In front of the gate, next to a field, there lived a husband and wife with their only child, a little girl whom they
called Golddaughter. She was a sweet, lively little thing, and she was quick as a weasel. Early one morning when
her mother went to the kitchen to fetch some milk the little girl got out of bed and went and stood at the front
door in her nightdress. Now it was a glorious summer morning and while she was standing there she said to
herself: "Maybe it will rain tomorrow; I had better take a walk today." No sooner had the thought entered her
mind than she went out the back door and ran across the field to the bushes at the far edge. When she reached
the hazel bush she was astonished to see that it had started to shake its branches and exclaim:
"Little girl, bare in a nightdress,
What do you want out here?
No shoes, no skirt to wear,
You have only one sock;
If you lost that
Your leg would freeze for sure.
Get home with you;
Hurry now, be on your way!"
But she did not listen but ran instead into the thicket beyond which there was a pond. On its bank she found
Father Duck with a family of fifteen young ones, all golden yellow like egg yolks. He started to quack shrilly; then
he came running over to Golddaughter, opened his beak wide as if he would bite her. But Golddaughter was not
afraid. She walked over to him and said:
"Father Duck, my quacking friend,
Stop quacking now, be quiet a while!"
"Ah", said the duck, it is you, Golddaughter! I had no idea who it was; don’t take it amiss! I know you will not
harm us. How have you been? How are your father and mother? It is so nice that came to visit us. What a great
honor. Certainly you got up quite early. Come with me now and have a look at our pond? I think it will please
After he had finished quacking Golddaughter asked: "Tell me, Father Duck, where did you get all these little
"Canaries?" replied Father Duck, "I pray you, they are my ducklings."
"They can sing nicely, but instead of feathers they only have hairs. What do you feed your little canaries?”
"They drink clear water and eat fine sand."
"But they can hardly grow if they feed on that."
"Oh, yes they can, said Father Duck. God blesses what they eat, for every now and then there are some roots in
the sand, or a worm in the water, or a snail."
"Is there a bridge here somewhere?" asked Golddaughter.
"No," said Father Duck, "sorry to say, we have no bridge. But if you would like to get across the pond I would be
glad to carry you over."
With that the duck waddled into the water, broke off a large water-rose leaf and set Golddaughter on it. Then he
took the long stem in his beak and pulled Golddaughter to the other side of the pond. And the little ducklings
swam merrily alongside.
"Many thanks, Father Duck!" said Golddaughter when they reached the other side.
"No need to thank," said the duck. "Whenever you need me again I am at your service. Give my regards to your
On the other side of the pond there was another green field and Golddaughter walked across it. Soon she saw a
stork and she went right over to it: "Good morning, Mister Stork", she said. "What is that spotted-green thing
you have in your beak that makes so much noise?"
"Wiggle-salad," answered the stork. "That’s wiggle-salad, Golddaughter!"
"I would like to have some, I’m so hungry!"
"Wiggle-salad is nothing for you," said the stork; then he went over to the stream, reached down with his long
beak and the first thing he fetched was a golden cup of milk and a bread roll. After that he lifted his right wing
and let a bag of sweets fall from under it. Without having to be told what to do, Golddaughter sat down and
started to eat and drink. When she had enough she said:
"Thank you so much. May you enjoy good health for as long as you live!"
Then she got up and continued on her way. Soon a little blue butterfly flew over to her. "Little blue creature,"
said Golddaughter, "how would you like to play a little game of hide-and-seek?" "I would be pleased," answered
the butterfly, "but please do not come too close to me for fear you might rub against my wings."
They started to chase one another around the field until it was evening. At sundown Golddaughter wanted to sit
down and take a rest before starting for home. While she was sitting there she noticed that all the flowers in the
grass were tired too and wanted to go to sleep. The daisy kept nodding its head drowsily. Then it straightened
up again, looked around with its glassy eye, and then lowered its head again. Beside it there was a white aster
(for sure that was its mother) and it said:
“Daisyflower, my angel, do not fall off the stem! Go to bed, my child.”
And the daisy bent over and fell asleep. Its white cap shifted so that its rim covered its face. Then the aster fell
When Golddaughter saw the two of them her eyes got heavy and she went to sleep, too. So there she was,
asleep on the field, while at home her mother was looking for her everywhere and crying. She went into every
room, looked in every corner, under all the beds and under the stairs. She went out to the field as far as the
bushes and then beyond to the pond. She could never get to the other side, she said to herself, and then she
went back home again and searched once more in every nook and corner and under all the beds and under the
stairs. After searching in vain she went out to the field once more and over to the bushes and out as far as the
pond. She kept doing that all day long and the more often she did it the more she cried. As for her husband, he
spent his time making his rounds of the town asking if anyone had seen his daughter.
But after darkness had set in one of the twelve angels that flies over the world every evening came to see if
there was a little child somewhere that had lost its way and should be taken back to its mother. That angel
looked down at the green field and saw Golddaughter lying there asleep. He lifted her up carefully without waking
her and he flew over the town looking for a house where a light was still burning. "That must be the house she
lives in," he thought when he saw candlelight in the sitting room. Without being noticed he looked in the window
and there he saw father and mother sitting across from one another at the table, both of them crying, but under
the table they were holding hands. The angel opened the door without making a sound, laid the child under the
stairs and flew away.
But the parents remained sitting at the table for a long while. Then the mother got up, lit another candle and
started to look in all the nooks and corners again and under the beds.
"Woman," said her husband, "you have already looked in all the nooks and corners and under the stairs so many
times and nothing has come of it. Go to bed. It could well be that our Golddaughter has fallen into the pond and
But his wife did not listen but went on looking, and when she came near the stairs with her candle she saw
Golddaughter lying there, fast asleep. Overjoyed she cried out so loud that her husband came running down the
stairs, two at a time. With the child in her arms she walked over to him, beside herself with joy. But the child did
not wake up because she was so tired after all she had done that day.
"Where was she? Where was she?" shouted her husband.
"She was lying under the stairs asleep," she answered. "Right there where I have looked so many times today."
Then her husband shook his head and said: "This is something we cannot understand, Mother; it is God alone
that we must thank for letting us have our dear Golddaughter again!"
|Reveries at French Firesides
Richard von Volkmann-Leander
Illustrations: Hans von Volkmann (Son)