Master Fritz.

A poem by Juliana Horatia Ewing

Fritz and I are not brother and sister, but we're next-door neighbours; for we both live next door.
I mean we both live next door to each other; for I live at number three, and Fritz and Nickel the dog live at number four.
In summer we climb through the garret windows and sit together on the leads,
And if the sun is too hot Mother lends us one big kerchief to put over both our heads.
Sometimes she gives us tea under the myrtle tree in the big pot that stands in the gutter.
(One slice each, and I always give Fritz the one that has the most butter.)
In winter we sit on the little stool by the stove at number four;
For when it's cold Fritz doesn't like to go out to come in next door.
It was one day in spring that he said, "I should like to have a house to myself with you Grethel, and Nickel." And I said, "Thank you, Fritz."
And he said, "If you'll come in at tea-time and sit by the stove, I'll tell you tales that'll frighten you into fits.
About boys who ran away from their homes, and were taken by robbers, and run after by wolves, and altogether in a dreadful state.
I saw the pictures of it in a book I was looking in, to see where perhaps I should like to emigrate.
I've not quite settled whether I shall, or be cast away on a desert island, or settle down nearer home;
But you'd better come in and hear about it, and then, wherever it is, you'll be sure to be ready to come."
So I took my darling Katerina in my arms, and we went in to tea.
I love Katerina, though she lost her head long ago, poor thing; but Fritz made me put her off my knee,
For he said, "When you're hushabying that silly old doll I know you're not attending to me.
Now look here, Grethel, I think I have made up my mind that we won't go far;
For we can have a house, and I can be master of it just as well where we are.
Under the stairs would be a good place for a house for us if there's room.
It's very dirty, but you're the housewife now, and you must sweep it out well with the broom.
I shall expect you to keep my house very comfortable, and have my meals ready when there's anything to eat;
And when Nickel and I come back from playing outside, you may peep out and pretend you're watching for us coming up the street.
You've kept your apple, I see--I've eaten mine--well, it will be something to make a start,
And I'll put by some of my cake, if you'll keep some of yours, and remember Nickel must have part.
I call it your cake and your apple, but of course now you're my housewife everything belongs to me;
But I shall give you the management of it, and you must make it go as far as you can amongst three.
And if you make nice feasts every day for me and Nickel, and never keep us waiting for our food,
And always do everything I want, and attend to everything I say, I'm sure I shall almost always be good.
And if I am naughty now and then, it'll most likely be your fault; and, if it isn't, you mustn't mind;
For even if I seem to be cross, you ought to know that I mean to be kind.
And I'm sure you'll like combing Nickel's hair for my sake; it'll be something for you to do, and it bothers me so!
But it must be done regularly, for if it's not, his curls tangle into lugs as they grow.
I think that's all, dear Grethel, for I love you so much that I'm sure to be easy to please.
Only remember--it's a trifle--but when I want you, never keep that headless doll on your knees.
I'd much rather not have her in my house--there, don't cry! if you will have her, I suppose it must be;
Though I can't think what you want with Katerina when you've got Nickel and me."
So I said, "Thank you, dear Fritz, for letting me bring her, for I've had her so long I shouldn't like to part with her now;
And I'll try and do everything you want as well as I can, now you've told me how."
But next morning I heard Fritz's garret-window open, and he put out his head,
And shouted, "Grethel! Grethel! I want you. Be quick! Haven't you got out of bed?"
I ran to the window and said, "What is it, dear Fritz?" and he said, "I want to tell you that I've changed my mind.
Hans-Wandermann is here, and he says there are real sapphires on the beach; so I'm off to see what I can find."
"Oh, Fritz!" I said, "can't I come too?" but he said, "You'd better not, you'll only be in the way.
You can stop quietly at home with Katerina, and you may have Nickel too, if he'll stay."
But Nickel wouldn't. I give him far more of my cake than Fritz does, but he likes Fritz better than me.
So dear Katerina and I had breakfast together on the leads under the old myrtle tree.

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