Something was now coming along the road with a great cackling and with a cloud of dust flying before it. It was a flock of geese returning from the pasture on the Holderwasen. Amrei abstractedly imitated their cackling for a long time. Then her eyes closed and she fell asleep.
An entire spring-array of blossoms had burst forth in this young soul. The budding trees in the valley, as they drank in the evening dew, shed forth their fragrance over the child who had fallen asleep on her native soil, from which she could not tear herself.
It had long been dark when she awoke, and a voice was crying:
“Amrei, where are you?”
She sat up, but did not answer. She looked wonderingly at the stars,—it seemed to her as if the voice had come from Heaven. Not until the call was repeated did she recognize the voice of Black Marianne, and then she answered:
“Here I am!”
Black Marianne now came up and said:
“Oh, it’s good that I have found you! They are like mad all through the village; one says he saw you in the wood, another that he met you in the fields, that you were running along, crying, and would listen to no call. I began to fear that you had jumped into the pond. You need not be afraid, dear child, you need not run away; nobody can compel you to go with your uncle.”
“And who said that I did not want to go?” But suddenly a gust of wind rustled loudly through the branches of the tree. “But I shall certainly not go!” Amrei cried, holding fast to the tree with her hand.
“Come home—there’s a severe storm coming up, and the wind will blow it here directly,” urged Marianne.
And so Amrei walked, almost staggered, back to the village with Black Marianne. What did it mean—that people had seen her running through field and forest? Or was it only Black Marianne’s fancy?
The night was pitch dark, but now and then bright flashes of lightning illuminated the houses, revealing them in a dazzling glare, which blinded their eyes and compelled them to stand still. And when the lightning disappeared, nothing more could be seen. In their own native village the two seemed as if they were lost, as if they were in a strange place, and they hastened onward with an uncertain step. The dust whirled up in eddies, so that at times they could scarcely make any progress; then, wet with perspiration, they struggled on again, until at last they reached the shelter of their home, just as the first heavy drops of rain began to fall. A gust of wind blew open the door, and Amrei cried:
She was very likely thinking of a fairy tale, in which a magic door opens at a mysterious word.
ON THE HOLDERWASEN
Accordingly, when her uncle came the next morning, Amrei declared that she would remain where she was. There was a strange mixture of bitterness and benevolence in her uncle’s reply: