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.“Beware your expectations, boy.They’ll surely confound you and burden others.”Karl nodded.“Now, wife, hand me those woolens … no, not those, the ones on the short peg.”Gerta scurried to the parlor wall and retrieved two blankets, each a bit worn, though a welcome sight nonetheless to the two crusaders.“These belonged to my sons,” said Gerta softly.“You’ll have need of them in the cold nights ahead.” She stroked Karl’s red curls and cradled his cheeks in her hands.“God protect you from the spirits of the forest.”Night was falling and the cool mountain air chilled Karl and Pieter as they bade a thank-filled farewell and struck a path toward camp.The sky had become dark and the stars sparkled like fine jewels on rich, black velvet by the time the pair spotted the familiar fire-glow in a wide clearing just ahead.They entered the campsite and the children cheered gleefully as the yeoman’s gifts were spread before them.Pieter looked carefully at the circle of faces and measured the need as prudence would incline.He handed a blanket to Jost.“Share this with Albert,” he ordered firmly, “and you shall thank God above for sending it to you.”He studied the yearning eyes of the others huddled close to a snapping fire.All were cold and others shivering; many had no blankets and those who did were doing their best to wrap two or three others with them.Pieter held the remaining woolen and looked closely at each longing face.At last he walked to Gertrude, Frieda’s long-suffering sister, and draped it over her quivering shoulders.“Here, little one, share this with another.”Morning brought its usual routine of grunting and burping, yawning and complaints.Frieda, Gertrude, Anna, and Maria were stirring a watery gruel of millet.“I never said so,” snapped Anna.Her pale skin suddenly flushed a bright pink.“Gertrude swore an oath you did,” quipped Frieda.“Well, ’tis not so, I have never thought so, and I do not say what I’m not wont to think.”“Nay.Methinks you to think it, else you’d not have so said.”“No! I do not think you to be fairer than Gertrude, so I would not have said such.There.”“Then why did Gertrude say it?”“Gertrude, did you say I said so?”Gertrude blushed.“Well, I remember little about it and…”“What? Liar.You said you were angry at Anna for hurting your feelings.You said she ought not be your friend anymore.”“What? Gertrude? You don’t want to be m’friend? Just evening past you spoke of liking me better than Frieda!”Jon II had covered his ears but now reached his end.“Girls, girls! Shut yer mouths.Every morning, ’tis more of the same.I hear, ‘She said so and she said not’; ‘I like Wil’; or ‘Ain’t Conrad a delight?’”“Who said me that?”The girls froze.“Uh … methinks … oh, never y’mind.Wil’s hollering for us to hurry.”And then, like so many mornings gone by, the crusaders lined up in their customary order, received Pieter’s blessing, and dutifully tramped behind Wil toward the next mountain.This morning’s rising sun brought warmth and hope, and Karl and Georg chattered endlessly of Burgdorf and the Feast of the Assumption about one week hence.“’Tis surely to be better than any we’ve ever seen, Georg.The drought hasn’t hurt these folk; their harvest is good and food shall be plenty and …”“Do you truly believe the food to be plenty?” interrupted Georg with a grin.“I should be most happy to see tables full of food again!”Karl laughed and poked Georg in his belly.Before long, their enthusiasm spread and the whole company began jabbering about feast days and minstrels, jugglers and dancing.It was good medicine for their hearts, a better remedy than an apothecary’s cupboard could ever offer.Pieter had fallen behind a bit and he labored to catch up to Wil.After wheezing his way past the others, he found himself matching the boy step for step as they crested another ridge.“I am convinced,” he panted, “that struggling through these hills is much like struggling through life.”Wil rolled his eyes.“Would you agree, my boy?”Wil bit his tongue, weary of Pieter’s ceaseless commentary on the nature of life, of God, and the condition of the world.Pieter nodded, agreeing with himself.“Yes, we think only of rushing out of the valley to find the glory of the next peak.Yet, when we think only of the summits we miss what can be learned in the valleys.The beauty of the valley, even its shadows, is lost to us.And this, too: On each peak we see only another, one higher and more beautiful.Nay, I prefer to think we are called to find our peace in the journey itself.Some of us shall find our end in shadows to be sure; others, perhaps near the heavens.But methinks it to matter not one whit.What matters is that we delight in whatever journey we are granted.”“By the Virgin! Save your sermons, old man,” grumbled Wil.“I intend to be a mighty warrior in m’youth and a nobleman as an elder.I’ll ne’er be left in a lowly place—not ever—I swear it.I am like neither you nor this company.I shall make this life what I will.You may find your end in some pitiful valley, but I shall stay to the summits; I’ll spend m’life atop the hills, like the rich men of Basel!”Wil’s arrogance quieted Pieter.His heart sank.He had hoped to plant seeds of wisdom in soft soil but it was not to be.The sun was settling toward the western sky as the quiet soldiers pressed faithfully southward.Wil kept a steady pace until finally offering a brief respite by a shimmering stream in the midst of a broad valley.Karl and Georg collapsed on the bank by Pieter and watched some distant sheep nibble the green grass on the breast of the next slope.Karl tapped the tired priest on the shoulder.“Pieter, if you were yet a boy and were free, what labor would you choose?”Pieter pulled at his beard and quietly considered the question for some time.He ambled to the water’s edge and cupped some cold water to his parched lips and returned.Still pondering, he scratched Solomon’s ears.A ring of curious crusaders gathered around and waited impatiently for his counsel.“Aye,” he finally answered.“’Tis a matter of some interest to me and its answer is not certain [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]