At last however, came a silence, when lo! Mr. Birkenfeld drew a huge bundle from beneath his chair, and began to open the wrapper, while the children looked on with the greatest interest, knowing very well that that bundle held some gift for each one of them. First came a pair of shining spurs for “big Jule,” then a lovely book with blue covers for Paula. Next a long bow with a quiver and two feather arrows. “This is for Rolf,” said the father, adding as he showed the boy the sharp points of the arrows, “and for Rolf only, for he knows how to use it properly. It is not a plaything, and Wili and Lili must never dream of playing with it, for they might easily hurt themselves and others with it.”
There was a beautiful Noah’s Ark for the twins, with fine large animals all in pairs, and Noah’s family, all the men with walking-sticks and all the women with parasols, all ready for use whenever they should leave the ark.
Last of all, little Hunne had a wonderfully constructed nutcracker, that made a strange grimace as if he were lamenting all the sins of the world. He opened his big jaws as if he were howling, and when they were snapped together, he gnashed his teeth as if in despair, and cracked a nut in two without the slightest trouble so that the kernel fell right out from the shell.
The children were full of admiration over both their own and each others’ presents, and their joy and gratitude broke out afresh at every new inspection of each.
At last the mother stood up and said that they must all go into the house, for it was long after the children’s usual bed-time. At this their father arose, and called out,
“Who has guessed the charade?”
Not one had even thought of it, except to be sure, the author.
“Well, I have guessed it myself,” said their father, as no one spoke. “It must be ‘welcome,’ is it not, Rolf? I will touch glasses with you, my boy, and thank you very much for your charade.”
Just as Rolf was raising his glass towards his father’s to drink his health, a terrible shriek arose, “It is burning, it is burning!” Everybody ran from under the apple-tree; Battiste and Trine came from the house with tubs and buckets, Hans from the stable with a pail in each hand; all screaming and shouting together.
“The bush is on fire! the hedge is on fire!” There was terrible noise and confusion.
“Dora! Dora!” cried a voice of distress from the cottage behind the hedge, and Dora rose from her hiding place and hurried into the house. She had been so completely absorbed by what had been taking place under the apple-tree, though indeed she saw and heard but imperfectly, that she had entirely forgotten everything else, and it was full two hours that she had been lying all doubled up in the gap under the hedge.
Her aunt was flying back and forth, complaining and scolding. She had collected all her things from the drawers and the presses, and heaped them together, ready for flight.