Feast, festival, life, death, spring
"George is going to be confirmed at Easter," said the Porter's wife. That was how far George was advanced.
"It would be very sensible to have him serve an apprenticeship," said the father; "in some good profession, of course; and then we would have him out of the house!"
"But he could come home at nights to sleep," said the mother.
"It wouldn't be easy to find a master who had a spare room. And we'd have to give him clothes, too; the little food he eats now we can easily afford to give him; he is happy with a couple of boiled potatoes; then he has his teaching free. Just let him go on the way he is, and he'll turn out a blessing to us, you may be sure! Didn't the professor say so?"
The confirmation clothes were ready. Mother did the sewing herself, but the cloth had been cut by the tailor, and he knew how to cut it. The Porter's wife said that if he had only been better placed, and could have opened a shop with apprentices, he could have become court tailor.
Yes, the clothes were ready, and the candidate was ready. On confirmation day George received a great pocket watch from his godfather, the flax dealer's old clerk, the wealthiest of George's godfathers. The watch was old and honored; it was always a little fast, but that's better than being too slow. It was a precious present. And from the General's there came a hymnbook bound in leather, sent by the little lady to whom George had given his pictures. On the flyleaf were written his name and her name as "his gracious well-wisher." This was written according to the dictation of the General's wife, and the General himself had read it through and said, " Charmant!"
"That was really a great courtesy from a family of such rank," said the Porter's wife. And George would have to go upstairs, in his confirmation clothes and carrying his hymnbook, to thank them.
The General's wife had a number of compresses on her head, for she had one of her bad headaches, which always came when she was bored. She looked very kindly at George and wished him the best of luck and none of her headaches.
The General was wearing his dressing gown, with a tasseled cap and red- legged Russian boots. He paced up and down the floor three times, engrossed in his own thoughts and memories. Then he stood still and said, "So now little George is a Christian man! Let him be also and honest man, paying due respect to his government! Someday, when you are old, you can say the General taught you that sentence." That was a much longer speech than the General usually made; and he returned to his inner thoughts and looked impressive.
But George heard and saw little of all that up there; nothing remained fixed in his memory so firmly as little Miss Emilie. How lovely she was, and how gentle; how she flitted about, and how delicate she was! If one should draw her portrait it would have to be in a soap bubble. There was a fragrance about her clothing and her curly blonde hair as if she were a rosebush that had just burst into bloom. And he had once shared his bread and butter with her, and she had eaten it with a huge appetite and smiled at him with every second mouthful. Could she possibly still remember it? Surely she did; it was in memory of this that she had given him the beautiful hymnbook.
And so, on New Year's Day, just as the new moon of the new year rose, he went out-of-doors with a loaf and a shilling and opened the book at random to see what hymn should appear. It was a song of praise and thanksgiving. Then he opened it again to see what should come forth for Little Emilie. He tried very hard not to dip into the part of the book containing the funeral hymns, but in spite of his care he did dip in between death and the grave. You couldn't believe in that sort of thing – not in the least! And yet he was terribly frightened when soon afterward the dainty little girl was laid up with sickness and the doctor's carriage came to the street door daily.