by Margaret F. Bach
Illustrated by Lynnette Moench
The story of a little immigrant who was looking for a home – and love.
When Hans opened his eyes he found himself in his own bed. There seemed to be something he should remember. The fire! Had it been a dream? He started to raise his head but he found that he was too weak to move. Something was wrong. he moved his head to the side and saw Ann sitting on the chair beside his bed.
“Are you awake?” she asked.
“Yes,” he managed to whisper.
Ann was followed by Aunt Minnie
and a stranger carrying a black bag.
“Don’t try to talk, Hans. You’ve been a very sick boy, but everything is going to be all right.”
There was something he had to know. “The fire –”
“It didn’t do much damage – mostly smoke. Now go back to sleep; you have to take it easy.”
The next time he awoke he saw Nat sitting beside him.
“Hi, young fella.”
“What day is it, Nat?”
“Thanksgivin’ Day,” Nat said quietly.
“But that can’t be,” Hans protested.
“What can’t be?” Ann asked coming in the door followed by Aunt Minnie and a stranger carrying a black bag.
“Is today really Thanksgiving Day?”
“That’s right,” the strange man answered and put a thermometer into Hans’s mouth.
While Hans lay with the little glass tube clamped under his tongue the doctor turned to the others. Hans strained to hear what they were saying but he could only catch a word here and there. The thermometer felt very uncomfortable and he gladly opened his mouth when the doctor reached down for it.
“You’re doing fine,” he said after he studied the thermometer.
There were many questions Hans wanted to ask but he was very tired and before the doctor finished giving Aunt Minnie some instructions he had dozed off again.
The doctor put his things back in the bag and turned to leave.
“I’ll go down with you,” Aunt Minnie said.
“You go ahead,” Nat said. “I’ll stay with the boy.”
“Thank you, Nat,” Aunt Minnie said wearily.
Ann followed them out of the room. “Doctor, I wish you’d talk to Minnie – she’s wearing herself out looking after Hans. She’s been sitting up with him every night since the fire.”
“I’m all right,” Aunt Minnie insisted.
“Just the same, you’d better get some rest tonight,” the doctor advised; “I’ll leave some pills here to see that you do.”
“All right,” Aunt Minnie promised. “I’ll let Ann sit up tonight.”
“Good,” declared the doctor. “I’ll stop by in the morning.”
After the doctor had gone Ann said, “Why don’t you lie down for a while.”
Aunt Minnie shook her head. “I couldn’t sleep. All I’ve been thinking about these past days is how I treated that boy and then he risked his life to save a rose for me.”
“We all make mistakes, Minnie.”
“Don’t make excuses for me, Ann; I’ve stopped making them for myself.”
“Minnie – ” Ann paused.
“Yes?” The word was a question.
“This may not be the time to tell you, but I’ve been waiting for the right opportunity ever since Hans came – Minnie, Dick did not turn against his country …”
Aunt Minnie listened white-faced until Ann was finished with the story Hans had told her the day he arrived.
“Oh, Ann,” she sobbed quietly.
“It isn’t too late, Minnie,” Ann comforted. “God will forgive us our shortcomings if we ask Him, and I’m sure Hans will forgive you, too.”
Aunt Minnie nodded silently.
“And you can make it up to him from now on,” Ann added.
“But that’s just it, Ann,” Aunt Minnie got up and walked back and forth; “I won’t be able to make it up to him.”
“His mother had a brother; everyone thought he was dead, but all the time he was a prisoner. He wrote to me – he’d like to have Hans. After the way I’ve treated him, can you see any reason why he’d want to stay with me?”
“I – that is – ”
“You’re trying to spare my feelings, but you don’t blame him and neither do I,” Aunt Minnie said sadly. The room was quiet except for the chill November drizzle beating on the window pane. “I’d better go up and sit with Hans so Nat can have some rest.” Aunt Minnie got to her feet and started up the stairs.
Hans was asleep when she entered the room. With a finger to her lips she motioned Nat to leave and settled herself in the chair. She listened to Hans’s breathing and when she was satisfied that it was normal she picked up a piece of bright blue knitting. She had knit several rows when she looked up and met Hans’s eyes.
“Can I get you anything?” she asked, leaning over and touching his forehead.
Her hand felt cool and – Hans tried to describe it to himself – tender. “I would like a drink of water, please.”
Aunt Minnie poured a drink from the pitcher on his bedside table and held it to his lips. Hans suddenly felt shy with Aunt Minnie. She did not seem like the same person he knew. “Thank you,” he said as she put the glass down.
“You’re welcome, Hans,” she smiled.
“Why, Aunt Minnie,” Hans stammered. “When you smile, you look just like my father in that picture on the dresser.”
Aunt Minnie’s eyes filled with tears. “Forgive me, Hans,” she said after a moment; “I’ve been very wrong and very foolish.”
Before Hans could tell Aunt Minnie that she was forgiven, there was a knock on the door.
“Come in,” Aunt Minnie called.
It was Ann and behind her was Bishop Thompson.
“I see we have something very special to be thankful for,” the bishop said. “It’s good to see you awake, Hans.”
“I’m sorry about the nativity set,” Hans’s face was the picture of disappointment. “I guess we won’t get to put it up tomorrow.”
“I’ve been thinking about that,” said Bishop Thompson, “and I’ve come to the conclusion that the figures don’t need painting – just a coat of wax, and I could put that on.”
“I believe Bishop Thompson is right,” declared Ann, “now that I think about it.”
“So do I,” said Aunt Minnie.
“Will you give us your consent, Hans?” asked Bishop Thompson.
“All right,” Hans agreed.
“I’ll get busy with the waxing right away,” said Bishop Thompson. “Maybe I can get Nat to help me.”
When he had gone Aunt Minnie said, “I believe I’ll go down and fix us all some fruit juice – you’ll stay with Hans, won’t you, Ann?”
“I’ll be glad to.”
Hans was glad to have a chance to talk to Ann alone. He had been wondering about the rose but he didn’t want to ask Aunt Minnie in case it had died in the fire.
“The rose wasn’t hurt a bit. Your Aunt Minnie had it patented and do you know what she called it?”
Hans thought a moment. “She said something about Golden Beauty.”
Ann shook her head. “She named it Hero in honor of you.”
“Oh, Ann,” Hans said. “Even if this weren’t Thanksgiving Day I’d be thankful because Aunt Minnie likes me.”
“Deep down in her heart I think she’s liked you for a long time, but she just wouldn’t admit it. She knows about your father, too. I told you the right time would come – only it looks as if it came too late.”
Hans looked puzzled. “What do you mean?”
“Your aunt tells me your uncle wants you to be with him.”
Hans had forgotten all about the letter. “Yes,” he said slowly.
“What will you do?”
“I don’t know what to do,” Hans said seriously. Then he remembered something else. “Why have I been in bed so long, and how did the fire start?”
“One at a time,” Ann smiled. “The fire started in the chimney. Your aunt said she had a fire going in the fireplace and the chimney became overheated. And you’ve been in bed all this time because you had a concussion – you must have bumped your head very hard. Then you developed pneumonia, but you’ll be up and around in no time.”
Aunt Minnie came in with a tray of glasses and a pitcher of fresh orange juice. “I took some out to Bishop Thompson and Nat,” she said, pouring the drink. “They’re hard at work.”
“I hope they’ll get done,” Hans said anxiously.
“They will,” Aunt Minnie said firmly. “They’re really applying the elbow grease.”