When Gretel stepped outside, she heard the crack and thud of Hansel chopping wood. She paused for a moment on the front step to watch him work. He settled the wood on the block and wiped his brow with his tattered blue kerchief. Tucking the kerchief back in his pocket, he hefted the weighty ax over his shoulder. Staggering his feet, he leaned forward a bit and swung the ax up and over, splitting the log in two. One piece flew off the block, launched into the surrounding grass. Hansel leaned the ax head on the ground and gathered the split wood that littered the ground and trudged to the wood pile. Sweat glistened on his forehead and his breath froze in little puffs as he stacked the wood.
This wood would keep them warm through all the long winter months ahead. Again Gretel realized how grateful she was to have Hansel. All the tasks he took care of in his efforts to take care of her. What would she do if he ever left her? If he chose their father over her?
Nonsense, she said to herself, he has been faithful for the past nine years. Faithful to both of you. She grimaced. He has cared for me and I’m sure he’ll continue to. I’m certain of it. Shaking her head she rounded the corner of the cottage and surveyed the flower bed. Get busy. You’ll tie your stomach in a knot if you keep thinking about it. It’s out of your hands.
Kneeling on the cool stones that surrounded the flower bed, Gretel set to work, cutting the dead flowers back and tearing out the dry and brittle plants. The dark soil smelled rich as she turned over the fertile loam. She made a pile of rubbish to haul to the wood pile later. The dried grasses and plants made excellent kindling to start their winter fires. As she worked she heard the steady crack and thud of Hansel’s labors. A perfect picture of his faithfulness: consistent, constant, reliable. You’ve nothing to fear. Hansel is a good man. You can trust him.