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The Nickel of the Rohrer Berg

From the fourteenth to the sixteenth century, and in some few places down to the seventeenth century, the mountains in many places of Tirol were worked profitably in searches for precious metals. Many families were enriched; and the skill of the Tirolese miners became well known throughout Europe. When the veins lying near the surface had been worked out, it became too expensive go deeper, for the machinery needed for it would be too expensive in the uneven terrain. Since then, mining has been abandoned for most part, though some iron and copper is still got out.

There are many old shafts entirely deserted. There are memories surrounding them, even fantastic memories. One of the most remarkable of these is the so-called Röhrerbüchel between Kitzbühl and St. Johann and not far from the latter place. It was one of the most productive and one of the latest worked mines, and it seemed to have the deepest shaft that had ever been sunk in Europe at the time. However, for above two hundred and fifty years it has been deaf to the sound of the pick and the hammer and the voices of the Knappen.

The people explain it differently why mining-works stopped. They say that the little men of the mountains – the dwarfs who guarded these mineral treasures – were so disgusted with the avarice of people that they refused to lend them their help any more. Without their guidance the miners were no longer able to carry on their search aright and the gnomes left for other countries.

One of these little men of the mountains, however, loved his ancient house too well to go away to seek another; he still lingered about the mile-long clefts and passages which once had been rich with ore. Often the peasants heard him bewailing and singing melancholy ditties over his lonely fate. They even thought he came out sometimes to watch them sadly in their companionship of labour and peeped through their windows at them in their cosy cottages while it was cold and dark where he stood outside. As a result, many took an interest in the Nickel of the Röhrerbüchel.

Jössl of the Goign village had been mowing the grassy slope near the opening of the Röhrerbüchl; he was just putting up his implements to carry them with him home after his day's toil, when he saw the orphan girl Aennerl coming towards him. Her dark eyes had met his before that day and he never met her glance without a thrill of joy.

"I have been over to Oberndorf for a day's work," said Aennerl, "and as I came back I thought I would turn aside this way and see how you were getting on; and then we can go home together."

"So we will," answered Jössl; "but we're both tired and the sun isn't gone yet – so let us sit down and have talk a little before we go."

They sat and talked of the events of the day and their companions and their work and the weather and the prospects of the morrow. But both seemed to feel there was something else to be said and they sat on, as not knowing how to begin.

At last Jössl removed his pointed hat from his head and laid it by his side and finally cleared his throat to say, softly:

"Is this not happiness, Aennerl? – what can we want more in this world? True, we work hard all day, but is not our toil repaid when we sit together like this while the warm evening sun shines round us and the blue heaven above and the green fields below smile on us and we are togetherr? Aennerl, shall we not be always happy together?"

Aennerl had often longed to hear her Jössl say those words Had he said them to her any day of her whole life before, how warmly would she have responded to them! Today, however, it was different. The rich peasant's wife that she worked for, had been harsh to her that day and for the first time envious thoughts had entered her mind and made her discontent at her lowly lot.

So, instead of agreeing warmly, she said:

"Jössl, it is very nice, but only for a little while, alas. The hard toil lasts all day. Now, to have a good farm of one's own, like the one I work upon at Oberndorf, with plenty of cattle and corn and servants to work for you, that comes with what I should call being happy! Sitting together in the sunset is all very well, but we might have that farm besides."

The good-hearted, hard-working, thrifty and devout Jössl looked astounded to hear his Aennerl speak like that. He had not thought of or wished for anything in the wide world beyond his day's wage honestly worked for, and his beloved Aennerl wooed with tenderness and constancy. Until now her views had been the very much like his, but now, for the first time, he perceived that something had come between them. He felt disappointed and estranged.

"If that is how you see it, Aennerl girl, it isn't me that can make you happy," answered the youth at last, and rather coldly. "Your best chance could be with the Nickel of the Röhrerbüchel," he added, as one who would say, "Your case is desperate; you have no chance at all."

"What was that?" said Aennerl, suddenly starting. "Who can be working so late? Don't you hear a pick go 'click, clack'? Who can it be?"

"No one is working at this hour," answered Jössl, in no mood to be pleased at the interruption. But as he spoke, the bells of the villages around toned forth the Hail Mary. Both folded their hands; and in the still silence that ensued he could not deny that he heard the sound of a pick vigorously at work, and that, as it seemed to come from theground directly under their feet.

"It's the Bergmännlein – it has to be the Bergmännlein himself!" exclaimed Aennerl excitedly.

