In the first few weeks of her stay in H., Martha’s mother’s health had taken up so much of her care that the thought of leaving her, even for a few hours, never occurred to her.
Suschen had often talked about the beautiful services in the nearby parish church and her dear pastor. Now the bells rang so solemnly and invited to the fasting church.
“Mom, wouldn’t we like to go there too?”
“Go, Martha, I can’t be with people yet!”
Martha called the Werners and Suschen and went with them. Going to church on Christmas Eve had been her last. At that time she had not heard properly what was being sung and said for bliss; today her bowed soul asked for comfort and strength from above[p. 83] and opened the cup like a thirsty flower to receive the dew from heaven. The beautiful, well-known Lenten songs moved her heart and lifted it up. The preacher was a white-haired old man, his face bright with the dawn of a better world. His topic today was: “How to carry your cross after the Lord.”
“That suits me very well,” thought Martha, “I have to carry my cross too.” But she soon found out that there was something special about it that she hadn’t thought of yet.
‘Don’t think,’ said the old pastor, ‘when God sends you suffering and you have to endure it because you can’t get rid of it, that this already means: carrying his cross after the Lord; Oh no! so must the heathen and the unbelievers do. Carrying his cross after the Lord, i. H. to willingly take upon our shoulders the burden which He offers us, with the prayer: ‘Lord, thou hast borne thy cross for me and my sins, and thereby drew out the nails that were in my cross; now help me so that I carry my cross after you without grumbling, in grateful love, in quiet, patient obedience, just as you want it from me and have told me about it as your child and for your honor! Then believe[p. 84]me, the crosswood grows green on your shoulder, blooms and bears fruit, of which you can still enjoy in blessed eternity.”
Martha felt deeply touched. No, she had not yet carried her cross in this way, she was still a long way from it; but with a trembling heart she followed the final prayer that God might prepare the souls for such comfort on the cross and such strength to bear, and she could not help but speak of the impression after her mother had returned home.
“Mother, I want to ask you something. Can I sometimes sing a song again?”
The mother allowed it; At first her tears flowed more violently, then she longed for it, she reminded Martha herself the next Sunday to go to church; she loved going, and when the bells rang again for the evening church, Frau Feldwart fetched her coat herself and accompanied her child.
Trude came almost every week; Towards the end of March she brought greetings from Herr Rösner, asking if he might not even send his car to fetch Frau Feldwart and the young lady in it so that they could say hello to their old home again.
Frau Feldwart couldn’t make up her mind: “Yes, if[p. 85]I could have been there once! But in this condition? no!”
The next day the councilor’s daughters, fresh, blooming girls, drove up and begged childishly to allow Martha to accompany them in the afternoon and evening hours to look for the good; there would be all the young girls gathered there who wanted to take part in the English lessons; they wished to meet Martha.
Nothing could be said against that. Martha drove out into the friendly spring day in the company of the lively girls; she was happy to see all the places where great-grandparents and grandparents had lived and where her mother had grown up. The jovial squire and his friendly wife received them very kindly; the circle of young girls, some of whom were significantly younger than Martha, took her back to her earlier, happy life; she moved easily and gracefully between them and quickly won everyone’s confidence. The time and place of the English lesson was agreed upon, the directors wanted to give up their large back room for it, and the magistrate only wanted to have the company brought out on particularly fine afternoons.
After coffee, everyone rushed into the big garden, whose[p. 86]fine lawn shimmered in the first green to look for violets in the rain and in the bushes.
Here Trude was waiting: “Well, Fraulein Martha, come with me, now I want to show you where my mother grew up; Frau Amtsratin wanted to do it herself, but I kept asking until she allowed me to do it; I know better than that, of course! So? Miss Werner wants to come too? Well, fine with me.”
The house where Amtsrat Rösner lived was an extension that he furnished himself, since the old house seemed too cold and gloomy; Trude now led the two girls into this.
“You see, here what is now the large economic room, that was the hall; the wedding table was there when father and mother were married, and here, where the inspector’s room is now, was the best living room; You can see inside, he’s outside ordering. Over there across the hall that was grandfather’s office, Mamsell Hannchen has it now. And now come up the stairs with me.”
There were two little rooms on the upper floor, which primarily occupied Martha’s interest: what used to be her mother’s little room, which is now very cute[p. 87]was set up as a lodging room, and the guest room next to it.
“You see, this is where the great-grandmother lived. Her large, brightly colored chest of drawers stood here in the corner, and her armchair and her small iron table are still there by the window. That was a mighty woman! The people in the village still know a lot of stories about her, and I can still remember them quite well. She was the mother of all the sick and poor, and during the war years she always kept her head up and more than once saved the farm from looting and damage by her calmness and demeanor. The great-grandfather was ailing and had a lot of stomach and liver problems, so she had to keep the reins when she was young. But up here she sat half an hour before day and half an hour in the evening, and read and prayed so hard that they sometimes understood it outside,
Martha felt as if she heard the voice speaking to Moses out of the fiery bush: “Draw yours[p. 88]shoes off; the place where your feet stand is holy land.” With timid reverence she opened the old picture Bible, whose yellowed leaves were covered with marginal notes; she had opened and read: “Ebr. 12:1 Therefore we also, having such a cloud of witnesses about us, let us put away the sin that always clings to us and makes us lazy, and let us proceed with patience in the battle that is ordained for us.” It was , as if she heard her great-grandmother say these words herself, as if she were being knighted inwardly at this very minute; now she would rather not have had Truden and Suschen next to her; she couldn’t part for a long, long time. Outside the window the wind played in the newly budding branches of the old linden trees, they had already rushed over when my great-grandmother was young, and behind it shone the small, clear country lake, in which the midday sun was reflected; everything was the same as usual.
“Now I want to see her grave,” she finally said. She walked arm in arm through the village with Suschen, Trude leading the way. On a green hill, surrounded by chestnut trees, lay the friendly, clean church, surrounded by the sleeping parishioners under their white stones and crosses. Very close to the entrance to the church, great-grandfather and great-grandmother slept close together. the[p. 89]Tombstones, as was the custom at the time, represented broken columns; on that of the great-grandfather it said: “In my father’s house there are many dwellings; I go to prepare the place for you”; on that of his wife: “I know that my Redeemer lives!”
“She decided that herself,” said Trude, “otherwise it would have had to include all her good deeds.”
The graves were very well kept, the dry leaves neatly raked off; a wreath of snowdrops bordered the upper surface, they rang all their delicate bells; the blue blossoms of the amaryllis were already appearing and the dark heads of small tulips were beginning to change colour. The bells after work solemnly sounded from the tower, the sun was just about to go to rest, its red rays poured liquid gold onto the gravestones and the grass, and a gentle evening air played mysteriously in the withered leaves that still lay piled up against the churchyard wall.
The two young girls held hands tightly, Trude stood with folded hands. The last note of the evening bell had faded away when footsteps were heard on the gravel path; the girls turned and faced a young man in ecclesiastical robes, who evidently[p. 90]wanted to use the narrow path to get to the nearby vicarage. Martha and Suschen took a step back; he greeted Suschen as one greets an old acquaintance, and then wanted to pass quickly; but Trude wasn’t satisfied with that.
“Mr. Pastor! look, this is the great-granddaughter of the blessed woman.”
The pastor stopped and Suschen took over the introduction: “Mr. Pastor Frank, Miss Feldwart!”
“And you’ve never been here?” asked the pastor.
“Never!” replied Martha.
“But then you must also see all our beautiful altar settings and sacred utensils; they mostly come from the woman’s great-grandmother.”
Oh yes, Martha wanted that. The pastor rushed to his house to fetch the keys, and then took the rejoiced with him into the church and sacristy.
There he unlocked a heavy oak chest: “It also comes from the great-grandmother!” Then he unveiled the beautiful, heavy altar settings: “You see, the document of the donation is in the small box on the side of each piece.”
Martha bent over the old papers: they were obviously written by the same hand as her Christmas carol. First came the gift of the chest: “In 1801, when her eldest son was born, Anna Martha Waldheim gave this chest to store the pulpit and altar coverings out of gratitude for God’s undeserved grace and to commemorate his miracles.” Then came the birth of a chest in 1806 second son’s first place setting. “I embroidered the blue sheet with the lamb with my own hand.” This Hans Waldheim, who was mentioned here, was Martha’s grandfather. “In 1812, when a daughter Margarete was born, I gave a covering for the baptismal font made of black velvet and gold: Grant us peace, Lord God! in our times!”
“Now you should also see the devices,” said the pastor and opened a double lock in the wall. In 1824 a beautiful, golden chalice was given: “In memory of the blessed journey home of my eldest son, who refreshed himself with the sacrament while dying”; 1828 “a golden wine jug, because my master gave me the bitter drink of the widow’s sorrow. Your precious blood, your lifeblood always gives me new vitality!” “Anno 1830 at the baptism of my dear granddaughter Anna Marie a new[p. 92]Baptismal font: whoever believes and is baptized will be saved!”
Anna Marie! that was her dear mother! Martha felt strange in her heart; as well as if she were at home in the little house of God; so painful that not a single sprig of the family, which had struck down such firm roots here, now grew here. In the office chair there was still the small, carved hymnal cabinet of the great-grandparents with their names and the date they moved in. Martha found it very difficult to tear herself away from all these memories, but the time of day made it necessary.
When they stepped outside, the sun was down and a fine white mist was drifting through the valley. They thanked the pastor in a friendly manner, he asked about Suschen’s parents, and then the three different female figures quietly descended the hill. Pastor Frank stood by the churchyard wall and watched them go until the brown headscarf, the black dress, and the light-colored dress disappeared in the shadows of the houses.
“Have you known Pastor Frank for a long time?” asked Martha.
“Yes,” Suschen replied; “As a candidate, he taught German at our school; we all had a crush on him back then.”
Suschen wasn’t surprised that Martha was quieter at the table and on the way back. Frau Feldwart had been looking impatiently at her child.
“Mom,” said the daughter after she had just put her things down, “can you still remember your great-grandmother properly?”
“Of course,” said Frau Feldwart; “I was quite grown when she died! On the morning of my blessing, she still read and prayed with me at her little iron table and gave me the picture Bible with the silver lock, which I still have.”
“Mom, the little table is still there and the armchair, and great-grandmother’s Bible and the book on the strength are still there.”
“How glad I am!” exclaimed Frau Feldwart; “She had stipulated it that way in the will, and as long as my parents were there, of course everything stayed the same. But when we sisters got married and our parents sold the property so that we could move to B., we had to leave it to the new owner to decide whether he wanted to continue fulfilling this wish.”
“Mom, all the altar cloths and sacred utensils are still there, including the baptismal font from which you were first baptized; you still have a lot to tell me about your great-grandmother.”
“I’d be happy to do that; you may also find something in their old papers.”
Martha felt as if her great-grandmother had just given her today; a pastel picture from her youth hung over her mother’s sewing table; she always had to look at that; her clear eyes and firm, determined features were only now understandable to her, and her own name: Anna Martha, which she had found every day up to then, now became dear to her as an inheritance from her great-grandmother.
From Easter on, a very busy time began for her. Under Suschen’s tutelage, she personally made the changes to her and her mother’s wardrobe that the warmer seasons necessitated; looking after the small household began to give her pleasure, and dividing up and saving, when she did it successfully according to Frau Werner’s instructions, gained its attraction for her. At the same time, the English practice lessons began, for which she had to prepare properly; drawing lessons with the younger girls began; every hour of leisure was devoted to the completion of cute cards and bookmarks; it was time to use the minutes and make the most of the time. At first Mrs. Feldwart saw with satisfaction Martha’s increased activity and[p. 95]returning energy, but over time it became tiresome to see her daughter, who until then had only lived for her alone, so engrossed. Ever since she had once ventured out into the unusually mild spring air, the need to go for walks had often aroused in her; when Martha said: “No, Mama, I can’t go out today, the dress has to be finished today,” or: “Oh, I’m in the middle of painting with my bookmark, now I can’t possibly leave it lying around!” Mother was annoyed and there were many a little quarrel between the two about it. Gradually the evening hours, when Martha used to read to her mother, were also used for work; Mrs. Feldwart, whose eyes were weak, would doze off while knitting and make bitter remarks.
“I don’t know, Martha,” said Suschen, “you’re much more restless now than at the beginning.”
“I find it myself,” she replied thoughtfully, “I’ve never been so excited and distracted as now; I don’t know what it’s actually about.”
It occurred to her that Trude had said great-grandmother[p. 96]would have accomplished twice as much as others. She resolved to study her letters next Sunday. She found various letters dealing with illnesses, work, war unrest; Finally she opened a letter that Frau Anna Martha had written to her daughter-in-law, Martha’s grandmother:
“My darling wife daughter! Your letter gave me a lot to think about and worried about because it sounds as if you couldn’t stop working from morning to night because of hardship and work! I can well imagine how the fruit and potato harvest, the illness of the two children, the slaughter and the many visits to hunt rabbits have used up all your strength, and I want to come home as soon as I can to help you ; but I’ve often been through just as much and more, even with enemies, and yet I’ve remained calm. Doesn’t my dear wife, daughter-in-law, miss the main things? I read in a book the other day that a learned man, a stargazer, said, ‘Give me a vantage point outside the world, and I will unhinge it.’ I really liked that. All our work all the troubles, worries and earthly burdens that oppress our hearts, we can only govern and move them from a standpoint outside the world, and thank God! is it us[p. 97]Christian people better than the poor fellow in my book; we truly have the point of view; we only have to go to our Father in heaven. He allowed it; if we don’t, it’s our fault. Madam daughter-in-law! If I’ve accomplished anything in my life, it’s only because I walked before God’s throne twice a day for half an hour. If only everyone knew how much effort, hardship and time it saves! One goes there with a heavy heart, weary limbs, restless mind; one comes back with a free soul, strengthened feet, steadfast hands, ordered will and intelligent thoughts. Madam daughter-in-law! On Sundays in the church service and everyday life in the prayer room, you get most of it done, because that’s where you get finished yourself, that you don’t drive around like a buzzing fly, but steer finely straight towards your goal like a ship with clean, full sails in which the right wind is blowing. Madam daughter-in-law! Under the recipe you can certainly put what is usually under the cake and soap recipes in cookbooks:probatum est ! And with it God bids!”
Martha held the letter in her hand for a long time. That was it!
When a young, talented being first discovers his potential, he naturally feels joy about it and the desire to continue to develop and increase his activity more and more richly.
This impulse is certainly not to be blamed in and of itself, but it then easily happens that one stands firmly on one’s own feet, forgetting the source from which one drew one’s strength and only through the lameness of one’s wings and the restlessness of the whole Driven by God, he had to be reminded: “You can’t do anything without me!” That’s what happened to Martha.
“What are you reading there, Martha, what are you so completely absorbed in?” asked the mother.
Martha handed her the letter.
“Oh,” said Mrs. Feldwart, after she had read it, “that’s my grandmother through and through! She loved writing recipes. When I retired from my freedom on the estate in the city, I once wrote a long letter of complaint home, because I was now supposed to learn everything at the same time and never finished; she once sent me a recipe like that, it was shortly before she died. Wait, I want to get it for you right away.”
She took it from her desk and Martha read:
Recipe for our Mariechen in the city.
1) the virgin get up early; she is perfectly healthy and sleeps at night; it won’t do her any harm if she gets up early. Fresh out of bed, washed cold, dressed quickly and neatly, read a chapter from the Bible, prayed and got to work! Turning around in the feathers with keen eyes is harmful; one gets used to dreaming during the day, and it will be difficult to apologize for these twilight hours when one is supposed to answer to God for how one has spent one’s time. One hour every day gives 365 hours in the year, i.e. 15 days and 5 hours; should the good Lord let you live 70 years, it will be 2 years and 334 days, without the leap days, i.e. almost 3 years; think carefully about that, so that you can keep the minutes to yourself!
2) gather your wits and ask yourself what is the bare minimum at each hour. Doing this for a quarter of an hour, that for the other quarter of an hour – that doesn’t work. Whatever you do, do it completely, let all other thoughts go and direct your whole diligence not to getting it done as quickly as possible, but to completing your work as thoroughly and beautifully as possible; at the same time satisfaction and efficiency increase;
3) think about all your things at the right time and hour, as much as possible, always a few days ahead; you can then adjust to your tasks much better. If you z. For example, if you go out in B. on your long journey and forget to bring half of what you will need next, and then have to run again uselessly, then a few hours are gone that are of no benefit to you or anyone else;
4) get used to distinguishing what is merely desirable and agreeable from what is useful and necessary, and treating both according to their merits. For example, you may exercise care and good taste in your suit, see what hairstyle and clothes suit you; the good Lord does not want us to neglect or disfigure ourselves; his works are all beautiful and well arranged, and there is a magic of grace about them. But you shouldn’t stand in front of the mirror for hours, twisting your curls to the left and right, twisting the little bows this way and that, and waste the noble hours that are supposed to benefit your inner being and the well-being of your neighbor with “frills.” Yes , dear child, that’s what our mother called all the fashionable follies that you think up anew every day,[p. 101]make; You do not believe how much of it one can spare and how happy one is when one uses as little of it as possible;
5) one may very well read a good book for entertainment; only that at your age one has to take advice from grown-up, sensible people which is a good and useful book. But, my child, read sensibly. Read your head hotly, just to get on quickly and find out whether your loved one will get your loved one, — leaf through the pages, now at the back, now at the front; skip over what doesn’t seem so appealing at first glance; misread when other duties call: that is worse than never having held a book in your hand, and makes the whole character unruly and unsteady. Read slowly, absorb properly, consider what the author wants of you; sometimes keep a little quiet when something hits you in the heart, that promotes and brings you further unexpectedly.
6) You may also associate with a girlfriend, yes, it is very nice if you have one; I wish you from the bottom of my heart. But if you want to visit her for an hour or more, then take your knitting or sewing kit with you, or play, jump, read and sing together, if you like; but you only want her for a few minutes[p. 102]order something, let this really only be a few minutes; standing and chatting while going and coming, so between the door and hinge that no one knows whether it will ever end, that wastes the daughters their time and the mothers their patience – remember that!
Martha was very absorbed by her great-grandmother’s teachings. Of course, not all of them were exactly right for their peculiar nature, but many things were strikingly right. She remembered very clearly that yesterday Frau Director Werner called “Suschen!” three times when they said goodbye to each other at the back door, and how often, oh, how often! she had had to walk long distances because she forgot to tell the girl from Warburg what she needed to do in the morning. Getting up early was also a sore point, a really sore one! that should be changed first thing in the morning.
When Martha opened the door for the maid at six o’clock, she did not lie down again as usual, but dressed herself quickly and quietly according to her great-grandmother’s recipe, and the living room was hardly ready when she appeared in it , sat down by the window and opened her Bible. It was very solemn[p. 103] around her. Over in the grassy garden the finches were flapping; she had opened the windows to breathe the delicious May air, and the scent of lilac and jasmine streamed in to her on her wings; the blossom-covered apple trees were reddish in the morning sun; in the grass the dew glistened in a thousand pearls.
“How beautiful such a morning is!” thought Martha. She remembered the song that she always loved to sing: “Morning radiance of eternity, light from the inexhaustible light, send us your rays this morning, etc.” She was not allowed to sing it now, so as not to wake her mother. She opened her Bible. Alas, all nature today was but a song of praise; here, too, she had to look for one thing in God’s word; she read Psalm 103: “Praise the Lord, my soul! and what is in me is his holy name! Praise the Lord, my soul, and do not forget what good He has done for you, etc.” This most precious of all hymns of praise carried her heart high, even though she had often neglected to talk to her Father in heaven lately , the psalmist’s voice awakened kindred voices in her soul; she could thank, she could ask, she could quietly contemplate her life and quest in the light of God’s Word. How much disappears in this light that seemed important to us; how transfigured[p. 104]some things appear that we had thought small and unimportant; how much clearer is the guideline for what we do when God’s bright sun shines on it.
Hitherto Martha had considered her incessant work nothing but virtue, and her mother very unjust if she wished to check this activity and claim her child as her own; now it suddenly became clear to her that the fulfillment of the fourth commandment was her next task, and that making her mother’s life easy was the highest goal she had to set herself.
So long as we live here on earth we shall be more or less troubled by the seeming conflict of our various duties, and the striving to bring them into harmony goes through all our days. But the reason for this is mostly that we selfishly cling to our favorite inclinations and favorite pastimes and do not want to subordinate them; the more we succeed in this with God’s help, the more quietly and orderly our life flows along.
Martha now really began to fight and wrestle in earnest to attain this goal, and the morning hours, which were supposed to help her to do this, were soon as dear and indispensable to her as they had been to her great-grandmother. she[p. 105]wasn’t always in such high spirits about it; Oh no! such hours are rare while we are down here. Quite often she complained instead of giving thanks, when all the worries about daily bread assailed her, when her mother’s very changeable mood caused her distress, when the longing for Siegfried, from whom she had never heard a word again, was too painful you rose. Martha had not neglected to announce her new address in Berlin so that a letter could reach her; she had received no sign of life, did not know where to seek him with her thoughts; Even in this distress her only reassurance was: “He is in God’s hands, just as I am; if it is for our peace, he will bring us together again!’ Often she begged the Lord with tears, often she sought submission when it was decided otherwise; but as little as she ever got over her old person completely, gradually greater calm and composure came into her heart, and one could clearly notice this in her doings and doings. Without neglecting any of the work she had started, she now had time to go outdoors with her mother, to read to her in the evening, to accompany her to the edifying services in the nearby parish church.
