“It would be better a thousand times that I had this in me, a stone like this, than a living heart! Why cannot I be alone? Why did I ever allow myself to like anybody again? But now it’s all over forever! You false, faithless child! Hardly are you able to raise your wings, than off you fly! But it is well. I am alone, and my John shall be alone, too, when he comes—and what I have wished would come to pass, shall never be!”
With that she ran off toward the village.
“She’s a witch, after all,” said Damie when she had disappeared. “I won’t drink the wine—who knows if she has not bewitched it?”
“You can drink it—she’s only a strict Eigenbroetlerin and she has a heavy cross to bear. I know how to win her back again,” said Amrei, consolingly.
THE SISTER OF MERCY
During the next year there was plenty of life in Farmer Rodel’s house. “Barefoot,” for so Amrei was now called, was handy in every way, and knew how to make herself liked by everybody; she could tell the young farmer’s wife, who had come to the place as a stranger, what the customs of the village were; she studied the habits and characters of those around her and learned to adapt herself to them. She managed to do all sorts of kindnesses to old Farmer Rodel, who could not get over his chagrin at having had to retire so early, and grumbled all day long about it. She told what a good girl his daughter-in-law was, only that she did not know how to show it. And when, after scarcely a year, the first child came, Amrei evinced so much joy at the event, and was so handy at everything that had to be done, that all in the house were full of her praise; but according to the fashion of such people they were more ready to scold her for any trifling omission than to praise her openly. But Amrei did not expect any praise. She knew so well how to carry the little baby to its grandfather, and just when to take it away again, that it pleased and surprised everybody. And when the baby’s first tooth came, and Amrei exhibited it to the grandfather, the old man said:
“I will give you a sixpence for the pleasure you have given me. But do you remember the one you stole from me at the wedding—now you may keep it honestly.”
Meanwhile Black Marianne was not forgotten. It was certainly a difficult task to regain her favor. At first Marianne would have nothing to say to Barefoot, whose new mistress would not allow her to go to Marianne’s, especially not with the child, as it was always feared that the witch might do the baby some mischief. Great patience and perseverance were required to overcome this prejudice, but it was accomplished at last. Indeed, Little Barefoot brought matters to such a pass that Farmer Rodel himself several times paid a visit to Black Marianne, a thing which astonished the entire village. These visits, however, were soon discontinued, for Marianne once said: