Page:1880. A Tramp Abroad.djvu/191

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the faces about him wistfully. Then he shook his head and said, in a grieved voice,—

"No, there is none among ye that I know. I am old and alone in the world. They are dead and gone these many years that cared for me. But sure, some of these aged ones I see about me can tell me some little word or two concerning them."

Several bent and tottering men and women came nearer and answered his questions about each former friend as he mentioned the names. This one they said had been dead ten years, that one twenty, another thirty. Each succeeding blow struck heavier and heavier. At last the sufferer said,—

"There is one more, but I have not the courage to,—O, my lost Catharina!"

One of the old dames said,—

"Ah, I knew her well, poor soul. A misfortune overtook her lover, and she died of sorrow nearly fifty years ago. She lieth under the linden tree without the court."

Conrad bowed his head and said—

"Ah why did I ever wake! And so she died of grief for me, poor child. So young, so sweet, so good! She never wittingly did a hurtful thing in all the little summer of her life. Her loving debt shall be repaid—for I will die of grief for her."

His head drooped upon his breast. In a moment there was a wild burst of joyous laughter, a pair of round young arms were flung about Conrad's neck and a sweet voice cried,—

"There, Conrad mine, thy kind words kill me,—the farce shall go no further! Look up, and laugh with us,—'twas all a jest!"

And he did look up, and gazed, in a dazed wonderment,—for the disguises were stripped away, and the aged men and women were bright and young and gay again. Catharina's happy tongue ran on,—

"'Twas a marvelous jest, and bravely carried out. They