As Pastor Wohlgemuth the two female figures like this[p. 106]regularly seen among his listeners, he began to pay them a visit from time to time, as he had been doing for a long time with Director Werners. His heartfelt, serious and yet comforting manner, with which he knew how to put the gloomy things in life into the bright light of heaven, did the mother and daughter good. Martha and Suschen both adored him; His appearance in the house was a celebration for them, an enviable event when he spoke friendly words to them when they met, and Luischen had to take all the flowers they picked in the woods and fields to the old gentleman’s confirmation hour.
At Pentecost Frau Feldwart decided for the first time to accept an invitation from Frau Bailiff Rösner and to spend a few days in Weißfeld. This did not happen without a great deal of emotion, but it was predominantly of a joyful nature. Her own little room was set up as a bedroom for her and Martha, and that of her great-grandmother as a living room. She saw her old homeland in the loveliest light: all the houses, including the manor house, were decorated with mays, daffodils and tulips, lilacs and laburnums in full bloom, the linden trees in their most beautiful, light-green decorations. Trude was overjoyed to receive her old mistress; she was received and cared for with the tenderest love by the Amtmanns, and immediately on[p. 107]The morning after their arrival, mother and daughter held their prayers together for the first time at the great-grandmother’s place. The mother sat in the armchair; Martha, the picture Bible on her knees, on a low stool in front of it; At her mother’s request, she read the 90th Psalm, the favorite psalm of the woman who had prayed here so often: “Lord God, you are our refuge for and for etc.”, the psalm that touchingly juxtaposes eternity and transience his childish plea at the end: “Glad us again, after you have plagued us for so long, after we have suffered misfortune for so long; show your servants your works, and your honor to their children; and the Lord our God be kind to us, and promote the work of our hands in us; yes, he wants to promote the work of our hands!”
They sat with folded hands for a long time after Martha had read, and the spirit of Pentecost, the spirit of peace and comfort, entered their hearts. They then walked to the little church with the decorated country folk.
Frau Feldwart sat in the same spot where she had sat with her parents on Sundays. Alas, around them sat a strange congregation! Trude and the old sacristan, who stooped along, were the only figures she saw[p. 108]remembered. Pastor Frank preached in beautiful language, not at all incredulous, but still quite youthful. Martha thought her old pastor Wohlgemuth would give her more, and almost got into a fight about it with Suschen, who had only come that morning.
“I don’t know what you want, Martha; no one can preach even more beautifully than Pastor Frank!”
“He preaches too nicely for me,” said the latter.
“But how can you say such nonsense!” Suschen exclaimed, very irritated and annoyed.
Towards evening Pastor Frank came and stayed for supper. There was music; the bailiff’s two daughters played four hands, Pastor Frank sang with his beautiful tenor voice: “Tröstet, trostet mein Volk” from Handel’s “Messiah”, he accompanied Martha the beautiful song: “You are the rest, the peace is mild, the longing is you and what is breastfeeding them etc.”, and that was really quite refreshing. Then, after dinner, they all wandered in the sweet twilight of the fragrant garden; Pastor Frank joined Martha and Suschen; he said that on the third day of the festival there would be a big children’s party, also a gift from the great-grandmother. He reported on various institutions for the welfare of the working people of ancient and modern times.[p. 109]Martha was keenly interested in it and asked him for more information by asking questions. He pleased the eager listener, they got into a very lively conversation; Martha was used to expressing herself easily and fluently from the rich sociability of the residence; Suschen still had her childish shyness towards respected people and strangers; she hung on Martha’s arms and said nothing at all.
When they parted that evening, Martha noticed that her friend wasn’t as cheerful as usual.
“What’s the matter, suschen? You were so quiet tonight!”
“I don’t know, I must have been tired from the morning walk in the sun.”
“That’s possible,” thought Martha, “even the scent of lilac and gold lacquer makes you tired; so am I.”
On the second day of the festival, towards evening, some families from the neighborhood came; Frau Feldwart retired to her room; Martha was quickly surrounded by the young female members of society, most of whom were already her students, and was actually the center of attention without her wanting it.
Pastor Frank showed up for an hour to arrange tomorrow’s pretzel festival; the[p. 110]Pretzels were distributed from two baskets in front of the schoolhouse, and he wished that the great-granddaughter of the founder and her friend might take over this office.
She was happy to say, “If it suits me in my black suit?”
“Certainly,” said Pastor Frank; “Black is always a party dress in the country, and if Miss Suschen appears in white like today, you depict the Prussian colors together, and that goes quite well with the boys’ fatherland songs.”
On the afternoon of the third holiday everyone went to the schoolhouse. Trude tugged at Martha’s dress as she was about to leave the courtyard, and placed a boy of about eight and a buxom girl of six in front of her, who were beaming with festive joy and festive decorations.
“These are my Kathrine’s, Fraulein: Hans and Mariechen! So, give a little touch too, that’s all right!”
Martha looked with satisfaction at the fresh, trusting children who were now hurrying towards the meeting place, and she went herself to sit down with Suschen at the white-covered tables that were set up in front of the school building on both sides of the entrance door.
Beautifully decorated, each child a large bouquet[p. 111]breast and a may in hand, came the schoolchildren, first the boys in pairs, then the girls; The oldest boys carried cute flags in the German colors; they were followed by some musicians with wind instruments and a drum. They moved to the linden-shaded square in front of the school building, to the singing, which the great-grandmother had also determined: “O holy spirit, o holy God, etc.”
The pastor said a short prayer and told the children in simple words that the spirit of Pentecost is a spirit of joy and love, so love prepared this feast for them; They would now like to be happy in God’s name and think with gratitude of the old woman who founded this festival when her eldest son, six years old, started school. “And see, her great-granddaughter is standing there, she wants to give you the pretzels herself today!”
So of course all eyes were on Martha; but because they were bright children’s eyes, she didn’t feel bothered by them.
Little Hans tugged at her dress: “You, what is a great-granddaughter?”
“Do you know what a granddaughter is?”
“But you know what a grandmother is!”
“Yes,” said the boy jokingly, “I have two!”
“Well, you see! if your grandmother’s mother was still alive, that would be your great-grandmother and you would be her great-grandson.”
The boy didn’t look completely satisfied: “But first she would have to give me a watch.”
Martha laughed: “Boy, you can be a great-grandchild without a watch; I don’t have any either.”
Enormously large chocolate cans were now brought out of the schoolhouse; each child fiddled loose with the little cup which it wore on its belt, and now it was filled and drunk to its heart’s content. Then it was time to play.
There were monkey bars for the boys; a sack race was organized and there were all kinds of small prizes: scarves, knives, spinning tops, etc. The girls ran to a target, had to throw a ring suspended on a string at a hook, and were then also given scissors, thimbles, ribbons, and the like rewarded. Suschen proved to be very helpful and skilled in arranging such games; she knew them from her siblings. In between the boys sang: “Die Wacht am Rhein” and other fatherland songs; the girls: “All the birds are already here”, “Who thought up the flowers” etc.
Martha now noticed that several children were tired from running; she sat down on one of the benches under the linden tree, one child after the other came up to her, and she began to talk to them.
“Sniff it,” said Hans, and held a bouquet of peonies (a yellow meadow flower, shaped like a rather full rose, the same color and leaf as the buttercup) and starflowers under her nose.
“Thanks,” said Martha, “that smells nice.”
“Yes, they are also much prettier than buttercups and daisies.”
“Do you know, Hanschen, how they got so beautiful?”
“No,” said Hanschen, put both arms on her knees and looked at her with his mouth open.
“Shall I tell you?”
“Yes, how do you know?”
“Oh, that’s what the morning wind tells me when it visits me early in the morning at the open window.”
“Well, tell me now!” said Hanschen.
She had had few children around her; now more and more came up to them, until a dense circle had formed; Above the children’s heads, some old ones looked at her with pleasure as she began:
“When it was Pentecost for the first time in Germany, the whole earth rejoiced. In the forest the birches waved their little green flags, draped with fine, long catkins; the beech tree adorned its white trunk with light green wreaths, and the dainty mayflowers rang, it was a bright joy!
“From the bushes came the voice of the chaffinch and the nightingale; the Pentecostal bird in the little yellow and black coat sounded its lure call; the cuckoo called out day and day, and the lark climbed out of the furrow straight up to the sky: ‘Tirrerillerie! Tirrerillera! Pentecost, the beautiful Pentecost is here!’
