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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Patient Waiter
By Hendrik Conscience (1812–1883)
 
From ‘Rikke-Tikke-Tak’

SHE took her way with the cow toward the brook, which was edged about with a scanty growth of grass. Slowly she went, step by step, leading the creature after her by a cord. At last she reached the line where the heath passed into a range of low-lying boggy pastures, and the alder and juniper bushes formed a closer thicket; there she left the foot-path. A solitary beech stood there—sown probably by a bird, for as far as the eye could see it descried no similar foliage. Magdalen sank down at the foot of the tree. Deeply she bowed her head; motionless she gazed on space; the cord fell from her hand and her accustomed reverie came over her.  1
  Now in the free open air, under the beautiful deep-blue heaven, the sore load of trouble which weighed upon her heart fell from it. Her lips did not move, no sigh escaped from them; but a quiet stream of tears trickled into her lap. Long, very long she sat there without changing her position; but by degrees her tears fell more slowly, till at last she lifted her head, and with a calmer air murmured her old favorite tune:—
  “Rikketikketak,
Rikketikketoo;
The iron’s warm;
Up with your arm,
Now strike,—one, two,
Rikketikketoo.”
  2
  What could this strange jingle mean? It would have been useless to ask Magdalen, for she herself knew not how it was that of themselves, almost without will or consciousness of hers, the meaningless words came tripping over her lips. A faint recollection she had of some one having often sung them to her; but that was long, long ago. They spoke but indistinctly, still they had ever more and more fixed themselves in her train of associations, had become ever more and more the accompaniment both of her joys and of her sorrows.  3
  After she had repeated the rhyme a few times, and each time less sadly, she seemed quite to forget her melancholy and the causes of it. She stood up, her face radiant with contentment, briskly led the cow to a place where there was better pasture, and ran towards a sandy hillock which rose a little above the general surface of the heath. She had often visited this spot. Steadying herself with her hands upon her knees, she fixed her eyes on a bluish point far away upon the extremest verge of the horizon,—a town it was probably, or a large village…. With unwearied eyes she gazed upon the road, doubtless in the unconscious hope that by it he who should release her from her bondage would one day approach that way.  4
 
 
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