With that she stretched out her hand, for Mrs. Maxa was looking at her intently. Leonore had quickly taken off her shawl and jacket.
“May I give it to them?” she asked Mrs. Maxa in a low voice.
The beggar-woman had already noticed the girl’s gesture and stretched out her hands in her direction.
“I am glad, young lady, that you have pity for these homeless ones, even if you do not know what that means. God bless you!”
Leonore looked imploringly into Mrs. Maxa’s face. The latter nodded, as it was too late now to explain to Leonore what action would have been better. She made up her mind to do it afterwards for similar occasions. With many words the poor woman thanked her for the gift. She was very anxious to kiss the young lady’s hand for the two garments, but Leonore had immediately run away. Mea followed and found Leonore, who had been so merry on the walk, sitting in her sofa-corner, crying bitterly with her head between her hands.
“What is the matter, Leonore? Why do you cry so terribly?” Mea, asked, quite frightened.
She could not answer at once. The mother and the other children had come in, too, and now they all surrounded the sobbing girl in great amazement and sympathy.
“That is the way I am,” she said at last, sobbing aloud, “I am homeless like them. Anyone who is homeless has to remain so always, and it is terrible. That is what the woman said, and I believe her. How should one find a home if one can’t look for one?”
Leonore had never before broken out into such passionate grief. Mrs. Maxa looked at her very sorrowfully.
“She is a real Wallerstaetten at the bottom of her heart,” she said to herself. “That will mean more struggles for her than I thought.”
At a sign from her the children plainly understood that she asked them to go into the garden for a little while. Sitting down beside Leonore, she took her hand between her own and waited till the violent outbreak had ceased.
Then she said tenderly: “Oh, Leonore, don’t you remember what you told me once when you were ill and I was sitting on your bed? You told me that you found a song among your mother’s music which always comforted you when you seemed to lose courage and confidence in God. You said that it always made you feel that He was not forgetting you and your brother, and that he is looking after you in whatever way is best for you, even if you can’t recognize it now. Have you forgotten this? Can you tell me your favorite verse in it?”
“Oh, yes, I can,” said Leonore, “it is the verse:
God, who disposest all things well,
I want but what thou givest me,
Oh how can we thine acts foretell,
When Thou art far more wise than we?
“Yes, I always feel better when I think of that,” Leonore added after a time in a totally changed voice. “It makes me happy because I know that God can do for us what Salo and I can’t do for ourselves. But when everything stays the same for so long and there is no prospect of any change, it is so hard to keep this faith. If we can’t do anything for ourselves, it seems as if everything would have to be that way. The woman said that if anybody is homeless once, he has to remain that way for the rest of his life.”