“‘Come with me,’ he said to two of them, when everything had been made ready for a trip. They hastened home with him, as he commanded.
“‘Is the oatmeal ready?’ he cried, rushing breathless into the kitchen,
“His wife had just finished her work. The men lifted the kettle from the fire and ran with it to the waiting boat. It was placed in the stern and the oarsmen sprang to their places.
“’Pull, men! Pull with all the strength you have, and we will go to Strasburg in time to show those stupid people that, if it should be necessary, we live near enough to them to give them a hot supper.’
“How the men worked! They rowed as they had never rowed before.
“They passed one village after another. Still they moved onward without stopping, till they found themselves at the pier of Strasburg.
“The councillor jumped out of the boat, telling two of his men to follow with the great pot of oatmeal. He led the way to the council-house, where he burst in with his strange present.
“‘I bring you a warm answer to your cold words,’ he told the surprised councillors. He spoke truly, for the pot was still steaming. How amused they all were!
“‘What a clever fellow he is,’ they said among themselves. ’Surely we will agree to make the bond with Zurich, if it holds many men like him.’
“The bond was quickly signed and then, with laughter and good-will, the councillors gathered around the kettle with spoons and ate every bit of the oatmeal.
“‘It is excellent,’ they all cried. And indeed it was still hot enough to burn the mouths of those who were not careful.”
“Good! Good!” cried the children, and they laughed heartily, even though it was a joke against their own people.
Their father and mother had also listened to the story and enjoyed it as much as the children.
“Another story, please, dear Uncle Fritz,” they begged.
But their father pointed to the clock. “Too late, too late, my dears,” he said. “If you sit up any longer, your mother will have to call you more than once in the morning. So, away to your beds, every one of you.”
“How would you like to be a wood-cutter, Hans?”
“I think it would be great sport. I like to hear the thud of the axe as it comes down on the trunk. Then it is always an exciting time as the tree begins to bend and fall to the ground. Somehow, it seems like a person. I can’t help pitying it, either.”
Hans had come over to the next village on an errand for his father. A big sawmill had been built on the side of the stream, and all the men in the place were kept busy cutting down trees in the Black Forest, or working in the sawmill.
After the logs had been cut the right length, they were bound into rafts, and floated down the little stream to the Rhine.