The Grandmother (Božena Němcová, 1891)/Chapter 7

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CHAPTER VII

 

THE meadow belonging to the castle is covered with flowers; in the middle of the meadow is a knoll covered with a dense growth of wild thyme. In the wild thyme Adelka is sitting as in a bed; she is watching a lady-bug, which runs hither and thither over her lap, from her lap upon her leg, and from her leg upon her green boot. "Don't run away, little one; stay here, I won't harm you," says the child, picking up the bug and placing it back upon her lap.

Not far from Adelka, John and Willie are sitting by an ant hill watching the busy little creatures at their work. "Look, Willie! how they hurry about. And see! this one lost an egg, and this second one picked it upand is carrying it away into the hill."

"Wait, I have a piece of bread in my pocket; I will give them a crumb, to see what they'll do?" He took the bread from his pocket and placed it in their way. "Look! look! how they rush to it, and wonder where it came from. And see! they are pushing it further and further. Do you see the others coming from all directions? but how do the others know there is something here?"

Just then they were interrupted by a pleasant voice, which asked: "What are you doing here?"

It was the Countess Hortense riding upon a white pony; she had come close to them without being observed.

"I have a lady-bug," said Adelka, showing her closed hand to the Countess, who had dismounted and approached her.

"Let me see it?"

Adelka opened her hand, but it was empty. "Oh, my! it ran away," said the child frowning.

"Wait, it isn't gone yet," said the Countess; and she carefully picked up the lady-bug from the little girl's bare shoulder. "What will you do with it?"

"I will let it fly away. Now watch, how it will go!" Adelka placed the lady-bug upon her palm, raised her hand, and said: "Pinko linko, pinko linko, fly away into God's window."

"Go, go, not so slow!" added Willie, giving Adelka a slight stroke upon the hand. At that instant the lady-bug raised its red-spotted cloak, spread out the delicate wings that had been folded under it, and flew away into the sky.

"Why did you push it?" scolded Adelka.

"So it should go the sooner," laughed the boy, and turning. to Hortense, he took her by the hand saying: "Come, Miss Hortense, come to see the ants. I gave them a bit of bread, and there are swarms of them around it!"

The Countess put her hand into the pocket of her black plush jacket, and brought out a piece of sugar; handing it to Willie she said: "Place this in the grass and you will see how, in an instant, they will surround it. They like sweet things."

Willie obeyed, and when he saw how in a very short time the ants, running from all sides, surrounded the sugar, carrying away the tiniest bits, he was greatly surprised and asked the Countess: "Tell me, Miss Hortense, how do these ants know there is something good here, and what are they doing with those eggs that they carry in and out of the hill all the time?"

"The eggs are their children, and those that carry them are the guardians and nurses. When the day is warm they carry them out of their dark chambers into the sunshine, so that they may be warmed up and grow better."

"And where are their mammas?" asked Adelka. "They are in the house, laying eggs, so that the ants shall not die out. The fathers walk about them, talk with them, and cheer them up, to keep them from being lonesome; and the other ants, that you see running about, are the workers."

"And what do they do?" asked John.

"They gather food, build and repair the house, take care of the pupas,—the growing children,—and keep the house clean; when one of their number dies, they carry him away; they stand guard, that no enemy may come upon them unawares, and fight to protect the colony. All this is done by the workers."

"How do they understand each other when they cannot speak?"

"Although they have not such a language as people use, still they understand each other. Did you not observe how the first one that found the sugar at once went and told the others, and how they came running from all directions? See how when they meet they touch one another with their feelers, as if they said a few words in passing; and groups of them are standing in various places as if they were discussing something."

"In those hills, have they parlors and kitchens?" asked Adelka.

"They do not need kitchens, for they do not cook: but they have chambers for the children and the mothers, halls for the workers, and their houses have several stories, with passages from one story to another in the inside of the hill."

"How do they know how to build it so it will not break down?" asked Willie.

