It had been raining all day, and the mist hung so heavily over the
bay that the vailed waters tossed their troubled billows in unseen
restlessness, like the swelling of an aching heart that the mantle of a
fair face covers.
Down Pine Street a hundred rills were rushing, as though each had its
special and important mission to perform in advancing the prosperity of
the queen city of the Pacific. Men passed along fearlessly, cased in
the invulnerable armor of India-rubber coats and glazed caps, and now
and then a woman dared to trust her dainty little feet to the mercy of
mud and water.
Minnie Bell had been very uneasy all day, for she had been promised the
pleasure of a walk on Montgomery Street, and she intended to choose a
few rare gifts from all the Christmas treasures that brightened the gay
Minnie had not yet learned the woman’s lesson, to smile when the heart
aches, and be gentle in disappointment, so tears filled her large
blue eyes, and the rosy lips pouted with vexation, as she looked out
on the pouring rain. Her mamma was a fair, dashing woman, who loved
Montgomery Street as well as Minnie herself; doated upon the theatre,
opera, and every thing gay, but, of all things in the world, disliked
to be annoyed by the petulance and nonsense of children. She lay all
day upon a luxurious couch, reading “Les Miserables,” leaving Minnie,
poor little _miserable_ of the household, to take care of herself, and
thus I found her alone in the hall, picking in pieces the flowers of a
pretty worsted lamp-mat, the very spirit of discontent and mischief. It
takes so little to make a child happy, that I am always sorry to see a
shadow upon their young faces at the time when this life should be all
sunshine, so I called the little one to me, and taking her upon my lap,
told her the story of Santa Claus and the Christ-child.
More than eighteen hundred years ago, one fair bright night, when the
moon was casting her floods of silver light upon the mountains and
valleys of Judea, it seemed to pause in worshipful wonder over the
little village of Bethlehem.
Diamonds sparkled in the dew-drops, and emeralds in the green grass
of the meadows, where the shepherds fed their flocks by night. The
shepherds were amazed, as the holy light shed its soft brilliancy
around them, and even the grazing flocks forgot the dewy grass, as a
sweet, unknown voice, from the viewless air, told them how that night
the fair Christ-child was born at Bethlehem, and lay cradled in a
manger, with horned oxen feeding near him. A thousand angel voices
joined in the rich deep melody of praise and gladness, and the first
Christmas carol echoed and re-echoed through the mountains and valleys
Wise men from the East, brought golden treasure, jewels, and rare
perfumes, as offerings to the pure Christ-child. There he lay in the
arms of his fair virgin mother, Mary, with all the native beauty of
infancy brightening every feature of his lovely face, and that rare
halo of divinity about him that even the inspiration of Raphael
and Murillo has but half portrayed. These immortal artists had only
the colors of earth to paint the brightness of heaven. The wise men
bowed in adoration before the Christ-child and worshiped him as their
temporal king, and for their rich gifts received blessings, and went
away well pleased to their luxurious homes. Then came an old man,
trembling with timid humility. He was but a poor keeper of the flocks
upon the mountains, and brought only the few pale flowers of winter, as
tokens of his devoted homage.
“Sweet mother,” said he, kneeling, “I have nothing but these poor
flowers and the unchanging love of a devoted heart to lay at the feet
of the dear Christ-child; but, thrice-blessed mother, do not turn away
from this humble offering. I bring thee all I have.” Smiles, like the
golden light of morning, shone upon the face of the fair Christ-child,
and he took the flowers more pleased than with all the rich treasures
of the East, that lay unnoticed around him.
The holy mother blessed the poor man, and with a voice teeming with
maternal love and divine richness, she said: “Thy pure, loving heart
is an offering dearer to the Christ-child than all the riches of the
world, and these flowers are a fitting token of thy love. Thou shalt
not die as other men do, but thou shalt sleep, to awaken each Christmas
eve, and gladden young hearts through all time, and in all lands, with
thy welcome Christmas gifts, and the blessing of the Christ-child shall
rest upon the spirits of childhood through the holy Christmas season.”
And thus it is that in all countries we hear of the good Santa Claus,
who brings such beautiful presents on Christmas eve. In the cold north
countries he wraps himself in furs, and rides swiftly over the crusted
snow in a sleigh drawn by reindeers, his long beard shining with the
frost of winter. In the sunny South he rides in a light car decked with
“But, May,” said the now happy Minnie, smiling; “when Santa Claus comes
to San Francisco he’d better bring his India-rubber coat and overshoes.”
“I’ve no doubt he will, darling,” said I, kissing the little face
beaming with earnestness and beauty; “and perhaps he’ll bring his
umbrella, too, but ’twill make him no Paul Pry—I’m sure he won’t
“No, indeed,” said Minnie, “I want to see him too much for that. Do you
think, May, if I sit up till ten o’clock, I shall see dear old Santa
“I think, little one, if you go to bed at eight and sleep sweetly,
he may come to you in your dreams. He generally manages to come when
children are sleeping.”
Thus it was that little Minnie forgot all her sorrows and disappointments
in the anticipated vision of the good Santa Claus. The rain fell heavily,
but in the sunny heart of childhood all was happiness.
Now, a “Merry Christmas” to you all—young and old! May the blessing of
the pure Christ-child attend you, and Santa Claus be munificent in his
beautiful Christmas gifts!
Many years ago, near the Mission of Santa Barbara, there lived a
wealthy Spaniard and his wife, who had been married a great many years,
and were still childless.
