The Grandmother (Božena Němcová, 1891)/Chapter 13
ONE Thursday, several days after the first of May, there was no school and the children were helping Grandmother to water the flowers and grape vines, whose green leaves were already decorating the walls; they also went to water their trees. They had a great deal to do; for three whole days Barunka had not examined her dolls, the boys had not driven their horses, and the wagons, guns, and balls had lain in the corner untouched; they had not been to visit the dove-cot, and Adelka had fed the rabbits. All this neglect was to be atoned for this Thursday.
Having watered the plants, the children were allowed to go to their own occupations, while Grandmother seated herself upon the turf bench under the lilac bushes and began to spin, for she was accustomed to be busy all the time. To-day she was sad; she neither sang nor noticed the black hen that came into the garden through the open gate, and, when no one interfered, began to scratch up one of the beds. The gray goose was feeding close by, while her yellow goslings thrust their heads through the holes in the fence, impertinently looking into the garden. Grandmother liked them very much, those pretty goslings; but now she did not even notice them. Her thoughts wandered in several directions. A letter had come from Vienna, saying that the Princess would not come in the middle of May, for Countess Hortense was very ill. Should God be pleased to restore her to health, perhaps the Princess would make a short visit to the castle, but this was quite uncertain. When Mrs. Proshek read the letter she could not restrain her tears, and the children, seeing their mother weep, wept also. Willie had only a few more marks to erase, and now all their bright hopes were dashed to the ground. And that the dear, good Hortense should die seemed dreadful to them. At their prayers, they never forgot to offer a Pater-noster for her restoration. The children, how-ever, were soon comforted, but Mrs. Proshek, who usually spoke little, now spoke still less; and whenever Grandmother entered her room, she saw that her daughter's eyes were swollen from weeping. She therefore sent her out to visit the neighbors and so forget her sorrows. She was always glad when Mrs. Proshek went, for she knew that after all her daughter was very lonely in that isolated little house, and would have preferred to live in the busy city, to which for so many years she had been accustomed. She had been very happy in her marriage, but the one unpleasant thing about her life was that her husband spent the greater part of the year in Vienna, and she was obliged to live in fear and anxiety without him. And now she was not to see her husband, nor the children their father for a whole year! "A life for a life," said Grandmother. Johanna, Grandmother's second daughter was to come home with John; she wanted to see her mother, to have a long visit with her, and to get her advice, for she was about to be married. Grandmother had looked forward to this with great anticipations, but now she, too, was doomed to disappointment. Besides this, Milo's fate worried her not a little. Milo was a good-hearted, worthy young man, Christina was a good girl, and Grandmother loved them both and wanted to see them happy in each other's love. "When equal meets equal, there is concord, and God himself rejoices over such a marriage," she used to say. But a cruel blow seemed to await this hope, for that morning Milo had gone with the others to the conscription. All this lay upon Grandmother's mind and consequently she looked very sober.
"Grandma, just look, Blackie is scratching here! Wait, you monkey, Vsh-sh-sh!" Grandmother, hearing Barunka's voice, raised her eyes and saw the black hen flying out of the garden, and noticed a large hole in one of the beds.
"That vixen, how quietly she came! Take the rake, Barunka, and smooth the bed. And the geese are here, too! The poultry are calling; it is time for them to go to roost. I forgot myself. I must feed them." Saying this, she laid aside her spindle and went to get the basket of grain. Barunka remained in the garden smoothing the bed.
Shortly after Christina came. "Are you alone?" she asked, looking into the garden.
"Come in, Grandma will be here presently; she went to feed the poultry," replied Barunka.
"Where is your mother?"
"She went to town to visit Godmother; you know she grieves so because Papa will probably not come home this year. So Grandma sends her out visiting that she may be comforted a little. We all looked forward with such joy to the return of Papa and the Countess, and now we are all disappointed. Poor Hortense!"
