“It is time to go in,” said the mother now, taking the two youngest by the hand. Kurt followed. It had not escaped him that an expression of sorrow had spread over his mother’s face after his words. He hated to see his mother worried.
“Oh, mother,” he said confidently, “there is no reason for you to be upset. If Bruno does anything to them, they are sure to give it back to him in double measure. They’ll do it in a sneaky way, because they are afraid of him in the open field.”
“Do you really think that this reassures me, Kurt?” she asked turning towards him. Kurt now realized that his words could not exactly comfort his mother, but he felt that some help should be found, for he was always able to discover such a good side to every evil, that the latter was swallowed up. He saw an advantage now. “You know, mother, when Bruno has discharged his thunder, it is all over for good. Then he is like a scrubbed out gun-barrel, all clean and polished. Isn’t that better than if things would keep sticking there?”
Mea, standing at the open window, was beckoning to the approaching group with lively gestures; it meant that the time for supper was already overdue. Kurt, rushing to her side, informed her that their mother meant to tell them the story of Wallerstaetten as soon as everything was quiet that night and the little ones were put to bed: “Just mark now if we won’t hear about the ghost of Wallerstaetten,” he remarked at the end. Kurt was mistaken, however. Everything was still and quiet long ago, the little ones were in bed and the last lessons were done. But Bruno had not yet returned. Over and over again the mother looked at the clock.
“You must not be afraid, mother, that they will have a quarrel, because the rector is with them,” Kurt said consolingly.
Now rapid steps sounded outside, the door was violently flung open and Bruno appeared, pale with rage: “Those two mean creatures, those malicious rascals; the sneaky hypocrites!—the—the—”
“Bruno, no more please,” the mother interrupted. “You are beside yourself. Come sit down with us and tell us what happened as soon as you feel more quiet; but no more such words, please.”
It took a considerable time before Bruno could tell his experience without breaking out again. He told them finally that the rector had mentioned the castle of High Ems in their lessons that day. After asking his pupils if they had ever inspected the famous ruins they had all said no, so the rector invited the three big boys to join him in a walk to see the castle. It was quite a distance away and they had examined the ruins very thoroughly. Afterwards the rector had taken them to a neighboring inn for a treat, so that it was dark already when they were walking down the village street. “Just where the footpath, which comes from the large farmhouse crosses the road,” Bruno continued, “Loneli came running along with a full milk-bottle in her