Rico And Wiseli
Part 2 out of 4
came down over the Maloja, that he could understand every thing that was
said to him, but could not reply in the same language. The landlord
understood him, and said that he had been up there in the mountains, and
they would have a little conversation later; but now the boy must really
play something, for the guests called for music incessantly.
Rico, obedient as ever, began to play, and also to sing his own song as
usual. But the company did not understand the words, and the tune seemed
very dull to them also. Some began to make jokes and noises, while
others called for something different,--a dance, or a pretty tune.
Rico sang every verse of his song to the very end; for when he had once
begun it, he would not stop until it was finished properly. When he had
finished, he bethought himself. He knew no dance music, so that was out
of the question. The hymn he had learned from the grandmother was very
slow, and they would not understand that either. Then he remembered, and
began the air,--
Scarcely had he brought forth the first notes of this tune, when every
thing became still; and in a moment or two voices broke forth from the
different tables round about the room, and they sang in chorus as the
boy had never yet heard any one sing. He became excited presently, and
played with great feeling, while the men sang enthusiastically; and as
soon as one verse was ended, Rico began the music for the next without
hesitating, for he had learned, from hearing his father play it, exactly
how the accompaniment should be, and when to stop. When he had reached
the finale, such a storm of applause broke forth that the boy was quite
overwhelmed. All the men called out and shouted, striking their fists
upon the tables for pleasure; and then they all came about little Rico
with their glasses, and they all wanted to drink with him. Some took him
by the shoulders, and all shouted at him, and made such a racket with
their surprise and pleasure, that Rico became very much frightened, and
turned paler and paler every moment.
What had he done, however, but play their own Peschiera song, that
belonged to them alone, and which no stranger could ever learn; and this
child had played it as firmly and correctly as if he had been a
Peschierana. Such a wonderful event was enough to arouse these lively
fellows to the utmost; and they could not cease talking about it, and
wondering about this strange little fiddler, and drinking with him, to
express their friendliness.
At last the landlady interposed. She brought a plate full of rice, and a
big piece of chicken. She beckoned Rico aside, saying to the men they
must let him have a little quiet now; he needed food; he was as pale as
chalk from excitement. She placed the dish upon a little table in one
corner, and encouraged him to eat heartily: she was sure he needed it,
he was such a little scrap. To tell the truth, Rico did enjoy his supper
wonderfully well. Since the coffee in the morning, not a mouthful had
passed his lips; and so much had happened to excite him too.
As soon as he had eaten all that there was upon his plate, his poor
little eyes closed from fatigue, and he had the greatest difficulty
in keeping them open long enough to answer the landlord's questions
of where he belonged, and where he was going, while he also praised
the child's music. Rico answered that he belonged to nobody, and was
The landlord spoke kindly and encouragingly to the boy, telling him that
he should be cared for that night, and in the morning he could go to see
Mrs. Menotti, who had sent him there. She was a good, kind woman, said
the landlord, who could perhaps employ him in her household, if he had
no place to go to where he belonged.
His wife, who stood by, plucked him constantly by the sleeve, trying to
stop him from talking; but he finished what he had to say, nevertheless,
for he had no idea what she meant by it all.
Pretty soon the men at the tables began to clamor again: they were
calling for their song.
The landlady, however, asserted herself. "No, no! on Sunday you shall
have it again; the child is tired to death." So saying, she took Rico by
the hand, and led him up into a big room where the harnesses hung. A big
heap of corn lay in one corner, and a bed stood in the other. In a very
few moments the boy was fast asleep.
Later, when every thing had become quite silent in the house, the
landlord sat at the little table where Rico had eaten his supper, and
before him stood his wife, for she was still busy in clearing away the
tables; and she said with great earnestness, "You must not send him back
again to Mrs. Menotti. Such a boy as that will be most useful to me in
every possible way; and did not you notice how beautifully he fiddled?
They were all crazy about it. Look out! he is a far better player than
any of our three; and he will learn to play for dancing in no time; and
you will have a musician to whom you need pay nothing, and who will play
every evening when they dance; and you can let him out also to go to the
other places. Don't you let him slip through your fingers. He is a
pretty little fellow, and I like him. We must keep him ourselves."
"Well, I am satisfied," said the landlord, and understood that his wife
had made a hit this time that was sure to turn out well.
NEW FRIENDSHIPS FORMED, WHILE THE OLD ONES ARE NOT FORGOTTEN.
The next morning, the landlady of the "Golden Sun" stood on the doorstep
of her inn, and looked at the heavens to read the signs of the probable
weather, and to think over the experiences of the night before.
Presently the gardener's boy from Mrs. Menotti's came along. He was both
master and servant over the lovely, fruitful property of Mrs. Menotti;
for he understood both the care of the garden and the cultivation of the
farm, and he looked after and directed all the work himself, and had an
easy and good place with her. He was contented, and whistled
However, while he stood before the landlady, he stopped for a little,
and said, if the little musician of the evening before had not gone
away, he was to go over to Mrs. Menotti again, because her little boy
wanted to hear him fiddle some more.
"Yes, yes; if Mrs. Menotti is not in a great hurry,"--while she put her
arms on her hips, to show that she, at any rate, was not pressed for
time. "At the present moment the little musician is sleeping upstairs in
his good bed; and I, for one, do not wish to have him disturbed. You may
say to Mrs. Menotti that I will send him to her presently. He is not
going away. I have taken him under my charge for good and all; for he is
a deserted orphan, and does not know where to go; and now he will be
well cared for," added she, with emphasis.
The gardener went off with this message.
Rico was allowed to sleep as long as he wanted to; for the landlady was
a good-natured woman, though, to be sure, she thought first of her own
profit, and afterwards was willing to help others to theirs. When the
boy awoke, at last, from his long sleep, his fatigue had quite
disappeared; and he came running down the stairs as fresh as possible.
The landlady made a sign for him to come into the kitchen, and placed a
big bowl of coffee before him, with a nice yellow corn-cake, saying,--
"You can have this every morning, if you will, and something much better
at dinner and supper time; for then there is cooking for the guests, and
there is always something left over. You can do errands for me in return
for it; and you can make this your home, and have your bedroom to
yourself, and not be obliged to go wandering about in the world. Now it
lies with you to decide."
To this Rico replied, simply,--
"Yes, I will;" for he could say that in the language in which the
Now she conducted him through the whole house, through the
out-buildings, the stable, into the vegetable-garden and the hen-house;
and she explained the situation of all the places to him, and told him
where he must turn to go to the grocer and to the shoemaker, and to all
the important trades-people in fact. Rico listened attentively; and, to
test his understanding, the landlady sent him at once to three or four
places, to fetch a variety of things, such as oil, soap, thread, and a
boot that had been mended; for she noticed that the boy could say single
words perfectly well.
All these errands were done to her perfect satisfaction; and at last she
said, "Now you may go over to Mrs. Menotti with your fiddle, and stay
there until the evening."
Rico was delighted at this permission; for he would pass by the lake,
and see the beautiful flowers he loved so well.
As soon as he reached the lake-side, over he ran to the little bridge,
and seated himself there to watch the beautiful water, and the
mountains bathed in golden mist; and he could scarcely tear himself
away from it all.
But he did; for he realized now that he had duties toward the landlady,
and must obey her, because she gave him food and lodging.
As he entered the garden, the little boy heard his footstep, for the
door was always open; and he called out,--
"Come here, and play some more."
Mrs. Menotti came out, and gave her hand kindly to Rico, and drew him
into the room with her. It was a large room, and you could look through
the wide doorway out into the garden where the flowers were to be seen.
The little bed on which the sick child lay was directly opposite the
door; and there were only chests and tables and chairs in the room, but
no other beds. At night the child was carried into the neighboring room,
and his bed also, and was placed there beside his mother for the night;
and in the morning he was carried back again, bed and all. For in this
large room the sun shone brightly, making long shining stripes across
the floor that made a dancing pattern on the ground, and amused the
child amazingly. Near the bed stood two little crutches; and now and
then his mother lifted the little cripple from his bed, placed the
crutches under his arms, and led him about the room once or twice; for
he could not walk, nor even stand alone. His little legs were quite
paralyzed, and he had never been able to use them at all.
When Rico entered the room, the child pulled himself into a sitting
position by means of a long rope that hung down over his bed from the
ceiling for that purpose; for he could not sit up without assistance.
Rico went to the bedside, and looked at the child in silence. Such
little thin arms and small slender fingers, and such a pale little face,
Rico had never seen; and two big eyes looked forth from the face, and
gazed at Rico as if they would pierce him through and through; for the
child, who seldom saw any thing new, and longed for variety with all his
heart, examined every thing that came in his way very sharply.
"What is your name?" asked the child.
"Mine is Silvio. How old are you?"
"And so am I," said the child.
"O Silvio! what are you saying?" said his mother at this. "You are not
quite four yet. Time does not go so fast as that."
"Play something more."
The mother seated herself by the bedside. Rico placed himself at a
little distance, and began to play on his fiddle. Silvio could not have
enough of it; and no sooner had Rico finished one piece than he shouted,
"Play another." Six times each, at the very least, had all the pieces
been repeated, when Mrs. Menotti went out, and returned with a plate
filled with yellow grapes, saying that Rico ought to rest, and sit down
by the bedside, and eat some grapes with Silvio.
She went out into the garden herself while the children were eating, and
was glad to be able to do so, and to attend to various little matters of
her own; for it was seldom that she could leave the bedside of her
little cripple, for he would not let her leave him, and cried bitterly
for her to return; so it was a real blessing to her to be able to get
away for a few moments.
The two boys soon came to a most excellent understanding of each other;
for Rico could reply very well to Silvio's questions, and managed to
make himself very well understood, even when he could not find exactly
the proper words, and it was very amusing to Silvio to talk with him.
His mother had plenty of time to look at all the flower-beds, and to
examine the fine fig-trees in the orchard, and to overlook every thing,
without being called for once by her little boy.
