The Grandmother (Božena Němcová, 1891)/Chapter 4

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CHAPTER IV.

 

BESIDES the holidays, Sundays were looked forward to with great pleasure; for then the children could lie abed as long as they pleased, Grandmother, who called them, being at the village at early mass. Mrs. Proshek, and her husband when he was with them, attended high mass; and when the weather was fine, the children went with them to meet Grandmother. As soon as she was in sight, they ran to meet her and shouted as though they had not seen her for a year. On Sundays she did not appear to them the same as on week days. Her face was brighter and more loving, and she was dressed a great deal better. She wore fine black slippers, a white cap of which the stiffly starched strings were tied behind in a bow resembling the wings of a dove; indeed, it seemed as though a dove sat on the back of her head. The children remarked that on Sundays Grandma was very beautiful.

As soon as they met her, each wanted to carry something. One got the rosary, another her handkerchief; and Barunka, being the eldest, carried the handbag. This, however, gave rise to disputes, for the inquisitive boys wanted to see what was in it, which Barunka would by no means allow. It always ended in a quarrel, when Barunka turned to Grandmother, asking her to give the boys a good scolding. Instead of this, she opened the bag and gave them some apples or some other dainty, and good humor was at once restored. Mrs. Proshek would sometimes say: "Mother, why do you always bring them something?" but she replied: "Indeed, that would be strange, if I brought them nothing from church! We were no better." Thus the old custom was kept up.

Grandmother was usually accompanied by the miller's wife, and sometimes by some gossip from Zernov, the village nearest the mill. The miller's wife wore long petticoats, a basque, and a silver cap (a cap heavily embroidered with silver thread); she was a short, buxom woman, with pleasant black eyes, a short flat nose, smiling lips, and a pretty double chin. Sundays, she wore small pearls around her neck; on week days, garnets. She always carried a long, round basket of wicker work, in which she had such spices and herbs as are usually used by good housewives.

A short distance behind the women was seen the miller with some friend. When it was warm, he carried his light gray coat on his cane over his shoulder. On Sundays his boots were blacked clear to his ankles and ornamented at the top with a tassal, which the children greatly admired. His trousers were tucked into his boots, and on his head he wore a high cap of lamb's fleece, one side of which was adorned with a row of bows made of blue ribbon. The other neighbor was dressed in the same way, except that the long coat with deep folds behind and large lead buttons was green instead of gray, the miller's favorite color.

The people going to high mass welcomed them as they came from divine service, and they returned their salutations. Sometimes they stopped to inquire how this and that neighbor was, what had happened at the village, and what at the mill.

In the winter, one rarely met any of the Zernov people going to the town church, for the path on the mountain side was steep and dangerous. They went then to Studnic or to Red Hura, to either of which places the path was more passable. In the summer one did not mind the bad road; this was the case especially with the young people. On Sunday morning, the path across the meadows to the town was never empty. Here, one could see an old lady in a fur lined cloak, with a kerchief upon her head, and beside her an old man leaning upon his staff; one could see that he was old, for his hair was fastened down with a comb, a custom kept up by very old men. There, one could see women in white dove-caps, and men with fleece-lined jackets, hurrying across the foot bridge to the valley to overtake the others. From the hill above could be seen maidens frolicking about like fawns, and behind them young men like deer. Here, a white, puffed sleeve glances between the trees, then the bushes catch a floating streamer from the shoulder of some maiden, and then again one sees the bright colors of the embroidered jacket of some youth, till at last the whole happy company finds itself on the green plain below.

Coming home, Grandmother changed her clothes and then hurried about the house to see if anything had been neglected during her absence. After dinner, she lay down to rest a few moments. She usually fell asleep, and when she awoke she wondered how it happened that her eyes closed ere she was aware of it.

In the afternoon she usually took the children to the mill, and that half day seemed to them a great holiday. The miller had a daughter of the same age as Barunka; her name was Mary, but she was always called Manchinka. She was a good, playful child.

In front of the mill, between two lindens, was a statue of St. John of Nepomuk, and there the miller's wife, Manchinka, and the Zerno women usually sat on Sunday afternoon. The miller generally stood before them, telling them some news while he turned his snuff box in his fingers. As soon as Grandmother and the children were seen coming, Manchinka ran to meet them, and the miller slowly followed with the women. The miller's wife, however, turned to the house to get something ready for those dear little ones, "so that they will behave," as she said. Before they reached the house, a table was already prepared for them either under the windows in the orchard or on the little island. They had a generous supply of buns and honey, bread and butter, and cream. In the summer the miller generally brought a basket of fruit, but in the winter they had dried apples and prunes. Coffee and similar beverages were not yet in common use; in the whole neighborhood only the Prosheks drank coffee.

"How good of you to come to see us," said the miller's wife, offering a chair to Grandmother. "Why, if you did not come it would not seem like Sunday; and now accept of the bounty that God has given."

Grandmother, who ate but little herself, begged her hostess not to trouble herself so much, at which the good lady only laughed. "You are old, and it is no wonder you eat so little; but children—oh, heavens! they have stomachs like ducks. Just look at our Manchinka! I never knew the time when she was not hungry." The children's smiling faces confessed that she was right.

