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BY I. HEIMBURG,
actly as Minna holds her; have you not noticed it, mamma?” began Gretchen
What lots of things had to be done dur: ing the mysterious season that preceded Christmas! In the evening, when the child was asleep, Gretchen sat on the sofa in my room, and sewed clothes for a doll baby that could open and close its eyes and cry, and had a head covered with long, light hair. With my own hands did I upholster a doll-house, the inmates of which were attired by my sister-in-law-a papa in uniform, a mamma in a lace dressing-gown, and six doll children. We worked with such assiduity that we almost forgot to talk.
"How she will enjoy it, Rudolph!” said Gretchen, at length, and cast an enraptured gaze on the little hat she had just completed. “It is so nice that ours is a girl; playthings for a boy are so much harder to find."
"Children, you are possessed," asserted my mother-in-law; "the child is altogether too small for such pretty things; she cannot appreciate them, and will be sure to ruin them."
But she soon found she had stirred up a hornets' nest!
"Elsie is an unusually clever child," asserted Gretchen, quite red in the face; "if she is only a year and a half old she can run and play, and knows exactly what she wants."
“She can already say, give! give!" said I, in confirmation, "and screams when she cannot have her own way. She is a smart one, and takes after her mother."
"And last year she always put her hands out for the candles and laughed," observed my little sister-in-law.
“And she holds her little old doll ex
“If she learns nothing worse than that from Minna."
"How so?" we all inquired in a breath.
“I don't know why, but the girl does not please me at all."
“Why not?” we again asked; "she plays nicely with the child.”
"Well, perhaps I am wrong; but, unless I am much mistaken, she has a follower,” said my mother-in-law. “I have several times seen her standing on the steps with a man,-she always ran off when she saw me coming—"
“But, good gracious, mamma, why should she not have a
young man?" said Gretchen, in extenuation.
“No, that will never do, my dear," in. terrupted I; "a nurse who has a follower is neither one thing nor the other-is unfitted for her place; thinks more of her lover than of our little one; in fact, the long and short of it is that, if such is the case, I shall give her warning."
“And you are quite right, too,” declared my mother-in-law, "you will see that it is so. Have you got a tree?"
"Oh, a beautiful fir and lovely bonbons!” cried Gretchen. “Mamma, it will be the most charming Christmas Eve I ever had."
“Of course! of course!" assented the old lady. “It is delightful to light up the candles for a child. Have you got everything for the servants?"
"Everything, everything! What are you th
of, mamma? It
• Translated for The Living Age by Hasket Derby.
day after tomorrow!” declared Gretchen. And then she began to count up: "The cook, a dress; the nurse, a cloak; the man, a watch.” Then she ran across to her mother and whispered something in her ear. “But be sure, mamma, and don't forget to be here punctually at five o'clock; the little one cannot stay up very late."
The Holy Eve had come. What a day it had been! Such radiant faces I had not seen for a long time; Anna laughed in the kitchen, Minna in the nursery; my wife stopped to caress the child every time she had to pass its little bed, and Miss Elsie lay there, kicked ber small legs about and related long stories to herself. The bright, winter sun, with a smile on its own face, looked in at the window, and the whole house was pervaded with the odor of fir balsam, candles and cake.
With what an air of importance did the young mother bustle about! She could not tell where to begin. In the parlor stood the table all ready for the presents; we had to dress it for just so many; for mamma, and for my sisterin-law, and for my wife's two brothers, who were home on leave; for the servants, and, above all, for the child. They would all make for the child the first thing, and the brothers had not yet seen Gretchen in her capacity of matron and mamma.
This day she would shine forth in all her glory; all the silver had been taken out, the finest damask, and for the baby the white embroidered dress with the sky-blue ribbons.
"Rudolph! Rudolph!" "Yes, my dear!" She came in, breathless, with a note.
"Only think, Puss! Puss is engaged to the Assessor! Of course he is coming this evening, too-Rudolph, see where it says it!"
"Ah! I am delighted!” "And mamma writes that she will send round some champagne for this
LIVING AGE. VOL. VII. 345
evening. Rudolph be sure you get him something in honor of the engagement, a meerschaum pipe or a beer mug or something of the kind; it will never do to leave him out when the presents are given round.”
“Yes, my angel—"
“But, be quick! You have got to help me get the tree ready afterwards."
"Directly, Gretchen-that is, as soon as I am ready; I have some little secrets of my own."
So, about three in the afternoon, I started to do my wife's commission. I soon found what I wanted, fought my way through the crowd at the Christmas fair, bought a bunch of violets for Grete, looked my fill on the expectant faces of old and young, thought of my little flaxen-haired baby at home, and made up my mind that I was a fortunate, a very fortunate fellow. How poor once, how rich now! I thought over my old Christmas Eves-how cold, how gloomy, how cheerless! On one of them I got myself drunk on punch; that was the most hateful Christmas Eve of all. On most of them, however, I sat alone; there was not a single soul to send me a Christmas box to unpack.
Of a sudden I thought on the Christmas when I bought Rube-Rube, the trusty companion of my loneliness. How long it was since I had thought of the little fellow! My old man had gone and taken Rube with him; but only think, the dog found its way back to the stable the very next day. My new man had mentioned this to me, and asked if the creature might stay? I nodded briefly. The dog was a thorn in my conscience, the one sore point between Gretchen and me.
"Treat him well.”
The fact was he had not occurred to me since then. This confounded sentiment! Suddenly I entered a butcher's shop and bought a sausage; I intended slipping into the stable before the par
ty began. But neither Rube normy the bracelet she had so long desired, man were there; the latter had left his and several other trifles in the proper door closed; he must be helping in the place for her, I heard her prattling kitchen. But inside I heard a joyous with the child in the next room: sniffing and scratching, and knew "Come, Mousy, come; still-keep still · where the animal was.
now, the Christmas man is outside.” "Wait a bit, old fellow; you shall Then I lit the candles and rang the have your sausage later."
bell, and the mingled chorus of joy and Twilight was just setting in when I delight was the one familiar to all of opened my door, and loud talking and my readers who have ever seen laughter resounded in my ears. I was, Christmas tree lighted up for the beneof course, behindhand-they were all fit of a happy throng. Grete and I had there. In fact, it was so. My rooin eyes for the baby only; she was passed was full of people taking their coffee; from one to another, at every cry of joy the brothers, the engaged couple, and she was smothered with kisses. Grandmy mother-in-law.
mamma and uncles and aunts, even the "Where is my wife?” I inquired in the gentleman just engaged, laid so many midst of handshakings and congratula- presents at the feet of the little princess tions.
that we felt as if we were in a Nurem"In the parlor, at the Christmas tree, berg toy shop. and she is waiting for you. Never mind "Here, give her a taste of chamus; we can get along here."
pagne," cried her youngest uncle. "By In the parlor there was an atmos- Jove, she knows what's good! Grete, phere of festive silence; the tread of the have you seen how your daughter can busy little feet were scarce heard on take it down?" the soft carpet; nought but the subdued "Don't make the child tipsy," entreatrustling of the silk dress, and we spoke ed my wife. in hushed tones; the child was still "Oh, that will do it no harm." asleep.
“No, I cannot allow that,” said grand“Rudolph,” she whispered, "isn't it mamma; "see how her little eyes are sweet, isn't it charming?” And she drooping!" And she almost forced the led me up to the little place under the baby away from us, and disappeared fir tree, where she had piled up all the with her in the nursery. bright toys. We both stood before At six o'clock we sat down at table. them and looked one another in the eye. In honor of the engaged couple Gret"Our child, our dear child!" Then we chen had turned the supper into a dinkissed each other, she wiped away a ner; she made a hasty visit to the child, tear, and we both agreed that life in and then sat down before the steaming this world was delightful, that we were tureen. too happy-she and I and the child. "She is sleeping herself sober," said
“Isn't it most time to begin?” the voice she, with a laugh. "Minna is sitting by of Gretchen's youngest brother, the her bed. You have given her too much Ensign, was heard to exclaim outside champagne, too." the door.
We might have passed an hour in We sprang apart like detected lovers. joyous conversation, in joking, and in Grete disappeared in the nursery, after reviving the memories of our childhood; giving me a final admonition not to when grandmamma rose and opened peep under the cloth that covered the the window. presents destined for me. And as I "Listen, the bells!" quickly deposited the case containing A husb fell on us all. Each one
seemed possessed with solemn crazed with fear I pressed after him; thought. The young couple had furtively there I knew my darling's bed to be-I grasped one another's hands; Gret- felt about gasping for breath, reached chen's head rested against my shoulder; over into the crib and lifted out the my older brother-in-law thought on the child; it lay in my arms a dead weight. maiden whom he secretly loved, on fu- And now I hurried out from the deathly ture Merry Christmasses; the younger atmosphere into the parlor. gazed seriously into his glass. A lady My man had followed close after me, stood at the window and wiped her had seen the whole and carried the teraverted eyes.
rible tidings to the festive board. I sat "She is thinking of papa," whispered with the lifeless child at the window, Gretchen to me.
which I instinctively opened; my wife Then, of a sudden, there mingled had flung herself before
on her with the notes of the bells tones that knees, pallid with fear, unable to articbrought me to myself with a start;-it ulate. was the half-smothered howl of a dog, "My child, Rudolph, my child!" a piteous wail, a cry for help.
