CHAPTER I. UNDER THE LINDENS.
The daily promenaders who moved slowly back and forth every afternoon under the shade of the lindens on the eastern side of the pretty town of Karlsruhe were very much interested in the appearance of two persons who had lately joined their ranks. It was beyond doubt that the man was very ill. He could only move slowly and it was touching to see the care with which his little companion tried to make herself useful to him. He supported himself with his right hand on a stout stick, and rested his left upon the the shoulder of the child at his side, and one could see that he needed the assistance of both. From time to time he would lift his left hand and say gently,
"Tell me, my child, if I press too heavily upon you."
Instantly, however, the child would catch his hand and press it down again, assuring him,
"No, no, certainly not, Papa, lean upon me still more: I do not even notice it at all."
After they had walked back and forth for a while, they seated themselves upon one of the benches that were placed at convenient distances under the trees, and rested a little.
The sick man was Major Falk, who had been in Karlsruhe only a short time. He lived before that in Hamburg with his daughter Dora, whose mother died soon after the little girl came into the world, so that Dora had never known any parent but her father. Naturally, therefore, the child's whole affection was centred upon Major Falk, who had always devoted himself to his little motherless girl with such tenderness that she had scarcely felt the want of a mother, until the war with France broke out, and he was obliged to go with the Army. He was away for a long time, and when at last he returned, it was with a dangerous wound in his breast. The Major had no near relatives in Hamburg, and he therefore lived a very retired life with his little daughter as his only companion, but in Karlsruhe he had an elder half-sister, married to a literary man, Mr. Titus Ehrenreich.
When Major Falk was fully convinced that his wound was incurable, he decided to remove to Karlsruhe, in order not to be quite without help when his increasing illness should make it necessary for him to have some aid in the care of his eleven-year-old daughter. It did not take long to make the move. He rented a few rooms in the neighborhood of his sister, and spent the warm spring afternoons enjoying his regular walk under the shade of the lindens with his little daughter as his supporter and loving companion.
When he grew weary of walking and they sat down on a bench to rest, the Major had always some interesting story to tell, to beguile the time, and Dora was certain that no one in the whole world could tell such delightful stories as her father, who was indeed in her opinion the most agreeable and lovable of men. Her favorite tales, and those which the Major himself took most pleasure in relating, were little incidents in the life of Dora's mother, who was now is heaven. He loved to tell the child how affectionate and happy her mother had always been, and how many friends she had won for herself, and how she always brought sunshine with her wherever she went, and how nobody ever saw her who did not feel at once attracted to her, and how she was even now remembered by those who had known and loved her during life.
When Major Falk once began to talk about his dearly-beloved wife, he was apt to forget the flight of time, and often the cool evening wind first aroused him with its chilly breath to the fact that he was lingering too long in the outer air....