When the children got another bun apiece they hastened behind the barn, for when they were there, no one worried about them. There they played ball, horses, colors, and similar games. The same company waited for them each Sunday,—six children, of different sizes, like the pipes of an organ. They were the children of the organ grinder from the flax mill. When he moved there with his family, the inn keeper built them a cottage having one living room and a kitchen. The father went about with his hand organ, and the mother after finishing her own work went among the neighbors, doing chores for a little food. They had nothing in the world but those six "pandores"—as the miller called the organ grinder's children—and some music. For all that, no great want was seen in the family. The children's cheeks were like roses, and at times an odor came from the flax mill that made the mouth of the passer-by water and long for roast chicken. When the children came out with greasy and shiny lips, the neighbors thought: "What in the world are those Kudernas roasting?"

Once Manchinka came from the flax mill and told her mother that Mrs. Kuderna had given her a piece of hare, and that it was so good, "just like almonds."

"A hare!" thought the mother, "where would they get a hare? I hope Kuderna hasn't taken to poaching; he'd get himself into trouble if he did."

When Celia, Kuderna's eldest daughter, came over with the baby—that girl always carried a baby, for a little one came to the flax mill each year—the miller's wife asked her: "Cilka, what did you have good for dinner, to-day?"

"Oh nothing, only potatoes," replied the girl.

"What! nothing but potatoes? Manchinka said your mother gave her a piece of hare, and that it was very good."

"O, I beg you to excuse me, that wasn't a hare, that was a cat; Daddy got it at Red Hura; it was fat like a pig. Mammy fried out the grease, and Daddy will rub himself with it; the blacksmith's wife told him to do it when he began to cough, so he should not get consumption."

"God save our souls!" exclaimed the horrified woman, spitting with disgust.

"Oh, but you don't know how good they are! but squirrels are better still. One day Daddy met the forester's apprentice carrying three squirrels which he had shot for his owl; he asked him for them, because he had heard that their flesh was better than that of hares, since they live on nothing but hazel nuts. The apprentice said it was so, and gave them to him. Daddy took them home and skinned them. Mammy roasted them and cooked some potatoes, and we had a very good dinner. Sometimes Dad brings us crows, but they are not very good. But not long ago we had a feast! Mammy brought a goose from the manor. The girl killed it in stuffing it with meal rolls to fatten it, and the lady would not eat it; so they gave it to us, and we had meat for several days and lard for along time." Here the girl's story was interrupted by the miller's wife, who said: "Go, Go, I feel the cold chills creeping over me. Mary, you godless child, don't you ever dare eat meat at Kuderna's again! Go quickly and wash yourself, and don't touch anything.”" Going on like this, she pushed Celia out of doors.

Manchinka cried, and assured her mother that the hare was good; the mother said nothing more, but showed her disgust by spitting. The miller came, and hearing what had happened turned his snuff box and said: "Well wife, what are you scowling for? who knows on what the girl may thrive! Tastes differ; I don't know but I should like to invite myself to Kuderna's for a good squirrel dinner."

"You'd better keep such stuff to yourself!" scolded the wife. The miller closed his eyes, and a mischievous smile played about his lips.

Not only the miller's wife, but other people also had a feeling of repulsion toward the Kudernas, and all because they ate cats and squirrels, which nobody else ate. But to the Proshek children it was all the same whether their friends from the flax mill had crow pie or pheasants for dinner, if only they came to play with them behind the barn; and they willingly shared with them their food, glad to see them happy. Celia, who was ten years old and had the care of the baby, placed a bun in its chubby fists, laid it down in the grass, and went to play with the rest; or she sat down and braided from plaintain stalks little caps for the boys and baskets for the girls. When they had played till they were tired, the whole company rushed into the yard, and Manchinka announced to the mother that they were very hungry. The mother was not at all surprised at this news, and fed them all, even those whose lips were repulsive to her on account of the squirrels. The miller, however, always teased her, and when the children came in he began: "I don't know what is the matter, I feel a pressure upon my breast. How is it, Celia, haven't you a piece of hare at your house? Couldn't you——"

His wife coughed and went away. Grandmother shook her finger at him saying: "What a rogue you are, sir! if I were your wife, I would give you roast crow with peas." The miller turned his snuff box, closed his eyes, and smiled grimly.

When they sat in the garden, the foreman of the mill usually joined their party. They discussed the morning's sermon, told what the announcements had been, for whom prayers had been said, and whom each one had seen at church; from this their conversation drifted to the crops, the flood, storms and hail, weaving and bleaching linen, how the flax was this year, till at last they came to discuss soldiers and the prison. The foreman was very talkative, but towards evening as the farmers began to come in with the grist, remembering the rule, "first come first served," he was obliged to go to the mill, while the miller went to see what was doing at the inn.

