Abbildungen der Seite

of this warm aspect, for in the border beneath, filled in my father's time in this month of November with the wallflowers that were to perfume the walk in spring, there was a thick crop of -I stooped down close to make sure-yes, a thick crop of radishes. My eyes filled with tears at the sight of those radishes, and it is probably the only occasion on record on which radishes have made anybody cry. My dear father, whom I so passionately loved, had in his turn passionately loved this particular border, and spent the spare moments of a busy life enjoying the flowers that grew in it. He had no time himself for a more near acquaintance with the delights of gardening than directing what plants were to be used, but found rest from his daily work strolling up and down here, or sitting smoking as close to the flowers as possible. "It is the Purest of Humane pleasures, it is the Greatest Refreshment to the Spirits of Man," he would quote (for he read other things besides the Kreuzzeitung), looking round with satisfaction on reaching this fragrant haven after a hot day in the fields. Well, the cousins did not think so. Less fanciful, and more sensible as they probably would have said, their position plainly was that you cannot eat flowers. Their spirits required no refreshment, but their bodies needed much, and therefore radishes were more precious than wallflowers. was my youth wholly destitute of radishes, but they were grown in the decent obscurity of odd kitchen garden corners and old cucumber frames, and would never have been allowed to come among the flowers. And only because I was not a boy, here they were profaning the ground that used to be so beautiful. Oh, it was a terrible misfortune not to have been a boy! how sad and lonely it was, after all, in this ghostly garden. The radish bed and what it symbolized had turned my



first joy into grief. This walk and border reminded me too much of my father, and of all he had been to me. What I knew of good he had taught me, and what I had of happiness was through him. Only once during all the years we lived together had we been of different opinions and fallen out, and it was the one time I ever saw him severe. I was four years old, and demanded one Sunday to be taken to church. My father said, No; for I had never been to church, and the German service is long and exhausting. I implored. He again said, No. I implored again, and showed such a pious disposition, and so earnest a determination to behave well, that he gave in, and we went off very happily hand in hand. "Now mind, Elizabeth,” he said, turning to me at the church door, "there is no coming out again in the middle. Having insisted on being brought, thou shalt now sit patiently till the end." "Oh, yes, oh, yes," I promised eagerly, and went in filled with holy fire. The shortness of my legs, hanging helplessly for two hours midway between the seat and the floor, was the weapon chosen by Satan for my destruction. In German churches you do not kneel, and seldom stand, but sit nearly the whole time, praying and singing in great comfort. If you are four years old, however, this unchanged position soon becomes one of torture. Unknown and dreadful things go on in your legs, strange prickings and tinglings and dartings up and down, a sudden terrifying numbness, when you think they must have dropped off, but are afraid to look, then renewed and fiercer prickings, shootings and burnings. I thought I must be very ill, for I had never known my legs like that before. My father sitting beside me was engrossed in the singing of a chorale that evidently had no end; each verse finished with a long-drawnout hallelujah, after which the organ

played by itself for a hundred yearsby the organist's watch, which was wrong, two minutes exactly-and then another verse began. My father, being the patron of the living, was careful to sing and pray and listen to the sermon with exemplary attention, aware that every eye in the little church was on our pew, and at first I tried to imitate him; but the behavior of my legs became so alarming that after vainly casting imploring glances at him and seeing that he continued his singing unmoved, I put out my hand and pulled his sleeve.

"Hal-le-lu-jah," sang my father with deliberation; continuing in a low voice without changing the expression of his face, his lips hardly moving, and his eyes fixed abstractedly on the ceiling till the organist, who was also the postman, should have finished his solo, "Did I not tell thee to sit still, Elizabeth?"

"Yes, but-”

"Then do it."

"But I want to go home."

"Unsinn." And the next verse beginning, my father sang louder than ever. What could I do? Should I cry? I began to be afraid I was going to die on that chair, so extraordinary were the sensations in my legs. What could my father do to me if I did cry? With the quick instinct of small children I felt that he could not put me in the corner in church, nor would he whip me in public, and that with the whole village looking on, he was helpless, and would have to give in. Therefore I tugged his sleeve again and more peremptorily, and prepared to demand my immediate removal in a loud voice. But my father was ready for me. Without interrupting his singing, or altering his devout expression, he put his hand slowly down and gave me a hard pinch-not a playful pinch, but a good hard unmistakable pinch, such as I had never imagined possible-and then went on

serenely to the next hallelujah. For a moment I was petrified with astonishment. Was this my indulgent father, my playmate, adorer and friend? Smarting with pain, for I was a round baby, with a nicely stretched, tight skin, and dreadfully hurt in my feelings, I opened my mouth to shriek in earnest when my father's clear whisper fell on my ear, each word distinct and not to be misunderstood, his eyes as before gazing meditatively into space, and his lips hardly moving. "Elisabeth, wenn du schreist, kneife ich dich bis du platzt." And he finished the verse with unruffled decorum

Will Satan mich verschlingen,
So lass die Engel singen


We never had another difference. Up to then he had been my willing slave, and after that I was his.

