: Fairy Tales From The German Forests
O it was so hot, so hot; the earth was well-nigh parched up, and
moreover the use of water was restricted in the town where the children
lived. The flowers in the little garden were drooping for want of
moisture, and the trees began to shed their leaves as if it were already
autumn instead of July. The schools were obliged to close early; the
children came home at eleven o'clock instead of at one,
that they had heat holidays. For there is a regulation in Germany, if
the thermometer is over a certain degree in the shade, the school is
closed for the rest of the day. The high schools do not have classes in
the afternoon; the children have six hours lessons in the morning, with
intervals of course for recreation and drilling. Some headmasters douche
the walls of the school-building with cold water, and then examine the
thermometer; but children as well as teachers think this a very mean
thing to do.
The school holidays commence at the beginning of July, not in August, as
is the case in England. This year the two little girls, Trudel and
Lottchen, and their mother were going to stay at a farm, which was
situated high up in the midst of the most lovely woods. Trudel, I must
tell you, was ten years old, and Lottchen eight; they both went to the
same school. This farm was an inn at the same time; but very few people
visited it during the week, and by nine o'clock the house was empty of
guests; for the woodways were hardly safe at night. It was easy to get
lost in those vast forests where one path so closely resembles the
It was a long climb up from the station; the children began to flag, and
mother was tired. Father had come with them to settle them in; but he
could not stay longer than the first day or two; for his holidays did
not begin till August. He invented all sorts of games for getting along
quicker; he deposited chocolate on stones or tree-stumps by the wayside,
which was discovered by the children with a shout of joy. Then just as
Lottchen's legs were beginning to ache badly, and she was nearly crying,
he helped them on by telling the story of the assassination of Julius
Caesar. Trudel had read about it in her history-book at school; but it
was written in such dreadfully historical language that she had not
understood the story; she found it thrillingly interesting as father
told it. Lottchen said that she could never have treated her little
friend Hansi so cruelly, and that she hated that man Brutus.
At last they reached the end of the woodpath, and there lay
Waldheim--for so the farm was called--before them. A big dog sprang out
to meet them. Mother and Lottchen shrank back from his rough welcome;
but Trudel was soon ordering him about, and did not seem in the least
surprised when he obeyed her. His name was Bruno. The farm consisted of
a group of buildings; two houses, one for the farm labourers and the
maids, the other for guests. There were also large barns which had been
newly erected, and a pond.
Round the houses were fields belonging to the farm, and then everywhere
woods, woods, woods. Blue mountain-crests were visible above and beyond
The children partly unpacked the boxes themselves; for mother was still
so tired. They even took off her boots and put on her shoes for her,
like kind little daughters, and Trudel put away their clothes neatly in
the cupboard. Then they all went downstairs joyfully to a cosy tea,
which, I need hardly say, they enjoyed very much after their long walk
After tea all fatigue vanished, and the children flew out to inspect the
premises for themselves. The farmer had two boys of about the same age
as Trudel and Lottchen. Their names were Hermann and Fritz. Hermann was
very shy; he hid himself at first and peeped out at the strange girls
from corners of the yard or barns, rushing away when they caught sight
of him. However Trudel soon coaxed him out, and they all played ball
Then Hermann and Fritz took the girls round the farm. They went first
into the cow-shed; there were fourteen cows, seven calves and a bull.
The cow-herd was a strange, uncanny-looking fellow with a great shock of
red hair, and a very red face. He shouted at the children in a dreadful
hoarse voice; they felt frightened of him at first, and thought he was
mad; but they soon found out that the poor fellow was only deaf and
dumb. The cows were his intimate friends. He had christened each one of
them when they were born: Sophie, Emma, and so on. After they had gone
home again, the children learnt to their pride that he had named two new
calves after them, Trudel and Lotty.
There were four horses that were used for driving and ploughing.
Lottchen was especially fond of horses. She liked to see them come home
from the field by themselves and walk straight into the stable with a
noble air, like a lord returning to his castle. Her favourite horse was
called Hector. Lotty noticed one day that he was left alone in the
stable, whilst the other horses were ploughing in the field. The
stable-door was open, and after a while to her surprise he walked out.
"What is he going to do? I hope he will not run away and get lost,"
thought Lotty anxiously. But no, he just walked leisurely up to the
field where the other horses were hard at work and looked on! It was
evidently dull in the stable and he wanted a little distraction. When he
was tired of watching his friends, he returned to the stable, where he
was found innocently munching hay as if nothing had happened.
Pigs of course were there too in plenty; they ran about everywhere,
grunting and snorting; also geese and chickens. Trudel liked to drive
the geese into the water; she was fond of commanding, as her little
sister sometimes knew to her cost.
The maids were two peasant girls who wore very short full skirts and a
great many petticoats. Their dress was a modification of the wonderful
Hessen peasant costume. These girls were ready to do anything for the
children. Gustel, who was chief waitress and chambermaid at the same
time, said that she had never seen such pretty "kindersche" (little
children) in all her life before!
The only other guest in the house at this time was a Herr Baron; he told
wonderful stories of his adventures in South America.
"Drought," he said, "yes, that's very bad, but floods may be worse. I
have known years of labour destroyed in one night by a flood. All the
beautiful fields of grain, our sole wealth. I lived at that time with my
married sister and her family, and we had only just time to rescue
ourselves and the children. I was the last to leave the house which we
were never to see again. I could not decide which of my possessions to
take with me, so I seized up the skin of a puma that I had shot on
another memorable occasion, and bore it off on my shoulder, like Jason
carrying the golden fleece, and that was all that was left of my
personal property. Ah! it needs patience to conquer the elements," he
Altogether the Herr Baron was a wonderful character; he seemed as if he
were not real, but had stepped out of a book of romance. He delighted in
reading English stories; he was especially fond of "She" and "King
Solomon's Mines." The children believed that he smoked day and night;
for they had never seen him without a cigarette, except at meal-times.
He told father and mother the story of how he had had a bullet
extracted from his side that he had carried about with him for years. It
had struck him during one of the revolutions that so frequently go on in
South America. The bullet had recently set up inflammation, and a
dangerous operation was necessary to remove it. "Chloroform! not if I
know it," he said to the doctors. "Just you let me smoke my cigar, and I
shall be all right. I won't say 'Oh!'"
The doctors were naturally very astonished and demurred at this new
method of treatment; but he persisted in his determination, and the
cigar never left his mouth till the painful business was successfully
The Herr Baron was a mysterious person; why he lived for months
together in that lonely spot, no one knew. True, he was fond of hunting,
and went out at nights with the landlord to hunt the stag.
There were hunting-boxes made of logs of wood, with steps that led up
into them, placed in different positions in the woods near the inn.
The children loved to climb up into them. A hunting-box made such a nice
airy room, they said; but mother was glad when they were down again
without broken limbs.
Mother was surprised when she entered the inn-parlour to find the Herr
Baron engaged in a game of quartette with Trudel and Lottchen and
Fritz. Indeed he was so sociable and kind and fond of children that she
thought it was a pity that he had none of his own.
On the pond near the house were two most remarkable-looking boats. These
Hermann and Fritz had made themselves with the aid, I believe, of the
Herr Baron. They had a long stick and punted about in them on the water,
and they managed them quite cleverly. To Trudel and Lottchen they seemed
to suggest Robinson Crusoe and all sorts of fine adventures.
One day when mother was reading a book which absorbed her attention, and
so was safe not to interfere with them, they thought, the children stole
down to the pond. Hermann and Fritz were waiting for them. It was a
pre-conceived plan. "Come along and get in," they shouted to the girls.
"I daren't," said Lottchen. "Mother would be so cross; she has forbidden
us to go near the water."
"You are surely not going to spoil the fun," said Trudel. "Come along;
I'm going to get in first. I can swim, you know!"
"But not in mud and water-weeds," said Lottchen wisely.
The boys began to laugh at them.
"Why, you're funky, I do believe; the pond isn't really deep anywhere,"
So with beating hearts the children got into the boats, Trudel with
Fritz, and Hermann, who was the eldest of the party, with Lottchen. It
was splendid, quite a real adventure.
"Sit still in the middle of the boat," said Fritz; "I think we had
better keep near the bank."
"It's going down on my side; O dear, what shall I do?" said Trudel. "I
don't like it! I want to get out."
"You're a bit too heavy and upset the balance," said Fritz. "Very well,
then, get out!"
Trudel tried to do so; but the boat was very wobbly. It was not so easy;
her foot slipped, and in she stepped with one foot into the deep mud.
She grasped convulsively hold of a willow bush that grew on the bank.
Meanwhile Hermann, seeing the predicament they were in, jumped out of
his boat, leaving poor Lottchen quite alone. She began to scream with
all her might and main, and she could make a fine noise when she chose.
Mother heard the cries though she was some way off and flew to the pond.
The maids who were bleaching the linen in the meadow, came running to
the rescue as well, as fast as their legs could carry them.
Lotty was soon helped out of the boat. Trudel had rescued herself with
Hermann's assistance, and she looked very red and ashamed of herself.
She said she did not wish for any more Robinson Crusoe adventures of
that sort. Mother naturally gave the children a good talking to; but she
thought they had been punished enough this time for their disobedience,
by the fright they had had.
THE TREE MAN
There was a tree in the garden that was ideal to climb, and mother
allowed the children to do so, for she had been very fond of climbing
herself when she was a child.
They wore old serge skirts and jerseys that they could not spoil.
This tree made a splendid arbour, or house with a suite of rooms.
Lottchen sat up in the branches like a little bird, and like a little
bird she sang all the songs she knew. From this tree you could see the
mountain called the Stellerskuppe and the blue sky through the
tree-stems on the summit. At sunset time, the sky behind the trees
turned a golden colour, till it looked like a picture of fairyland.
It was a fine view, but still you could not see from here the famous
oak-tree, where the little green tree man lived. This was ten minutes'
walk from the farm.
Trudel and Lottchen saw him first on a wet day when they had set out for
a walk in spite of the rain, with their green waterproof cloaks on with
hoods over their heads, looking for all the world like wood-goblins
themselves. They were walking down a narrow green path, and mother was
some distance behind.
"Do just look, Trudel," said Lottchen. "I believe there is a little man
in that hollow tree!"
"So there is, he is smiling and bowing to us, let's go and visit him,"
said Trudel, always enterprising.
Lottchen hung back, feeling a little afraid; she was always on the
look-out for the unexpected, and yet was surprised when something really
"Come along, darling," said Trudel, grasping her smaller sister by the
They both distinctly saw the little man; they said they could have drawn
him afterwards, and indeed they attempted to do so as well as they
could. But as they approached the venerable oak, the little man
vanished, and all they saw was a strange green stain on the inside of
the tree, resembling a dwarf with a peaked hood on.
"Just look at this Gothic window," said Lottchen, proud of her knowledge
of the word "Gothic." "How nicely this tree-room is carved. I am sure
he lives here; where are his little chairs and tables? I should love
to see them."
They peeped through a window or hole in the old tree and saw their
"Mother, mother, here lives a real tree man; we saw him--didn't you?"
Mother smiled--what the children called her mysterious smile.
"You look like two little wood-men yourselves," she said. "Lottchen,
stand up straight in the hole and look at me."
Lottchen stood up just fitting into the green mark on the tree behind
her. She made a pretty picture, her laughing brown eyes with the long
eyelashes, her rosy cheeks, and the wind-blown hair straying from under
"O look, Lottchen, here is a little basin of holy water, just like we
saw in the cathedral," said Trudel.
Nice and brown,
In a little cup.
Won't you drink it up?"
said a tiny voice that sounded like that of a wood-bird.
"Mother! did you hear anything, mother?"
"Yes, darlings, the birds are singing so sweetly now the rain is over. I
have brought my camp-stool. I shall sit here and sketch the tree," said
"Do draw him," said Trudel, whose blue eyes were open wider than
"Him! Whom do you mean?" said mother.
"Why, the tree man, of course."
"Hum," said mother mysteriously, "we'll see," and she settled herself
down to sketch.
The children collected huge acorns, and laid them on a leaf in the
hollow tree. Then they stirred up the brackish "holy" water and put
their fingers in it.
"It smells like lavender and roses," said Lottchen.
"Well, you've got a funny nose; it smells to me like blackberry and
apple-tart," said Trudel.
"Ha--ha--he!" said a little voice again. Somebody was laughing. Where
could he be? Glancing round quickly the children saw a little man about
three feet high, dressed in green, wearing a long peaked cap with a
wreath of tiny oak-leaves around it. He looked very strong, although he
was small, and he stuck his arms out akimbo in a curious angular way
like the branches of an oak-tree.
"How did you know that trees were alive?" he asked the children.
They were embarrassed by the question.
"Why, of course we know they are not dead, unless they are cut down,"
The little man shuddered; then he began to wave his arms about wildly.
"Let them try to cut me down, I'll knock them down. I'll fall on them
and crush their bones. I'll smash them like this stone!" Here he gave a
stone that stood near by, such a tremendous whack that sparks flew out
"Don't smash us, please, Mr Tree Man," said Lottchen trembling.
"No fear, little Miss Lottchen, no fear, you're a nice little thing, you
are; one can see that to look at you. You would never cut me down,
"Why, of course not," said Lotty.
"I should not dream of such a thing either," said Trudel. "But may we
ask who you are?" Trudel continued, "You are surely not a tree?"
"Well, it's like this," said the little man; "I'm a tree, and the tree's
"I," said Trudel, correcting him, "would be more correct."
"Rubbish," said the little man, "Pedantic rot!--the tree's me, I
repeat. Every tree has its gnome or elf; they used to call us dryads in
old times; but nowadays people are getting so cock-sure of knowing
everything, that they can't see what is going on right under their
noses. Trees are never still," he continued; "they are always moving.
"'Where there is movement, there is life,
Where there is life, there is thought,
Where there is thought, there is individuality.'
"Do you follow me? That is logically expressed."
"You forget we are only children, Mr Tree Man; you are talking too
grown-upy for us. Father talks like that sometimes; but then we don't
listen," they replied.
"Well," continued the gnome, "in every tree there either lives a jolly
fellow like me or a lovely lady fairy. Yes," he said in a sentimental
tone, "I, too, old and tough though I am, I, too, have known love."
"Who is she?" asked Trudel eagerly.
"Alas! I can never reach her; my old bones are too stiff and unbendable.
She is a graceful larch-tree in all the glory of her youth. You may see
her yonder!" He sat down and sighed deeply.
The children looked in the direction that the gnome had indicated, and
there they saw a larch-tree on which the sunlight had just fallen. It
was exquisitely dressed in a robe of delicate green and--was it only
fancy?--for one moment the children thought that they saw a lovely lady
with flowing tresses that gleamed golden in the sunlight, and large
starry eyes. As they gazed, she melted into the blue mist which shimmers
always between the forest trees.
"Now we must go home, children," mother called out, "before it begins to
The children glanced round; their little friend had vanished, and no
trace was to be seen of the lady of the larch-tree. So they turned
reluctantly from the tree-house fully determined to come again very soon
to this enchanted spot.
"Mother, may we see your sketch?"
"Not now," said mother, "it's going to be a surprise."
"Did mother see him too?"
"Do you think so?" said Lottchen. "Mother's a fairy herself."
"I think," said Trudel, "she sees all sorts of queer things; but she
won't tell us everything she sees."
"It spoils some things to tell about them," said Lottchen. "I shan't
tell Hermann and Fritz about the tree man."
However, when she got home again, she could not contain herself. "Do you
believe in fairies and tree men?" she said to the boys.
"Of course not, that's all rot," said Hermann. "Like Santa Claus and
such things, just invented to stuff us up!"
"Santa Claus will never come to you any more if you talk like that; he
is quite true, I know. Trudel saw him come in last year when she was
in bed, and she heard him filling our stockings. Of course she did not
dare to turn round and look at him," said Lottchen.
"I don't say it isn't nice to believe such things," said Hermann
conscientiously, "but it isn't true; it's superstitious. You know quite
well, Trudel, who Santa Claus really is."
Trudel was silent; she was ten years old, and she had her doubts.
"But I've seen a tree man to-day," said Lotty.
The boys laughed.
"Don't try to stuff us up with such nonsense; we're not so green as your
tree man," they said.
Gustel, the maid, came in, and joined in the conversation. She supported
the boys' view.
"I don't care," said Lottchen, now in a high state of excitement. "My
mother knows a man--a very clever Irishman--a poet and a painter as
well, and he has often seen the fairies."
"Yes," said Trudel, "it's true he draws them just as he sees them with
"Well I never, you don't expect me to believe such things, do you?" said
Gustel. "Why, that's all lies, and it is very wicked to tell a lie!"
Lotty flew into a perfect tantrum. "How dare you say we tell lies; I
will tell my mother of you," she screamed, and threw herself on the
floor crying violently.
Mother rushed in, not knowing what had happened. "Lotty, get up at once;
tell me what's the matter, darling!"
"Booh!--booh--booh!--Gustel won't believe--booh, booh, booh--that you
know a man who has seen the fairies!"
Mother could not help laughing. "Don't be so absurd, Lotty. Of course
Gustel does not understand what you mean. Gustel," she said, "you are a
Catholic and believe in the saints; they saw very queer things too,
sometimes, didn't they?"
"O yes, you're right; of course, ma'am," said Gustel, feeling
embarrassed; for she had no arguments to support her disbelief in
"Some people can see more than others," continued mother. "Now if I were
to tell you that I could see the old poacher or wild huntsman who used
to live in this house, riding through the yard on a moonlight night,
what would you say?"