In the winter, the children spent the whole afternoon on top of the large oven that was built in the corner of the room.[1] The servant had her bed there, and Manchinka, her dolls and playthings. When the children were all together, the oven was full, the niche in the corner that served as a step being occupied by the dog. On the top of that oven a wedding was celebrated every Sunday. The chimney sweep was the groom, and Nicholas served as the priest. Then there was eating, drinking, and dancing, until somebody stepped on the dog's tail. The dog yelped and the conversation in the room was interrupted. The mistress of the house cried: "See here, you youngsters, don't you break down that oven for I must bake to-morrow!" But they were already as still as mice. Then they played "Father and Mother." The stork brought a baby to the young bride. Adelka was the nurse, Johnny and Willie, the sponsors, and the baby was named Jack. Now they had the christening festival; all sorts of wonderful dishes were served, and this time the dog, too, was a guest, so that they might make up with him. Jack grew up and his father led him to school. Johnny was the schoolmaster and taught him to spell. But one pupil!—that wouldn't do; they all had to study, and therefore they agreed to play school. As no one brought the prescribed task, the master got angry and ordered each to receive two blows upon the hand. Seeing no help, they submitted; but the dog, who also was a pupil, and didn't know anything at all except to snuff at things, was to receive in addition to the two blows a dunce card upon his neck, which was done at once. But as soon as the card was fastened, the offended brute jumped down from the oven with a great noise and rolled about the floor, trying to rid himself of the sign of shame. The foreman sprang from his bench, Grandmother almost screamed from fright, and the miller, shaking his snuff box at the children, exclaimed: "By Gemini! let me come there, I'll{—" and turning his box he smiled, but not so that the children could see him.

"That reprobate of ours surely was to blame!" said Grandmother. "I must take them home before the whole house is torn down!"

This, however, the miller's wife would not allow; they had not finished their conversation about the French war and those three potentates. Grandmother knew them all; she had had great experiences, she understood army life,—every one believed her.

"Grandmother, who were those three ice warriors that the Russian sent against Bonaparte?" asked a handsome youth with a pleasant face.

"I should think you could guess that," quickly replied the foreman. "They were the three months, December, January, and February. In Russia, it is so cold that people are obliged to wear some covering over their faces to keep their noses from freezing off. The French soldiers, not being accustomed to this cold, froze to death as soon as they came. The Czar, knowing this, drew them on into the country, until they could not return. Oh, he is a crafty one, that Czar!"

"Grandmother," asked another," you knew the Emperor Joseph personally, did you not?"

"Of course I did! Why I spoke with him, and he gave me this dollar with his own hand," she replied as she showed them the dollar that hung on the string of garnets around her neck.

"And may we ask how it happened, and when?" asked several of the bystanders at once.

Just at this point there was a lull in the noise upon the oven, for the children hearing this question were at once attentive, and jumping down begged Grandmother to relate this story, as they had never heard it.

"But both the miller and his wife have heard it," objected Grandmother.

"A good story will bear repeating," said the miller, "so just go on."

"Well, then, I will begin; but you children must be perfectly quiet."

The children obeyed, and did not lisp another syllable.

Grandmother began as follows:—

"When the Novy Ples (Joseph-hoh) was building, I was a young girl. I come from Olesnic,—do you know where Olesnic is?"

"I do," said the foreman, "it is in the mountains, beyond Dobruska, on the Silesian frontier, is it not?"

"Yes, it is there. Not far from our house was a cottage, where dwelt the widow Novotny. She made her living by weaving woolen blankets. Whenever she had a good supply on hand, she took them to Jarmirn or Pilsen to sell. She used to be at our house a great deal, and we children would run to her cottage several times a day. Father was sponsor to her son. As soon as I was able to do any hard work, she would say to me, when I came over: 'Come, sit down at the loom and learn to weave; some day it may be of use to you. What one learns in youth may serve one in old age.' I was always eager to work, so did not need to be told twice. I soon understood the trade so well that I could weave a whole blanket without assistance. At that time, the Emperor used to come quite often to see the new city, and he was the constant topic of conversation with the villagers. Whoever had the opportunity of seeing him felt greatly honored.

"On one occasion, when the widow was going to town, I asked mother if I could go with her, as I wanted to see the Novy Ples, too. As she was to have a heavy load, mother readily consented, saying: 'Yes, go; you can help her carry the blankets.' The next day we started in the cool of the day, and before noon were in the meadow before the Ples. There we sat down upon a pile of timber and began to put on our shoes. The widow said: 'Alas! where shall I go to sell my blankets?' Just then we saw a gentleman coming from the Ples directly toward us. He carried something in his hand resembling a flute; from time to time he put it up to his face and turned round and round.

"'O look!' I said to the widow. 'That must be some musician; he is playing on a flute and dancing to his own music.'

"You foolish girl, that is not a flute and he is no musician. Most likely that is some gentleman whose business it is to oversee the building; I often see them walking about here. He has a sort of tube, in that tube a glass, and he looks through that. They say he can see a great ways, and everywhere, and whom and what he wants.'

"'Oh, Mrs. Novotny, if he was us when we were putting on our shoes!' I said.

"'Well, and what if he did? That isn't anything to be ashamed of,' she replied.

"While we were thus talking, the gentleman reached our side. He had on a gray coat and a three cornered hat, beneath which was his cue with a bow at the end. He was quite young and handsome as a picture. 'Where are you going and what have you there?' he asked, as he stopped near us. The widow said she was taking her work to sell at Ples.

"'What kind of work?' he further asked.

"'Woolen blankets, sir; they make good coverlets for soldiers; perhaps you might like one,' said she, quickly opening her bundle and spreading out the blankets one by one. She was a good woman, this widow, but when she tried to sell anything she was extremely talkative.

"'Your hushand makes these, does he not?' asked the gentleman.

"'He used to make them, dear sir: but at harvest time it will be two years since he made his last blanket. While he worked, I sometimes helped and so learned the trade, and now I find it very profitable. I always tell Mandie: 'Only learn, Mandie; what you once learn, not even a gendarme can take away from you.'