When she returned to the house, however, and Rico arose to take his
departure, Silvio set up a great shout, and clung to Rico with both
hands, and would not let him go until he had promised to come back the
next day, and every day. But Mrs. Menotti was a cautious woman. She had
understood the message sent by the landlady as it was intended, and
quieted her son, promising him to go herself to the landlady to talk
with her; because Rico, she said, was not able to promise to do any
thing himself, but must obey the landlady in every thing. At last the
child released Rico, and gave him his hand; and the latter reluctantly
left the room. He would have vastly preferred to remain there where it
was quiet and neat, and where Silvio and his mother were so kind to him.
Several days had slipped by, when, towards evening, Mrs. Menotti made
her appearance, dressed in her best attire, in the doorway of the
"Golden Sun;" and the landlady ran joyfully to meet her, and led her up
into the upper hall. When they were there, Mrs. Menotti asked very
politely if it would inconvenience the landlady very much to allow Rico
to come over to her two or three times in the week towards evening, he
was so amusing, and entertained her little sick son so well. She would
gladly recompense the landlady in any way she might think desirable.
It flattered the landlady to have the handsomely dressed Mrs. Menotti
thus asking a favor of her; and it was quickly arranged that Rico should
go to Mrs. Menotti on every free evening that he had; and in return,
Mrs. Menotti promised to provide the orphan's clothing, which pleased
the landlady extremely; for now she had really nothing to pay out for
the little boy, and he brought her in a great deal of money. So it was
arranged to the entire satisfaction of the two women, and they took
leave of each other in very friendly terms.
In this way passed many days. Rico could soon speak Italian as if he had
always spoken it. And, in truth, he had once spoken it as his native
language, so one thing after another came back to him; and as he had a
good ear, he soon spoke exactly like an Italian born, so that all who
knew him to be a stranger wondered at him. He was very useful to the
landlady,--more so even than she had expected would be the case,--for he
was so neat and orderly: quite as much so as she herself, if not more,
for she was not very patient over her work; and when preparations were
necessary for a _fete_ or for a wedding, Rico was called upon to do it,
for he had a great deal of taste, and knew how to carry it out in
decorations. If he had any errand to do abroad he was back again in an
incredibly short time, for he never stopped to chatter by the way. If
people questioned him, he always turned on his heel and left them. This
pleased the landlady mightily when she noticed it, and it created such a
feeling of respect for the lad in her mind, that she herself did not
question him; and so it came to pass that, indeed, nobody really knew
how he came to Peschiera. But a story was spread abroad, that everybody
believed, to the effect that he had been left an orphan without
protection in the mountains, and neglected and mishandled, so that at
last he ran away, suffering many things on the long journey until he
reached Peschiera, where the inhabitants were not rough as they are in
the mountains, and that he was glad to remain there with them. Whenever
the landlady told his story, she did not fail to add, "He deserves it,
too,--all the kindness that we show him, and his comfortable home under
Now the first "dance Sunday" of the season had come, and such an
enormous crowd of guests assembled in the "Golden Sun," that there
seemed a great doubt if they could all be accommodated there; but
everybody wished to see and to hear the little stranger who played so
wonderfully; and also they who had heard him on the evening of his
arrival were the very first to come, and were impatient for him to play
their song again.
The landlady ran hither and thither in her excitement, and glowed and
glistened in her heat, as if she were herself the "Golden Sun;" and
when she met her husband, she always said triumphantly, "Did not I
tell you so?"
Rico heard "dance music" for the first time played by the three
fiddlers who came to the inn; but he caught the melodies at once, and
had no trouble in playing them, and never forgot them, for they were so
often repeated during the long "dance evening," that they became very
familiar to him.
After the dancing they wanted their Peschiera song, with Rico's
accompaniment; and even if there seemed to be a deal of noise all the
early part of the evening, now, in truth, it had really just begun; and
they became so excited that little quiet Rico was frightened, and
thought they would end by killing each other certainly.
But it was all in friendly wise. He came in for his share, and was so
stormily applauded, and his musical performance was hailed with such
ear-splitting cries of approval, that his only thought at last was, "Oh,
when will this have an end!" for nothing was so very unpleasant to the
boy as boisterousness.
In the evening the landlady said to her husband, "Did you notice Rico
could play all the pieces with the musicians? Next time we shall only
need two fiddlers." And the man replied, well pleased, "We must give
Two days later there was a dance in Desenzano, and Rico was sent over
there with the fiddlers. Now he was let out for hire. The same noise
and merriment was repeated; and, although they did not call for the
Peschiera song in Desenzano, still there were plenty of other songs
just as noisy, and Rico thought only from beginning to end, "If it were
He brought a whole pocketful of money home with him, which he poured out
in a heap on the table without even counting it, for he thought it was
all the landlady's by right; and she praised him in return, and placed a
big piece of apple-pie before him for supper. On Sunday again there was
dancing in Riva; but this was a pleasure to Rico, for Riva was the spot
over across the lake which could be seen from Peschiera, looking like a
peaceful little bay, and where the pretty white houses looked so
friendly and attractive.
The musicians were rowed all together across the lake in an open boat
under the clear heavens; and Rico thought, "Oh, if I could be rowed
across here, with Stineli by my side! How astonished she would be at the
lake, whose beauty she would not believe in."
But once on the other shore, the noise began again, and the boy became
impatient to be off; for the view of Riva from across the lake, lying in
the lovely light of evening, was far more beautiful than being there in
the midst of the noise and tumult.
However, when there were no dances at which he must play, the lad was
always allowed to go in the evening to little Silvio, and to remain as
long as he wished; for the landlady was anxious to show her willingness
to accommodate Mrs. Menotti. This was always a pleasure to Rico.
Whenever he passed along the lake-side, he went over to the little
stone bridge, and sat there for a while on the ground; for this was the
only place in the world where he had a home-like feeling, because what
he saw there he had seen before, and also here the vision of his mother
rose most clearly before his memory.
There she had certainly stood by the water-side, and washed
something, while she would look around at him occasionally, and say a
few loving words; and he was always sitting, he remembered, in that
very place where he now sat. He was always most unwilling to leave
this spot, but the knowledge that Silvio was constantly listening for
him drove him onward.
When he entered the garden, he had also a feeling of contentment; and
entered the neat, quiet house with pleasure. Mrs. Menotti had a more
truly friendly manner toward him than anybody else, and he was fully
sensible of her kindness. She felt the warmest pity for the lonely
orphan, as she called him; for she had also heard the story of his
escape as it was current in the neighborhood. She never asked him
questions concerning his life in the mountains, however; for she
thought it would arouse sad memories in his mind. She felt, also, that
Rico did not receive the care that a lad of his age and quiet
disposition really needed; but she was sensible that she could do
nothing in that direction, only to have him with her as often and as
long as possible. Often she would place her hand on his head, saying
sadly, "Poor little orphan!"
To Silvio, Rico grew more and more necessary every day. Early in the
morning he began to fret for him; and when his pain came on he became
very restless, and could not be pacified until Rico came. For, since
Rico had mastered the language thoroughly, he had developed an
inexhaustible fund of stories that delighted the little invalid
Stineli was the theme on which Rico most often fell, and it made him so
happy even to talk about her, that he became animated and quite
transfigured in the recital. He knew hundreds of stories, such as when
Stineli caught little Sami by the leg, once on a time, just as he was
about to fall into the water-butt, and how she held him with all her
might, while they both screamed as loud as they could until their father
came slowly to their aid,--for he always moved slowly. He said that
children did nothing but scream: it was their nature, and did not mean
that they were in trouble. And he told Silvio how Stineli could cut out
figures from paper for Peterli, make all sorts of furniture and things
for the baby-house for Urschli from moss, and bits of wood, or any thing
that came to hand.
And how they all called and clamored for their elder sister when they
were ill, because she told them such wonderful stories that they quite
forgot their pains while listening. Rico also told the story of his
beautiful walks with Stineli, and became so much excited in his talk
that Silvio caught the inspiration, and asked for more and more, calling
out, "Tell me about Stineli again!" as soon as Rico paused to take
breath. One evening the child broke out into the wildest excitement when
Rico took his leave, saying that he would not be able to come on the
following day nor on Sunday. Silvio shrieked for his mother as if the
house were burning, and he were in the midst of the flames; and as she
came hurrying to him from the garden, almost frightened to death at his
noise, he declared "Rico should _not_ go again back to the inn; but must
stay always, always with them. You must stay here, Rico. You must never,
never go away!"
But Rico said, "I would stay most gladly; but I cannot."
Mrs. Menotti was much perplexed. She knew very well how valuable Rico's
services were to the inn-keepers, and that she could never obtain him
under any consideration. She tried to silence her little son to the best
of her ability, while she drew Rico to her side, saying, as was her
wont, "Poor little orphan!" Whereupon Silvio called out angrily, "What
is an orphan? I want to be an orphan too."
These words aroused his mother; and she cried out, in her turn, "Silvio,
you wicked child! Do you know that an orphan is a wretched child, who
has neither father nor mother, and no home on all the earth?"
Rico's black eyes were fixed on Mrs. Menotti's face, and then seemed to
grow blacker and more black every minute; but she did not notice them.
She had ceased to think about the lad while she was giving this
explanation of an orphan to her son. The little fellow slipped quietly
and unperceived away.
When Mrs. Menotti observed his absence, she thought he had stolen away
in order not to excite Silvio further by taking leave, and she was
pleased at his thoughtfulness. Seating herself by the bedside of her
child, she said, "I want to make you understand how it is, Silvio; and
then you will stop being so naughty, I hope. It is not possible to take
a child away from any one; and, even if I took Rico from the landlady,
she would have a right to come and take you away from me. Then you would
not be able to see the garden nor the flowers any more, and would have
to sleep quite alone in the room with the harnesses where Rico dislikes
so much to sleep. Don't you remember what he has told you about that?
What would you do then?"
"Come right home again," said the child decidedly; but he was quite
still after that, and soon lay down and slept.
Rico passed through the garden, along the street, and down to the lake.
There he sat down on his favorite spot, leaned his head upon his hands,
and said, in tones of utter despair, "Now I know the truth, mother. Now
I know that I have no home,--none in the whole world."
And there he sat until late in the night, alone with his sad thoughts;
and would have rather remained there forever, but he was obliged to go
back into his uncomfortable bedroom at last.
SILVIO'S WISHES PRODUCE RESULTS.
