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Title: Heimatlos - Two stories for children, and for those who love children
Author: Spyri, Johanna, 1827-1901
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Heimatlos - Two stories for children, and for those who love children" ***

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    HEIMATLOS

    _TWO STORIES FOR CHILDREN, AND FOR THOSE WHO LOVE CHILDREN_


    BY
    JOHANNA SPYRI

    TRANSLATION BY
    EMMA STELTER HOPKINS

    WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY
    FREDERICK RICHARDSON

    GINN AND COMPANY
    BOSTON · NEW YORK · CHICAGO · LONDON


    COPYRIGHT, 1912, BY EMMA S. HOPKINS
    ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
    912.8

    The Athenæum Press
    GINN AND COMPANY · PROPRIETORS · BOSTON · U.S.A.



PREFACE


In the translation of "Heimatlos" an effort has been made to hold as
far as possible to the original, in order to give the reader of
English the closest possible touch with the story as it stands in the
German. This method retains the author's delightful simplicity, and it
leaves revealed, even in her roundabout way of telling things, her
charming adaptability as a writer for children.

The adult reader will pardon the repetitions, where the same thought
is expressed in different ways, when it is remembered that the author
is making doubly sure of reaching the understanding of the young mind.
The literal rendering has been sacrificed only in a few instances, and
then because of local idioms and national standards.

It is the hope of the translator that these two stories, so widely
read by the children of Germany, will help our own little ones, in
these days of general prosperity, to appreciate the everyday comforts
of home, to which they grow so accustomed as often to take them for
granted, with little evidence of gratitude.

                                                          E. S. H.



    CONTENTS


    LAKE SILS AND LAKE GARDA

    CHAPTER                                            PAGE
         I. THE QUIET HOME                                1
        II. IN SCHOOL                                     5
       III. THE SCHOOLMASTER'S VIOLIN                    10
        IV. THE DISTANT LAKE WITHOUT A NAME              17
         V. THE LAKE HAS A NAME                          22
        VI. RICO'S MOTHER                                25
       VII. A PRECIOUS LEGACY AND A PRECIOUS PRAYER      28
      VIII. AT LAKE SILS                                 33
        IX. A PUZZLING OCCURRENCE                        39
         X. A LITTLE LIGHT                               43
        XI. A LONG JOURNEY                               45
       XII. THE JOURNEY CONTINUED                        54
      XIII. LAKE GARDA                                   60
       XIV. NEW FRIENDS                                  67
        XV. AN EMPHATIC APPEAL                           82
       XVI. THE ADVICE                                   86
      XVII. OVER THE MOUNTAINS                           94
     XVIII. TWO HAPPY TRAVELERS                         103
       XIX. CLOUDS AT LAKE GARDA                        111
        XX. AT HOME                                     117
       XXI. SUNSHINE AT LAKE GARDA                      127


    WISELI FINDS HER PLACE

    CHAPTER                                            PAGE
         I. COASTING                                    133
        II. THE HOME ON THE HILL                        138
       III. ANOTHER HOME                                155
        IV. THE GOTTI HOME                              163
         V. HOW LIFE CONTINUES AND SUMMER COMES         174
        VI. A NEW FEATURE                               192
       VII. BRIGHTER DAYS FOR THE PATIENT
            AND FOR SOME ONE ELSE                       205
      VIII. THE UNEXPECTED HAPPENS                      216

    PRONOUNCING VOCABULARY                              231



HEIMATLOS

LAKE SILS AND LAKE GARDA



CHAPTER I

THE QUIET HOME


In the Upper Engadine Valley, on the road leading up to the Maloja
Pass, lies a lonely town called Sils. Taking a diagonal path from the
street back to the mountains, one comes to a smaller village known as
Sils-Maria. Here, a little aside from the highway, in a field, two
dwellings stood opposite each other. Both had old-fashioned doors and
tiny windows set deep in the wall. One house had a garden, where herbs
and vegetables and a few straggling flowers were growing. The other,
which was much smaller, had only an old stable with a couple of
chickens wandering in and out of it.

At the same hour every morning there came out of this forlorn little
house a man who was so tall that he had to stoop in order to pass
through the doorway. His hair and eyes were very dark, and the lower
part of his face was hidden by a heavy black beard. Familiar as this
man's figure was to the people of Sils, they always spoke of him as
"the Italian." His work took him regularly up the Maloja, where the
roads were being improved, or down the Pass to St. Moritz Bath, where
some new houses were going up.

Each morning a boy followed the man to the door and stood looking
wistfully after him. It would have been hard to say just what those
great dark eyes were fixed upon, their gaze seemed so far reaching.

Sunday afternoons, when the weather was favorable, the father and son
would go for a walk together. So striking was the likeness between
them that no one could help noticing it, although in the bearded face
of the man the sadness was less apparent. They seldom spoke, but
sometimes the man would hum or whistle a tune, and then the boy would
listen eagerly. It was easy to see that music was their chief
pleasure. When they were kept in the house by bad weather, the father
would play familiar airs on a mouth organ or on a whistle that he had
made himself--perhaps on a comb or even on a leaf from a tree. Once he
brought home a violin, which delighted the boy beyond measure. He
watched the father intently as he played, and later tried to bring out
the same notes himself. He must have succeeded fairly well, for the
man laughed, and laying his own fingers over the little ones, played
several melodies from beginning to end.