"'Is she your daughter?' again asked the gentleman.

"'No, she is not mine, but our sponsor's child. Do not think she is too small; she is stout and willing to work. She made this blanket all herself.' He tapped me on the shoulder and gave me a look of approbation. In all my life I never saw such beautiful eyes; they were as blue as the corn flower.

"'And you have no children?' said he, turning to her.

'I have one son,' she replied. I send him to school to Rychnov. The Lord gives him the gift of the Holy Ghost, so that learning is to him as play; he sings well in the choir. I'm trying to save a few groschen, so that I can send him to study for the priesthood.'

"'But suppose he refuses to be a priest?'

"'O sir, he will not refuse; George is a good lad,' replied the widow.

"In the meantime I had been looking at the tube and wondering how he looked through it. He must have noticed this, for all at once he turned to me and said: 'I suppose you would like to know how one looks through this telescope, is it not so?' I blushed, but dared not look at him. The widow Novotny spoke up: 'Mandie thought that that was a flute, and that you were a musician. But I told her what you were.'

"'And you know it?' he asked smiling.

"'Well I do not know your name; but of course you are one of the men that come here to oversee the workmen, and you look at them through that tube, is it not so?'

"The gentleman laughed till he held his sides. Then he said: 'The last, mother, is correct.' Then he turned to me and said: 'If you wish to look through this tube you may do so.' Then he placed it to my eye, and Oh, dear people, what wonders did I see! Why, I saw into people's windows, and could see what they were doing as if they were close by; and way off in the fields I saw people working as if they were but a few steps from me. I wanted the widow to look, too; but she declared it was not proper for an old woman to play with such things.

"'But that is not for play, that is for use,' said the gentleman.

"'Well, perhaps it is, but it is not for me,' and she could not be induced to look through it. Then I thought that I would be so glad to see the Emperor Joseph, and because the gentleman was so kind, I told him whom I'd like to see.

"'What do you care about the Emperor?' he asked, 'Do you like him?'

"'Of course I do; why shouldn't I like him, when everybody speaks well of him and praises his goodness. Every day we ask God to bless him and his wife, and grant them a long reign.'

"He smiled and asked: 'Would you like to speak with him, too?'

"'God forbid! where would I turn my eyes?' I replied.

"'Why, you are not afraid to look at me, and the Emperor is only such a man as I?'

"'O, sir, it is not the same,' spoke up Mrs. Novotny. 'His Lordship the Emperor is after all his Lordship, and that is something to say. I have heard that when a person looks the Emperor in the eye, he is seized with fever and ague. Our alderman spoke with him twice, and he says it is so.'

"'Very likely your alderman has a guilty conscience and cannot look any one in the eye,' he replied and at the same time wrote something upon a slip of paper. He handed it to Mrs. Novotny, telling her to go to the Ples, to the provision house, where she would sell her blankets and get her pay when she showed them that paper; then turning to me he gave me this silver dollar, and said: 'Take this as a keepsake from the Emperor Joseph. Do not forget to pray for him and his wife, for prayers coming from earnest hearts are acceptable to God. When you get home, tell your friends you spoke with the Emperor Joseph.' With these words he turned and hastened away.

"Overwhelmed with joy and surprise we knelt down, not knowing what we did. Mrs. Novotny scolded me because I had been so forward, but she also had been bold enough. But who would have thought that it was the Emperor! We comforted ourselves, however, by thinking that if he had been offended he would not have made us presents.

"When Mrs. Novotny came to the magazine she got three times as much for her blankets as she asked.

"We almost flew home, and when we got there, there was no end of telling about it, and everybody envied us. Mother had a hole punched through the dollar, and I have worn it on my neck ever since. Many a time I have been in need, but I would never part with my dollar. A thousand pities that the sod covers that good man!" added Grandmother softly, as she finished the story.

"Yes, indeed, a thousand pities!" echoed the listeners. The children, after learning the history of the dollar, turned it from side to side, for now it had acquired a new interest to them, and Grandmother, because she had spoken to the Emperor, was regarded with even more reverence than before.

At the mill the week began on Sunday evening, for then the peasants came in with their grist. The rumbling of the wheels was heard; the foreman went about the mill room, examining all with a practiced eye; the workmen hurried from basket to basket, upstairs and downstairs; while the miller stood at the door welcoming his customers with a pleasant smile, and offering each a pinch of snuff.

In the summer, the miller's wife and Manchinka accompanied Grandmother over to the inn. When there was a dance there, they generally stopped at the gate, where they were joined by several of the women from the village, and all remained for a while to watch the dancers. To enter was impossible on account of the crowd standing at the door; even Christina, when she took beer out to the gentlemen sitting in the orchard, was obliged to hold the glasses high over her head for fear they should be knocked out of her hands.

"Do you see these gentlemen?" said the miller's wife as she made a gesture with her head toward the orchard, where sat several of the men from the castle and tried to detain Christina whenever she brought them beer,—"do you see them! Yes, indeed, that is a lass such as doesn't grow upon every bush. But do not imagine that the Lord had her blossom out for such as you, that you might ruin her beautiful life."

"No danger!" said Grandmother, "Christina is too sharp for them. She knows how to dispose of them at short notice."

Grandmother was right. Just then one of those gentlemen, perfumed so strongly that he could be smelt ten yards off, whispered something in her ear; she laughed as she replied: "Unload your wares, sir, unload; we will not buy!" Then she hastened into the dancing hall and with a smiling face put her hand in the large, hard palm of a stalwart youth, who placed his other arm around her waist and led her off to the dance, unmindful of the call, "Christinka, some more beer!"

"That one is dearer to her than the castle with all its lords and treasures," smiled Grandmother, as she bade the miller's wife good night, and then with the children slowly wended her way homeward.

Once in a fortnight, or in three weeks, when the weather was fine, Grandmother would say: "To-day we will go to the gamekeeper's to spin." The children spoke of nothing else until they had started on their journey. Behind the dam the way led on the steep side to the bridge, beyond the bridge clear to Riesenburg; the path was shaded by rows of tall poplars. Grandmother, however, preferred the way along the river to the mill. There was a high hill above the saw-mill, where much mullein grew, which Barunka was fond of gathering for Grandmother. From the saw-mill the valley grew narrower and narrower, until the river was confined in a narrow trough, and flew quickly over the large stones that obstructed its path. The hills here were covered with evergreens, whose dense foliage cast a dark shadow upon the valley below. This was the path Grandmother took with the children, until they reached Riesenburg fortress, whose moss covered ruins projected above the dark wood.

A short distance from the fortress, above an underground passage, through which it was said one could go a journey of twelve miles, but into which no one ever ventured on account of the damp and foul air, was built an arbor having three gothic windows. When the gentlemen from the castle went out hunting, they stopped here to eat their second breakfast. To this arbor the children directed their steps, climbing up the steep banks like chamois. Poor Grandmother got up the steep place with the greatest difficulty, all out of breath and catching hold of every shrub. "Oh, you're too much for me!" she exclaimed as she scrambled to the top.

The children took her by both her arms and led her into the arbor where they seated her in a chair. The air here was cool, and the outlook beautiful.

To the right of the arbor, could be seen the ruins of the fortress; below the fortress there was a vale in the shape of a crescent, the top and bottom of which were closed in by evergreens. On one side of those hills there was a chapel. The murmuring of the water, and the song of the birds were the only sounds heard in this solitary place.

John recollected the story of the strong Ctibor, the shepherd of Riesenburg. It was down in the meadow below that his master caught him carrying a large tree upon his shoulders. When he was asked where he had got it, he confessed that he had stolen it from the forest. His master, pleased with his candor, not only forgave him, but invited him to come to the fortress, saying that he would give him as much provision as he could carry. Ctibor was so greedy that he took his wife's nine ell feather-bed cover and went to the fortress, where they filled it with peas and hams. The knight liked him on account of his strength and frankness, and when there was a tournament in Prague, he took him along. Ctibor overcame a certain German knight whom no one else could conquer, and on that account was knighted by the king.

This tale delighted the children, and from the time that the old shepherd related it, the fortress and the meadow acquired a new interest for them.

"What is the name of the place where that chapel stands?" asked Willie.

"That is Bousin. If God grants us good health, we will go there sometime when there is a pilgrimage there," replied grandmother.

"What happened there, Grandma?" asked Adelka, who could listen to such stories from morning till night.

"A miracle was performed there; don't you remember how Vorsa related it?"

"We don’t remember at all. Please, Grandma, tell us about it."

"Well, then, sit down quietly upon the benches and do not lean out of the windows lest you fall and break your necks." After thus admonishing them, Grandmother began her story:

"Beyond this hill and these woods are the villages of Turyn, Litobor, Slatina, Mecov, and Bousin. In olden times they all belonged to one knight named Turynsky, who lived in Turyncastle. This knight had a wife and one child, a pretty little girl, but alas! deaf and dumb, which was a great grief to her parents.

"Once as the little girl was wandering about in the castle, she thought she would like to go to Bousin to see how the lambs were doing and how much they had grown since last she saw them. You must remember that at that time there was neither village nor chapel here. There was only the farm and the farm house where dwelt the steward and such servants as were needed to do the work. All around there was nothing but woods, in which were many wild beasts.

"Turynsky's little daughter had often been to the farm, but she had ridden with her father. Now she thought, simple child: 'I'll take a little run and I'll be there.' She followed her eyes, thinking one way as good as another,—she was young and ignorant like you. When, however, she had gone a long time, and no farm was in sight, she began to be alarmed; she thought: 'What will my father and mother say when they find out that I have left the castle?' She turned and hastened back toward her home. When one is alarmed, especially such a child, one becomes confused very easily. She lost her way and went neither to the castle nor to the farm, but into a dense forest where there was neither path nor light. Soon she knew that she was lost.

"You can imagine how she felt. But you would not be so badly off; for you can speak and hear, which she could not. She ran hither and thither and only grew the more bewildered. At last she was very tired, hungry, and thirsty; but that was as nothing compared with the fear that she had of the night and the wild beasts that she knew would prowl about; and, besides, she thought of the anxiety of her father and mother.

"Worn out with fright and weeping, all at once she found herself at a well. She knelt down eagerly and took a drink. When she looked about, she saw several well beaten paths; but she did not know which to take, since from her late experience she had found that not every path leads home. Then she remembered that whenever her mother was in trouble she would go to her room to pray; so she, too, knelt down and asked God to lead her out of the woods.

