Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Best Doll House in Switzerland!

       Hurrah! Hurrah! At last the great day has come and everyone is delighted‚ everyone except Gretel, who feels extremely sad, because Christian, her beloved brother, is going away to the pastures with the men and the cattle, and she will not see him again for weeks to come. She just sits still on her stool beside the door, with her dolly on her lap, watching all the preparations with one big ache in her heart, because few people were ever closer or loved each other more than Christian and Gretel.
       It is one of the great events of the year in the Alpine villages, when the flocks and herds are taken to summer pastures. The animals that lead the herds are gaily decked with flowers and bells, and the boys, who accompany them with the men, all sing for joy. Christian, of course, is just as excited as anyone else; indeed, I think more so, for, you see, this was the first time that he had been old enough to go. But you may be sure he had not forgotten Gretel, and it was the one dark spot in the bright day that she looked so sorrowful at parting from him. Just before they went, he rushed over to her, and flung his arms round her neck and gave her two kisses on each cheek, and then shyly produced the wonderful present which he had procured so secretly for her. I do not suppose you will have much difficulty in guessing what it was‚ a superb doll.
       Not at all the ordinary kind of doll, but a splendid town shop doll, with the most glorious blue eyes, fair hair, and pink cheeks. Even if she had not been half as beautiful, the love that prompted such a generous thought would have filled Gretel's eyes with happy tears, and it certainly did much to ease the pain of parting. Kindly thoughts do so much in this world, and Christian was overjoyed at Gretel's happiness and pleasure, while he knew that she would enjoy the busy times of dressing the wonderful doll and surprising him with its handsome clothes when he came back again. For, do not make any mistake upon that point, the girls have to work in Switzerland quite as hard and early as the boys do. They can all assist when the haytime comes, and Gretel was even then learning to make butter. Christian was going this year with the cows because it was his first time, but as he grew older he would set off with the sheep and goats to the higher lands, where the grazing is merely in patches amid the snow. These grazing grounds are reached by steep, narrow paths, and such work is very good training for becoming an Alpine guide, which was Christian's great ambition. In the winter all the family is at home together, and much of the life has to be lived indoors, because of the snow, although the sun shines brightly, sometimes for weeks together. Life is very good then, and in the weeks that followed, when Gretel was often thinking about Christian, away with the herds in the pastures, she often looked forward to the time when the short summer would be over, and her beloved brother would be with her again. The Swiss are extremely handy and clever workmen, and no doubt you have seen some of the lovely carving that they do so exquisitely. This is not only done in wood, but in ivory too, and some very wonderful flowers are carved in the latter. Christian had a great idea in his head all the summer, and when he came home again, and saw the care that Gretel had taken in dressing the doll that he left with her, he was so pleased that he at once set about the work which he had in his mind. One day, when he came in from feeding the cattle, he brought with him several pieces of wood sawn up into planks. Gretel was filled with curiosity as to what he could be going to do, but he only laughed, and told her that one day she would know a lot more about it than she did now. But he was only teasing, and at last he told her what was in his mind. This was nothing less than building a wonderful home for the dolls‚ a dolls' house which should be worthy of the great lady that was to occupy it.
       Day by day the building grew, until the roof was on, the stairs were in, the doors were cut between the rooms, and a perfect model of a Swiss home was waiting to be occupied. And how happy both were in the doing: Gretel in her brother's love, and Christian in her pleasure! Even when the dolls' house was completed, this was by no means the end, for then the furniture had to be made. Chairs and tables and wonderful wooden beds all followed in succession, until Gretel was the owner of the best dolls and the best dollies' house in all that part of Switzerland.

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