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HOME > Short Stories > Little Miss Grasshopper > CHAPTER FIFTH THE NEXT MORNING
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Pale and worried, Herr Feland came through the golden morning light back to his house, and his clothes showed that he had pressed through many thorns and prickly briers. Frau Feland had immediately heard his footsteps and full of anguish called:

"Are you bringing the child?"

He stepped nearer, sat down by the bed, laid his head in his hands and said, almost inaudibly:

"I come alone. I can no longer hope, no longer think. In what condition shall we find the child after the long night, wholly or half dead?"

"Oh, no, Papa," sobbed Ella, who had come in softly, "the dear Lord has surely taken care of our Rita, for Mamma and I have prayed to him so many times in the night about it."

Her father rose. "We have gone through the forest in every direction all night long; the child cannot be there. Now we will go down through the ravine by the forest-brook."

Her father spoke these words in a trembling voice. The supposition that the child had fallen into the wild forest-brook became more and more certain to him. Herr Feland had arranged for a good breakfast to be prepared for the men at Martin's house, and then they were all to help further in the search. Now it was plain that they would be better able to climb down into the ravines and gorges.

When Herr Feland entered Martin's house the men were still sitting at the table and talking excitedly about what to do next. Seppli was standing by his father staring with open eyes and mouth.

Herr Feland sat down beside Martin. A silence ensued, for they all saw what great anguish and trouble were in his heart. Suddenly Seppli said bluntly:

"I know where she is."

"Don't talk such nonsense, Seppli," said his father reprovingly in his gentle way, "you were up in the hay-field when she was lost; you can't know anything about it."

Herr Feland asked for ropes and other necessary things, and while these were being made ready Seppli said half-aloud but quite distinctly:

"But I really know where she is."

Herr Feland rose, seized him by the hand, and said kindly:

"Little boy, look at me, and tell me truly, do you know anything about the child?"

"Yes," was the short answer.

"Then speak out, little boy! Have you seen the child? Where has she gone?" asked Herr Feland with increasing excitement.

"I will show you," replied Seppli, and went to the door. They all rose. They all looked at one another. No one knew whether to take the suggestion seriously or as foolish.

But Herr Feland followed the boy without any hesitation.

"Seppli, Seppli," said Father Martin reprovingly, "I really think you are making a promise you can't keep."

But Seppli kept trotting along, Herr Feland following, and the men coming reluctantly after.

When the little fellow aimed for the forest they stood still, and one of them said:

"It is utterly useless to follow the boy in there, for we have searched through every place and found nothing. We will not go."

Martin informed Herr Feland that he himself did not have any confidence in the boy. But Seppli kept marching along, and Herr Feland and Martin decided to follow.

Seppli walked resolutely on farther into the woods. Suddenly he turned to the left toward the old fir-trees, where they soon saw something red gleaming through. Seppli steered straight ahead, through the midst of briers and prickly thistles, to a light spot, where there were many large bushes together, all covered with red flowers. Here he stood still and looked around a little puzzled. He had evidently expected to find Rita there. Then he went with determination on his way. The blossoming bushes became fewer, but larger and larger. Seppli stood still by each one for a moment and looked around, then he would go on, always to the left.

"No, Seppli, don't go any farther," cried his father. "We are coming to the big wall of rock."

But at the same moment there was a shining like fire through the trees. The sun glowed on a bush completely covered with the red flowers. Seppli ran up to it quickly, but he was close to the wall of rock, which extended, rugged and steep, down to the deep precipice below. Seppli looked around and across the flowers down over the rocks. Then he turned around. Herr Feland stood hopeless behind him. The path came to an end, and the child was not found!

Martin seized the boy by the hand and tried to draw him back from the dangerous spot, when Seppli said in his dry way:

"She is lying down there below."

Herr Feland rushed forward and bent over the precipice—his face grew deathly pale. He stepped back and had to cling to the nearest tree, his knees were shaking so. He beckoned to Martin, who was still holding Seppli fast by the hand. Then he stepped to the edge and looked down into the depths. Here and there a few bushes hung over the precipice. In one place, horribly low down, the rock had one small projection, like a narrow shelf. Here lay, nestled on the rock, a motionless little being, with her face pressed against the stone.

"God in Heaven, it is true, there she lies!" said Martin shuddering, "but whether living or——"

He did not finish the sentence. One look at Herr Feland closed his lips. He looked as if he were going to drop dead. But he recovered himself.