"Suddenly she hears strange sounds. They ring clearer and clearer in her ears. She does not know what is happening to her, what those sounds mean. She begins to tremble with fear, to cry, she wants to run away, when behold! a white sheep comes toward her from the wood, behind her a second, a third, a fourth, a fifth, till the whole flock stand about the spring. These are her father's sheep, for here comes the shepherd's large, white dog, and here is Barta, the shepherd, himself. She cried out Barta! and ran to meet him. The good shepherd was delighted to find the lost child, and greatly astonished to hear her speak. He took her in his arms and hastened to the farm-house, which was but a short way off. Lady Turynsky was there distracted with grief, for the sudden disappearance of her daughter had filled her with consternation. But her joy knew no bounds when Barta placed the little one in her arms all safe and sound and healed,—able to speak and hear. The happy parents, out of thankfulness to God, determined to build a chapel upon the spot where the miracle had been performed. The chapel you see yonder is the very same chapel, and the well near it is the well out of which she drank, and those woods are the same woods. But the little girl died long, long ago; Sir Turynsky and Lady Turynsky are dead, too; Barta the shepherd died, and Turyn castle is in ruins."

"What became of the dog and the sheep?" asked Willie.

"Why, the dog died; the old sheep dropped away one by one, the young grew and in their turn had lambs. Thus it is in the world, one goes another comes."

The children turned their eyes to the valley. They seemed to see knights riding about, a little girl running hither and thither in the woods, and behold! a beautiful lady on horseback, followed by attendants was coming toward them from the vale below. She had on a dark, tight-fitting jacket, her long, gray riding habit hung below her stirrups, and a long, green veil floated in the breeze from her black hat.

"Grandma, a knightess, a knightess is coming!" exclaimed the children.

"What an idea! there are no knightesses; it must be the Princess from the castle," replied Grandmother.

The children were greatly disappointed that it was not a "knightess."

"It is the Princess coming up to us!" again cried the children in a chorus.

"What are you talking about? How could a horse climb up here?" said Grandmother.

"Oh, but look! Orlando is climbing like a cat!" exclaimed John.

"Hush, I do not want to see it. Their Lordships have strange amusements," said Grandmother, as she held the children so they would not lean too far out of the window.

Presently the Princess was up the hill. She dismounted, threw her long skirt across her arm, and entered the arbor. Grandmother arose quickly and welcomed her.

"Is this Proshek's family?" she asked, studying the children's faces.

"Yes, your Grace," replied Grandmother.

"And are you their Grandmother?"

"Yes your Grace, I am their mother's mother."

"I am sure you must be happy in having such healthy grandchildren, I suppose you are good, obedient children?" continued the lady turning to the children, whose eyes were fixed upon her. At her question they looked down and whispered: "yes ma'am!"

"Hm, it will pass;" said Grandmother, "though sometimes—but we were no better."

The Princess smiled. Seeing a basket of strawberries on the bench, she asked where they had gathered them.

Grandmother at once spoke to Barunka: "Go, my child, offer the fruit to the princess. They are fresh, the children gathered them on our way here; they may taste good to your Grace. When I was young, I was very fond of strawberries, but I have not tasted them since the death of my child."

"And why?" asked the Princess taking the basket from Barunka.

"O, your Grace, that is a custom among us. When a mother loses a child, she eats neither strawberries nor cherries till St. John the Baptist. It is said that at that time the Virgin goes about heaven giving this fruit to the little children. If a mother has not been self-denying, and has eaten of this fruit, when the Virgin comes to the child of such an one she says: 'Poor child, there isn't much left for you; your mother ate your share.' For this reason mothers abstain from eating this fruit before St. John's, and if they can do it till St. John's they can do it after," added Grandmother.

The Princess held in her fingers a large strawberry, as red as her own beautiful lips; but on hearing this tale, she placed it back in the basket, saying: "I cannot eat now, and the children would have nothing themselves."

"O, your Grace, that makes no difference. Only eat, or take them home with you; we can gather some more," quickly said Barunka, pushing back the basket that the Princess was offering her.

"Thank you," replied the lady accepting the gift and smiling at the simple heartedness of the child. To-morrow, however, you must come to the castle and get your basket; and be sure to bring your Grandma with you, do you understand?"

"We will!" exclaimed the children with as much assurance as they showed when they were invited to the mill by the miller's wife. Grandmother, indeed, wanted to raise some objections, but it was too late; the Princess bowed to her, smiled at the children, and was gone, disappearing among the trees like a beautiful vision.

"O Grandma, won't it be delightful to go to the castle! Papa says they have so many beautiful pictures there," said Barunka.

"And they have a parrot that speaks," cried John, clapping his hands.

Little Adelka, looking at herself said: "I shan't have to wear this dress, shall I?"

"Well, I declare, what a sight you are! What were you doing?" exclaimed Grandmother signing herself with the cross.

"I couldn't help it. John pushed me down into some strawberries," explained the little girl.

"You two are forever quarreling. What will the Princess think? Most likely she will say you are two little imps. But come, we must get started or we shall not reach the gamekeeper's to-day."

"I want you to understand, boys, that if you cut up as you usually do, I will never take you with me again."

The boys assured Grandmother that they would be very good.

