Uncle titus and his visi.., p.1
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       Uncle Titus and His Visit to the Country, p.1

           Johanna Spyri
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Uncle Titus and His Visit to the Country


  A Story for Children and for Those Who Love Children

  Translated from the German of



  Louise Brooks

  BostonDe Wolfe, Fiske & Co361 and 365 Washington Street















  The daily promenaders who moved slowly back and forth every afternoonunder the shade of the lindens on the eastern side of the pretty town ofKarlsruhe were very much interested in the appearance of two persons whohad lately joined their ranks. It was beyond doubt that the man was veryill. He could only move slowly and it was touching to see the care withwhich his little companion tried to make herself useful to him. Hesupported himself with his right hand on a stout stick, and rested hisleft upon the shoulder of the child at his side, and one could see that heneeded the assistance of both. From time to time he would lift his lefthand and say gently,

  "Tell me, my child, if I press too heavily upon you."

  Instantly, however, the child would catch his hand and press it downagain, assuring him,

  "No, no, certainly not, Papa, lean upon me still more: I do not evennotice it at all."

  After they had walked back and forth for a while, they seated themselvesupon one of the benches that were placed at convenient distances under thetrees, and rested a little.

  The sick man was Major Falk, who had been in Karlsruhe only a short time.He lived before that in Hamburg with his daughter Dora, whose mother diedsoon after the little girl came into the world, so that Dora had neverknown any parent but her father. Naturally, therefore, the child's wholeaffection was centred upon Major Falk, who had always devoted himself tohis little motherless girl with such tenderness that she had scarcely feltthe want of a mother, until the war with France broke out, and he wasobliged to go with the Army. He was away for a long time, and when at lasthe returned, it was with a dangerous wound in his breast. The Major had nonear relatives in Hamburg, and he therefore lived a very retired life withhis little daughter as his only companion, but in Karlsruhe he had anelder half-sister, married to a literary man, Mr. Titus Ehrenreich.

  When Major Falk was fully convinced that his wound was incurable, hedecided to remove to Karlsruhe, in order not to be quite without help whenhis increasing illness should make it necessary for him to have some aidin the care of his eleven-year-old daughter. It did not take long to makethe move. He rented a few rooms in the neighborhood of his sister, andspent the warm spring afternoons enjoying his regular walk under the shadeof the lindens with his little daughter as his supporter and lovingcompanion.

  When he grew weary of walking and they sat down on a bench to rest, theMajor had always some interesting story to tell, to beguile the time, andDora was certain that no one in the whole world could tell such delightfulstories as her father, who was indeed in her opinion the most agreeableand lovable of men. Her favorite tales, and those which the Major himselftook most pleasure in relating, were little incidents in the life ofDora's mother, who was now is heaven. He loved to tell the child howaffectionate and happy her mother had always been, and how many friendsshe had won for herself, and how she always brought sunshine with herwherever she went, and how nobody ever saw her who did not feel at onceattracted to her, and how she was even now remembered by those who hadknown and loved her during life.

  When Major Falk once began to talk about his dearly-beloved wife, he wasapt to forget the flight of time, and often the cool evening wind firstaroused him with its chilly breath to the fact that he was lingering toolong in the outer air. Then he and his little Dora would rise from thebench in the shade of the lindens, and slowly wander back into town, untilthey stopped before a many-storied house in a narrow street, and the Majorwould generally say,

  "We must go up to see Uncle Titus and Aunt Ninette this afternoon, Dora."And as they slowly climbed the steep staircase, he would add, "Softly now,little Dora, you know your Uncle is always writing very learned books, andwe must not disturb him by any unnecessary noise, and indeed, Dora, I donot think your Aunt is any more fond of noise than he is."

  So Dora went up upon the tips of her toes as quietly as a mouse, and theMajor's ring could scarcely be heard, he pulled the bell so gently!Generally Aunt Ninette opened the door herself, saying,

  "Come in, come in, dear brother! Very softly, if you please, for you knowyour brother-in-law is busy at work."

  So the three moved noiselessly along the corridor and crept into thesitting room. Uncle Titus' study was the very next room, so that theconversation was carried on almost in whispers, but it must be said MajorFalk was less liable to forget the necessary caution against disturbingthe learned writer than Aunt Ninette herself, for that lady beingoppressed with many cares and troubles had always to break into frequentlamentation.

  When June came, it was safe and pleasant to linger late under the shade ofthe lindens, but the pair in whom we are interested often turned theirsteps homeward earlier than they wished, in order not to arouse AuntNinette's ever-ready reproaches. But one warm evening when the sky wascovered with rosy and golden sunset clouds, the Major and Dora lingeredwatching the lovely sight longer than was their wont. They sat silent handin hand on the bench by the side of the promenade, and Dora could not takeher eyes from her father's face as he sat with upturned look gazing intothe sky. At last she exclaimed:

  "I wish you could see yourself, papa, you look all golden and beautiful. Iam sure the angels in heaven look just as you do now."

  Her father smiled. "It will soon pass away from me, Dora, but I canimagine your mother standing behind those lovely clouds and smiling downupon us with this golden glory always upon her face."

  As the Major said, it did pass away very soon; his face grew pale, andshone no longer; the golden light faded from the sky and the shades ofnight stole on. The Major rose, and Dora followed him rather sadly. Thebeautiful illumination had passed too quickly.

  "We shall stand again in this glory, my child, nay, in a far morebeautiful one," said her father consolingly, "when we are all togetheragain, your mother and you and I, where there will be no more parting andthe glory will be everlasting."

  As they climbed up the high staircase to say good night to Uncle and Aunt,the latter awaited them on the landing, making all sorts of silent signsof alarm and distress, but she did not utter a sound until she had themsafely within the sitting room. Then, having softly closed the door, shebroke forth complainingly,

  "How can you make me so uneasy, dear brother? I have been dreadfullyanxious about you. I imagined all kinds of shocking accidents that mighthave happened, and made you so late in returning home! How can you be soheedless as to forget that it is not safe for you to stay out aftersunset. Now I am sure that you have taken cold. And what will happen, whocan tell? Something dreadful, I am certain."

  "Calm yourself, I beg you, dear Ninette," said the Major soothingly, assoon as he could get in a word. "The air is so mild, so very warm, that itcould not possibly harm anybody, and the evening was glorious, perfectlywonderful. Let me enjoy these lovely summer evenings on earth as long as Ican; it will not be very long at the farthest. What is sure to come, canbe neither delayed nor hastened much b
y anything I may do."

  These words, however, although they were spoken in the quietest possibletone, called forth another torrent of reproach and lamentation.

  "How can you allow yourself to speak in that way? How can you say suchdreadful things?" cried the excited woman over and over again. "It willnot happen. What will become of us all; what will become of--you know whatI mean," and she cast a meaning glance at Dora. "No, Karl, it would bemore than I could bear, and we never have more trouble sent to us than wecan bear; I do not know how I should live; I could not possibly endureit."

  "My dear Ninette" said her brother quietly, "Do not forget one thing,

  "'Thou art not in command, Thou canst not shape the end; God holds us in his hand: God knows the best to send.'"

  "Oh, of course, I know all that well enough. I know that is all true,"assented Aunt Ninette, "but when one cannot see the end nor the help, itis enough to kill one with anxiety. And then you have such a way ofspeaking of terrible things as if they were certain to come, and I cannotbear it, I tell you; I cannot."

  "Now we will say good-night and not stand and dispute any longer, my dearsister," said the Major, holding out his hand, "we will both try toremember the words of the verse--'God knows the best to send.'"

  "Yes, yes, I'll remember. Only don't take cold going across the street,and step very softly as you go down the stairs, and Dora, do you hear!Close the door very gently, and Karl, be careful of the draught, as youcross the street!"

  While the good irritating Aunt was calling after them all theseunnecessary cautions, Dora and her father had gone down the stairs and hadsoftly closed the house-door. They had only a narrow alley to cross toreach their own rooms opposite.

  The next afternoon, as Dora and her father seated themselves on theirfavorite bench under the lindens, the child asked,

  "Papa, is it possible that Aunt Ninette never knew the verse you repeatedto her last night?"

  "Oh yes, my child, she has always known the lines," replied the Major. "Itis only for the moment that your good aunt allows herself to be sooverwhelmed with care and worry as to forget who governs all wisely. Sheis a good woman, and in her heart she places her trust in God's goodness.She soon comes to herself again."

  Dora was silent for a while, and then she said thoughtfully,

  "Papa, how can we help being 'overwhelmed with care and worry?' and'killed with anxiety,' as Aunt Ninette said."

  "By always remembering that everything comes to us from the good God, mydear child. When we are happy, we must think of Him and thank Him; whensorrow comes we must not be frightened and distressed, for we know thatthe good God sends it, and that it will be for our good. So we shall neverbe 'overwhelmed with care and worry,' for even when some bitter troublecomes, in which we can see no help nor escape, we know that God can bringgood out of what seems to us wholly evil. Will you try to think of this,my child? for sorrow comes to all, and you will not escape it more thananother. But God will help you if you put your trust in Him."

  "Yes, I understand you, papa, and I will try to do as you say. It is farbetter to trust in God, than to let one's self be overwhelmed with careand worry.'"

  "But we must not forget," continued her father, after a pause, "that wemust not only think of God, when something special happens, but ineverything that we do, we must strive to act according to His holy will.If we never think of Him, except when we are unhappy, we shall not then beable easily to find the way to him, and that is the greatest grief ofall."

  Dora repeated that she would ask God to keep her in the right way, and asshe spoke, her father softly stroked her hand, as it lay in his. He didnot speak again for a long time, but his eyes rested so lovingly andprotectingly on his little girl, that she felt as if folded in a tenderand strengthening embrace.

  The sun sank in golden radiance behind the green lindens, and slowly thefather and child wended their way towards the high house in the narrowstreet.

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