"Lor, ma'am, if I saw him, I should die of fright," said Gustel, turning
"But you know that there are no such things as ghosts and fairies!"
"Yes, ma'am, very true, ma'am, it's rather confusing what you say," said
poor Gustel, feeling her head in a whirl.
* * * * *
It was a wonderful moonlight night. As father was still away, mother sat
by herself in the big bedroom, whilst the children slept in the little
room adjoining. There was a very high wind; the window-panes rattled;
the wooden shutters blew to and fro; the branches of the trees made
weird patterns on the ground. The moonlight was so white that the fields
and paths looked almost as if they were covered with snow. The
Stellerskuppe stood out black against the sky. As mother gazed, it
seemed to her as if strange creatures were abroad that night, driven to
and fro by that tireless hunter, the wind. Wild forms passed by and
gazed at her with deathless eyes; for a while she remained there
motionless, as under a spell. Then suddenly she remembered her joke
about the old huntsman of evil repute, who had formerly lived in this
farmhouse. Did his ghost haunt it still? Mother shivered; the nights
were cold up in the mountains, though it was such a hot summer. She
opened the door of the children's room and peeped in. To tell the truth,
she felt a little creepy, and longed for human companionship. There were
her darlings, sleeping soundly; but as she entered the room Trudel
turned round and flung herself on the other side of the bed, saying: "Go
away, go away, do not come near me!"
"Whom do you mean, darling?" said mother anxiously.
Then Trudel groaned and spoke again in her sleep. She uttered the
following deep and mystic words: "Gustel, bring in the shark, please;
mother can't eat the thimble."
Now, wasn't that a funny thing for a little girl to say in her sleep.
Mother was so amused that she wrote the words down on the spot, so as
not to forget them, and she troubled her head no more with thoughts of
the wild huntsman; indeed the spectres of the night vanished as they
always do vanish at a joke!
Some days passed, before the children visited the oak-tree again. When
they did so, they found that an enormous branch had been broken off, and
lay across the green pathway.
"O dear me," said Lottchen, "our poor little man. I hope it hasn't
"It must have happened on that windy night," said Trudel.
"It was my own fault, it was entirely my own fault," said a queer little
voice, and there was the oak-tree man sitting in his house smoking a
reed pipe. His arm was bound up with green fern leaves. "Yes, it was my
own fault; the wind excited me, and stirred my sap (that's my blood you
know)--I stretched out my arms towards her--one embrace--one blessed
moment in which to call her mine--and here you see me a cripple for
"O poor thing, we are so sorry for you," said the children.
"Never mind, it heals easily," said the oak man, "but, alas, my beauty
and my symmetry are gone for ever!"
"Your leaves are so nice and fresh; and your house is so pretty; why,
you have got furniture in it," said the children in astonishment.
"Such a pretty oak table and beautifully carved chairs; where did you
get them from?" asked Lottchen.
"I made them myself out of my own wood; it cheered me up a bit," said
the little man. "One must do something, you know; looks snug, doesn't
it? Ah, well--I have known love, that is something to be proud of; I have
experienced the most pleasing of human emotions. Have you ever been in
love?" he said inquisitively, looking at Trudel, who looked big enough
in his eyes.
"Why no, not exactly, we're only kiddies; but still we do love lots of
people, of course," said she.
"Your day will come, your day will come. Do not desire the unattainable,
but content yourself with the reachable," he said; "and yet ''Tis better
to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,' as the dear old
"He's getting grand in his language again; he is a funny little man,"
said Trudel in a whisper to Lottchen.
"Stay," said the tree man, "I have a good idea; I will give you a card
of introduction to her, my beloved Lady Larch-tree."
He gave them an oak leaf with the words: "Edle Eiche," printed on it,
which is in English Noble Oak.
"You need not say anything; she will know it comes from me," he said,
Full of curiosity, the children turned to go to the larch-tree, which
was only a few steps further down the green pathway. The ardent lover
watched the children from the window of his little house. They knocked
three times on the bark of the larch-tree; and they were very pleased
when a door opened in the tree, and a lovely lady was revealed to them.
Her dress was of green, looped up with tiny pink flowers such as grow on
the larches in early spring; her hair streamed down like a soft veil
about her. She hardly seemed to see the children at first, when they
presented their cards. She took the oak-leaf cards and pressed them to
"Heart of oak! King of the forest! for ever mine," she murmured, and her
words were like the sound that a little brook makes when it trickles
beneath dark forest trees.
"He sends you his love," said the children politely.
"You dear little things," said Lady Larch; "it was so kind of you to
come and call on me. So you understand trees and their language, dear,
dear, so young and so clever! Would you like some wood wine?"
"Not if it is dirty water with caterpillars in it," said Trudel.
"O dear no, it is purified and refined; it is most delicious." So
saying, she handed each of them a large acorn cup full; and they drank
"It does taste nice, dear fairy," said the children, "like what we make
ourselves at a doll's feast. May we ask you for some more?"
"No, no, it is very strong, and would get into your heads, and you would
find out all about.... No, I'm sorry ... but----"
"Children," said mother's voice, "where are you? I have been looking for
"We have only been to call on Lady Larch, mother; she has shut her door
tight again or we would have introduced you to her," said Lotty.
They came home rather late that evening and found the farm in a great
state of commotion. The red-haired cow-herd was shouting and crying in
an unintelligible way; the house seemed to be deserted. They met the
Herr Baron also preparing to set out in a hurry.
"What's the matter? Where is everybody?" said mother.
"The silly old cow-herd has lost one of the best cows; it has strayed
off among the bushes, and may die if it is exposed all night. Who knows
where the poor creature may have got to in these vast woods?"
The search went on till late at night; the men, including the Herr
Baron, walked miles with their lanterns, but in vain. The deaf mute was
in a dreadful state of mind and kept crying out in his harsh,
disagreeable voice: "Not my fault--Schimmel's fault." (Schimmel was
It was difficult enough to sleep that night; but when mother had at last
dropped into a light doze, it must have been about four o'clock in the
morning, she and the children were aroused by a great shouting and
disturbance in the house. They looked out of the window and--what do you
think?--there was the lost cow, who had returned after all of her own
accord. And with her a dear little black and white calf, who frisked and
bounded along as if it thought it was fine fun to be in the world on
this lovely morning. Now wasn't that a queer thing, children, queerer
than all the fairy stories you have read? for this story is quite true,
you must know!
* * * * *
It was an exceptionally fine Sunday, and as father had come down to
spend the week-end, mother and the children were in the seventh heaven
of joy. It was not possible to go to church; for the nearest town was
two hours' walk away, and would be partly over fields that were exposed
to the heat of the midday sun. So father and mother and their two little
daughters went to the great woodland cathedral.
The service was on the Stellerskuppe; surely no one could wish for a
more beautiful place of worship. Mountain after mountain ranged in the
distance, some with rounded or knolled heads, others rising to a peak.
Lottchen called the most pointed one Mesuvius, because she always forgot
As the children sat there and sang hymns, with their white Sunday frocks
on, mother fancied that eyes were peering at them from out the forest
depths. If they were merely those of the gentle deer, or if stranger
creatures still were watching them as if fascinated, she did not know:
she felt there were lookers-on. There is the old story of the God Pan
who played so divinely that all living things came to listen to him.
Perhaps there may be a stirring at times in the souls of the mysterious
dwellers in the forest that makes them yearn for immortality and gives
them a fuller sense of existence. So that all the woodland sang too at
that Sunday service.
On Sunday afternoon, father and mother wanted to go for a longer walk
than usual; but the lazy children petitioned to be left behind.
"You will promise not to go near the pond," said mother. "Remember it is
Sunday, and you have your best frocks on; you must not romp or climb
"O no, mother, of course not," said Trudel. "We'll stay in the garden
and promise to be very good."
When father and mother returned from their walk, the first thing they
saw was Lottchen staggering along with a stand of empty beer-bottles.
"Whatever are you doing, Lottchen?"
"Oh, mother, there are such heaps of people here this afternoon, and
there are not enough waitresses to serve them; so Trudel and I are
helping. Trudel has got such a lot of tips already; she has bought
chocolate with the money. Do tell her to divide it fairly with me!"
Mother looked round. The whole place was covered with tables and
benches; a number of gaily dressed people from the neighbouring town
were drinking coffee and eating cake or waffeln, a kind of pancake for
which the inn was celebrated.
"Mother, don't speak to me, I'm too busy," said Trudel. "I've been
waiting on those gentlemen; the maids were shy of them, so I said I
would go and ask what they wanted." She pointed out some young men in
officers' uniform, who had come from a military school. "I've got 6d. in
tips, and I spent it on chocolate."
"Well I never!" said mother, astonished at her daughter's prowess--"you
have turned into a waitress, and on Sunday afternoon too. Whatever would
your aunts say?"
