Veronica, p.1
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       Veronica, p.1

           Johanna Spyri
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  Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Emmy and the PG Online DistributedProofreading Team

  VERONICAAnd Other Friends





  Copyright 1886,BY LOUISE BROOKS.All Rights Reserved.

















  It was early in the month of March. The dark blue vault of heaven lay overmountain and valley, swept free from clouds by the keen northern blast asit blew across the hills, swaying the big trees hither and thither as ifthey were bulrushes, and now and then tearing off huge branches which fellcrashing to the ground. Other and sadder victims were sacrificed to thisfierce north wind. Human beings as well as inanimate objects fell beforehim. He struck down with his mighty arm, not only the old and feeble, butthe young and strong; just as he swept away the clouds, hurrying themacross the skies, beyond the horizon line, away out of sight. Sometimes inone day, a cruel malady would seize one occupant out of each one of thethree or four little villages clustered on the hillside. A sharp painattacked the lungs, and after a brief illness the resistless disease boreaway the sufferer to the silent grave.

  At the very moment of which we write, a group of black-clad mourners werestanding near one of the pleasantest houses in the isolated village ofTannenegg, waiting for the sound of the church bell, as the signal to liftthe covered bier on which was stretched the body of a young woman, thelast victim to the north wind's cruel stroke, and to bear her to herfinal resting place. In the quiet room within, two children were seated ona bench, which ran along the wall. They formed a striking contrast to eachother. The girl, a little black-eyed frowning thing, dressed in somemourning stuff, followed with fierce looks the rapid movements of a womanwho, standing before an open cup-board, was moving its contents over andabout, as if in search of something that did not come to hand. The boy wasalso watching her, but his dancing blue eyes had in them a merry look ofpleased expectation.

  "I want to go out, Cousin Judith," said the girl, and her tones were halfangry, half anxious, "Where can my mother be?"

  "Be still, be still," said the woman, still tumbling the contents of thecup-board about nervously. "I shall find something pretty for youpresently; then you must sit down quietly and play with it, and not gooutside, not one step, do you hear? Pshaw! there is nothing but rubbishhere!"

  "Well, then give us the rose," said the little girl, still scowling.

  The woman looked about the room.

  "There are no roses here," she said. "How should there be, in March?" sheadded, half vexed at having looked for them. "There," said the child,pointing towards a book that the woman had but a moment before replaced inthe cup-board.

  "Ah! now I know what you mean. So your mother always kept the rose, the"Fortune rose?" I often envied her when she used to show it to us in herhymn-book;" and as she spoke, she turned the leaves of the old hymnal,until she found the rose and handed it to the child.

  "Take it," she said, "be quiet, and do not get up from your seats till Icome back;" and she hurried from the room.

  The little girl took the prettily-painted rose, in her hand; it was an oldacquaintance, her favorite Sunday plaything.

  When her mother wanted to secure a quiet hour for herself on Sundays, sheused to give her "Fortune rose" to her little Veronica, and it was sure tooccupy the child for a long time in perfect contentment.

  "Look, this is the way you must do," said the child, as she pulled withher fingers a small strip of paper that stood out from the side of thepicture; suddenly before the astonished eyes of the boy the red full calixof the rose flew open, disclosing a glittering golden verse that lay inthe centre of the flower. Then Veronica pushed the paper-strip back, andthe rose folded its leaves and was a perfect flower again.

  Quite dazzled by this wonderful magic the little boy stared with amazementat the rose, and then seized it to try for himself.

  While the children were playing, Veronica's mother was being laid in hergrave. After awhile Cousin Judith came back into the room. She was"cousin" to all Tannenegg, though related to no one. She came back to takethe rose, and put it into the hook, which she replaced in the cup-board."Sit still awhile longer, children;" she said, "and presently your motherwill come for you. Be good and do not trouble her, for she has enough tobear already."

  It was the little boy's mother she meant, and the children knew it. Theyknew also very well, that they must be good and not trouble her, for theyhad seen her for two days going about the house with eyes red withweeping. Presently she entered the room, and took the children one by eachhand, and went to the door with them. She seemed to be struggling with sadand heavy thoughts. She usually spoke cheerily to the children, but nowshe was silent, and every now and then she furtively wiped away a tear.