"What are you saying?" answered Jössl, and led the excited girl home. However, Aennerl's curiosity was roused, and was not to be so easily laid to rest.

The next evening Jössl's worked somewhere else than the day before, but as soon as the hour of the evening rest came he started on the road to Oberndorf to see if he could meet his Aennerl coming home. But there was no Aennerl on the path; and he turned homewards with a heavy heart, fearing that he had offended her and that she was shunning him.

Aennerl had been overcome by a desire of being rich, and the next evening, instead of being on the look-out for Jössl to walk home with her, her one thought had been to find out the same place on the bank where they had sat – to listen for the sound of the Bergmännl's axe and perhaps follow it out; and then – and then – who could tell what might happen? Perhaps it might be the way to fortune?

She was not long in tracing out the spot, for she had marked the angle which the well-known outline of the mighty Sonnengebirg bore to the jagged "comb" of the Kitzbichler-Horn and for a nearer token, there lay, just before her, the crushed wild-flower which her Jössl had twisted and torn in his nervousness when he had brought himself to speak to her for the first time of their future.

But she was only concerned to find the spot and to listen for the stroke of the Nickel's pickaxe. "Hush!" that was it again, sure enough! Click, clack,' went the axe. As she followed the sound, the village bells sounded Hail Mary, but she forgot her evening prayer through thirst for gold.

But Jössl heard the bell sounding as he was passing a little old, wayside chapel with a lordly pine-tree overshadowing it. Jössl did not fear the steep mountain-side and loved to hang dangerously between earth and sky when he was hunting the chamois, shuddered when he thought of those long, dark, tunnels where the miners had worked underground. He said a prayer for all who had worked in those tunnels long ago and later, as the case might be: "Be with them; help them now and in death. Amen." If you had told him his Aennerl was included in that prayer he would not have believed you.

Meantime Aennerl had found her way to the opening of the old mine. It has a sideways shaft that she might walk some distance into. It seemed like a very long way to her. After some time she started trembling, but the nearing sounds of the Bergmännl's tool kept her going anyhow.

On she went, groping her and expecting every moment to come upon some terrible sight. But, far from this, as she got deeper into the intricate passages of the Röhrerbüchel, the way grew lighter and lighter. A pale, clear, rosy light played on the sides of the working. Now that she looked at them closely, she found to they were not made of rough, yellow clay, as she had first thought, but of pure, sparkling gold and encrusted with gems.

Was it too good to be true? Could it be a trick or trap for her? She did not turn and flee, but walked on and on, till the faint, rosy light grew into a red, radiant glow that quite dazzled her.

She now was in a broad and lofty clearing. The long narrow passage she had walked through, was one of many. The walls of the hall, which arched it in overhead and closed it from the daylight, seemed to be of gold and silver.

Then she discovered that all this blaze of light came from one huge, rounded gemstone, and that the garnet-like gemstone was set in the breast-cloth of the leathern apron worn by a dwarf. The clang of his pickaxe had lured her to the underground spot.

The dwarf was much too busily and too noisily engaged to notice Aennerl's footsteps, so she had plenty of leisure to examine him. He was a little awkward-shaped fellow, nearly as broad as he was long, with brawny muscular arms that made him able to wield his pick with tremendous effect. He seemed, however, to be wielding it merely for exercise or sport, for he was just chipping up a huge block of gold and there were already heaps on heaps of such chips lying about. Though his muscles were so strong, his face looked miserable and nearly worn-out, wrinkled and furrowed and bronzed. The matted hair of his head and beard was snowy white. As he worked he sang, and his pick beat time:

The weary Bergmännl, old and grey,

Sits alone in a cleft of the earth for aye,

With never a friend to say, 'Good day.'

For a thousand years and ten thousand more,

He has guarded earth's precious silver store,

Keeping count of her treasures of golden ore

By the light of the bright Karfunkelstein,

The only light of the Bergmännlein

But never a friend to say, 'Good day,'

As he sits in a cleft of the earth for aye,

Has the lonely Bergmännl, old and grey.

He had repeated his song many times while Aennerl stood gazing and listening among glittering treasures. Aennerl was quite puzzled, but felt sure it was the Nickel of the Röhrerbüchel who was before her, for he was just as people had always described him.

The dwarf suddenly stopped his labour, and, as if in very weariness, flung the tool he had been using far from him, so that it fell upon a heap of gold chips near which Aennerl was standing, scattering them in all directions. One of the sharp bits of ore hit her rudely on the chin, and she could not suppress a little cry of pain.

