THE OLD CHURCH BELL
In the German land of Wiirtemberg, where the acacias bloom by the high road, and the apple trees and pear trees bend in autumn under their burden of ripe fruit, lies the little town of Marbach. Although this place can only be ranked among the smaller towns, it is charmingly situated on the Neckar stream, that flows on and on, hurrying past villages and old castles and green vineyards, to pour its waters into the proud Rhine.
It was late in autumn. The leaves still clung to the grape-vine, but they were already tinged with red. Rain showers fell, and the cold wind increased. It was no pleasant time for poor folk.
The days became dark, and it was darker still in the little old-fashioned houses. One of these houses was built with its gable end towards the street, with low windows, humble and poor enough in appearance; the family was poor, too, that inhabited the little house, but good and industrious, and rich in piety, in the treasury of the heart. And they expected that God would soon give them another child : the hour had come, and the mother lay in pain and sorrow. Then from the church tower the deep rich sound of the bell came to her. It was a solemn hour, and the sound of the bell filled the heart of the praying woman with trustfulness and faith ; the thoughts of her inmost heart soared upward towards the Almighty, and in the same hour she gave birth to a son. Then she was filled with a great joy, and the bell in the tower seemed to be ringing to spread the news of her happiness over town and country. The clear child-eyes looked at her, and the infant's hair gleamed like gold. Thus was the little one ushered into the world with the ringing of the church bell on the dark November day. The mother and father kissed it, and wrote in their Bible : ' On the 10th of November, 1759, God gave us a son ; ' and soon afterwards the fact was added that the child had been baptized under the name of ' Johann Christoph Friedrich \
And what became of the little fellow, the poor boy from the little town of Marbach ? Ah, at that time no one knew