What a strange lip the meester had! How the stork's nest upon the roof seemed to rustle and whisper down to her! How bright those knives were in the leather case--brighter perhaps than the silver skates. If she had but worn her new jacket, she would not shiver so. The new jacket was pretty--the only pretty thing she had ever worn. God had taken care of her father so long. He would do it still, if those two men would but go away. Ah, now the meesters were on the roof, they were clambering to the top--no--it was her mother and Hans--or the storks. It was so dark, who could tell? And the mound rocking, swinging in that strange way. How sweetly the birds were singing. They must be winter birds, for the air was thick with icicles--not one bird but twenty. Oh! hear them, Mother. Wake me, Mother, for the race. I am so tired with crying, and crying--
A firm hand was laid upon her shoulder.
"Get up, little girl!" cried a kind voice. "This will not do, for you to lie here and freeze."
Gretel slowly raised her head. She was so sleepy that it seemed nothing strange to her that Hilda van Gleck should be leaning over her, looking with kind, beautiful eyes into her face. She had often dreamed it before.
But she had never dreamed that Hilda was shaking her roughly, almost dragging her by main force; never dreamed that she heard her saying, "Gretel! Gretel Brinker! You MUST wake!"
This was real. Gretel looked up. Still the lovely delicate young lady was shaking, rubbing, fairly pounding her. It must be a dream. No, there was the cottage--and the stork's nest and the meester's coach by the canal. She could see them now quite plainly. Her hands were tingling, her feet throbbing. Hilda was forcing her to walk.
At last Gretel began to feel like herself again.
"I have been asleep," she faltered, rubbing her eyes with both hands and looking very much ashamed.