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sometimes odd enough stories to tell a world to fall unexpectedly upon hithlittle girl, as we wandered about the erto consistently neglected cousins, and echoing rooms, or hung over the stone expect to be received by them with balustrade and fed the fishes in the open arms. lake, or picked the pale dog-roses in
a complicated journey, and the hedges, or lay in the boat in a shady lasted several hours. During the first reed-grown bay while he smoked to part, when it was still dark, I glowed keep the mosquitoes off, were after all with enthusiasm, with the spirit of only traditions, imparted to me in small adventure, with delight at the prospect doses from time to time, when his of so soon seeing the loved place again; earnest desire not to raise his remarks and thought with wonder of the long above the level of dulness supposed to years I had allowed to pass since last be wholesome for Backfische was neu- I was there. Of what I should say to tralized by an impulse to share his the cousins, and of how I should introthoughts with somebody who would duce myself into their midst, I did not laugh; whereas the place I was bound think at all; the pilgrim spirit was for on my latest pilgrimage was filled upon me, the unpractical spirit that with living, first-hand memories of all takes no thought for anything, but simthe enchanted years that lie between ply wanders along enjoying its own two and eighteen. How enchanted emotions. It was a quiet, sad mornthose years are, is made more and more ing, and there was a thick mist. By clear to me the older I grow. There the time I was in the little train on the has been nothing in the least like them light railway that passed through the since; and though I have forgotten village nearest my old home, I had got most of what happened six months ago, over my first enthusiasm, and had enevery incident, almost every day, of tered the stage of critically examining those wonderful long years is perfectly the changes that had been made in the distinct in my memory.
last ten years. It was so misty that I But I had been stiffnecked, proud, un- could see nothing of the familiar counpleasant, altogether cousinly in my be- try from the carriage windows, only havior towards the people in posses- the ghosts of pines in the front row of sion. The invitations to revisit the old the forests; but the railway itself was home had ceased. The cousins had a new departure, unknown in our day, grown tired of refusals, and had left when we used to drive over ten miles me alone. I did not even know who of deep, sandy forest roads to and from lived in it now, it was so long since I the station, and although most people had had any news. For two days I would have called it an evident and fought against the strong desire to go great improvement, it was an innovathere that had suddenly seized me, and tion due, no doubt, to the zeal and enassured myself that I would not go, ergy of the reigning cousin; and who that it would be absurd to go, undig- was he, thought I, that he should renified, sentimental and silly; that I did quire more conveniences than my fanot know them and would be in an ther had found needful? It was no use awkward position, and that I was old my telling myself that in my father's enough to know better. But who can time the era of light railways had not foretell from one hour to the next what dawned, and that if it had, we should a woman will do? And when does she have done our utmost to secure one; ever know better? On the third morn- the thought of my cousin stepping into ing I set out as hopefully as though it my shoes, and then altering them, was were the most natural thing in the odious to me. By the time I was
walking up the hill from the station I had got over this feeling too, and had entered a third stage of wondering un. easily what in the world I should do next. Where was the intrepid courage with which I had started? At the top of the first hill I sat down to consider this question in detail, for I was very near the house now, and felt I wanted time. Where, indeed, was the courage and joy of the morning? It had van. ished so completely that I could only suppose that it must be lunch time, the observations of years having led to the discovery that the higher sentiments and virtues fly affrighted on the approach of lunch, and none fly quicker than courage. So I ate the lunch I had brought with me, hoping that it was what I wanted; but it was chilly, made up of sandwiches and pears, and it had to be eaten under a tree at the edge of a field; and it was November, and the mist was thicker than ever and very wet-the grass was wet with it, the gaunt tree was wet with it, I was wet with it, and the sandwiches were wet with it. Nobody's spirits can keep up under such conditions; and as I ate the soaked sandwiches I deplored the headlong courage more with each mouthful that had torn me from a warm, dry home where I was appreciated, and had brought me first to the damp tree in the damp field, and, when I had finished my lunch and dessert of cold pears, was going to drag me into the midst of a circle of unprepared and astonished cousins. Vast sheep loomed through the mist a few yards off. The sheep-dog kept up a perpetual, irritating yap. In the fog I could hardly tell where I was, though I knew I must have played there a hundred times as a child. After the fashion of woman directly she is not perfectly warm and perfectly comfortable, I began to consider the uncertainty of human life, and to shake my head in gloomy approval as lugubrious lines of
pessimistic poetry suggested themselves to my mind.
