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Little Miss Grasshopper By
"NEVER IN HIS LIFE HAD HE SEEN ANYTHING SO SPLENDID!"
BEFORE THE JOURNEY
In Dresden, not far from the Terrace on the Elbe, stands a large stone house. One sunny July morning Herr Feland was sitting there in his easy chair, and holding such a large newspaper in front of him that nothing at all could be seen of his face.
Opposite him sat his wife in a white morning cap. From time to time she poured a little water from the singing kettle on the fragrant coffee in the coffee-pot. Breakfast was about to be served.
Then the door opened and two little girls entered, followed by a young lady, who regarded with some anxiety the lively way in which little Rita ran bounding through the room in order finally to spring with one big leap on her papa's knee. By her skill in jumping it was plain to see that it was not the first time she had accomplished this. Rita now looked triumphantly around as if to say: "Now I am once more seated in my strong castle where no harm can reach me!"
Then she put her little curly head under the big newspaper and said roguishly:
"Oh, Papa, now I have found you! When are we going to the Gemmi?"
Papa laid aside his paper, kissed his little girl and said:
"First, good-morning, little Grasshopper; we will see about planning for the trip later."
On account of her nimble jumping her Papa called her little Grasshopper. When Rita found the big paper was no longer between her and her Papa she threw her arms around his neck and said, "Good-morning," with great affection. Meanwhile, her sister Ella was standing perfectly still beside her Papa's chair, waiting for his morning greeting. Then he kissed his older little daughter also, and she sat down quietly at the table.
"Now please go too and sit where you belong!" said Papa to Rita, who had made no move to leave her high seat.
"I am going right away, Papa," said Rita assuringly, but first she straightened herself up in her castle, and said:
"I was only waiting for you to say when we are going to the Gemmi."
"As soon as Mother has packed," replied her Papa.
Then Rita jumped down and ran to her Mother.
"Oh, Mamma, let us pack to-day! Please, please, right away," begged Rita coaxingly. "I will help you, and Ella can help you too, and Fräulein Hohlweg, and so we can go away to-morrow and then——"
"Now we will drink our milk and sit very quietly a while at the table, dear child," replied her Mother with firm decision, and Rita, who saw that there could be no further answer to her question, sat down in her place between her father and mother, and breakfast began.
Every morning for a long time had begun in Herr Feland's house with pressing question about the trip to the Gemmi, hardly any other thought entered little Rita's mind.
The plan for this journey had been impressed upon little Rita's imagination in the following way, and had fastened itself firmly there.
The Summer before her father and mother had made a trip to Switzerland. On the Gemmi Pass, leading from Wallis across to the canton of Berne, they had been so especially delighted that they decided to go there again the following Summer, to take the children and Miss Hohlweg with them and remain there for some time. On their journey the parents had made the acquaintance of the guide Kaspar, and had told him of their intention and desire to hire a house in the vicinity and settle his family there instead of living in a hotel. Then Kaspar had proposed to let them occupy his own cottage, which stood not far from the Gemmi Pass on a green slope near the foot-path. He could perfectly well give up his little house at just this time because he himself was always away traveling with strangers, his two boys were taking care of the big flocks in the mountain pasture, and his wife could live in the attic room and serve the Feland family. For them the big living-room and the two sleeping rooms would be put in order.
This proposal was very acceptable to Herr Feland and his wife, and, after looking over the little house, they decided to engage it for the Summer months of the coming year.
This news and the description of the beautiful fields and lofty snow-clad mountains, the green pastures and the numbers of grazing cows, had made a deep impression on the two children, and for a long time Rita had been hardly able to wait for the day to start on the journey. Even in Winter not a day had begun and hardly had one ended without Rita's asking:
"Mamma, will Summer come soon now?"
Now the Summer was really there, and Rita's question became more determined and urgent. Every morning in expectant tones sounded the words:
"When are we going to the Gemmi?"
Every day the child's impatience grew and these impetuous questions and pleadings increased, until Rita could hardly wait any longer to climb into the train and travel to the high mountains and green fields.