After these words Barunka, resting one knee in the path, leaned her elbow against the other, and laying her head in the palm of her hand remained buried in deep thought. Christina sat down under the lilacs, dropped her clasped hands in her lap, and her head fell upon her bosom. Her eyes were red and swollen, and she was the picture of misery.
"That fever must be a dreadful disease. If she should die,—oh heavens! You never had a fever, Christina?" asked Barunka after a pause.
"No, I never was ill in all my life; but now I fear that I shall lose my health," sorrowfully replied Christina.
Not till then did Barunka look at her, and seeing her changed countenance, she jumped up, ran to her and asked: "What is the matter? Is Milo a conscript?" Instead of replying, Christina began to sob aloud. At this moment Grandmother came back. "Have they returned?" she quickly asked.
"Not yet," replied Christina, shaking her head; "but all hope is vain, Lucie has sworn that if she doesn't get Milo, I shan't get him either. What she wants the squire will do, for he is very proud of her; and the steward will do a great deal to please the squire. The steward's daughter cannot forget that her lover was disgraced by Milo; she too, adds some gall, and there are various other things, dear Grandma, that undermine my hopes."
"But Milo's father was at the courthouse and, as I hear, had with him quite a sum of money; there is some hope then?"
"True, that is our only hope; since they listened to him, they will perhaps help; but it has often happened that they listened but did not help; if they said it could not be done, one had to be satisfied."
"I hope that it will not be so in Milo's case; but if it should be, then it seems to me his father ought to take the money he intended to use as bribes, your father should add to it, and then they could pay Milo out according to law."
"Yes, if there were not so many ifs, dear Grandma. In the first place, the money his father has already paid is gone; then my father has no more ready money than he needs in his business; and if he liked Jacob, and had no objections to my marrying him, still he would prefer to have his son-in-law bring something into the business rather than carry something out. And granted that he would do it, Milo is of a proud disposition; he will accept no favors from any one; he would not allow my father to pay him out."
"I suppose he thinks: 'A wife with a dowry large, will be sure to govern the barge;' and that is something that every proud spirited man would avoid. But, under the circumstances, it would not be any disgrace for him to accept the favor. Yet, why trouble ourselves for something that most probably will not be needed, and if it should be, would be quite difficult to do?"
"It's a great pity that that affair ever happened with the Italian; then I laughed at it, now I could weep. If it had not happened, Milo would have had a place on the castle farm, he could have worked there two years, and thus have been freed from the army. It grieves me the more when I think that it was all on my own account."
"My dear girl, why should you blame yourself? would this daisy at your feet be to blame if two, wanting it, should quarrel over it? I, too, should have to blame myself that I brought my husband into a similar difficulty, the case was almost like yours. Dear child, do you suppose that when a person is carried away by anger, jealousy, love, or any other passion, he has the time to take council with reason? At that moment he doesn't care if he should die! And besides the best and noblest characters have their weak moments."
"Grandma, last year, on Mr. Proshek's holiday, you told me that your husband did something similar, and that he suffered for it, and now you've referred to it again. I forgot all about it. Please tell me about it now. Our time will pass away, our thoughts will be turned to other matters, and it is so pleasant to sit here under the lilacs."
"Well, perhaps I will," replied Grandmother. "Barunka, go see that the children do not go near the water."
Barunka obeyed, and when she was gone, Grandmother began:
"I was a grown up girl when, in 1777, Maria Theresa began that war with the Prussians. They had a misunderstanding about something, and the Emperor Joseph came with an army to Jarmirn, and the Prussians took their stand on the boundary. The fields around us were full of soldiers, and the villages, too. We had several privates and an officer quartered at our house. The officer was a man of lax morals, one of those men that have no scruples about entangling in their snares every girl they meet. I disposed of him quickly, but he paid no attention to my words,—shook them off as if they were dew. Since he would not listen to me, I arranged my work outdoors in such a manner that I should never be obliged to meet him.
