“When do you play?” she asked.
“We have an hour’s interval after dinner, and another at supper-time, but then we prepare our work for the morrow,” said one of the boys, looking up well satisfied.
“Work! work! Are you always at work?” exclaimed Lucy; “I only study from nine to twelve, and half an hour to get my lessons in the afternoon.”
“You are a maiden,” said the little boy with civil superiority; “your brothers study more hours.”
“More; yes, but not so many as you do. They play from twelve till two, and have a holiday on Saturday.”
“So, you are not industrious. We are. That is the reason why we can all act together, and think together, so much better than any others; and we all stand as one irresistible power, the United Germany.”
Lucy have a little gasp! it was all so very wise.
“May I see your sisters?” she said.
The little sisters, Gretchens and Katchens, were learning away almost as hard as the Hermanns and Fritzes, but the bigger sisters had what Lucy thought a better time of it. One of them was helping in the kitchen, and another in the ironing; but then they had their books and their music, and in the evening all the families came out into the pleasure gardens, and had little tables with coffee before them, and the mamma knitted, and the papas smoked, and the young ladies listened to the band. On the whole, Lucy thought she should not mind living in Germany, if they would not have so many lessons to learn.
“And Uncle Joe is in France, where the fathers and brothers of those little Prussian boys have been fighting. I wish I could see it.”
There was a thunder and a whizzing in the air and a sharp rattling noise besides; a strange, damp unwholesome smell too, mixed with that of gunpowder; and when Lucy looked up, she found herself down some steps in a dark, dull, vaulted-looking place, lined with stone, however, and open to the street above. A little lamp was burning in a corner, piles of straw and bits of furniture were lying about, and upon one of the bundles of straw sat a little rough-haired girl.
“Ah! Madamoiselle, good morning,” she said. “Are you come here to take shelter from the shells? The battery is firing now; I do not think Mamma will come home till it slackens a little. She is gone to my brother who is weak after his wounds. I wish I could offer you something, but we have nothing but water, and it is not even sugared.”
“Do you live down her?” asked Lucy, looking round at the dreary place with wonder.
“Not always. We used to have a pretty little house over this, but the cruel shells came crashing in, and flew into pieces, tearing everything to splinters, and we are only safe from them down here. Ah, if I could only have shown you Mamma’s pretty room! But there is a great hole in the floor now, and the ceiling is all tumbling down, and the table broken.”