“Take it,” she said, “be quiet, and do not get up from your seats till I come back;” and she hurried from the room.
The little girl took the prettily-painted rose, in her hand; it was an old acquaintance, her favorite Sunday plaything.
When her mother wanted to secure a quiet hour for herself on Sundays, she used to give her “Fortune rose” to her little Veronica, and it was sure to occupy the child for a long time in perfect contentment.
“Look, this is the way you must do,” said the child, as she pulled with her fingers a small strip of paper that stood out from the side of the picture; suddenly before the astonished eyes of the boy the red full calix of the rose flew open, disclosing a glittering golden verse that lay in the centre of the flower. Then Veronica pushed the paper-strip back, and the rose folded its leaves and was a perfect flower again.
Quite dazzled by this wonderful magic the little boy stared with amazement at the rose, and then seized it to try for himself.
While the children were playing, Veronica’s mother was being laid in her grave. After awhile Cousin Judith came back into the room. She was “cousin” to all Tannenegg, though related to no one. She came back to take the rose, and put it into the hook, which she replaced in the cup-board. “Sit still awhile longer, children;” she said, “and presently your mother will come for you. Be good and do not trouble her, for she has enough to bear already.”
It was the little boy’s mother she meant, and the children knew it. They knew also very well, that they must be good and not trouble her, for they had seen her for two days going about the house with eyes red with weeping. Presently she entered the room, and took the children one by each hand, and went to the door with them. She seemed to be struggling with sad and heavy thoughts. She usually spoke cheerily to the children, but now she was silent, and every now and then she furtively wiped away a tear.
“Where are we going, mother?” asked the boy.
“We must go to the doctor’s, Dietrich,” she answered, “your father is very ill.” And she led them along the foot path toward the little town, where the white houses shone in the sunlight. Fohrensee was a new place, that had sprung up as if in one night from the soil, and now stood there a great white spot against the dark hillside. Not long before, it had been only a little cluster of houses standing in a protected spot on the side of the hill, not very far below Tannenegg. It was so situated that the biting north wind, which blew so sharply over the exposed houses of Tannenegg, did not reach the nook where little Fohrensee lay bathed in the full light of the sun. But the little place was high enough to be visited by all the cooling breezes, and was healthy, pure and fresh, to a remarkable degree. When, not long before this time, an enterprising inn-keeper discovered its health-giving qualities,