Veronica spoke passionately; with a vehemence that Gertrude had never before heard from her. Her strong, self-controlled nature had never before given way and found expression in words. Now the flood-gates were opened, the stream broke through. Gertrude was distressed at her unwonted emotion. “Veronica,” she said, sadly and lovingly, “this pains me. I had no idea of your feeling; no conception of your having suffered so. You are always so quiet and reserved that I thought you had peace within, though your face is so often clouded with apparent discontent. Now I see that your heart is heavy. If I could only show you the way to peace—that is the way to happiness.
The girl said nothing; she only shook her head as if to say: “Peace is not for me,” and her eyes shone like fire with her inward excitement.
“Veronica,” said Gertrude presently, “to-morrow is Christmas day. Do you remember how when you were little children we always prayed together at night, and how happy you always were at Christmas, and how gladly you said your little prayer? Will you not pray with me now, my child, as we did in those dear old days?”
The girl turned her face aside and wiped away her tears. “I will, mother,” she said, making an effort to control herself, “it will bring back those happy days in memory, and give you a little pleasure.”
She folded her hands and began to repeat the Lord’s prayer. Gertrude followed reverently. When she reached the words, “Forgive us our trespasses,” Veronica hid her face in her hands, and broke into violent sobs.
“No, mother, I must not say it. I cannot forgive him. I cannot forgive Dietrich for having treated you so, and then run away and hidden himself without writing a single word, to tell you where he is. He must know how you are suffering, and I too. And that Judas! I can never, never forgive him. He led Dietrich astray and deceived him. He has destroyed all our happiness. How can I forgive him? Doesn’t he deserve our hatred? Can I help wishing him the worst punishment that ever befell a human being?”
Veronica sobbed as if the long-pent-up agony of her heart would never again submit to be restrained. Silently Gertrude sat with folded hands, waiting till the storm was spent. At last she said softly,
“If I felt as you do, my child, I could not bear it at all. It would kill me. But I do not feel so. When my Dieterli was a little child and I had to do everything for him, before he was old enough to take care of himself, there was much in his character and conduct that made me anxious. He always wanted to be first in everything, and whatever he wished for, that he must have, without delay and without effort on his part. And as he grew older and these qualities strengthened, I often felt that with his headstrong disposition he could never become great and good, without the discipline of a severe school. From the earliest hours of his life, I