imagine that I should not shatter such a
hope if I did not have to."

It hurt Mrs. Maxa very much to say this, but she found it necessary.
She knew that Apollonie in her measureless love and admiration would
never be able to refuse a single one of Leonore's wishes, even if it
meant the impossible.

"I shall not think about it any more then," said Leonore, embracing Mrs.
Maxa with utter confidence, "and I shall be glad now that I can still
remain with you."

Later that evening when the children were all together and Leonore had
conquered her grief for that day, a letter came for their mother from
Hanover. She had informed the ladies of Leonore's complete recovery and
had added that the doctor thought it necessary for the child to enjoy the
strengthening mountain air for a while longer. She herself had no other
wish than to keep Leonore in her house as long as possible. The ladies'
answer was full of warm thanks for her great help in their embarrassing
situation. They were very glad to accept her great kindness for two more
weeks, after which one of them would come to fetch Leonore home.

Mrs. Maxa glanced with a heavy heart at the child to whom she had grown
as devoted as to her own. She felt dreadfully sad at the thought of
letting her go away so soon. The worst of it was that she knew the
ladies' abode had never really meant a home for poor Leonore. It only
doubled her grief to know how hard it would be for the child to leave
her, but as she had no right over her, she could do nothing. The only
thing she could plan was to ask the ladies to let her have Leonore
sometimes during the summer holidays. She decided not to dampen the
children's good spirits that evening with the discouraging news in the
letter.



CHAPTER VIII

MAeZLI PAYS VISITS

Whenever Maezli found the time heavy on her hands, she would suddenly
remember people who might want to see her. She had been extremely
occupied all these days entertaining Leonore, as during school hours she
had been the older girl's sole companion. Her brothers and sisters were
now home for a holiday and constantly surrounded Leonore. Finding
herself without her usual employment, Maezli ran after her mother on the
morning of the holiday and kept on saying, "I must go to see Apollonie.
I am sure Loneli is sad that I have not been to see her so long," until
her mother finally gave her permission to go that afternoon.

On her way to Apollonie Maezli had been struck by an idea which occupied
her very much. She arrived at the cottage of her old friend and sat down
beside Loneli, who was not in the least sad, but looked about her with
the merriest eyes. "I must go see the Castle-Steward to-day," she said
quickly. "I promised it but I forgot about it."

"No, no, Maezli," Apollonie said evasively, "we have lots of other things
to do. We have to see if the plums are getting ripe on the tree in the
corner of the garden, and after that you must see the chickens. Just
think, Maezli, they have little chicks, and you will have to see them. I
am sure you won't ever want to leave them."

"Oh, yes, when I have seen them I must go to the Castle-Steward because I
promised to," Maezli replied.

"I am sure he has forgotten all about it and does not remember you any
more," Apollonie said, trying to ward Maezli off from her design. "Does
your mama know that you mean to go to the castle?"

"No, because I only thought of it on my way here," Maezli assured her old
friend. "But one must always keep a promise; Kurt told me that."

"Mr. Trius won't even let you in," Apollonie protested.

"Certainly! He has to. I know the Castle-Steward well, and he is not in
the least afraid of Mr. Trius; I have noticed that," said Maezli, firmly
holding to her resolution.

Apollonie realized that words would do no good and resolved to entertain
Maezli so well with the little chickens and other things that it would
finally be too late for her to go to the castle. Maezli inspected the
tiny chickens and the ripening plums with great enjoyment, but as this
had barely taken any time at all, she soon said resolutely, "I have to go
now because it is late. If you would like to stay home, Loneli can come
with me. I am sure we can easily find the way."

"What are you dreaming of, Maezli?" Apollonie cried out. "How do you
think Mr. Trius would receive you if you ask him to let you in, I should
like to know? You'll find out something you won't like, I am afraid. No,
no, this can't be. If you insist on going, I had better go along."

Apollonie went indoors to get ready for the walk, as she always put on
better clothes whenever she mounted to the castle, despite the fact that
she might not see anyone. Loneli was extremely eager to have a chance to
find out who was the Castle-Steward whom Maezli had promised to visit.
She had tried to persuade her grandmother to let her go with Maezli, in
which case her mother would not need to change her clothes, But the
latter would not even hear of it, remarking, "You can sit on the bench
under the pear tree with your knitting in the meantime, and you can sing
a song. We are sure to be back again in a little while."

Soon they started off, Apollonie firmly holding Maezli's hand. Mr. Trius
appeared at the door before they even had time to ring; it seemed as if
the man really had his eyes on everything. Throwing a furious glance at
Maezli, he opened the door before Apollonie had said a word. But he had
taken great care to leave a crack which would only allow a little person
like Maezli to slip through without sticking fast in the opening. Maezli
wriggled through and started to run away. The next moment the door was
closed again. "Do you think I intend to squeeze myself through, too? You
do not need to bolt it, Mr. Trius," Apollonie said, much offended. "It
is not necessary to cut off the child from me like that, so that I don't
even know where she is going. I am taking care of her, remember. Won't
you please let me in, for I want to watch her, that is all."

"Forbidden," said Mr. Trius.

"Why did you let the child in?"

"I was ordered to."

"What? You were ordered to? By the master?" cried out Apollonie. "Oh,
Mr. Trius, how could he let the child go in and walk about the garden
while his old servant is kept out? She ought to be in there looking after
things. I am sure you have never told him how I have come to you, come
again and again and have begged you to admit me. I want to put things
into their old order and you don't want me to. You don't even know,
apparently, which bed he has and if his pillows are properly covered.
You said so yourself. I am sure that the good old Baroness would have no
peace in her grave if she knew all this. And this is all your fault. I
can clearly see that. I can tell you one thing, though! If you refuse to
give my messages to the master as I have begged and begged you to so
often, I'll find another way. I'll write a letter."

"Won't help."

"What won't help? How can you know that? You won't know what's in the
letter. I suppose the Baron still reads his own letters," Apollonie
eagerly went on.

"He receives no letters from these parts."

This was a terrible blow for Apollonie, to whom this new thought had
given great confidence. She therefore decided to say nothing more and
quietly watched Mr. Trius as he walked up and down inside the garden.

Maezli in the meantime had eagerly pursued her way and was soon up on the
terrace. Glancing about from there, she saw the gentleman again,
stretched out in the shadow of the pine tree, as she had seen him first,
and the glinting cover was lying again on his knees. Maezli ran over to
him.

"How do you do, Mr. Castle-Steward? Are you angry with me because I have
not come for so long?" she called out to him from a distance, and a
moment later she was by his side. "It was only on account of Leonore,"
Maezli continued. "I should otherwise have come ages ago. But when the
others are all in school she can't be left alone. So I stay with her and
I like to do it because she is so nice. Everybody likes Leonore,
everybody likes her terribly; Kurt and Bruno, too. They stay home all
the time now because Leonore is with us. You ought to know how nice she
is. You would like her dreadfully right away."

"Do you think so?" said the gentleman, while something like a smile
played about his lips. "Is it your sister?"

"My sister? No, indeed," Maezli said, quite astonished at his error. "She
is Salo's sister, the boy who was with us and who had to go back to
Hanover. She has to go back to Hanover, too, as soon as she is well, and
mama always gets very sad when she talks about it. But Mea gets sadder
still and even cries. Leonore hates to leave us, but she has to. She
cried dreadfully once because she can never, never have a home. As long
as she lives she'll have to be homeless. The beggar-woman who came with
the two ragged children said that. They were homeless, and Leonore said
afterwards, 'I am that way, too,' and then she cried terribly, and we
were sent out into the garden. She might have cried still more if she
had thought about our having a home with a mama while she has none. She
has no papa or anybody. But you must not think that she is a homeless
child with a torn dress; she looks quite different. Maybe she can find a
home in Apollonie's little house under the hill. Then Salo can come home
to her in the holidays. But mama does not think that this can be. But
Leonore wants it ever so much. I must bring her to you one day."

"Who are you, child? What is your name," asked the gentleman abruptly.

Maezli looked at him in astonishment.

"I am Maezli," she said, "and mama has the same name as I have. But they
don't call her that. Some people call her Mrs. Rector, some mama, and
Uncle Philip says Maxa to her and Leonore calls her Aunt Maxa."

"Is your father the rector of Nolla?" the gentleman asked.

"He has been in heaven a long while, and he was in heaven before we came
here, but mama wanted to come back to Nolla because this was her home.
We don't live in the rectory now, but where there is a garden with lots
of paths, and where the big currant-bushes are in the corners, here and
here and here." Maezli traced the position of the bushes exactly on the
lionskin. The castle-steward, leaning back in his chair, said nothing
more. "Do you find it very tiresome here?" Maezli asked sympathetically.

"Yes, I do," was the answer.

"Have you no picture-book"

"No."

"Oh, I'll bring you one, as soon as I come again. And then--but perhaps
you have a headache?" Maezli interrupted herself. "When my mama wrinkles
up her forehead the way you do she always has a headache, and one must
get her some cold water to make it better. I'll quickly get some," and
the next instant Maezli was gone.

"Come back, child!" the gentleman called after her. "There is nobody in
the castle, and you won't find any."

It seemed strange to Maezli that there should be nobody to bring water to
the Castle-Steward.

"I'll find somebody for him," she said, eagerly running down the incline
to the door, in whose vicinity Mr. Trius was wandering up and down.

"You are to go up to the Castle-Steward at once," she said standing still
in front of him, "and you are to bring him some cold water, because he
has a headache. But very quickly."

Mr. Trius glanced at Maezli in an infuriated way as if to say: "How do
you dare to come to me like this?" Then throwing the door wide open he
growled like a cross bear: "Out of here first, so I can close it." After
Maezli had slipped out he banged the big door with all his might so that
the hinges rattled. Turning the monstrous key twice in the lock, he also
bolted it with a vengeance. By this he meant to show that no one could
easily go in again at his pleasure.

Apollonie, who had been sitting down in the shade not far from the door
now went up to Maezli and said, "You stayed there a long time. What did
the gentleman say?"

"Very little, but I told him a lot," Maezli said. "He has a headache,
Apollonie, and just think! nobody ever brings him any water, and Mr.
Trius even turns the key and bolts the door before he goes to him."

Apollonie broke out into such lamentations and complaints after these
words that Maezli could not bear it.

"But he has the water long ago, Apollonie. I am sure Mr. Trius gave it
to him. Please don't go on so," she said a trifle impatiently. But this
was only oil poured on the flames.

"Yes, no one knows what he does and what he doesn't do," Apollonie
lamented, louder than ever. "The poor master is sick, and all his
servant does is to stumble about the place, not asking after his needs
and letting everything go to rack and ruin. Not a cabbage-head or a
pea-plant is to be seen. Not one strawberry or raspberry, no golden
apricots on the wall or a single little dainty peach. The disorder
everywhere is frightful. When I think how wonderfully it used to be
managed by the Baroness!" Apollonie kept on wiping her eyes because
present conditions worried her dreadfully. "You can't understand it,
Maezli," she continued, when she had calmed down a trifle. "You see,
child, I should be glad to give a finger of my right hand if I could go
up there one day a week in order to arrange things for the master as they
should be and fix the garden and the vegetables. The stuff the old
soldier is giving him to eat is perfectly horrid, I know."

Maezli hated to hear complaints, so she always looked for a remedy.

"You don't need to be so unhappy," she said. "Just cook some nice
milk-pudding for him and I'll take it up to him. Then he'll have
something good to eat, something much better than vegetables; oh, yes, a
thousand times better."

"You little innocent! Oh, when I think of forty years ago!" Apollonie
cried out, but she complained no further. Maezli's answers had clearly
given her the conviction that the child could not possibly understand the
difficult situation she was in.

Maezli chattered gaily by Apollonie's side, and as soon as she reached
home, wanted to tell her mother what had happened. But the child was to
have no opportunity for that day. The mother had been very careful in
keeping the contents of Miss Remke's letter from the children in order
not to spoil their last two weeks together. Unfortunately Bruno had that
day received a letter from Salo, in which he wrote that in ten days one
of the ladies was coming to fetch Leonore home, as she was completely
well. Salo remarked quite frankly that he himself hardly looked forward
to Leonore's coming, as he saw in each of her letters how happy she was
in Aunt Maxa's household and how difficult the separation would be for
her. Whenever he thought how hard it would be for her to grow accustomed
to the change again, all his joy vanished at the prospect of her return.
Bruno had read the whole letter aloud and had therewith conjured up such
consternation and grief on every side that the mother hardly knew how to
comfort them. Leonore herself was sitting in the midst of the excited
group. She gave no sound and had unsuccessfully tried to swallow her
rising tears, but they had got the better of her and were falling over
her cheeks in a steady stream.

Mea was crying excitedly, "Oh, mother, you must help us. You have to
write to the ladies that they mustn't come. Please don't let Leonore
go!"

Bruno remarked passionately that no one had the right to drag a sick
person on a journey against the doctor's wishes. The doctor had said the
last time he had been here that Leonore was to have not less than a month
for her complete recovery.

Kurt cried out over and over again, "Oh, mother, it's cruel, it's
perfectly cruel! We all want to keep her here and she wants to stay. Now
she is to be violently taken from us. Isn't that absolutely cruel?"

Lippo, coming close to Leonore, also did his best to console her. He
remembered that he could not say "stay with us" any more, but he had
another plan.

"Don't cry, Leonore," he said encouragingly. "As soon as I am big, Uncle
Philip has promised to give me a house and a lot of meadows. I'll be a
farmer then, and I'll write to you to come to live with me, and Salo can
come for the holidays, too."

Leonore could not help smiling, but it only brought more tears when she
thought how much love she was receiving from all these children, and that
she had to leave them and might never see them again. The mother's
attempts to comfort them failed entirely, because she had no hope
herself.

In the middle of this agitating scene Maezli arrived, perfectly happy and
filled with her recent experiences. She wished to relate what the
Castle-Steward had said to her and what she had said to him, and what had
happened afterwards. But no one listened because they were so deeply
absorbed with their own disturbing thoughts. They were not in the least
interested in what Maezli had to say about the Steward, as they all
thought that the steward was Mr. Trius. That evening the unheard-of
happened. Maezli actually begged to go to bed before the evening song had
been sung, because the depressing atmosphere in the house was so little
to her taste that she even preferred to go to bed.

Mea had been hoping till now that her mother would find some means to
keep Leonore. If it could not be the way Apollonie planned, she might at
least stay for a long stretch of time. All of a sudden this hope was
gone entirely, and the day of separation was terribly near. The girl
looked so completely miserable when she started out for school next day
that the mother had not the heart to let her go without a little comfort.

"You only need to go to school two more days, Mea," she said. "Next week
you can stay home and spend all your time with Leonore."

Mea was very glad to hear it, but without uttering a word she ran away,
for everything that concerned Leonore brought tears to her eyes.

Leonore had been looking so pale the last few days that Mrs. Maxa
surveyed her anxiously. Perhaps the recovery had not been as complete as
they had hoped, for the news of the close date of her departure had
proved to be a great strain for her. Mrs. Maxa went about quite
downcast and silent herself. Nothing for a long time had been so hard
for her to bear as the thought of separation from the little girl she had
begun to love like one of her own, who had also grown so lovingly
attached to her. The pressure lay on them all very heavily. Bruno never
said a word. Kurt, standing in a corner with a note-book, was busily
scribbling down his melancholy thoughts, but he did not show his verses
to anyone, as the tragic feeling in them might have drawn remarks from
Bruno which he might not have been able to endure. Lippo faithfully
followed Leonore wherever she went and from time to time repeated his
consoling words, but he said them in such a wailing voice that they
sounded extremely doleful. Maezli alone still gazed about her with merry
eyes and was dancing with joy when she saw that it was a bright sunny
day.

"You can take a little walk with Leonore, Maezli," the mother said
immediately after lunch, as soon as the other children had started off to
school. "Leonore will grow too pale if she does not get into the open
air. Take her on a pretty walk, Maezli. You might go to Apollonie."

Maezli most willingly got her little hat, and the children set out. When
they had passed half-way across the garden Maezli suddenly stood still.

"Oh, I forgot something," she said. "I have to go back again. Please
wait for me, I won't be long."

Maezli disappeared but came back very shortly with a large picture-book
under each arm. They were the biggest she had found and she had chosen
them because she thought: The bigger the books, the bigger his delight at
looking at them.

"Now I'll tell you what I thought," she said on reaching Leonore. "You
see, up in the castle under a big tree sits the sick Castle-Steward. I
promised to go to see him soon again and to bring him a picture book.
But I am bringing him two because he'll like two better. I also promised
to bring you and something else besides. You don't know why he needs
that other thing, but you will hear when we are up there. Let us go
now."

"But, Maezli, I don't know the gentleman and he doesn't know me," Leonore
began to object. "I can't go, because he might not like it. Besides
your mother knows nothing about it."

But Maezli had not the slightest intention of giving up her expedition.

"I have everything I want to bring him now, and the Castle-Steward has
probably been waiting for us all day, so, you see, we simply must go.
Mama also says that one has to go to see sick people and bring them
things, because it cheers them up. He has to sit all day alone under the
tree and he gets dreadfully tired. When he has a headache not a person
comes to bring him anything. It is not nice of you not to want to go
when he is expecting us."

Maezli had talked so eagerly that she not only became absolutely convinced
herself that it would be the greatest wrong if she did not go to see the
Castle-Steward, but produced a similar feeling in Leonore.

"I shall gladly go with you, if you think the sick gentleman does not
object," she said; "I only didn't know whether he would want us."

Maezli was satisfied now, and, gaily talking, led Leonore toward the lofty
iron door. The path led up between fragrant meadows and heavily laden
apple trees, and when they reached their destination, they found it quite
superfluous to ring the bell. Mr. Trius had long ago observed them and
stood immovably behind the door. Hoping that he would open it, the
children waited expectantly, but he did not budge.

"We want to pay a visit to the Castle-Steward," said Maezli. "You'd
better open soon."

"Not for two," was the answer.

"Certainly. We both have to go in, because he is expecting us," Maezli
informed him. "I promised to bring Leonore, so you'd better open."

But Mr. Trius did not stir.

"Come, Maezli, we'd better go back," said Leonore in a low voice. "Can't
you see that he won't open it? Maybe he is not allowed."

But it was no easy matter to turn Maezli from her project.

"If he won't open it I'll scream so loud that the Castle-Steward will
hear it," she said obstinately. "He is sure to say something then, for
he is waiting for us. I can shout very loud, just listen: 'Mr.
Castle-Steward!'"

Her cry was so vigorous that Mr. Trius became quite blue with rage. "Be
quiet, you little monster!" he said, but he opened the door nevertheless.

"Maybe we shouldn't go in," said Leonore. Maezli pulled her along,
however, and never let go her hand till they had reached the terrace; she
had no desire to leave her friend behind when they were so near their
goal. Now, Maezli quickly taking back the second picture-book, which
Leonore had been carrying for her, began to run.

"Just come! Leonore. Look! there he sits already." With this Maezli flew
over to the large pine tree.

"How do you do, Mr. Castle-Steward! Didn't I come soon again, this
time?" she merrily called out to him. "I have also brought everything I
promised. Here are the picture books--look! two of them. I thought you
might look through one too quickly."

Maezli laid both books on the lion skin and began to rummage through her
pockets. "Look what else I brought you," and Maezli laid down a tiny
ivory whistle. "Kurt gave it to me once and now I give it to you. If
you have a headache and Mr. Trius is far away, all you need to do is to
whistle. Then he can come and bring you some water. He'll hear it far,
far away, because it whistles as loud as anything. Just try it once! I
have also brought you Leonore."

The gentleman started slightly and looked up. Leonore had shyly
retreated behind the chair, but Maezli pulled her forward. The gentleman
now threw a penetrating glance at the delicate looking little girl, who
hardly dared to raise her large, dark eyes to his. Leonore, who had
blushed violently under his scrutiny, said in a barely audible voice,
"Perhaps we should not have come; but Maezli thought we might be allowed
to see you. Can we do something for you? Perhaps Maezli should not have
brought me. Oh, I am so sorry if I have offended you."

"No, indeed. Maezli meant well when she wanted me to meet her friend,"
the gentleman said in quite a friendly voice. "What is the name of
Maezli's friend?"

"Leonore von Wallerstaetten," the girl answered, and noticing the large
books on the gentleman's knees, she added, "May I take the books away?
They might be too heavy."

"Yes, you might, but it was very good of Maezli to bring them all the way
up to me," he said. "I'll look at them a little later."

"May I fix your pillow for you? It does not do you much good that way,"
said Leonore, pulling it up. It had long ago slipped out of position.

"Oh, this is better, this is lovely," the sick man replied, comfortably
leaning back in the chair.

"What a shame! It won't stay, I am afraid. It is falling down again,"
said Leonore regretfully. "We ought to have a ribbon. If I only had one
and a thread and needle!--but perhaps we could come again to-morrow--"

Leonore became quite frightened suddenly at her boldness and remained
silent from embarrassment. But Maezli got her out of this trying
situation. Full of confidence she announced that they would return the
next day with everything necessary.

The gentleman now asked Leonore where she came from and where she lived.
She related that she had been living in a boarding school for several
years, ever since the death of her great-aunt, with whom both she and her
brother had found a home.

"Have you no other relations?" the gentleman asked, keenly observing her
the while.

"No, none at all, except an uncle who has been living in Spain for many
years. My aunt told us that he won't ever come back and that no one
knows where he is. If we knew where he is, we should have written to him
long ago. Salo would go to Spain as soon as he was allowed to and I
should go to him in any case."

"Why?" the gentleman asked.

"Because he is our father's brother," she replied, "and we could love him
like a father, too. He is the only person in the whole world to whom we
could belong. We have wished many and many a time a chance to look for
him, because we might live with him."

"No, you couldn't do that. I know him, I have been in Spain," the
Castle-Steward said curtly.

A light spread over Leonore's face, as if her heart had been suddenly
flooded with hope.

"Oh, do you really know our uncle? Do you know where he is living?" she
cried out, while her cheeks flushed with happiness. "Oh, please tell me
what you know about him."

When she gazed up at the gentleman with such sparkling eyes, it seemed to
him that he ought to consider his reply carefully.

Suddenly he said positively, "No, no, you can never seek him out. Your
uncle is an old, sick man, and no young people could possibly live with
him. He must remain alone in his old owl's nest. You could not go to
him there."

"But we should go to him so much more, if he is old and ill. He needs us
more then than if he had a family," Leonore said eagerly. "He could be
our father and we his children and we could take care of him and love
him. If he only were not so dreadfully far away! If you could only tell
us where he lives, we could write to him and get his permission to go
there. Without him we can't do anything at all, because Mr. von Stiele
in Hanover wants Salo to study for years and years longer. We have to do
everything he says, unless our uncle should call us. Oh, please tell me
where he lives!"

"Just think of all the deprivations you would have to suffer with your
old uncle! Think how lonely it would be for you to live with a sick man
in a wild nest among the rocks! What do you say to that?" he said curtly.

"Oh, it would only be glorious for Salo and me to have a real home with
an uncle we loved," Leonore continued, showing that her longing could not
be quenched. "There is only one thing I should miss there, but I have to
miss it in Hanover, too. I shall never, never feel at home there!"

"Well, what is this?" the gentleman queried.

"That I can't be together with Aunt Maxa and the children."

"Shall we ask Aunt Maxa's advice? Would this suit you, child?"

"Oh, yes indeed," Leonore answered happily.

At the mention of Aunt Maxa she suddenly remembered that they had not
told her where they were going. As she was afraid that they had
remained away too long already, Lenore urged Maezli to take her leave
quickly, while she gave her hand to the steward.

"Will you deliver a message for me, Leonore?" he said; "will you tell
your Aunt Maxa that the master of the castle, whom she knew long years
ago, would love to visit her, but he is unable? Ask her if he may hope
that she will come up to him at the castle instead?"

Maezli gave her hand now to say good-bye, and when she noticed that the
pillow had slipped down again, she said, "Apollonie would just love to
set things in order for you, but Mr. Trius won't let her in. She would
be willing to give a finger from her right hand if she were allowed to do
everything Mr. Trius doesn't do."

"Come now, Maezli," said Leonore, for she had the feeling that this
peculiar revelation might be followed by others as unintelligible. But
the Castle-Steward smiled, as if he had comprehended Maezli's words.

Mrs. Maxa was standing in front of her house, surrounded by her
children, anxiously looking for the two missing ones. Nobody could
understand where Leonore and Maezli might have stayed so long. Suddenly
they caught a glimpse of two blue ribbons fluttering from Leonore's hat.
Quickly the children rushed to meet them.

"Where do you come from? Where did you stay so long? Where have you been
all this time," sounded from all sides.

"In the castle," was the answer.

The excitement only grew at this.

"How could you get there? Who opened the door? What did you do at the
castle?" The questions were poured out at such a rate that no answer
could possibly have been heard.

"I went to see the Castle-Steward before. I have been to see him quite
often," said Maezli loudly, for she was desirous of being heard.

Leonore had gone ahead with the mother's arm linked in hers, for she was
very anxious to deliver her message.

Kurt was too much interested in Maezli's expedition to the castle to be
frightened off by the first unintelligible account. He had to find out
how it had come about and what had happened, but the two did not get very
far in their dialogue.

As soon as Maezli began to talk first about Mr. Trius and then about the
Steward, Kurt always said quickly, "But this is all one and the same
person. Don't make two out of them, Maezli! All the world knows that Mr.
Trius is the Steward of Castle Wildenstein; he is one person and not
two."

Then Maezli answered, "Mr. Trius is one and the Castle-Steward is
another. They are two people and not one."

After they had repeated this about three times Bruno said, "Oh, Kurt,
leave her alone. Maezli thinks that there are two, when she calls him
first Mr. Trius and then Mr. Castle-Steward."

That was too much for Maezli, and shouting vigorously, "They are two
people, they are two people," she ran away.

Leonore had related in the meantime how Maezli had proposed to visit the
sick Castle-Steward and how she had at first been reluctant to go, till
Maezli had made her feel that she was wrong. She related everything that
had happened and all the questions he had asked her.

"Just think, Aunt Maxa," Leonore went on, "the gentleman knows our uncle
in Spain. He said that he had been there, too, and he knows that our
uncle is old and ill and is living all by himself. I wanted so much to
find out where he was, and asked him to tell me, but he thought it would
not help, as we couldn't possibly go to him. So I said that we might
write, and just think, Aunt Maxa! at last he said he would ask your
advice." Then Leonore gave her message. "He did not say that the
Castle-Steward, as he called himself to Maezli, sent the message, but told
me that it was from the master of the castle, whom you knew a long time
ago," Leonore concluded. "Oh, just think! Aunt Maxa, we might find our
uncle after all. Oh, please help us, for I want so much to write to
him."

Mrs. Maxa had listened with ever-growing agitation, and she was so
deeply affected that she could not say a word. She could not express the
thought which thrilled her so, because she did not know the Baron's
intentions. Mea's loud complaints at this moment conveniently hid her
mother's silence.

"Oh, Leonore," she cried out, "if you go to Spain, we shan't see each
other again for the rest of our lives; then you will never, never come
back here any more!"

"Do you really think so?" Leonore asked, much downcast. She felt that it
would be hard for her to choose in such a case, and she suddenly did not
know if she really wanted to go to Spain.

"It is not very easy to make a trip to Spain, children," said the mother,
"and I am sure that it is not necessary to get excited about it."

When Kurt, after the belated supper that night, renewed his examination
about the single or the double Steward of Castle Wildenstein, their
mother announced that bedtime had not only come for the little ones, but
for all. Soon after, the whole lively party was sleeping soundly and
only the mother was still sitting in her room, sunk in deep meditation.
She had not been able to think over the Baron's words till now and she
wondered what hopes she might build upon them. He might only want to
talk over Leonore's situation because he had realized how little she felt
at home in Hanover. But all this thinking led to nothing, and she knew
that our good Lord in heaven, who opens doors which seem most tightly
barred, had let it happen for a purpose. She was so grateful that she
would be able to see the person who, more than anyone else, held
Leonore's destiny in his hands. Full of confidence in God, she hoped
that the hand which had opened an impassable road would also lead an
embittered heart back to himself, and by renewing in him the love of his
fellowmen, bring about much happiness and joy.



CHAPTER IX

IN THE CASTLE

The next afternoon, after planning a pleasant walk for Leonore and Maezli,
Mrs. Maxa started on her way to the castle. As soon as she neared the
grated iron door it opened wide, and holding his hat in his hand, Mr.
Trius stood deeply bowing in the opening.

"May I see the Baron?" asked Mrs. Maxa.

After another reverence Mr. Trius led the visitor up the hill, and when
he had duly announced her, invited her with a third bow to step forward.
It was quite evident that Mr. Trius had been definitely ordered to
change his usual mode of behaviour.

Mrs. Maxa now approached the chair near the pine tree.

"Have you really come, Mrs. Maxa?" said the sick man, putting out his
hand. "Did no bitter feelings against the evil-doer keep you back?"

Mrs. Maxa pressed the proffered hand and replied, "I could wish for no
greater joy, Baron, than to have your door opened for me. I have
wondered oftener than you could think if this would ever happen, for I
wanted an opportunity to serve you. I know no bitter feelings and never
have known them. Everybody who has loved this castle and its inmates has
known they suffered grief and pain."

"I returned to this old cave here to die," said the Baron. "You can see
plainly that I am a broken man. I only wished to forget the past in this
solitude, and I thought it right for me to die forgotten. Then your
little girl came in here one day--I have not been able to discover how."

"Oh, please forgive her," said Mrs. Maxa. "It is a riddle to me, too,
how she succeeded in entering this garden. I knew nothing about it till
yesterday evening when the children came home from the castle. I am
terribly afraid that Maezli has annoyed you."

"She has not done so at all, for she is her mother's true child," said
the Baron. "She was so anxious to help me and to bring me what I lacked.
Because she loved Leonore so much, she wanted me to know her, too, but I
cannot understand Leonore. She begged and begged to be allowed to see
her uncle, as she wished to live with him and love him like a father.
She even longs to seek him out in a foreign country. What shall I do?
Please give me your advice, Mrs. Maxa."

"There is only one thing to do, Baron," the lady replied with an
overflowing heart. "God Himself has done what we never could have
accomplished, despite all our wishes. The child has been led into your
arms by God and therefore belongs to you from now on. You must become
her father and let her love and take care of you. You will soon realize
what a treasure she is, and through her the good old times will come back
to this castle. You will grow young again yourself as soon as you two
are here together."

The Baron replied: "Our dear Maxa always saw things in an ideal light.
How could a delicate child like Leonore fit into a wilderness like this
castle. Everything here is deserted and forlorn. Just think of the old
watchman here and me, what miserable housemates we should be. Won't you
receive the child in your house, for she clearly longs to have a home? I
know that she will find one there and apparently has found it already.
She can learn by and by who her uncle is and then she can come to visit
him sometimes."

Amazed at this sudden change, Mrs. Maxa was silent for a while. How she
would have rejoiced at this prospect a few days ago!

"I love Leonore like my own child and wanted nothing better than to keep
her with me," she said finally, "but I think differently now. The
children belong to you, and the castle of their fathers must become their
home. You must let Leonore surround you with her delightful and soothing
personality, which is sure to make you happy. When you come to know her
you will soon realize of what I should have robbed you. There is no
necessity at all for the castle to remain forlorn and empty. Despite the
loss of our dear loved ones, the life here can again become as pleasant
as in former times. Your mother always hoped that this would happen at
her eldest son's return, as she had desired that his home should remain
unchanged even after her death. Leonore can have her quarters in your
mother's rooms."

"I wonder if you would like to see the rooms you knew so well, Mrs.
Maxa," the Baron said slowly.

Mrs. Maxa gladly assented to this.

"May I go everywhere?" she asked. "I know my way so well."

"Certainly, wherever you wish," the Baron replied.

Entering the large hall, Mrs. Maxa was filled with deep emotion. Here
she had spent the most beautiful days of her childhood in delicious games
with the unforgettable Leonore and the two young Barons. Everything was
as it had been then. The large stone table in the middle, the stone
benches on the walls and the niches with the old knights of Wallerstaetten
stood there as of yore.

When she went into the dining-hall, everything looked bare and empty.
The portraits of ancestors had been taken from the walls and the glinting
pewter plates and goblets were gone from the large oaken sideboard. Mrs.
Maxa shook her head.

Going up the stairs, she decided first of all to go to the Baron's rooms,
for she wondered what care he was receiving. Rigid with consternation,
she stopped under the doorway. What a room it was! Not the tiniest
picture was on the wall and not a single small rug lay on the uneven
boards. Nothing but an empty bedstead, an old wicker chair and a table
which had plainly been dragged there from the servants' quarters,
comprised the furniture. Mrs. Maxa looked again to make sure that it
was really the Baron's room. There was no doubt of it, it was the
balcony room in the tower. Where did the Baron sleep?

As the sight proved more than she could bear, she quickly sought the late
Baroness' chamber. Here, too, everything was empty and the red
plush-covered chairs and the sofa in the corner over which all the
pictures of the children used to hang were gone. Only an empty bedstead
stood in the corner.

Mrs. Maxa went next to Leonore's room, which used to be extremely
pretty. Lovely pictures used to hang on the walls, chairs covered in
light blue silk were standing about, a half-rounded bed was placed in a
corner, and she remembered the dearest little desk on which two flower
vases, always filled with fresh roses, used to stand. Mrs. Maxa did not
even go in this time, it was too horribly forlorn. The only thing which
still spoke of old times was the wallpaper with the tiny red and blue
flowers. She quickly went out. Throwing a single glance at the large
ball-room, she likened it to a dreary desert. Not a curtain, not a chair
or painting could be seen. Where could all the valuable damask-covered
furniture have gone to? Was it possible that the castle had been robbed
and no one knew of it?

It was probable, however, that Mr. Trius did not know about anything,
and it was plain that the Baron himself had not troubled about these
things. Mrs. Maxa hurriedly went back to him.

"To what a dreary home you have come back, my poor friend!" she cried
out, "and I know that your mother never wished you to find it like this.
How unhappy you must have felt when you entered these walls after so many
years! You cannot help feeling miserable here, and it is all quite
incomprehensible to me."

"Not to me," the Baron quietly replied; "I somehow felt it had to be that
way. Did I value my home before? It is a just retribution to me to find
the place so empty and forlorn. I only returned to die here and I can
await death in daytime on my chair out here and at night time in my nest.
I need nothing further; but death has not come as quickly as I thought it
would. Why are you trying to bring me back to life again?"

