Father Gottlieb was pleased with the boy’s earnest desire. He was good and pious, and when he saw how full of this high hope was the mind of the young boy, he said, “It is the will of God. He makes the humblest of us tools for the furtherance of his wise designs. His will be done!” And he talked to the Frau Gensfleisch upon the matter, and though he did not think it right to tell her that her son might one day become a great and learned man, yet he persuaded her that it would be wrong to oppose the earnest wishes of Hans who had always been a good, and dutiful, and loving son; and so it was settled between them that henceforth a part of the widow’s savings were to pay for the labor which was required for the field and garden, and that Hans was to come to the convent every day to be taught by the monks to read and write.
Henceforward Hans was to be a scholar, and his joy indeed was great.
We must pass quickly over several years of the time during which Hans Gensfleisch was going through the tedious operation of learning to read and write. We can all of us remember it to be tedious, but in those days it was so even more than now; since there were no such things as spelling books, and children’s story books to help on the young scholar, and the letters were not as plainly written, nor of such a simple form as our English letters. Hans’ reading and spelling book was, perhaps, some musty old parchment manuscript, discolored by age; and he had to pore over it whole hours and days, before he could make out the meaning of a simple page. The monks who had to teach him, too, were not all of them so patient and kind as Father Gottlieb, his uncle, whose duties in the convent did not often allow him to be his young nephew’s instructor; and there were hours and days when Hans grew sadly wearied of the task he had undertaken, and his resolution would waver and falter. Instead of being shut up in that close cell in the convent, where the small and high window allowed only a tiny piece of sky to be seen, and where fresh air scarcely ever entered; how much pleasanter would it be, he often thought, to be out and away on the hills with his bow, or armed with his knife herb-gathering for his mother. His bright vision of being the one who should make books in a new and quick method grew dim in his mind, and other ways of living seemed better and happier. But then again, at such times it would perhaps happen that his uncle would send for him to his own cell, and would make him read to him that he might see his improvement, and would praise him for his progress, and encourage him to go on; so that Hans’ very heart would glow within him, and fresh zeal and courage come to him again, and he would go back to his work refreshed, and pleased, and hopeful as before.