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very dull without him. Aunt Gretchen moved about the house, busy as ever, but with tearful eyes. Old Jacob was quieter and sterner than usual. Natalie set bravely about the day's work; she milked the cows and fed the chickens, then was busy in the dairy. It was the day for churning and she could not afford a moment's idleness. Not that her heart was thoroughly in her work; she did not care for these domestic duties, but she felt it would please Hans to know that she was thus occupied, and therefore to-day she was unusually assiduous.
In the afternoon she ventured to doctor an ailing calf which had been under Hans's care for some time, and walked to a distant pasture to attend to the welfare of some goats in which he had taken a particular interest. The day was long and wearisome, Natalie was glad when it wore to an end at last. Supper over, she filled her grandfather's pipe and saw Frau Stürmer settled at her knitting, then the girl set off for the plantation and the scene of her last night's interview with Hans. She felt that she must be alone for a short time, that she might give vent to her feelings unseen. The evening was as fine, all things looked exactly the same, but poor Natalie felt very lonely and dispirited. Throwing herself upon the grass she cried bitterly for a few minutes, then recovering a little, she asked herself what she was crying about, without being able to give any very satisfactory answer. It was certainly terribly dull without Hans. She hardly thought she could have missed him so much; she must really love him more than she fancied she had done, and yet she could not help wishing that she had made him no promise ; it was so dreadful to feel bound. She knew that she was of an excitable nature, fond of change, life, variety. As it was, she wearied often of the dull old Tannenhaus with its daily recurring round of homely employments, but really to look forward to spending her life there was a terrible prospect. She did not think she could ever be contented with such a lot, though how could she even hint at this to poor Hans, when he spoke so proudly and hopefully of his plans for their future happiness. Oh dear! she certainly would have much preferred marrying a soldier, or rather how nice it would have been if Hans would have always belonged to the army, then perhaps she might have travelled about with him and seen foreign countries and strange people. She knew she ought to feel quite cheerful and happy. Poor little girl! she was very innocent, and had led such a secluded life. Her sole knowledge of love affairs was derived from some old romances belonging to her former teacher the Abbé Gaultier ; the people she had read of in these books were described as being in a transcendental state of bliss after they were once fairly betrothed, but she was not happy, on the contrary she felt quite miserable.
She tried to think of Hans—where he was, what he was doingand so on, but it did not answer, there was an aching void in the girl's heart which the thought of Hans somehow would not fill.
"Why did everything seem so dull now ?" she asked herself. It seemed to her as though the skies had “set in,” as we phrase it, for a wet day; the clouds had gathered round, and there was now no hope for her of the weather's clearing. Before this she had had many bright hopes for the future, and had dreamed of sunny summer days to be passed amid different scenes.
Now all these were vain imaginations,” and must be laid aside for ever. And so poor Natalie wept on, foolish tears, no doubt, none the less bitter for that. However, the shower came to an end at last. Natalie sat up, resolutely dried her eyes, and began to preach common sense to herself—a sure sign that she was recovering her proper state of mind. - Am I not a horridly ungrateful girl if ever there was one,” she said almost aloud, “I might have been left homeless and friendless after grandfather's death, and now I shall have a very happy home here with Hans, I dare say. I will complain no more. I will attend to the cheese and butter-making, to the baking and brewing, for this will please Hans. Perhaps in time, as he said, I may become as good a Hausfrau as Aunt Gretchen herself. I will be a daughter to her if I can, and I will write to dear old Hans sometimes, and let him know how things are going on here. I'm sure I hope he will be fortunate and escape all evil in this dreadful
Poor Aunt Gretchen, I know she is terribly anxious, though she bears it so quietly,—she will wonder where I am gone so long,–I must hasten back, and see if I can do anything to help her,--she ought to go to rest early to-night, she rose at daybreak this morning.”
And Natalie, now thoroughly recalled to commonplace life, jumped up, arranged her disordered hair, effaced as well as she could the telltale traces of tears, and hastened home through the pine-wood. Arrived at the house she busied herself in trying to cheer her aunt and grandfather with bright prognostications of the honour and glory to be won by Hans, so that they went to bed feeling quite hopeful and happy.
The glorious summer days sped on apace, and the harvest was gathered in with haste in those German villages, for the war was spread
ing steadily onwards towards the frontier. Bloodshed and ruin followed in its course, and none could tell how soon they might have to share in the sufferings they heard of daily with foreboding hearts. Old Franz Kehler came up from the village with his paper nearly every evening to smoke a pipe with Jacob Stürmer, and by this means the inhabitants of the Tannenhaus were kept informed of the progress of the war. They heard from Hans occasionally, but he did not tell them much news. In his busy outdoor life at home he had lost all aptitude for letter-writing, and now it was evidently rather a burden to him. He wrote oftenest to his mother, but Natalie had received two letters from him. These were doubtless meant to be warm and lover-like, but poor Hans was not au fait at expressing his feelings through the medium of the post. He did not allude to the engagement between himself and Natalie, only at the end of the letter he begged her to “be assured of his constant love.” Without complaining of the life he led, he appeared to be shocked and horrified at the scenes of bloodshed through which he had passed, and he confessed that he often longed for the peaceful days at the Tannenhaus. Natalie wrote to him twice or thrice, warm lively letters full of descriptions of their home doings and questions as to his present life. In the letters she received from him she saw that her questions were not noticed nor answered, and she concluded that perhaps Hans did not read her letters, or what was more likely still, did not understand them : she therefore left off writing to him, and contented herself with sending kind messages in her aunt's letters.
Eagerly did the little family at the Tannenhaus look out for tidings of the war, as day by day further intelligence reached them. Weissenburg was stormed, MacMahon's army driven from Woerth, Metz besieged and taken, everywhere the German arms appeared successful. The triumphs of the Vaterland were the favourite theme of the German villagers, though they spoke of them with a sore heart too, for they knew that these triumphs were purchased at the sacrifice of the lives nearest and dearest to them, bringing ruin and desolation into their happy homes.'
It was a lovely afternoon early in September ; the days were cooler now, and a refreshing breeze from “die rauhe Alpe” swept over the little valley. It had been a busy day in the kitchen at the Tannenhaus, but Natalie, set free at last, went down into the village to take a jug of milk and a few new-laid eggs to a sick neighbour there. Upon
leaving the cottage to return home, she observed a crowd of villagers gathered round the porch of the picturesque little Wirthshaus kept by her grandfather's old comrade Franz Kehler.
“A messenger must have arrived from Strasbourg with war news," thought the girl, for a horse covered with dust and foam was tied up outside the door, whilst his rider, who had entered the house was refreshing himself with a draught of old Kehler's " Lager-Bier." Men, women, and children were thronging around the door, eager for news. Their patience was tried for some few minutes, then old Franz came out with a beaming face. Turning to the people he called out loudly, so that all might hear, “News, news ! a victory, a glorious victory at Sedan! Louis Napoleon himself taken prisoner! Hurra for Bismarck! hurra for the Vaterland ! hurra for the Wacht am Rhein !”
“Hurra, hurra,” shouted the excited villagers, throwing up their caps into the air, and heartily enough, though very loudly and discordantly, they raised a verse of the “Wacht am Rhein.” This over, their enthusiasm cooled a little, and the women pressed round with blanched eager faces, clamouring to know the names of the soldiers killed and wounded in the action. Foremost among them was Natalie, and the others made way for her to pass. She was held in great respect by the villagers in Nieder Brünnen.
“ It is the Fraulein ' Natalie Stürmer,” they said, “ surely, is not Hans Stürmer gone to the war ?"
Old Franz took her into his kitchen, and as a special favour allowed her to glance over the list of “killed and wounded” which the messenger had brought with him. With straining eyes and beating heart did she look down the long columns of names. In none of them did that of Hans Stürmer appear, so there was every hope that he was safe. Natalie felt inexpressibly thankful; she waited to hear no more, but set off at once to carry the welcome intelligence to Aunt Gretchen. On her way to the Tannenhaus, as she climbed the steep shady hill leading to the farm, she observed some men, French soldiers apparently, advancing towards her. They came down a road leading to Baden, which joined the Strasbourg road at the top of the hill Natalie was ascending. She slackened her pace to look at them; she bad a natural penchant for French soldiers, as we have said, and it was long since she had seen any. As she approached, one of them, leaving his comrades, advanced towards her, and touching his cap, said respectfully,
Mille pardons, mademoiselle, I am grieved thus to disturb you,
but I have a 'camarade' here who is very ill : he was wounded in the terrible battle at Sedan; mademoiselle has doubtless heard of it. We are on the march to Strasbourg now. Lieutenant Sévier said nothing of his wound being so bad. We deemed it but slight, until he became so faint from the pain that he could scarcely move. Thus we have been obliged to make a détour, mademoiselle, hoping to find some kind soul who would give our poor camarade shelter for a little time. We cannot take him as far as Strasbourg, or he will die. The wound is in his shoulder ; it is fearfully inflamed. Le voilà---le pauvremademoiselle," he continued, as his three comrades drew near, bear
young man between them. His face was very white, and his eyes closed. He was evidently unconscious. Natalie's compassion was roused. He was so ill, and seemed very friendless ; besides, had he not been fighting for her dear France ? On the impulse of the moment she stepped forward and said to the men, “Messieurs, I too am French, though I live with Germans; still I do not think my good aunt could turn away such a sufferer from her door, enemy though he be. Voyons, messieurs, follow me.” And Natalie led the way up the steep road, the men with their burden closely following her. As the girl went on, her mind misgave her for what she had done. What would her grandfather and Frau Stürmer say? Would they ever consent to harbour an enemy, in any condition, under their roof. She dared not think about it, but hurried on at once to break the intelligence at the Tannenhaus. Rushing into the kitchen where Aunt Gretchen was busy making some vegetable soup she began breathlessly, “Oh, aunt, there are some French soldiers outside on their way to Strasbourg, and they have with them a comrade, badly wounded, who will die if he is taken further ; will you give him shelter, aunt, until he is recovered ?”
“ Natalie, what nonsense ; I should think not; what would your grandfather say ? is the girl mad? what have I to do with French soldiers ? plenty for me to be after without them,” and she continued her work of peeling potatoes.
Scarcely heeding this rebuff, Natalie continued earnestly,
“ Pray, pray, aunt, only just come and look at him, he looks so ill, poor
Well, well, I'm sorry for him, but I can't help it. Father," as old Jacob entered, “ here's this foolish girl wanting us to take in a wounded French soldier who's out in the road yonder."