What’s O’ Clock?
The first exclamation came from Leonore. It was one of disappointment.
‘Oh, Hildegarde,’ she cried, ‘it is only a common kernel,’ for nothing was to be seen but what looked just like the browny-gray skin of the inside of a nut.
‘No,’ Hildegarde replied, ‘it isn’t that at all;’ and with her clever little fingers she carefully drew out what was in reality a small sheet of thin brown paper or tissue of some curious kind, rolled into a ball, and which, when she had carefully unfolded it, was shown to have a few lines of words stamped or impressed upon it in gilt letters.
These were the lines. I have translated them to give the exact meaning, though as rhymes they were prettier in the original language:
Right behind the Castle is hid a tiny door;
This let thy comrade open—Nuts you still have four. Hildegarde smoothed it out and held it for Leonore to see.
‘What can it mean?’ Leonore asked breathlessly.
‘First,’ said Hildegarde, ‘it means that you are to crack one of your nuts too.
Don’t you see—it says “thy comrade,” and then “nuts you still have four.” That shows that the “you” means us both together—four nuts between us. So please crack your one.’ Leonore did so between her teeth, as her friend had done, and quite as easily.
This time there was no exclamation of disappointment, for the first glimpse of the contents showed something glittering, and with trembling eagerness the little girl, breaking away still more of the shell, drew out a little ball of very new but firm gilt thread. This, by Hildegarde’s advice, she gently untwined, till she came to something hard in the middle. It was a small, very small, gold key, hanging on the long gilt thread, which proved to be in a ring, with no knot or join to be seen.
Leonore, without speaking, glanced up at Hildegarde, who was earnestly examining their new discovery.
‘”Right behind the Castle,”‘ Hildegarde murmured to herself. ‘Let me see—yes, I think I know what it means. See, Leonore, “right behind” must be from the centre of the wall of the Castle yard down below us, I should say. It is easy to find, as there is a door just in the middle. Look, you can see it from here. Well, now, if one of us stands as near the middle as we can guess, holding the thread, and the other goes straight on, holding the thread too, as far as it will reach, and running the key on as she goes, then she would get to the place that I fancy is meant. The thread must be meant to be double, or it would not be in a ring.’
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