by Louisa M. Alcott
"Grandmother, what is this curious
picture about?" said little Gertrude, or
"Trudel," as they called her, looking up from
the red book that lay on her knee, one Sunday
morning, when she and the grandmother sat
sadly together in the neat kitchen; for the
father was very ill, and the poor mother seldom
The old woman put on her round spectacles,
which made her look as wise as an owl, and
turned to answer the child, who had been as
quiet as a mouse for a long time, looking at
the strange pictures in the ancient book.
"Ah, my dear, that tells about a very famous
and glorious thing that happened long ago at
the siege of Leyden. You can read it for
yourself some day."
"Please tell me now. Why are the houses
half under water, and ships sailing among them,
and people leaning over the walls of the city?
And why is that boy waving his hands on the
tower, where the men are running away in a
great smoke?" asked Trudel, too curious to
wait till she could read the long hard words on
the yellow pages.
"Well, dear, this is the story: and you shall
hear how brave men and women, and children
too, were in those days. The cruel Spaniards
came and besieged the city for many months;
but the faithful people would not give up,
though nearly starved to death. When all the
bread and meat were gone and the gardens
empty, they ate grass and herbs and horses,
and even dogs and cats, trying to hold out till
help came to them."
"Did little girls really eat their pussies? Oh,
I 'd die before I would kill my dear Jan," cried
Trudel, hugging the pretty kitten that purred in
"Yes, the children ate their pets. And so
would you if it would save your father or mother
from starving. We know what hunger is; but
we won't eat Jan yet."
The old woman sighed as she glanced from the
empty table to the hearth where no fire burned.
"Did help come in the ships?" asked the
child, bending her face over the book to hide
the tears that filled her eyes, for she was very
hungry, and had had only a crust for breakfast.
"Our good Prince of Orange was trying to
help them; but the Spaniards were all around
the city and he had not men enough to fight
them by land, so he sent carrier-doves with
letters to tell the people that he was going to cut
through the great dikes that kept the sea out,
and let the water flow over the country so as to
drive the enemy from his camp, for the city
stood upon high ground, and would be safe.
Then the ships, with food, could sail over the
drowned land and save the brave people."
"Oh, I 'm glad! I 'm glad! These are the
bad Spaniards running away, and these are
poor people stretching out their hands for the
bread. But what is the boy doing, in the funny
tower where the wall has tumbled down?" cried
Trudel, much excited.
"The smoke of burning houses rose between
the city and the port so the people could not
see that the Spaniards had run away; and
they were afraid the ships could not get safely
by. But a boy who was scrambling about as
boys always are wherever there is danger, fire,
and fighting, saw the enemy go, and ran to the
deserted tower to shout and beckon to the ships
to come on at once,--for the wind had changed
and soon the tide would flow back and leave
"Nice boy! I wish I had been there to see
him and help the poor people," said Trudel,
patting the funny little figure sticking out of
the pepper-pot tower like a jack-in-the-box.
"If children keep their wits about them and
are brave, they can always help in some way,
my dear. We don't have such dreadful wars
now; but the dear God knows we have troubles
enough, and need all our courage and faith to
be patient in times like these;" and the
grandmother folded her thin hands with another sigh,
as she thought of her poor son dying for want
of a few comforts, after working long and
faithfully for a hard master who never came to offer
any help, though a very rich man.
"Did they eat the carrier-doves?" asked
Trudel, still intent on the story.
"No, child; they fed and cared for them
while they lived, and when they died, stuffed
and set them up in the Staat Haus, so grateful
were the brave burghers for the good news the
dear birds brought."
"That is the best part of all. I like that
story very much!" And Trudel turned the
pages to find another, little dreaming what a
carrier-dove she herself was soon to become.
Poor Hans Dort and his family were nearly
as distressed as the besieged people of Leyden,
for poverty stood at the door, hunger and
sickness were within, and no ship was anywhere
seen coming to bring help. The father, who
was a linen-weaver, could no longer work in the
great factory; the mother, who was a
lace-maker, had to leave her work to nurse him;
and the old woman could earn only a trifle by
her knitting, being lame and feeble. Little
Trudel did what she could,--sold the stockings
to get bread and medicine, picked up wood for
the fire, gathered herbs for the poor soup, and
ran errands for the market-women, who paid her
with unsalable fruit, withered vegetables, and
now and then a bit of meat.
But market-day came but once a week; and
it was very hard to find food for the hungry
mouths meantime. The Dorts were too proud
to beg, so they suffered in silence, praying that
help would come before it was too late to save
the sick and old.