Now, it is clearly a desirable plan, if you want to do anything, to do it in the way consecrated by custom, more especially if you are a woman. The rattle of a carriage along the road just behind me, and the fact that I started and turned suddenly hot, drove this truth home to my soul. The mist hid me, and the carriage, no doubt full of cousins, drove on in the direction of the house; but what an absurd position I was in! Suppose the kindly mist had lifted and revealed me lunching in the wet on their property, the cousin of the short and lofty letters, the unangenehme Elisabeth! “Die war doch immer verdreht," I could imagine them hastily muttering to each other, before advancing decked with welcoming smiles. It gave me a great shock, this narrow escape, and I got on to my feet quickly, and burying the remains of my lunch under the gigantic molehill on which I had been sitting, asked myself nervously what I proposed to do next. Should I walk back to the village, go to the Gasthof, write a letter craving permission to call on my cousins and wait there till an answer came? It would be a dis. creet and sober course to pursue; the next best thing to having written before leaving home. But the Gasthof of a North German village is a dreadful place, and the remembrance of one in which I had taken refuge once from a thunderstorm was still so vivid that nature itself cried out against this plan. The mist, if anything, was growing denser. I knew every path and gate in the place. What if I gave up all hope of seeing the house, and went through the little door in the wall at the bottom of the garden, and confined myself for this once to that? In such weather I would be able to wander round as I pleased, without the least risk of being seen by or meeting any cousins, and it was after all the garden
that lay nearest my heart. What a de- cially belonged to me. Nobody ever light it would be to creep into it un- came to it, for in winter it was too observed, and revisit all the corners I dreary, and in summer so full of mosso well remembered, and slip out again quitoes that only a Backfisch indifferent and get away safely without any need to spots could have borne it. But it of explanations, assurances, protesta- was a place where I could play unobtions, displays of affection; without any served, and where I could walk up and need, in a word, of that exhausting down uninterrupted for hours, building form of conversation, so dear to rela- castles in the air. There was an untions, known as Redensarten!
wholesome little arbor in one dark The mist tempted me. I think if it corner, much frequented by the larger had been a fine day I would have gone black slug, where I used to pass glorisoberly to the Gasthof and written the ous afternoons making plans. I was conciliatory letter; but the temptation forever making plans, and if nothing was too great, it was altogether irre- came of them, what did it matter? The sistible, and in ten minutes I had found mere making had been a joy.
To me the gate, opened it with some difficulty, this out-of-the-way corner was always and was standing with a beating heart a wonderful and a mysterious place, in the garden of my childhood.
where my castles in the air stood close Now I wonder whether I shall ever together in radiant rows, and where again feel thrills of the same potency the strangest and most splendid adas those that ran through me at that ventures befell me; for the hours I moment. First of all I was trespass- passed in it and the people I met in it ing, which is in itself thrilling; but were all enchanted. how much more thrilling when you are Standing there and looking round trespassing on what might just as well with happy eyes, I forgot the existence have been your own ground, on what ac- of the cousins. I could have cried for tually was for years your own ground, joy at being there again. It was the and when you are in deadly peril of home of my fathers, the home that seeing the rightful owners, whom you
would have been mine if I had been have never met, but with whom you
a boy, the home that was mine now by have quarrelled, appear round the a thousand tender and happy and corner, and of hearing them remark miserable associations, of which the with an enquiring and awful polite- people in possession could not dream. ness "I do not think I have the pleas- They were tenants, but it was my ure-?” Then the place was unchanged. home. I threw my arms round the I was standing in the same mysterious trunk of a very wet fir tree, every tangle of damp litle paths that had al- branch of which I remembered, for had ways been just there; they curled away I not climbed it, and fallen from it, on either side among the shrubs, with and torn and bruised myself on it unthe brown tracks of recent footsteps in accountable numbers of times? and I the centre of their green stains, just as gave it such a hearty kiss that my nose they did in my day. The overgrown
and chin were smudged into one green lilac bushes still met above my head. stain, and still I did not care. Far The moisture dripped from the same from caring, it filled me with a reckledge in the wall on to the sodden less, Backfisch pleasure in being dirty, leaves beneath, as it had done all a delicious feeling that I had not had through the afternoons of all those past for years. Alice in Wonderland, after Novembers. This was the place, this
she had drunk the contents of the damp and gloomy tangle, that had spe- magic bottle, could not have grown
smaller more suddenly than I grew estness. "Unsinn," said my governess, younger the moment I passed through cutting me short. that magic door. Bad habits cling to After the first thrills of joy at being us, however, with such persistency that there again had gone, the profound I did mechanically pull out my hand- stillness of the dripping little shrubbery kerchief and begin to rub off the wel- frightened me. It was so still that I coming smudge, a thing I never would was afraid to move; so still, that I have dreamed of doing in the glorious could count each drop of moisture fallold days; but an artful scent of violets ing from the oozing wall; so still, that clinging to the handkerchief brought me when I held my breath to listen I was to my senses, and with a sudden impulse deafened by my own heart-beats. I of scorn, the fine scorn for scent of made a step forward in the direction every honest Backfisch, . I rolled it up where the arbor ought to be, and the into a ball and flung it away into the rustling and jingling of my clothes terbushes, where I dare say it is to this rified me into immobility. The house day. “Away with you," I cried, "away was only two hundred yards off, and with you, symbol of conventionality, of if any one had been about, the noise slavery, of pandering to a desire to I had already made opening the creakplease-away with you, miserable little ing door and so foolishly apostrophizlace-edged rag!” And so young had I ing my handkerchief must have been grown within the last few minutes that noticed. Suppose an enquiring gardener I did not even feel silly.
or a restless cousin should presently As a Backfisch I had never used hand- loom through he fog, bearing down kerchiefs—the child of nature scorns to upon me? Suppose Fräulein Wunderblow its nose-though for decency's macher should pounce upon me sudsake my governess insisted on giving denly from behind, coming up noiseme a clean one of vast size and stub- lessly in her galoshes, and shatter my born texture on Sundays.
castles with her customary triumphant stowed away unfolded in the remotest "Jetzt halte ich dich aber fest?" Why, corner of my pocket, where it was what was I thinking of? Fräulein gradually pressed into a beautiful com- Wundermacher, so big and masterful, pactness by the other contents, which such an enemy of day-dreams, such a were knives. After a while, I remem. friend of das Praktische, such a lover ber the handkerchief being brought to of creature comforts, had died long light on Sundays to make room for a ago, had been succeeded long ago by successor, and, being manifestly per- others, German sometimes, and somefectly clean, we came to an agreement times English, and sometimes at interthat it should only be changed on the vals French; and they, too, had all in first and third Sundays in the month, their turn vanished, and I was here a on condition that I promised to turn it solitary ghost. “Come, Elizabeth," said on the other Sundays. My governess I to myself impatiently, "are you acsaid that the outer folds became soiled tually growing sentimental over your from the mere contact with the other governesses? If you think you are a things in my pocket, and that visitors ghost, be glad at least that you are a might catch sight of the soiled side, if solitary Would
you like the it was never turned, when I wished to ghosts of all those poor women you torblow my nose in their presence, and mented to rise up now in this gloomy that one had no right to give one's place against you? And do you intend visitors shocks. “But I
never do to stand here till you are caught?" And wish-" I began with very great earn. thus exhorting myself to action, and
recognizing how great was the risk I I was attached, and whose English ran in lingering, I started down the name I had been told was pigtail, just little path leading to the arbor and the at the instant when I was springing principal part of the garden, going, it away from her into the bushes; and so is true, on tiptoe, and very much had led me home triumphant, holding frightened by the rustling of my petti. on tight to the rope of hair, and mutcoats, but determined to see what I tering with a broad smile of special had come to see, and not to be scared satisfaction, “Diesmal wirst du mir away by phantoms.
aber nicht entschülpfen!" Fräulein How regretfully did I think at that Wundermacher, now I came to think moment of the petticoats of my youth, of it, must have been a humorist. She 60 short, so silent and so woollen! And was certainly a clever and a capable how convenient the canvas shoes were woman. But I wished at that moment with the indiarubber soles, for creeping that she would not haunt me so per. about without making a sound! Thanks sistently, and that I could get rid of the to them, I could always run swiftly feeling that she was just behind in her and unheard into my hiding-places, and galoshes, with her hand stretched out stay there listening to the garden re- to seize me. sounding with cries of "Elizabeth! Passing the arbor, and peering into Elizabeth! Come in at once to your les- its damp recesses, I started back with sons!" Or, at a different period, “Où my heart in my mouth. I thought I êtes-vous donc, petite sotte?” Or, at yet
my grandfather's stern eyes another period, "Warte nur, wenn ich shining in the darkness. It was evi. dich erst habe!" As the voices came dent that my anxiety lest the cousins round one corner, I whisked in my should catch me had quite upset my noiseless clothes round the next, and it nerves, for I am not by nature inclined was only Fräulein Wundermacher, a to see eyes where eyes are not. “Don't person of resource, who discovered that be foolish, Elizabeth,” murmured my all she needed for my successful cir- soul in rather a faint voice, "go in and cumvention was galoshes. She pur- make sure.” “But I don't like going chased a pair, wasted no breath calling in and making sure," I replied. I did me, and would come up silently, as I go in, however, with a sufficient show stood lapped in a false security, lost in of courage, and fortunately the eyes the contemplation of a squirrel or a vanished. What I should have done robin, and seize me by the shoulders they had not I am altogether unable from behind, to the grievous unhinging to imagine. Ghosts are things that I of my nerves. Stealing along in the
laugh at in the daytime and fear at fog, I looked back uneasily once or night, but I think if I were to meet one twice, so vivid was this disquieting I should die. The arbor had fallen in. memory, and could hardly be reassured
to great decay, and was in the last by putting up my hand to the elabo
stage of mouldiness. My grandfather rate twists and curls that compose what had had it made, and, like other build. my maid calls my Frisur, and that ings it enjoyed a period of prosperity mark the gulf lying between the pres- before being left to the ravages of ent and the past; for it had happened slugs and children, when he came down once or twice, awful to relate and to every afternoon in summer and drank remember, that Fräulein Wundermach- his coffee there and read his Kreuzer, sooner than let me slip through her zeitung and dozed, while the rest of us fingers, had actually caught me by the went about on tiptoe, and only the long plait of hair to whose other end birds dared sing. Even the mosquitoes