"Indeed, they build well, and when no stronger power breaks down their house it lasts as long as they need it. They make the walls and rafters out of tiny chips, straws, dry leaves, grass and earth. They dampen the earth in their mouths, knead it, and use it as masons do bricks. They like best to build when the mist is falling, for then the ground is just damp enough for their use."

"Who taught these creatures all this?" again asked the little boy.

"God gives these creatures something that we call instinct, by which they know what to do without being taught. Some show so much skill and wisdom in the management of their households and providing for their wants, that it seems like human reason. When you go to school and learn how to use books, you will learn all such things as I have learned them," added the Countess.

While they were thus talking, Grandmother and Barunka came, bringing their aprons full of flowers and their arms full of herbs that they had gathered in the meadow. The children began to tell what they had learned about the ants, and the Countess asked what they were going to do with all those herbs.

"This, dear Countess, is some caraway and some agrimony. The caraway is dried, the seeds used in cooking and in bread, and the straw for the children's bath; the agrimony is very useful as a gargle for sore throat. The neighbors know I always have on hand some of these medicinal herbs, so they send to me when they need them. It is well to have something of this kind in the house, for if one does not need it oneself, it may be of use to others."

"Is there no apothecary in the village?" asked the Countess.

"Not in the village, but in the town, an hour's journey from the village. But suppose it were in the village! A Latin kitchen is an expensive kitchen, and why should we pay dearly for what we can make ourselves?

"I suppose the physician gives you a recipe how you are to prepare the medicine?"

"No, indeed! What would a person come to, if he called in a physician for every little illness! He lives an hour's journey from here, and it would be about half a day before he would come after he was called; in the meantime the patient might die, if there were no domestic remedies. And when he comes, what a fuss! Several kinds of medicines plasters, leeches, and what not? The family become almost distracted, and the patient is sure to become worse from fright. I do not believe in doctors; my herbs have always proved sufficient for me and the children. Still, when others are ill, I say, 'send for the doctor.' But when God visits one with heavy illness, the doctors themselves know not what to do, but leave nature to take her course. And after all, God is the best physician; if one is to live, he will get well without the aid of the doctors, and if he is to die, the whole apothecary shop cannot save him."

"Are all those in your apron medicinal herbs?" asked the Countess."

"Oh, no, Miss Hortense," replied Barunka quickly; "these in our aprons are flowers for garlands. Tomorrow is Corpus Christi, and Manchinka and I are to march in the procession and carry garlands."

"And I, too, I am going with Hela," added Adelka.

"And we are to be little peasants!" exclaimed the boys.

"Who is Hela?" asked the Countess.

"Hela is from town; she is the daughter of my godmother, who lives in that big house that has the lion on it."

"You should say from the hotel," explained Grandmother.

"Miss Hortense, will you go to the procession, too?" asked Barunka.

"Certainly," replied the young lady, as she seated herself in the grass and began to help sort the flowers.

"Did you ever carry garlands on Corpus Christi?" further asked Barunka.

"No; but while I lived in Florence I once carried a garland upon a festival of the Madonna."

"Who is the Madonna?"

"Madonna is what they call the Virgin in Italy."

"Miss Hortense then comes from Italy? Is it where our soldiers are now quartered?" asked Grandmother.

"Yes; but not in Florence, the city I come from. That is the place where they make those beautiful hats from rice straw. There rice and corn grow, and sweet chestnuts and olives are found in the woods. One can see groves of cypress and laurel, beautiful flowers, and a blue, unclouded sky."

"Oh, I know!" exclaimed Barunka, "that is the city you have painted in your room, is it not, Miss Hortense? In the middle is a wide river, and above the river, on a high hill, is built the city. O Grandma, such beautiful houses and churches! On one side are so many small houses and gardens; by one of those houses a little girl is playing; by her side sits an old lady,--they are Miss Hortense and her nurse; isn't it so? You told us that while we were at the castle," asked Barunka turning to the Countess.

The Countess did not reply at once; she was buried in deep thought and her hands lay motionless upon her lap. At last she said with a deep sigh: "Oh bella patria! Oh cara amica!" and her eyes filled with tears.

"What did you say, Miss Hortense?" asked the inquisitive Adelka, lovingly leaning to the young lady.

Hortense bent her head upon the head of the child, and did not try to restrain the tears that fell down her cheeks into her lap.

"Miss Hortense thinks of her home and her relatives, said Grandmother; you children do not know what it is to leave the home of your childhood. However one may prosper elsewhere one can never forget it. You, too, will sometime learn to understand this. Has your Ladyship any relatives in Florence?"

"None; I have no relatives that I know of in the whole world," replied the Countess sadly. "Giovanna, my good nurse, still lives in Italy, and at times I feel very lonely and long to see her and my old home. But the Princess, my second mother, has promised to take me there soon."

"How did the Princess come to know you, when you lived so far away?"

"She and my mother were good friends, having known each other for many vears. My father was wounded at the battle of Leipsic, and returned to his villa in Florence, where in a few vears he died from the effects of his injury. This I learned from Giovanna. My mother grieved so much that she, too, died and left me, a poor little orphan, all alone in the world. When the Princess heard of it, she came to Florence and would have taken me with her, but for my nurse who loved me dearly. So she left me with her and placed the villa and all within it in her charge. My nurse brought me up, being both a mother and teacher to me.

"When I was grown up the Princess took me to herself. Oh, I love her dearly, as I should have loved my own mother."

"Yes, and the Princess loves you as her own child, too," said Grandmother; "I saw it when I was at the castle, and it made me think very highly of her. This reminds me of the Kudernas. When Barunka gave them that money from you, they almost jumped to the ceiling with joy; but when the father heard that he was selected to be watchman of your fields, his amazement and delight were too great to be expressed. As long as they live they will not forget to pray for you and for her Grace, the Princess."

"For all that, they have no one to thank but you, Grandma, and your good word," said the Countess.

"Yes, but what would it have profited if that good word had not fallen upon good ground? no blessing could have come from it," replied Grandmother.

The bouquets arranged, Grandmother and the children were ready to start for home.

"I'll go with you to the cross-road," said the Countess, taking her pony by the bridle. "If you wish, boys, you may have a short ride."

The boys gave a shout of delight, and in an instant John was upon the saddle.

"O, that's a madcap!" said Grandmother seeing how boldly he acted. Willie, too, acted as though he were not afraid, but when the Countess helped him to mount, he turned red clear to his ears, and only when John laughed at him did he become more courageous. Little Adelka, too, was seated upon the pony, but the Countess walked by her side and held her. The children were delighted, but the boys laughed at her, said she sat up there like a midget, like a little monkey, and made fun of her until Grandmother ordered them to be still.

At the cross-roads the Countess herself mounted her white pony, dropped her blue skirt down over the stirrups, fastened her black hat, and once more bowing to Grandmother and the children rode away. As soon as her pony heard the order "Avanti!" he flew with her through the rows of trees like a sparrow.Grandmother and the children slowly wended their way to The Old Bleachery.

The next day was beautiful, the sky was as clear as if it had been swept. Before the house stood a carriage; in the carriage were John and Willie in white trousers and red jackets, and holding garlands in their hands. Mr. Proshek stood admiring the fine horses, patting their shining hips, or playing with their luxuriant manes, and with a practiced eye studying their harness. From time to time he stepped toward the house, calling into the window: "Are you not ready yet? Do hurry up!"

"In a minute, father, in a minute!" voices from the inside reply; but that "minute" proves to be a long while. Finally Grandmother sallies out with the little girls, among whom is Manchinka. They are followed by Mrs. Proshek, Betsey, and Vorsa. "Take good care of everything and don't neglect the poultry," said Grandmother as she was starting.

Sultan wanted to play with Adelka; he smelled her garland, but she raised it above her head, while Grandmother drove him away, saying: "You foolish fellow, don't you see Adelka cannot play with you to-day?"

"They look like angels," said Betsey to Vorsa, as the girls were getting into the carriage.