"I think I had better tell you what the young men said to me," said
Trudel seriously. "They said I was a sweet little thing, and that if I
were older, they would fall in love with me. I laughed of course; I
could see they were only silly old stupid heads. I told them they had
not much taste; for their military school was the ugliest building in
all the town. They quite agreed with me about this, however, and then
they asked me who my father was, and when I said he was a professor,
they laughed till I thought they would burst. But now you must excuse
me, really, mother darling. I have promised to go into the kitchen and
wash up cups and saucers!"
The landlady could not praise Trudel enough. Such a useful little girl,
she does everything in a most orderly way and wipes down the table when
she has finished! "If ever you want her to learn housekeeping, pray send
her to me, I should be delighted to teach her," she said.
"Yes," thought mother, "and make a nice little slavey of her into the
bargain. No, no, our Trudel is not going to turn into a housemaid!"
If Trudel had been some years older, father and mother might have
objected to these experiences; but, as it was, they only laughed.
As the world is full of fact and fancy, so is this story. Whether it is
based mostly on fact or on fancy we will leave to the German
philosophers to decide, but I have heard that they are doubtful on this
point, with regard to the world, I mean.
It was a magical evening. Trudel was so engrossed in a game of cards
with the boys that she could not be induced to come out; moreover she
had a slight cold and the evenings were chilly. A glorious sunset glow
illumined the sky as mother and Lottchen set out for their
"We will go up and see the fire on the heath; I love the smell of dry
pine wood burning," said mother.
"I love to see the fire dancing and crackling," said Lottchen. "How
still everything is."
"It is the calm of twilight. The wind usually drops in the evening,"
"Look, look, over there by those dark woods there is something moving,"
said Lotty. "I think it is a white cat."
"A white cat! How queer that she should have strayed so far; she does
not belong to the farm, I know."
"Hush! perhaps she is not a cat at all--then she will vanish." And lo
and behold when they looked again, there was no cat there, though they
had distinctly seen it a minute before on the field at the wood's edge.
"She is really a witch, I believe," said mother, with the curious
expression on her face that Lotty knew so well.
Going further up the hill, they saw a wonderful sight. Twenty or more
peasant girls were busy working, hacking the ground, their faces
illuminated by the wonderful sunset glow. They wore short full peasant
skirts edged with bright-coloured ribbons, and each had a gaily coloured
scarf pinned round the neck and bodice.
We learned afterwards that they were preparing the ground to plant young
fir-trees on a clearing. Germans are so careful of their woods, they
replant what has been cut down, so that they have a great wealth in wood
that we cannot boast of in England. I believe that they would like to
cut off all the dead branches in order to make the woods quite tidy! But
this would be rather too big a job even for the German nation to
A man dressed in green with a feather in his cap, and a gun over his
shoulder stood by watching the girls at their work.
He was a forester and seemed to act as overseer. He gave the signal to
stop work as the strangers (mother and Lotty) approached. The women hid
their tools under the dry heather until the next day, and then strapped
on the big baskets they carried on their backs, without which they
hardly felt properly dressed. They then marched along together, singing
a melodious song in unison. As they came to the cross-roads they parted
company; some went this way, some that; all kept up the tune, which
echoed farther and farther, fainter and fainter in the distance.
Before long Lottchen and her mother were alone; but they felt that the
ground they stood on, was enchanted. Mother said it was like a scene
from the opera. They watched the fire; how the flames leaped and
crackled; yet they were dying down. The fire made a bright contrast to
the dark fir-woods which formed the background to the picture. The glory
died from the sky; but yet it was strangely light; darker and darker
grew the woods near the fire. Suddenly Lotty espied bright sparks among
"I do believe they have set the wood on fire," said mother.
"O no, mother, don't you see; let us crouch down and hide; it is the
fairies: they are coming to the fire."
The air was suddenly full of bright beings.
"There is a wood fire on the hill;
High on the heath it glimmers still.
Who are these beings in the air
With gauzy robes and flowing hair?
Is it the wreathing smoke I see
That forms itself so curiously?
Nay, they alight: they form a ring,
Around the flickering fire spring,
And from those embers burning low
They light their wands, they gleam, they glow,
Like firework stars of rainbow hue,
Green, yellow, orange, lilac, blue!
Ah what a scene, how wild, how strange!
The stars each moment break and change
In thousand colours; look on high:
Each slender wand points to the sky,
Then waves and trembles: lo afar
On lonely woods falls many a star!"
And all this Trudel had missed. It seemed too great a pity, with that
silly old card playing.
Spellbound mother and Lotty watched the fairies at their revels, till
Lottchen began to shiver.
