IN THE CASTLE
The next afternoon, after planning a pleasant walk for Leonore and Maezli, Mrs. Maxa started on her way to the castle. As soon as she neared the grated iron door it opened wide, and holding his hat in his hand, Mr. Trius stood deeply bowing in the opening.
“May I see the Baron?” asked Mrs. Maxa.
After another reverence Mr. Trius led the visitor up the hill, and when he had duly announced her, invited her with a third bow to step forward. It was quite evident that Mr. Trius had been definitely ordered to change his usual mode of behaviour.
Mrs. Maxa now approached the chair near the pine tree.
“Have you really come, Mrs. Maxa?” said the sick man, putting out his hand. “Did no bitter feelings against the evil-doer keep you back?”
Mrs. Maxa pressed the proffered hand and replied, “I could wish for no greater joy, Baron, than to have your door opened for me. I have wondered oftener than you could think if this would ever happen, for I wanted an opportunity to serve you. I know no bitter feelings and never have known them. Everybody who has loved this castle and its inmates has known they suffered grief and pain.”
“I returned to this old cave here to die,” said the Baron. “You can see plainly that I am a broken man. I only wished to forget the past in this solitude, and I thought it right for me to die forgotten. Then your little girl came in here one day—I have not been able to discover how.”
“Oh, please forgive her,” said Mrs. Maxa. “It is a riddle to me, too, how she succeeded in entering this garden. I knew nothing about it till yesterday evening when the children came home from the castle. I am terribly afraid that Maezli has annoyed you.”
“She has not done so at all, for she is her mother’s true child,” said the Baron. “She was so anxious to help me and to bring me what I lacked. Because she loved Leonore so much, she wanted me to know her, too, but I cannot understand Leonore. She begged and begged to be allowed to see her uncle, as she wished to live with him and love him like a father. She even longs to seek him out in a foreign country. What shall I do? Please give me your advice, Mrs. Maxa.”
“There is only one thing to do, Baron,” the lady replied with an overflowing heart. “God Himself has done what we never could have accomplished, despite all our wishes. The child has been led into your arms by God and therefore belongs to you from now on. You must become her father and let her love and take care of you. You will soon realize what a treasure she is, and through her the good old times will come back to this castle. You will grow young again yourself as soon as you two are here together.”
The Baron replied: “Our dear Maxa always saw things in an ideal light. How could a delicate child like Leonore fit into a wilderness like this castle. Everything here is deserted and forlorn. Just think of the old watchman here and me, what miserable housemates we should be. Won’t you receive the child in your house, for she clearly longs to have a home? I know that she will find one there and apparently has found it already. She can learn by and by who her uncle is and then she can come to visit him sometimes.”