Mr. Proshek mounted to the box beside the coachman, gathered up the reins, and made a peculiar smacking noise with his lips; upon which the horses raised their heads proudly, and the carriage rattled off to the mill as if carried by the wind. The dogs started to follow, but when the master shook his whip at them, they turned back to the house, stretched themselves in the sun at the door, and soon began to snore.

How beautiful it is in the city! The houses are decorated with greens, the streets are covered with rushes, and the oval-shaped common is like a grove. Along the sides of the common altars are set up, each more beautiful than the last. In the middle, where stands the statue of St. John under the green lindens, is a mortar, around which are gathered a group of boys and young men.

"They are going to shoot from that," said Mr. Proshek to the children. "Oh, I shall be afraid!" exclaimed Adelka.

"Why should you be afraid, it won't make any more noise than when a pot falls from the shelf," said Manchinka to reassure the little girl.

Such sounds Adelka was accustomed to hear at home, so she was satisfied.

The carriage stopped at a large house, upon which hung a shield with a white lion and a large bunch of grapes.

The party were met at the door by Mr. Stanicky, who, raising his plush cap decorated with a long tassel, welcomed them warmly. Mrs. Stanicky, in her silver embroidered cap and short silk basque, smiled graciously upon the comers, and when little Hela tried to hide behind her, she took her by the hand, and seizing Adelka with the other placed them side by side, saying: "Come, show yourself, that we may see how you will look together!"

"Like twins," decided Grandmother. The little girls cast sidelong glances at each other, but again bashfully hung their heads.

Mr. Stanicky gave his arm to Mr. Proshek, and entering the house urged the rest to follow. "Before the procession begins we can have a chat over a glass of wine," he said cheerily.

Mrs. Proshek went, but Grandmother remained outside with the children. She said: "You have time enough, since you go with the nobility, but if I wait, the church will be so crowded that I never can get in. I shall stay here with the children." She remained standing by the door.

In a few moments two little boys with red jackets were seen turning the corner, then two more, and John cried out: "They are coming!"

"Adelka, and you, Hela, when you march in the procession, look well before you, so you do not stumble over something and fall, and you, Barunka, keep an eye on them. You, boys, behave well, lest an accident happen with the lights! When you are in the church at the altar, pray earnestly so that God will be pleased with you and bless you!"

While Grandmother was thus admonishing the children the schoolmaster came up with his pupils. "Good morning, sir; I bring you an addition to your party. I hope you will have patience with these little ones."

"They are welcome, Grandma," replied the old schoolmaster smiling; "you see I have them here hit and miss, some large, some small," and while speaking he found places for the children in the procession.

When they reached the church, the childrern took their places near the altar, but Grandmother remained near the door with some neighbors. The last bell rang and the people hurried into the church from all directions. The sexton gave the boys that represented farmers lighted candles to hold, the small bell rang, the priest stepped to the altar, the mass began. The little girls folded their hands, fixed their eyes upon the altar and for a while prayed devotedly; but finally they grew tired, their eyes wandered about in all directions, and soon thev discovered the pleasant face of the Countess who was seated above in the oratorium. But behind her sat Mr. and Mrs. Proshek, and he gave them a severe look to make them turn again to the altar. Adelka, however, did not understand it, and so looked up and smiled until Barunka pulled her dress, whispering: "keep your eyes upon the altar."

The benediction was over. The priest took the holy eucharist into his hands, and the people began to sing: "Lamb of God, Christ, have mercy upon us!" their voices mingling in a grand chorus with the chimes of the bells. The children headed the procession, the little peasants with burning candles, and the girls with garlands and bouquets of flowers, which they scattered about as they went. Behind them came the priests, the elders of the city, the dignitaries of the whole realm; then the common citizens of the town; and lastly the country folk, among whom was Grandmother. Flags of various kinds flew over their heads, the perfume of incense mingled with the perfume of flowers, and the occasion was made more impressive by the ringing of the bells. Those who could not join the procession stood at the doors and windows to see it. And what a feast for the eyes! What costumes, what elegance! Here gaily dressed children, there the rich robes of the clergy; here a gentleman with a blue cloak, there a frugal peasant with one at least fifty years old; here a stalwart youth with an embroidered jacket, there the father with a cloak touching his heels; ladies, simply but elegantly dressed, standing beside those covered with jewels and tawdry finery.

There stood women of the town in caps of lace or of silver and gold embroidery; the farmers' wives in stiffly starched cambric caps or in white head shawls; girls with red kerchiefs or bare heads, their hair held back by beautiful fillets.

As every one knew by the sign that Mr. Stanicky's house was a hotel, so the dress of the people was an index to their minds and often to their occupations? The capitalist could readily be recognized from the tradesman or from the public officers; the farmer, from the day laborer; and from the dress one could see who still adhered to the "good old ways," or, as Grandmother said, followed the world and its new fangled notions.

Grandmother tried to be as near as possible to the children, so that if anything happened, she would be on hand. All, however, went off well, only Adelka jumped and put her hands to her ears whenever a shot was fired.

After the celebration, they went to the hotel where the carriage was waiting. Christina came with them from the church and Grandmother asked her to ride with them, since Mr. and Mrs. Proshek were to stay to dinner. "I should like to ride with you, but I want to go with the girls," replied Christina, as she cast a glance upon a group of young men who were standing in the churchyard, waiting to accompany the girls home.

There was one among them with a handsome face and an honest look and a form tall and straight as a poplar tree. His eyes seemed to be searching for some one in the crowd, and when they accidentally met those of Christina, both he and the girl turned crimson.

Grandmother and the children went home with Hela, and Mrs. Stanicky made them stay to take some refreshments. Grandmother took a glass of wine out to Christina, who would not enter the bar-room, because there were so many men there; but before she could give it to her, the tall youth entered the bar-room, ordered a glass of wine, and stood with it by Christina.

As it was considered proper for a girl to be very bashful on such occasions, she refused to take it, until tired of coaxing he said in an injured tone: "So you won't take this from me?" At this point she took the tiny goblet and drank to his health. Then both took a sip from Grandmother's glass, as she said: "You came just in the nick of time, Jacob, I was thinking which one of those young men I could ask to go with us. I am afraid to ride with those wild horses, when Mr. Proshek or some one else that is trustworthy is not along; for Wenzel is so careless. Can you come?"

"Most willingly," replied Jacob as he turned to the bar to pay for the wine.

The children bade Hela good-bye, took leave of their parents and Mr. and Mrs. Stanicky, and got into the carriage; Christina got in with them, Milo sprang upon the box next to the coachman, and off they drove.

"See what airs Jacob Milo puts on!" said the young men on the walk as the carriage rolled by.

"Yes, indeed, haven't I cause!" he replied as he cast a glance into the carriage. One of the young men who had thus spoken and who was his best friend waved his cap and hummed,

 

"Love, God's own love,
Where is it found?
On the trees it grows not
Nor yet on the ground."

 

The last was not heard on account of the rumbling of the carriage.

"I wonder if you prayed, boys?" asked Grandmother.

"I prayed, but I don't believe Willie did," said John.

"Don't you believe him, Grandma, I said the Lord's prayer over and over again, but John pushed me and wouldn't let me alone in the procession," said Willie.

"Johnny, Jonnny, you Godless child! This year I must complain of you to St. Nicholas," said Grandmother very severely.

"And you won't get anything, wait!" said Adelka.

"What kind of presents do you get, Christina?" asked Barunka.

"None; it is not the custom among us to give presents. Once, however, I got a wish from a certain tutor who gave lessons at the steward's in the castle. I have it here in my prayer book." As she said this she took out a piece of folded paper, upon which was a wish in verse; around the verse was painted a wreath of roses with forget-me-nots pricked in the paper. "I kept it on account of the wreath; for I don't understand the wish at all."

"Isn't it Bohemian?" asked Grandmother.