  "Where are we going, mother?" asked the boy.

  "We must go to the doctor's, Dietrich," she answered, "your father is veryill." And she led them along the foot path toward the little town, wherethe white houses shone in the sunlight. Fohrensee was a new place, thathad sprung up as if in one night from the soil, and now stood there agreat white spot against the dark hillside. Not long before, it had beenonly a little cluster of houses standing in a protected spot on the sideof the hill, not very far below Tannenegg. It was so situated that thebiting north wind, which blew so sharply over the exposed houses ofTannenegg, did not reach the nook where little Fohrensee lay bathed in thefull light of the sun. But the little place was high enough to be visitedby all the cooling breezes, and was healthy, pure and fresh, to aremarkable degree. When, not long before this time, an enterprisinginn-keeper discovered its health-giving qualities, and built an inn there,guests filled it so rapidly that he soon put up another. Soon, one afteranother, little inns sprang up, as from the ground, and then a crowd oftrades-people came up from the valley, and settled around, for the numberof guests constantly increased, and the strangers found the spot sofavorable to health, that it became a favorite winter resort. And thus theobscure little Fohrensee became, in a few years, a large and flourishingtown, stretching out in every direction.

  Gertrude, however, walking sturdily along with the children, was notgoing as far as Fohrensee, with its shining white houses. She turned offinto a foot path that led to several scattered dwellings up on thehillside, and soon reached an open space, on which stood a handsome house,with large stables near by. Out from the stable, a hostler had just led aspirited horse, which he began to harness into a light wagon. Instantlythe little boy freed his hand from his mother's, planted himself beforethe horse, and could not be induced to move.

  "Stay there then, if you want to," said his mother, "we will go on to thehouse; but you must take care not to go too near the horse."

  The doctor was just hurrying out from his office; he must have had a longdistance to go, for he was starting off before the usual time for officehours was over. Gertrude apologized, and begged the doctor to excuse herfor not having come earlier to see him; she had been very busy with herinvalid, and could not get away before. "Never mind; as you have come, Iwill wait a few minutes," said the physician, briefly
; "Come in; how isyour husband?"

  Gertrude went into the room, and told the doctor about her sick husband.It was Steffan, a strong, young man, on whom the mountain sickness hadseized with unusual violence. The doctor silently shook his head. He tooka small mortar that stood on the office table, and shook into it somestuff which he ground with the marble pestle. His eyes fell on the childwho stood by Gertrude's side, gazing earnestly at the doctors'soccupation. The little creature had something unusual about her, andattracted attention at once. Under her thick black hair and heavy brows,her big eyes looked forth with a solemn gaze, as if everything she sawgave her food for thought.

  "He had no one but himself to blame for it, I fancy," said the doctor, ashe filled some small square papers with his powders.

  "No, no! he was not the least of a brawler; he was a quiet industriousfellow. They had rented some of our rooms, and lived there peaceably andhappily for three whole years, and never was an unkind word exchangedbetween them. But he was a stranger in these parts; he was never calledanything but the Bergamasker, and the other fellows could never forgivehim for having won the prettiest and most courted girl in the wholevillage. They never ceased to tease and irritate him, and on this especialevening at the Rehbock they must have been unusually offensive. Apparentlythey were all somewhat excited, for they could afterwards give no clearaccount of the affair, but the end was that the Bergamasker came homefatally wounded, and died the next day. Everything has been differentamong us since the Rehbock was built. Our village used to be quiet andorderly; every one was contented to work all the week and rest on Sunday.Nobody ever heard of such a thing as noisy drinking and rowdyism. But Ihave another errand with you now, doctor. Lene charged me on her deathbed to attend to it. She did not leave any money, but she had an excellentoutfit. She bade me sell her bedstead and her bureau, and bring you theproceeds, to settle what she owed you. She was very anxious that I shouldsee to it, for she felt that you had done a great deal for her; and shespoke of how often you had climbed the hill both by day and night, tovisit her. So, please give me the bill, doctor, so that I may settle it atonce, as I promised her."

  "What relatives has the child?" asked the doctor shortly.

  "She has none at all in these parts," replied Gertrude. "She has been withme all through her mother's illness, and now she is mine. Her mother'sfamily are all gone. She might perhaps be sent to her father's parish inBergamaskische, but I shall not do that; she belongs now to us."

  "I would not go there," said the child firmly in a low tone, clinging toGertrude's dress with both hands.

  The doctor opened a big book, tore out a leaf, and drew his pen twiceacross the closely written page.

  "There," he said, handing the cancelled sheet to Gertrude, "that is allthe bill I shall give you."

  "Oh, doctor, may God reward you," said Gertrude. "Go, child, and thank thedoctor, for you owe him a great deal."

  The child obeyed after her own fashion. She planted herself before the bigman, looked steadily at him with her great black eyes and said somewhathoarsely,

  "Thank you." It sounded more like a command than anything else.

  The doctor laughed.

  "She is rather alarming," he said, "she is evidently not accustomed to sayanything she does not really mean. I like that. But come, I must be off,"and handing the medicine to Gertrude he left the room quickly so as toavoid her repeated thanks.

  The little boy was standing where his mother had left him, still staringat the restless horse. The doctor looked kindly at the little fellow.

  "Would you like to take care of a horse?" he asked, as he got into hiswagon.

  "No, I should like to drive one of my own," replied the child withouthesitation.

  "Well, you are quite right there: stick to that, my boy," said thedoctor, and drove away.

  As Gertrude, holding a child by each hand, climbed the hillside, the boysaid gaily,

  "Say, mother, I can have one, can't I?"

  "Do you mean to be a gentleman like the doctor, and own a horse,Dietrich?" asked the mother.

  The boy nodded.

  "So you can, if you will work hard for it, and stick to your work well.You see the doctor had to do that for a long time, and has to do it still,and if you stick to your work as he has, and never stop nor get tired tillit is done, and well done, then you will be a gentleman, even if you arenot a doctor. It doesn't matter what you do; you may be a gentleman ifyou persevere and work hard and faithfully."

  "Yes, with a horse," said Dietrich.

  The little girl had been listening intently to every word of thisconversation. Her black eyes blazed out suddenly as she looked up toGertrude and said decidedly,

  "I'll be one too."

  "Yes, Yes, Mr. Veronica! Mr. Veronica! that sounds well," cried Dietrich,and he laughed aloud at the idea.

  Veronica thought it no laughing matter, however. She pressed Gertrude'shand firmly and looked up with glowing eyes, as she said, "I can be onetoo, can't I mother; say?"

  "You should not laugh, Dietrich," said his mother kindly. "Veronica can beexactly what you can be. If she works steadily, and does not grow tiredand careless, but keeps on till her work is finished and well finished,she will be a lady as you will be a gentleman."

  Veronica trotted along contentedly after this explanation. She did notspeak again. The frowning brows were smoothed and the fiery eyes now shonewith the light of childish joy as she caught sight of the first flowersthat began to peep above the ground. The child's face looked fairlycharming now; her well-formed features framed by the dark locks, made abeautiful picture.

  Dietrich was also silent: but he was pursuing the same train of thought,for he broke out presently,

  "Will she have a horse too?"

  "Why not, as well as you. It all depends on how steadily and howfaithfully you both work," replied Gertrude.

  "Well, then, we shall have two horses," cried the boy, joyfully. "Whereshall we put the stable, mother?"

  "We can see to that bye and bye, there is plenty of time for that. Itwon't do for you to be thinking about the horse all the time, you know,you must keep your mind on your work if you mean to do it well."

  Dieterli said no more. He was busy trying to decide on which side of thehouse it would be best to put the stable.

  That night, Gertrude again hurried down the hill to the doctor's housesand this time she brought him back with her.

  Her husband's illness had taken a turn for the worse, and the next day hedied.

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