No other picture in the quaint book interested
Trudel so much as that of the siege of
Leyden; and she went back to it, thinking over
the story till hunger made her look about for
something to eat as eagerly as the poor starving burghers.
"Here, child, is a good crust. It is too hard
for me. I kept it for you; it's the last except
that bit for your mother," said the old woman,
pulling a dry crust from her jacket with a
smile; for though starving herself, the brave
old soul thought only of her darling.
Trudel's little white teeth gnawed savagely at
the hard bread, and Jan ate the crumbs as if
he too needed food. As she saw him purring
about her feet, there came into the child's head
a sudden idea, born of the brave story and of
the cares that made her old before her time.
"Poor Jan gets thinner and thinner every day.
If we are to eat him, we must do it soon, or he
will not be worth cooking," she said with a
curious look on the face that used to be so round
and rosy, and now was white, thin, and anxious.
"Bless the child! we won't eat the poor
beast! but it would be kind to give him away
to some one who could feed him well. Go now,
dear, and get a jug of fresh water. The father
will need it, and so will you, for that crust is a
dry dinner for my darling."
As she spoke, the old woman held the little
girl close for a minute; and Trudel clung to her
silently, finding the help she needed for her
sacrifice in the love and the example grandma
Then she ran away, with the brown jug in one
hand, the pretty kitten on her arm, and courage
in her little heart. It was a poor neighborhood
where the weavers and lace-makers lived; but
nearly every one had a good dinner on Sunday,
and on her way to the fountain Trudel saw many
well-spread tables, smelled the good soup in
many kettles, and looked enviously at the plump
children sitting quietly on the doorsteps in
round caps and wooden shoes, waiting to be
called in to eat of the big loaves, the brown
sausages, and the cabbage-soup smoking on the hearth.
When she came to the baker's house, her
heart began to beat; and she hugged Jan so
close it was well he was thin, or he would have
mewed under the tender farewell squeezes his
little mistress gave him. With a timid hand
Trudel knocked, and then went in to find Vrow
Hertz and her five boys and girls at table, with
good roast meat and bread and cheese and
beer before them.
"Oh, the dear cat! the pretty cat! Let me
pat him! Hear him mew, and see his soft
white coat," cried the children, before Trudel
could speak, for they admired the snow-white
kitten very much, and had often begged for it.
Trudel had made up her mind to give up to
them at last her one treasure; but she wished
to be paid for it, and was bound to tell her
plan. Jan helped her, for smelling the meat,
he leaped from her arms to the table and began
to gnaw a bone on Dirck's plate, which so
amused the young people that they did not
hear Trudel say to their mother in a low voice,
with red cheeks and beseeching eyes,--
"Dear Vrow Hertz, the father is very ill; the
mother cannot work at her lace in the dark
room; and grandma makes but little by knitting,
though I help all I can. We have no food; can
you give me a loaf of bread in exchange for Jan?
I have nothing else to sell, and the children
want him much."
Trudel's eyes were full and her lips trembled,
as she ended with a look that went straight to
stout Mother Hertz's kind heart, and told the
whole sad story.
"Bless the dear child! Indeed, yes; a loaf
and welcome; and see here, a good sausage
also. Brenda, go fill the jug with milk. It is
excellent for the sick man. As for the cat, let
it stay a while and get fat, then we will see. It
is a pretty beast and worth many loaves of
bread; so come again, Trudel, and do not
suffer hunger while I have much bread."
As the kind woman spoke, she had bustled
about, and before Trudel could get her breath,
a big loaf, a long sausage, and a jug of fresh
milk were in her apron and hands, and a
motherly kiss made the gifts all the easier to take.
Returning it heartily, and telling the children to
be kind to Jan, she hastened home to burst into
the quiet room, crying joyfully,--
"See, grandmother, here is food,--all mine.
I bought it! Come, come, and eat!"
"Now, dear Heaven, what do I see? Where
did the blessed bread come from?" asked the
old woman, hugging the big loaf, and eying the
sausage with such hunger in her face that Trudel
ran for the knife and cup, and held a draught of
fresh milk to her grandmother's lips before she
could answer a single question.
"Stay, child, let us give thanks before we eat.
Never was food more welcome or hearts more
grateful;" and folding her hands, the pious old
woman blessed the meal that seemed to fall
from heaven on that bare table. Then Trudel
cut the crusty slice for herself, a large soft one
for grandmother, with a good bit of sausage,
and refilled the cup. Another portion and cup
went upstairs to mother, whom she found asleep,
with the father's hot hand in hers. So
leaving the surprise for her waking, Trudel crept
down to eat her own dinner, as hungry as a little
wolf, amusing herself with making the old
woman guess where and how she got this fine feast.
"This is our siege, grandmother; and we are
eating Jan," she said at last, with the merriest
laugh she had given for weeks.
"Eating Jan?" cried the old woman, staring
at the sausage, as if for a moment she feared the
kitten had been turned into that welcome shape
by some miracle. Still laughing, Trudel told
her story, and was well rewarded for her childish
sacrifice by the look in grandmother's face as
she said with a tender kiss,--
"Thou art a carrier-dove, my darling, coming
home with good news and comfort under thy
wing. God bless thee, my brave little heart,
and grant that our siege be not a long one
before help comes to us!"
Such a happy feast! and for dessert more
kisses and praises for Trudel when the mother
came down to hear the story and to tell how
eagerly father had drank the fresh milk and
gone to sleep again. Trudel was very well
pleased with her bargain; but at night she
missed Jan's soft purr for her lullaby, and cried
herself to sleep, grieving for her lost pet, being
only a child, after all, though trying to be a
brave little woman for the sake of those she loved.
The big loaf and sausage took them nicely
through the next day; but by Tuesday only
crusts remained, and sorrel-soup, slightly
flavored with the last scrap of sausage, was all
they had to eat.
On Wednesday morning, Trudel had plaited
her long yellow braids with care, smoothed
down her one blue skirt, and put on her little
black silk cap, making ready for the day's work.
She was weak and hungry, but showed a bright
face as she took her old basket and said,--
"Now I am off to market, grandmother, to
sell the hose and get medicine and milk for
father. I shall try to pick up something for
dinner. The good neighbors often let me run
errands for them, and give me a kuchen, a bit of
cheese, or a taste of their nice coffee. I will bring
you something, and come as soon as I can."
The old woman nodded and smiled, as she
scoured the empty kettle till it shone, and
watched the little figure trudge away with the
big empty basket, and, she knew, with a still
emptier little stomach. "Coffee!" sighed the
grandmother; "one sip of the blessed drink
would put life into me. When shall I ever taste
it again?" and the poor soul sat down to her
knitting with hands that trembled from weakness.
The Platz was a busy and a noisy scene when
Trudel arrived,--for the thrifty Dutchwomen
were early afoot; and stalls, carts, baskets, and
cans were already arranged to make the most
attractive display of fruit, vegetables, fish,
cheese, butter, eggs, milk, and poultry, and the
small wares country people came to buy.
Nodding and smiling, Trudel made her way
through the bustle to the booth where old
Vrow Schmidt bought and sold the blue woollen
hose that adorn the stout legs of young and old.
"Good-morning, child! I am glad to see thee
and thy well-knit stockings, for I have orders
for three pairs, and promised thy grandmother's,
they are always so excellent," said the
rosy-faced woman, as Trudel approached.
"I have but one pair. We had no money to
buy more yarn. Father is so ill mother
cannot work; and medicines cost a deal," said
the child, with her large hungry eyes fixed on
the breakfast the old woman was about to
eat, first having made ready for the business
of the day.
"See, then, I shall give thee the yarn and
wait for the hose; I can trust thee, and shall
ask a good price for the good work. Thou
too wilt have the fever, I 'm afraid!--so pale
and thin, poor child! Here, drink from my
cup, and take a bite of bread and cheese. The
morning air makes one hungry."
Trudel eagerly accepted the "sup" and the
"bite," and felt new strength flow into her as
the warm draught and good brown bread went
down her throat.
"So many thanks! I had no breakfast. I
came to see if I could get any errands here
to-day, for I want to earn a bit if I can," she said
with a sigh of satisfaction, as she slipped half
of her generous slice and a good bit of cheese
into her basket, regretting that the coffee could
not be shared also.
As if to answer her wish, a loud cry from fat
Mother Kinkle, the fish-wife, rose at that
moment, for a thievish cur had run off with a fish
from her stall, while she gossiped with a neighbor.
Down went Trudel's basket, and away went
Trudel's wooden shoes clattering over the stones
while she raced after the dog, dodging in and
out among the stalls till she cornered the thief
under Gretchen Horn's milk-cart; for at sight
of the big dog who drew the four copper-cans,
the cur lost heart and dropped the fish and
"Well done!" said buxom Gretchen, when
Trudel caught up the rescued treasure a good
deal the worse for the dog's teeth and the dust
it had been dragged through.
All the market-women laughed as the little
girl came back proudly bearing the fish, for the
race had amused them. But Mother Kinkle
said with a sigh, when she saw the damage
done her property,--
"It is spoiled; no one will buy that torn, dirty
thing. Throw it on the muck-pile, child; your
trouble was in vain, though I thank you for it."
"Give it to me, please, if you don't want it.
We can eat it, and would be glad of it at home,"
cried Trudel, hugging the slippery fish with joy,
for she saw a dinner in it, and felt that her run
was well paid.
"Take it, then, and be off; I see Vrow von
Decken's cook coming, and you are in the
way," answered the old woman, who was not
a very amiable person, as every one knew.
"That's a fine reward to make a child for
running the breath out of her body for you,"
said Dame Troost, the handsome farm-wife who
sat close by among her fruit and vegetables,
as fresh as her cabbages, and as rosy as her
"Better it, then, and give her a feast fit for
a burgomaster. You can afford it," growled
Mother Kinkle, turning her back on the other
woman in a huff.
"That I will, for very shame at such meanness!
Here, child, take these for thy fish-stew,
and these for thy little self," said the kind soul,
throwing half a dozen potatoes and onions into
the basket, and handing Trudel a cabbage-leaf
full of cherries.
A happy girl was our little house-wife on her
way home, when the milk and medicine and
loaf of bread were bought; and a comfortable
dinner was quickly cooked and gratefully eaten
in Dort's poor house that day.
"Surely the saints must help you, child, and
open people's hearts to our need; for you
come back each day with food for us,--like
the ravens to the people in the wilderness," said
the grandmother when they sat at table.
"If they do, it is because you pray to them
so heartily, mother. But I think the sweet
ways and thin face of my Trudel do much to
win kindness, and the good God makes her
our little house-mother, while I must sit idle,"
answered Vrow Dort; and she filled the child's
platter again that she, at least, might have
"I like it!" cried Trudel, munching an onion
with her bread, while her eyes shone and a
pretty color came into her cheeks. "I feel so
old and brave now, so glad to help; and things
happen, and I keep thinking what I will do
next to get food. It's like the birds out
yonder in the hedge, trying to feed their little ones.
I fly up and down, pick and scratch, get a bit
here and a bit there, and then my dear old
birds have food to eat."
It really was very much as Trudel said, for
her small wits were getting very sharp with
these new cares; she lay awake that night
trying to plan how she should provide the next
day's food for her family.
"Where now, thou dear little mother-bird?"
asked the "Grossmutter" next morning, when
the child had washed the last dish, and was
setting away the remains of the loaf.
"To Gretti Jansen's, to see if she wants me to
water her linen, as I used to do for play. She
is lame, and it tires her to go to the spring so
often. She will like me to help her, I hope;
and I shall ask her for some food to pay me.
Oh, I am very bold now! Soon will I beg if
no other way offers." And Trudel shook her
yellow head resolutely, and went to settle the
stool at grandmother's feet, and to draw the
curtain so that it would shield the old eyes
from the summer sun.
"Heaven grant it never comes to that! It
would be very hard to bear, yet perhaps we
must if no help arrives. The doctor's bill, the
rent, the good food thy father will soon need,
will take far more than we can earn; and what
will become of us, the saints only know!"
answered the old woman, knitting briskly in
spite of her sad forebodings.
"I will do it all! I don't know how, but I
shall try; and, as you often say, 'Have faith
and hold up thy hands; God will fill them.'"
Then Trudel went away to her work, with a
stout heart under her little blue bodice; and all
that summer day she trudged to and fro along
the webs of linen spread in the green meadow,
watering them as fast as they dried, knitting
busily under a tree during the intervals.
Old Gretti was glad to have her, and at noon
called her in to share the milk-soup, with cherries
and herrings in it, and a pot of coffee,--as well
as Dutch cheese, and bread full of coriander-seed.
Though this was a feast to Trudel, one
bowl of soup and a bit of bread was all she ate;
then, with a face that was not half as "bold" as
she tried to make it, she asked if she might run
home and take the coffee to grandmother, who
longed for and needed it so much.
"Yes, indeed; there, let me fill that pewter
jug with a good hot mess for the old lady, and
take this also. I have little to give, but I
remember how good she was to me in the winter,
when my poor legs were so bad, and no one else
thought of me," said grateful Gretti, mixing more
coffee, and tucking a bit of fresh butter into half
a loaf of bread with a crusty end to cover the hole.
Away ran Trudel; and when grandmother
saw the "blessed coffee," as she called it, she
could only sip and sigh for comfort and content,
so glad was the poor old soul to taste her
favorite drink again. The mother smelled it, and
came down to take her share, while Trudel
skipped away to go on watering the linen till
sunset with a happy heart, saying to herself
while she trotted and splashed,--
"This day is well over, and I have kept my
word. Now what can I do to-morrow? Gretti
does n't want me; there is no market; I must
not beg yet, and I cannot finish the hose so soon.
"I know! I 'll get water-cresses, and sell them
from door to door. They are fresh now, and
people like them. Ah, thou dear duck, thank
thee for reminding me of them," she cried, as
she watched a mother-duck lead her brood
along the brook's edge, picking and dabbling
among the weeds to show them where to feed.
Early next morning Trudel took her basket
and went away to the meadows that lay just out
of the town, where the rich folk had their
summer houses, and fish-ponds, and gardens. These
gardens were gay now with tulips, the delight of
Dutch people; for they know best how to cultivate
them, and often make fortunes out of the
splendid and costly flowers.
When Trudel had looked long and carefully
for cresses, and found very few, she sat down to
rest, weary and disappointed, on a green bank
from which she could overlook a fine garden all
ablaze with tulips. She admired them heartily,
longed to have a bed of them her own, and
feasted her childish eyes on the brilliant colors
till they were dazzled, for the long beds of purple
and yellow, red and white blossoms were splendid
to see, and in the midst of all a mound of
dragon-tulips rose like a queen's throne, scarlet, green,
and gold all mingled on the ruffled leaves that
waved in the wind.
Suddenly it seemed as if one of the great
flowers had blown over the wall and was
hopping along the path in a very curious way! In
a minute, however, she saw that it was a gay
parrot that had escaped, and would have flown
away if its clipped wings and a broken chain on
one leg had not kept it down.
Trudel laughed to see the bird scuttle along,
jabbering to itself, and looking very mischievous
and naughty as it ran away. She was just
thinking she ought to stop it, when the garden-gate
opened, and a pretty little boy came out, calling
"Prince! Prince! Come back, you bad bird!
I never will let you off your perch again, sly rascal!"
"I will get him;" and Trudel ran down the
bank after the runaway, for the lad was small
and leaned upon a little crutch.
"Be careful! He will bite!" called the boy.
"I 'm not afraid," answered Trudel; and she
stepped on the chain, which brought the "Prince
of Orange" to a very undignified and sudden
halt. But when she tried to catch him up by
his legs, the sharp black beak gave a nip and
held tightly to her arm. It hurt her much, but
she did not let go, and carried her captive back
to its master, who thanked her, and begged her
to come in and chain up the bad bird, for he was
evidently rather afraid of it.
Glad to see more of the splendid garden,
Trudel did what he asked, and with a good deal
of fluttering, scolding, and pecking, the Prince
was again settled on his perch.
"Your arm is bleeding! Let me tie it up for
you; and here is my cake to pay you for
helping me. Mamma would have been very angry
if Prince had been lost," said the boy, as he wet
his little handkerchief in a tank of water near by,
and tied up Trudel's arm.
The tank was surrounded by pots of tulips;
and on a rustic seat lay the lad's hat and a
delicious large kuchen, covered with comfits and
sugar. The hungry girl accepted it gladly, but
only nibbled at it, remembering those at home.
The boy thought she did not like it, and being a
generous little fellow and very grateful for her
help, he looked about for something else to give
her. Seeing her eyes fixed admiringly on a
pretty red jar that held a dragon-tulip just ready
to bloom, he said pleasantly,--
"Would you like this also? All these are
mine, and I can do as I like with them. Will
you have it?"
"Oh, yes, with thanks! It is so beautiful!
I longed for one, but never thought to get it,"
cried Trudel, receiving the pot with delight.
Then she hastened toward home to show her
prize, only stopping to sell her little bunches of
cresses for a few groschen, with which she bought
a loaf and three herrings to eat with it. The
cake and the flower gave quite the air of a feast
to the poor meal, but Trudel and the two women
enjoyed it all, for the doctor said that the father
was better, and now needed only good meat and
wine to grow strong and well again.
How to get these costly things no one knew,
but trusted they would come, and all fell to work
with lighter hearts. The mother sat again at
her lace-work, for now a ray of light could be
allowed to fall on her pillow and bobbins by the
window of the sick-room. The old woman's
fingers flew as she knit at one long blue
stocking; and Trudel's little hands tugged away at
the other, while she cheered her dull task by
looking fondly at her dear tulip unfolding in the sun.
She began to knit next day as soon as the
breakfast of dry bread and water was done; but
she took her work to the doorstep and thought
busily as the needles clicked, for where could
she get money enough for meat and wine? The
pretty pot stood beside her, and the tulip showed
its gay leaves now, just ready to bloom. She
was very proud of it, and smiled and nodded
gayly when a neighbor said in passing, "A fine
flower you have there."
Soon she forgot it, however, so hard was her
little brain at work, and for a long time she sat
with her eyes fixed on her busy hands so
intently that she neither heard steps approaching,
nor saw a maid and a little girl looking over the
low fence at her. Suddenly some words in a
strange language made her look up. The child
was pointing at the tulip and talking fast in
English to the maid, who shook her head and
tried to lead her on.
She was a pretty little creature, all in white
with a gay hat, curly locks, and a great doll in
one arm, while the other held a box of bonbons.
Trudel smiled when she saw the doll; and as if
the friendly look decided her, the little girl ran
up to the door, pointed to the flower, and asked
a question in the queer tongue which Trudel
could not understand. The maid followed, and
said in Dutch, "Fräulein Maud wishes the
flower. Will you give it to her, child?"
"Oh, no, no! I love it. I will keep it, for
now Jan is gone, it is all I have!" answered
Trudel, taking the pot in her lap to guard her one treasure.
The child frowned, chattered eagerly, and
offered the box of sweets, as if used to having her
wishes gratified at once. But Trudel shook
her head, for much as she loved "sugar-drops,"
she loved the splendid flower better, like a true
Then Miss Maud offered the doll, bent on
having her own way. Trudel hesitated a
moment, for the fine lady doll in pink silk, with
a feather in her hat, and tiny shoes on her feet,
was very tempting to her childish soul. But
she felt that so dainty a thing was not for her,
and her old wooden darling, with the staring
eyes and broken nose, was dearer to her than
the delicate stranger could ever be. So she
smiled to soothe the disappointed child, but
shook her head again.
At that, the English lassie lost her temper,
stamped her foot, scolded, and began to cry,
ordering the maid to take the flower and come
away at once.
"She will have it; and she must not cry.
Here, child, will you sell it for this?" said the
maid, pulling a handful of groschen out of her
deep pocket, sure that Trudel would yield now.
But the little house-mother's quick eye saw
that the whole handful would not buy the meat
and wine, much as it looked, and for the third
time she shook her yellow head. There was a
longing look in her face, however; and the
shrewd maid saw it, guessed that money would
win the day, and diving again into her
apron-pocket, brought out a silver gulden and held
"For this, then, little miser? It is more than
the silly flower is worth; but the young fräulein
must have all she wants, so take it and let us be
done with the crying."
A struggle went on in Trudel's mind; and
for a moment she did not speak. She longed
to keep her dear tulip, her one joy, and it
seemed so hard to let it go before she had even
seen it blossom once; but then the money
would do much, and her loving little heart
yearned to give poor father all he needed.
Just then her mother's voice came down from
the open window, softly singing an old hymn to
lull the sick man to sleep. That settled the
matter for the dutiful daughter; tears rose to
her eyes, and she found it very hard to say
with a farewell caress of the blue and yellow
pot as she gave it up,--
"You may have it; but it is worth more than
a gulden, for it is a dragon-tulip, the finest we
have. Could you give a little more? my father
is very sick, and we are very poor."
The stout maid had a kind heart under her
white muslin neckerchief; and while Miss
Maud seized the flower, good Marta put
another gulden into Trudel's hand before she
hastened after her charge, who made off with
her booty, as if fearing to lose it.
Trudel watched the child with the half-opened
tulip nodding over her shoulder, as though it
sadly said "good-by" to its former mistress,
till her dim eyes could see no longer. Then
she covered her face with her apron and sobbed
very quietly, lest grandmother should hear and
be troubled. But Trudel was a brave child, and
soon the tears stopped, the blue eyes looked
gladly at the money in her hand, and presently,
when the fresh wind had cooled her cheeks,
she went in to show her treasure and cheer up
the anxious hearts with her good news.
She made light of the loss of her flower, and
still knitting, went briskly off to get the meat
and wine for father, and if the money held out,
some coffee for grandmother, some eggs and
white rolls for mother, who was weak and worn
with her long nursing.
"Surely, the dear God does help me,"
thought the pious little maid, while she trudged
back with her parcels, quite cheery again,
though no pretty kitten ran to meet her, and
no gay tulip stood full-blown in the noonday sun.
Still more happy was she over her small
sacrifices when she saw her father sip a little
of the good broth grandmother made with such
care, and saw the color come into the pale
cheeks of the dear mother after she had taken
the eggs and fine bread, with a cup of coffee
to strengthen and refresh her.
"We have enough for to-day, and for father
to-morrow; but on Sunday we must fast as well
as pray, unless the hose be done and paid for
in time," said the old woman next morning,
surveying their small store of food with an
"I will work hard, and go to Vrow Schmidt's
the minute we are done. But now I must run
and get wood, else the broth will not be ready,"
answered Trudel, clattering on her wooden
shoes in a great hurry.
"If all else fails, I too shall make my
sacrifice as well as you, my heart's darling. I
cannot knit as I once did, and if we are not done, or
Vrow Schmidt be away, I will sell my ring and
so feed the flock till Monday," said the
grandmother, lifting up one thin old hand, where
shone the wedding-ring she had worn so many years.
"Ah, no,--not that! It was so sad to see
your gold beads go, and mother's ear-rings and
father's coat and Jan and my lovely flower!
We will not sell the dear old ring. I will find
a way. Something will happen, as before; so
wait a little, and trust to me," cried Trudel,
with her arms about the grandmother, and such
a resolute nod that the rusty little black cap fell
over her nose and extinguished her.
She laughed as she righted it, and went
singing away, as if not a care lay heavy on her
young heart. But when she came to the long
dike which kept the waters of the lake from
overflowing the fields below, she walked slowly
to rest her tired legs, and to refresh her eyes
with the blue sheet of water on one side and
the still bluer flax-fields on the other,--for
they were in full bloom, and the delicate
flowers danced like fairies in the wind.
It was a lonely place, but Trudel liked it, and
went on toward the wood, turning the heel of
her stocking while she walked,--pausing now
and then to look over at the sluice-gates which
stood here and there ready to let off the water
when autumn rains made the lake rise, or in
the spring when the flax-fields were overflowed
before the seed was sown. At the last of these
she paused to gather a bunch of yellow
stone-crop growing from a niche in the strong wall
which, with earth and beams, made the dike.
As she stooped, the sound of voices in the
arch below came up to her distinctly. Few
people came that way except little girls, like
herself, to gather fagots in the wood, or truant
lads to fish in the pond. Thinking the hidden
speakers must be some of these boys, she knelt
down behind the shrubs that grew along the
banks, and listened with a smile on her lips to
hear what mischief the naughty fellows were
planning. But the smile soon changed to a
look of terror; and she crouched low behind the
bushes to catch all that was said in the echoing
"How did I think of the thing? Why, that
is the best part of the joke! Mein Herr von
Vost put it into my head himself," said a man's
gruff voice, in answer to some question. "This
is the way it was: I sat at the window of the
beer-house, and Von Vost met the burgomaster
close by and said, 'My friend, I hear that the
lower sluice-gate needs looking to. Please see
to it speedily, for an overflow now would ruin
my flax-fields, and cause many of my looms to
stand still next winter.' 'So! It shall be looked
to next week. Such a misfortune shall not
befall you, my good neighbor,' said the burgomaster;
and they parted. 'Ah, ha!' thinks I to
myself, 'here we have a fine way to revenge
ourselves on Master von Vost, who turned us
off and leaves us to starve. We have but to see
that the old gate gives way between now and
Monday, and that hard man will suffer in the
only place where he can feel,--his pocket.'"
Here the gruff voice broke into a low laugh,
and another man said slowly,--
"A good plan; but is there no danger of
being found out, Peit Stensen?"
"Not a chance of it! See here, Deitrich, a
quiet blow or two, at night when none can hear
it, will break away these rotten boards and let
the water in. The rest--it will do itself; and
by morning those great fields will be many feet
under water, and Von Vost's crop ruined. Yes,
we will stop his looms for him, and other men
besides you and I and Niklas Haas will stand
idle with starving children round them. Come,
will you lend a hand? Niklas is away looking
for work, and Hans Dort is sick, or they might
be glad to help us."
"Hans would never do it. He is sober, and
so good a weaver he will never want work when
he is well. I will be with you, Peit; but swear
not to tell it, whatever happens, for you and
I have bad names now, and it would go hard
"I 'll swear anything; but have no fear. We
will not only be revenged on the master, but get
the job of repairing; since men are scarce and
the need will be great when the flood is
discovered. See, then, how fine a plan it is! and
meet me here at twelve to-night with a shovel
and pick. Mine are already hidden in the wood
yonder. Now, come and see where we must
strike, and then slip home the other way; we
must not be seen here by any one."
There the voices stopped, and steps were
heard going deeper into the arch. Trudel, pale
with fear, rose to her feet, slipped off her sabots,
and ran away along the dike like a startled
rabbit, never pausing till she was safely round
the corner and out of sight. Then she took
breath, and tried to think what to do first. It
was of no use to go home and tell the story
there. Father was too ill to hear it or to help;
and if she told the neighbors, the secret would
soon be known everywhere and might bring
danger on them all. No, she must go at once
to Mein Herr von Vost and tell him alone,
begging him to let no one know what she had
heard, but to prevent the mischief the men
threatened, as if by accident. Then all would
be safe, and the pretty flax-fields kept from
drowning. It was a long way to the "master's,"
as he was called, because he owned the linen
factories, where all day many looms jangled,
and many men and women worked busily to fill
his warehouses and ships with piles of the fine
white cloth, famous all the world over.
But forgetting the wood, father's broth, granny's
coffee, and even the knitting which she still
held, Trudel went as fast as she could toward
the country-house, where Mein Herr von Vost
would probably be at his breakfast.
She was faint now with hunger and heat, for
the day grew hot, and the anxiety she felt made
her heart flutter while she hurried along the
dusty road till she came to the pretty house in
its gay garden, where some children were
playing. Anxious not to be seen, Trudel slipped
up the steps, and in at the open window of a
room where she saw the master and his wife
sitting at table. Both looked surprised to see a
shabby, breathless little girl enter in that
curious fashion; but something in her face told
them that she came on an important errand,
and putting down his cup, the gentleman said
"Well, girl, what is it?"
In a few words Trudel told her story, adding
with a beseeching gesture, "Dear sir, please do
not tell that I betrayed bad Peit and Deitrich.
They know father, and may do him some harm
if they discover that I told you this. We are
so poor, so unhappy now, we cannot bear any
more;" and quite overcome with the troubles
that filled her little heart, and the fatigue and
the hunger that weakened her little body,
Trudel dropped down at Von Vost's feet as if
she were dead.
When she came to herself, she was lying on a
velvet sofa and the sweet-faced lady was holding
wine to her lips, while Mein Herr von Vost
marched up and down the room with his flowered
dressing-gown waving behind him, and a
frown on his brow. Trudel sat up and said she
was quite well; but the little white face and the
hungry eyes that wandered to the breakfast-table,
told the truth, and the good frau had a
plate of food and a cup of warm milk before
her in a moment.
"Eat, my poor child, and rest a little, while
the master considers what is best to be done,
and how to reward the brave little messenger
who came so far to save his property," said the
motherly lady, fanning Trudel, who ate heartily,
hardly knowing what she ate, except that it was
very delicious after so much bread and water.
In a few moments Herr von Vost paused
before the sofa and said kindly, though his eyes
were stern and his face looked hard,--
"See, then, thus shall I arrange the affair, and
all will be well. I will myself go to see the old
gate, as if made anxious lest the burgomaster
should forget his promise. I find it in a
dangerous state, and at once set my men at work.
The rascals are disappointed of both revenge
and wages, and I can soon take care of them
in other ways, for they are drunken fellows, and
are easily clapped into prison and kept safely
there till ready to work and to stop plotting
mischief. No one shall know your part in it, my
girl; but I do not forget it. Tell your father
his loom waits for him. Meanwhile, here is
something to help while he must be idle."
Trudel's plate nearly fell out of her hands as
a great gold-piece dropped into her lap; and she
could only stammer her thanks with tears of
joy, and a mouth full of bread and butter.
"He is a kind man, but a busy one, and
people call him 'hard.' You will not find him
so hereafter, for he never forgets a favor,
nor do I. Eat well, dear child, and wait till
you are rested. I will get a basket of comforts
for the sick man. Who else needs help at home?"
So kindly did Frau von Vost look and speak
that Trudel told all her sad tale freely, for the
master had gone at once to see to the dike,
after a nod and a pat on the child's head, which
made her quite sure that he was not as hard
as people said.
When she had opened her heart to the
friendly lady, Trudel was left to rest a few
moments, and lay luxuriously on the yellow sofa
staring at the handsome things about her, and
eating pretzels till Frau von Vost returned with
the promised basket, out of which peeped the
neck of a wine-bottle, the legs of a chicken,
glimpses of grapes, and many neat parcels of
"My servant goes to market and will carry
this for you till you are near home. Go, little
Trudel; and God bless you for saving us from
a great misfortune!" said the lady; and she
kissed the happy child and led her to the back
door, where stood the little cart with an old
man to drive the fat horse, and many baskets to
be filled in town.
Such a lovely drive our Trudel had that day!
no queen in a splendid chariot ever felt prouder,
for all her cares were gone, gold was in her
pocket, food at her feet, and friends secured to
make times easier for all. No need to tell how
joyfully she was welcomed at home, nor what
praises she received when her secret was
confided to mother and grandmother, nor what a
feast was spread in the poor house that
day,--for patience, courage, and trust in God had won
the battle, the enemy had fled, and Trudel's
hard siege was over.