"Martin," he said faintly, "no time is to be lost. If the child moves she will be over the precipice. Who will climb down? Who will get her?"

The other men now came along: hopeless, they had followed their little guide through curiosity. They too now looked, one after another, down the wall of rock.

"Listen, you men," said Herr Feland in a trembling voice, "there is not a moment to lose. Who will do it? Who will help? Who dares to go?"

The men looked at one another, but all remained silent. One of them stepped to the edge, looked down, then turned around, shrugged his shoulders, and went away.

"If we were only sure that she is still alive," said another. "But a man risks his life and perhaps only to bring back a dead child."

"Who knows that she is not alive?" cried Herr Feland, almost beside himself, "and if she stirs she is lost beyond recovery! Oh, is it not possible?"

"She would have gone down below long before this if she was still alive. No one could lie as still as that," said another. "And, sir, if one should roll down there, the best reward would be of no use."

Shrugging their shoulders, one after another stepped back. Herr Feland looked around him in despair. There was no prospect of help.

"I will do it myself," he exclaimed, beside himself; "only tell me how?"

Martin now stepped up to him.

"No, sir," he said quietly, "that will not do. Then both would be lost, that is sure. But I will do it, with God's help. I, too, have such little ones, and I know how hard it must be for Herr Feland."

Even before he spoke he had fastened the big rope around the trunk of the old fir-tree, for he had decided to bring up the child to her father, whether she was dead or alive. Then he took off his cap, prayed softly, seized firm hold of the rope, and slid down the rock.

He reached the little shelf in the rock. With one hand he held to the rope with all his strength, with his bare feet he tried to cling fast to the rock, in order to be able to seize the child with his other hand and lift her up. Gently, quietly, he drew near, for if the child was alive and should be startled by him—just a quick movement—even at the last moment she would be lost.

She lay motionless there. Martin bent over the child and laid his broad, strong hand on her. At the same moment she was about to turn around quickly and would have fallen down beyond recovery, but Martin's hand lay firmly on her. She could turn her head. A pair of big, wondering eyes looked up at the man.

"God be praised and thanked!" said Martin, taking a deep breath. "Say the same, little one, if you can still speak!"

"Yes, I can still speak! God be praised and thanked!" said the child, in a quite clear voice.

Martin looked in greatest amazement at the child, who was wholly unharmed.

"You must be strangely dear to our Lord, for he has worked a miracle for you. You must never forget it all your life long, little one," he said thoughtfully. Then he lifted the child with his strong right hand up to himself.

"There, now you must put both your arms around my neck, very tight, as if I were your dear papa, for you see, I cannot hold you. I have enough to do, with both my hands, to climb up."

"Yes, yes, I will hold fast," said Rita assuringly and clasping Martin so firmly that he could hardly breathe. But how glad he was!

He now began to climb up the rock. It was no easy task. The blood ran down from his hands and feet. Occasionally he had to rest for a moment. Above stood Herr Feland and the men holding their breath and watching the man sway above the precipice. Would his endurance hold out? Would he come up? Or would he lose his strength? Would he slip and fall with the child into the dark abyss?

Nearer and nearer they came—now only the last frightful steep piece of rock—there——

"God be thanked!" cried Martin, breathless, when he took the last step over the edge. He took the child from his neck and laid her in her trembling father's arms.

Herr Feland had to sit down. He held his child and looked at her, speechless, as if he could not realize his good fortune.

"Oh, Papa, I am so glad," said Rita, throwing both arms around his neck affectionately. "I knew you would surely come to get me in the morning."

Martin stepped aside, with folded hands; he was gazing at the father and his child, and for joy the tears fell down over his sun-burned cheeks. Seppli had pressed close to him and clung to him fast, for he had realized that his father had been in great danger.

Then Herr Feland, with his child in his arms, stepped up to Martin. He held out his hand to the rescuer.

"You know very well, Martin, that I am now doing what I should have done before anything else," he said in a trembling voice. "I thank you, as only one can thank another, to whom a life has been given back. I shall never forget that you risked your life to save my child."

The two men shook hands, and Martin said sincerely:

"It is a great reward to me that I was able to bring back your little girl to you unharmed."

"I will see you again to-day. Now we must go to the mother," said Herr Feland, and, holding his little girl fast in his arms, he started on the way back. Martin, holding Seppli by the hand, and the others followed.

As they were going along in this way through the woods, Martin said to his little boy:

"Now tell me, Seppli, how you knew that the little girl had come just here?"

"Because she wanted to go to the red flowers,"............
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