Imágenes de páginas

room. In the little court was a cistern, in which Magdalena plentifully bathed her face, neck, and hands. She then returned as noiselessly as she came, listened for a moment to her mother's quiet breathing, then sunk down upon her knees by the bedside, and whispered her fervent morning prayer. Her knitting was now found in its accustomed place, and she plied her needles merrily, till a faint gleam of day stole into the darkened window. Her work was then laid aside, and, by the help of a tinder-box, she kindled a fire in the stove, in order to prepare breakfast.

"What smell of smoke is this?" asked the mother, waking up, and coughing.

"Good morning, dear mother!" cried Lenny, cheerfully. "The wood is rather wet, and the stove is full of cracks; but I'll see if I can't make it do better." She brought some lime, ready prepared in an earthen pot, and plastered it skillfully over the seams through which the smoke found its way.

"Raise me up!" said the mother. Lenny bent over her; she put both her arms round the child's neck, who then, by the exertion of all her strength, drew up the heavy burden. With great tenderness she then adjusted the pillow to the sick woman's back, who cried impatiently, "Where does that terrible draught come from which chills my neck? Is the window open?"

"O, I see," said Lenny, examining the window. "The moisture has softened the paper over the broken pane, and it has become loose on one side." She hastened to cover the opening with an old oil painting, which seemed to stand ready for this use. "Is the coffee ready?" asked the mother.

"In a twinkling, dear mamma. Only think, mamma," she continued, "what a lucky little body I always am! Here I have a whole dish full of noble beef-bones, out of which I can make you such a fine, rich broth! And the cook at the hotel has promised to save me the coffee-grounds every day, if I will just wash out the coffee-bags. So we shall have some real coffee this morning, instead of such poor stuff as burnt barley and carrots."

"But why do you go barefoot, child?" asked the mother, looking at Lenny's naked feet. "You will be chilled on the cold stone floor. Can't you get on your shoes?"

"Don't fret about it, dear mamma! I want to save them. The soles are so thin-oh, just as thin as a poppy-leaf-and the heels pretty well run down, too."

"Oh dear!" sighed the poor invalid, "what are we coming to? It seems but yesterday that you had the shoes."

"But think, mamma, what a heap of money I am going to earn with Master Schmidt; and our kind Father in Heaven has never forsaken us yet.”

"Yes!--but he lets us wait a great while sometimes," said the broken-spirited woman, in a low voice.

"When need is most sore, help is near at the door!" replied Lenny, casting a look full of the tenderest sympathy upon her poor crippled parent, who could with difficulty make the slightest


"God forgive me," cried the mother, bursting into tears: "God forgive me for complaining while He spares me thee. Blessings on my dutiful child !”

"Is not Raphael yet awake?" asked she, after a pause. At this moment a stir was heard behind the stove, and a little boy, half dressed, came groping his way across the floor. Lenny stepped toward him, took his curly head between both her hands, and kissing him upon his forehead, said fondly, "Good morning, dear bubby!" He returned her kiss, but immediately asked, in an anxious tone: "What ails my Jackey? He doesn't sing!" "Because it's too dark, darling. He can't find his way out of Sleepy-land."

"Ah," said the mother, "everything is forgotten for his bird, -even good morning to his mother."

"Don't be angry, mamma!" said the boy, finding his way to her bedside. "I did not know that you were awake. I have been dreaming that a man took away our Jackey, and I didn't know what I was about. Good morning, dear mamma!" He felt after her hand, and kissed it with much affection.

Meanwhile Lenny had placed the mended porcelain cup and two little earthen mugs upon the table. Then drawing from her hand-basket a three-penny loaf, she cried with childish glee: "Only see what I got from the baker's wife at the corner yester

day, just for helping her Christette sweep the sidewalk! To be sure, it's rather dry; but it will soften in the coffee. Milk, too!" she added, "but, indeed, no sugar." She drew the table to her mother's bedside, and the little family gathered round it with lively pleasure.

At this moment the yellow Canary bird sent out a clear warble from his narrow cage. "Jackey! my Jackey!" cried Raphael, in an ecstasy.

"Hush!" said the mother; "let us, like him, praise God, before we eat!" With a weak, trembling tone, she began:

"To God my morning thanks shall rise!"

"Exalt him, O my soul !" struck in the children, with their clear young voices; and thus they sang through their hymn of praise, accompanied by the rapturous notes of the feathered songster.

