It was late in the afternoon. As it happened, Greta had taken the
children with her to deliver clothes. They could at least sit in the
boat to watch one basket while she delivered the other. In consequence,
no dingy children were at the Klein gate when Jean and the other two
girls entered. Even the dogs were away with their master, who was as a
rule more kind to them than to his children.
The gate of a rickety fence stood open. A few hens ran about the yard
with some long-legged young chickens. The girls entered the yard,
hesitating a little as they walked up to the door, which stood open
revealing anything but a well-kept room inside. They rapped, intending
to ask if they might find the well, for Jean had her collapsible cup
with her. There was no response.
“Out in the field, I suppose,” said Molly. “Let’s see if we can find
the well. It can’t do any harm, and I’m perishing for a drink. That
woods was fearfully hot, I thought.”
Turning from the door, the girls started around the house. There were
two old pumps, and while the girls were guessing which was the well and
which was the cistern, they heard the sound of crying, a faint moaning,
further back in the yard, it seemed. Toward the left there stood an old
barn and sheds, with the sty, odorous and muddy. But toward the right
there was a tangle of bushes and fruit trees, to all appearances from
where they stood.
They listened, Molly with her fingers to her lips. “Perhaps we’d better
go on,” whispered Nan.
“No,” returned Molly, “some one might be hurt. Wait. I’ll see.”
Molly tiptoed in the direction of the sound, but as she went loud
sobbing broke out. Jean and Nan were for getting away. That did not
sound like any one who was injured. Perhaps they would intrude. But
Molly was obviously seeing something or some one. She was looking
soberly ahead, then put her head on one side to listen. Molly was as
careful as they would be not to be intrusive. They would leave it to
“Sakes, Jean, listen!” whispered Nan. “It’s German.”
“_Meine Greta, meine Greta, meine Greta!_” they heard repeated.
“Why, this must be where Greta lives,” said Jean. “What’s _happened_
to her?” Jean started toward Molly, but Molly, her face alert, was
listening and waved Jean back. They heard a sobbing outburst of German
words that were unintelligible to them.
“Molly knows German,” Nan reminded Jean, and Jean nodded assent. Both
girls were puzzled and uneasy. There must be some reason why Molly was
listening where anybody would think she had no right to be. There was a
pause and then another outburst of speech, as if the person, a woman,
were talking to some one, even explaining. It was very curious. Then
the first expression, “_Meine Greta, meine kleine Greta_,” was moaned,
with “_liebchen_” and a few other words that the girls knew.
“From the looks of Greta, I wouldn’t say that she looked like anybody’s
‘_liebchen_,’” whispered Jean. “She looks more like some poor
step-child to me.”
But Molly was picking a silent way back to them. Her face was very
sober now. She waved them toward the gate, her finger on her lips; and
when she reached them she hurried them out.
“I’ve heard something dreadful, girls, and we must get out of sight as
soon as possible, before that poor woman has any idea that there was
any one there to hear her. Let’s get right down to shore. Maybe some of
the girls are out in the boat and will see us and come for us. I want
to get away as quickly as I can. I’ll tell you all about it as soon as
I get over being shocked. Isn’t Greta the name of that girl who brings
us things once in a while?”
“Why, of course, Molly. You know that.”
“Do I? I don’t know what I do know. There she is now! And her boat is
coming to this landing! So I suppose that is where the Kleins live.”
“Oh, I hadn’t thought of that, Molly. Yes, it’s just about the
location, I suppose, that Jimmy said. You can see the peninsula from
here, of course.”
The girls had reached the tree-sheltered shore just as Greta sent her
boat flying toward them. “Wait,” said Molly, “I want to speak to her.”
“You want to tell her what happened?”
“Yes, some of it.”
The girls approached the rude dock. Greta smiled a real welcome, for
to see the girls was worth a day’s hard work. She lifted the children
out and told them to go on home; then Molly laid a hand on her arm. “We
stopped to get a drink at a house up there. Is that where you live?”
“Yes. That is what is left of the Klein farm.”
“Well, we have just been there. We walked all the way back to the door,
which was open, but no one answered our knock. I was terribly thirsty,
so we went around the house and were just going to get a drink when
we heard some one crying. I thought that somebody might be hurt, so I
stepped back to see. It was a large, stoutly built woman, but she was
not hurt, and I think you ought to know what she said. Could you meet
us very early to-morrow morning? Jean said that you were out early
Greta was impressed with Molly’s manner. “Yes,” she answered. “Where
shall I meet you? Shall I come all the way?”
“If you can, and I will have breakfast for you, too.”
“Oh, how kind you are! But I can’t be dressed well enough. This is the
best I have.”
“Some wouldn’t think that our middies and bloomers were much in the way
of clothes,” laughed Jean. “Please come.”

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Molly did not laugh, but she said, “I must talk to you, Greta, and if
you can come to us it will be a favor, much easier than for us to come
out here, or near by. How soon can you come?”
“The earlier the better for me. I have to get back to work before my
mother gets around. I take an early swim and bath in the lake. Then I
go back to do the feeding and milking, to get breakfast and start the
washing when we have any.”
Molly seemed to know instinctively that Greta could not get permission
to come. “While we talk, you can drink a cup of hot cocoa with us and
eat a plate of bacon and eggs with toast. Then if you have to hurry
back it is all right. Come about five o’clock. We are planning an early
hike anyway. And it will be much better if your mother does not know
that we were there. Need you notice her tears?”
“I’ve seen her that way before, though not very often, and I never
speak of it. I did once,–and I–was sorry.”
“All right. We’ll be looking for you. Nobody but Jean and Nan will know
why we want to see you specially.”
Greta promised to come at five o’clock and stay long enough for
breakfast. The girls hurried away, though Greta offered to take them
across in the boat. “Perhaps I will come by boat to-morrow morning,”
she said.
What could Molly have to tell her? Did she mean that her mother talked
to her? No, for she said that it would be best for her mother not
to know that they had been there. It was a mystery. But that it was
important she was sure. Her imagination was busy, but she could not
guess what it might be.