"In a day, perhaps, an hour. Talk with your mother, boy, and let her decide. My time is short."
Hans approached his mother; at first, when she looked up at him, he could not utter a syllable; then, turning his eyes away, he said in a firm voice, "I must speak with the mother alone."
Quick little Gretel, who could not quite understand what was passing, threw rather an indignant look at Hans and walked away.
"Come back, Gretel, and sit down," said Hans, sorrowfully.
Dame Brinker and her boy stood by the window while the doctor and his assistant, bending over the bedside, conversed together in a low tone. There was no danger of disturbing the patient. He appeared like one blind and deaf. Only his faint, piteous moans showed him to be a living man. Hans was talking earnestly, and in a low voice, for he did not wish his sister to hear.
With dry, parted lips, Dame Brinker leaned toward him, searching his face, as if suspecting a meaning beyond his words. Once she gave a quick, frightened sob that made Gretel start, but, after that, she listened calmly.
When Hans ceased to speak, his mother turned, gave one long, agonized look at her husband, lying there so pale and unconscious, and threw herself on her knees beside the bed.
Poor little Gretel! What did all this mean? She looked with questioning eyes at Hans; he was standing, but his head was bent as if in prayer--at the doctor. He was gently feeling her father's head and looked like one examining some curious stone--at the assistant. The man coughed and turned away--at her mother. Ah, little Gretel, that was the best you could do--to kneel beside her and twine your warm, young arms about her neck, to weep and implore God to listen.