"It is Bohemian, but so learned; hear how it begins: 'Hear me, dearest lady ward!' Now, I don't know what he means, and he goes on in this way through the whole wish. I am not a ward, for thank God, I still have my mother; I believe that man's books turned his head so that he himself did not understand what he wrote."

"You must not think so, dear girl. That was a man of great wisdom, well versed in learning; such an one's reason cannot come down to ours. While I lived at Kladran, near us dwelt just such a literary master; his housekeeper,—they say all such men abjure marriage,—used to come to our house quite often and tell us what a grumbling fellow he was. The whole day long he was buried in his books like a mole; if Susannah had not said: 'Master, dinner's ready,' he would not have thought of eating. Susannah had to remind him of everything; but for her the moths would have eaten him up. Every day he spent an hour out walking, but all alone, for he did not like company. As soon as he went out I used to run over to see Susannah; she was fond of sweet mixed drinks, and although I never liked that burning stuff, I had to drink a small goblet with her. She used to say: 'My master must not see it, for he drinks only water, unless he puts in a few drops of wine. He says to me: "Susannah, water of all drinks is the most healthful; always drink water, and you will be well and happy." And I think: "All right; but sweet whiskey agrees better with me." He would want me to live like a bird. Eating and drinking are nothing to him, except to keep a person alive. His food is his books; no such fare for me, thank you.'

"Thus Susannah would go on. Once she took me into his parlor. In all my life I never saw so many books; they were piled up like firewood. 'Just see, Madaline, my master has all that in his head: I often wonder it has not made him crazy. It's like this, if it were not for me, he would die of hunger like a child. I must see to everything, for he doesn't understand anything except his books. One needs great patience to get along with him. But, at times, even my patience is exhausted, and when I speak out he goes as if a dog had bitten him, and doesn't say a word, till at last I feel sorry for him. At times, however, a good scolding is necessary. Madaline, you won't believe it, but his room was as full of dust as the middle of the common, and the cobwebs were as thick as in an old belfry; and do you suppose I could come in with the duster? No, indeed! I thought to myself: "I'll out-wit you yet." It was all the same to him, but my reputation was at stake; it was a disgrace to me, when people came and found him living in such disorder. I begged one of his friends, whom he especially liked, to keep him a long time when next he came to see him, and while he was gone I gave his room a good cleaning and dusting. And would you believe it, Madaline? that man did not know it had been cleaned until the third day, when he remarked that somehow there seemed to be more light in the room. More light indeed! As if there shouldn't be more light! Thus one must know how to manage these bookworms.'

"Whenever we met she had some new complaint against her master, but for the whole world she would not have left him. Once he caused her a great deal of anxiety. While he was out walking he met a friend who was on his way to the Riesengebirge mountains. He asked her master to accompany him, saying that they would return soon, and he started just as he was. Susannah waited and waited, but the master didn't come; the night approached, he was nowhere to be seen. She came to our house frightened, crying, and we had all we could do to quiet her. The next morning she found out how he went away; then she scolded and carried on at a terrible rate. He came back about the sixth day, and she had been getting dinner and supper for him all that time. When he returned she came over to our house saying: 'When I began to scold him he only said: "Well, well, don't make such a fuss! I went out for a walk and thought I'd stop to see the Snow Cap, so I could not return immediately."

"Once she brought us several books, saying that her master had written them, and asked us to read them. My husband was a good reader, so he read, but did not understand them at all; he also knew how to make verses, but we did not understand those either,—it was all too learned. Susannah however, said: 'Well, that pays, to rack his brains over what nobody can understand!' But the people of the town spoke very highly of him some declaring that his wisdom was beyond comprehension."

"I am like that Susannah," said Christina, I care nothing for his learning, when I do not understand it. When I hear a pretty song or one of your stories, Grandma, I enjoy it more than the most learned discussion. But have you heard that new song that Barla made at Red Hura?"

"My dear girl, those worldly songs do not interest me any more. I pay little attention to them. Those days when I would have gone a long distance for a new song are past; now I sing only my hymns," replied Grandmother.

"What kind of a song is it?" asked Manchinka.

"If you like I'll teach you to sing it; it begins:

 

"What does that birdie say
On the oak, who sings all day?"

 

"Christinka, you must sing it over for me, when I come to your house to-day," said Milo, turning to the company in the carriage.

"With the greatest pleasure," she replied, and continued: "We were raking hay on our master's fields. Barla came then, too, and while we were resting on the hillside, Anna Ticanek said: 'Barla make us a song!' Barla thought a while, smiled, and began to sing:

 

'What does that birdie say
On the oak, who sings all day?
Little birdie sings so gay,
"Maids in love are pale alway."'

 

Anna, however, was somewhat offended, for she thought the song was about herself; you know she and Tomesh are engaged. But just as soon as Barla noticed it, in the twinkling of an eye he made another verse:

 

'Hush, birdie, hush! thou liest,
'Tis false what thou hast said;
I, too, a lover have,
And yet my cheeks are red.'

 

We liked the song very much, and the tune was good, too. The girls of Zernov will wonder; they have not heard it yet," added Christina.

Manchinka and Barunka were humming the new song, and just then they rode past the castle. Before the gate stood the youngest chamberlain dressed in black, a fellow not tall and of a sallow complexion. With one hand he smoothed his black whiskers; the other was hung by the thumb in his gold watch-chain, in such a manner as to display all the rings that shone upon his fingers.

When the carriage drove by, his eyes gleamed like a tomcat's watching a sparrow; he smiled graciously upon Christina and waved his hand. The women barely looked at him, and Milo, with much reluctance, slightly raised his otter cap.

"Really, I should prefer to meet Satan himself than that Italian," said Christina. "Now he is again on the lookout for game, and should a few girls come along alone, he would fly among them like a hawk."

"Well, not long ago he got a dressing at Zliki," began Wenzel; "he came there to the dance, and at once took possession of some of the prettiest girls, as if they had been brought there expressly for him, and the fellow doesn't even know how to speak Bohemian. Still he readily learned to say: 'Pretty girls, I like.'

"Yes, and when he comes to our house he repeats it to me constantly," said Christina; "even if I say ten times over: I you don't like,' he sticks like the ague."

"The boys dusted his jacket well, and if it were not for me, he would have fared still worse," added Wenzel.

"Let him look out, or else he'll find out what's what somewhere else!" said Milo, making a threatening gesture with his head. The carriage stopped at the inn. "Many thanks for the ride," said Christina as Milo helped her from the carriage. "A word more," said Grandmother; "do you know when the Zernov people are going on the pilgrimage to Svatonovitz?"

"I suppose the same time as usual; the first festival to the Virgin following St. John. I am going, too."

"And I, too, that's why I asked," added Grandmother.

"This year I'm going with you," said Barunka.

"And I, too," exclaimed Manchinka.

The rest of the children declared they would not remain at home when everybody else went, but Barunka settled that question by telling them they could not walk twelve miles. Wenzel now touched the horses with his whip, and they went to the mill, where Manckinka was left and also several garlands which Grandmother had had blessed in church for the miller's wife.

As they were approaching home, the dogs, Sultan and Tyrol, came running to meet them; they could hardly contain themselves for joy, when they saw their mistress home again. Grandmother thanked God that they were home safe, for she preferred a thousand times to walk than ride; for while those horses went at such a galloping rate she expected every moment that the carriage would capsize and some one would get his neck broken.

Betsey and Vorsa were waiting at the door. "Well, Wenzel, where is your wreath?" asked the talkative Betsey, when Grandmother and the children entered the house.

"O my girl, I have forgotten where I lost it," said Wenzel with a wicked grin, as he turned the carriage toward the road.

"Don't speak with him," said Vorsa; you know he doesn't see into his mouth,[1] even on the Lord's festival?"

Wenzel, still laughing, struck the horses and in an instant was out of sight. Grandmother hung the fresh wreaths between the double windows and around the pictures, and threw those of last year into "God's fire."

 
  1. A common saying meaning that he doesn't perceive how bad his language sounds to others.