[Illustration: Looking anxiously
at the babe in her arms.
_See page 42._]
A TALE OF THE BLACK FOREST
BY THE AUTHOR OF
"LITTLE HAZEL, THE KING'S MESSENGER"
"UNDER THE OLD OAKS; OR, WON BY LOVE"
THOMAS NELSON AND SONS, LTD.
LONDON, EDINBURGH, AND NEW YORK
I. LOST IN THE WOODS 9
II. THE WOOD-CUTTER'S HUT 16
III. FRIDA'S FATHER 23
IV. THE PARSONAGE 29
V. THE WOODMEN'S PET 36
VI. ELSIE AND THE BROWN BIBLE 42
VII. IN DRINGENSTADT 46
VIII. THE VIOLIN-TEACHER AND THE CONCERT 54
IX. CHRISTMAS IN THE FOREST 68
X. HARCOURT MANOR 76
XI. IN THE RIVIERA 86
XII. IN THE GREAT METROPOLIS 95
XIII. IN THE SLUMS 104
XIV. THE OLD NURSE 115
XV. THE POWER OF CONSCIENCE 127
XVI. THE STORM 131
XVII. THE DISCOVERY 137
XVIII. OLD SCENES 151
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
at the babe in her arms _Frontispiece_
Ere the child consented to go to bed she
opened the little "brown book" 17
"Come, Frida," she said, "let us play the last
passage together" 66
LOST IN THE WOODS.
"When my father and my mother forsake
me, then the Lord will
take me up."
"See, Hans, how dark it gets, and thy father not yet home! What keeps
him, thinkest thou? Supper has been ready for a couple of hours, and who
knows what he may meet with in the Forest if the black night fall!" and
the speaker, a comely
woman, crossed herself as she
spoke. "I misdoubt me something is wrong. The saints preserve
The boy, who looked about ten years old, was gazing in the direction of
a path which led through the Forest, but, in answer to this appeal,
said, "Never fear, Muetterchen; father will be all right. He never loses
his way, and he whistles so loud as he walks that I am sure he will
frighten away all the bad--"
But here his mother laid her hand on his mouth, saying, "Hush, Hans!
never mention them in the twilight; 'tis not safe. Just run to the
opening in the wood and look if ye see him coming; there is still light
enough for that. It will not take you five minutes to do so. And then
come back and tell me, for I must see to the pot now, and to the infant
in the cradle."
The night, an October one, was cold, and the wind was rising and sighing
amongst the branches of the pine trees. Darker and darker gathered the
shades, as mother and son stood again at the door of their hut after
Hans had returned from his useless
quest. No sign of his father had he
seen, and boy though he was, he knew too much of the dangers that attend
a wood-cutter's life in the Forest not to fear that some evil might have
befallen his father; but he had a brave young heart, and tried to
comfort his mother.
"He'll be coming soon now, Muetterchen," he said; "and won't he laugh at
us for being so frightened?"
But the heart of the wife was too full of fear to receive comfort just
then from her boy's words.
"Nay, Hans," she said; "some evil has befallen
him. He never tarries so
late. Thy father is not one to turn aside to his mates' houses and
gossip away his time as others do. It is always for home and children
that he sets out when his work is done. No, Hans; I know the path to the
place where he works, and I can follow it even in the dark. Stay here
and watch by the cradle
of the little Annchen, whilst
I go and see if I
can find thy father."
"Nay, Muetterchen," entreated the boy; "thee must not go. And all alone
too! Father would never have let you do so had he been here. O Mutter,
stay here! Little Annchen will be waking and wanting
you, and how could
I quiet her? O Muetterchen, go not!" and he clung to her, trying
Just as his mother, maddened with terror, was freeing herself from his
grasp, the sound of a footstep
struck her ear, and mother and child
together exclaimed, "Ah, there he comes!"
Sure enough through the wood a man's figure became visible, but he was
evidently heavily laden. He carried, besides his axe and saw, two large
bundles. What they were could not be distinguished
in the darkness.
With a cry of joyouswelcome
his wife sprang
forward to meet her
husband, and Hans ran eagerly
to help him to carry his burden; but to
he said, though in a kindly tone, "Elsie--Hans, keep off
from me till I am in the house."
The lamp was lighted, and a cheerful
blaze from the stove, the door of
which was open, illumined the little room into which the stalwart young
wood-cutter, Wilhelm Hoerstel, entered.
Then, to the utter astonishment
of his wife and son, he displayed his
bundle. Throwing back a large shawl which completely covered the one he
held in his arms, he revealed a sleeping
child of some five or six years
old, who grasped tightly
in her hand a small book. In his right hand he
held a violin
and a small bag.
Elsie gazed with surprise, not unmingled with fear. "What meaneth these
things, Wilhelm?" she said; "and from whence
comes the child? _Ach_, how
wonderfully beautiful she is! Art sure she is a child of earth? or is
this the doing of some of the spirits of the wood?"
At these words Wilhelm laughed. "Nay, wife, nay," he replied, and his
voice had a sad ring in it as he spoke. "This is no wood sprite, if such
there be, but a little maiden
of flesh and blood. Let me rest, I pray
thee, and lay the little one on the bed; and whilst
I take my supper I
will tell thee the tale."
And Elsie, wise woman as she was, did as she was asked, and made ready
the simple meal, set it on the wooden
bench which served as table, then
drew her husband's chair nearer the stove, and restraining her
curiosity, awaited his readiness
to begin the tale.
When food and heat had done their work, Wilhelm felt refreshed; and when
Elsie had cleared the table, and producing her knitting
herself beside him, he began his story; whilst
Hans, sitting on a low
stool at his feet, gazed with wondering eyes now on the child sleeping
on the bed, and then at his father's face.
"Ay, wife," the wood-cutter began, speaking
in the _Plattdeutsch_ used
by the dwellers in the Forest, "'tis a wonderful story I have to tell.
'Twas a big bit of work I had to finish to-day, first cutting and then
piling up the wood far in the Forest. I had worked hard, and was
wearying to be home with you and the children; but the last pile had to
be finished, and ere it was so the evening was darkening and the wind
was rising. So when the last log was laid I collected my things, and
putting on my blouse, set off at a quick pace for home. But remembering
I had a message to leave at the hut of Johann Schmidt, telling him to
meet me in the morning to fell a tree that had been marked for us by the
forester, I went round that way, which thou knowest leads deeper into
the Forest. Johann had just returned from his work, and after exchanging
a few words I turned homewards.
"The road I took was not my usual one, but though it led through a very
dark part of the Forest, I thought it was a shorter way. As I got on I
was surprised to see how dark it was. Glimpses of light, it is true,
were visible, and the trees assumed strange shapes, and the Forest
streams glistened here and there as the rising moon touched them
with its beams. But the gathering
clouds soon obscured the faint
moonlight.--You will laugh, Hans, when I tell you that despite
have so often said to you about not believing in the woodland
that even your good Muetterchen believes in, my heart beat quicker as now
one, now another of the gnarled trunks of the lower trees presented the
appearance of some human form; but I would not let my fear master me, so
only whistled the louder to keep up my courage, and pushed on my way.
"The Forest grew darker and darker, and the wind began to make a wailing
sound in the tree-tops. A sudden fear came over me that I had missed my
way and was getting deeper into the Forest, and might not be able to
regain my homeward
path till the morning dawned, when once more for a
few minutes the clouds parted and the moon shone out, feeble, no
doubt--for she is but in her first quarter--and her beams fell right
through an opening
in the wood, and revealed the figure of a little
child seated at the foot of a fir tree. Alone in the Forest at that
time of night! My heart seemed to stand still, and I said to myself,
'Elsie is right after all. That can only be some spirit child, some
in a little voice full of fear roused me and made me approach
the child. She looked up, ere she could see my face, and again repeated
the words in German (though not like what we speak here, but more the
language of the town, as I spoke it when I lived there as a boy),
'Father, father, I am glad you've come. I was feeling very frightened.
It is so dark here--so dark!' As I came nearer she gave a little cry of
disappointment, though not fear; and then I knew it was no woodland
sprite, but a living child who sat there alone at that hour in the
Forest. My heart went out to her, and kneeling down beside her I asked
her who she was, and how she came to be there so late at night. She
answered, in sweet childish
accents, 'I am Frida Heinz, and fader and I
were walking through this big, big Forest, and by-and-by are going to
see England, where mother used to live long ago.' It was so pretty to
hear her talk, though I had difficulty in making out the meaning of her
words. 'But where then is your father?' I asked. I believe, wife, the
language I spoke was as difficult for her to understand as the words she
were to me, for she repeated
them over as if wondering what
they meant. Then trying
to recall the way I had spoken
when a boy, which
I have never quite forgotten, I repeated
my question. She understood,
and answered in her sweet babyish accents, 'Fader come back soon, he
told little Frida. He had lost the road, and he said I'se to wait here
till he came back, and laid his violin
and his bag 'side me, and told me
to keep this little book, which he has taught me to read, 'cos he says
mother loved it so. Then he went away; and I've waited--oh so long, and
he's never come back, and I'se cold, so cold, and hungry, and I want my
own fader. O kind man, take Frida to him. And he's ill, so ill too! Last
night I heard the people in the place we slept in say he'd never live to
go through the Forest; but he would go, 'cos he wanted to take me 'cross
the sea.' Then the pretty little creature began to cry bitterly, and beg
me again to take her to father. I told her I would wait a bit with her,
and see if he came. For more than an hour I sat there beside her, trying
to warm and comfort her; for I tell you, Elsie, she seemed to creep into
my heart, and reminded me of our little one, who would have been about
her size had she been alive, though she was but three years old when she
"Well, time went on, and the night grew darker, and I knew how troubled
you would be, and yet I knew not what to do. I left the child for a bit,
and looked here and there in the Forest; but all was dark, and though I
called long and loud no answer came. So I returned, took the child in my
arms (for she is but a light weight), and with my tools thrown over my
shoulder, and the violin
and bag in my hand, I made my way home. The
child cried awhile, saying
she must wait for fader, then fell sound
asleep in my arms. Now, wife, would it not be well to undress
give her some food ere she sleeps again, for she must be hungry?"
THE WOOD-CUTTER'S HUT.
"Jesus, tender Shepherd, hear me;
Bless Thy little lamb to-night."
"Indeed you are right, Wilhelm," said his wife. "No doubt the poor
little maid must be hungry, only I had not the heart to waken her.--See,
Hans, there is some goat's milk in the corner yonder. Get it heated,
whilst I cut a bit of this bread, coarse
though it be. 'Tis all we have
to give her; but such as it is, she is right welcome
to it, poor little
As she spoke she moved quietly to the bed where the child lay asleep. As
she woke she uttered the cry, "Fader, dear fader!" then raised herself
and looked around. Evidently the story of the day flashed upon her, and
she turned eagerly
to the wood-cutter, asking if "fader" had come yet.
On being told that he had not, she said no more, but her eyes filled
with tears. She took the bread and milk without resistance, though she
looked at the black bread as if it were repugnant to her. Then she let
herself be undressed by Elsie, directing her to open the bag, and
taking from it a nightdress of fine calico, a brush and comb, also a
large sponge, a couple of fine towels, a change of underclothing, two
pairs of stockings, and one black dress, finer than the one she wore.
[Illustration: Ere the child consented to go to bed she opened the
little "brown book."]
Ere the child consented to go to bed she opened the little "brown book,"
which was a German Bible, and read aloud, slowly but distinctly, the
last verse of the Fourth Psalm: "Ich liege und schlafe ganz mit Frieden;
denn allein Du, Herr, hilfst mir, dass ich sicher wohne" ("I will both
lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in
safety"). Then she knelt down, and prayed in simple words her evening
prayer, asking God to let father come home, and to bless the kind people
who had given her a shelter, for Christ's sake.
Elsie and Wilhelm looked at each other with amazement. Alas! there was
no fear of God in that house. Elsie might cross herself when she spoke
of spirits, but that was only as a superstitious
sign that she had been
told frightened them away.
Of Christ and His power to protect and save they knew nothing. Roman
Catholics by profession, they yet never darkened a church door, save
perhaps when they took a child to be baptized; but they only thought of
as a protection
to their child from the evil one. God's
holy Word was to them a sealed book. True, all the wood-cutters were not
like them, but still a spirit of ignorance
religion reigned amongst
them; and if now and then a priest
dwelling, his words (such as they were) fell on dull ears. Things seen
and temporal engrossed all their thoughts. The daily work, the daily
bread, and the nightly
sleep--these filled their hearts and excluded
God. So it was not to be wondered at that little Frida's reading
prayer were an astonishment
"What think you of that, Elsie?" said Wilhelm. "The child spoke as if
she were addressing some one in the room."
"Ay, ay," answered his wife. "It was gruesome to hear her. She made me
look up to see if there was really any one there; and she wasn't
speaking to our Lady either. Art sure she is a child of earth at all,