“In the garden the flowers put on their most beautiful clothes; the tulips adorned themselves with all colors; the daffodils stood glistening white; the lilac hung its big blue bunches, the laburnum its yellow ones; yes, even a rose has already opened its bud: it is Pentecost, I would like to be there! The forget-me-nots stood by the stream and washed themselves so that they were pretty blue at Pentecost. A daisy and a buttercup stood side by side in the meadow as the sun went down on Pentecost Saturday. ‘Do you already know,’ said the buttercup, ‘tomorrow is Pentecost.’ ,I know!’ said the daisy, ‘people say it[p. 115]be the most beautiful festival, because that is when the spirit of consolation and peace came to earth. Look how the flowers in the garden are preening themselves!’ ‘I want to decorate myself too,’ said the buttercup, ‘but I don’t know how to start.’ ‘I’ve bathed myself in the evening dew, but I’m small and I’ll stay small,’ sighed the daisy.
“The stars rose; Usually by this time the buttercup and daisy had closed their leaves together and were asleep; — today sleep would not come to them. They looked up at the shining stars and said: ‘You beautiful golden stars! we wanted to be beautiful in honor of Pentecost; can’t you help us?’
“The stars looked down in a friendly manner and the flowers looked up longingly, and only when the stars grew pale and a little streak of dawn appeared in the sky did the flowers fall asleep, and when the sun woke them up the next morning they looked at each other and looked at each other again, for the buttercup had grown into a round, full, sweet-smelling peony, and the daisy into a magnificent star flower. Then they cried and laughed for joy that the stars had given them such a beautiful Whitsun dress. Since then come and[p. 116] they always bloom at Pentecost. Daisies and buttercups come earlier as soon as Lenz steps on the ground: but when the bell rings for Pentecost, the starflowers and peonies wake up in the meadows, because the two have had many, many children, they are all celebrating, and Hanschen’s bouquet belongs too to!”
“Hänschen’s bouquet is also part of it! Hanschen’s bouquet is one of them!” cried the children. “Tell me something else, tell me something else!”
“Oh, I can’t always tell; Now you can guess a riddle:
herd of sheep
Grazes high, high above the earth,
Not on green meadows
No, on blue!
The shepherd is not to be seen
Will stand behind the sheep.
Now tell me, dear child,
Who and where are the sheep.
“There, there!” cried the children, pointing to the transparent clouds of lambs floating in the blue air above their heads. The girls agreed: “Who has the prettiest sheep? The golden moon has them, etc.”
But now the closing time bell was ringing; everyone stood with clasped hands until the beating had died away; then Pastor Frank said a short prayer of thanks, the big and small sang together: “Now thank God everyone!” and then they hurried home, happy and tired.
Pastor Frank had disappeared for a few moments; He caught up with our friends near the vicarage and gave Martha a pretty bouquet.
“The flowers from my garden are also peonies,” he said.
Martha thanked, somewhat surprised; she would have been even happier if Suschen had also received flowers; but she thought it referred to her story, and calmed herself.
Trude was standing in the farmyard and Martha went to her.
“Oh, Fraulein, the beautiful flowers, they are from the parish garden; only our pastor has such dark lilacs. Oh look! if I were to experience that you would move here again, even if it weren’t at the office!”
Martha looked at her in astonishment; at first she didn’t quite understand what she meant, then she got a fright.
“What are you talking about, Trude? Nobody would think of that!”
But she was saddened inside; the impartiality was gone. As she went to put down her things, she saw Suschen standing at the window of her open little room. She went to her and put her arm around her neck; it almost seemed as if the otherwise happy woman had been crying, although she didn’t want to let it be seen.
“Suschen,” said Martha, “come a bit into the garden after dinner, I have something to tell you.”
“Old stories,” said Martha, “but sad ones.”
And as they walked between the fragrant flower beds in the last evening light, Martha told everything about Siegfried, everything! She had wanted it for a long time, it had always been too difficult for her.
She could not complain of a lack of participation on Suschen’s part; but at last she said: “Martha, it’s too bad that nobody knows that; it might give some hope.”
“I don’t think anyone will do that,” said Martha, “but I want to think about the possibility more than I did before, and tomorrow I’ll put on my great-grandmother’s wedding ring.”
The next morning the Feldwarts and Suschen returned to H., and Martha was completely relieved when she had carried out her resolution about the ring.
‘I think,’ she said to herself, ‘Trude saw ghosts in her fervent desires for my good; at any rate, at most, a fleeting interest can have arisen in these few days. Suschen fits there much better than I do, and how happy I would be to see her there!’