"This is what I decidedly mean to do, so we shall banish the subject of
death from now on, as I confidently believe that our Lord in Heaven has
other plans for you," Mrs. Maxa said decisively. "I can see for myself
that it is better for Leonore to stay with us, and I am ever so happy for
your permission. May I write the ladies in Hanover that you do not want
Leonore to be fetched away for the present?"

The Baron heartily gave this permission.

"I have to trouble you for one thing, Baron. Can you remember Apollonie,
who was for many years your most faithful servant?"

The Baron smilingly answered, "Of course I remember her. How could I
possibly forget Apollonie, who was always ready to help us in everything.
Your little daughter has already given me news of her."

"She is the only one who might know what happened to the furniture," Mrs.
Maxa continued. "I am going to see her right away, and I wish you would
admit her when she comes. In case the place has really been robbed, you
must let me get what you require. Nobody is looking after you and you
stand sorely in need of good care. I am quite sure that your mother
would like me to look after you. Do you not think so?"

"I do," the Baron replied smilingly, "and I feel that I ought to be
obedient."

After these words Mrs. Maxa took her leave and rapidly walked down the
mountain.

She unexpectedly entered Apollonie's garden while the latter was working
there, and immediately described to her the terrible state of things at
the castle. She had always believed that the Baron would find it
home-like and furnished, and now everything was gone, and he had not even
a bed to sleep in, but was obliged to spend both day and night in his
chair.

Apollonie had been wringing her hands all the time and broke out at last
bitterly, "How could I have foreseen that? Oh, what a Turk, what a
savage, what an old heathen that miserable Trius is," she sobbed, full of
rage and grief. "I understand now why he never answered my questions. I
have asked him many a time if he had taken out the right bed and was
using the things belonging to it which were marked with a blue crown in
the corners. He only used to grin at me and never said a word. He never
even looked for them and calmly let my poor sick Baron suffer. Nothing
is missing, not even the tiniest picture or trifle, and he had to come
back to a terrible waste! All my sleepless nights were not in vain, but I
had not the slightest idea that it could be as bad as that. The worst of
it is that it is my fault.

"Yes, it really is all my fault, Mrs. Maxa," and Apollonie went on to
tell how this had come about. Baron Bruno had only heard the news of his
brother's marriage and his mother's death when he returned the first time
years ago. He left again immediately, and she was quite sure that he did
not intend to return for a long while. As no one had lived at the castle
for so long, she had decided to put all the beautiful things safely away,
in order to keep them from ruin and possible thieves. So she had stored
them in the attic, wrapped in sheets, and had locked the place up.
Apollonie had never doubted that she would be called to the castle as
soon as the Baron returned, for she belonged there as of old and occupied
the little gardener's cottage belonging to it. But her dreams were not
to come true.

"I must go to him this minute," gasped Apollonie; she had spoken rapidly
and with intense excitement. "I want to fix my master's room to-day. I
am sure I can do it, for all the furniture from the different rooms is
marked and grouped together. But shall I be let in? The horrible
stubborn old watchman always keeps me out."

But Mrs. Maxa was able to quiet her on that score by the Baron's recent
promise, and she even urged Apollonie to start directly. The Baron
should be told of the situation and have a bed prepared for him that
night. After this Mrs. Maxa left.

Leonore, knowing where the mother had gone, flew to meet her when she saw
her coming.

"Did he give you the address, Aunt Maxa," she asked expectantly.

"He means to let you know when he has traced it."

This seemed quite hopeful to Leonore, and she was glad to be able to give
her brother this news. Mrs. Maxa herself lost no time in writing to the
ladies in Hanover that Leonore's uncle had returned and wished to keep
her near him.

Apollonie was meanwhile getting ready for her walk. Her agitation was so
great that she took rather long in getting ready. Her toilet finally
completed, she hurried up the incline with astonishing ease, for the hope
of being admitted to the castle made her feel at least ten years younger,
though she still had some doubts whether the door would be opened for
her; On her arrival she pulled the bell-rope. Mr. Trius appeared,
quietly opened and silently walked away again. Apollonie, who knew from
Maezli where the master was, went towards the terrace. When she saw the
sick man, she was completely overcome by memories of former times. She
only said shakily, "Oh, Baron, Baron! I cannot bear this! It is my fault
that you have no proper room or bed! And ill and suffering as you are!"
Apollonie could get no further for sobs and tears.

The Baron shook her hand kindly. "What is the matter, Mrs. Apollonie?
We have always been good friends. What do you mean?"

He then heard from Apollonie that it had been the Baroness' wish to leave
the whole house unchanged on account of his possible return. Apollonie
frankly admitted that she had only moved the things away to keep them
from being ruined and had naturally counted on putting every object back
again as soon as he came back, for she remembered where every pin-cushion
and tiny picture belonged. She begged the Baron's permission to let her
fix his room to-day, another one the day after, and so on till the castle
looked again as his mother had wished it to be.

The Baron replied that Apollonie could do whatever she chose, adding that
he trusted her entirely.

Her heart was filled with joy as she ran towards the attic. She came
down soon afterwards laden with blankets, sheets and pillows, only to go
up again for a new load. This went on for a couple of hours, and between
times she set the manifold objects in order. How gladly she put up the
heavy hangings in the Baron's room. She knew how he had always loved the
beautiful red color which dimmed the bright sunlight. Apollonie stood
still in the middle of the room and looked about her. Everything was
there down to the two pen-holders the Baron had last been using, which
were on the big shell of the bronze inkstand. Beside them lay a black
pen-wiper with red and white roses which Miss Leonore herself had
embroidered. The cover was half turned back and the snow-white bed with
the high pillows was ready to receive the sick man. Over the bed hung a
little picture of his mother, which had been there since his boyhood, and
Apollonie had also remembered every other detail. When she went down to
the terrace, a cool evening breeze was already blowing through the
branches of the pine tree.

"Everything is ready, Baron," she said; "we are going to carry you up
together, because Mr. Trius can't do it alone. I am sure you will sleep
well to-night."

"Where do you want to take me?" the Baron asked, surprised. "I am quite
comfortable able here."

"No, no, Baron, it is getting too cool for you here. Your room is a
better place at this hour; your mother would have wished it, I am sure.
Will you allow me to call Mr. Trius?"

"I'll have to give in, I suppose," the Baron acquiesced.

Mr. Trius was already on the spot, for he was blessed with splendid
hearing.

"You are to carry me up," said the Baron. "Apollonie will show you how
it is done."

Apollonie immediately seized him firmly about the waist.

"You do the same, Mr. Trius," she said; "then please, Baron, put one arm
about his neck and one around mine. We shall clasp hands under your feet
and lift you up."

In the most easy, comfortable way the Baron was lifted and carried to his
chamber and placed on the fresh bed. Leaning back on the easy pillows,
he looked about him.

"How charming it is," he said, letting his glance rest here and there.
"You have brought everything back, Mrs. Apollonie, and have made it look
the way it was years ago."

"Make things comfortable for him for the night now," Apollonie whispered
to Mr. Trius, leaving the room to repair to the kitchen.

"Gracious heavens! what disorder," she cried out on entering, for the
whole place was covered with dust and spider-webs. Opening a cupboard,
she saw only a loaf of bread and a couple of eggs, and this was all she
was able to find even on further search.

"What a wretch!" she cried out in bitter rage. "He seems to give his
master nothing but eggs. But I know what I'll do," she said to herself,
eagerly seeking for a key, which she discovered, as of old, on a rusty
nail. Next she repaired to the cellar where she quickly found what she
was after; the bottle stood in sore need of cleaning, however, as did
everything else she touched. Then she set about beating two eggs, adding
a glass of the strengthening wine, for she had vividly recollected how
much her master used to enjoy this. When she entered his room with this
concoction a little later, the odor from it was so inviting that the
Baron breathed it in gratefully. Mr. Trius had left the room and
Apollonie had put the empty cup away, and yet she kept on setting trifles
in order.

"Oh, Baron," she said finally, "there is so much to do still. I saw the
kitchen just now. If the Baroness had seen it as dirty as that, what
would she have said? And every other place is the same. I feel as if I
couldn't rest till everything is set in order. I wish I could work all
night!"

"No, no, Apollonie! You must have a good night's rest; I intend to sleep,
too, in this lovely bed," he said smilingly. "Would you like to live
here again and undertake the management of the castle?"

Apollonie stared at her master at first as if she could not comprehend
his words.

"Tell me what you think of it? Are you willing to do it?" he asked again.

"Am I willing? am I willing? Oh, Baron, of course I am, and you cannot
know how happy I am," she cried out with frank delight. "I can come
to-morrow morning, Baron, to-morrow, but now--I wonder what you'll say.
You see, I am living with my daughter's child, who is twelve years old.
She is a very good child, but is scarcely old enough yet to help much in
the house and garden."

"How splendid! When Apollonie will be too old to do the work, we shall
have a young one to carry it on," said the Baron. "When you move up here
tomorrow, you will know which quarters to choose for yourself, I know."

The Baron sank back with evident comfort into his pillows, and Apollonie
wandered home with a heart overflowing with happiness. At the first rays
of the sun next morning she was already in front of her cottage, packing
only the most necessary things for herself and the child into a cart, as
she intended to fetch the rest of them later. Loneli had just heard the
great news, because she had been asleep when her grandmother returned the
night before. She was so absolutely overcome by the prospect of becoming
an inmate of the castle that she stood still in the middle of the little
chamber.

"Come, come," the grandmother urged, "we have no time for wondering, as
we shall have to be busy all day."

"What will Kurt and Mea say?" was Loneli's first exclamation. She would
have loved to run over to them right away, for whenever anything happened
to her she always felt the wish to tell her two best friends.

"Yes, and think what Mrs. Rector will say," Apollonie added. "But let
us quickly finish up here, for we must get to the castle as soon as
possible. You are not going to school for the next two days and on
Sunday I hope to be all done."

Apollonie rapidly tied up her bundle and locked the cottage door. Then
quickly setting out, they did not stop till they had reached the
iron-grated door. Mr. Trius, after letting them wait a while, appeared
with dragging steps.

"Why not before daybreak?" he growled.

"Because you might have been still in bed and could not have unlocked the
door. But for that I should have come then," Apollonie quickly retorted.

So he silently led the way, for he had had to realize that Apollonie was
not in the least backward now that she had the master's full support.
She first sought out her old chamber, and Loneli was extremely puzzled to
see her grandmother wiping her eyes over and over again. The whole thing
was like a beautiful fairy story to the child, and she loved the charming
room with the dark wainscoting along the wall.

But Apollonie did not indulge very long in dreams and memories. Soon
after, she was making war on the fine spider-webs in the kitchen, and in
a couple of hours it already looked livable and cosy there. Mr. Trius
smiled quite pleasantly when he entered, as he was just on the point of
brewing himself and his master a cup of coffee. The only thing he
usually added was a piece of dry bread, as he was too lazy to get milk
and butter from the neighboring farmers, and his master had never asked
for either. The steaming coffee and hot milk and the fresh white bread
Apollonie had prepared looked very appetizing to him. The wooden benches
were clean scrubbed, and he didn't object to absence of the annoying
spider-webs, which had always tickled his nose.

Apollonie, pouring the fragrant beverage into a large cup, politely
invited Mr. Trius to take his seat at the table. He could not help
enjoying the meal and the new order of things in the kitchen. Apollonie
now prepared the breakfast tray, setting on it the good old china that
the Baroness had always used. She had put a plate with round
butter-balls beside the steaming coffee-pot, and fresh round rolls peeped
invitingly from an old-fashioned little china basket.

When Apollonie came to her master's room, he exclaimed, "Oh, how good
this looks! Just like old times."

At first he thought that even looking at it would do him good, but
Apollonie did not agree with him.

"Please take a little, Baron," she begged him, "otherwise your strength
will not come back. Take a little bit at first and gradually more and
more. I know you will like the butter. Loneli got it at the best farm
hereabouts."

After tasting a little the Baron was surprised how good it was.

When her master was comfortably sitting in the lovely morning sun,
Apollonie fetched Loneli out. She wanted the child to thank him for
receiving her into his house. Now the great task of cleaning and moving
began, and it took a whole day of feverish activity to get the rooms in
the castle settled. Only at meal times was this interrupted, for
Apollonie did not look at this as a minor matter, and she carefully
planned what to give her master.

For Mr. Trius she had to consider the quantity, for he seemed to have an
excellent appetite and clearly enjoyed coming to the neat-looking
kitchen. He had begun to show his gratitude to Apollonie by willingly
carrying the heavy furniture about.

Two days had passed in uninterrupted work, and Apollonie had accomplished
what she had set out to do. When she brought her master his breakfast on
Sunday, she stood irresolutely holding the doorknob in her hand.

"Have you something to tell me Apollonie? You certainly can't complain
that I don't appreciate your delicious coffee. Just look at the progress
I am making."

With comical seriousness the Baron pointed to the empty cup and the sole
remaining roll.

"God be thanked and praised for that," she said joyfully. "I shall tell
you because you asked me. I wonder if you would give me a little Sunday
pleasure by inspecting all the rooms. I have your chair already at the
door."

After the great work Apollonie had done, his only objection was that she
desired something which meant pleasure for him and labour for her. But
he was willing enough to be put into the heavy wheel-chair.

"It is wonderful what you have done, Apollonie," he concluded. "You seem
to have even changed Mr. Trius from an old bear into an obedient lamb."

Soon after, the Baron sat propped up in his wheel-chair. Here, guided by
Apollonie, he was taken first of all to the large ball-room, which had
witnessed all the happy gatherings of the family and their friends. It
actually glistened in its renewed splendor, and the Baron silently looked
about him. The tower room, which had been his brother Salo's abode, was
inspected next, and again the Baron uttered no word. Beautiful portraits
of his ancestors adorned these walls, and he recalled how Salo had loved
them.

Apollonie moved next to the room of the Baroness where every object was
in its place again. The faithful servant noticed how her master's
glances drank it all in and as they remained he still showed no desire to
leave.

"My mother was sitting in this arm-chair when I last spoke to her," he
said at last, "and this red pin cushion was lying on the table before
her. I remember standing there and playing with the pins, and I can
recall every word she said. Don't carry me down to-day, Mrs.
Apollonie," he continued after a pause, "I want to spend my Sunday here.
I am glad there are no more empty rooms to flee from."

Apollonie was more gratified than she could say that her master was
beginning to feel at home and hoped that it would soon become dear to
him. She wanted him to see also Leonore's bright and cheerful room,
which the Baroness had had furnished in the daintiest way, and was unable
to suppress her wish. "Please, Baron, take one more small trip with me,"
she begged. "We can soon come back here."

As he raised no objection, they set out. Through the wide-open windows
of the room the woods could be seen. Flocks of gay birds sat carolling
on the luxuriant branches of the fir trees, and their songs filled the
room with laughter. The Baron let his gaze roam out to the trees with
their merry minstrels and back again to the pleasant chamber.

"You have accomplished miracles, Mrs. Apollonie," he cried out. "It
only took you two days to change this mournful cave into a pleasant abode
where young people could be happy. Please take me back to my mother's
room now and come to me as soon as you find time, for I have something to
talk over with you."

An interview lasting a considerable time took place that afternoon.
Loneli had been thinking about Kurt and Mea while she was wandering
happily up and down the terrace, and she wondered how soon they would
hear of the great event. She was very anxious for them to pay her a
visit, for which she was already making plans.

When Loneli came back from her stroll, she saw her grandmother sitting on
the window-seat, sobbing violently.

"But grandmother, why are you crying? Everything is so wonderful here,
and all the birds outside are singing."

"I am singing with them in my heart, child; these tears are tears of
joy," said the grandmother. "Sit down, Loneli, and I'll tell you what is
going to happen to-morrow. I feel as if this happiness was too much for
me, Loneli." Apollonie was once more swept away by emotion, and it took
her a little time before she could tell Loneli the wonderful news.

On this day it was so quiet in Mrs. Maxa's garden, that it hardly seemed
as if the whole family was gathered in the vine-covered gardens. The
thought of its being Leonore's last Sunday kept them from being gay,
despite the fact that they were playing a game which they usually
enjoyed. The mother's thoughts were wandering, too, for she had waited
all day to get news from the castle. Wondering what this meant, Mrs.
Maxa found it difficult to keep her attention on the children. Maezli
undertook a little stroll from time to time, for her companions depressed
her very much. She had been to see Kathy, who was sitting near the
house-door, and had chatted occasionally with the passers, but now she
returned carrying a letter.

"A boy brought it, and Kathy asked him from whom it was, but he didn't
know," she explained.

"Give it to me, Maezli," said the mother. "It is addressed to Leonore,
though," she added, a bit frightened, "but--"

Leonore put both hands up to her face. "Please read it, Aunt Maxa, I
can't."

"You need not be frightened, children," she said quickly, with a joyful
flush on her cheeks. "Listen! As the Castle-Steward wants to see his two
young friends, Leonore and Maezli, again, he invites them, with the rest
of the family, including the mother, to spend the following day at Castle
Wildenstein."

"I am glad," said Maezli rapidly, "then Kurt can see that the
Castle-Steward and Mr. Trius are two people."

The children had been entirely taken aback by fright, which turned into
surprise, but they began to shout joyfully now, for the prospect of being
invited to the castle was an event nobody could have predicted. For
years they had only seen the mysterious shuttered doors and windows, and
it was no wonder that they were delighted. Mea had heartily voiced her
delight with the others till she noticed that Leonore had become very
quiet and melancholy.

"But, Leonore," she exclaimed, "why don't you look forward to the lovely
day we are going to have? I can't imagine anything nicer than to be able
to inspect the whole castle."

"I can't," Leonore replied. "I know too well that everything will be
over after that day, and I may even never see you any more."

Poor Mea was deeply affected by these words, and immediately her joy had
flown. It was rather difficult to quiet everybody down in bed that night
and even when Kurt had gone to sleep he uttered strange triumphant
exclamations, for in his dreams the boy had climbed to the top of the
highest battlement.

At ten o'clock next morning all the children were ready to leave and had
formed a regular procession. Bruno and Kurt had placed themselves at the
head and were only waiting for their mother.

Now the two boys started off at such a rate that no one else could keep
up with them, so the mother appointed Leonore and Mea as guides, and
herself followed with Maezli. She firmly held the little girl's hand, for
there was no telling what she might undertake otherwise, and the less
independent Lippo held his mother's other hand, so that the two older
brothers were obliged to accommodate their steps to the rest. But Kurt,
simply bursting with impatience, dashed ahead once, only to drop behind
again; later on he would appear from behind a hedge. Lippo simply could
not stand such disorder, and to even up the pairs he took Bruno's hand.
When they reached the familiar iron-grated door at last, to their
surprise both wings of it were thrown open.

Mr. Trius, with his hat lowered to the ground, stood at his post to
receive them. Shining silver buttons set off a coat which plainly
belonged to his gala suit. Kurt was so completely confounded by this
reception that he quickly fell into line with the rest, and the
procession proceeded. The first thing they saw on the terrace was a long
festive table with garlands of ivy and flowers. Apollonie soon after
appeared in a beautiful silk gown the Baroness had given her, and her
measured movements made the occasion seem extremely solemn. She had, to
all appearance, become "Castle Apollonie" again. Loneli, wearing a
pretty dress and carrying a huge bouquet of flowers, stepped up to
Leonore. Then she handed her the flowers and recited in a clear,
impressive voice the following words which Apollonie had composed
herself:

   "Thrice welcome to this home of thine,
   Lady of Castle Wildenstein."

Leonore, rigid with surprise, first stared at Loneli, then looked at the
mother.

Mrs. Maxa took Leonore's hand and led her to the Baron, who had
smilingly surveyed the scene.

"I think that her uncle is going to make his little niece a speech at
last," Mrs. Maxa said, placing Leonore's hand in her uncle's. Like a
flash comprehension dawned on Leonore.

"Dear uncle, dear uncle!" she cried out, embracing him tenderly. "Is it
really true that you are my uncle? Is this wonderful thing really true?"

"Yes, child, I am the uncle you longed to love like a father," said the
Baron. "I want to be your father and I hope you can love me a little.
Will you mind living with me, Leonore?"

"Oh, dear, dear uncle," Leonore repeated with renewed signs of warm
affection. "It is not very hard to love you. When you told me that my
uncle in Spain was sick and miserable, I wished he could be just like
you. I really can't quite believe that Salo and I may live with you in
this wonderful castle, where I can be so near Aunt Maxa and everybody I
love. I wonder what Salo will say. May I write to him today and let him
know that we shall have a home with you?"

"How do you do, Mr. Castle-Steward,"

Maezli said that moment, thrusting a plump, round hand between Leonore's
and the Baron's. Maezli had actually made use of the first moment her
hand was free.

"Now Kurt can see for himself that you and Mr. Trius are two people;
can't he, Mr. Steward?"

"This certainly must be cleared up," the Baron answered, shaking Maezli's
hand. "We shall prove to them all that Maezli knows what she has seen.
Leonore, I want to meet your friends now. Won't you bring them to me?"

The children were all standing around their mother and Apollonie, who
were clearing up the mystery for them. The mother had barely been able
to check their violent outbreak, but could not quite quench all
enthusiasm. When they heard that Leonore had come to introduce them to
her uncle, they were a little scared, but Leonore understood their
hesitation and declared, "Just come! You have no idea how nice he is."
Pulling Mea with her, she compelled the others to follow, and arriving at
her uncle's side, she immediately began, "This is Bruno, my brother's
best friend, and this is Mea, my best friend. I never had a friend like
her in all my life. This is Kurt--"

"Kurt is my friend," said the uncle; "I know him because he is the poet.
I hope he'll make songs about us all now; I know the one about Mr.
Trius."

Quite taken aback, Kurt looked at the Baron. How could he know that
song? His mother had strictly forbidden him to show it to anyone, and he
had only read it aloud at home. How could a stranger hear about it?

"You can say in your new song that Mr. Castle-Steward and Mr. Trius are
two persons and not one; you can see that yourself," Maezli declared
aloud.

Kurt then suddenly understood that his impudent small sister had probably
been the informer and he did not know what to answer.

But Leonore helped him over his embarrassment by continuing, "This is
Lippo, Uncle, who has asked me to live with him when he is grown up.
Isn't he a wonderful friend, Uncle? He knew I had no home."

"You have quite marvellous friends, Leonore," said the Baron; "they must
visit you very often, if Mrs. Maxa will allow it."

"Gladly, and I know that their happiness will be yours, too, when you see
them all wandering through the house and garden."

"Yes, all of us, and Salo, too," Leonore exclaimed. "Do you think Salo
will soon be here, Uncle?"

Apollonie had approached the lively group under the pine tree, and as
there happened to be a suitable pause, she announced that dinner was
ready.

"I really ought to invite my dear friend, Mrs. Maxa, to come to the
table _with me_; I shall ask, however, who is going to take me?" said the
Baron.

All the children immediately cried, "I," "I," "I," "I," "I," "I," and
hands caught hold of the back and both sides of the Baron's chair.

"I am driving in a coach and six to-day! How things have changed for me!"
the gentleman said smilingly. The meal Apollonie had planned was a great
success and the open air on the terrace added to the children's
enjoyment.

When the fruit course, which consisted of yellow plums, was eaten, the
Baron gave the young birds, as he called the children, permission to fly
freely about. It seemed to crown all the preceding pleasures to be able
to roam without restraint in the woods and meadows. First of all they
ran towards the adjoining woods, where their need for an outlet could be
gratified.

"Long years to you, Leonore!" Bruno cried. "Now you and Salo are going
to have a wonderful home quite near to us. Isn't it splendid! When Salo
comes, we shall be together."

"Long live the Baron!" Kurt screamed now with all his might. "Hurrah for
Castle Wildenstein, the wonderful new home! Long live Apollonie! But
where is Loneli?" he suddenly interrupted himself in the midst of his
outburst; "she ought to be here, too."

When everybody agreed with him, Kurt dashed towards the terrace where
Loneli was just helping her grandmother carry away the dishes.

"We want to have Loneli with us, Apollonie. Please let her come with
me," Kurt explained his errand.

"Who wants her, do you say?" Apollonie began rather severely, despite a
glad note in her voice which could not be disguised.

"Everybody does, and Leonore especially," was Kurt's sly answer.

"You can go, Loneli," said the grandmother. "You must celebrate this
great day with them."

Loneli actually glowed with joy when she ran off with Kurt.

As they were sitting under the pine tree, the Baron and Mrs. Maxa were
reviving memories of long ago, and he listened with great emotion when
Mrs. Maxa told him how faithfully his mother had tried to send him news.
Her letters had, however, miscarried, because he had changed his
residence so frequently. But he had wanted him to know how constant his
mother's love had been and how anxiously she was waiting his return.

"Mrs. Maxa," he said after a little pause, "I feel terribly ashamed. I
came here with anger and hate in my heart against God and man, and my
only hope was to die as soon as possible. I expected to be forsaken and
despised, and instead of that I meet only kindness and love on every
side. I never deserved such a thing! Do you think I can ever atone for
all the wrong I've done?"

"We must always bear in mind that there is One who is glad to forgive us
our sins, Baron, and He can deliver us from them if we sincerely beg Him
to," Mrs. Maxa answered.

As the Baron remained silent, Mrs. Maxa added, "Will you let me say
something to you on the strength of our old friendship, Baron Bruno?"

"Certainly. I can trust my dear Maxa to say only what is right," he
replied.

"I have noticed that you have evaded mentioning the name Salo, that you
seemed reluctant to answer Leonore's questions concerning his possible
coming. I know that bitter memories are connected with the name, but I
also want you to know that you will deprive yourself of a great blessing
if you banish the boy who bears that name."

"Please let him come here, if only for a little while," Mrs. Maxa
begged, yet more strongly, "so that you can see him. If you can't
willingly see him who may be the pride and joy of your life, then open
the door of his home because, before God, it is right, which you must
feel as fully as I."

The Baron was silent, then finally said, "Salo may come."

Mrs. Maxa's face shone with joy and gratitude. Many things had still to
be discussed, and the two old friends remained sitting under the pine
tree till the last rays of the setting sun were throwing a rosy light
over the gray castle. The children were at last returning from their
walk across the meadows. They looked like a full-blown garden when they
approached the Baron's chair, for they were covered with garlands of
poppies, ivy and cornflowers. Now supper was announced, and the Baron
was escorted to the terrace as before. It was a true triumphal march
this time, when he, throned in his chair with the lion-skin on his knees,
was pushed along by the gaily decked children. The Baron told them how
much he would enjoy taking a similar ride into the fields some day.

When Mrs. Maxa gave the sign for parting after the merry supper party,
no sign of grief was shown because the Baron had already told them that
Leonore was to move up into the castle in a few days. They were all to
be present then. After that there would be no end to their visits.

When the Baron shook Maezli's hand at parting, he said, "You came to see
me first, Maezli, so you shall always be my special friend."

"Yes, I'll be your friend," Maezli said firmly.

When Leonore tenderly took leave of her uncle she whispered in his ear,
"May Salo come soon, Uncle?"

This time the answer was a clear affirmative, and the child's heart was
filled with rapture.

"Oh, Aunt Maxa," he cried aloud, "Can't we sing our evening song up here?
I should love to sing the song my mother used to sing."

When consent was given, they grouped themselves about the Baron's chair
and sang:

   God, Who disposes all things well,
   I want but what Thou givest me.
   Oh how can we Thine acts foretell,
   When Thou are far more wise than we?

All the way home the children kept looking back at the castle, for their
day had been too marvellous.

The next day three letters were sent to Salo, one from Bruno and one from
Leonore, both full of enthusiasm about the great event of the day before;
and one from Mrs. Maxa. The last thrilled Salo most, because it
contained a summons for him to come to his new home.

The news that Baron Bruno had come back and that Apollonie had resumed
her old post at the castle had spread all over the neighborhood.
Everybody had heard that Loneli also was living at the castle, that Baron
Salo's daughter had come, and his son was soon to be there. The report
that Mrs. Rector Bergmann's whole family had spent a day at the castle
was reported, too, and everybody talked about the intimate friendship of
the two families.

A few days after the celebration at the castle the district attorney's
wife came to call on Mrs. Maxa. She lost no time in telling her hostess
that she counted on Baron Salo's son joining the other three lads in town
and that her husband had agreed to look up another room for him. She had
no doubt that the sons of the three most important families of Nolla
ought naturally to live and study together, and she knew that every
effort would be made to find Salo a suitable room, even if the
application came rather late. Mrs. Maxa did not need to mind these
annoying negotiations now, but calmly replied that the Baron would send
his nephew to the high school in the city and would undoubtedly make his
own arrangements. Mrs. Knippel, after remarking that her husband
counted on seeing the Baron himself, withdrew. A moment after she left
Loneli came into the house to see Mea.

"Just think, Mea," the peace-loving Loneli said to her, "I have a message
for you from Elvira; she wants you to know that she is willing to forgive
you on condition that she may meet Leonore. She wants to be her friend
and sit beside her in school."

"It's too late now, and it won't help her. I don't care whether she
wants to make up with me or not," Mea said placidly. "Neither Leonore
nor I are going to school. You won't have to go either, Loneli, because
a lady is coming to the castle to teach us all. Baron Wallerstaetten and
mama have settled it, so I know it."

Loneli could hardly believe her ears, the surprise seemed too great.
"Then I shan't have to sit on the shame-bench any more," she said with a
beaming face, for a heavy trouble was removed from her heart.

"You can ask Leonore if she wants to meet Elvira," said Mea, for Leonore
had stepped up to them.

But Loneli's message held no interest whatever for Leonore, who wished
for no new acquaintances. She only desired to give the time she was not
spending with her uncle to Mea and her brothers and sisters. Least of
all she wished to meet a girl who had been so disagreeable to her beloved
Mea.

Uncle Philip had been away on a business trip. On his arrival home he
received the following note from his sister: "If you still want to see
Leonore with us, come as soon as possible. She is going to live with her
uncle at the castle in a very few days. I shall tell you all about it
when you come."

He arrived the very next morning, and as soon as he met his sister, he
exploded: "I was quite sure, Maxa, that you would immediately deliver the
little dove into the vulture's claws. I wish I had never put her in your
care!"

"Come in, Philip and sit down," Mrs. Maxa said composedly. "We are
going to have dinner in a moment, and then you will have the chance to
ask the dove herself what she thinks of the vulture's claws."

Uncle Philip opened the door and found the children absolutely immersed
in the recent events. The instant he stepped over the threshold they
rushed up to him and fairly flooded him with news. Their speeches came
thick and fast, and he heard nothing but manifestations of love for the
dear, good Baron, Leonore's charming uncle, the good, kind
Castle-Steward. Maezli had not given up this title even now.

"Do you see, Philip, that you can't swim against the stream?" said Mrs.
Maxa when she was sitting alone with her brother after dinner. "The best
thing you can do is to pay your old friend a call; that would add you to
the list of his admirers, instead of your bearing him a grudge."

But Uncle Philip violently objected to this proposal.

"Baron Bruno spoke of you with a sincere feeling of attachment which you
apparently don't deserve," his sister said. "He was afraid of your
feeling towards him, though. Listen to what he said 'I fear that he
won't wish to have anything to do with me, and I shall be powerless in
that case.'"

"I won't refuse the hand of an old friend, though, Maxa," said the
brother now, "if he offers it to me to reestablish peace. What is he
going to do for Salo's son?"

"Salo has already been sent word that he is to have the castle of his
ancestors for a home," replied Mrs. Maxa.

"I am going out for a walk," Uncle Philip said suddenly, taking down his
hat from the peg, and Mrs. Maxa guessed quite well where he was going.
He reappeared at supper time and sat down with merry eyes in the midst of
them all.

"Leonore," he began, "as soon as you are the mistress of the castle, I
shall often be your guest. Your uncle and I have just done some business
together. He told me how different everything used to be in the castle
grounds and that he regretted not understanding about these matters. So
he asked me to take charge of things, as they were in my special field.
He hoped my old attachment to the place"--at these words Uncle Philip's
voice became quite hoarse suddenly--"Maxa, your plum-cake is so sweet it
makes one hoarse," he said, for he would never admit that he had been
overcome by deep emotion. "So I have undertaken to attend to the matter
and I shall often come to the castle."

That Uncle Philip belonged to the castle, too, now awoke hearty outbursts
from the children, which the mother happily joined, for it had been her
greatest wish that the two should become friends again.

The last evening before Leonore was to move into the castle had come, and
the children were all sitting in a little corner. They were in the most
cheerful mood, busily making delightful plans for the future. Suddenly
the door opened, and wild shrieks of joy burst from everybody. "Salo,
Salo, Salo!" they all cried out. The boy had just arrived in time to
have a last splendid evening with his friends before moving into his new
home. The next day turned out more wonderful than they had ever dared to
dream, and it was followed again by a succession of other days as
delightful. Every time the children came together it seemed like a new
party, and the Baron took great care that those parties did not end too
quickly.

Kurt had soon informed Salo and Bruno that there was a large hall with
weapons and armor at the ground floor of the castle. When the boys asked
Apollonie to admit them, she opened a little side door for them, because
Mr. Trius had hidden the other key. Salo lifted the armoured knight to
his shoulders, and had the long, blue cloak draped around him. He looked
like a frightful giant as he wandered up and down the big room, and Kurt
recognized the ghost of Wildenstein he had seen that dreadful night.

Salo, with his charming disposition, soon entirely won over his uncle,
who decided to send his nephew to the neighboring town to study, and Salo
and Bruno were to spend their study-time as well as their holidays
together.

When the summer holidays were over, Salo and Bruno moved into town, but
even this leave-taking did not prove very hard. The children were not to
be separated very long, for the boys were to spend many week-ends at
home, besides all their holidays. Bruno had soon written to his mother
from town that she need not worry at all about the Knippel boys, as they
scarcely ever saw them.

When Mrs. Maxa cannot help recalling all her former fears and plans for
the future because her son's violent temper caused her such anxiety, she
said to herself with a glad heart:

   Oh how can we Thine acts foretell,
   When Thou are far more wise than we?

Apollonie has become the real, true Castle-Apollonie of yore and manages
for her master's sake to live in undisturbed peace with Mr. Trius. She
is taking such good care of the Baron and his little adopted daughter
that a bloom of health has spread over their cheeks. On sunny days the
Baron can frequently be seen walking up and down the terrace on Leonore's
arm, and his young guide is very careful of his health and looks after
him tenderly. The sound of a beautiful voice can often be heard through
the open castle windows, for Leonore has inherited her mother's voice,
and it gives her uncle the keenest pleasure to listen to the songs she
used to sing in bygone days. The people in Nolla unanimously agree that
the ghost of Wildenstein has gone to his eternal rest, because peace
again is reigning at the castle.


THE END





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