"We shall see," she said, as they approached their destination. A few more steps brought them into a dense wood, through which gleamed the gamekeeper's white buildings. There was a large yard in front of the house, shaded by lindens and chestnuts. Beneath these there were several small tables and benches fastened to the ground. Several peacocks were seen strutting about on the green sward; Grandmother used to say that they had angel's plumage, a thief's step, and the devil's voice. A little way from the peacocks was seen a flock of speckled, blear-eyed guinea hens; white rabbits, pricking up their ears, ready to flee from the smallest danger; a handsome fawn, with a red band around its neck, lying at the door; and several dogs lounging about. Hardly had the children spoken to the dogs, when they gave a joyous bark and bounded out to meet them. The fawn, called by Adelka, also came and with her blue eyes looked up lovingly at the child as if she would say "Ah, it is you, who bring me those good morsels. Welcome here!" Adelka must have read this in her eyes, for she quickly put her hand in her pocket and brought out a piece of bread, which the fawn took and followed them to the house.

"What in the deuce is the matter here, you savage brutes!" cried a man's voice from within, and directly after, the gamekeeper, clad in a green jacket and a house cap, made his appearance.

"What welcome guests!" he exclaimed seeing Grandmother and the children. Come in, come in! Hector, Diana, Amina be quiet! One cannot hear his own voice," he said shaking his cane at the dogs.

The company entered the house, over the door of which was fastened a pair of deer's horns. In the hall hung several rifles, but very high so that the children could not reach them. Grandmother was always afraid of fire arms, and when the gamekeeper assured her that they were not loaded, she would still say: "Who can tell what may happen; the devil never sleeps!"

"Very true," replied the gamekeeper, "when God permits, a hoe may go off."

Grandmother was ready to forgive him anything, if only he did not swear; that, she could not stand. She put her hands on her ears, saying: "What is the good of such a foul mouth? one should sprinkle holy water when you leave."

The gamekeeper liked Grandmother, and so in her presence was very careful not to touch on the devil, who he said was always getting mixed up with his words.

"Where is your wife?" asked Grandmother as she entered the room and saw no one.

Just make yourself at home till I call her; you know she is always busied about something."

The attention of the boys was attracted by a case in which gleamed hunters' knives and other arms. The girls played with the fawn that had followed them into the house. Grandmother, taking in at a glance the order and cleanliness of the room, remarked: "That's a fact, let a person come here on Friday or Sunday, everything is as clean as glass." Just then her eye fell upon the spinning that lay near the stove, tied up and marked ready for the weaver. As she was examining it very attentively, the door opened, and the mistress of the house entered the room.

She was still young, and in her neat house-dress and white cap cut a very handsome figure. Her welcome was hearty, and her honest face showed that it was sincere. "I was out sprinkling the linen; I am delighted with it; this year it will be as white as cambric," she remarked after excusing her absence.

"What industry!" replied Grandmother. "A piece out bleaching, and here a lot ready for the weaver. This will make cloth like parchment; if only he would work it up well, and not cheat you. By the way, are you satisfied with your weaver?"

"My dear Grandma, you know they all cheat."

"O you women, you women! I'd just like to know how the weaver could cheat you? You have everything reckoned out to the last thread!" laughed the gamekeeper. "But do sit down," he said to Grandmother who was still standing, admiring the spinning.

"Oh, never mind, I am not tired," she replied, as she seized little Nanny by the hand so she should not fall, for the little one was just learning to walk.

As soon as the mistress of the house stepped from the door, two tanned urchins were seen standing at the threshold; one fair-haired like the mother, the other dark like the father. They had followed their mother to the house, but when she entered into conversation with Grandmother, they did not know what to do; they felt bashful and remained standing outside.

"O you blue jays, is that the proper thing to do, to hide behind your mother's petticoats when your friends come to see you?" said the father. "Come forward and shake hands with our company."

They willingly obeyed. Grandmother gave them some apples, and said: "Next time you must not be bashful; it is not becoming for boys to hang about their mother's apron strings." The boys were silent, their eyes fixed upon the apples.

"Now, begone! show your friends the horned owl and give her that blue jay I shot to-day. Show them also the young pheasants and the puppies. But don't you race among the poultry like so many wild colts, or I'll—"

The last the children did not hear, for as soon as the father said 'Begone,' the whole crowd rushed like a hurricane through the door.

"What a whirl!" remarked the gamekeeper with a smile.

"Children will be children,—youthful blood!" added Grandmother.

"But if only those boys were not so wild! Believe me, Grandma, at times I am dying with terror. They climb up trees and over pitfalls, turn somersets, tear their trowsers,—it's dreadful to relate! I thank the Lord for this one good child; she is a treasure," said the mother.

"What can you expect, my good woman? The boys take after the father, the girls after the mother," replied Grandmother.

The mother laid Nanny in the father's arms that he might hold her awhile,—"Only till I get something to eat; I shall be back presently."

"A good woman that!" remarked the gamekeeper as his wife stepped out of the door, "It would be a sin to offend her,—only if she were not so fussy about those boys; they won't break their necks. What is a boy good for, if he has no metal?"

"Excess is injurious in everything. Let boys have their own way, and they will walk upon their heads," remarked Grandmother; and yet that was exactly what she did with her own boys.

The gamekeeper's wife now entered loaded with provisions. The oaken table was covered with a white cloth, and upon it were placed majolica plates, and knives with deer-horn handles; then there appeared strawberries and cream, fritters and honey, bread and butter, and beer.

The hostess took Grandmother's distaff away, saying as she did so: "Never mind the spinning now, but come and help yourself! Cut your bread and spread it! The butter is fresh,—churned to-day; the beer is not watered. Those fritters are not so good, I baked them to-day haphazard; but when a thing is unexpected, it often tastes good. You don't eat strawberries? the children, however, are very fond of them, especially with cream." Thus she went on, urging Grandmother to eat, and cutting slice after slice of bread, spreading it with butter, and pouring honey over it.

Suddenly, as if she recollected something, Grandmother struck her forehead, saying: "O that old head of mine! Just think, I never told you that we met the Princess in the arbor."

"Please Grandmother, don't say anything till I return, I must satisfy those children, so that they will behave."

In the meantime, the children headed by Frank and Bertie had rummaged through everything. They were just standing before the house watching Amina jump over a cane and fetch in her mouth articles that were thrown to her, when the mother came to the door to call them to luncheon. She did not need to call them twice. "Now, sit down under the trees and eat, but do not soil your clothes," she said as she spread the food out before them. The children sat down while the dogs stood about wistfully looking into their faces.

As soon as the mother re-entered the house, she begged Grandmother to proceed with the story about the Princess. This she willingly did, relating word for word all that had been said and done in the arbor.

"Don't I always say she has a good heart," remarked the gamekeeper's wife. "Whenever she comes here, she asks about the children and kisses Nanny on the forehead; and whoever is fond of children cannot be so bad. But those servants spread evil reports, as though she were,—who knows how bad?"

"Do good to the devil, and he'll reward you with evil," said Grandmother.

"You are right," observed the gamekeeper. "That is what I say. We could not desire a better mistress, if it were not for those bailiffs about her, who by lying set her against us. That crew is of no earthly use, unless it be to rob the Lord of his time. When, dear Grandma, I observe these things, I think: 'O that a thousand streaks of lightning would go through you!' Isn't it enough to rouse one's wrath when such a clown, who doesn't know anything and is good for nothing but to stand behind a wagon like a wooden man and gape, gets as much as I, counts more than I, who, rain or shine, in mud and snow must wander about the woods, night and day, watching poachers and quarreling with them, and must care for all and be responsible for all. I do not complain, I am satisfied; but when such a blusterer comes here and turns up his nose, then, upon my soul, I would,—but what's the use of vexing one's self?" and the gamekeeper took a glass and drank down his indignation.

"Does that lady know all that is going on? Why doesn't some one have the courage to tell her, when he is wronged?" asked Grandmother.

"Zounds! who wants to put his finger into the fire? I often speak with her, and could tell her this and that; but I always think: 'Frank, hold your tongue, lest your own words turn against you.' Besides, she need not believe me; she will ask those above me, and then you have it! These will stand by each other, and I shall be left in the lurch. I spoke with her a few days ago, when she was walking in the grove with that strange nobleman, who is visiting her. They had met Victorka, who frightened the Princess; they asked me about her.

"What did you tell them?" asked Grandmother.

"What should I say? I told them she was crazy, but that she harmed no one."

"What did they say then?"

"They sat down in the grass, the nobleman at the lady's feet, and ordered me to sit down and relate to them about Victorka and how she became crazy."

"And you gladly consented, did you not?" smiled his wife.

"My dear, who would not be at the service of a beautiful lady! Our Princess, 'tis true, is no longer young, but is still wondrously beautiful. Besides, what could I do? I was obliged to obey."

"O, you rogue! it is two years since I came here, and you expressly promised me that you would tell me the story about Victorka; and I do not know it yet. A beautiful lady I am not, and cannot give my orders, so I suppose I shall never know it. Is not that so?"

"O, Grandma, you are dearer to me than the most beautiful lady in the world, and if you wish to listen, I'll tell you the story, perhaps this very day."

"Your husband knows how to place a satin cushion," smiled Grandmother, "and if you do not object, I'll take him at his word. The aged are like children, and children you know are always ready for a story."

"I am not old, and yet I love to listen, too; only begin, Father, begin; our time will pass away so much more pleasantly," said his wife.

"Mamma, please give us some more bread, we haven't a bit,” said Bertie at the door.

"That is not possible! where could they have put all that bread?” wondered Grandmother.

"Half they ate, the other half they divided among the dogs, the fawn, and the squirrels; that is always the way. How they try my patience!" sighed the mother as she cut more bread. While she was distributing it and placing Nanny in the care of the nurse girl, the gamekeeper filled his pipe.

"My husband,—may his soul rest in peace,—also had this habit; before he began telling a story, his pipe had to be ready," said Grandmother, and a pleasant memory seemed to shine in her face.

"It's a bad habit, but it seems that the men have agreed upon it," said the gamekeeper's wife as she entered the room.

"Oh, now, do not pretend that you do not like it. Why, you yourself bring me my tobacco from town," replied the husband lighting his pipe.

"What can I do? To keep you good-natured one must satisfy every whim. You may begin," she said as she seated herself with her spinning next to Grandmother.

"I am ready, listen;" and watching the first cloud of smoke ascend to the ceiling, he leaned well against the back of the chair and began the story of Victorka.

 
  1. In all country houses, in Bohemia, there is a large brick structure in one corner of the living room, which is a stove and oven combined.