"You know how it is; a girl has occasion to be out many times during the day, now in the field, now to cut grass, and often her folks are all gone, and she must be in the house alone.
"In short, neither is it the custom nor is it necessary that any one should guard a girl; she must guard herself, and thus many opportunities can be found by an ill-disposed person to persecute her.
"But God protected me. I went to cut grass early in the morning while everybody still slept. I was always an early riser, for my mother used to say: 'Who is up with the sun, his fortune is begun.' She was right, and if I had had no other profit, the pleasure was ample reward. When in the morning I entered the orchard or went out into the fields and saw the beautiful green grass covered with dew, my heart was filled with joy. Each little flower stood there like a maiden, with head erect and bright, smiling eyes. The birds, dear little creatures, hovered over me, praising God with their songs; otherwise a holy stillness was around me. Then when the sun-rose behind the hills, it seemed to me that I was in the house of God. I sang, and my work seemed but play.
"Once, while I was thus cutting grass,—it was in the orchard,—I heard a voice behind me: 'God bless your work, Madeline!' I turned around to reply: 'God grant it!' but I was so surprised that I could not utter a word,and the sickle fell from my hand."
"It was that officer, was it not?" asked Christina, interrupting her.
"Not so fast, my dear," continued Grandmother; "it was not that officer, for then I should not have dropped the sickle. It was a joyous surprise. George stood before me! I must tell you that I had not seen him for three years. You remember that George was the son of our neighbor, the widow Novotny, the one who was with me when I spoke with the Emperor Joseph."
"Yes, I remember; you also told me that he became a weaver instead of a priest."
"Yes, his uncle was to blame for that. Learning was as easy to him as play; his father heard nothing but good reports of him whenever he came home for the vacations. He was so fine a reader, that when he was at home he would take father's place in reading the Bible to the neighbors every Sunday. We all liked to listen to him, and his mother used to say: 'I seem already to hear him preach.' We treated him as if he were already ordained, and whatever delicacy any of us had we sent it to him; and when his mother objected, saying: "Dear Lord, what can I give you in return?' we replied: 'When George is a priest he will give us a blessing.'
"We grew up together. What pleased one pleased the other; but when he came home for the second and the third vacation I began to feel somewhat shy; and when he followed me into the orchard as he often did, and in spite of all I could do carried my grass for me, I thought it was wrong for me to allow him todo it. I told him such a thing was not becoming for a priest to do; but he only laughed, saying that much water would yet flow away before he would preach. It often happens that man proposes, but God disposes.
"Once when he was at home for the third vacation, a message came from his Uncle George, at Kladran, requesting that he should come to visit them. This uncle was a skillful weaver, who made beautiful goods by which he had gained quite a sum of money, and not having any children of his own, he thought of his nephew George. Mrs. Novotny did not want to send him, but father himself urged her to let him go, saying that it would be for his good, and that his father's brother, after all, had some claim to him. He went; Mrs. Novotny and my father accompanied him, going on a pilgrimage to Vamberitz.
"They returned, but George remained with his uncle. We all missed him, especially his mother and I, only she spoke of it often, while I kept it all to myself. His uncle promised that he would care for him as if he were hisownson. Mrs. Novotny, therefore, thought that he attended school at Kladran;she was full of hope that he would soon receive his first ordination, when behold! George came home in a year a weaver by trade! His mother grieved dreadfully, but what was to be done? He begged her not to take it so hard, and confessed that although he should have been glad to continue his studies, he had no desire to become a priest. He said that his uncle persuaded him to give it up, telling him that he would suffer much want, would knock about from school to school, from official to official, before he could earn a mouthful; that a trade, on the contrary, had a, golden bottom, and that it was so much the better for him, if he was likewise educated. In short, George listened to his uncle and learned the weaver’s trade; and because he always did everything with a good will, he prospered in this also.
"In a year he finished his apprenticeship, and his uncle sent him to travel, to gain more experience by working with different masters. His first journey was to Berlin, and on his way there he stopped with us in Bohemia, and on that occasion brought me this rosary."
So saying, Grandmother pulled from her bosom a bladder-nut rosary. She looked at it for a moment, kissed it, hid it in her bosom, and continued:
"My father did not blame George for learning the trade; he told Mrs. Novotny not to mind it, saying: 'Who knows to what good this may lead? Let him alone; as he has sowed, so shall he reap. Though he should weave tow, if he understands his business and remains a good and honest man, he will be as worthy of honor as any lord.' George was glad that his god-father was not offended with him, for he thought as much of him as if he were his own father. Finally, his mother became reconciled,—how could she help it when he was her only child, whom she dearly loved? She could not desire that he should feel unhappy in his occupation. He remained with us a few days, and then went out into the world, and for three years we did not see him, and hardly heard from him until that morning when he suddenly appeared before me.
"You can imagine how glad I was. I recognized him instantly, although he had changed much; he was unusually tall, and withal so well proportioned that it would have been hard to find his equal. He bent down to me, took my hand, and asked me why I was so frightened? 'How could I help it,' I said. 'You appeared as suddenly as if you had fallen from the skies. Whence came you and when?'
"'I came direct from Kladran. Uncle is afraid, since they are collecting troops everywhere, that I also might be impressed into service. I had hardly reached home, when he sent me here, where he thinks I can hide more easily. I got through the mountains without any mishaps, and here I am.'
"'For heaven's sake! suppose they should find you here, what does your mother say?'
"'I have not seen her yet. I got here at two o'clock this morning, and did not want to wake mother up. I thought to myself: "You can lie down on the grass under Madeline's window; she is an early riser. You will wait till she comes, and then you can go home." In truth, it is not in vain that the people of the village say of you: "Ere the lark sings Madeline brings home the grass." The day had hardly dawned before you were cutting the grass. I saw you at the spring washing yourself and combing your hair, and I could hardly restrain myself from coming to you; but when you were praying, I did not want to interrupt you. But, now Madeline, tell me, do you still love me?'
"Thus he spoke; what else could I say than that I did, for I had loved him from childhood, and never had thought of any body else. We talked a while longer, then he went to see his mother and I went into the house to tell father that he had come. Father was a prudent man, and he was not at all pleased that George had come at this dangerous time.
"'I don't know whether he'll escape the white coat here,' he said, 'but we will do what we can to hide him; do not tell a single soul that he is here!'
"His mother, although very glad to see him, was greatly alarmed; for he had been enrolled among the conscripts, and had escaped thus far, because no one knew where he was. For three days he was hidden in the garret upon the hay. Through the day, only his mother was with him; but in the evening I came, too, and then we had long, pleasant talks together.
"I was so afraid lest he should be discovered, that I went about like a lost sheep and forgot to keep out of the way of that officer, so that we met several times. He, probably thinking that I wanted to make up with him, began to sing his old tune; I let him talk, but was not so sharp to him as before, for I feared for George. As I said, George was hidden; besides my family and his mother, no one knew that he was in the house.
"The third evening I remained a little longer than usual with him, and when I went home every thing was quiet and it was dark, when all at once that officer stood in my path. He had discovered that I went to Mrs. Novotny's every evening, and had waited for me in the orchard. What was to be done? Had I called, George would have heard me, but I was afraid to have him come down. I depended upon my own strength, and when the officer would not listen to my words, I prepared to use my fists. Do not smile my child, do not look at me, as I am now; I was not tall but thick set, my hands, accustomed to hard work, were solid and strong. I could have withstood him, but in his rage he began to curse and swear. In that way he was discovered and all at once, like a clap of thunder, George was between us, holding the officer by the throat. He had heard the cursing, and looking down through the garet door recognized me and jumped down. It was a wonder that he did not break his neck. Did he stop to consider? No indeed; he would have jumped down had the faggots of a funeral pile been burning below him.