It was the cause of great regret to both, especially to the mother, who
loved little ones dearly.
Every day she made an offering to the blessed Virgin, and prayed her to
have compassion on her loneliness, and give her a dear little child to
take care of, and love.
At last her prayers were answered.
One Christmas eve, when gifts in memory of the blessed Christ-child,
were making so many young hearts happy, a beautiful little daughter
was given to her, making her the happiest, most thankful woman, in all
As the parents were very rich, all the great Spanish families in the
county were present at the christening; and all the priests from the
Mission of Santa Barbara were invited.
There was a great feast, and every one was delighted; but, above all,
the father and mother blessed God for his precious gift, which they
prized more than all their great riches.
The little girl grew finely, and was very beautiful, not like the
lovely children of the North, fair and golden haired, but her
complexion was a rich olive, with the pure crimson blood of health
tinging her cheeks, and her lips were red as ripe cherries. Her hair,
in the sunshine, had a soft purple hue; in the shadow, it was black as
a raven’s wing, and her dark eyes were as soft as a young gazelle’s.
She possessed in a wonderful degree, the symmetry and grace of the
Spanish women, and her hands and feet were so small and exquisitely
formed, that they were the marvel of the whole country.
In the family there was an old duenna, who had taken charge of the
mother when she was young, and, to her superintending care, the little
one was intrusted.
Years before, the old duenna came from Spain with the mother’s family,
and her love for the beautiful lady whom she had nursed in infancy,
almost amounted to a passion; but for the proud Don Carlos, the
husband, she had a jealous hatred, though he was always kind to her,
and made her life in the “wilds of the strange country,” (thus she
always spoke of California,) as pleasant as possible.
Though she called herself a Christian, the wild blood of the Moors
flowing through her veins, tinged her life with the mysticism and fire
of that fated race.
Sometimes she would give herself over to strange devices and
superstitions, which were very displeasing to her devout mistress, but
the old woman covered these distasteful habits with so much art and
affection, that she enjoyed the confidence and love of the good lady,
and generally every thing moved on very smoothly and pleasantly, at the
The house was large and commodious, built, like most Spanish houses in
California, in the form of a square, with an open court in the center,
and broad piazzas on all sides. It was very cool and pleasant, with its
latticed windows, and vine-covered porches.
In the rear was a beautiful garden, surrounded with a high, strong
wall, and massive gates with bolts and bars.
There, in a grape-vine covered arbor, the purple fruit hanging within
reach, the old duenna loved to sit, spinning lazily with her distaff,
now and then stopping to see that no harm came to the little Lenore in
her play, and often calling her to her side, to listen to some quaint
old Moorish legend.
The father and mother were very fond of their little daughter, and gave
her every thing that heart could wish. One day, when the little girl
was about ten years old, the father called her to him, and said: “Papa
is going away, far across the waters to the fair castellated land,
which has been your childhood’s dream, to dear, beautiful Spain, and
what shall I bring back for my little daughter?”
Lenore’s eyes grew large and liquid. “Beautiful Spain! beautiful
Spain!” she exclaimed, clasping her hands in ecstasy.
“Every thing there is so lovely, how can I tell what to ask, dear papa;
but wait one moment,” and she ran to the garden arbor, and told the
duenna all, and said, “What shall I ask?” The old woman frowned till
her brows met, then she laughed strangely, and said, “You shall ask for
a string of pearls, as pure and white as snow, and as large and clear
as the dew-drops.”
Lenore ran into the house, and throwing her arms around the father’s
neck, ran her pretty fingers through his hair, and said, “I would like,
papa, a string of pearls for my hair, as pure and white as snow, and as
large and clear as dew-drops in the first flush of the dawning.”
The father looked at the little lady with a heart full of love and
pride, and he kissed fondly the little, pure, oval face that was
lifted to his, and said, “My little daughter shall have her wish, let
it cost what it may.”
The little girl clapped her hands, dancing about the room, full of
happiness, saying, “The dear papa! the dear papa will bring me the most
beautiful pearls in the world.”
Her childish joy was subdued when she looked at the mother, who had a
smile of love on her lips, but a tear of sorrow in her eyes.
Then the father said, “What shall I bring mamma?”
The mother answered, laying her head upon his shoulder, “Only yourself,
dear husband, and your precious love.” A tear came to his eye, but he
brushed it hastily away, and whispered, “I shall soon return, dear
wife, to my dearest treasures;” then he kissed them both, tenderly,
and went away, leaving Lenore and the mother weeping bitterly.
Lenore soon sobbed herself to sleep, with the tears resting upon her
eyelashes and cheeks. The sunlight stealing in, and shining full upon
her innocent face, made a tiny rainbow over her head.
The sad mother saw it, and thanked God that the bow of promise
overbends its beautiful arch over all childish griefs, and she wiped
away her own tears, saying, “He will return again, my dear husband, why
should I distrust kind Heaven.”
When Lenore awoke, her pretty face was wreathed with smiles, and,
kissing her mamma, she ran out into the garden to seek the old duenna.
She found her in her favorite arbor, spinning, but when she saw
Lenore she laid aside her distaff, and drew the child to her, with a
mischievous smile upon her dark face.
Her treatment of Lenore had always been marked by a strange commingling
of the love she bore the mother, and aversion she felt for the father,
but through it all, she wove a web of fascination, that gave her great
power over the susceptible heart of the young girl. Lenore sat down by
her side, and for a while she talked of Spain, smoothing the child’s
hair caressingly with her wrinkled hand, then she told her a curious
legend; of how Boabdil, the Moorish king, had once a string of pearls
like those she had asked the father for, and how, after the Spaniards
had overcome the Moors in a great battle, he intrusted these lustrous
gems, with much other treasure, to one of his servants to be hidden
upon a distant island, but, by some strange misfortune, as they neared
the landing, the Moor dropped the pearls into the sea.
Now this Moor was an enchanter, and, because he could not recover the
lost treasure, he cast a spell upon it, that would bring death to the
first, who should touch the pearls, perpetual servitude to the second,
and riches, honor, beauty, and love to the third, who should retain
them in the family forever.
“No matter how many years should elapse, this would surely come to
pass,” and again the old duenna laughed that strange, unpleasant
laugh. Lenore, trembling with fright, sobbed convulsively, “Oh! the
dear papa! the dear papa! he will die! I will call mamma, she will
send a messenger for him, he shall not touch the horrid pearls,” and
she started up to go, but the duenna caught her. “Silly child,” she
said, “I will tell you no more pretty stories, that was only a legend,
and the pearls were not real and true, but only dream pearls, just to
please my pretty child.” She soothed Lenore and laughed again, till
her tears were dried, and she joined to the shrill voice of the weird
duenna, the merry, childish laugh of trusting innocence. The days of
absence passed by in dreamy quietude at the Buenna Vineyard.
The wife was very lonely, for no one could supply the place of the
loved husband in her heart. The pretty, dark-eyed Lenore missed the
dear papa sadly, but her time was much occupied by the master who
taught her music, French, and English. Spanish she learned from the
duenna, who in this language was quite a scholar.
Everywhere she followed the young Lenore, and, in her varied moods,
treated her with a curious combination of love and selfishness,
tenderness and severity, but, through all, maintaining her unbounded
influence over her charge.
Full of wonderful legends of the Moors of old, she fostered a love of
the marvelous in the mind of the maiden, till often she would waken
in the darkness of the midnight, from fearful dreams trembling of
superstitious dread. One morning early, she ran into her mother’s
chamber and woke her kissing her eyes and cheek.
“Oh mamma” she said, “do wake up, I have had such a beautiful dream
about Boabdil’s pearls, pure and white as snow, and large and
glistening as the dew-drops. Some one from Spain brought them to me, so
noble and handsome, mamma, that I could not help loving him dearly, and
I was so happy.” “But, Lenore,” said the mother, “where was the dear
papa.” “Oh, mamma,” said Lenore, “I did not see him, he was not there.”
A strange terror filled her heart, and looked out from her startled
eyes, and she buried her head in the pillow and wept piteously.
“‘Twas only a dream, my daughter,” said the mother, tenderly, but
still Lenore sobbed. “How could I forget the dear papa, for a stranger
and a string of pearls.” Then the mother kissed her, and soothed her
till she was comforted. Soon after a ship arrived, bringing letters
from the father. “I am now in Spain,” he wrote, my dear, native land.
Bright Castile! the world has nothing like thee! No mountains like the
snow-capped Sierras, no valleys like Granadas, and no river like the
blue Guadalquivir, but, “where the treasure is, there will the heart
be also,” and my greatest earthly treasures, wife and child, are in
California, and, though far away in castellated Spain, my heart wings
its way homeward, and every delight is treasured, to be renewed again,
with you. “I shall soon return to you, dear wife, the husband you love,
but little daughter, the pearls, ‘pure and white as snow, and large and
clear as the dew-drops,’ I have not found in Spain, but have heard of
them, and if possible you shall have them at any price.”
He wrote a long letter, glowing with hope and affection, promising a
speedy return, and the mother took heart again, and was happy, while
Lenore thought with delight, how beautifully the rare, Moorish pearls
would glisten in her purple hair.
She seemed to have forgotten the dream, and the legend that frightened
her so much. Even the name of pearls chained her listening ear, and
the duenna often talked of them, their great beauty, and how pure and
lustrous they shone among the crown jewels of the Moorish king, till
the imagination of Lenore was spell-bound, by the magic beauty of the
wondrous pearls. Often she would say, “Mamma, show me your pearls.”
Then she would take them in her hands and count them, or twine them
round the bands of her purple hair.
“Beautiful,” she would say, as the sunlight kissed them, “but not clear
and large enough. ‘Pure and white as snow;’ and large and clear as
the dew-drops, these are not so, but the dear papa will bring them.”
Lenore’s great gift was music.
She would often sit in the twilight, and improvise rare snatches of
melody, and when the mother would say, “What is that Lenore?” she would
answer, “My string of pearls, mamma,” and go on playing as though the
genius of music thrilled her dainty fingers. One day the duenna called
her to an old lumber-room, to see a picture. The picture was really a
good one, but had been cast aside because the frame was broken. ‘Twas
of a fair young girl, standing upon a rocky shore, looking eagerly out
upon the waters, at the white sails of a ship the wind was wafting
“What does the picture represent, Lenore?” said the duenna. “‘Tis
a maiden watching on the shore, for the ship that brings her dear
papa and the Moorish pearls, clear and white as snow, and large and
glistening as the dew-drops.” The old duenna smiled, as Lenore took the
picture to her room, and hung it over her bed where she could see it on
Every day they went to the sea-shore and looked out upon the waters,
for the white sails of the ship that was to bring the father, till at
last one evening, when all the west was gorgeous with the radiance of
golden sunset clouds, the ship seemed to rise out of the waters, and
there, on the sanded sea-shore of Santa Barbara, was the living picture
of the lumber-room.
The duenna had called Lenore from the garden early, saying, “At sunset
the ship will be here; come pretty child, let us hasten to the shore,”
so Lenore ran and kissed the mother saying, “Mamma! mamma! the ship,
with its white sails spread like the wings of a bird, is flying to us,
and I must go. Oh! my snow-white pearls! my beautiful pearls!”
“Lenore! Lenore!” called the duenna, and the maiden ran away dancing,
and clapping her hands, as she always did, when very happy. On came
the ship till it was moored in the harbor, and with one great rush the
passengers came ashore.
Lenore’s eyes dilated with delight, but by-and-by an anxious suspense
“No more! no more!” she cried, “all landed; where is the dear papa?”
The snow-white pearls were forgotten only the father filled her heart.
The duenna cast her eyes around. Don Carlos was not there, and who
better than she knew that he could never return.
There was a handsome young stranger in the crowd, and, from his lordly
bearing, she knew he must be a hidalgo of the old dominion, so she
approached him and asked him for her master, Don Carlos.
“He is not here,” said the stranger, “but I bring a rare and beautiful
gift for his daughter—the famous Moorish pearls.”
Lenore gave one glance at the stranger, she had seen him before in her
dreams; and she trembled so that she could not move or speak.
“He is dead,” said the duenna.
“He is dead,” said the hidalgo, in a low tone, fixing his piercing
eyes upon the sharp, eager face of the duenna.
Low as the words were spoken, they reached the strained ear of Lenore,
and with a wild, broken wail, she fell insensible upon the ground.
The stranger handed the box which contained the pearls to the duenna,
and taking the young girl tenderly in his arms, carried her home to the
Poor, heart-broken wife! The pearls had come, but not her treasure.
Lost! lost! God, pity all such!
The mother’s love was all that saved her from madness; for her child,
her beautiful Lenore, she bore the burden of life.
The stranger was kind and gentle.
He told the bitter story as soothingly as possible.
When they arrived at the island, Don Carlos was suddenly taken ill,
and just as the ship was about sailing, he breathed his last, first
sending his undying love to his devoted wife, and the Moorish pearls to
“Tell them,” he said, “my last words were to bless them.”
In the confusion of the first moments of their grief, the duenna stole
from the room, her sallow face flushed with feverish eagerness.
“The pearls,” she said, “Don Carlos was the first to touch them, he is
dead! This brave hidalgo was the second, and I will be the third to
hold this wonderful talisman in my hands.”
“Rich, fair, and beloved!
“Can I be fair, so old as I am?
“We shall see!”
She pressed the secret spring, and pure and white as snow, large and
glistening as the morning dew-drops, lay the Moorish pearls in their
golden casket. She took them in her hand, and held them to the light,
and it seemed as though they absorbed whole floods of sunshine. “How
beautiful,” she exclaimed, then suddenly she dropped them upon her lap,
and pressed her hand to her heart.
What a strange, agonizing pain.
It seemed as though chains were riveted about her vitals.
“Can I be the second to touch the pearls, and forever a slave? No! no!
It cannot be!
“Don Carlos the first, the hidalgo the second, I am the third.
“Rich, fair, and beloved! But this pain,” and again she pressed her
hands upon her heart. Slowly she replaced the pearls in the casket, and
the pain passed away.
When Lenore recovered she would not look at the pearls.
“Take them away, do not mention the hated gems to me,” she said, with a
shudder. So the duenna kept them.
Day by day Lenore sat by the dear, sad mother, who only smiled when
she looked upon the beautiful face of her child, who grew more lovely
with every rising sun, at least so thought the young hidalgo. In their
sorrow he never left them.
All that a devoted son could be, he was to the mother, and to Lenore he
was every thing.
Very often the duenna sat alone in the garden-arbor, plying her
distaff, for Lenore seldom came to her. Often she would steal a glance
at the beautiful pearls, saying: “I am surely the third, why am I not
rich and fair?”
“Don Carlos is dead, the hidalgo was the second, I must be the third.
“I have the pearls, the rest will follow;” then the distaff would
fall from her hands, and she would dream curious day-dreams, and build
castles of her own in air.
One evening, just one year after their deep grief fell upon them, the
young hidalgo and Lenore persuaded the mother to walk with them on the
The time had been very long and lonely to her since the
sorrow-freighted ship came in, and as she sat upon a moss-covered
stone, and saw the white sails of a gallant ship, winging its way to
the shore, the tears filled her eyes, and, that her sorrow might not
sadden the hopeful young hearts of her children (as she loved to call
them), she bowed her head upon her hands, that they might not notice
the grief she could not restrain, when suddenly a joyous shout from
Lenore sent a warm thrill through her heart, and the blood danced
through her veins with renewed life.
“The dear papa,” cried Lenore, and sure enough, the proud form of Don
Carlos was before them.
One moment and the happy wife was folded to the warm, true heart of her
returned husband, and Lenore clung to his arm, weeping for joy.
Once more light and happiness dawned upon the Buenna Vineyard, with
the return of the loved husband and father. How beautiful home looked
to the wanderer, as he sank into his own chair, upon the vine-covered
piazza. His grateful wife sat beside him, and Lenore stood leaning upon
“How tall you have grown, my daughter,” he said, looking proudly upon
the young maiden, just blooming into womanhood; “but where are the
pearls, my darling?”
“I have never seen them,” said Lenore, “how could I think of pearls
and you; dear papa, gone!” And again and again she kissed his bronzed
“Call the duenna,” said the mother, smiling, “we must see the pearls.”