But the excitement had not subsided in Silvio's mind, by any means; and
now that he knew that two days must elapse before Rico could come again,
he began to cry early in the morning, "Rico won't come to-day! Rico
won't come to-day!" and scarcely ceased until the evening; and the
second day it was the same, but on the third,--he was tired out by that
time, and seemed like a little heap of straw, that the least spark could
have reduced to ashes.
In the evening Rico made his appearance, quite worn out with the noise
and tumult of the dances for which he had been obliged to play. Since he
had fully realized that he had no home on the earth, the thought of
Stineli had become of more importance than ever, and he said to
"There is only Stineli in the whole world to whom I belong, or who
troubles her head about me!" And he felt a terrible homesickness for
Stineli. He had scarcely reached the side of Silvio's bed when he said,
"Do you know, Silvio, with Stineli only can one feel perfectly well, and
nowhere else." These words were scarcely out of his mouth before the
little invalid hoisted himself up like a flash, calling out at the top
of his lungs, "Mother, I must have Stineli; Stineli must come; only with
Stineli can one feel perfectly well, and nowhere else."
His mother came at his call; and as she had often listened to Rico's
stories about Stineli and her brothers and sisters with great interest,
she knew at once what they were talking about, and replied, "Yes, yes;
it would suit me very well. I could find great use for Stineli for you,
and for myself, if I only had her here."
But such an indefinite way of talking did not suit Silvio in the least,
for he was interested, heart and soul, in the matter.
"You can have her at once," he cried out. "Rico knows where she is: he
must go to fetch her. I want her every day, and always. To-morrow Rico
must go to get her: he knows where."
Now that his mother saw that the little fellow had thought the whole
thing out, and was really in serious earnest about it, she tried to turn
his attention away, and to introduce other thoughts into his mind, for
she had often heard the story of the incredible adventures Rico passed
through on his journey over the mountains, and of the wonder of his
having survived and come down safely, and that the mountaineer were a
fearful and wild people. She was, therefore, fully persuaded that nobody
could bring a girl away, and certainly not a tender little lad like
Rico. He might meet a sad fate, and be lost altogether, if he attempted
any thing of the kind; and then she would be responsible for it all. She
would not run that risk,--she thought she had enough to bear already.
So she placed all the impossibility of the affair before Silvio's eyes,
and told him of the terrible circumstances, and of the wicked men whom
Rico would have to encounter, and who might ruin him. But nothing had
the slightest effect. The little fellow had set his heart upon this
thing as he never had upon any thing before; and whatever his mother
brought forward, and no matter how anxiously she insisted, the moment
she ceased the child said, "Rico must go to fetch her: he knows where to
Then his mother replied, "And even if he does know, do you mean to say
that he would run the risk and go into such dangerous places, when he
can live comfortably as he does here, and never have to do with any
wicked men again?"
Then Silvio looked at Rico, and said, "Will you go to fetch Stineli,
Rico, or not?"
"Yes; I will," said Rico firmly.
"Oh, merciful heavens! now Rico is getting unmanageable too," cried the
mother, quite horrified. "And now I do not know what to do. Take your
fiddle, Rico, and play something, and sing; I must go into the garden."
And the good woman ran quickly forth into the garden under the
fig-trees, for she thought that her little son would forget the thing
more quickly if he had not a chance to talk to her about it.
But the two good friends within neither played nor sang, but excited
each other almost to fever point with all kinds of representations of
how Stineli should be brought there, and of what would happen afterwards
when she had fairly arrived. Rico utterly forgot to take his leave,
although it was quite dark; and Mrs. Menotti purposely remained in the
garden, thinking that Silvio would soon fall asleep. At last, however,
she did come in, and Rico took his departure at once; but she had a bad
time of it with Silvio, after all. He positively would not close his
eyes until his mother promised that Rico should go to fetch Stineli; but
she could not make any such promise, and the little fellow did not cease
insisting until his mother said, "Be quiet, now; the night will set
every thing straight." For she thought in the night he will forget his
notion, as had often been the case, and he will have some other fancy.
At last the child was quiet and slept; but his mother had miscalculated
the affair. Scarcely was it dawn when the little fellow called out from
his bed, "Is every thing set straight now, mother?"
As it was impossible for her to reply in the affirmative to this
question, the storm broke out again, and a more violent one than she had
ever experienced before with her little boy, and lasted through the
whole day quite late into the evening; and on the following day the same
Silvio had never been so persistent in any fancy before. When he
screamed and cried she was able to bear it; but when the hours of pain
and suffering came, and the child went on whining and complaining in the
most touching manner, saying,
"One only feels perfectly well with Stineli, and nowhere else," that cut
his mother to the heart, and seemed like a reproach to her, as if she
would not do something that might make him well again; but how could she
possibly even think of it?
She had heard herself Rico's answer to Silvio when he asked if he knew
how to go to Stineli. It was,--
"No, I do not know the way; but I can easily find one."
She went on hoping day after day that Silvio would take up some new
whim, as had always before been the case: she had never found it
otherwise. If he had wished for something when he was well, he had
always given it up when his pain came on. But it was quite different
this time, and there really was a reason too. Rico's stories and remarks
about his friend Stineli had taken firm possession of the mind of the
over-sensitive child; and he believed that nothing would hurt him again,
if she were only by his side. So Silvio went on day after day in
increasing distress; and his mother did not know where to turn for
counsel and support.
COUNSEL THAT BRINGS JOY TO MANY.
In all this trouble and uncertainty it was a real comfort to Mrs.
Menotti to see the long black coat of the kind-hearted old priest,
who had not been to visit her for a long time, coming through the
She sprang up from her seat, crying out joyfully, "Look, Silvio; there
comes the dear, good priest!" and went towards him. But Silvio, in his
anger over every thing, said, as loud as he could, "I would rather it
Then he crept quickly under the coverlet, so that the priest need not
know where the voice came from. His mother, however, was dreadfully
shocked, and begged the good man, who now entered the room, not to take
offence at this greeting, as it was not really so bad as it sounded.
Silvio did not stir, but said softly, under the bed-cover,--
"I really mean just what I say."
The father must have had a suspicion of where the voice came from. He
stepped at once to the bedside; and, though there was not a hair of
Silvio's head even to be seen, he said, "God bless you, my son! how are
you? How is your health nowadays? and why do you creep into this hidden
hole like a little badger? Come out, and explain it all to me. What do
you mean by Stineli?"
Now Silvio crept forth, for he had the priest in great respect now that
he was so close to him. He stretched out his little thin hand in
greeting, and said, "Rico's Stineli, I mean."
His mother now interposed with the explanation, for the father shook his
head very doubtfully as he seated himself by the bedside. The good woman
related the whole affair about Stineli, and told how her little boy had
got the idea firmly fixed in his noddle that he would never be well
again unless this Stineli could come to him; and how even Rico had
become unreasonable, and declared that he could go to fetch Stineli,
even though he did not know a single stock nor stone of the way; and it
was such a long journey up into the mountains, moreover, and it was
impossible to realize what horrible people they were who lived up there.
But it proved how very bad they must be when a tender little fellow like
Rico preferred to incur the great danger of the journey than to remain
among such rude folk. "If it were practicable," however, added Mrs.
Menotti, "no money would seem to me wasted that would procure me such a
girl to quiet Silvio's longing, and to have some one to help take care
of him;" for sometimes she had almost too much to endure, and felt as if
she must give up altogether. And Rico, who was usually very discreet in
his conversation, was of the opinion that nobody could help her so much
nor so well in every way as this same Stineli. He ought to know her very
well, too; and certainly, if she really corresponded to his description,
it would be a great escape for such a girl to get away from the
mountains; but she did not know of anybody who would do them such a
favor as to bring her.
To all this discourse the kind priest lent an attentive ear in profound
silence, until Mrs. Menotti had quite finished. Indeed, he could not
have got a word in edgewise if he had been inclined; for the good woman
had not opened her heart for a long time, and it was so full that it
almost choked her when she gave her words full expression, and she quite
lost her breath.
Now quiet reigned for a while, then the good man began very calmly to
smoke his second pipe; and presently he said, "H--m, h--m, Mrs. Menotti;
I rather think you have an impression of the mountaineers that is
decidedly exaggerated. There are good Christians there as elsewhere; and
now that there are so many ways of doing things discovered, it would be
also quite possible to get up there without danger. We must bethink
ourselves about that, and find out about it."
After this opinion, the priest stopped to refresh himself a little from
his snuffbox; then he went on:--
"There are all sorts of trades-people who are always coming down to
Bergamo,--sheep and horse dealers: they know the road well enough, of
course. We can obtain information, and then bethink ourselves: we can
find a way sooner or later. It you are in earnest about it, Mrs.
Menotti, I will look about a little. I go every year once or twice to
Bergamo, and I will take the thing in hand for you."
Mrs. Menotti was so filled with gratitude at this promise, that words
utterly failed her that were, in her opinion, adequate to express her
thanks. Suddenly all the heavy thoughts had vanished that had oppressed
her day and night for such a long time past, and in which she was
getting more and more involved the more she puzzled over them, so that
at the last she saw no hope of a decision. Now the Father took the
whole burden upon himself, and she could refer her troublesome little
Silvio to him.
While this conference was taking place, the little invalid had almost
pierced the priest through with his great gray eyes, so great was his
interest in what they said. When the priest arose, and held his hand
towards the child to say good-by, the little thin fingers were pressed
into his big palm as if he were making a firm contract.
The father gave his promise to bring tidings as soon as he had obtained
the necessary information; and then they could decide whether the thing
could be done, or whether Silvio must give up his wish altogether.
Week after week slipped by, but Silvio did not waver. He had a firm
ground of hope now by which to hold; and, moreover, Rico had become so
lively and amusing, that he was hardly to be recognized. It acted upon
him like a spark that kindled a joyful bonfire when he learned the
priest's comforting words; and a new life was awakened in the lad. He
knew more stories to tell Silvio than ever before; and when he took his
fiddle in his hand, he produced such heart-stirring tones and tunes,
that Mrs. Menotti could not tear herself from the room where the boys
were, and was full of astonishment at Rico's store of music.
It was only in this room at Mrs. Menotti's that Rico fully enjoyed his
instrument. It sounded so well in the large, lofty space, where it was
quiet and peaceful, without a taint of tobacco-smoke, or the clamor of
noisy men; and he was not confined to dance music, but at liberty to
play as his fancy directed. Every day he went with increasing pleasure
to Mrs. Menotti's, and often said to himself, as he entered, "This is
the way it must feel when one is entering his own home."
But it was not his home: he only was permitted to go there for a little
while, and away again.
There had come over Rico a very decided change within a short time; and
the landlady, who perceived it clearly, was greatly perplexed thereby.
When she placed a nasty broken pail of refuse before him, saying,
"There, Rico, carry this to the hens," he would step aside a little, put
his hands behind his back, to show that he did not mean to touch the
pail, and say quietly, "I prefer that some one else should do that;" and
when she brought out an old pair of shoes and handed them to him to
carry to the cobbler, he did the same, saying. "I prefer that you should
give them to another person to carry."
Now the landlady was a clever woman, and knew how to put two and two
together; and it had not escaped her that Rico was quite another person
within a short time, and looked very differently too. Mrs. Menotti had
always dressed him very nicely since she had undertaken that office; but
when she observed how well his clothes became him, and what an air of
real gentility he had, she used finer materials than at first; and the
lad always took good care of his person and his dress, for he detested
uncleanliness and disorder, both on his own appearance and in his
surroundings. All of this was not unnoticed, nor did she ever forget
that even as Rico had poured out his pocketful of gold upon the table
before her after his first "dance evening," so had he continued to do
faithfully, and not so much as looked as if he would like to keep one
bit for himself.
He brought more and more each time; for it was not only for his dance
music that he was called so often, but because of his songs, that were
And the landlady recognized that it was her best policy to treat him
always kindly and well; and she did not trouble him about the hens nor
the shoes, and required such little services from him no more.
It was now three years since Rico made his first entry into Peschiera.
He was now a tall, fourteen-year old stripling, and whoever laid eyes
upon him found him pleasing to look upon.
Once again the golden sun of autumn burnished the surface of the Lake of
Garda, and the heavens lay blue above the tranquil waves. In the garden
the great bunches of grapes hung gold against the trellises, and the red
flowers of the oleander glistened in the sunbeams.
It was quiet in Silvio's room, for his mother was without in the garden
gathering grapes and figs for the evening. The invalid lay listening
for Rico's step, for this was the time of his usual visit. The wicket
opened: Silvio pulled himself up in his bed. A long black coat came
slowly toward the door,--it was the priest. Silvio did not think of
hiding himself this time. He stretched out his little arm as far as he
was able, to shake hands with the good man, before he had fairly
entered the room.
This welcome pleased the priest, who walked at once into the room, and
to the child's bedside, even though he saw Mrs. Menotti's form behind
him in the garden.
"This is right, my son," he said. "And how do you find yourself?"
"All right," said Silvio quickly; and, looking eagerly at the good man,
he added softly, "When may Rico go?"
Seating himself by the bedside, the good man said, a little pompously,
"To-morrow, at five o'clock, Rico will start, my son."
Mrs. Menotti entered as he was speaking, and it was with some difficulty
that the priest could quiet her enough to get a chance to tell his story
in a consecutive way, and to make himself understood; and all the time
he was speaking, Silvio's eyes were fixed upon his face like a little
He had come directly from Bergamo, where he had passed two days. He had
made all the necessary arrangements with a horse-trader,--a friend of
his who had been travelling, for thirty years or more, every autumn, and
knew the way over the mountains that Rico must take. He knew, also, how
the journey could be made without leaving the coach, or sleeping by the
way. He was going there himself, and would take Rico under his charge,
if the lad would go to Bergamo by the early train. The man knew all the
drivers and conductors, also; and would arrange for his and his
companion's return, and recommend them so well that there would be no
trouble or danger.
The Father was convinced that there was no hindrance to Rico's going in
perfect safety, and gave his blessing to the undertaking.
As he stood by the garden-hedge, after saying good-by to Silvio, Mrs.
Menotti, who had accompanied him thus far, detained him for a moment, to
ask again, full of sudden anxiety, "Oh, there will not be any danger to
his life, I hope? Nor that he may lose his way, and go wandering about
in the mountains? You do not think that possible, do you, Father?" But
the good man quieted her fears; and she returned to the house, thinking
of what there remained to do for Rico, who entered the garden at this
moment, and was greeted by such a startling cry of joy from Silvio, that
he reached the bedside in three leaps to find out what it all meant.
"What is the matter? What ails you?" Rico kept asking; and Silvio
repeated, "I will tell you, I will tell you!" until, in real anxiety,
his mother came to his aid. Soon, however, she left the boys to enjoy
their happiness together; and went about her business, which she thought
very important. She fetched a portmanteau, and placed a huge piece of
smoked meat first of all at the bottom, then a half loaf of bread, a big
parcel of preserved plums and figs, and a bottle of wine, carefully
wrapped in a cloth. Then came the clothes,--two shirts and a pair of
shoes, two pair of stockings, and pocket-handkerchiefs; for it seemed
always to Mrs. Menotti as if Rico were going to the farthermost part of
the world; and she only now fully realized how dearly she loved the lad,
for she felt that she could not get on without him.
All the while, as she was packing, she would pause, sit down, and say to
herself, anxiously, "Oh, I do hope there will not be an accident!"
Presently she brought the portmanteau down-stairs, and counselled Rico
to go at once and explain to the landlady how every thing had happened;
and to ask if she would allow him to go, and not oppose it; and
afterwards Rico was to carry the portmanteau to the station.
The boy was in the greatest surprise over his portmanteau. He obeyed in
silence, as usual, however, and went to the landlady. He explained to
her that he was going back to the mountains to bring Stineli back with
him, and that the priest had arranged it so that he was to start on the
following morning at five o'clock.
It produced a feeling of respect at once in the mind of the landlady
when she found that the priest was at the head of the business. But she
naturally wished to know who this Stineli might be, and what the idea
was in fetching her; for she hoped it might be on her account.
She only found out that Stineli was a girl whose name was Stineli, and
that she was coming to Mrs. Menotti. So she let the thing go; for she
would not interfere, for the world, with that lady's wishes. She was
only too glad that Rico had been left to her for so long. She took it
for granted that Stineli was Rico's sister, only that he had not said
so, because he never did say any thing about his family.
So she told all the guests in the inn that evening that Rico was going
to bring his sister down to Peschiera, because he had found out how well
they all lived there.
In order to show how highly she held the lad in respect, she had a big
basket brought down from the attic, and filled it with sausages and
cheese, and slices of bread, and eggs, saying,--
"You must not get hungry on the way; and what is left over, you can eat
while you are there. It will not be too much; and coming back, you will
need something too. You are certainly coming back, Rico, are you not?"
"Certainly," replied the lad. "In eight days I shall be back again."
In Mrs. Menotti's hands he placed his beloved fiddle, for he would not
have trusted it to any one else; and then he took his leave for eight
days, for he could easily be back again in that time, if every thing
BACK AGAIN OVER THE MOUNTAINS.
Full of impatience, Rico stood at the station long before the appointed
time, and could scarcely be quiet while waiting for the train. Again he
took his seat in the carriage, as he had done three years before, but
not now crouched timidly in a corner with his violin in his hand. He
took a whole seat for himself this time; for he placed his portmanteau
and his basket next him, and they took up a deal of room. He met the
horse-dealer in Bergamo without difficulty, and they travelled along in
the same carriage together, and then across the lake. When they left the
boat they went towards the inn, where the big post-wagon stood with the
horses already harnessed. It all came back to Rico's memory with great
distinctness,--how he had stood there in the night, quite alone, after
the students had all gone their ways; and opposite he espied the
stable-door where he had seen the lantern hanging, and had found the
friendly sheep-dealer again. It was evening now; and they took their
places at once in the coach, and went towards the mountain. Rico sat
within, this time, with his companion, and had scarcely settled himself
comfortably in his corner when his eyes closed and he slept; for he had
not slept an hour on the preceding night, so great had been his
excitement. Now he made it up, without once awakening, until the sun
stood high in the heavens, and the coach moved very slowly; and when he
stuck his head out of the window, he saw, to his utter astonishment,
that they were ascending the zigzag road up the Maloja, that was so
familiar to him from his childhood.
He could not see much from the window,--only a turning in the road now
and then; but now he did want to see everything that lay about them. At
last the coach stopped: they had reached the summit. There was the inn,
there the spot where he had sat and talked with the driver. All the
passengers got out for a moment, and the horses were fed. Rico also
descended, and asked very humbly of the driver if he might be allowed to
take a seat on the box with him.
"Will you let me climb up there, and ride as far as Sils?" he asked.
"Up with you!" said the coachman. They all took their places, and
merrily rolled the coach down the smooth road and along the level way.
Now they reached the lake. Yonder lay the wooded peninsula, and there
the white houses of Sils, and beyond was Sils Maria. The little church
shone in the morning sunshine, and over towards the mountain were two
cottages. Rico's heart began to beat wildly. Where was Stineli? A few
steps farther, and the coach stood still in Sils.
Stineli had suffered a great deal since her friend's disappearance. The
children were larger, and the work ever increasing; and the greater part
fell to her share, for she was the eldest of the children, and the
youngest of the rest of the family; so the cry was always, "Stineli can
do this: she is old enough now;" and presently, "Stineli must look after
that, she is so young." She had no one with whom to share her pleasures
since Rico's departure, even if she had a moment to herself.
Her good grandmother had died the year before, and from that time
forward the girl had no relaxation whatever; but from morning to evening
there was nothing but incessant toil.
She never lost heart, however, although she had wept bitterly over the
loss of her grandmother; and every day the thought arose several times
in her mind, without her good grandmother and Rico the world was no
longer as beautiful as formerly.
On a sunny Saturday morning she came out of the stable with a big
bundle of straw poised on her head. She meant to weave some nice
brushes, for the evening sweeping. The sun was shining all down the
pathway towards Sils, and she stood gazing in that direction. An
unknown lad came along the road,--certainly no Silser, she thought; and
yet as he drew near he stood still and looked at her, and she returned
his gaze, and was much perplexed. In an instant, however, away went her
bundle of straw, and she rushed forward towards the motionless figure
before her, crying out,--
"O Rico! are you still alive? Have you come back again? But how big you
are, Rico! I did not know you, at first; but as soon as I saw your face,
then I was sure,--nobody has a face like yours."
