THE LILAC AND THE ELDER.
TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN OF
THE LILAC AND THE ELDER.
‘‘Am I not to have a new hat, and a new veil too, Mamma?’’ cried Mignonne, gayly.
‘‘Certainly, my daughter, — as soon as you have made your first soup ! ”
“O, O, Mamma, the first soup?” laughed Mignonne. La-la, li, la-la ! You must first take — —”
“Stop, stop, Mignonne! First tell me what kind of soup you will make.”
“Oh, brown veal soup, with vegetables. Mamma! What else?”
“Patience! The child talks as if there were no other kind of soup in the whole world!” laughed the father, who had been listening to the previous conversation.
“Well, then, you must first take one or two pounds of veal, cut it in pieces, and let it — —”
With these words, addressed to no one in particular, Mignonne skipped out of the door into the garden, to gather a bunch of flowers. But she continued to mutter to herself, as if studying the important recipe for the soup in the cookery book: “And then baste it, —yes, baste it, —with butter, until it is of a fine brown, —fine brown, —and then cut thyme, parsley, and — and — O now what else was there?”
Mignonne stood still, quite provoked, and strove in vain to remember the continuation of her soup recipe.
“Ah!” she cried at last, “I can make nothing out of that: let me see if I; remember the white almond soup any better ”
But the white almond soup had equally escaped her memory; and after letting her thoughts wander confusedly over soups, roast meats, cakes, and jellies, she cried out pettishly:
“What nonsense I am chattering! The cuckoo may eat them all! But softly! here are the flowers! Away with the ugly cookery recipes!”
Mignonne then began to use her little knife, and select among the beautiful flowers with which the garden was filled. She soon had arranged a tasteful bouquet, and showed herself much better acquainted with the forms and colors of the lovely blossoms, than with her soups.
“Ah!’’ she said, “why should one torment one’s self with such pitiful stuff! Mamma is rich and keeps a cook, and I too shall be able to keep a cook. But it is nevertheless true that Mamma can make an excellent soup! Well! knowledge comes with time! I shall learn, perhaps, one day!”
Thus did Mignonne console herself, and soon yielding to the influence of a new idea, she climbed the garden fence, and broke off the rich, perfumed bunches from a lilac bush. It was truly charming to see how this lovely shrub was covered all over with purple blossoms. Their fragrance filled the air, and their graceful branches waved charmingly in the fresh morning breeze. Mignonne was delighted. While she was still selecting the finest branches, she observed on the other side of the fence a little maiden busily employed in gathering the pale, white blossoms of a common elder bush, whose strong and disagreeable perfume offended Mignonne’s delicate nerves.
“For heaven’s sake, Rose!” cried Mignonne, “do let that horrible bush alone! How can you take any pleasure in such hateful flowers! Come, take these lovely lilac blossoms, and chat a little with me, for time begins to hang heavy on my hands.”
Rose cast a modest glance upon the richly dressed and delicate looking girl, and said:
“Ah! my dear young lady, you are so kind; but I must gather these flowers, because my grandmother wants them to make tea of. I assure you they make a very wholesome tea. Will you not accept a few of them from me? ”
“No indeed. Rose!” said Mignonne, drawing back, “ my hands would smell of them the whole day.”
“Very well, Miss,” replied the little one, whose friendly offer had received so abrupt a repulse, a noble pride tinging her cheeks with a lively red; “I have just as little fancy for your blossoms, which have a pleasant perfume, but are of no use.” Mignonne gazed in astonishment upon the young girl, and descending from her wooden throne walked sadly towards her home, for she had wounded the poor child’s pride.
A few weeks passed by. Mignonne’s father went upon a journey, and mother and daughter lived almost alone in the pretty country house. Mignonne had long before received the hat and veil from her kind father, and he had neglected to inquire whether she had yet learned how to make the promised soup. The light-hearted maiden had found it entirely convenient to forget all about the cookery book and its recipes, the more so as she now began to take much pleasure in the society of the neighbouring families of rank.
But one evening, when it was already quite late, Mignonne’s mother complained of a violent pain, and great soreness in her throat. Her malady momentarily increased, until it became so alarming that a messenger was despatched in great haste for the physician, who unfortunately lived at a considerable distance, in a neighbouring town.
All the house was in a state of alarm and commotion, and lights were moving hurriedly to and fro, as the servants sought in vain some means of alleviation.
“Ah! if we only had a little elder tea in the house!” cried an old servant, “we might help our dear lady, perhaps quite cure her! But we have not a single flower!”
Mignonne, who until now had remained seated at the foot of her mother’s bed, sobbing bitterly, suddenly raised her head and asked:
“What! Elder tea? Will that be of any use?”
“Certainly,” replied the servant.
“Well, then, go quickly to old Anne’s. Her grandchild, Rose, has gathered quite a supply of such flowers. Only make haste ! Tell her I beg she will have the kindness to send me some.”
She would have said more, but the old woman had already departed, and soon after returned with Rose herself, who brought a quantity of the flowers she had gathered in a handkerchief.
Mignonne pressed the good child’s hand friendlily: she had not seen her since the day of the little contest concerning the relative merits of their blossoms. The tea was soon made, the sick lady drank some of it, and with the remainder her throat was bathed.
O joy! In a short time she felt much better, and fell into a sweet and health-restoring slumber.
“Noble girl, how can I reward you?” said Mignonne, deeply moved, “of what do you stand in need?”
“Of nothing, my dear young lady,” replied Rose, modestly; “I have everything I want, and what I have done is no more than the duty of everyone. But may I not now ask you to accept some of my flowers?” she added, with a faint smile, which played archly around her pretty mouth.
Mignonne reddened, but then embraced the kind little maiden, and said: “Dear Rose, will you not in future be my playfellow? I can offer you nothing, as I now see and understand! But only wear this ring as a remembrance of your friend!”
Rose was quite overwhelmed with this mark of kind feeling, and, drooping her eyes, whispered: “Thanks, dear Mignonne, thanks from my heart! And now farewell; I will always remain your most devoted servant!”
“No, no, my friend! my dear friend!” cried Mignonne, as she pressed the modest maiden to her breast, “will you not?”
“ How willingly!” said Rose, and a tear fell from her clear and innocent eyes, which now rested upon the lovely face of the grateful Mignonne.
The two became indeed the most united and dear friends; and Mignonne learned from Rose, ever more and more closely to bind the beautiful with the useful.