"Why, Mother," he whispered in alarm, "what ails thee? Is the father worse?"
She turned her quivering face toward him, making no attempt to conceal her distress.
"Yes. He is starving--perishing. A meester said it."
"What does this mean, Mother? We must feed him at once. Here, Gretel, give me the porridge."
"Nay!" cried his mother, distractedly, yet without raising her voice. "It may kill him. Our poor fare is too heavy for him. Oh, Hans, he will die--the father will DIE, if we use him this way. He must have meat and sweet wine and a dekbed. Oh, what shall I do, what shall I do?" she sobbed, wringing her hands. "There is not a stiver in the house."
Gretel pouted. It was the only way she could express sympathy just then. Her tears fell one by one into the dough.
"Did the meester say he MUST have these things, Mother?" asked Hans.
"Well, Mother, don't cry, HE SHALL HAVE THEM. I shall bring meat and wine before night. Take the cover from my bed. I can sleep in the straw."