Lenny now divided the loaf into three parts, and poured out the hot coffee. Her lively prattle, the sweet music of a heart filled with a sense of duty well performed, gave double relish to the breakfast. Minute after minute flew by in pleasant talk and laughter, and even the poor, bed-ridden mother forgot for a while her bodily sufferings.

By this time the little dark room, which was on the ground floor, and opened into a court built round on all sides, had become somewhat lighter. Lenny took her needle, to repair her sadly worn frock. Raphael gathered up a heap of silk floss, which he began to pick over very diligently. The children ceased talking; the mother opened a book. Now and then the sweet whistle of the bird gently broke the silence.

By-and-bye heavy steps were heard crossing the stone flags of the court. A pair of stout knuckles rapped at the door, and before the "Walk in" could slip from Lenny's lips, it was pushed open, and a man entered. He could not see at first in the dim light, stared confusedly round, and asked, "Does Mrs. Tuben live here???

"Ah, Master Schmidt! Mother, good Master Schmidt is come to see us!" exclaimed Magdalena, joyfully bounding to

ward him. The mother vainly tried to rise a little in the bed, to greet him; Raphael slid with his work behind the stove.

"How now ?" said the potter; "I thought you must be sick, or dead, since you have left me in the lurch these two days. Is anything the matter?" Lenny looked up in surprise. "I went to your shop," said she, "and asked your apprentice to tell you that my mother had another bad turn of rheumatism. not move herself, so I have had to stay at home."


She could

Never a word did the scapegrace say to me about it. But wait a little, I'll fetch him to his recollection. Let me just get home. But where's thy mother? Much rejoiced to be acquainted with her. Good daughter, good mother! The rheumatism has she? Bad disease that. We potters know what it is. Have to work over the clay with our bare feet, in the heart of winter, to make it fine. Then come the twinges! Dear me, what a kennel of a room! The healthiest man would die here. Dark as a cellar. Then, the charming neighborhood! on one hand the cistern, on the other the dunghill. As true as life, the water is running from the walls in streams. Cold too, and yet smokes. Poor things!" The stove now caught his eye. "Mighty fine stove,. to be sure. Made before the flood. Cracked and botched, like my apprentice's old sheepskin cloak. Must talk to the landlord. He'll say I want to trade off a stove.* Never mind! Shame, shame, to rent such a hole as this to human beings!" Walking around the stove, as he thus soliloquized, he had nearly fallen over the little Raphael, who sat behind it.

"What!" cried he, in astonishment, "one 'more! You'll spoil your eyes, my laddy, in this Egyptian darkness. Picking over floss? You'll make yourself blind, I tell you.”

Magdalena sighed, and the mother, with a mournful voice, said, "He is so already!"

Master Schmidt started back. "B-l-i-n-d!" stammered he. He drew the child hastily toward the window. "Look at me, my boy!" said he.

"I cannot see!" said little Raphael, with gentle sweetness; *The Russian stove, constructed of brick, and faced with earthen or China tiling.

at the same time lifting up his sightless eyes toward the speaker's face.

There is something almost fearful in such a look. The eyes are indeed formed as in others, but lustreless and dead, with no reflection of the living spirit within. The kind-hearted potter turned quickly away, and began to busy himself about the stove again; but it was only to hide the honest tears which dropped from his eyes. Goodness! what an affliction !" said he at last. "And, Lenny, thou said'st not a word about it. Say, has he been long blind?"

[ocr errors]

"Since his second year," replied the mother."

"Ah, it was? How did it happen?"

"We don't know," said she.

"It was too late when we first

noticed it. He could then hardly see."

"My good lad," said Master Schmidt, "dost thou remember how the blue sky, the blazing sun, or the face of thy mother looks?"

Raphael shook his head slowly and thoughtfully.

"Nothing of the green trees, of the gay flowers, the white snow? Canst not fancy how the rushing river looks, with its sailing ships; the beautiful meadow, with its flocks of sheep; the forest, with its green leaves; the"

The mother covertly gave a sign to the good man, who now perceived that the child's face wore a dejected expression, and changed the conversation.

"But thou hast some pleasure, my lad, though thou canst not see, hast thou not ?”

Raphael's countenance brightened up, as he softly replied, “O, yes; I am glad when mamma is pleased with me; when Lenny strokes my head; when I eat and drink, and lie in my warm bed; when I have picked out a good bunch of floss, and when our Jackey sings !"

The potter mused a while. "Thou art right," said he at last. "Thou art far happier than a thousand other creatures. Thou canst hear thy bird sing, canst hear the sweet music of thy mother's and sister's voices, canst tell thy wants, canst talk with others. If thou canst not see flowers, thou canst smell their

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »