The Baldwin Lbry
dk- 1--' 2
i" 1 '"i *
PABTOB LINDNER FINDS KATIE IN THa FOREST.
THE STORY OF A GERMAN CHRISTMAS.
J. M. CALLWELL,
Author of "The Squire's Grandson;" "Legends of Olden Times;" &c
BLACKIE & SON, 49 & 50 OLD BAILEY, E.C.
GLASGOW, EDINBURGH, AND DUBLIN.
I. A SLEIGHING PARTY, . 7
II. THE NEW AUNT,. . 28
III. LOST! . . 34
IV. THE PASTOR'S HOME, .... 49
THE STORY OF A GERMAN CHRISTMAS.
A SLEIGIIING PARTY.
I was winter time and a fierce storm was
raging in the Black Forest, the great tract
of dense woods which stretches unbroken
for fifty miles and more over mountain and valley
in southern Germany. The wind came rushing
through the dark fir-woods, making the tall trees
bend and creak as it swept over them. There was
a moon somewhere, but the sky was covered with
such heavy clouds that it was not easy even to tell
its exact whereabouts, and only a very feeble light
struggled through upon the earth beneath. A few
light snow-flakes were falling, which the wind
caught and drove hither and thither in a mad eddy-
8 LITTLE CURIOSITY.
The church clock of Bergfeld, a small town lying
in a sheltered nook in the very heart of the forest,
struck out and proclaimed to all who might be
within hearing that it was five o'clock.
There was only one solitary figure on the road
which led up out of the little town, a lady closely
wrapped in a thick cloak, who was making her way
with some difficulty, for the wind was beating full
in her face and seemed determined to keep her
from going on. As she reached the point where
the road turned away over the shoulder of the hill,
she paused for a moment to take breath, and to
stand with her back to the boisterous wind. The
lights of the little town twinkled down in the hol-
low below, and nearer at hand, just outside the
town, there was a triple row of windows, brilliantly
lighted up, which evidently belonged to some very
large building. This array of windows was all
that could be seen of it, owing to the darkness, but
a ceaseless clatter and clang was to be heard, which,
together with the red glare that hung above it in
the sky, and the fiery sparks which flew up in
showers every now and again and vanished in the
darkness, told that the Bergfeld foundry was in
The iron ore which was dug out of the mines
in the mountains was carted down to that great
LITTLE CURIOSITY. 9
building, and smelted there in huge furnaces till
the pure iron ran out in liquid, red-hot streams, to
be afterwards cast or hammered into knife-blades,
ploughs, needles, spades, or whatever other shape it
was to have.
The lady standing on the road sighed as she
looked down at the iron-foundry, which had very
sad memories for her. She was an Englishwoman,
and that foundry had been the cause of her com-
ing to live so far from home. When the Bergfeld
ironworks had first been set on foot, some five
or six years previously, the owners of it had been
anxious to secure a clever, experienced man to
undertake the management of the works, and had
offered the post of manager to her husband, who
had held a similar position at a large English
foundry. Mr. Eltham had accepted the offer, and
had come over to Germany with his family. He
had died, however, about two years before my
story begins, but Mrs. Eltham had continued to
live on at Bergfeld, eking out her means, which
since her husband's death had been rather slender,
by giving lessons in English and music to a few
German children in the town.
Another hundred yards brought Mrs. Eltham in
sight of a light, shining out brightly on the road a
little way farther on.
10 LITTLE CURIOSITY.
"What good children they are!" she said to her-
self; "they never forget."
In the summer-time Mrs. Eltham's children
never failed to come to meet her on her way
home from her daily teaching, but on winter even-
ings, when it was too dark to go out, the lamp was
always put in the window as soon as it grew dusk,
and the curtains left undrawn, that "mother"
might see the welcoming light as soon as she came
round the bend in the road.
If there had been light enough, Mrs. Eltham's
home would have been seen to be a pretty, quaint
little house, with a steep-gabled red roof, and green
shutters outside the windows, sheltered by the fir-
wood at the back, and with a patch of garden
ground in front, between it and the road, which in
summer was gay with flowers-scarlet, blue, and
golden, all grown and tended by the children; and
very proud they were when passers-by stopped to
admire the brilliant show. But there were no
flowers now, there were only a few withered, shriv-
elled stalks left in the beds, waiting for the white
mantle that was soon coming to hide them away
As soon as Mrs. Eltham clicked the latch of the
little garden gate the hall door was thrown open,
and three girls rushed tumultuously out.
LITTLE CURIOSITY. 11
"Snow! snow!" they cried, as Mrs. Eltlam
stopped on the door-step to shake the half-melted
flakes off her cloak. Oh, how delightful, mother!
who do you think was here to-day? You'll never
guess what we've got to tell you!"
"Well, speak one at a time, if you want me to
understand what it is," said Mrs. Eltham, holding
up her hand to check the noisy babel. But as she
reached the parlour door she exclaimed: "My dear
children, whatever is this?"
An empty bottle was lying on the parlour table,
while the liquidwhich it had evidently contained had
flowed in all directions over the white table-cloth.
I am very sorry, mother," began Katie, the
youngest of the three, blushing scarlet; "I only
wanted to see what was in the bottle, and when I
pulled out the cork all the stuff flew out."
"As usual, Katie," Mrs. Eltham said severely.
"You will have to pay out of your pocket-money
for the bottle of magnesia you have wasted by
your curiosity. Run to Brigitta and tell her that
she will have to put on another table-cloth for tea.
I do wish, Katie, that you would learn not to
meddle with what does not concern you. But, by
the way," she added, turning to the others, I have
not heard the wonderful news yet that you had to
12 LITTLE CURIOSITY.
"Oh, yes!" Mary, the eldest girl, began eagerly;
"Frau Hartmann was here this afternoon. You
know next Saturday is a holiday at school, and
as it is little Ida's birthday too, she said that
if there was a good fall of snow between this
and then she would drive out in their large sleigh
to Amsberg, and she wanted to know if you would
let us go with her."
"And we may!" cried Ethel, whose name her
little German playfellows never could pronounce,
Ai-tel being the nearest they could get to it.
"Dear, darling mumsey, say we may go!"
"Yes, I suppose so," said Mrs. Eltham smiling;
but then, as Katie came back into the room, she
added gravely, "that is, you and Mary may, but
as to Katie, I make it a condition that I hear of
no more curiosity between this and then. I must
find some means of curing her of her fault."
Katie flushed again, and twisted her hands up
uncomfortably in her pinafore. This fault of hers
had long ago 'got her the nickname of "Little
Curiosity" from her sisters and from her com-
panions at the day-school to which they went.
Nothing was safe from her prying eyes and ears;
no parcel could come into the house but she must
pick a hole in it to see what was inside; Brigitta,
the German servant, declared that if she left the
LITTLE CURIOSITY. 13
kitchen for five minutes she was sure, when she
came back, to find Katie peeping into the sauce-
pans in the stove; and sometimes, if Mrs. Eltham
opened the door of a room suddenly, Katie, who had
been listening at the keyhole, would fall headlong
into the room. She was always very much ashamed
of herself on such occasions, but that did not pre-
vent her from doing the same thing the next time
she thought her mother was saying something she
did not intend her to hear. Then Katie was such
a chatterbox that anything which she found out by
such unlawful means was sure to be told at once
to her sisters or to Brigitta, and so she very often
brought about her own detection and punishment.
"I hope," Mrs. Eltham said suddenly, "that
when Frau Hartmann called here to-day you were
a little tidier than you are at present."
The children looked at each other and hung
I am afraid not, mother," Mary admitted
candidly. "You see, we had been having a game of
romps in the school-room after we came back from
school, and when we heard Frau Hartmann at the
door we ran down just as we were."
Mrs. Eltham sighed as she glanced from Mary,
whose throat was devoid of collar or frill, to the
hastily cobbled rent in Ethel's frock, and Katie's
14 LITTLE CURIOSITY.
tumbled hair. "It was very kind of Frau Hart-
mann to ask you," she said decidedly; "if I had
been in her place I certainly should not have cared
to have had such untidy children as companions
for my own. Go upstairs now, however, and make
yourselves neat, Brigitta will bring tea in imme-
The parlour looked very snug when they as-
sembled again round the cosy tea-table, with its
snowy cloth, and its pretty pink-edged cups ar-
ranged round the shining brass tea-pot. The thick
curtains had been drawn to shut out the window
and the fierce blustering storm outside, books and
work were scattered about, giving a pleasant home-
like look, one or two pretty prints were hung here
and there, a cuckoo clock ticked on the wall, and
the pine-wood crackled merrily in the large stove,
which is to be found in all German houses, spread-
ing a comfortable warmth through the room, while
the lamplight was reflected back in the white
glazed tiles with which the stove was covered.
The children chattered away over their supper;
they always spoke English to each other and to
their mother, for Mrs. Eltham was very anxious
that they should not forget their native tongue
though they were living in a foreign land, and
they themselves were very proud of being English
LITTLE CURIOSITY. 15
children, though Mary alone could remember Eng-
land at all, and even she had only a very dim
recollection of it, and of the dingy manufacturing
town in the north of England in which they had
lived before coming out to Germany. Mrs. Eltham,
however, was very silent; there were many little
things she saw which did not please her: the way
Mary lolled in her chair and Katie leant her elbows
on the table, the way they stretched across each
other when they wanted anything, and the eager
manner in which they argued and contradicted one
another about the events of the day. More than
once Mrs. Eltham had to stop the noisy discussion.
" My dears, it does not signify in the very least
which of you is right, you need not excite your-
selves so about it."
After which there would be silence for a time,
but the busy little tongues would soon begin again.
Mrs. Eltham had noticed these things and others
like them many times before. She was obliged to
leave her children alone a great deal more than
she liked, as she was usually away the whole day,
and she could not fail to see that, from being left
so much to themselves, their manners were very
far from being what she would have wished. This
night, however, their rough ways seemed to strike
her more than usual, and she remembered, with a
16 LITTLE CURIOSITY.
start, that Mary was nearly thirteen, and that if
anything was to be done it was time to see about it.
When tea was over, therefore, she sat down and
wrote a long letter home to England, but she said
nothing to the children of what it was about till
the answer came, on the very Saturday on which
the projected expedition was to take place.
The children's utmost hopes had been realized;
the sprinkling of snow which had fallen that
evening, as Mrs. Eltham was making her way
home, had been the beginning of a heavy fall.
For two days the air had been filled with whirling,
feathery flakes, till the whole country was sheeted
with a pure white covering, which sparkled like
diamond dust when the sun shone upon it, and the
branches of the fir-trees were weighed down by
the load of snow that had drifted down softly upon
them till it was piled up inches deep and lay thick
on even the very smallest twigs.
The children were getting themselves ready
upstairs when Mrs. Eltham received her letter;
Katie had contrived to keep her curiosity within
due bounds during the week and was accordingly
to be allowed to join the party. It was a holiday
for Mrs. Eltham as well as for the children, since
most of her little pupils were accompanying Frau
Hartmann on her expedition. When Mrs. Eltham
LITTLE CURIOSITY. 17
had read her letter through she went to the door
of the room and called the children.
I have something to tell you, dears, that will
surprise you," she said, when they had run down
in answer to the call. You have heard me speak
of my Aunt Martha, who brought me up when I
was a little girl after my own father and mother
died. She is living by herself in England now,
and I wrote to her the other day to ask her to
come out here and stay with us for a few months.
I have just had her answer to say she will be here
very soon, before Christmas in fact."
There was an "Oh!" from the children, not
exactly of delight, it must be confessed. From
all that they had heard their mother say of Aunt
Martha they thought that she must be a very strict
old lady, and that it would not be at all pleasant
to have her with them all day long. And besides,
they had led such happy lives hitherto with their
mother that they did not want any other strange
inmate to come into their home.
"It's too bad," Katie burst out when they had
gone upstairs again to finish dressing; what could
have made mother ask her?"
Katie little imagined that she was one of the
chief causes of Mrs. Eltham's having done so, and
of Aunt Martha's having accepted the invitation.
18 LITTLE CURIOSITY.
"I am particularly anxious about my youngest
girl," Mrs. Eltham had written, "my 'Little Curios-
ity,' as she is called, which of itself will tell you
one of her principal faults. It may seem only a
trivial one, but the peering, prying ways she has
got into cause me great annoyance; and I foresee
that if not checked now they will be the source of
much trouble both to herself and to others in the
future. Indeed, they are all greatly in need of
supervision, they are growing so wild and unman-
nerly. I cannot afford to give up my daily teaching
in order to stay at home with them, and, therefore,
remembering your kindness to me of old, and the
pains which you took with me when I was their
age, I venture to ask you whether you would come
over here and undertake the management of them
for a little while."
After reading which, in her distant English
home, Aunt Martha had pushed her spectacles up
on her forehead, as was her way when much
excited, and said energetically:
"There's work for me to do out there; and Ill
"If she wasn't coming before C'l0i. ri ,' too,"
sighed Ethel. Mother always lets us have such
fun then, and Aunt Martha will be sure to spoil
it all, and say we're too old to have a ('!.I ...
LITTLE CURIOSITY. 19
tree and to play games, and that we ought to
behave like young ladies."
But think how lonely she'd have been spending
Christmas all by herself," suggested good-natured
Mary. "You know her cousin who used to live
with her died last spring, and she's quite alone
now. And perhaps she'll be nicer than we think;
mother says she was very kind to her when she
was a little girl."
There was no time for further discussion, for
with a merry tinkle of bells the large sleigh be-
longing to Frau Hartmann, the wife of the manager
who had succeeded Mr. Eltham at the ironworks,
glided up in front of the house. It was a fine
comfortable family sleigh, so built that, as Frau
Hartmann was wont to declare, no matter how
full it seemed to be, there was always room to be
found in it for one more. It was painted dark
green outside, but lined with bright red cushions,
which gave it a pleasant look of warmth amidst the
surrounding snow. Very little of the red lining
could be seen just at present, however, the sleigh
was so closely packed with its freight of rosy,
joyous children all snugly tucked in under thick
"Why, Frau Hartmann, you have got every
child in Bergfeld in there," said Mrs. Eltham, who
20 LITTLE CURIOSITY.
had gone down to the garden gate to speak to the
kindly Frau Hartmann. How can you possibly
find room for any more?"
"Oh, plenty of room, plenty!" laughed good-
humoured Frau Hartmann, looking in triumph at
the beaming faces round her. "Squeeze yourselves
up, you little folk, up at the end; I'm sure there's
some room being wasted among you. We need
not be afraid of the sledge upsetting, for we shall
be so tightly wedged in that no one could possibly
fall out if it did. You, you little rogue, come and
sit upon my knee; now, that makes room for two
of you; but as for you, Ma'am'selle Curiosity, you
must just sit upon our feast." And throwing one
or two rugs over a huge basket which occupied
the end of the sleigh, Frau Hartmann improvised
a comfortable seat for Katie. Now, Conrad," she
cried to her eldest son, who was mounted on the
box with the reins in his hand, away with you!"
Conrad touched the fiery horses with the whip,
and the sleigh flew off like an arrow down the
smoothly frozen road, through the streets of the
little town and away into the forest beyond, where
the bright wintry sun shone down through the
interlacing branches of the fir-trees, and made
dazzling patches of sunlight on the snow.
After a mile or two the road skirted the shore
LITTLE CURIOSITY. 21
of what in the summer was a pretty little forest
lake, but was now a smooth snow-covered plain.
Conrad dashed off the road upon it, partly to dis-
play his own skill as a charioteer and partly to
please his little sister, in honour of whose birthday
this expedition had been undertaken, by tracing
her name in gigantic letters on the white expanse.
Frau Hartmann screamed once or twice at the
sharp turns and twists which the sleigh was com-
pelled to make, and cried out, "Conrad, have a
care what you are about!" But Conrad only
laughed and flourished his whip, and the children
shouted with glee as the sledge tracks marked out
the I, D, A. Then, after a final sweep all round
the lake, Conrad drove out upon the road again,
and they resumed their journey.
Their destination was a little inn standing high
up on the mountain side, from which a very ex-
tensive view was to be had of the whole chain of
the Black Forest, dark rocky crests sprinkled with
snow wherever there was space for it to lodge
upon rising here and there above the white-clad
woods below, while through a dip between the
hills a glimpse of the broad level plain beyond
could be had. In the summer parties of pleasure
often came out here to have a sort of picnic and
to enjoy the fine view, but now in the winter-time
22 LITTLE CURIOSITY.
it was all silent and deserted. The only occupant
of the inn was an old woman, who held up her
hands in dismay when she saw the size of the
party which dashed up to the door, and cried in
German, "Oh, good gracious, there is not even a
sausage in the house!"
Frau Hartmann, however, set her mind at rest
by explaining that they had brought everything
they needed with them, and that all they required
was a good fire and boiling water. The children,
who had had a little lunch during the drive of
sandwiches and cake, were then dismissed to play.
"I make you master of the sports, Conrad,"
said Frau Hartmann. See that no one falls over
a precipice or is gobbled up by the wolves."
"Wolves!" said little Ida anxiously. "Are
there wolves here, mother?"
"Well, I believe they do prowl about here
during the winter," replied Frau Hartmann laugh-
ing. "But you need not be afraid, they hardly
ever let themselves be seen in the daytime, and
the noise you make would frighten even Roth
Kippchen's1 wolf, if he were in the neighbourhood.
Run away now, every one of you, and don't let me
see a sign of you again till I call you."
Such games as they had! Conrad proved him-
1 Red Ifl..-' I .... .
LITTLE CURIOSITY. 23
self a most efficient master of the sports. He
built a huge snow man, taller than himself, with
his hands in his pockets, a pipe in his mouth, and
Conrad's own hat stuck jauntily on his head, and
then they all pelted him with snow-balls till they
knocked him down again. After which Conrad
showed them how to build a snow fort, which half
the party defended, while the other half attacked it,
with Conrad at their head, and stormed it after a
fiercely fought snow-ball battle. Then a small sledge
was discovered in the stable of the inn, used for
dragging home wood out of the forest, and Conrad,
hauling it some distance up the hillside, took the
children down upon it in turns, two or three at a
time, he himself kneeling at the back and steering
by thrusting a stick into the snow on the one side
or the other. There were a good many upsets, to
be sure, but snow is soft to fall into, so no one was
hurt, and the tumbles only added zest to the fun.
The short winter's day was drawing to its close,
but the fun was still at its height and the hillside
was ringing with laughter and merry shouts, when
Frau Hartmann appeared at the door of the inn
and called to them to come in. A long table had
been laid in the dining-parlour of the inn, which
was absolutely groaning beneath the multitude of
good things piled upon it. The place of honour in
24 LITTLE CURIOSITY.
the centre of the table was occupied by a huge
round cake, on which, according to German custom,
nine wax-lights were burning to denote the number
of years to which Ida had attained.
The children, their appetites sharpened by the
exercise-and the keen, frosty air, did full justice
to the abundant repast provided for them. Such
mountains of bread and butter, such pyramids of
cakes, cracknels, gingerbread, and all the other
varieties dear to German children, disappeared,
while Frau Hartmann, seated at the head of the
table behind a gigantic coffee-pot, could hardly
keep pace with the demands made upon her.
Not the least enjoyable part of the day's pleasure
was the drive home by starlight, the lamps in front
throwing circles of light upon the glistening snow
ahead of them, while the black stems of the fir-
trees looked strange and weird against the white
background. Frau Hartmann told stories, and
they sang merry songs in chorus, the horses' feet
beating out a sort of accompaniment in the hard
road, so that the ten miles' drive was accomplished
before they thought that they had got half-way.
Each little party of children, as they were set
down at their own doors, declared to Frau Hart-
mann that they had never, never spent so happy a
day in all their lives.
LITTLE CURIOSITY. 25
"Oh! mother, we have had such fun!" cried the
three Elthams, as they burst into the room where
their mother was sitting reading.
"So I should imagine," said Mrs. Eltham laugh-
ing, as she looked at their rosy cheeks and their
eyes sparkling with excitement; "and I hope none
of you gave kind Frau Hartmann any trouble, and
that Katie behaved better than last time."
Katie blushed uncomfortably as she remembered
an occasion some months before when Frau Hart-
mann had given another children's party at her
own house in the town. When the little guests
had assembled they were told that there was one
room which they must not go into on any account
"Why not?" asked many voices eagerly.
"Never mind," said Herr Hartmann, holding
up his forefinger warningly; "remember what be-
fell Bluebeard's wife for peeping when she was
told not to."
This was quite enough to set Katie's curiosity
on fire. "We don't live in Bluebeard's time," she
said to herself: "and no one can cut my head off
for just looking into a room."
Accordingly, when all the rest were engaged in
a game of blindman's-buff, she contrived to slip
away unnoticed, and cautiously opened the door of
"i LITTLE CURIOSITY.
the forbidden room. There was only one candle
burning in it, but by its light Katie was able
to make out how strangely the room, which
was ordinarily the dining-room, had been altered.
Its usual furniture was gone, and it was filled
instead with rows of seats, while at one end there
was a small raised platform, covered with green
cloth, with a piano and two or three chairs upon it.
Katie was still staring at these mysterious-look-
ing preparations when a small body suddenly
bounded upon her back, two wiry, hairy arms were
clasped tightly round her neck, and an inarticulate
chattering sounded in her ear. Nearly beside her-
self with terror Katie uttered shriek after shriek
and brought everyone rushing into the room, when
the mystery was soon explained. As a surprise
for the children He r Hartmann had engaged a
troop of performing dogs and monkeys to give an
exhibition of their various tricks during the even-
ing, and one of the latter, having got out of the
basket in which it had been confined, had leaped
on to Katie's back and occasioned her fright.
The shock had been so great, however, that
Katie had not been able to get over it for the rest
of the evening, but had been obliged to spend it
lying in a bed upstairs instead of joining in the
amusements of the others.
LITTLE CURIOSITY. 27
"Oh! no, mother," Ethel said, in answer to Mrs.
Eltham's question; "Katie wasn't Little Curiosity
to-day at all. To be sure," she added reflectively,
" I don't think there was anything which she could
have been curious about."
THE NEW AUNT.
J UNT MARTHA arrived in due course, bring-
,L, ing with her a great number of boxes and
baskets of every size and shape, besides a
gray parrot in a large cage, and a white Angora
kitten, which had made the journey carefully
wrapped up in a wadded silk quilt. She was a
tall and rather stern-looking old lady, but a very
kind one withal, and her little nieces soon grew
much fonder of her than they had expected to be;
though it must be admitted that at first they found
it rather tiresome to have her with them all day
long, after being accustomed to do as they pleased
once they came home from school, and to be told
constantly, "Mary, hold up your head," "Katie,
sit straight on your chair," My dear children,
none of you are deaf, you need not shout at each
other." Besides which Aunt Martha's spectacles
seemed to give her an extraordinary power of see-
ing missing buttons, torn frocks, or untidy hair,
LITTLE CURIOSITY. 29
which Mrs. Eltham, when she came home in the
evenings, had often been too busy or too tired to
notice. Katie niore especially got into disgrace
several times by being discovered by Aunt Martha
investigating the contents of her neatly kept trunks
But, on the other hand, Aunt Martha taught
them such wonderful ways of making needle-books
and pin-cushions, shaped like tiny bellows or jockey
caps or footstools, out of scraps of silk and cloth,
and she had a perfect talent for dressing dolls, and
could contrive costumes for them as little girls, or
grandly dressed ladies, or peasant women in the garb
of different countries; and furthermore she could
tell such delightful stories of "when I was a little
girl," that it made up to them to a considerable ex-
tent for being kept in stricter order than formerly.
Katie was sitting on the stairs one snowy after-
noon, a few days before Christmas, swaying a
string with a button at the end of it to and fro
above the kitten's head, and amusing herself by its
frantic efforts to catch it, when she heard Aunt
Martha say to her mother in the hall below:
"Come into the parlour, Mary, I want to speak to
you;" and they went in and shut the door.
Katie instantly jumped up and ran down-stairs,
she crossed the hall on tiptoe and put her ear to
30 LITTLE CURIOSITY.
the keyhole. It did occur to her that she would
be very much ashamed of herself if her mother or
Aunt Martha were to find her there; but the first
words she heard put all other ideas out of her
"Mary," Aunt Martha was saying, "I'm sure
you all feel me a regular wet blanket. Nonsense!
don't tell me you don't, I know better. An old
woman like me coming in on the top of you young
folks at Christmas time"-for Aunt Martha still
looked upon Mrs. Eltham as almost a child. So
I must make up in some way for being here, and I
intend to give each of the girls a nice present. You
must tell me what would be best for each of them."
Katie very nearly gave a little shriek of delight,
but she just remembered herself in time and listened
breathlessly, while her mother and Aunt Martha
discussed what would be most suitable for each
one. When the presents had been finally decided
upon, and Mrs. Eltham and Aunt Martha began
to talk about other uninteresting things, she stole
away again and ran upstairs, very much elated at
not having been detected while indulging her be-
Mary and Ethel were in tne school-room prepar-
ing their lessons, and Katie got out her exercise-
book and sat down at the table. But her mind
LITTLE CURIOSITY. 31
was so full of what she had just heard, that the
verb caller, which she was writing out, made very
little progress, and before long she laid down her
pen and began talking to her sisters about Christ-
mas, asking them what presents they would like
best, making them guess what they would get, till
at last she had betrayed to them all she knew.
"But how did you find all this out, Katie?"
asked Mary. Surely you have not been listening
at the keyhole again, after what mother said to
you last week?"
"Oh, no!" said Katie quickly, almost without
thinking, "Aunt Martha told me herself."
The moment she had said the words she would
have given anything in the world to have been
able to unsay them; but it was too late, mortal
lips cannot recall a word that has once been spoken.
Katie went on writing her exercise, feeling very
unhappy; it was the first falsehood she had ever
told: but Katie's experience was only that of very
many other people, that one fault almost invariably
leads on to another. She had almost made up her
mind to tell her sisters that it was an untruth,
and let them know how the whole thing had
happened, when the door opened and Aunt Martha
herself came in.
"Oh, I am so much obliged to you, aunt," cried
32 LITTLE CURIOSITY.
Mary, jumping up, "for the work-box you are
going to give me! It is just what I wanted;"
for as Aunt Martha had told Katie, she did not
think there could be any secret about the matter.
"And for the book for me! cried Ethel. "Oh,
thank you, Aunt Martha, it is so kind of you!"
Aunt Martha deliberately took out her spec-
tacles, wiped them, put them on, and then surveyed
her little nieces in utter amazement.
"Upon my word, young ladies," she said at last,
"I never heard such a thing. Pray, how do you
know that I am going to give you anything at
"Why," began Mary; but Mrs. Eltham, who
had followed Aunt Martha into the room, catching
sight of Katie's scarlet, guilty face, said: "I am
certain Katie told you; it is not half an hour
since Aunt Martha and I were settling about
your presents in the parlour. Tell me at once,
Katie, were you listening at the door?"
"Yes," began Katie in a low voice, "but I only-"
"That will do," said her mother severely. "You
will only make matters worse by trying to invent
excuses for yourself. Go to your room now, I do
not wish to see you again this evening."
Katie crept away, only too glad to escape, and
when she was gone Mrs. Eltham said to Aunt
LITTLE CURIOSITY. 33
Martha: I do not know what to do about Katie's
curiosity, it is really getting worse every day."
Some means must be found to cure her of it,"
said Aunt Martha; and then she and Mrs. Eltham
went out of the room together.
Considerably to Katie's surprise, however, no-
thing more was said to her the next day about the
matter by either her mother or her aunt, and she
began to hope that it had passed out of their minds.
How could you say that Aunt Martha had
told you?" said Mary to her as they were walking
to school, where an examination was to be held
that day, before the Christmas holidays.
And so she did," Katie retorted sulkily. "It
was from her I heard it."
"Oh, Katie!" Mary said reproachfully, "you
know that was not what you meant, or what you
intended us to understand."
I couldn't help what you chose to understand,"
Katie replied crossly, with a shrug of her shoulders;
and Mary, seeing no good was to be gained, said
no more on the subject.
'HRISTMAS EVE came at last, on which
Sthe distribution of presents always takes
"place in Germany, so that on Christmas
Day itself there is nothing to distract anyone's
thoughts from its being the glad but solemn occa-
sion on which we celebrate the birth of the Saviour.
The children were busy all the morning helping
Mrs. Eltham to compound the plum-pudding, for
they were to have a real English Christmas dinner
next day of roast beef and plum-pudding, and
Brigitta, being a German, could not of course be
expected to understand the mysteries of plum-
pudding making. When, however, it had been
vigorously beaten and stirred by every one in
turn, and had been put down to boil for the four-
and-twenty hours which, as everyone knows, a
proper plum-pudding requires before it is properly
cooked, and when they had had their early dinner,
there was nothing more to be done till the evening,
LITTLE CURIOSITY. 35
when the Christmas-tree was to be lighted. The
children were much too excited to settle down to
any ordinary occupation, but spent their time
running to the window and looking at the sky to
see if it was not getting dusk yet. The red winter
sun had never seemed so slow in reaching the
horizon as it was that evening.
At last, however, it disappeared behind the fir-
covered hills, and now it was undeniably growing
dark. Mrs. Eltham and Aunt Martha shut them-
selves up in the parlour with a very mysterious
air, while the little girls sat in the school-room in
a perfect fever of impatience. Katie felt sorely
tempted to run down and take just one peep
through the keyhole. Remembering the last
scrape into which she had got, however, she re-
sisted the temptation and waited with her sisters
till, after what seemed an endless time to them,
the parlour door opened and the welcome tinkle
of a bell was heard, as the signal that everything
They rushed down the stairs and into the
parlour, tumbling over each other on the way in
their haste. The room was filled with the fragrant
pine-wood smell, and a perfect flood of light streamed
from the Christmas-tree. It stood upon a table
in the middle of the room, the wand of the little
36 LITTLE CURIOSITY.
fairy, who occupied the highest branch, almost
touching the ceiling, and was covered with gay-
coloured wax-lights, with gilt stars, and glittering
blown-glass fruit. The children had seen all these
wonderful things before, but as they were always
carefully locked away after every Christmas-tree,
and never seen again till the next Christmas came
round, they made almost the same effect as if they
had been new.
On the white table-cloth below the tree lay two
piles of pretty presents, with tickets bearing the
names of Ethel and Mary, but at the third side of
the table there was only an ugly grinning mask,
with long ears and a long tongue, and on the
ticket beside it was written: For Little Curiosity."
No one noticed Katie at first, everyone was too
much taken up examining and admiring the various
presents; great delight, too, was caused by the
discovery of a pretty silver brooch, which Aunt
Martha had contrived secretly to slip on the table
at the last moment, for Mrs. Eltham.
"And what have you got, Katie?" Ethel asked
Katie burst out crying as she pointed to the
ugly grinning face on the table.
"Yes," said Aunt Martha severely, "that is the
only present Little Curiosity has deserved. Your
LITTLE CURIOSITY. 37
mother and I agreed that as Katie seemed deter-
mined not to amend herself of her fault, we would
spend the money which her presents would have
cost on Mary and Ethel instead.
Katie seized the mask passionately, flung it on
the ground, stamped on it, and then rushed out of
the room, closing the door behind her with a bang.
"Oh, mother!" cried Mary when she was gone,
"do let Ethel and me divide our presents with
Katie; we won't care for them if she has none."
Oh, yes, do, mother dear,"joined in Ethel; "I'm
sure she is sorry now, and that she'll never listen
at a door again."
No, dears," said Mrs. Eltham decidedly. "It is
a very severe lesson for Katie, but I do hope that it
will prove an effectual one, and that she will en-
deavour to conquer her curiosity. She could easily
overcome it if she would only steadily determine
to do so, and I could not allow it to go on any
"But you'll let her come down again, if she'll
say that she is sorry, won't you?" begged Mary.
"You know it was very hard for her that we
should get all these nice things, and she should
"Yes, as this is Christmas Eve, she may come
down," said Mrs. Eltham. "Leave her to herself
38 LITTLE CURIOSITY.
for a time till her temper has cooled down, and
then, if she likes to say that she is sorry for her fit
of passion, she may come down and spend the
evening with us."
But when Ethel crept upstairs, nearly an hour
afterwards, to the door of the dark school-room and
said: "Katie, mother will let you come down if
you'll say you are sorry," there was no answer.
Ethel tried again. "Do, Katie, do. You'll
spoil our Christmas Eve as well as yours by sulk-
ing up here." Still there was no answer.
Ethel went to the bed-room where the three
little girls slept. "Are you here, Katie? Won't
you answer me?" But there was silence again.
"I can't get Katie to answer me, mother," she
said, going down-stairs in despair.
Then we must leave her to indulge her temper,
dear. You see that by her fault she has not only
spoilt her own enjoyment, but ours too, for of course
we cannot hope to spend a pleasant Christmas Eve
Katie, however, as it happened, had been neither
in the school-room nor in her bed-room, and had
not heard Ethel at all. When she had rushed up
from the parlour, she had thrown herself on her
bed with her face buried in the pillow, sobbing
violently, though more from passion than from grief.
LITTLE CURIOSITY. 39
I hate Aunt Martha," she muttered to herself;
"it's all her fault, mother never would have done
it if she hadn't made her. Horrid old thing! I
wish she'd stayed in England; I do, with all my
heart. I'm sure none of us wanted her out here. I
know what!" she cried, starting to her feet and dash-
ing the angry tears out of her eyes as a sudden
thought struck her. I'm not going to stay here in
the dark by myself, while they're enjoying them-
selves in the parlour and having all sorts of fun.
I'll go to Marie; she'll be glad to see me if no one else
wants me." For Katie was trying her best to per-
suade herself that her troubles were not of her own
making, but that she was an exceedingly ill-used
Marie had been the children's nurse when they
had first come out to Germany, and had stayed on
afterwards with Mrs. Eltham as servant, but had
left her at last to marry a neighboring farmer.
She was settled now a couple of miles away in a real
Black Forest farmhouse, all built of wood with a
carved front, with texts painted above the door and
round the windows, and a huge roof with wide,
overhanging eaves, that stretched down at the sides
to within a few feet of the ground. It was one of
the children's greatest treats to walk out there on
summer afternoons to help Marie, who always had a
40 LITTLE CURIOSITY.
hearty welcome for them, to milk her cows and feed
her hens, and to eat curds and cream under the trees
in front of the house. In a calmer frame of mind,
however, Katie would certainly have hesitated be-
fore she set out on such a wild expedition as to
walk there alone and in the dark.
As it was, she hastily got down her warm cloak
and her little quilted hood and put them on, not
without some difficulty, however, for her fingers
were trembling so with passion that she could
hardly tie the strings. She stole out of her room
and down the stairs, stopping with bated breath
every time that it creaked under her. No one heard
her, however, they were talking too busily in the par-
lour, she could hear the merry clatter of voices and
bursts of laughter every now and again; and the idea
that none of them missed her, or cared what had be-
come of her, made her all the more intent on her pur-
pose. She crept past the door of the kitchen, where
Brigitta was singing a German Christmas hymn to
herself as she moved about the room, and having
slipped back the bolts of the backdoor noiselessly,
for she could not have opened the front one without
being heard in the parlour, she stepped into the
Caro, the old watch-dog, came out of his kennel
and whined piteously when he saw that she was
LITTLE CURIOSITY. 41
not going to take him with her. "Quiet, Caro!
Down, sir!" Katie said softly, but imperiously,
fearing that he might betray her, and then she
opened the yard gate and went out on the road.
It was a clear starlight night, but there was a
high wind blowing and it was intensely cold.
Katie wrapped her arms in her cloak and set out
along the hard road, which rang under her feet,
with her head bent down against the wind, trying
to think she was enjoying herself. She trudged on
stoutly for nearly a mile, till she came to the turn
where she had to leave the broad highway and
take an unfrequented forest road.
Katie stopped and hesitated. With all her faults
she was a brave little girl, not given to foolish
fears; but the forest road was very narrow, the
branches of the trees almost met overhead, it looked
very black stretching away before her. What might
she not meet there alone in the darkness!
She had almost decided to turn back, and creep
into the house again without letting anyone know
of her having been out, when there rose before her
mind the picture of the parlour at home, her
mother, her aunt, and her sisters all sitting at tea
in the warm, cosy room, talking, laughing, and ad-
miring the new presents, while she was supposed to
be upstairs in the dark by herself.
42 LITTLE CURIOSITY.
"I'll go on," she said resolutely, speaking aloud
to give herself more courage; "I'm nearly half-
way there. If I walk fast I'll be at Marie's in
half an hour. Won't they be surprised to see me!
I'll make her keep me all night; they won't miss
me at home till Mary and Ethel go to bed, and
then they'll think I'm lost, and what fun that will
be!" But though Katie laughed at' the idea, the
laugh was not a merry one, for in her heart she
knew right well that she was doing wrong. She
gave one more doubtful look at the dark wood,
then she set off at a good quick pace to get through
to the open valley beyond, in which Marie's farm-
house was situated, as soon as possible.
The road was rough and ill kept, the snow on it
had not been worn smooth as on the high-road by
the passing of sledges and the trampling of many
feet, and being deep and soft it made walking both
toilsome and difficult. In summer the road was
wet and marshy, now the deep ruts were frozen
as hard as iron, and filled nearly knee-deep with
snow. Katie tripped and stumbled over them
more than once, bruising herself severely, but still
she pressed on with a perseverance worthy of a
Surely, however, the way was becoming rougher
at every step, even the old forest road had never
LITTLE CURIOSITY. 43
had so many hillocks and holes in it; it was getting
very narrow, too, the trees were growing so close
together. Katie stopped with beating heart to
take breath and look round her, and found that
she was lost in very truth.
Yes, there could be no doubt about it, she had
wandered off the road somehow or another. There
were the stems of trees all about her, and she was
lost, really lost, in the great Black Forest! Katie
did not lose heart all the same, she could not have
gone far from the road, she remembered stumbling
into a rut not so very long ago, and she must have
been at it then; she would get back to it quickly
But when Katie tried to retrace her steps in
the darkness she found that it was not so easy;
the trees seemed only to stand more thickly which-
ever way she turned. She puzzled her brain in
vain to think whether she was more likely to have
gone off the road to the right or to the left; till at
last, growing frantic with terror as the full horror
of her position flashed upon her, she rushed madly
in one direction after another, wherever there
seemed to be a clearing among the trees, till she
was wholly bewildered, and had not the least idea
from which side she had come.
"The forest road keeps to the right of the high-
44 LITTLE CURIOSITY.
road, I know," she said to herself, as she stopped
at last breathless and panting. "Then if I only
walk long enough to the left I must get back to
the high-road again. But I have turned so many
times I don't know in the least what way I am
standing now; and even if I did, I couldn't be
sure of walking straight in one direction in the
dark. Oh dear! oh dear! how I wish I had never
She had no idea of going on to her old nurse's,
indeed she had almost forgotten that she had ever
intended going there. If she could only get home
again, even to her own dark room, how very, very
thankful she would be! She looked up at the
clear cold sky above her, with its myriad stars
shining down through the branches, but there was
no help there. She remembered her mother once
pointing out a star to her and telling her that it
was always to be found in the same spot in the
heavens, right above the north, and that ship-
wrecked sailors and travellers lost in desert places
had often known by it in which direction to
journey. But Katie scanned the heavens in vain,
she could not distinguish it now from the hundreds
that were twinkling up there. Perhaps some one
might be passing along the road who would hear
her; and animated by the sudden hope, Katie
LITTLE CURIOSITY. 45
screamed and called as loud as she could till her
throat was dry and sore, but her voice died away
unanswered through the silent wood.
Suddenly there came floating over to her the
sweet distant sound of a church bell; and Katie
remembered, what had passed out of her mind in
her terror and despair, that this was Christmas
Eve, and that the bell was ringing down in Berg-
feld to call people to an evening service, and at
the thought Katie laid her head against a tree and
cried bitterly. It seemed so awful that on this
night, while there was joy in every household
because of the birth of the Babe of Bethlehem and
of the peace and good-will which He came to bring,
she only should be out in the cold and the darkness
perishing all alone. Oh, if her mother and her
sisters sitting comfortably at home could only be
told that she was lost-not a mile away from
them-they would find a means of saving her
before it was too late. For Katie had heard
enough of people lost in the snow to know what
the end must be-that before long, if she could
not succeed in finding her way home, the cold would
numb her into a sleep, from which there would be
no awaking in this world. It was awful to think
of, to die there by herself, away from all human
aid, never to see those dear to her again; and in a
46 LITTLE CURIOSITY.
rush there came before her mind, as it is said to
come before the mind of people who are drowning,
all that had happened in the past part of life.
How little good she had done in it; how much
that was wrong. How often she had grieved
her mother; how obstinately she had persisted in
her faults. If she could only live it over again
how different it should all be! And looking up at
the starry sky above her Katie said to herself, that
if she were spared through the night and reached
her home again, she would, by God's grace, lead a
better life in the future.
Hush! What was that? A sound which sent
all Katie's blood in one bound to her heart, and
left her trembling in every limb. A light pattering
footfall over the snow, which in an instantaneous
flash brought back to Katie's mind Frau Hart-
mann's jest on the day of their merry sleighing
party. It could be nothing but-a wolf! In an
anguish of terror Katie pressed herself close against
the trunk of the tree beside her, not daring even
to breathe, in the desperate hope that it might
pass by without perceiving her. But no; it was
coming right towards her. All Katie's senses
seemed to concentrate themselves in her ears as
she listened to the footsteps coming steadily nearer.
She could hear the heavy panting breathing now;
LITTLE CURIOSITY. 47
the wolf would be upon her in another moment.
She was too utterly paralysed by fear to have even
the power of crying for help; besides, there was
no one to hear her. She could only crouch there,
trembling, expecting every moment to feel the
wolf leap up and fasten his sharp fangs in her
throat. Instead, however, he stopped short and
gave two sharp, glad barks. Oh, joy! it was no
wolf at all, but only faithful old Caro himself.
Katie gave one long-drawn breath in the sudden,
unhoped-for relief from the mortal terror she had
been in, and then, throwing herself on the ground
beside him, with her arms round his neck and her
face buried down in his rough coat, she burst into
a passionate fit of crying. The trusty old dog must
have broken loose to follow her, she could feel a
bit of his chain still hanging to his collar. He had
scented her along the road, and most likely he had
heard her when she had called for help a few
minutes before and been guided to her thus.
Katie soon remembered, however, that though
she had a companion with her now she was still
lost, and that she must try to make her way home.
With a sudden hope she started up and took hold
of the bit of broken chain.
"Home, Caro! home, good dog!" she cried.
But Caro did not understand; he was accus-
48 LITTLE CURIOSITY.
tomed to follow, not to lead, so he stood still and
thrust his cold nose into her hand.
Come on then," Katie said desperately, and
she set off again in the direction from which
the sound of the church bell was coming. The
bell soon ceased ringing, however, and she was left
to grope on helplessly as before, knocking up
against tree trunks, stumbling over roots, striking
her head against the branches, and bringing down
the heavy masses of snow with which they were
loaded upon herself. If she could only keep on
walking till the daylight came and let her see her
way; but the long hours of the winter's night were
all before her still, and already her knees were
knocking together with fatigue, and her breath
was coming quick and short; still she struggled on,
for she knew that it was her only chance of life.
But, turn how she would, she could find no way
out of the forest, there were still trees on all
sides of her; and at last Katie's strength gave way
and she sank down on the ground.
"Oh, mother!" she sobbed, "if I could only get
home, just to bid you good-bye and tell you how
sorry I am that I vexed you; and now you'll never
know." Then she laid her head down on Caro's
back and gave herself up to the fatal drowsiness
that was stealing over her.
THE PASTOR'S HOME.
UT all was not over yet, as Katie thought in
her despair; there was an eye watching over
her, an eye which sees as well in the thick-
est darkness as in the clear noonday, and an arm
outstretched to protect her. Just as she had given
up all hope and lain down in upper helplessness to
die, a quick step rang upon her ear and a man's
voice singing cheerily:
"Dear Fatherland, no fear be thine;
Firm stands the guard upon the Rhine."
Gathering her last energies Katie gave a feeble
cry for help, while Caro began barking vocifer-
The footsteps stopped short. "Hillo, what is
that there?" said the voice; and guided by Caro's
barking the man came over to where Katie was
lying huddled on the snow. Without her being
aware of it her blind wanderings had brought her
50 LITTLE CURIOSITY.
to the very place she had been vainly endeavour-
ing to reach, and when she had given herself up
and lain down in the snow, it had been within
thirty yards of the high road.
"If it is not a child out alone this cold night!"
the man exclaimed, as he stooped over her. In an
instant he had pulled off his overcoat and wrapped
her up carefully in it, and then taking her in his
arms he set off at a rapid pace.
A quarter of an hour's quick walking brought
him to a wretched mountain village, of which there
are a great many scattered through the Black For-
est, a straggling collection of cabins built along
the roadside. Just at present, however, they
looked snug enough, for the darkness kindly hid
the mud walls and the dilapidated shingle roofs,
and light was streaming out of every window.
Even in the poorest hovel some attempt had been
made to keep Christmas Eve; no matter if at other
times the family often went hungry to bed, a few
pence had been scraped up somehow or another to
buy an extra candle and a few cakes and wooden
toys to please the little ones. At the further end
of the village stood the little church, and close be-
side it the parsonage house, the only two-storied
building which the village had to boast of.
Katie's preserver stopped at the door of the lat-
LITTLE CURIOSITY. 51
ter-for he was indeed the pastor of the little com-
munity. The window beside the door was brightly
lighted up, but it was impossible to see into the
room inside, for the heat of the stove within and
the cold without had completely covered the glass
over with a thin sheet of ice. Two round holes
had been rubbed in this frosting, however, and two
pair of eyes were peering out anxiously into the
"The father! the father!" childish voices cried joy-
fully. Here he is at last!" And the little watchers
could ba heard jumping down from their post.
The door was thrown open and the pastor's wife
appeared on the threshold with a flock of flaxen-
haired children crowding after her.
"Oh, my dear husband!" she exclaimed. "Where
have you been all this time? Do you know that
it is almost half-past seven? The children have
been nearly crying, thinking they must have
their Christmas-tree without father, for I said
longer than half-past seven I would not wait,
and that the tree must be lit then, father or no
father. But what in all the world have you got
there?" And the pastor's wife ceased her flow of
talk as, by the light proceeding from the candle
in the little sitting-room, she caught sight of the
bundle in her husband's arms.
52 LITTLE CURIOSITY.
It's a little girl I found lying in the snow, and
no one with her but the dog there. Quick, Anna,
get her to bed and give her something hot to drink
to bring the life back into her; if I had been five
minutes later it would have been all over with
Christmas-tree, children, and everything else
were forgotten as the kindly woman carried Katie
into a tiny closet-like room on the ground-floor,
containing two small white beds, appropriated to
the two eldest little girls of the parsonage-two
sedate little maidens, dressed in blue pinafores, and
with their fair hair hanging in two long plaits
down their backs, who had followed their mother,
and stood staring in silent wonder at the little
stranger who had tumbled in on them so unex-
"You two must sleep together and give one of
your beds to our guest," said their mother, as she
bustled about to undress Katie and chafe her cold
limbs to bring back some warmth into them.
" Run to the kitchen now, and get a cup of elder-
tea made hot."
Katie had a dim idea afterwards of being put
to bed and seeing herself surrounded by strange
faces, but she was so stupid and sleepy that when
her kindly nurse asked her her name and where she
LITTLE CURIOSITY. 53
had come from, she could only murmur indistinctly
" Katie Eltham," and the pastor's wife was unable
to catch the foreign name. With some difficulty she
was made to swallow the cup of hot elder-tea, and
then she laid her head on the pillow and fell into
a deep sleep.
"We must wait till the morning before we find
out who she is," said the mother, coming out of
the room when she had seen Katie settled as com-
fortably as possible; "though I am afraid her
mother, if she has one, must be in great trouble
about her now. Not but that she deserves a fright
for being so careless as to let thll child wander off
into the woods at night by herself. We must get
the Christmas-tree lit now, however, the poor chil-
dren's patience has been sorely tried to-night;" and
with a frown and a shake of her head, implying
that unutterable things might be expected, she
disappeared into her husband's study, the door of
which had been carefully locked all day.
When at length she opened the door again and
summoned the children in, it was a very poverty-
stricken Christmas-tree that was revealed to their
expectant eyes. A small fir-tree, lit up by half a
dozen wax-tapers, with only a few apples and
oranges, and flags made of coloured paper by way
of ornaments. The children, however, gazed at it
54 LITTLE CURIOSITY.
with as much awe and admiration as if it had
come direct from fairy-land. The presents, too,
which hung upon it were principally such things as
most children expect to receive as a matter of
course without their being Christmas presents.
Warm winter frocks for the little girls, a jacket
for Tony, the eldest boy, manufactured out of the
tails of an old worn-out coat of his father's, a
satchel for Hans, who was to go to school after
Christmas with the elder ones. But with only the
narrow income of a pastor of the Black Forest, and
six children to be clothed and fed, there is not
much money for buying Christmas presents, and
no one knew how much care and thought even
that Christmas-tree had cost the mother. How
anxiously she had watched the brood of the
speckled gray hen, the proceeds of which, from the
time that the hen had been set down to hatch in
the spring, she had mentally devoted to the
Christmas-tree. How for months past every
groschen and pfennig that could possibly be spared
from the household expenses had gone to swell the
little hoard. And she was well repaid for her
trouble as she looked at the radiant faces of the
children, who were as delighted with their homely
presents as if they had been the most costly which
money could have procured. There were dolls,
LITTLE CURIOSITY. 55
too, for the little girls, which their mother had
dressed secretly at night after the children had
gone to bed, and tops and wooden soldiers for the
boys. But, most wonderful present of all, there
was a gaily bound book of fairy stories, the pastor's
gift, with "For all my little ones" written on the
The children all clustered eagerly round, the
smaller ones standing on tiptoe to get a peep over
the shoulders of the others; while Tony, turning
the leaves over carefully with the tips of his
fingers, showed them the marvellous pictures of
princes and princesses, giants and dragons.
"But I can't read what the pictures are about,"
said little Minchen half crying.
"Never mind," her mother consoled her, "Tony
shall read out a story after supper every evening
when you have all been good, in that way the book
will last all the longer."
Oh, yes, yes!" cried all the children in chorus,
"that will be nice; and may we begin now, this
But the pastor's wife shook her head. We must
not forget that this is more than a day for getting
and giving presents," she said. "We must read
something to-night that will tell us the reason why
Christmas Eve should be a day of rejoicing to us.
56 LITTLE CURIOSITY.
But come now, the lights are nearly burnt out, and
Elsbeth has got tea ready."
Elsbeth, the old servant, had meanwhile spread
what seemed a sumptuous repast to the children in
the little parlour. Instead of the roast or fried
potatoes and the weak coffee, of which the frugal
evening meal at the pastor's usually consisted,
differing but little from that of his poorest pa-
rishioners, there was a large tin tea-pot on the
table with an imposing array of tea-cups arranged
round it, loaves of black and white bread, bright
yellow butter, honey and-what was that smoking
in the centre?
"Apple-cake!" shouted the children, clapping
their hands. "Elsbeth has made an apple-cake
The old woman smiled delightedly. "That is
my present," she said. I said to myself they shall
have something from me too, so I slipped down
this morning to Bergfeld and bought the apples,
and three of the hens laid to-day, as if they knew
it was Christmas Eve and eggs would be wanting."
"It is strange how little we can tell what we
should be thankful for," the pastor said musingly,
when the clatter of plates and of knives had subsided
to some extent. You asked what kept me so late,
Anna. I was coming home from Bergfeld to be
LITTLE CURIOSITY. 57
here at half-past five for the Christmas-tree, as I
promised the children, when Widow Schultz came
running to meet me-thewifeof thepoorwood-cutter
who was killed last spring by a tree falling on him.
Her little boy had been taken ill suddenly, and she
had no one to send to the doctor. There she stood
in the snow, crying and wringing her hands, afraid
to leave the child, and fearing every moment that
he would die for the want of the doctor. It was
a sad Christmas Eve for the poor woman, her
husband dead, and the only little one she has dying,
it might be. What could I do, then, but walk back
to Bergfeld to fetch the doctor? But when I got
to his house he was gone out a league away to
spend Christmas Eve with a friend. I was vexed
enough, for I thought of you, and the children, and
the Christmas-tree all waiting for me; and not
knowing what had become of me; but I could not
come home to spend a happy evening here, and leave
poor Widow Schultz in her trouble, so I walked
out after him, and he drove me back with him as far
as Widow Schultz's. I was walking up from there
when suddenly I heard a child's cry in the wood,
and then the dog began to bark and led me to the
right place. Ah, Anna," he added thoughtfully,
"just think that if I had had my own way and
come up to you at the time I intended, that poor
58 LITTLE CURIOSITY.
child would be lying cold and dead in the wood
now! It shows us how little we know what's good
for us, and how well it is that there is someone
who knows better than we do to guide and control
There was silence for a time after this; then the
pastor's wife said in her active, energetic way,
"Come, we must not forget the poor dog; he has
earned his supper well by the care he took of his
little mistress. Gather up all the bits that are
left, children, and make him a good mess; and
then we must have our reading. It is high time
you were in your beds, Hans and Minchen have
been holding their eyes open with their fingers for
the last ten minutes."
Caro was soon provided with a bowlful of scraps,
to which lie did ample justice, and then Tony
fetched the large leather-bound Bible and read the
old, old story of the first Christmas night on which
the angels sang their joyful anthem to the shepherds
watching their flocks in the fields at Bethlehem.
Then the pastor said a few words, so plain and
simple that even the youngest of the children
could understand them, of the wondrous love which
brought the Saviour on earth to lead a life of
sorrow, toil, and poverty.
Hearty good-nights were then exchanged all
LITTLE CURIOSITY. 59
round, and the little troop departed to their re-
It was late when Katie awoke next morning;
the little bed beside her own was empty, and the
winter sun was shining in at the curtainless win-
dow, making a patch of pale sunlight on the bare
Katie sat up and gazed about her in the most
utter bewilderment. Where was she? How had
she got into this strange room? What did it all
The door had been left ajar that the pastor's wife
might hear the smallest stir inside the room, and
accordingly Katie's movement quickly brought her
in to her bedside.
"Well, you have had a fine sleep, my little
one," she said kindly. "And how do you feel
Oh, I am quite well!" Katie replied, still in the
same amazement. "But, please, where am I,
and what brought me here?"
"You are at Pastor Lindner's, up at Tannen-
dorf," was the answer. He found you half dead
in the snow last night, and carried you here."
"Oh, yes, I remember now!" said Katie, as the
events of the previous night came back with a rush
upon her mind. I must get up at once, please,
60 LITTLE CURIOSITY.
and run home. They don't know what's become
of me there."
No, no, just stay where you are," said the Frau
Lindner soothingly. "You must have your break-
fast before I let you get up. Tell me where you
come from, and I will send my boy to let them
know where you are. I am afraid whoever you
belong to must have been in sore trouble about
you last night."
"I'm one of Madame Eltham's children, the
English lady who lives near Bergfeld."
"I know well. Tony! Tony!" called Frau
Lindner, going to the door. Get your cap and run
as fast as you can to Madame Eltham, who lives
in the house with the red roof on this side of
Bergfeld. Tell her that her little girl is quite
safe at Pastor Lindner's of Tannendorf. The
others are all at church," Frau Lindner went on
when the door had closed behind the little messen-
ger. I kept him at home that I might be able
to send word to your mother the moment you
awoke. This is the first Christmas morning since
I was married that I haven't heard my husband
preach. I must get you your coffee now, and then
if you can take another sleep, so much the better."
Mrs. Eltham, as can be readily imagined, had
passed a miserable night. As Katie herself had
LITTLE CURIOSITY. 61
expected, the child was not missed till Mary and
Ethel went up to bed, when it was discovered for
the first time that she was not in her room, and
the absence of her cloak and hood from their peg
showed that she must have gone out. Mrs. Eltham
had sent to the manager's, to the school, and
to the houses of one or two other friends in the
town, in the hope that Katie might have gone to
one or other of them, but of course all inquiries
proved fruitless. The assistance of two or three
men with lanterns was then procured, and Mrs.
Eltham spent most of the night with them, search-
ing the roads and the forest surrounding the
house. When morning came without any trace
of the little runaway having been found, or any
tidings gained of her, nearly all hope of seeing
Katie alive again was given up, and, accordingly,
no messenger was ever more joyfully received than
Tony was when he brought the welcome news that
Katie was safe and well.
"Oh, mother, I am so very, very sorry!" whis-
pered Katie when Mrs. Eltham, still pale from the
terror she had undergone during the night, stooped
down to kiss her; "and, indeed, I'll never be
Little Curiosity again."
And Katie kept her word bravely. Whenever
in the future she felt herself disposed to pry into
62 LITTLE CURIOSITY.
anything not intended for her to know, she would
remember the resolution she had made during
those awful hours in the snow, and the remem-
brance always served to drive away all temptation
to indulge in her old fault.
When Christmas came round again there was a
very merry party assembled at Mrs. Eltham's, for
she had insisted that all Pastor Lindner's children
should come down to her Christmas-tree.
"My little girl spent last Christmas Eve with
you," she said, "so it is only fair that you should
come to me this time."
Fingers had been kept very busy at Mrs.
Eltham's, therefore, for weeks past, there had
been so many to provide for; and Mary, Ethel,
and Katie had begged to be allowed to share in
the present-giving this time, and under Aunt
Martha's directions had each of them contrived
and manufactured presents for some of the Lindner
children. For Aunt Martha was with them still;
notwithstanding her strictness the whole household
had become so attached to her that when, towards
the autumn, she began to speak of going back to
England, no one would hear of her going away,
and so she had made up her mind to make her
home with Mrs. Eltham. She had found plenty
of work for herself to do at Bergfeld; many were
LITTLE CURIOSITY. 63
the poor German women who came to ask her
advice in any case of sickness or any trouble they
might be in. It was a marvel to all how they and
Aunt Martha contrived to understand each other,
seeing that the good old lady had never been able
to learn the German language; she was too old to
learn new-fangled ways of speaking, she said.
But by a mixture of broken English and German,
helped out by a vigorous use of signs, the difficulty
was usually got over, and the applicant was always
sure of Aunt Martha's ready help and sympathy;
so that many besides the inmates of Mrs. Eltham's
house blessed the day when she had come among
When all the gifts on the Christmas-tree had
been distributed and the whole party were sitting
at tea, Ethel said: "This is a different Christmas
Eve from last year's, isn't it, mother?"
"Yes," said Mrs. Eltham gravely; "that was a
terrible night indeed; we never can be sufficiently
grateful to God for his great mercy in preserving
Katie to us. But I think," she added, looking
kindly at Katie, "that, terrible as it was, Katie
has cause to look back to it with thankfulness,
since it taught her how precious a gift life is, and
that it is given to us not merely for our own enjoy-
ment and pleasure, but that we should, by God's
64 LITTLE CURIOSITY.
grace, deny ourselves and strive against our faults,
that day by day we may bring our lives nearer the
example of Him whose birth we are celebrating
to-night. And, looking back on the year that is
past, I can see that the lesson Katie learnt that
night has not been forgotten."