"'What mean you, sir, by attacking an honest girl here in the night?' he cried.
"I tried to calm his anger, and begged him to remember his situation; but he, trembling with rage, held the officer as in a vise. Finally, I succeeded in persuading him to let him go.
"In another place and time we should settle this matter differently, but listen to me and remember what I say. This girl is my bride; if in the future you do not let her alone, you shall hear of me again. Now go!'
"With that he threw him over the gate as if he were a ball. Then he turned to me, and putting his arms around my neck, said: 'Madeline, dear, remember me, greet my mother for me, and now farewell, for I must away this moment, or else I shall be taken. Do not fear for me, I know every path and I shall get to Kladran, where I can hide. I beg you, come on a pilgrimage to Vamberitz; there we shall meet!'
"Before I could collect my thoughts, he was gone. I hastened to his mother to tell her what had happened, then we both went to my father's house. And now it seemed as if we had lost our senses. Every noise frightened us. That officer sent out his soldiers on all the roads; he did not know George, but he thought he was from some village near by and that they would capture him; but he escaped out of their hands. I avoided the officer as much as I could, but when he could not revenge himself in any other way, he slandered me in the village as if I had been a girl of loose morals. Everybody knew me, so he was not successful in that. Fortunately, orders came that the soldiers should depart, as the Prussians had crossed the frontier. Nothing at all came from this war. The farmers called it the 'kolach war,' because after the soldiers had eaten all the kolaches in the villages, they returned home."
"And what became of George?" asked Christina, who had been listening with breathless attention.
"We heard nothing of him till spring, for in those stormy times there was little travel.
"We were full of anxiety. The spring came, still no news. I prepared to go on the pilgrimage as I had promised George. Several of the villagers were going, I joined their party, and as the leader had been at Kladran several times, he promised my father that he would take me there.
"When we reached the town the leader said; 'we will stop awhile at Mrs. Lidushka's to rest.' Every one who came from Bohemia stayed with Mrs. Lidushka, for she was our countrywoman. In those days Kladran was almost entirely Bohemian, but one prefers to go to some one that he has known before. Mrs. Lidushka welcomed us very cordially, took us into her private parlor, and after telling us to make ourselves at home went out to get us some wine soup.
"My heart was full of the conflicting emotions of joy and of fear; joy that I should meet George, and fear less something had happened to him. Suddenly I heard a familiar voice greet Mrs. Lidushka, and then she said: 'Come in, George, there are some pilgrims here from Bohemia.'
"The door opened, and there stood George, but glancing at him I stood dumbfounded. He had on a soldier's uniform? All grew dark before my eyes! He gave me his hand and then taking me into his arms, said in a broken voice: 'Wretched man that I am! hardly had I learned my trade, shaken off one yoke, when I put on another. I ran away from the rain and got under the eaves. Had I remained in Bohemia, I should at least, have served under my own Emperor, while now I must serve a foreign ruler.'
"'For heaven's sake, George, what have you done?' I asked.
"Done? my dear girl, I have acted like a fool! refused to listen to my uncle; when I came here, I was lonesome, restless, could find no peace anywhere. One Sunday I went with several comrades into a saloon, against the earnest advice of my uncle. We drank till we became intoxicated, and then the officers seeking for volunteers came in.'
"'Those villains!' interrupted Mrs. Lidushka, who just then entered the room with the soup. 'Had George remained with me, this would never have happened. I never put up with their deceitful ways; his uncle never goes anywhere, forsooth, except to Lidushka's. Well, well, these young people,—what can one do, when they have no sense? But never mind, George, you are a handsome fellow. Our King likes tall soldiers; he will not leave you long without shoulder straps.'
"'What's done can't be undone,' began George. 'We did not know what we were about, and when we became sober, Shotsky, my dearest comrade, and I were soldiers, I thought I should go mad. Uncle, too, was sorry enough, Finally he began to consider what could be done to lessen the evil I had brought upon myself. He went to the commander and was so far successful in his errand that I remained here. I shall soon be a corporal, and—but of that we will speak by-and-by. Now, do not grieve my heart, for I am so glad to see you.'
"We comforted each other as well as we could. Afterwards he took me to his uncle, who was very glad to see me. In the evening his friend Shotsky came over; he was a good man. He and George remained faithful friends till death. Both have gone to their reward, while I am still here," said Grandmother, and paused, overcome by the feelings that these recollections awakened.
"You did not return home; Grandpa married you then, did he not?" asked Barunka, who in the meantime had returned and was listening to Grandmother's story.
"Yes, he would not have it otherwise. His uncle had obtained permission for him to marry, and they were waiting till I should come on the pilgrimage. After we had discussed everything, George went away for the night, while I remained with his uncle. He was a dear, good old man,—may God grant his soul eternal rest! The next morning George came over very early, and he and his uncle engaged in an earnest conversation, after which George came to me and said:
"'Madeline, tell me truly, upon your conscience, do you love me so that you could endure hardships for my sake, and forsake your father and mother?'
"'Yes,' I replied.
"'Then remain here and be my wife,' he said, and throwing his arms around my neck, kissed me.
"He had never kissed me before. This was not the custom among us; but, poor fellow! he was beside himself with joy and did not know what he was doing.
"'But what will your mother say, what will my parents say?' I asked, while my heart beat fast with joy and anxiety.
"'What should they? Do they not love us? would they want me to die of grief?'
"'But for heaven's sake, dear George, we must have our parents' blessing!'
"He did not reply, but his uncle stepped to us, and sending him away said to me:
"'Madeline, I see you are a pious girl; I like you, and know that George will be happy, and that he had good reason to lament when he thought he had lost you. If it were somebody else I should object, but George is headstrong. If it had not been for me, he would have given way to despair; but I succeeded in comforting him, because I obtained permission for him to marry. I cannot deceive you, he dare not return to Bohemia; and should you go without him, who knows but that they might try to dissuade you from this step. After you are married, we will go together to Olesnic, and your parents will not refuse you their blessing. We will send a letter by the pilgrims. To-morrow you will be married in the soldier's chapel; I shall take the place of your parents, and assume the whole responsibility. Madeline, dear, look at me; my head is white as snow; think you I could do anything for which I could not answer before God?' Thus he spoke to me, while the tears flowed down his cheeks.
"I consented to all. George could scarcely contain himself for joy. I had no more clothing with me than what I had on. George bought me a new skirt, a jacket, and a garnet necklace for the wedding; the rest was furnished by his uncle. The garnets were the very same ones that I still wear; the linsey-wolsey skirt was of a violet color and the jacket sky-blue. The pilgrims returned home, and uncle gave them a letter,in which he said that I would remain there a few days and then return with him. He wrote nothing more. 'It will be better to tell it than write it,' he said.
"The third day we had our wedding; the priest of the regiment performed the ceremony.
"The only guests were Mrs. Lidushka, Mr. Shotsky, who acted the part of groomsman, his sister, who was my bridesmaid, and George's uncle and another citizen, who were witnesses. Mrs. Lidushka was the wedding matron and made the wedding dinner. We spent that day in joy and in God's fear, regretting only that those at home could not be with us. At the table Mrs. Lidushka constantly teased George, saying: 'Look at that cross soldier of ours! one hardly knows him to-day, but it is no wonder; he has something to make his face beam with joy!' Thus they talked as people do on such occasions.
"George wanted me to live with him at once, but his uncle would by no means allow it; he said this must not be till I had returned from Bohemia.