So Stineli stood with glowing cheeks before the lad; and he grew as
white as chalk from excitement, and could not find words to speak his
joy, but looked and looked at the girl. Presently he said,--
"You have grown, too, Stineli, but are not otherwise changed. The nearer
I came to the house, the more anxious I got lest you might be altered."
"Oh, to think that you are really here, Rico!" cried Stineli, joyfully.
"Oh, if the grandmother only knew! But come in, Rico; they will all be
surprised." She ran on before to open the door, and Rico followed.
The children hid themselves one behind the other; and their mother rose
and greeted the lad as if he were a stranger, and asked what his wishes
were. Neither she nor the children had an idea who he was. Now Trudi
and Sami came into the room, and bowed to him as they passed through.
"Does not one of you know him?" said Stineli, at last. "Don't you see
it is Rico?"
They were astonished and full of their surprise when their father came
to his dinner. Rico advanced towards him, offering his hand, which the
man took, but looked steadily at the strange lad.
"Is it some kind of a relation?" he asked; for he was never very sure
about the members of the family who sometimes visited them.
"Even the father does not know him," said Stineli, rather vexed.
"Why, it is Rico, father!"
"Well, well: that is good," remarked he; and looked the lad well over
from head to foot this time, adding,--
"You need not be ashamed to show yourself. Have you learned some sort of
a trade? Let us all be seated, and then you can tell us what has
happened to you."
But Rico did not sit down at once: he kept looking towards the doorway.
At last he asked, hesitatingly,--
"Where is the grandmother?"
"She lies over there in Sils, not far from the old schoolmaster," was
the reply. Rico had hesitated with his question, for he feared this
would be the answer; he had noticed the grandmother's absence at once.
He took his seat with the others at the table, but was silent for a
while, and could not eat a morsel: he had loved the grandmother dearly.
However, the father wanted to hear his story, and to know what had
become of him on the day they all searched for him in the ravines, and
what he had seen and done in the world. So the boy told all his story,
and about Mrs. Menotti and Silvio; and explained distinctly that he
wished to take Stineli back with him to Peschiera, if her parents would
consent. Stineli made very big eyes while her friend was talking: she
had not lost one word of his history. Her heart was as if on fire with
joy. To go to Rico's beautiful lake with him, to live with Mrs. Menotti
and her sick son, who was so anxious for her to come,--that would be
There was a long silence after this. Stineli's father never decided
hastily. At last he said, "It is true that when one goes among strangers
there is much to be learned; but I cannot let Stineli go,--there can be
no question of that. She is needed here at home; but one of the others
may go,--Trudi, perhaps."
"Yes, yes: that will do," said the mother. "I cannot get along
Then Trudi raised her head from her plate, and said, "That suits me very
well. There is nothing but children's racket here at home."
Stineli did not speak. She only looked anxiously towards Rico, wondering
if he would not say any thing more since her father seemed so decided,
and whether he would take Trudi with him as proposed. The lad, however,
looked calmly at her father, saying, "No: that won't do at all. It is
precisely Stineli whom the sick boy Silvio wishes, and nobody else; and
he knows very well what he wants. He would only send Trudi home again,
and she would have taken the journey for nothing. Mrs. Menotti told me
to say, that if Stineli got on well with her son, she would give her
every month five gulden to send home to her family, if they cared for
it; and I am sure that Stineli and Silvio will agree famously,--just as
sure as if I saw it with my own eyes now," added the lad.
Pushing his plate to one side, Stineli's father put his cap on his head.
He had finished his dinner; and when he had some very severe thinking to
do, he was always more comfortable with his cap on. It seemed to help
him to collect his thoughts.
He thought, always in silence, how much labor he would have to perform
before he could earn even one good gulden; and he said to himself, "Five
gulden every month without lifting a finger."
So he shoved his cap first on one side and then on the other; and said,
at last, "She may go. One of the others can do the work in the house."
Stineli's eyes sparkled, but the mother looked sadly at all the little
heads and plates. Who would keep them all nice and in order?
But the father's cap got another shove. Something else had
occurred to him.
"Stineli has not yet been confirmed, and ought to be before she
"I am not to be confirmed for two years yet, father," said the girl
eagerly; "so that I can go away for two years perfectly well, and come
back quite in time for that."
This was a good decision, and everybody was satisfied. The father and
mother thought, even if every thing does go badly without Stineli, it
will only be for a while; and when she comes back again, all will be
well. And Trudi thought, "Just as soon as she comes back again, I will
go and then we shall see if I come back."
But Rico and Stineli merely glanced at each other, and laughed with
their eyes for pure joy.
As the father looked upon the affair as settled, he rose from the table,
saying, "She may go to-morrow: then we shall know where we stand."
Her mother, on the contrary, objected to this, saying that it could not
be managed so quickly, and complained bitterly, until her father gave
in, and said she should go the following Monday, and would not hear of a
later date; for he thought that there would be a continual fuss until
the departures were fairly over.
Work there was now for Stineli in abundance. Rico understood that this
must be the case, and he addressed himself to Sami, and said he would
like to see whether every thing remained as formerly in Sils-Maria; and
that he had a sack and a basket to fetch from Sils, and perhaps Sami
would go with him to help him; so they went forth.
Firstly, Rico paused before his former home, and gazed at the old
house-door and the hen-house. It was just as it had been. He asked Sami
who lived there now,--if his cousin were there, and alone.
But he heard that the cousin had long ago gone away towards Silvaplana,
and nobody knew any thing about her; for she had not shown her face in
There were people living in the house, about whom Rico knew nothing.
Everywhere that he went with Sami, from the old well-known houses and
stables the people stared at him as if he were an utter stranger; not
one of them recognized him in the least.
As he crossed over, towards evening, to Sils, he turned aside a little
towards the churchyard. He wanted to see the grave where the old
grandmother was buried; but Sami did not rightly know where she lay.
They returned home just as it was growing dark, laden with basket and
portmanteau. Stineli stood at the well, and brushed out the stable
buckets for the last time; and as Rico stood there by her side, she
said, flushed with pleasure, and with her exertions over the pails, "I
can scarcely believe that it is true, Rico."
"But I do," said he so decidedly, that the girl looked at him surprised.
"But of course, Stineli," he added, "you have not been thinking it out
this long time as I have."
There was a change in Rico that the girl noticed at once. Formerly he
would not have spoken in this firm and decided manner.
They had arranged a bed for Rico up in the room under the roof.
He carried his things up there, and meant to open them the
When they were all seated the next day at table,--a beautiful, clear
Sunday morning,--down came Rico, and poured out before Urschli and
Peterli a big heap of plums and figs. The latter fruit they had never
seen at all; and the plums were finer than any that they were accustomed
to; and his sausages and meat and eggs he placed in the middle of the
table. As soon as their admiration and surprise had a little subsided,
they all fell to and ate with a wonderful relish, and the children were
munching the sweet figs quite late into the evening.
TWO HAPPY TRAVELLERS.
On Monday evening the journey was to begin. The horse-dealer had
impressed this fact so thoroughly on Rico's memory, that there was not a
chance for a mistake. After the farewells were all said, Rico and
Stineli went towards Sils together, while her mother, with all the
little children clustered about her, stood upon the doorstep and looked
Sami accompanied them to carry the portmanteau on his head, and Rico
carried the basket on one side, and Stineli held it on the other.
Stineli's clothes had just filled it.
When they reached the church in Sils, Stineli said, "Oh, if my
grandmother could only see us now! We will go to say good-by to her,
Rico." He was very willing, and told Stineli how he had already tried to
find the grave, but had not succeeded.
The girl was better informed than her brother.
When the post-wagon came along and stopped, the driver called out, "Are
the couple ready who are to go down to the Lake of Garda? I was asking
for them yesterday."
The horse-dealer had given them a good recommendation; and the driver
called out that they should climb up to the top: the others had found it
too cold. "You are younger," he said.
So saying, he helped them up to the seats behind the box, and took out
a thick horse-blanket, and wrapped them up snugly therein; and off
For the first time since they had come together again, the two young
people were alone, and could talk freely and undisturbed, and tell each
other how they had passed the three long years since they parted. And
they chattered away happily under the starry heavens, never thinking of
sleep in their joy at being together.
Towards morning they reached the lake, and arrived in Peschiera at the
same hour as Rico had before arrived, and walked along the road to the
lake-side. But Rico did not wish his companion to see the lake until she
had reached the spot he called his own; so he led her through the trees
until they came to the little stone bridge in the open.
There lay the lake in the light of the setting sun; and the children sat
side by side on the little mound, and gazed across the water.
There it was, just as Rico had described it, but more, much more lovely;
for such colors Stineli had never seen before.
She looked about her towards the purple mountains, across the golden
waters, and she cried out with all her heart, "Yes, it is finer than the
Lake of Sils."
But Rico felt that it had never yet been so exquisitely beautiful as on
this evening when he and Stineli saw it together.
Rico had another secret joy that he cherished in his heart. How
surprised Silvio and his mother would be to see them! Nobody had
expected them back so soon. Nobody would look for them before the end of
the week, and now there they sat by the lake-side.
They did not quit the little mound until the sun had fairly disappeared.
Rico pointed out to his companion the spot where his mother stood
washing something in the lake, and how he used to sit waiting until she
had finished; and then he told how they walked back together, hand in
hand, over the little bridge.
"But where did you go when you went back?" asked Stineli. "Have you
never found the house that you returned to?"
Rico could not say. "When I go up there, away from the lake towards the
railroad, I seem to remember that there I stood with my mother, or sat
with her upon a garden-seat with the red flowers before us; but now
nothing is to be seen like the house, and I do not even recognize the
road at all."
At last they arose, and went towards the garden. Rico carried the
portmanteau, and the girl the basket. As they entered the garden,
Stineli called out too loud, in her delight, "Oh, the beautiful,
Silvio heard these unfortunate words, and pulled himself up in an
instant, crying out, at the top of his lungs,--
"Here comes Rico with his Stineli!"
His poor mother thought that he had an attack of fever. She thrust her
things back into the chest which she was arranging,--every thing in
again, pell-mell,--and ran quickly to the bedside.
At that moment Rico walked boldly into the room, and the good woman
almost fell over backward in her surprise and delight; for until that
very instant she had secretly been a prey to the darkest fears, always
believing that Rico's adventure would cost him his life.
A maiden came behind Rico, with a friendly face that won Mrs. Menotti's
heart in a twinkling, for she was a very impressionable woman.
First of all, however, she shook Rico's hands almost off in her
welcoming grasp; and in the meantime Stineli had gone over to the
bedside and placed her arm about the thin shoulders of the child, and
smiled into his face as if they were old and dear friends, while Silvio
in return put his arm about her neck, and drew her face down to his.
Straightway Stineli placed a present for the child before him. She
had put it conveniently in her pocket, so that she could place her
hand on it at once. It was a toy that had been Peterli's favorite
before any other,--a pine-cone, with a thin wire introduced into each
little opening between the hard scales, and a little figure, made of
sole-leather, perched on the top of each bit of wire. All these tiny
figures shook and nodded so merrily towards each other, and had such
funnily painted little faces, that Silvio could scarcely stop
laughing at them.
Mrs. Menotti had learned from Rico all that he had to tell her of
importance while this play went on,--for she was anxious to learn from
himself that all had gone quietly and safely,--then she turned to the
girl, and greeted her with heartfelt kindness; and Stineli made answer
more with her kindly eyes than with her tongue, for she could not speak
a word of Italian, and had to help herself out with such Romanish words
as she had learned.
But she was quick-witted, and found a way to make herself understood
without difficulty; for, if the right word was wanting, she described
the thing cleverly with her fingers, and by all sorts of signs, which
amused Silvio exceedingly; for it was a kind of game of guessing for him
all the time.
Now Mrs. Menotti went over to the cupboard, where all the service for
the table was kept, and brought out tablecloth and plates, cold
chicken, fruit, and wine; which, when Stineli observed, she hastened
after her to aid her, and did it so neatly and handily that there
remained little for Mrs. Menotti to do; and she stood gazing at the
nimble, willing girl, who had soon served Silvio also, as he lay in
bed, cutting his food for him, and helping him neatly and rapidly,
which pleased the child very much.
Mrs. Menotti seated herself, saying, "I have not had such help as this
in many a year; but, come now, Stineli: sit down, and eat with us."
And they sat and chatted and ate together, as if they were old friends
who had always been accustomed to such free intercourse.
Rico began to give an account of the journey after they had finished
eating, and Stineli meanwhile quietly replaced every thing in the
cupboard; for she knew well enough, without being told, how such work
should be done. Then she seated herself by Silvio's bedside, and made
shadow pictures on the wall with her supple fingers; and Silvio laughed
aloud, and called the names,--"A hare! A beast with horns! A spider with
So sped away the first evening quickly and merrily, and they all were
taken by surprise when it struck ten o'clock. Rico rose, for he knew he
must be going; but a dark cloud came over his countenance.
He said shortly, "Good-night," and went away. But the girl ran after
him; and in the garden she took his hand, saying, "Now you must not be
sad, Rico, it _is_ so beautiful here. I cannot tell you how lovely I
find it, nor how happy I am; and I owe it all, all to you. And you will
come again to-morrow, and every day, will you not, Rico?"
"Yes," he said; and looked at Stineli with a most melancholy expression.
"Yes; and every evening, when it is most beautiful, I must be off and
away, because I belong to nobody."
"Oh! do not think in that way, Rico," said his friend encouragingly.
"Have we not always belonged to each other, and have not I often rejoiced
over that thought all these three years that are past? And when things
were almost unsupportable, and I longed to get away, have not I always
said to myself, 'If I could only be with Rico again, I would bear any
thing?' And now it has come about as we wished, and, indeed, far better
than I had imagined; and will you not be happy with me, Rico?"
"Yes; that I will," said the lad; and his countenance cleared a little.
He did belong to somebody, after all; and Stineli's words had restored
his tranquility. They shook hands again; and Rico went through the
garden-gate, and away.
When Stineli returned to the room, and, by Mrs. Menotti's directions,
was about to say good-night to Silvio, the child began to dispute
again, and declared that he would not be separated from his newly-found
friend even for a few hours; but would have her sit by his bedside all
night long, and say funny words to him, and look at him with her
Nothing that his mother could say produced any impression upon him,
until she spoke thus: "Very well; if you keep Stineli standing by your
bed to amuse you all night, she will soon be as ill as you are, and not
be able to get up at all, but have to lie in bed, and you will not see
her for a long time."
So, after a while, the child released his hold of Stineli's arm,
"There, go to sleep; but come to me again to-morrow early."
This was promised; and Mrs. Menotti showed the girl into a neat little
bedroom that looked out upon the garden, whence a delicious scent of
flowers rose through the open window.
With every day that passed Stineli became more and more necessary to
little Silvio. If she only went out-of-doors for a few moments, he
considered it a misfortune. He was obedient and quiet enough, however,
when she stayed with him; and did every thing she bade him do, and did
not tease his mother as before.
And it seemed as if the nervous little fellow had less frequent attacks
of pain since Stineli's arrival. Indeed, he had not complained since her
coming, and she had been with them many days.
It must certainly be acknowledged that she was the most amusing of
companions, and turned every thing that came in her way into a game. She
had always lived with children, and constantly had their entertainment
in her mind. She had also learned a great many words from Silvio, and
could soon chatter away with him at her ease; and when she did get the
words twisted and upside down, it was even more funny, and Silvio looked
upon that as a game made expressly for him.
Mrs. Menotti never saw Rico entering the garden but she ran towards him,
for now she was at liberty to move about freely; and she always drew him
a little aside to tell him what a treasure he had brought into the house
for her, how happy and gay her Silvio had become, and that she never
would have believed that such a girl as Stineli existed on the face of
the earth; for with Silvio she was as merry as if her only pleasure
consisted in playing the little games he liked, while she was as wise
and intelligent as any grown woman with Mrs. Menotti, and understood
housework so that it all seemed to go on of its own accord; and nicely,
too, as if every day were Sunday. In short, Mrs. Menotti could not find
words enough to praise Stineli in all the ways in which she found her
admirable; and Rico was always happy in listening to these praises.
When they all sat together in the pleasant room, and exchanged loving
and happy glances, they felt that they never wanted to be separated,
and called themselves the happiest family in the whole world, and
needed for nothing.
But the clouds on Rico's brow grew dark as night came on, and towards
ten o'clock every thing looked black and blacker; and even if Mrs.
Menotti, in her contentment, did not notice it, Stineli did, and
secretly worried over it, thinking, "It is just as if there were a
thunder-storm in the air."
CLOUDS ON THE BEAUTIFUL LAKE OF GARDA.
It was a beautiful Sunday in autumn, and across the Lake of Riva there
was to be a "dance evening," and Rico was to go over there to play; so
he would not be able to pass the day with Stineli and the rest. They
talked this over and over through the week, for it was a great trial to
them all when Rico did not come for Sunday; and Stineli tried to find
all sorts of little reasons to reconcile Rico, and to make the affair
seem less unpleasant.
"You will go across the lake in the sunlight, and return under the
beautiful stars; and we shall be thinking of you the whole time," she
said to him, when he first mentioned that he should be away on Sunday.
On Saturday evening Rico brought his violin, for Stineli's greatest
pleasure was to hear him play. The lad played lovely tunes one after
another; but they were all sad melodies, and seemed to make him sadder
still, for he looked down at his instrument with a kind of indignant
sorrow, as if it did him a real injury.
Suddenly he pushed it away from him, long before the clock had struck
ten, and said, "I am going away."
Mrs. Menotti tried to detain him; she could not understand what was
amiss. Stineli had looked steadily at him while he was playing. Now she
"I will go with you a little way."
"No," cried Silvio; "do not go. Stay here with me."
"Yes, yes, Stineli!" said Rico. "Stay here, and let me go alone."
And, saying this, he looked at his friend exactly as he had looked when
he came away from the schoolmaster's house, and joined Stineli at the
wood-pile, so long ago, saying then, "It is all of no use!"
Stineli went to Silvio's bedside, and said softly, "Be a good boy,
Silvio; and to-morrow I will tell you the very prettiest and drollest
story about Peterli; but now do not make a noise."
Silvio really did keep quiet, and Stineli went after Rico. When they
reached the hedge, Rico turned about, and pointed towards the brightly
lighted window that looked so pleasant and friendly from the garden, and
said, "Go back there, Stineli. You belong there, and there you are at
home; but I belong in the streets. I am a homeless fellow, and shall
always be so: now let me go away."
"No, no; I will not let you go in this mood, Rico. Where do you
mean to go?"
"To the lake," said the young man; and went towards the bridge. As they
stood together on the little mound, they were silent for a while,
listening to the murmur of the waves. At last, Rico said,--
"Do you understand, if you were not here, I would go away at once, far
away?--but I do not know where I should go. Wherever I go, I shall be
homeless, and have to be fiddling forever in public-houses where they
are noisy, just as if they had lost their senses, and I must always
sleep in a room in which I dislike to be; but you belong to them there
in that beautiful house, and I do not belong anywhere. And I tell you,
Stineli, when I look down there, I think if my mother had only cast me
to the waves before she died, then I should not have been this
With ever-increasing trouble, Stineli listened to these words of her
friend; but when he pronounced these last, she became really alarmed,
and said hastily, "O Rico! you ought not to say such things. I am sure
that you have not said 'Our Father' for a long, long time; and these
wicked thoughts are the consequence."
"No: I have not prayed for a long time," said Rico. "I have
These words gave his companion a severe shock.
"Oh, dear! what would my grandmother say to this, Rico?" she cried, in
distress. "She would be in sad trouble about you. Do not you remember
how she told us, 'He who forgets his Lord's Prayer is sure to get into
trouble?' Rico, you must learn it again. I will teach it to you this
minute: it will not take you long."