"We really must go home," whispered mother. "Trudel will be anxious."
"Oh, but mother I want to dance round the fire with the fairies, and I
want a fairy wand with shooting stars," said Lotty almost aloud.
Suddenly it seemed as if the fairies became aware that they were
observed. They vanished away, and all became dark. Lottchen said she
could hear the sound of little feet stamping out the fire.
"Fairies, dear fairies, come again, do," said Lotty.
No answer, perfect stillness, not even a leaf stirred.
"Well, you are not so polite as our tree man, not half," said Lotty,
"though you are so pretty. Good night," she shouted.
There was a sound of suppressed laughter; then from hill and dale the
word "good night" was echoed all around. Spellbound, as if in a trance,
they moved toward the farm. Trudel was wild with herself when she heard
what she had missed.
"To-morrow," she said, but to-morrow is sometimes a long, long way
off, and the fairies did not show themselves again during these
One of Lottchen's favourite walks was the echo walk, but she usually
came home quite hoarse after having been this way. The path wound below
the fairy heath on the incline of the hill; further down still were the
fir-woods through which the light shone.
"Angel-pet!" "Cherry-ripe!" "Cheeky fellow!" "You're another!" So Lotty
shouted the whole time, and the echoes came back so surprisingly
distinct that Lotty was sure it must be really the fairies answering
her. When you turned the corner of the hill, the echoes ceased. It was
The next day Trudel distinguished herself again. Two great cart-loads of
swedes arrived that were to be stored up as fodder for the cattle in the
winter. Now the joy was to throw these through a hole in the wall into
the cellar. Hermann stood in the cart and Trudel threw the swedes to him
as the bricklayers throw the bricks to one another. Fritz and Lottchen
helped too; they had to take their turn and be very quick, as the hole
was small. Hour after hour this went on, till the children were as black
as chimney sweeps, and yet Trudel's energy did not fail. At last the
carts were empty, and only then did the little workers leave off, dead
Hermann could make curious heads out of the swedes, with eyes and nose
and mouth. If you put an old candle-end inside, they looked ghastly,
like some Chinese god. Lotty declared that they rolled about in the yard
at night and grinned at her, and that she did not like "heads without
"But they are so funny, Lottchen," said mother, and then she laughed
at them and was not frightened any more.
In the fields grew nice little buttony mushrooms. No one knew better
than the Herr Baron where they were to be found and how to prepare them.
Apparently he had lived on mushrooms in the wilds of South America. He
was very kind in helping the children to fill their baskets to take home
with them; for, alas, even the pleasantest of holidays must come to an
end; and there was only one day left. He discovered a treasure in the
field, a little mother-of-pearl knife, very old and rusty, and presented
it to Trudel. He told her to soak it in petroleum to clean it. That
knife was more trouble than all the rest of the luggage on the way
back, for Trudel made such a fuss about it, and dissolved in tears
several times when she thought that she had lost it.
To leave the beautiful cool woods, the fairies, the tree man and his
sweetheart, the cows and the geese and all the marvels of the country,
yes, it was hard; but home is home, and always turns a smiling face to
us after a long absence. How nice to rediscover one's playthings and
dolls. Trudel's first thought was always for her doll babies, and she
would rush upstairs, and embrace each one tenderly.
As the children drove to the station from the farm, they passed the
famous oak-tree, but no little man was to be seen.
"He's shy of the coachman, of course," said the children.
Looking back, they caught a glimpse of him in the distance, and shouted
and waved their handkerchiefs.
Hermann and Fritz were very sorry to say "good-bye" to their little
friends; but school began the next day, and they would not have so much
time for play then.
The landlady told the children a great secret before they left. "The
Herr Baron is going to be married next week," she said.
"Well, I am glad," said mother. "I hope she is very nice," and the
children echoed the wish warmly.
"She has lots of money, and is a countess, I believe," continued the
"Well, I do hope she does not object to smoking," said Trudel, and they
* * * * *
"Mother, you have never shown us your sketch," said Trudel during the
Mother laughed. "Where's Lottchen? I suppose she wants to see it too?"
"Here I am," said Lotty. "Oh, do be quick and show it to us!"
Mother held up the sketch. There was the hollow oak-tree, and standing
in it the little tree man himself just as the children had first seen
him, with his green peaked hood on.
"So mother really did see him too!" said the children.
Now this story disproves the common fallacy that only children can see
the fairies and forest folk; for how could mother have painted the tree
gnome unless she had seen him?