I heard calling and screaming; I felt I leaped up.
my mother-in-law take it from my “Rube! that is Rube's voice! Where arms, and sprang to my feet and raised can he be ?"
the poor little woman. "The wretched little nuisance! How "Come, Grete, be courageous!" cried can he have got up here again?" I heard my mother-in-law; "water-cologneGretchen exclaim, petulantly. I stood a doctor!" And Gretchen, all of a in the vestibule and listened. But at tremble, hurried to the table on whicle that moment everything was still. the child had been placed; with un
"Rube! Rube!” I cried, and flung the steady hands she removed its clothes, outer door open. Nought was to be with unsteady hands and a face disseen. I stepped into the kitchen; my torted with woe. The room had been man and the cook were busily engaged, quickly lighted up; all were there exthe latter was just removing a hissing, cept my oldest brother-in-law and my smoking pan from off the fire.
man who had gone after the doctor. "Where is the dog howling?" I in- Nought was to be heard save the pantquired.
ing respiration, the half-suppressed The honest Pole stood with open sobs of my wife. mouth, a towel and a clean plate in his "Be calm, Grete,” said the voice of hands.
my mother-in-law, "calm, my darling! "I don't know, Lieutenant; I was be- There, now draw off the little shirt." low a while ago, and gave him some I stood by and saw the pale face of sausage. He must be in the stable." the old lady bent down to the deeply
There-again the distant and yet vig- reddened visage of the child, saw her orous scratching, howling, whining! rub the soles of the feet and the little With the speed of lightning I tore chest. Not one of us dared to breathe; through the dimly-lighted parlor and a long pause, and then—“She is alive, flung open the nursery door.
my dear child, I feel her little heart Merciful God!
beating!" Two large tears rolled down A cloud of suffocating smoke burst grandmamma's cheeks. forth in my face, with a loud howl a “She lives!" cried Gretchen. “God be creature leaped up against me, licking praised!” me and whining, and then tore back She took up the child, wrapped its into the room filled with smoke. Half coverings around it, and hurried back
to the open window; clear, fresh air what lucky chance brought you in at surrounded her, and softly, softly, the just the right time?" child began to cry.
“Yes, it was a lucky chance, doctor!" "Cry, my darling, cry away!"-It and my eyes looked gravely at Gret. seemed at this moment a song of de- chen, who slowly cast hers down. liverance. I held both mother and child “Is the child out of danger?" she in my arms.
quickly asked, and a deep blush sud“Gretchen!"
denly overspread her pale countenance. “Rudolph, it would have
"I should think so, madam. Let the death."
little one sleep in another room, one "Don't say that, Gretchen.”
We freshly aired. I will call again tomorstood there, our newly-restored child row, and-take care
own still in our arms. It was pale, but its nerves." wide-open eyes were fixed on us. Ah, Absolute quiet soon reigned in our joy and sorrow are close neighbors! dwelling. Every one went away, first
“How did it happen, Rudolph?” giving us a heartfelt pressure of the
The parlor door was flung open, and hand. The crib with the sleeping child a pale, haggard girl rushed in and stood now in the parlor, close by the threw herself at Gretchen's feet.
Christmas table. By its side knelt the "Gracious lady--forgiveness-merci- mother, softly sobbing, her head buried ful God, forgive me!"
in the pillows. My wife averted her head from her, Then she arose. and signed in silence for her to leave "Come with me, Rudolph." the room.
“Where?" “Oh, Lieutenant," moaned Minna, and "Come with me." moved over to me, still on her knees, “I Out she led me by the hand, through was wicked! I had to run to my lover; the corridor, down the stairs. I had worked him a pair of slippers, "The dog, Rudolph, the good dog!" which I wanted to give him; Elsie was she whispered at the threshold of the in a beautiful sleep, and I had forgot- stable. “Call him, for he will not ten to put out the candle—the night mind me.” lamp gave so little light, and I could “Rube!" I cried out into the steamy not find a candlestick, and so stuck it warmth and darkness of the stable; in the work basket, and it must have then there was a rustling in the straw, burned down and set the woollen on and he came up to me, whining and fire. I was anxious about Rube, who barking with joy. had slipped into the room, and so ran "Come, Rube!" said Gretchen, and back as fast as I could, and--came too took him up in her arms, “come!" And late, Lieutenant!"
as we two went back through the yard “Leave us!" I ordered, for just then the starlight of the holy night revealed the doctor entered. The girl staggered to me the black coat of the dog pressed out of the room.
against the delicate cheek of my fair"She is alive, doctor!" we called out haired wife, and I saw the great tearto him.
drops that rained from her eyes, and "A pretty state of things!" said he, the hand caressing the creature. Thus, shaking his head and bending down rapidly and in silence, she mounted the over the little patient. My brother-in- staircase. law had already related to him the "Let him down, Gretchen, he will whole history of the accident. "Two come of himself," I entreated. But she minutes later, Lieutenant, and then- only shook her head, and once upstairs