Old and withered and haggard as he seemed, when he heard sound of a maiden's voice, the cobold's eye glittered, and he turned quickly to seize her. Aennerl turned and fled, but the Nickel, threw his leathern apron over the shining stone on his breast, and it became dark. Aennerl soon lost her footing as she ran, and lay helpless on the ground in the hall. The dwarf was beside her in a trice, still singing,:

"But never a friend to say, 'Good day,'

As he sits in a cleft of the earth for aye,

Has the lonely Bergmännl, old and grey!"

The self-pitying words, the melancholy tone and the bright, warm red light that played once more around them and showed up the masses of gold she had longed for, made her feel less scared, so that when the dwarf asked her who she was and what had brought her there, she told him all her story.

"To tell you the truth," said the cobold when she had finished, "I am pretty well tired of having all this to myself. I came to be very angry with how your fellows went to work earlier. They were destroying a lot and carrying away all earthly treasures they could find, and leaving nothing for those that are to come after. I was determined to put a stop to it. You see, I am not here to look after one generation, or two, or three, but the whole lot of you for a much longer time, and I must keep things in some order.

"But now people have given up this place up and left me alone, I confess I used to like to listen to their busy noises and their songs and the tramping of their feet.

"So, if you've a mind to make up for it and come and sit with me for a bit now and then and sing to me some of the lively songs you have in your world up there, I don't say I won't give you a lapful of gold now and then."

To get a lapful of gold for sitting for a bit now and then and singing to a poor lonely old fellow! Too delighted to speak, Aennerl clapped her hands and laughed for joy.

"It's a long, long time since these walls have echoed a sound like that," said the dwarf with deep feeling. As Aennerl's smiled to him, it seemed to wipe away some of the rough dark wrinkles that furrowed his cheeks and relax the tension of his knit brows. "And yet there's more worth in those echoes than in all the metallic riches which resound to them! Yes, my lass, only come and see the poor old Bergmännl sometimes and cheer him a bit and you shall have what you will of his."

With that he led her gently back into the great vault where she had first seen him working, and, stirring up a heap with his foot, said:

"There's the Bergmännl's store, girl. Take what you will – If I were younger and better-looking, I would not offer you lapfuls of gold, but all of it – and myself too! But I'm old and grey and my hoary beard is no match for your dainty cheeks. So take what you will, take what you will – only come and cheer up the poor old Bergmännl a bit sometimes."

Aennerl greedily filled her large pouch and her apron and her kerchief. She was so busy with it that she scarcely remembered to thank the Bergmännl.

"Come again?" said the cobold as he saw her turn to go when she had settled her burden in such a way that its weight should least impede her walking.

"Oh, yes, I'll come again! When shall I come?"

"Oh, when you will! Let's see, today's Saturday, isn't it? Well, next Saturday, if you like."

"Till next Saturday, then, good-bye!" said Aennerl, panting, for the gold was very heavy to carry. She struggled and thought so hard about what to do with it that she did not even notice the old dwarf was coming behind her to light her way, and singing his ditty as he went:<

"The lonely old Bergmännl, . . .
With never a friend . . .
Never a friend till this day.

Aennerl had no time for pity, for she was thinking of fine things to buy, fine dresses to wear, and then she thought of what commands she would fling at the girls she would take into her service girls that yesterday worked with her.

The village was all wrapt in silence and sleep as Aennerl got back with her treasure.

"So late and so laden! poor child!" said the parish priest, as he came out of a large old house into the lane and met her. "I have just come from the farm of our worthy neighbour Bartl,. He just died. The poor will miss a friend in him. He gave us a good example while he lived, Aennerl, child. Good night."

Aennerl scarcely returned his greeting. She only thought that Old Bartl's farm was in good order and that he had been alone in the world. With no heir, his last will was that all he owned to the hospital, the farm would be sold. What a chance for Aennerl! There was no homestead in the whole district in such good order, or so well worth having, as the farm of old Bartl.

Aennerl already reckoned it as hers and in the meantime kept an eye open for any chances of good stock that might come into the market.

The illness that had carried old Bartl to the grave had been caught at the bedside of Wild Jürgl. He had been a fine young man, but had loved all sorts of games and a gossip in the tavern and a dance with the village maids more than work, so all he had was in confusion. He always said he would set all straight by-and-by, and that there was plenty of time. But death cut him off, young as he was; and his widow found herself next morning with three sturdy boys to provide for, all too young to earn a crust and pay all Jürgl's debts. There was no help for it: the three fine cows which were the envy of the village and which had been her portion at her father's death, only six months before, had to be be sold.

