Those who charged her with a lamentable lack of perseverance were right; the linen which she began to hem fell into her lap only too soon. When her eyes—which could see nothing here except a small walled yard—closed while she was working, the others thought that she was asleep; but her mind remained awake, though she had lowered her lids, and it wandered restlessly over valleys rivers, and mountains through the wide, wide world. She saw herself in imagination travelling along the highway with nimble jugglers merry musicians, and other care-free vagrant folk, instead of plying the needle. Even the whirling dust, the rushing wind, and the refreshing rain outside seemed desirable compared with the heavy convent air impregnated by a perpetual odour of lavender.
When at last, in the month of March, little Afra, the fair-haired niece of the portress, brought her the first snowdrop, and Kuni saw a pair of starlings enter the box on the budding linden before her window, she could no longer bear her imprisonment in the convent.
Within these walls she must fade, perhaps die and return to dust. In spite of all the warnings, representations, entreaties, and promises of those who—she gratefully perceived it—meant well toward her, she persisted in her desire to be dismissed, to live out of doors as she had always done. At last they paid her what was due, but she accepted only the Emperor’s bounty, proudly refusing Lienhard Groland’s money, earnestly as she was urged to add it to the other and to the viaticum bestowed by the nuns.
The April sun was shining brightly when the convent gates closed behind Kuni. The lindens in the square were already putting forth young leaves, the birds were singing, and her heart swelled more joyously than it had done for many years.
True, the cough which had tormented her all winter attacked her in the shady cloister, but she had learned to use her wooden foot, and with a cane in one hand and her little bundle in the other she moved sturdily on. After making her pilgrimage to Compostella, she intended to seek her old employer, Loni. Perhaps he could give her a place as crier, or if the cough prevented that, in collecting the money or training the children. He was a kind-hearted man. If he were even tolerably prosperous he would certainly let her travel with the band, and give the girl who was injured in his service the bit of food she required. Besides, in former days, when she scattered gold with lavish hands, he had predicted what had now befallen her, and when he left Augsburg he had asked the nuns to tell her that if she should ever be in want she must remember Loni.
With the Emperor’s five heller pounds, and the two florins which she had received as a viaticum from the convent, she could journey a long distance through the world; for there were plenty of carriers and travellers with carts and wagons who would take her for a trifle, and the vagabonds on the highway rarely left people like her in the lurch.