Gritlis children, p.1
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       Gritli's Children, p.1

           Johanna Spyri
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Gritlis Children



  JOHANNA SPYRIAuthor of "Heidi" & "Cornelli"

  Translated by LOUISE BROOKS

  Grosset & Dunlap, Publishers New York

  Gritli's Children]

























  The golden sunshine of a glorious June morning flooded the roses of thebeautiful garden that surrounded a handsome stone villa on the banks ofthe Rhine. A thousand sweet perfumes borne upon the gentle breezemounted like incense to the open windows, and sought entrance there.From a great basin in the middle of the garden, a slender shaft of waterrose straight up into the blue sky, and then fell plashing back,sprinkling the flowers and the grass with sparkling moisture. Gaybutterflies fluttered hither and thither, sipping sweets from thehoney-laden flowers. Under the trees stood marble statues gleaming whitethrough the shadows; and seats in sheltered nooks invited the loitererto rest and listen to the concert of the myriad birds that made theirhappy homes in this paradise of summer beauty.

  At the closed window of one of the upper rooms of this delightful housesat a little maiden, pressing her pale face against the wide, clearglass, as she peered out with longing eyes over the roses, toward thewavering fountain, and into the depths of the trees, whose gracefulbranches stirred in the light breeze. Her gaze passed over the shiningflowers and the green terraces of the sunny garden, and rested far awayon the glistening waves of the fast-flowing Rhine, that ran past thefoot of the garden, bathing caressingly the long over-hanging branchesof the old linden trees as it passed along. The rich foliage of thetrees by the river-side was visible from the windows of the house; butnot the stone bench which stood in the cool shade, so close to the waterthat one could look from it directly down into the eddying waves, andwatch the drooping branches dip and rise again and again, as if in puredelight. What a spot for summer dreaming and castle-building! The palechild at the window knew the place well; and as her eyes turned in thatdirection, the expression of longing grew more and more painful as shegazed.

  "Oh, mamma!" she cried presently, with tears in her voice, "may I not goout soon into the garden, and down to the seat under the lindens by theriver?"

  An hour before, the mother had brought her suffering little girl intothis room, and placed her in her favorite resting-place in thewindow-seat, and her anxious gaze had scarcely left the pale littleface, with its big eyes full of pain, that looked so longingly into thebeautiful garden, which the poor child could not enjoy in any other way.

  "Dear child," she said now, in a voice which trembled with anxiety andaffection, "you know that you are too tired to go out in the morning;but this afternoon, perhaps, we will go down to the river. Will not thatbe better, my darling?"

  "Oh, yes, I suppose so," sighed the child; but though she said no more,she did not turn her eyes away from the blooming roses and the wavingleaves below her.

  "Oh, it is so beautiful down there! Do let me go out, mamma!" sheexclaimed again a little while afterwards. "Do let me go!" and hermother could not resist the beseeching tones. She arose, and at thatmoment an elderly woman entered the room--a woman who looked soexquisitely neat that one would have thought that she had no otherbusiness in life than that of keeping in perfect order her gray hair,with its snow-white cap, and her simple, spotless dress; but, on thecontrary, she was the house-keeper, and had the whole charge of the bighouse, with all its complicated domestic arrangements. Both mother anddaughter exclaimed on seeing her, "Oh, Clarissa, how glad I am thatyou've come!" And both began to ask her opinion as to the visit to thegarden, which the invalid so longed for, but which her mother hesitatedto grant.

  Clarissa was a person of rare character, and a tower of strength in thishousehold, where, from the lady of the house down to the lowest servant,her word was followed as law and obeyed with affection; and one tookinto the clear depths of her honest, loving eyes explained the secret ofher power: they were "Mother's eyes."

  "Say 'yes,' Clarissa, and let us go," begged the child, pathetically.

  "The air is soft, all the birds are singing and calling us: why shouldwe not try it to-day, dear Mrs. Stanhope?" said Clarissa.

  "Yes; if you think best, we will," answered the mother. And Frederic,the tall footman, was summoned to carry the little girl down the longstaircase and out of the house. Then, once out-of-doors, the two women,supporting the child tenderly between them, led her through the sunnygarden.

  "Nora, are you happy now?" asked the mother, tenderly.

  "Yes; it is beautiful here," replied the child; "but I should like to godown to the stone bench by the river-side, where the branches dip intothe water."

  So they went on over the green terraces to the water-side, down to theseat almost hidden under the lindens, among the clusters of whosependent, sweet-smelling blossoms the bees were busy, mingling their deepmurmur with the song which the Rhine sang in passing. Nora's eyesfollowed the dancing waves that seemed like living, happy sprites.

  "Oh! how I wish that I could leap and dance so, mamma! away! away! but Iam so tired; I am always tired. I long to hop about as the birds do upin the trees there, and sing and be merry; but I am always so tired."

  "My darling, when you are stronger you will dance," replied her mother,in a cheerful tone; but her looks belied her voice, for she was far fromfeeling the confidence which she tried to give.

  "The doctor is coming to-day, and we will ask him what we can do thissummer to make you stronger. Now we must go back to the house, Nora; youlook pale and ill, my child. Is anything more than usual the matter withyou?"

  Nora assured her mother that she was only tired. After any unusualexertion, her face always grew paler and her expression more suffering.She reached the house with difficulty, and, when Frederic had carriedher up to her bed-room, she lay on the sofa a long time without moving,thoroughly exhausted.

  The doctor came towards noon, and declared that a complete change of airwould be the best thing for the little Nora, who certainly seemed to belosing strength daily. He would write to a physician, a friend of his inSwitzerland, to find a suitable place for her, and would come again assoon as he received an answer.

  Towards evening, Nora sat once more in the window, gazing wearily at thelong slanting rays of the setting sun that fell across the greensward ingolden radiance, and lighted up the rose-leaves till they shone likelamps among the flowers. Clarissa sat at her work-table by Nora's sideand from time to time, she raised her head and looked sadly at the frailform that lay so motionless in the window-seat.

  "Clarissa," said the child, presently, "will you repeat the old song ofParadise to me?"

  Clarissa laid aside her work.

  "We will sing it together again some day, dear child, when you arestrong enough; now I will say it to you if you wish" and she folded herhands and began:--

  "A stream of wat
er, crystal bright, Flows down through meadows green, Where lilies, shining in the light, Like twinkling starlets gleam.

  "And roses blow, and roses glow, While birds in every tree Are singing loud, are singing low, 'In Paradise are we.'

  "Here, gently blows the soft, sweet wind; Bright flowers grow all around; Men wake, as from a dream, to find They tread on holy ground.

  "In blissful happiness they rove, At peace with each and all; United now in bonds of love, Freed from the grave's dark pall.

  "All want and weariness are o'er, All sorrow and all pain; Their rapture gathers more and more; The sick are well again."

  After Clarissa had finished her recitation, no sound broke the stillnessfor a long time; Nora seemed lost in thought. "Clarissa," she said atlast, "that is a beautiful poem, and makes me long to go."

  "Yes; go willingly, go gladly, dear child," replied Clarissa, with tearsin her eyes. "Then you can wander joyfully among the bright flowers, andsing:

  "'Our rapture gathers more and more; The sick are well again.'

  "And we shall soon join you there, your mamma and I--"

  At this moment the mother entered, and Clarissa stopped suddenly; forshe knew well that Mrs. Stanhope could not endure the thought of losinglittle Nora, even though her child were called to heaven; but the motherhad heard enough of what had been said, and looked at the child withrenewed anxiety. Nora certainly looked very pale and weary; and, at hermother's request, she let herself be carried at once to bed inClarissa's strong and tender arms.

  Later in the evening when Mrs. Stanhope sat alone with her old friend,she began anxiously to question the suitableness of talking to the childupon such topics.

  "Surely there is no need of dwelling on such mournful things, Clarissa.Nora is not so ill that we need think the worst, much less talk aboutit."

  "Nora likes to hear me repeat her favorite poem," replied Clarissa;"and, dear Mrs. Stanhope, let me say one thing to you. If our darling isto live only to suffer through long years of pain, can you wish for lifefor her? Why should we wish to keep her here, where she cannot enjoy thesmallest part of the wealth and beauty about her, rather than let her goto that heavenly home, where there is no more sorrow nor pain?"

  "I cannot bear the thought of parting from her; it must not, it cannotbe. Why may not all yet go well, and Nora get strong again?" said thepoor mother; and the heart within her was heavy with grief. She couldsay no more, and withdrew in silence to her own room.

  The great stone mansion was soon wrapped in stillness; and as the lightof the summer moon shone down upon it, whoever had seen it standingthere in stately beauty, its high white pillars gleaming through thedark trees, would surely have thought:

  "How beautiful it must be to live there! No care nor sorrow can reachthe inmates of that lovely dwelling!"

  Mrs. Stanhope occupied her paternal home on the banks of the Rhine. Shehad married an English-man when very young, and had lived in Englanduntil his death, when she returned to the home of her childhood,unoccupied since the death of her parents, bringing with her two littlechildren, the brown-eyed Philo, and his delicate, fair-haired sister,Nora. The faithful Clarissa, who had taken care of Mrs. Stanhope in herchildhood and who had accompanied her to her foreign home, loved thesechildren as if they were her own. The little family had now livedseveral years in this beautiful house on the Rhine; a very peaceful andregular life it was, one day like another; for the children weredelicate and could bear no exciting pleasures. Two years ago a heavysorrow dropped its dark shadow over the household. Little Philo closedhis dark eyes forever, and was laid to rest under the old linden-tree inthe garden, where the roses bloomed all summer long. Nora, who was onlya year younger than her brother, was now in her eleventh year.

  In about a week after his first visit, the doctor came again. He hadheard from his friend, the physician, who had willingly offered to finda house for Mrs. Stanhope near his own, in the little village ofBuchberg, among the mountains. Mrs. Stanhope might set out as soon asshe pleased. He would answer for all being in readiness to receive her.

  In a few days they were ready to start. Clarissa was to remain behind toput the house in order, and only a young maid-servant went with them. Asthe carriage rolled away, bearing Mrs. Stanhope and her little daughteron the way to Switzerland, Clarissa gave them many a God-speed, and,turning back into the empty house, she wiped away the tears she could nolonger repress, saying softly to herself:

  "'Their rapture gathers more and more; The sick are well again.'"

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