Aennerl bought them. Once her conscience reproached her with a memory of the days long gone by, when she and that young widow were playmates, when orphan Aennerl had been taken home from her mother's grave by that same widow's father and the two children had grown up in confidence and affection with each other.

"Suppose I left her the cows and the money too?" mused Aennerl – but only for a moment, for just those three cows were praised in all the village praised, and had carried off the prize and the garland of roses at the last fair. She wanted so much to buy them, but still she was dissatisfied with herself and inclined to think it over again, when she heard loud, tramping steps.

It was the pedlar the knew as Langer Peterl. The goods he carried on his back were sure to gather round him all the people of any place he passed through

Aennerl laughed and clapped her hands. "Oh, Peterl, you come as if you were sent for!" she exclaimed. "Show me what you have got to sell – show me all your pretty things! I want an entirely new rig-out. Hurry! Show me the best – the very best – you have brought."

Langer Peterl only knew her as the orphan Aennerl, and hardly slackening his pace, for she had never been one of his customers. "Show you the best - are you able to buy it? Or will you merely amuse yourself with a sight of such things with your pair of dark eyes?"

Aennerl was too delighted with the thought of the finery she wanted to resent the taunt. She answered: "Nonsense, Peterl. I don't want to merely look at it, but to buy it all." She showed him so much gold that he realised she could buy the load and much, much more if she wanted.

Long Peter swiftly changed his manner and said: "In that case, pick and choose among silks and satins and laces."p class="i"> Aennerl exclaimed with a scream of delight: "Oh, show me!" The pedlar shoed her his gaudiest wares, taking care not to tell that it was seldom anything in his backpack was bought by a "real lady." To have heard him you would have thought his dealings were only with the nobility of the land.

He needed only to say, "This is what my lady the Countess of Langtaufers wears," or "This is what my lady the Baronin Schroffenstein bought of me," and Aennerl would buy it at the highest price that the Long Peter's dark conscience could let him extort. If he had not felt a need to reserve some of the goods for his usual customers on the rest of his travel route, Aennerl would have bought up all that was offered her under these nobility pretences and without stopping to consider whether the materials or colours were well assorted, or whether such titles as those with the pedlar dazzled her with, existed at all!

The next day was a village festival in Reith. And the quiet people of Reith thought the orphan Aennerl had gone fairly mad when they saw at church the extravagant clothes she wore - all the clothes she had bought. The black tight-fitting bodice of the local costume was replaced by a kind of scarlet hussar's jacket trimmed with fur. From her ears dangled large earrings and on her head was a very unusual hat

She seated herself in the most conspicuous place in the church, so that everybody could see her. For some it was a source of envy; for some, of ridicule; for some unsophisticated minds, of simple admiration. But the wiser heads kept silence, or said, in tones of sympathy, "The orphan Aennerl isn't the girl that Jössl of the village Goign took her for."

Goigner Jössl had been to church in his own village and had therefore been spared the sight and the comments it had elicited. But as he came towards Reith to take his Aennerl for the holiday walk, he noticed many strange bits of hinting in the greetings he received, which puzzled him so, that, instead of going straight on to Aennerl, he sat down on the churchyard wall, pondering what it could all mean. "I wish you joy of your orphan Aennerl!" one had said. "Goigner Jössl, Goigner Jössl, take my advice and shun the threshold of orphan Aennerl!" were the words of another and he was an old man and a sage friend too. "Beware, Goigner Jössl, beware!" seemed written on every face he had met.

What could it all mean? He wandered forward uncertain and then back again, then on again, till he could bear it no longer and he determined to go down to the inn Wirthshaus beim Stangl and ask his mates to their face what they all meant.

Before he came in sight of the door, however, he changed his mind. Through the open window he heard noisy talk and noisiest of all was the voice of the Langer Peterl. Honest Jössl had an invincible antipathy to the wheedling, the gossip, the bluster and the evil tongue of the Langer Peterl and never trusted himself to join his company, for he knew a meeting with him always led to words.

Determining to wait till he was gone, he walked about outside and as there was always a train of wagons waiting at the inn while the way worn carters refreshed themselves, he could easily remain unnoticed.

Thus he unintentionally overheard of all he wanted to know – much more than he had wanted also.

"I tell you, Aennerl would have bought my whole pack if I'd have let her!" said the Langer Peterl loudly; "and I might have saved myself all further tramping, but I wouldn't disappoint my pretty Ursal and Trausl and Moidl and Marie," he added, in a tone of righteousness.