And the good girl began, with pious zeal, and repeated the prayer twice
or thrice over to her friend; and, while she thus emphasized the words,
she noticed that there was a great deal of especial comfort for Rico
contained therein; and, as she ended, she said,--
"Do not you see, Rico, if all the kingdom belongs to the good God, He
can surely find you a home? for He has all the power, so He can give it
to you if He chooses."
"Now you can plainly see, Stineli," replied the youth, "if the good God
has a home for me in His kingdom, and has the power to give it to me,
and does not, it is because He does _not_ choose to."
"Yes; but you forget something," continued Stineli. "The good God may
say, 'If Rico wants any thing from me, he should pray to me.'"
In reply to this, Rico had no answer. He remained silent for some
time; then he said, "Repeat the Lord's Prayer again, Stineli: I will
His companion gladly complied, and it was soon learned. Then they
separated, and each went home; but Rico's thoughts were busy with the
"kingdom and the power."
Once more in his quiet room, he prayed humbly, and with a softened
heart; for he felt that he had been in the wrong to believe that the
good God ought to give him what he wished for, when he did not even
remember to pray to Him.
Stineli returned to the garden very full of anxious thought. She turned
over and over in her mind whether she ought to tell all this to Mrs.
Menotti. Perhaps she might be able to find some other employment for
Rico than this fiddling in the public-houses for dancing, that was so
detestable to the lad. But the thought of troubling Mrs. Menotti with
her affairs passed quickly from her mind as she entered the room again.
Silvio lay upon his pillows with flushed cheeks, breathing heavily and
irregularly; and by the bedside sat his mother, and wept.
The little invalid had had another of his severe attacks, and a little
anger at Stineli's absence had increased the fever. His mother was so
cast down, that she did not seem to Stineli the same person at all. When
she, at last, recovered her spirits a little, she said,--
"Come here, Stineli. Sit down here by my side: I want to tell you
"I have something that lies very heavily at my heart; so heavily,
that sometimes it seems to me that I cannot bear it any longer. It is
true you are young, but you are so sensible, and have seen a great
deal; and it seems to me that I should be relieved if I could talk it
over with you.
"You see how Silvio suffers, and how ill he is,--my only son. Now I have
not only the distress of his sickness, which can never be healed, but I
often feel that perhaps it is a punishment from God, because I am
holding and enjoying an unlawful property: although, to be sure, I did
not seek to get it, and do not wish to keep it. But I will tell you
every thing from the beginning.
"When we were married, Menotti and I,--he brought me over from Riva,
where my father still lives,--Menotti had a very good friend living
here, who was just about leaving, because the land had become hateful to
him, owing to the death of his wife. This friend had a house--a little
one--and large fields, though they were not very productive. He wanted
my husband to take them all, and said that the land did not yield much;
but if he would keep it all in good order, and the house also, that he
would return to claim it in a few years.
"So the friends made their arrangements together, and said nothing about
interest. My husband said, 'You will want to find every thing as it
should be when you return;' for he meant to put it all in good
condition, and understood the cultivating of land perfectly, which was
thoroughly well known to his friend, who willingly left it all in his
hands. But about one year later the railroad was built, and the little
house had to come down, and the garden was taken too, with the fields,
for the railway went right through them. So my husband got a great deal
more money than they were really worth, and bought a far better piece of
land and a garden, and built a house, all with the money; and the land
produced fully twice what the other had, and we had most abundant
harvests. I often said, 'It does not really belong to us, and we are
living in luxury from the property of another. How I wish that we knew
where he is!' But my husband quieted me, and said, 'I am keeping it all
in order for him, and when he comes it is all his; and as to the profit
that I have laid aside, he must have his share also.'
"Then Silvio was born; and when I discovered that the little fellow was
ill, I kept saying over and over to my husband, 'We are living on
property to which we have no right, and we are punished for it.' And
sometimes it was so dreadful to me that poverty would have been more
tolerable, and I would have gladly been homeless.
"My husband always tried to console me, and said, 'You will see how
pleased he will be with me when he returns.' But he did not return. My
husband died: it is now four years ago. Oh, what a life I have led since
then! always thinking how can I be free from this unlawful property
without doing any thing wrong, for it is my duty to keep it in good
condition until our friend comes; and then I feared that he might be in
misery somewhere while I am living so comfortably on his property, and
know nothing of his whereabouts."
Stineli felt sincerely how much Mrs. Menotti was to be pitied; for she
perfectly well understood her feeling, and how she was always
reproaching herself for a thing that she could not change, and she
comforted the good woman, saying,--
"When any one does not mean to do wrong, and means not to do wrong,
then there is nothing but to trust to the good God and pray to Him for
help; for He can turn our evil into His good, and He will do so when
we are truly repentant over evil. I know all this from my
grandmother's teaching; for once I was in great distress, and did not
know what to do."
Then she told about Rico and the lake that he was always thinking of,
and how she was the cause of his running away, and full of fear that it
had cost him his life. But she said that she felt perfectly at ease
after she had cast her burden on the Lord; and she advised Mrs. Menotti
to do likewise, and assured her that she would derive the truest comfort
from so doing. After this conversation Mrs. Menotti felt much relieved,
and said they would all go to rest now, and thanked her young counsellor
for her advice.
One beautiful Sunday morning in autumn, Mrs. Menotti seated herself on
the garden-bench in the midst of the glowing red flowers, and
thoughtfully gazed about her,--now at the oleander and laurel bushes,
now at the fig-trees laden with fruit, and again at the vines heavy with
golden grapes; and she said, softly, "God knows I should be glad if I
could lay aside this feeling of wrong-doing that weighs on my
conscience, but certainly such a lovely spot as this one I could never
find for a home."
Presently Rico came into the garden. He was obliged to go away in the
afternoon; and he never passed a whole day without paying them a visit,
if it were possible to do otherwise. As he was passing on towards
Silvio's room, Mrs. Menotti called him.
"Come and sit down by me, Rico, for a moment. Who knows how long we may
be able to stay in this place together?"
Rico was alarmed.
"Why do you say this, Mrs. Menotti? You do not think of going
away, do you?"
Mrs. Menotti had to stop, for she could not tell him all her story. She
remembered what Stineli had said to her the evening before about Rico.
She was so full of her own thoughts at that time, that she did not
fairly take in the import of her words. Now she began to wonder about
it, the more she thought it over.
"Do tell me, Rico," she said, "were you ever here earlier?--I mean
before; or what made you want to see the lake again, as Stineli told me
was the case yesterday?"
"Yes; when I was little," said the lad. "Then I went away."
"How did you get here when you were little, Rico?"
"I was born here."
"What! here? What was your father, if he came here from the
"He did not come here from the mountains; only my mother did."
"Do I hear aright, Rico? Was your father born here?"
"Certainly. He was a native of this place."
"You never told me this before. This is wonderful. You have not a name
like the people here. What was your father's name?"
"What was his name? It was Henrico Trevillo."
Mrs. Menotti sprang up from the seat as if she had had a shock.
"What did you say, Rico?" she cried out. "What did you say just now?
Tell me again."
"I told you my father's name."
Mrs. Menotti was not listening: she ran towards the door.
"Stineli, bring me a kerchief," she cried. "I must go to the priest at
once: I am trembling all over."
In great surprise, Stineli brought out the kerchief.
"Come with me a few steps, Rico," said the good woman, as she went
through the garden. "I must ask you something more."
Rico had to repeat his father's name twice over; and when they had
fairly reached the door of the priest's house, for a third time Mrs.
"What did you say it was? Are you quite sure?"
She hurried into the priest's house, and left Rico wondering what could
have happened to put her into such a way.
Rico had brought his violin with him, for he knew that Stineli was
particularly pleased to hear it. When he reached Silvio's room, he
found the little boy and his companion in the best of humor. Stineli
had fulfilled her promise about the story of Peterli's funny doings,
and this had amused Silvio exceedingly. When the latter espied the
violin, he cried out at once, "Now let us sing; let us sing the
'Lambkins' with Stineli."
Stineli had never heard her song since it was composed that day on the
mountain, for now Rico played such beautiful airs that she had quite
forgotten the old ones. But she was astonished to hear Silvio asking
for the German song, for she had no idea of the hundred times the two
boys had repeated it during the three years that were past. She was
much pleased to hear the old song again, and, above all, to sing it
with Rico; and so they began. Silvio sang with all his might,--without
understanding a single word, to be sure, but the tune was quite
correct. It was the girl's turn to laugh now; for Silvio's
pronunciation was most wonderful, and she could not join in for
laughter, and it was contagious; for the child could not resist the
merry expression of her face, and joined her in laughing, and sang
again still more queerly and louder; and all the while Rico played his
accompaniment without stopping.
And thus Mrs. Menotti's ears were greeted with laughter and song as she
drew near the house on her return, and she could not understand how they
could be so light-hearted and merry on such a momentous occasion. She
came hastily through the garden, and into the room, and sank upon the
nearest seat; for the shock and the joy, and the anticipation of what
was to follow, had overpowered her, and she needed to recover herself a
little. The sight of her agitation silenced the singers, and they gazed
at her in surprise. At last she recovered, and said,--
"Rico,"--and her voice was quite solemn,--"Rico, listen to me. Look
about you. This house, this garden, that field,--all, all that you can
see, and much that you cannot see, belongs to you: it is all yours. You
are the owner; it is your inheritance from your father; your home is
here; your name stands in the baptismal record; you are the son of
Henrico Trevillo, and he was my husband's dearest friend."
Stineli had understood the whole story at the first word, and her face
beamed with unspeakable happiness.
Rico sat as if turned to stone, and made no sound; but Silvio broke out
into shouts of delight,--it was all a play to him.
"Oh! now the house belongs to Rico, where is he going to sleep?"
"He can sleep in any room he chooses, Silvio. He can sleep in them all
if he wishes to. He can turn us all out-of-doors if he has a mind to,
and stay all sole alone in this house."
"I am sure I should much prefer to go away with you, then," said Rico.
"Oh, you good Rico!" cried Mrs. Menotti. "If you will let us stay here,
we shall be so glad to remain. I have thought it out as I came along
towards home, and know how we can arrange it so that we shall be happy.
I will take half of the house of you, and the same with the garden and
all the land; so one half will be yours, and the other Silvio's."