"In a few days we went home. I cannot describe to you the astonishment of all when they heard that I was married, nor mother's grief when she heard that George was a soldier. She wrung her hands, wept, said that I wanted to leave her to follow a soldier in a strange land, and was so affected that I myself became almost distracted with grief. At length, father put an end to those lamentations. He said:
"This is enough, as she has made her bed, so she shall lie in it. They love each other, let them suffer together; you know, wife, that you, too, left your father and mother for my sake, and that is the lot awaiting every girl. Who of us can help this misfortune that has befallen George? But the service there is not long, and when that task is over he can return home, Mother, cease your lamentations, George is a sensible young man. He will not be homesick, he has himself provided against that. Madeline, my child, dry your tears. May God bless you and grant that he with whom you have gone to the altar may also go with you to the grave?' With these words he gave me his blessing, while the tears filled his eyes.
"Mother also wept. Dear mother, always so thoughtful of everything! she had her hands full. 'What were you thinking of?' she said; 'youa single piece of bedding, no furniture, no clothing, and yet you get married! Since the day I was born, I have never heard of such thoughtlessness!' I got a good outfit, and when I had everything in readiness, I returned to George and remained with him till his death. If it had not been for that unfortunate war, he might be here still. You see, my dear girl, that I know what joy and sorrow, youth and folly are," said Grandmother with a smile, laying her withered hand on Christina's round arm.
"You suffered enough, Grandma, but still you were happy,—you got what your heart desired. If I knew that after all my trials I, too, should be happy, I would endure all in patience, even if I had to wait for Milo fourteen years," said Christina.
"The future is in God's hands. What is to happen will happen, we cannot avoid it. The best thing we can do is to place our trust in God."
"I know that is best, but one cannot always control one's feelings, and if Jacob is taken, I shall mourn. With him will depart all my happiness, my protection, and my support."
"What do you mean, Christina, have you not a father!"
"I have a good father,—may God preserve him to me for many years; still he is old and unreasonable. This summer he gave me no peace, because he insisted that I should get married so that he might have somebody to help him in the business. What shall I do when Jacob is gone? But I will not have anybody else, even if they all set themselves against me. I will work like a slave, and if that is not enough to please father, why then, he must remain displeased, for I shall not marry. O my dearest Grandma, you have no idea what I must put up with in that inn? It is not the hard work,—that troubles me the least,—but it is what I must listen to from those men."
"Can't you prevent it?"
"How can I? I often say to father: 'Why do you allow such things in your own house?' But he is afraid to say anything lest he should drive away his customers. He often says: 'My dear girl, have patience. Don't you know our living depends upon them?' He doesn't want me to be rough, and when I am amiable, every good-for-nothing thinks he may take my name in his foul mouth. I shall never be as happy and full of song as I used to be! If it were those common fellows only, it would not be so bad; but the steward and the secretary from the castle are bitter pills; they poison my whole existence. I am ashamed to tell you how that old wretch, the steward, follows me. I know it as well as if some one whispered it to me, that he will leave nothing undone to put Milo out of his way; for he knows that he is my protector. He acts sometimes as though he wanted to please the squire, then again as if he were seeking to revenge his daughter; but the old fox thinks of no one but himself. Father fears him, and mother, poor soul! seems scarcely to belong any longer to this world. I cannot harass her with my troubles. If I were married all would be changed. Even now, when Milo is with us, if any one molests me, I have only to tell him and he watches the fellow so that he either leaves or no longer dares look at me. O Grandma, if you only knew how we love each other! but that cannot be expressed." And Christina rested her face in her hands and remained buried in deep thought.
At that moment, quietly and unobserved, Milo entered the garden. His handsome face was distorted with grief, his bright eyes were dim, the dark brown curls that were wont to hang about his forehead were cut off; in place of his jaunty, high otter-skin cap, he wore a soldier's cap, in which was stuck a twig of balsam. Barunka was frightened; Grandmother's hands fell into her lap, her face turned pale, but she whispered: "God comfort you, my boy!"
But when Christina raised her head, and Milo, giving her his hand, said in a hollow voice: "I am a soldier, in three days we depart for Koniggratz!" she fell senseless into his arms.
- Since there are but few pastures, the women must spend several hours each day cutting grass for the cattle.