"Buy it, man! you don't mean buy it! She got it out of you one way or another, but you don't mean she bought it, in the sense of paying for it?"

"Yes, she paid for it in pure gold!"

"No, that won't do!" said other voices; "where could she get gold from?"

"That's not my affair," answered the pedlar, "It wouldn't do for a poor pedlar to ask where his customers get their money from – ha! ha! ha! I'm not such a fool as that! It wouldn't do for me to refuse all the money I suspect is not honestly come by – ha! ha! I should then drive a sorry trade indeed!"

Jössl's first impulse had been to fly at the Langer Peterl, but then, he reflected; where had the girl got the money from? What could he say? While he stood dejected and uncertain, the conversation went on more animated than before.

"Yes, what right have we to be prying into our neighbour's business?" cried Unruly Karl, an idle fellow between two whiffs of smoke. "If the girl's got money, why should anyone say she hasn't a right to it? She's a very fine girl, and a girl that can afford to dress like that is not to be despised, I say."

None of the steady lads of either Goign or Reith or Elmau, or any other place in the neighbourhood would make friends with Idle Karl. To be praised and defended by him was of little worth. So Kleiner Friedl, who was a sworn friend of Jössl, cried out, in a menacing tone:

"Karl, you may think that because the girl has got money she's a good chance for you to step in between them. She would not have much finery left then, I'll say! But whatever she is, she'll be true to the Goigner Jössl, I daresay – and as for you, she would not even look at you!"

Karl rose to his feet with a glance of fury. "I wager you everything you and I have in the world that I'll make her dance every dance with me at the village dance this very night!" He shook his fist with a confident air, for he had a smooth tongue and a comely face and Aennerl would not have been the first girl these had won over.

"No," said the young innkeeper. "for Aennerl herself told my daughter Moidl that now she could wear a lady's clothes she could not come any more to the village dance."

Strengthened by the support of the landlord, Kleiner Friedl exclaimed: "There, I told you there was no chance for you, Unruly Karl!"

The unruly Karl rushed at the boy Friedl to do him some harm, but everybody in the room was on the side of Kleiner Friedl, so Karl gave it up. And then the involuntary eavesdropper Jössl from Goign on the outside turned slowly home.

He was a fine young man, hard-working, trustworthy, devout and good at dancing, but of course he had his faults too. And one of them was that he expected others to be as good as himself. If they were not, he could be harsh and unforgiving and self-righteous also. He could have asked Aennerl about all the things he had heard, getting to the bottom of it and trying to set it straight. Instead e gave in to feeling disappointed with Aennerl, and sulked.

Aennerl, meantime, knew nothing of all this. She had had a great desire to be a lady and thought that having things and a good farm would make her one. She had no parents to teach her better and Jössl, who might have told her about it, had forsaken her.

But she felt no misgivings about all her fine things yet, and her idea that being well off was all there was to happiiness and success, had not left her.

In another day or two the farm of the neighbour Bartl was put up for sale and another visit to the Bergmännlein enabled her to buy it. In this way she became the riches person in Reith; but she was so little used to being the richest one around that she did not at all perceive that the people treated her very differently from the former farm owner.

He had been much esteemed, but Aennerl hardly received so much as the customary greeting that had shown good fellowship with her when she was poor - as with everyone.

It was long before before she suspected that she was mistrusted. In the meantime she enjoyed her new condition to the full. Weekly visits to the Röhrerbüchel enabled her to buy everything she desired; and when the villagers held back from her, she ascribed their diffidence to the awe they felt for her wealth.

In time, however, she grew tired of giving orders to her farm-servants and of watching her sleek cattle and counting her stores of grain. That Jössl had not come to see her, she thought might be due to his respect for her riches, and she felt that she could not demean herself by being united to a lad who worked for day-wages.

Still, her isolation made her cross; and then people shunned her still more. As a result she grew more vexed, and angry. She also got even so used to her riches that she quite forgot all about the Nickel she owed them to. Her farm was so well stocked that it produced more than she had dreamt of, so she felt no need to go back to the Röhrerbüchel to ask for more gold - and she had grown too selfish to visit the dwarf out of compassion

The Bergmännlein grew disappointed with all of it, and he was not content to sit apart and sulk; he was determined to revenge himself!

One bleak October night, when the wind was rolling fiercely down from the mountains, there was a sudden and fearful cry of "Fire!" in the village of Reith. The alarm-bells repeated the cry aloud and afar. The good people rose in haste and ran into the lane to be of help.