With a smile and a shiver I turned from the border and its memories to the door in the wall leading to the kitchen garden in a corner of which my own little garden used to be. The door was open, and I stood still a moment before going through, to hold my breath and listen. The silence was as profound as before. The place seemed deserted; and I should have thought the house empty and shut up but for the carefully tended radishes and the recent footmarks on the green of the path. They were the footmarks of a child. I was stooping down to examine a specially clear one, when the loud caw of a very bored-looking crow sitting on the wall just above my head made me jump as I have seldom in my life jumped, and reminded me that I was trespassing. Clearly my nerves were all to pieces, for I gathered up my skirts and fled through the door as though a whole army of ghosts and cousins were at my heels, nor did I stop till I had reached the remote corner where my garden was. "Are

you enjoying yourself, Elizabeth?" asked the mocking sprite that calls itself my soul; but I was too much out of breath to answer.

This was really a very safe corner. It was separated from the main garden and the house by the wall, and shut in on the north side by an orchard, and it was to the last degree unlikely that any one would come there on such an afternoon. This plot of ground, turned now as I saw into a rockery, had been the scene of my most untiring labors. Into the cold earth of this north border on which the sun never shone I had dug my brightest hopes. All my pocket-money had been spent on it, and as bulbs were dear and my weekly allowance small, in a fatal hour I had borrowed from Fräulein Wundermacher, selling her my independence, passing utterly into her power, forced as a result till my next birthday should come round to an unnatural suavity of speech and manner in her company, aganst which my very soul revolted. And after all, nothing came up. The labor of digging and watering, the anxious zeal with which I pounced on weeds, the poring over gardening books, the plans made as I sat on the little seat in the middle gazing admiringly and with the eye of faith on the trim surface so soon to be gemmed with a thousand flowers, the reckless expenditure of pfennings, the humiliation of my position in regard to Fräulein Wundermacher,-all, all had been in vain. No sun shone there, and nothing grew. The gardener who reigned supreme in those days had given me this big piece for that sole reason, because he could do nothing with it himself. He was no doubt of opinion that it was quite good enough for a child to experiment upon, and went his way when I had thanked him with a profuseness of gratitude I still remember, with an unmoved countenance. For more than a year I worked and

waited, and watched the career of the flourishing orchard opposite with puzzled feelings. The orchard was only a few yards away, and yet, although my garden was full of manure and water, and attentions that were never bestowed on the orchard, all it could show and ever did show were a few unhappy beginnings of growth that either remained stationary and did not achieve flowers, or dwindled down again and vanished. Once I timidly asked the gardener if he could explain these signs and wonders, but he was a busy man with no time for answering questions, and told me shortly that gardening was not learned in a day. How well I remembered that afternoon, and the very shape of the lazy clouds, and the smell of spring things, and myself going away abashed and sitting on the shaky bench in my domain and wondering for the hundredth time what it was that made the difference between my bed and the bit of orchard in front of me. The fruit trees, far enough away from the wall to be beyond the reach of its cold shade, were tossing their flower-laden heads in the sunshine in a careless, well-satisfied fashion that filled my heart with envy. There was a rise in the field behind them, and at the foot of its protecting slope they luxuriated in the insolent glory of their white and pink perfection. It was May, and my heart bled at the thought of the tulips I had put in in November, and that I had never seen since. The whole of the rest of the garden was on fire with tulips; behind me, on the other side of the wall, were rows and rows of them -cups of translucent loveliness, a jewelled ring flung right round the lawn. But what was there not on the other side of that wall? Things came up there and grew and flowered exactly as my gardening books said they should do; and in front of me, in the gay orchard, things that nobody ever

troubled about or cultivated or noticed throve joyously beneath the treesdaffodils thrusting their spears through the grass, crocuses peeping out enquiruncovering their ingly, snowdrops small cold faces when the first shivering spring days came. Only my piece that I so loved was perpetually ugly and empty. And I sat in it thinking of these things on that radiant day, and wept aloud.

Then an apprentice came by, a youth who had often seen me busily digging, and noticing the unusual tears, and struck perhaps by the difference between my garden and the profusion of splendor all around, paused with his barrow on the path in front of me, and remarked that nobody could expect to get blood out of a stone. The apparent irrelevance of this statement made me weep still louder, the bitter tears of insulted sorrow; but he stuck to his point, and harangued me from the path, explaining the

connection between

north walls and tulips and blood and stones till my tears all dried up again and I listened attentively, for the conclusion to be drawn from his remarks was plainly that I had been shamefully taken in by the head gardener, who was an unprincipled person, thenceforward to be forever mistrusted and shunned. Standing on the path from which the kindly apprentice had expounded his proverb, this scene rose before me as clearly as though it had taken place that very day; but how different everything looked, and how it had shrunk! Was this the wide orchard that had seemed to stretch away, it and the sloping field beyond, up to the gates of heaven? I believe nearly every child who is much alone goes through a certain time of hourly expecting the Day of Judgment, and I had made up my mind that on that Day the heavenly host would enter the world by that very field, coming down the slope in shining ranks, treading the

daffodils under foot, filling the orchard with their songs of exultation, joyously seeking out the sheep from among the goats. Of course, I was a sheep, and my governess and the head gardener goats, so that the results could not fail to be in every way satisfactory. But looking up at the slope and remembering my visions, I laughed at the smallness of the field I had supposed would hold all heaven.

Here, again, the cousins had been at work. The site of my garden was occupied by a rockery, and the orchard grass with all its treasures had been dug up, and the spaces between the trees planted with currant bushes and celery in admirable rows, so that no future little cousins will be able to dream of celestial hosts coming towards them across the fields of daffodils, and will perhaps be the better for being free from visions of the kind, for as I grew older, uncomfortable doubts laid hold of my heart with cold fingers, dim uncertainties as to the exact ultimate position of the gardener and the governess, anxious questionings as to how it would be if it were they who turned out after all to be sheep, and I who-? For that we all three might be gathered into the same fold at the last, never, in those days, struck me as possible, and if it had I should not have liked it.


"Now what sort of person can that be," I asked myself, shaking my head, as I contemplated the changes before me, "who could put a rockery among vegetables and currant bushes? rockery, of all things in the gardening world, needs consummate tact in its treatment. It is easier to make mistakes in forming a rockery than in any other garden scheme. Either it is a great success, or it is a great failure; either it is very charming, or it is very absurd. There is no state between the sublime and the ridiculous possible in a rockery." I stood shaking my head

disapprovingly at the rockery before me, lost in these reflections, when a sudden quick pattering of feet coming along in a great hurry made me turn round with a start, just in time to receive the shock of a body tumbling out of the mist and knocking violently against me.

It was a little girl of about twelve years old.

"Hullo!" said the little girl in excellent English; and then we stared at each other in astonishment.

"I thought you were Miss Robinson," said the little girl, offering no apology for having nearly knocked me down. "Who are you?"

"Miss Robinson? Miss Robinson?" I repeated, my eyes fixed on the little girl's face, and a host of memories stirring within me. "Why, didn't she marry a missionary and go out to some place where they ate him?"

[blocks in formation]

"O hush, you dreadful little girl!" I implored, catching her by the arm, and terrified beyond measure by the loudness of her mirth. "Don't make that horrid noise-we are certain to be caught if you don't stop-"

The little girl broke off a shriek of laughter in the middle and shut her mouth with a snap. Her eyes, round and black and shiny like boot buttons, came still farther out of her head. "Caught?" she said eagerly. "What, are you afraid of being caught too? Well, this is a game!" And with her hands plunged deep in the pockets of her coat she capered in front of me in the excess of her enjoyment, reminding me of a very fat black lamb frisking round the dazed and passive sheep its mother.

It was clear that the time had come for me to get down to the gate at the end of the garden as quickly as possible, and I began to move away in that direction. The little girl at once stopped capering and planted herself squarely in front of me. "Who are you?" she said, examining me from my hat to my boots with the keenest interest.

I considered this ungarnished manner of asking questions impertinent, and, trying to look lofty, made an attempt to pass at the side.

The little girl, with a quick, corklike movement, was there before me. "Who are you?" she repeated, her expression friendly but firm.

"Oh, I-I'm a pilgrim," I said in desperation.

"A pilgrim!" echoed the little girl. She seemed struck, and while she was struck I slipped past her and began to walk quickly towards the door in the wall. "A pilgrim!" said the little girl again, keeping close beside me, and looking me up and down attentively. "I don't like pilgrims. Aren't they people who are always walking about, and have things the matter with their feet? Have you got anything the matter with your feet?"

"Certainly not," I replied indignantly, walking still faster.

"And they never wash, Miss Robinson says. You don't either, do you?"

"Not wash? Oh, I'm afraid you are a very badly brought-up little girl-oh, leave me alone I must run-"

"So must I," said the little girl, cheerfully, "for Miss Robinson must be close behind us. She nearly had me just before I found you." And she started running by my side.

The thought of Miss Robinson close behind us gave wings to my feet, and, casting my dignity, of which, indeed, there was but little left, to the winds, I fairly flew down the path. The little girl was not to be outrun, and, though

« ZurückWeiter »