"I shall give my half to Stineli," said the child.
"So shall I," said Rico.
"Oh, ho! now the whole thing belongs to her,--the garden, and the house,
and all that is in them; and Rico and his fiddle, and I too. Now let us
go on with our song."
But Rico did not take the same view of the affair as his little friend.
He had thought over Mrs. Menotti's words, and now asked, anxiously,--
"I do not understand how Silvio's house can belong to me because our
fathers were friends."
It now occurred to Mrs. Menotti for the first time that Rico did not
know any thing about the circumstances; and she told him the whole
story, with all the particulars, even more minutely than she had told it
to Stineli; and when she had finished they all understood perfectly how
it was, and were at liberty to rejoice without restraint; for since the
house and all belonged partly to Rico, there was no reason why he should
not take possession at once, and never leave them again; and their
rejoicing was great.
In the midst of their merry-making Rico said, suddenly,--
"Since things have turned out this way, Mrs. Menotti, do not let any of
the arrangements be disturbed in the house; but every thing go on as
usual. I will simply come here to live, and you shall be our mother."
"O Rico! to think that it is yours, that it is you who are the _master_.
How good God is to let it all turn out in this way,--that I can give it
all to you, and yet stay here myself with a clear conscience. I will be
a mother to you, Rico; and indeed you have long been as dear to me as if
you were my own child. Now you must call me 'mother,' and so must
Stineli; and we shall be the happiest household in all Peschiera."
"Well, now let us finish our song," cried little Silvio; for he was so
excited and glad that he felt that singing was the only way to express
his joy; and the others were not unwilling to join him, and they did
finish their song; then Stineli said,--
"Now will you not sing one other song with me, Rico? You know which
one I mean."
And they sang the grandmother's hymn piously, and in beautiful accord,
especially the favorite verses at the end,--
"He never yet has done amiss;
And, perfect in His sight,
All that He does or orders is
Sure to be finished right.
"Now only let His 'will be done,'
Nor clamor constantly,
Peace to the heart on earth will come,
And joy eternally."
The next day Rico did not go to Riva. Mother Menotti advised him to go
at once to the landlady, to explain to her the change in his
circumstances, and to order another fiddler to be sent to Riva, while he
at once entered upon his possessions. Well pleased with these
suggestions, the youth hastened to carry them out.
The landlady heard his wonderful story with great interest, and at the
end she called out to her husband and told it all over to him, and
testified real pleasure at the good fortune that had befallen her young
friend, and was sincere in what she said. She certainly was sorry to
lose him; but she had suspected for some time that the hostess of the
"Three Crowns" was making advances to Rico in the hope of enticing him
away from her; and that would have been dreadful to the "Golden Sun."
Now any danger of that misfortune was averted, and she was glad to hear
that Rico was a house and land holder himself, for he was a great
favorite with her. Her husband was particularly well pleased; for he had
been a friend of Rico's father, and did not now understand why he had
not earlier noticed that the lad was the exact image of the man.
So the farewells were all spoken in good feeling, and the landlady took
his hand at parting, and asked for his patronage if ever there was
occasion for her services in his house.
That very evening the news was known in all Peschiera, with all the true
details, and a great many more; and everybody expressed pleasure, and
said that Rico looked exactly as if he owned an estate, and would grace
Mother Menotti did not know how she could do enough to make Rico
comfortable in his own house. She arranged the big room for him--the
one that had two windows overlooking the garden, and with a view over
the lake--with beautiful marble statuettes adorning the walls; and on
the table she placed a vase of flowers, and the whole room was most
prettily furnished, so that Rico stood still on the threshold when, at
Mrs. Menotti's request, Stineli led him up there. And when the kind,
motherly woman took his hand and led him to the window, and he looked
down in the shimmering lake, and over at the purple mountains in the
distance, his heart filled to overflowing with thankfulness, and he
could only murmur, softly,--
"Oh, how beautiful! And this is my home!" And now day after day the four
happy friends lived their peaceful life in the comfortable room looking
on the garden, where Silvio lay, and never perceived how the time was
In the daytime Rico went about with his whistling servant lad through
the fig-trees and over the fields planted with corn, for he wanted to
learn the care of it all.
Now the servant naturally thought, "I know much more than my new
master," and felt sensible of his superiority over Rico; but when, in
the evening, beautiful and heart-stirring music came forth upon the
evening breeze from the well-lighted room, where they all sat
together, the boy leaned against the hedge and listened for long
hours; for music was his greatest delight, and he said to himself, "My
master knows more than I do, after all;" and he could not help feeling
a great respect for Rico.
SUNSHINE ON THE LAKE OF GARDA.
Two years have passed, every day bringing more enjoyment than the last.
To Stineli came the knowledge that it was time for her to return to her
home, and she had many a hard battle with herself to keep up her courage
and cheerfulness; for to go away, and probably never return, was the
most dreadful prospect that ever presented itself to the young girl's
imagination. Rico also knew what was before them, and sometimes he would
only speak when it became absolutely necessary. And a strange, unnatural
feeling took possession of mother Menotti, and she tried to discover the
secret cause; for she had quite forgotten that Stineli was to go home
again to be confirmed. When at last the cause of the trouble came out,
she said, "Oh! you can put that off for another year;" and so things
fell back into their old comfort again.
On the third year, however, a message came from Bergamo (some one came
down there from the mountain) that Stineli was wanted at home, and must
go. Now there was no help for it. Silvio might fight against it like one
possessed: it did no good. Against fate it is useless to struggle.
Mother Menotti said, day after day, towards the end, "Only promise to
come back, Stineli. You may tell your father I will do any thing he
wishes, if he will only let you come back soon."
Rico said nothing at all. And Stineli went off; and day after day it
seemed as if a big black cloud lay over the household, and as if the
very sun outside had ceased to shine.
And so it went on from November to Easter, when everybody was rejoicing;
but it was still sad in Rico's house. After the Easter festival was
over, and every thing was beginning to be more beautiful than ever
before in the garden, and flowers and sweet odors were spread all
abroad, Rico sat by Silvio's bedside, and played every sad melody that
he could remember, until the little fellow was in a most melancholy
mood, when suddenly from the garden a merry voice called out,--
"Rico, Rico! have you no more cheerful welcome for me than this?"
Silvio screamed as if beside himself. Rico threw his violin on the bed,
and ran out; and mother Menotti came in, half frightened.
On the threshold stood Rico with Stineli; and so in Silvio's room there
was the long-lost sunshine back again, and they were as merry as ever
again, and happy as they had never believed would be possible during
their long separation. There they all sat at table by Silvio's bedside,
and questioned and answered, and told all that had happened, and ever
and again broke out into rejoicing over their reunion. Who would have
thought, to see them there, that any thing could be wanting to the
perfect happiness of these four people? But Rico knew another tale. In
the midst of all the merriment, he became absent-minded, and fell into
one of his old dreamy moods. It did not last as long as formerly,
however. He must have reached a satisfactory conclusion pretty soon; for
suddenly his reverie was over, and he said these words, with the utmost
decision, "Stineli must be my wife this very moment, or else she will
have to go away again directly; and that we could not endure."
This decision pleased Silvio mightily; and in a short time they were
all of the same way of thinking, that the sooner the marriage took
place the better.
On the very most beautiful May morning that ever shone over Peschiera, a
long procession started from the church towards the "Golden Sun."
At the head, tall and well-proportioned, came Rico with his stately
mien; and at his side walked Stineli, looking happy and pretty, her
smooth braids crowned with the fresh bridal wreath. Next in the
procession, in a well-upholstered little wagon, drawn by two merry
Peschiera urchins, Silvio might be seen, beaming with satisfaction like
a triumphant victor; and last of all followed mother Menotti, very much
moved and affected, in a rustling wedding-dress; behind her the servant
lad, with a nosegay that covered his whole shirt-front; and after them
streamed all Peschiera, with the very noisiest kind of participation,
for they all wanted to look at the handsome couple, and to do them
honor. It was almost like a great family festival, in which they all
joined to help the strayed and lost Peschiera boy to found his own home
in his native town.
The joy of the landlady of the "Golden Sun," when she saw the procession
coming towards her house, is quite indescribable. Whenever the question
arose concerning any wedding, low or high, she always said, with
"That is nothing at all in comparison with Rico's wedding in the
The house in the garden never again lost its sunshine, and Stineli took
good care "Our Father" was never forgotten again; and on every Sunday
evening the grandmother's hymn was sung in the garden in full chorus.
HOW WISELI WAS PROVIDED FOR.
On one of the hills surrounding the city of Bern a little village is
perched which shall be nameless in this story; but if you are curious,
and go there in your travels, perhaps you may recognize it from the
following description. On the very top of the hill stands one solitary
house, with a beautiful garden about it. It is called "On the Height,"
and is the property of Colonel Ritter. The descent to the little square,
where the church and parsonage stand, is sharp (in the parsonage the
colonel's wife passed her happy days of childhood); and somewhat farther
down is the schoolhouse, amid a little cluster of houses; while on the
left, as you still descend, you see a lonely cottage with a pretty,
well-kept garden, surrounded by currant-bushes, and adorned with
mignonette and pinks, and a few roses amidst its chiccory and spinach.
This is the last house on the road, which, from here on, makes one long
stretch downward to the highway that goes far out into the country,
parallel with the river Aar.
This long, unbroken descent forms, in winter, the most perfect
coasting-ground imaginable; for once you are past the steep bit by the
colonel's house, you may go on without interruption quite down to the
road by the river; that is, always supposing that you make a fair start
at the beginning.
This coast was an endless source of pleasure to the army of children who
daily poured out of the door of the old schoolhouse when lesson hours
were over, ran to the yard where they had piled their sleds on entering,
took each his own from the heap, and scampered off in wild haste to
begin their afternoon amusement. How the hours passed no one could
imagine: down flew the sleds in a twinkling, and nobody felt the trouble
of climbing up the hill, so full were all the little heads of the
pleasure of going down again; and so the night, and the time for
returning to their homes for supper, always took them by surprise.
This usually occasioned a stormy scene before they left the
coasting-ground; for everybody wished to go down "once more," and then
"just _once_ more," and then "one single turn more,"--so that everybody
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