Veronica’s teacher, Sabina, had been a hunchback from her birth, and had become lame when still young; she had used crutches since she was twenty years old. Like many persons who suffer under physical disabilities, she had clever penetrating eyes, and on this day, she often raised them from the work which she was pursuing with indefatigable industry, to glance at her pupil, who sat opposite. Veronica was at work on the same piece which she had had at home on the previous night, that night which she had passed in such sad forbodings.
After many inquiring glances, Sabina at last said thoughtfully:
“I’m puzzled about you, Veronica. That piece of work you are upon, is wonderfully well done; every stitch is perfectly even, the cloth and the silk are as white as snow; yet you must have done most of it at night, for yesterday afternoon you were not nearly so far along. Whatever you put your hand to, succeeds. Yet your eyebrows grow more and more scowling every day, and your eyes blaze out as if there were a thunder-storm about. What ails you, child? You are the handsomest girl in all the country round when you have a pleasant expression; and you are as tall and straight as a young fir-tree. Don’t you know that?”
“What good does it do me?” asked Veronica, and scowled worse than ever.
“What good? if you did not have it you would know what it is worth,” replied Sabina, quickly. “I can tell you that. Now smooth your forehead, Veronica, and listen to me. I will tell you something that will make you feel better and happier. An Industrial School has been established in Fohrensee and it is proposed to connect with it a work-room for women. They want a teacher and superintendent, and have offered me the place, but I am not strong enough for it. I have told them that you are fully equal to me in skill and knowledge of the work, and a hundred times my superior in freshness and strength and executive ability. There is no doubt that the place is at your disposal. You can lead the life of a lady, Veronica. Your fortune is made.”
For the first time since Sabina began to speak, Veronica raised her eyes from her work. She shook her head sadly and said,
“Not my fortune.”
“‘Not my fortune!’” repeated Sabina angrily, “when I tell you this place is yours! Your fortune is made.”
“I cannot grasp the fortune that is offered me,” said the girl, and bent over her work again.
Sabina’s searching glance seemed to try to penetrate her inmost thought.
“What sort of an expression is that you are using, Veronica? Where did you learn that? I never expected to hear such words from your lips. It is not like you. What put that into your head, child?”
“I will tell you something of my experience, and then you will understand why I use this expression,” said Veronica quietly. “When I was only a little girl I learned a motto which ran thus: