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The Hero of Esthonia and Other Studies in the Roma

Elsie learned everything easily


The

years flew by with arrow-like swiftness, and Elsie had now become a blooming maiden, and had learned many things which would never have become known to her during her whole life, if she had lived in the village. But Kiisike remained the same little child as on the day when she first met Elsie in the wood. The governess who lived in the house with the lady instructed Kiisike and Elsie for some hours daily in reading and writing, and in all kinds of fine work. Elsie learned everything easily, but Kiisike had more taste for childish games than for her lessons. When the whim took her, she threw her work away, caught up her little box, and ran out of doors to play on the lake, and nobody scolded her. Sometimes she said to Elsie, "It's a pity you've grown so big: you can't play with me any longer."

Nine years passed in this way, and one evening the lady sent for Elsie to come to her room. This surprised Elsie, for the lady had never sent for her before; and her heart beat almost to bursting. When Elsie entered, she saw that the lady's cheeks were red, and her eyes were filled with tears, which she hastily wiped away as if to hide them. "My dear child," said the lady, "the time has come when we must part." "Part!" exclaimed Elsie, throwing herself at the lady's feet. "No, dear lady, we must never part till death shall separate us. I have always behaved well; don't drive me from you." But the lady said soothingly, "Calm yourself, child. You do not yet

know how much it will increase your happiness. You are now grown up, and I must not keep you here any longer in confinement. You must go back among mankind, where happiness awaits you." Elsie still besought her, "Dear lady, don't send me away; I wish for no other happiness than to live and die with you. Let me be your chambermaid, or give me any other work to do that you like, only don't send me out into the wide world again. It would have been better for you to have left me with my stepmother in the village than for me to have spent so many years in heaven only to be thrust out again into hell." "Be still, dear child," said the lady. "You cannot understand what it is my duty to do for your good, hard as it is for me also. But everything must be done as I direct. You are a child of mortal man,[144] and your years must come at length to an end, and therefore you cannot remain here any longer. I myself and those around me possess human forms, but we are not human beings like you, but beings of a higher order, whom you cannot comprehend. You will find a beloved husband far away from here, who is destined for you, and you will live happily with him, until your days draw to a close. It is not easy for me to part with you, but so it must be, and therefore you must also submit quietly." Then she passed her golden comb through Elsie's hair and told her to go to bed. But how should poor Elsie sleep this unhappy night? Her life seemed like a dark starless night-sky.

We will leave Elsie in her trouble, and go to the village to see what is taking place at her father's house, to which the clay image was sent for the stepmother to beat in Elsie's stead. It is well known that a wicked woman does not improve with age. It sometimes happens that a wild youth becomes a quiet lamb in his old age; but if a girl whose heart is bad assumes the matron's cap, she becomes like a raging wolf in her old days. The stepmother tortured the clay image like a firebrand


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