While speaking she smoothed, with two swift motions of her hands, the brown hair which had become a little disordered while bustling to and fro to attend to the business, dipped her hands into the water pail, dried them quickly on her apron, untied it, and tossed it to the maid. Then she cleared her throat vigorously and left the kitchen.
In reply to the anxious question of her husband, whom she met on the threshold of the room, as to what she was seeking there, she answered firmly, “What is right and pious”; then modestly whispered her request to the abbot.
Her wish was fulfilled without delay, nay, it might really have been supposed that the interruption was very opportune to the distinguished prelate; for, with the brief exclamation, “Imperative official duty!” he rose from the table, and went first with the landlady to Kuni and afterward with the latter to the cart beside the laden potter’s wain, whose white tilt gleamed in the darkness.
The landlady had undertaken to send to the sexton, whose house was near, that he might immediately obtain everything the abbot needed for the dying woman’s viaticum.
Kuni told the sufferer what an exalted servant of the Church was ready to receive her confession and give her the sacrament.
Then she whispered that she might mention Nickel’s burdened soul to the abbot. Whatever happened, she could now depart from earth in peace.
Reserving for herself half of the flowers she had gathered in the garden she glided away, in order not to disturb the dying woman’s confession.
At the edge of the meadow Kuni paused to reflect. She would gladly have flung herself down on the dewy grass to rest, stretched at full length on the cool turf. She was worn out, and her foot ached and burned painfully after her long walk in the warm August night; but something else exerted a still stronger attraction over her poor longing heart; the desire to see Lienhard again and give him the pinks as a token of gratitude for so much kindness.
He was still sitting with the other gentlemen at the table in front of the tavern. One of the torches threw its light full on his manly face. Kuni knew that he could not see her in the darkness surrounding her figure, yet it seemed as though she was meeting the gaze of his sparkling dark eyes. Now he was speaking. How she longed to know what he said. Summoning up her courage, she glided along in the shadow of the wall and sat down behind the oleander bush on the sharp edge of the tub. No one noticed her, but she was afraid that a fit of coughing might betray her presence, so she pressed her apron firmly over her lips and sat straining her ears to listen. In spite of the violent aching of her foot and the loud rattling in her chest, she thought it a specially favourable dispensation of Providence that she had found her way here just at this moment; for Lienhard was still speaking. The others had asked him to tell them connectedly how the beautiful Katharina Harsdtirffer had become his wife, in spite of the opposition of her stern father and though the Honourable Council had punished him for such insubordination with imprisonment and exile.