So Lenore called the duenna from her dreaming in the garden.
“Don Carlos returned! Not dead!” exclaimed the old woman, while her
heart stood still with fear, as she entered the room pale as death, and
trembling with an unknown dread.
“The pearls,” said Don Carlos, after a kind greeting, to which her
palsied tongue refused a response.
She gave them to him with a trembling hand, and, as he pressed the
secret spring, the golden casket opened, and there lay the wonderful
Moorish pearls, pure and white as snow, and large and shining as the
dew-drops in the flush of morning.
“Take them, Lenore, daughter,” said the happy father, fondly, and the
fair taper fingers of the maiden clasped the luminous treasure.
The duenna’s eyes were fixed upon her.
How beautiful she grew with pleasure. Her dark eyes soft as a gazelles,
were radiant with light, her red lips parted with smiles, and the
Moorish pearls adding a new luster to her purple hair.
“Can she be the third?” thought the duenna, and in a voice husky with
emotion she gasped: “Don Carlos, those pearls! How came you by them?
What hand has touched them?”
“Tell us all, dear papa,” said Lenore, not noticing the duenna’s
agitation, in her own delight.
“In all Spain,” said the father, “I could not find the pearls, but I
heard of them from an old Moor.
“He said they were lost near the shore of a distant island, and he
promised to procure them for me for a large reward, which I agreed to
give him; so we sailed for the island, but I became so ill at sea that
when we arrived I was confined to my bed.
“At length the old Moor brought me this beautiful casket, and pressing
the spring I saw the pearls, radiant with all their snowy whiteness,
but I was so ill I did not take them out, and when I handed them back
to the old Moor to place in my cabinet, the pearls fell out into his
hands, and flooded the whole room with light. Great Allah! exclaimed
the old man, in terror, and, as he replaced them and closed the casket,
he fell down and expired instantly.
“The physician said he died of heart disease. I grew much worse, and
fearing I should die, confided the pearls to the care of our friend,
who brought them to you, and soon after I fell into a swoon so like
death that all thought me dead, and the ship sailed without me.
“The white sails were not hidden from sight when I began to recover,
but a long, lingering illness detained me from home, but thank God I am
with you at last, darlings, well and happy.”
“And now that my dear papa is home again, I can enjoy the pearls, the
beautiful pearls,” said Lenore, still toying with the luminous gems.
“More beautiful in your hair than in the golden casket,” said the
“The señorita was the second to touch them,” he continued, “since
Boabdil’s minion consigned them to their hiding-place.”
“No, I was the second, shrieked the duenna, clasping her hands to her
heart, where the chains of servitude were riveted.
“Always a slave,” she moaned, as they bore her from the room, flushed
with the delirium of fever.
For many days she lay prostrate upon a bed of sickness, but when at
last she recovered the evil spirit had passed from her forever.
She was kind and gentle, ready to serve any one, but especially the
“I am but the servant of servants,” she would say. “I will do my duty
in the station whereunto I am called. God have mercy upon my soul.”
Don Carlos and the mother lived to see Lenore wife of the handsome
hidalgo, and the mother of a maiden beautiful as herself, whose purple
hair often glowed in the luminous rays of the wonderful Moorish pearls.
“THE TWO GOOD-FOR-NOTHINGS.”
A long time ago, in a little village on the banks of the Rhine, lived
the young boy Karl, in the low, rude cottage of his father, Hans
Heidermann, the carpenter.
Karl was the second son in a family of ten children, all boys but the
baby in the cradle—the little, blue-eyed Ethel, the pet and darling of
The good Lord had sent to the cottage plenty of children, “the poor
man’s blessing;” and in their youthful days, when Hans and his good
wife were strong and full of hope, the little ones were greeted with
smiles of love.
Later in life, when the mother found that, with all her patient labor,
the tiny feet must go unclad, and eat little as she possibly could, the
supper was not only poor but very scanty, the boy Julian and baby Ethel
were wept over at their coming, yet with tears so full of compassionate
tenderness that the mother’s love shone through them more sweetly than
through the sunshine of smiles that dawned upon their first baby.
The youthful days of Karl were passed in toil, and though the natural
joyousness of childhood would sometimes bubble up and overflow, the
mantle of care fell upon him very early.
When he was only sixteen, he was quite a man in his ways, and able to
contribute not a little to the comfort and support of the family, and
he, more than all the rest, was ever ready to lighten the burden of the
mother’s weariness and cares.
When Karl was eighteen years old, he was guilty of a great piece of
folly for a poor boy, though I am sure he was not to blame. It was the
pretty, violet eyes and sweet voice of the young maiden Chimlein that
made him so much in love with her.
Poor, foolish Karl! with nothing but his handsome boyish face and
honest German heart to give her, even his strong willing hands still
belonged to the father and mother.
Poor, foolish Karl, to be in love! But he was very hopeful! The
brothers were growing strong, and even now all but the little Julian,
could add something to the family store. What brightness, wealth, and
happiness might not two years bring them all.
One evening, about this time, Karl received from the merchant, his
employer, for a successful month’s work, quite a present over his
usual pay, as a reward for his faithful industry.
He was very happy as he started homeward, and, looked smilingly upon
his patched clothes, thinking “Now I shall be able to buy the new
suit I need so much, and I can take Chimlein the beautiful, to hear
the rare music that she loves so well, and she will store it away in
her bird-like throat, and some day it will gush forth in loving songs
in our own cottage home.” Then he sung gay snatches of his favorite
opera—for even the peasantry of Germany are born musicians—and,
looking at the sunshine as it danced upon the bright waters of the
Rhine, he blessed the good Lord for the brightness, beauty, and
happiness of life.
Soon the shadow of the cottage fell upon him, and he entered to find
tears dimming the eyes of the mother as she went silently about her
work. She wiped them hastily away, but Karl had seen them, and all his
bright dreams melted at the sight of the dear, pale face, shadowed by
age and sorrow.
Throwing his strong arm round her, he softly said, “What ails thee,
Then she told him how an old debt of the father’s became due on the
morrow, and how she feared, she knew not what, because there was no
money to pay it.
So Karl put his hand into his bosom and drew forth the treasure that was
to bring him so much happiness, and placing it in his mother’s hand,
said: “Take it, mother, dear;” and before she could reply, he had gone
out into the soft, summer air, down to the banks of the dear Rhine River.
The sun had sunk in clouds of crimson and gold, and the gray twilight
cast its cold shadows upon the waters, and Karl’s heart had grown
very heavy as he thought of the sweet-voiced Chimlein, and her
disappointment. “But ’twas for mother,” he said. “Poor mother, how pale
she looked, her eyes wet with tears.”
He walked on, silently, looking with dreamy eyes out of the dim present
into the untried future.
One year after, he stood by the mother’s new made grave, and, while
his heart swelled with sorrow, he blessed God that he had been to
his care-burdened mother a loving and dutiful son. And then came the
thought of the old clothes that, for her sake, he had worn so long,
and he could have kissed the dear old clothes, grown so patched and
threadbare, for her sake, the _dear, dead mother_.
After the mother’s death, the family was broken up.
The little Ethel and Julian went away to another part of the country,
to live with a good aunt, who was very kind to them, and the younger
brothers went to trades, and only Karl and the father remained at the
cottage. Then it was that Karl brought home the sweet-voiced Chimlein
to be the angel of his house.
“The dear father is lonely,” she would say, as with her quiet words,
and small, white hands she smoothed his pathway down the rugged vale of
dim old age.
The good God only lends us the presence of his angels for a short time,
and in the spring-time he called Chimlein from her home by the blue
Rhine River, to her home in heaven, the golden, and from the heart of
Karl, her husband, to the bosom of the blessed Mother.
The cottage was very dark and lonely after Chimlein went to heaven.
Karl went out to his work with a sad heart, and returned in silence
to sit by his desolate hearth-stone, till the fire went out in the
The father (now an old man with locks white as the driven snow) sat
during the long, summer days by the little willow cradle, and sang in
the shrill treble of broken and sorrowful old age, to Chimlein’s little
one; or, when the babe was full of playful innocent life, he would take
it down to the banks of the clear Rhine, to revel in the sunshine and
listen to the voice of the waters.
To the old man’s desolate heart, that child was a priceless blessing,
and in his eyes she was the most beautiful of all the good Lord’s fair
When she was three months old, he dressed her in snowy white, and bore
her to the baptismal font, where she received the name of Gretchen,
though to the grandfather she was always “mein schönes kind” (my
A circle of golden curls played around her baby face, and the violet
eyes of her mother shone clearly in the fair light of the morning, as
she looked steadily into the face of the priest who took her in his
arms and blessed her with the baptismal water which consecrated her “a
child of God and an heir of heaven.”
The old grandfather gazed wonderingly at the child, as in the softened
light of the sunshine stealing through the cathedral windows she looked
so like the rare picture of the divine Christ-child.
“She is even now a bird of Paradise,” whispered tremblingly the old
man, as he received the little one from the priest’s hands. “The angel
soul is looking out from her violet eyes, and heaven’s blessed light
falls like a halo of glory upon her golden curls.”
With a shudder, the old man sunk away into the shadow until the
sunshine had faded from her hair, and rocking her to and fro, while a
master’s hand sent rare, glorious music from the grand cathedral organ,
he watched the violet eyes till they closed, and the rich brown lashes
rested upon her fair baby cheeks. One little soft hand was tangled in
the old man’s beard, and the tone of her gentle breathing told him that
his darling slept the pure, refreshing sleep of healthful infancy, and
once more his heart was calm and happy.
Karl loved the beautiful child; but when he looked at her, and saw
her mother’s eyes reflected in the dewy light of hers, a deep sadness
filled his heart, and often he turned quickly away to hide the
glistening of his eyes, and drew his rough hand over his face to drive
back the unshed tears.
“Poor little motherless thing,” he would say: “If it was only a boy!”
“Poor little daughter, ever too much you will need a mother’s care.”
Then he would snatch up his hat and go out to the banks of the blue
Rhine, where the body of the angel Chimlein rested. To the man, nothing
is so dear as the pure, true woman of his heart.
Two summers had passed over the head of the little Gretchen, making
her more charming than ever, with all the winsome ways of her innocent
The grandfather was becoming every day more infirm in body, and every
day brought his mind nearer to the innocent child who was the darling
of his heart. Nearer and nearer to heaven, the golden, he walked with
faltering steps through the darkened vale of second childhood.
When at home, Karl would watch sorrowfully over these two children, the
old man and the beautiful child; but when he was away at his work, they
were a constant care upon his mind.
In passing his neighbor’s door, Karl often noticed Elizabeth, the
thrifty daughter of the house. He saw that her restless hands were
always busy; not one speck of dust escaped her sharp, black, eye.
