Fraulein was right. Both driver and horses woke up wonderfully as the first straggling houses of the village came in sight; it would be impossible to describe the extraordinary sounds and ejaculations which Friedrich, as he was called, addressed to his steeds, but which they evidently quite understood.
‘How nice it is to go so fast, and to hear the bells jingling so,’ said Leonore. ‘I wish we had farther to go.’
‘If that were the case we should soon sober down again,’ said Fraulein with a smile, adding the next moment, ‘and here we are. See the good aunt, my child, as I told you—standing at the gate, just as I last saw her, when I left her five years ago! But then it was parting and tears—now it is meeting and joy.’ Tears nevertheless were not wanting in the eyes of both the good ladies—tears of happiness, however, which were quickly wiped away.
‘How well you are looking—not a day older,’ said the niece.
‘And you, my Elsa—how well you look. A trifle stouter perhaps, but that is an improvement. You have always been too thin, my child,’ said the aunt, fondly patting Fraulein’s shoulders, though she had to reach up to do so. Then she moved quickly to Leonore with a little exclamation of apology. ‘And I have not yet welcomed our guest. Welcome to Dorf, my Fraulein—a thousand times welcome, and may you be as happy here as the old aunt will wish to make you.’
Leonore had been standing by eyeing the aunt and niece with the greatest interest. It amused her much to hear her governess spoken to as ‘my child,’ for to her Fraulein seemed quite old, long past the age of thinking how old she was.
Indeed, the white-haired little lady did not seem to her much older! ‘Thank you,’ she said in reply to the aunt’s kind words. ‘I hope I shall be very happy here, but please don’t call me anything but Leonore.’
‘As you please,’ her new friend replied, while Fraulein smiled beamingly. She was most anxious that her aunt and her pupil should make friends, and she knew that, though Leonore was a polite and well-mannered little girl, she had likes and dislikes of her own, and not always quite reasonable ones. Perhaps, to put it shortly, she felt anxious that her charge was just a trifle spoilt, and that she herself had had a hand in the spoiling.
‘A motherless child,’ she had said to herself many and many a time in excuse during the five years she had had the care of Leonore, for Fraulein had gone to her when the little girl was only four years old, ‘and her papa so far away! Who could be severe with her?’
Not tender-hearted Fraulein Elsa, most certainly! So she felt especially delighted when Leonore replied so prettily to her aunt, and still more so when the child lifted up her face for the kiss of welcome which Aunt Anna was only too ready to bestow, though she would have been rather surprised had she known the thoughts that were in Leonore’s head at the moment.
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