Now Gertrude’s help was needed in earnest, and she did not fail. They were soon in possession of a nice little house of their own, with a garden about it, and no matter how much work she might have to do in the shop, everything in her own province of housekeeping was as well and carefully ordered as if Gertrude had no other business to occupy her time and thoughts. And Steffan, Gertrude and their little Dieterli lived simple, useful and contented lives and were a good example to all the neighborhood.
Now, to-day, Gertrude stood weeping by the window and looked across to the church-yard, where that very morning they had laid her good man. Now she must make her way alone; she had no one to help her, no one belonging to her except her two children, and for them she must work, for she never admitted for a moment that the orphaned Veronica was not hers to care for as well as her own little Dietrich.
She did not lose courage. As soon as the first benumbing effect of her sorrow had passed a little, she gazed up at the shining heavens and said to herself, “He who has sent this trouble will send me strength to bear it;” and in full trust in this strength she went to work, and seemed able to do more than ever.
Her property, outside of the little capital which her husband had laid by, consisted of her house, which was free from debt, and of which she could let a good part. The question was, whether she could carry on the remunerative business that her husband had been engaged in, until little Dietrich should be old enough to assume the direction of it, and pursue it as his father had done before him. Gertrude retained the services of a workman who had been employed by Steffan, and she herself did not relax her labors early and late, to oversee the work and keep all in running order.
For the first few weeks after her mother’s death little Veronica sat every evening weeping silently by herself in a dark corner of the room. When Gertrude found her thus grieving, she asked kindly what ailed her, and again and again, she received only this sorrowful answer,
“I want my mother.”
Gertrude drew the child tenderly towards her, caressing her, and promising her that they would all go together some day to join her mother, who had only gone on before, that she might get strong and well again. And gradually this second mother grew to take the place of her own, and no game, no amusement could draw the loving child away from Gertrude’s side. Only Dietrich could succeed in enticing her to go with him now and then.
The lad’s love for his mother showed itself in a louder and more demonstrative manner. He often threw his arms about her neck, crying passionately,
“My mother belongs to me and to nobody else.”
Then Veronica’s brows would knit over her flashing eyes, until they formed a long straight line across her face. But she did not speak. And Gertrude would put one arm about the boy’s neck and the other about the little girl’s, and say,