Though her voice was loud and shrill (Karl knew too well he could never
find another sweet-voiced Chimlein) he hoped her heart was kind, and
he thought she might take better care of the father and the little
Gretchen than he could. So he asked her to be his child’s mother, his
father’s daughter, and the mistress of his cottage.
Elizabeth felt keenly that he was no ardent lover; but he was her
first, and might be her last; so with no more intense feeling than a
desire to secure a home for herself and a provider for her wants, she
consented to be his wife, and become mistress of the cottage.
Elizabeth was full of energy, and after she went to the cottage there
was a great change in its appearance. Every nook and corner was made
thoroughly clean, the rents in the curtains were neatly mended, the
bits of carpet were all washed and spread down upon the sanded floor,
and there was always a clean shirt for Karl when he came from his work,
and a button, was never known to be missing.
Altogether there was not a more notable housewife in all the burg than
Elizabeth. But her shrill voice grated sharply upon the sensitive ear,
and, worse than all, it seems as though the old grandfather and the
little Gretchen were always in her way.
From morning till night the old grandfather had a vile pipe in his
mouth, and the smoke made every thing black and dirty. She then would
look at her clean curtains and whitewashed walls, and frown. He was
continually dropping the ashes about, and sometimes would even spit
upon the floor, which was too much for mortal woman to bear; and then
there was no end to the trouble the little Gretchen made her in a
To think that she, who always disliked children, should be obliged to
take care of another woman’s child!
At first she would bite her lips and choke down the angry words that
strove for utterance, but in her heart she called them “THE TWO
GOOD-FOR-NOTHING’S,” and would cast such angry looks upon them that
in their shrinking sensitiveness they would steal away to the banks
of the blue Rhine and try to forget Elizabeth and their trouble. But
alas! poor unfortunates! too often they would return with torn or
soiled clothes, and then the mistress would be more angry than ever.
It was only for a short time that Elizabeth confined her anger to black
looks. Before she had been in the cottage two months, her sharp voice
would ring its angry changes upon the _Two Good-for-Nothings_, as she
now loudly called them, and both the grandfather and little Gretchen
went about silent and trembling, like two culprits who feared detection
She would have them to go to bed before Karl returned in the evening,
for she was very careful to conceal her unkind treatment of them from
him. He was obliged to go very early in the morning to his work, and
saw but little of them, and as the cottage looked clean and cheerful
when he returned, he thought they were well cared for.
Sometimes, for whole days the old grandfather and the little one would
wander on the banks of the beautiful Rhine River, and in her sweet
infantile voice she would rival the songs of the birds.
So wonderful a development of voice in the child was a marvel to all
who heard her, and the fond old man’s heart swelled with pride as the
neighbors gathered round to hear her sing. Every one loved them but the
mistress, and they were always sure of a welcome at the noon-day meal
from any of the neighbors. The silver-haired old man was “grandfather”
to them all, and the little child “mein schonest liebes.”
The mistress did not object to their long strolls from home. “The
Good-for-Nothings” were only in the way; it did her good to have them
out of her sight a few minutes; while they, poor innocents, escaped
many a rough scolding, and the little child many a blow from the hard
hand of the mistress.
How they enjoyed those days together.
As Gretchen grew older, and the grandfather more feeble, she would lead
him by the hand and run to the neighbor’s for a coal to light his pipe,
saying: “The dear grandfather must smoke.” Then they would sit down on
the green bank, and with the smoke-wreaths curling above his head the
grandfather would tell old legends and fairy tales to half the children
in the village, and “little Golden Hair,” as the children called her,
would sing to them.
One day, when Gretchen was about five years old, they returned from
their accustomed stroll to find a new inmate at the cottage, and Karl
called them to look at the little sister baby. The old grandfather
looked sad, for he could not love the mistress’s child as he did
Chimlein’s, and he feared it would bring yet greater trouble to his
little Gretchen. But the unsuspecting child opened her large violet
eyes full of wonder and delight, thinking, as all little girls do,
there is nothing in the world so pretty as a baby.
But that baby was her destiny.
No more days by the dear Rhine River. No more songs with the village
children, or fairy tales told under the waving trees with the fresh
air blowing round them. But the little, golden-haired child became a
fixture by the cradle. The baby would not go to sleep unless soothed
by Gretchen’s voice, which now was oftener full of subdued pathos than
The grandfather, too, had his hours of care and watching. But day by
day he was drawing nearer the dark river that rolled between him and
heaven the golden. His earthly love seemed all centered in Gretchen.
Karl he seldom saw except on Sundays, and then, in his rough manhood,
though he was always kind to his father, he seemed a great way off with
the harsh Elizabeth for his wife.
Only Golden Hair, knew and shared the old man’s cares and sorrows. At
night she slept in his bosom and always rested in his heart.
The two “Good-for-Nothings!”
Alike sufferers from the mistress’s harshness, how they loved each
other, though they dared not show it when the mistress was near. She
was angry at such nonsense, as she termed their holy affection.
The winter after Gretchen was six years old, was very cold and stormy.
The blue waters of the Rhine had grown black and sullen. In the cottage
times were not improved. The baby was teething. The mistress was not
well, and visited her accumulating ills upon the poor Good-for-Nothings.
She would not have allowed Gretchen to sing at all, but for the baby,
of whom the little girl now had nearly the whole charge. And very thin
and pale she looked, with the rich flush of her golden curls falling
upon her white forehead, and her violet eyes large and languid; but her
little hands were red and hard, poor little hands that had so much to
Child as she was, the woman was growing in her heart, and with
tenderest care she watched the grandfather who had no one but her who
understood his sensitive feebleness, and loved to care for him. Many
times in the day, when the mistress was out of the room, she would put
her little hand in his, and kiss him. Only the sick and sorrowful know
how sweet was the pressure of that loving hand.
One day, in that miserable winter, the baby had been more troublesome
than usual, the mistress more unkind and exacting, and the Two
Good-for-Nothings more silent and depressed. Gretchen had been whipped
because she did not sing; but how could she, when the grandfather’s
chair had been moved to be out of the way, into a corner far from the
fire, and he was trembling with cold; and, more than this, Gretchen saw
by his heavy eyes and pale face that he was ill—how much, poor child,
she did not know.
After a time the baby slept, and the mistress left the room. Then
Gretchen stole to the old man’s side, and threw her arms round his
neck, and begged him to draw near the fire.
“Never mind, Golden Hair,” said the old man, “grandfather is going
where he will never be sick or cold any more. But, oh, mein kleines
kind (my little child), ’tis thou that break’st my heart. To leave thee
alone! mein liebes, mein schonest.”
Tears gathered in the dim eyes of the old man, and the cold, withered
hand stroked lovingly the golden hair of the little maiden, who looked
wonderingly at him with her large, violet eyes glistening, and the big
tears rolling down her pale face.
“Mein kleines Gretchen, she’ll whip you, and call you
_Good-for-Nothing_ when your old grandfather’s gone; but sing, mein
liebes, sing all you can; the good Lord will hear the voice of his
own. Oh! to leave you, kleina, ’tis so hard! so hard!” And the old man
rocked himself to and fro, weeping and trembling with cold and sickness.
The little Gretchen threw her arms around his neck, kissing his tears,
and, half choking with sobs, she whispered: “You’ll smoke, grandfather,
darling; your little Golden Hair’ll get your pipe.” Little child! she
could think of nothing else, and she must do something for the dear
grandfather; and often before, the pipe had been a great solace to him,
when the mistress had been unkind; so the little nimble feet ran for
it, and brought it to him filled, and with the red coal glowing in the
Just then the baby cried out, and Elizabeth entered in time for her
sharp, black eyes to take in the whole scene.
Snatching the pipe angrily from the little child’s hand, she threw it
against the chimney, breaking it into many pieces. “I’ll teach you to
leave the baby to be playing with fire. Take that, Good-for-Nothing.”
And she gave Gretchen a sharp blow upon the little golden-crowned head,
and pushed her toward the cradle, adding, “see if you can sing now!”
And Gretchen tried hard to obey, but ’twas a wail, broken with sobs,
that rose from the bursting heart of the child, through the winter cold
air of the Rhine land, to the feet of the good Lord who took little
children in his arms and blessed them.
That night when little Gretchen was sleeping, her weary head resting on
the grandfather’s bosom, his troubled spirit passed alone and silently
through the dim portals of the dusky way, and, entering the pearly
gates, found perfect rest in heaven the golden.
In the early morning, Karl was awakened by a wild, piteous cry.
‘Twas little Gretchen. The grandfather was cold, icy cold, and she
could not warm him, though she had rubbed him till her own little hands
were like ice, and had pressed her soft, warm cheek to his.
She could not warm him! He could not speak to her—not one word from
the dear grandfather for the poor, little, motherless child, now the
When Karl found that the grandfather was really dead, with the big tears
rolling down his cheek, he took the little Gretchen in his arms, and
wrapping a blanket round her, walked to and fro, trying to soothe her.
He loved the old father and the little daughter. But the poor man’s lot
leaves little time for endearing cares. He must work early and late to
procure even coarse food and clothes for his family.
Little Gretchen’s bitter, but uncomplaining grief brought tears to the
eyes of the kind neighbors, as they looked upon her sad, pale face, and
large eyes, so filled with the shrinking loneliness of her sensitive
nature. Even the mistress’s heart was touched by the hopeless agony of
the little one, and while the grandfather lay dead in the house, she
was more gentle and kind to her than she had been before.
In a few days they buried him under the trees, by the blue Rhine River.
By Chimlein’s grave, where he had so often listened to the sweet voice
of his little Golden Hair, the poor old “_Good-for-Nothing_” sleeps his
last, cold sleep.
Very wearily rolled now the years for Gretchen.
As she grew older, the household drudgery fell upon her. The mistress
seldom gave her a pleasant look or word, and no matter what went
wrong with the house or children, the burden of all fell upon the poor
The mistress had now four children, of whom Gretchen had almost the
entire charge; and, at the age of fourteen, in the frail form of a
delicate child, she bore the heart of a subdued and sorrowful woman.
She had had no opportunities for improvement, always at work in the
cottage; yet her voice, a marvel in infancy, increased wonderfully
in strength and clearness. It was a God’s gift, and she sung with
matchless sweetness and taste, heaven taught.
One day, as Gretchen sat rocking the youngest child in her arms, and
singing as only she could, there came a knocking at the door. The
mistress opened it, and saw a tall, sweet-faced lady dressed in deep
There was a fine carriage at the gate, and she knew by the lordly
coat-of-arms, her visitor was no ordinary person, so she dropped a low
courtesy and waited.
“Was it you, my good woman, I heard singing just now?” said the lady.
“Ah, no, madam, ’twas only Gretchen, the Good-for-Nothing, putting the
baby to sleep.”
“But the Good-for-Nothing can sing beautifully, and I would hear her