|Chapter 9||Contents||Chapter 11|
After vainly waiting several months for pupils, the number of boys suddenly multiplied to such an extent that our house became too small to hold them, whilst insuperable difficulties seemed to stand in the way of building another. Just at this juncture, when our way seemed hedged up on every side, a card reached us to found a similar institution near Ludwigsburg. We agreed, and were able to enter our new home with eighty pupils, in three months. The numbers shortly increased to more than a hundred. Over all these boys our mother watched with lively interest. Almost every evening, she might be found in one or other of the school rooms, playing chess with the lads, or relating some story with a graphic power that drew crowds around her.
On these occasions, she sat amongst them surrounded by the smallest ones, the remainder ranging themselves in an outer circle, whilst those who could not see her would climb on chairs and tables, so that anyone entering the room at first perceived only a towering throng of boys, and it required minute inspection before "the mother" could be discovered, buried in the midst of them. She also often attended at their out-door games and exercises, where her presence was hailed with delight. Frequently she undertook walking-tours of several days, on which she was accompanied by ten or twelve of the pupils, and those accounted themselves highly favored who were allowed to join her party; for her spirits were so gay and mirthful, that she imparted interest and life to all her surroundings.
The whole school called her Mother and such indeed she proved in tender love to all, both in good days and bad.
Thus life passed on for several years, and until it happened that one peculiarly cold winter the boys conceived the idea of building a snow fortress, which was to be assaulted and stormed. The day for this display had arrived, and the school was divided into two parties, the defenders and besiegers. The latter were to be declared victorious so soon as they should have placed their flag upon the high tower crowning the white edifice. Our mother, who took an active interest in these arrange-ments, espoused the cause of the assailants, whom she furnished with snow balls, cheering them to press on bravely and sturdily, never pausing till their colors should wave from the summit. "See," she cried, "that is just how it is with us! Each human heart is a fortress, which has been taken in possession by enemies, low, unworthy passions and vices: the grand point is for us to struggle without ceasing, till the flag of a better purpose, a new life, waves from the citadel!"
The struggle was a lengthy one that day, and untiringly she furnished the snowy weapons until at length the end was gained, the assailants made good their position, and planted their triumphal standard aloft, when loud shouts of victory rent the air, and seemed as if they would never cease.
But our good mother had been exposed too long, and the consequence was a violent chill, which developed into feverish symptoms the next day. She attached no importance to this indisposition, and on being asked by our doctor whether she expected to recover, merrily answered, "Spero quod."10.1 When left alone with her children she added, "This is sent to try your faith. If you pray earnestly, and believingly, I shall soon be well." We did all we could, but the illness continued to gain ground, and caused us fresh anxiety every day. In the course of the fourth night, she cried suddenly: "Children, you must pray earnestly, much more earnestly; kneel down together and ask God's help." This we did, praying aloud, but she exclaimed: "You do not understand," and raising herself, she folded her trembling hands, and said: "Lord, Thou knowest that I have not finished a great deal of the work which was begun on my knees there in the corner by the stove. Therefore I beg that my life may be somewhat lengthened. Once, when Thy servant Joshua could not complete his day's work, Thou didst, at his prayer, stop the course of sun and moon, those large heavenly bodies, so it must be only an easy thing for Thee to make my small body healthy and strong again, and give me time for what remains for me to do."
The words were hardly out of her lips, when she sank into a calm, deep slumber. We had long vainly hoped for this, and could not but trust that it might prove a favorable crisis in the malady, and that her prayer had been answered in peace. But upon awakening the next morning after several hours of quiet rest, she uttered the words, "Glory already! Children, it is ordered otherwise than we thought. I am going home! Come, we will once more celebrate the feast of our Savior's dying love together." We did so, and afterwards each of our number received her farewell kiss. Then she sank into the weakness of death, and slowly, but gently, the bonds of earth were loosed, and in unbroken heavenly peace her spirit passed away.
Our feelings as we watched her entrance into glory, may be expressed in the words:
It is not exile, rest on high,
It is not sadness, peace from strife;
To fall asleep is not to die,
To rest with Christ is better life!
|Chapter 9||Contents||Chapter 11|