The whole sky was lit up. The fierce wind rolled the flames and the smoke here and there. Aennerl's farm was on fire. Tongues of fire licked up the trees and the farm houses so swiftly that it seemed unnatural. Then the gathered villagers saw Aennerl clothed only in her white night-dress and shrieking fearfully from the high pointed roof: "Save me! save me!" Every moment the roof threatened to fall in and the agonized beholders could do nothing.

Suddenly, on the road from Goign, came Jössl. A trunk of an old branchless tree stood bent over the burning ruins. Jössl climbed that trunk and tried to reach her on the roof. She was overcome with terror and did not hear him because the roaring fires hears him not. "Aennerl! Aennerl!" At last she heard him and stretched toward his hands. She came within reach – and he seized her! But the flames were higher now and the smoke denser and more blinding. Someone cried excitedly: "They have fallen into the flames!" The onlookers did not see whether Jössl had managed to save her or not. But a minute later they shouted. "No, they are saved, they are saved! Thank God!" It echoed far and wide.

On the edge of the crowd, apart, stood a little misshapen old man with grey, matted hair and beard. He was the one who first raised the cry that they had fallen into the flames, and the people sickened as they heard it, for he cried it in joy and not in anguish. Now he shouted once more in disappointed fury, "I did it! and I will have my revenge yet!"

"No; let there be peace," said Jössl, who had deposited Aennerl in safe hands and now came forth to deal one more stroke for her; "let there be peace, old man, and let bygones be bygones."

"Never!" said the cobold; "I have said I will have my revenge and I will have it!"

"But," argued Jössl, "have you not had your revenge? All you gave her you have had taken away – she is as she was before: can you not leave her so?"

"No!" thundered the dwarf; "I will have the life of her before I've done."

"Not at all!" shouted Jössl and placed himself in front of the elf.

The dwarf answered with a cold sneer, "I'm not going after her. I've only to wait a bit and then she'll come after me."

Jössl was inclined to let him go, but remembering how fickle some women are, he asked.

"Will you promise me, that if I let you return to your hole in peace, you will do her no harm should she visit you there again?"

"To the contrary, I promise you that I will serve her to the most frightful of deaths!" retorted the enraged gnome.

Jössl drew his large hunting-knife in front of the now alarmed dwarf. The gnome fled with all his speed, but Jössl, was a good runner too, and got close behind him. The dwarf, finding himself so hotly pursued, got bewildered and took a wrong turn on the path. Then, forcing him on as before to the edge of the precipice, Jöclosed upon him where there was no escape but one: the floods of the Brandenburger Ache, which roared and boiled away some hundred feet below. Rather than fall by the hand of a human, the gnome dashed himself, with a fierce shout down the abyss. That was the last that was ever seen of the Nickel of the Röhrerbüchel.

Aennerl was now poorer than ever, but at the same time she had got three deep lessons – a good conscience are not to be bartered away; that honest friends and the love of a true heart are not to be forsaken; and that happiness does not always depend on farms, money or pretty clothes.

Unruly Karl laughed with his two or three boon companions and said with a burst of contempt, "I have no doubt that fair Goigner Jössl will marry the orphan Aennerl now that she hasn't a penny to bless herself with!"

And Unruly Karl judged right. Aennerl scarcely dared hope that he could love her still, and she went forth humbly to her work day by day, neither looking to the right hand nor the left, accepting all the hardships and humiliations of her lot as a worthy punishment of her folly and vanity.

But one evening as she came home from her toil, the Goigner Jössl came behind her and he said softly in her ear, "Do you love me still, Aennerl?"

The girl cried: "You have saved my life three times already – first when I was a poor, heartbroken orphan and you made me feel there was still someone to live for in the world; and then a second time, in that dreadful fire; and now again this third time, when I began to think my folly had sickened you. Don't ask me that; I have to ask instead: Can you still love me? But I have no right to ask it."

"Yes, I love you," he said.

"And you have shown it!" exclaimed Aennerl. They had reached the bank near the Röhrerbüchel once again. Wild flowers were around them just as on that night.

"Jössl, we are happy together. The warm sun and the blue sky, and to be together suit us."

They walked on together; as they reached the memorial of the dead miners the village bells rang the Hail Mary. And as they knelt down, Jössl was grateful that the prayer he had uttered at that spot did not seem to be wasted, while Aennerl said: "I know the way to a gold mine too, dear."


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Someone old you may keep. (Tyrolean Proverb)



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