The next day, while the father was away, the boy practiced until he
succeeded in playing his favorite tune, but after that the violin
disappeared and was never brought back again. Sometimes, however, the
father would sing in his deep voice,--softly, perhaps, at first, but
louder as he caught the spirit of the music. Then the boy would sing,
too, and when the words failed him--for the songs were in Italian,
which he did not understand--he could still hum the air. There was one
tune that he knew better than all the rest, for it was one his father
had sung over and over again. It had many verses, and this was the way
it began:

    "Una sera
    In Peschiera--"

Though the music was sad, this song was the boy's favorite. He would
always sing it with much feeling, his clear, bell-like voice blending
smoothly with the father's rich bass. Often when they had finished all
the verses, the man would put his hand on his son's shoulder and say,
"Good, Enrico! that went very well." Only his father called him
"Enrico"; to all others he was simply "Rico."

There was still another person who lived in the little cottage. This
was Rico's aunt, who kept house for the father and himself. In the
winter, when she sat spinning beside the stove and it was too stormy
to be out of doors, Rico had to be very careful of his behavior.
Everything he did seemed to annoy her. The faultfinding made the
loneliness still harder to bear when, as often happened, the father's
work kept him away from home for days at a time.

Sometimes when Rico tried to escape from the presence of his aunt, she
would say sharply: "Shut the door and sit down, Rico. You are forever
letting the cold air into the house."

He was thankful that his bed upstairs offered a safe retreat after
supper; and then he always had the pleasant anticipation that his
father would probably soon come home again.



CHAPTER II

IN SCHOOL


Rico was nearly nine years old and had attended school two winters.
There was no school in the mountains in the summer, for every one,
including the teacher, was busy farming. Rico did not mind this,
however, for he had his own way of passing the time. In the morning he
would go out to the doorsteps where he would remain watching the house
opposite until a girl with laughing eyes beckoned him to come across.
They always had much to say to each other of all that had happened
since they were together before. Her name was Stineli, and she and
Rico were nearly the same age. They had always gone to school
together, were in the same classes, and from the first had been the
best of friends.

Rico extended his intimacy to no one else. It was little pleasure to
him to be with the boys of the neighborhood. When they wrestled in the
school yard, Rico either walked away or paid no attention to them. If,
however, they attacked him, he would face them with such a strange
look that they ceased troubling him.

With Stineli he was perfectly contented. She had a lovely face with
merry light-brown eyes. Her fluffy golden hair was gathered into two
heavy braids which hung loosely from her shoulders. She was scarcely
nine years old, but there were seven younger brothers and sisters. For
these she had to do a great many things, so that her time for play was
sadly limited. The other children were Trudt, Sam, Peter, Urschli,
Anna, Kunzli, and the baby. Calls for Stineli seemed to come from
every direction, and she willingly helped wherever she could. The
mother said that Stineli could put on three pairs of stockings for the
little ones while Trudt, the younger sister, was getting a child's
foot in place for the first one.

Stineli went to school gladly, for there was always the pleasant walk
going and returning with Rico. So many duties fell to her share during
the summer that she had no leisure except on Sunday afternoons. Then
she and Rico, who had usually been waiting on the doorsteps opposite,
would go hand in hand over the wide meadow to the wooded hill beyond
that stretched far out into the lake. There they would sit and look
down into the water and watch the waves beat against the shore. Here
they enjoyed themselves so much that Stineli was happy all the week in
looking forward to the pleasure of the next Sunday.

There was some one else who contributed greatly to Stineli's
pleasure. This was her aged grandmother, who made her home with the
family. She noticed how much was expected of Stineli and often gave
her bits of money to brighten a hard day's work. She was very fond of
Rico and occasionally made it possible for Stineli to play with him by
taking the household duties upon herself.

The grandmother frequently spent the summer evenings sitting in the
front yard, and Stineli and Rico liked to sit with her and listen to
the stories she told them. When the vesper bell rang she would say,
"Remember, that is the signal for our evening worship." Then the three
would devoutly repeat the Lord's Prayer.

"Your evening devotion ought never to be neglected," the grandmother
continued one evening; "I have lived many more years than you have,
and I have known many people, but I have observed that there is a time
in the life of every one when prayer is needful. I have some in mind
who did not pray, but when troubles came they had nothing to comfort
them. I want you to know that you need not worry so long as you use
this prayer."

It was May and the school was still in session, although it could not
be kept open much longer, for the trees were beginning to show green
tips, and great stretches of ground were entirely free from snow.
Rico was standing in the doorway, observing these facts while waiting
for Stineli. Earlier than usual the door across the way opened and she
ran to him.

"Have you been waiting long? No doubt you've been building air castles
at the same time," she said, laughing. "We shall not be late to-day,
even if we walk slowly. Do you ever think about that pretty lake any
more?" asked Stineli, as they walked along.

"Indeed I do," replied Rico; "I often dream of it, too, and I see
large red flowers near the violet-colored hills I told you about."

"But dreams don't count," broke in Stineli. "I have dreamed that Peter
climbed up the tallest tree, but when he got to the topmost branch I
thought it was only a bird, and then he called to me to dress him.
That proves how impossible dreams may be."

"This one of mine is possible," asserted Rico. "It makes me think of
something that I have really seen, and I know that I have looked at
those flowers and the hills. The picture is too real to be a dream
only." As they neared the schoolhouse a company of children ran to
meet them, and they all entered the schoolroom together.

In a few moments the teacher came. He was an old man who had taught in
this room many years, and his hair had grown thin and gray as the
years passed by. This morning he began the exercises with a number of
questions on previous work, following this with the song, "Little
Lambs."

Rico was looking so attentively at the teacher's fingering of the
violin strings that he forgot to sing. The children, being accustomed
to depending upon Rico's voice, sang out of tune, and the notes from
the violin became more and more uncertain until all was in confusion.
The song was abruptly ended by the teacher's throwing the violin on
the table in disgust. "What are you trying to sing, you foolish
children?" he exclaimed. "If I only knew who gets so out of tune and
spoils the whole song!"

A lad sitting next to Rico ventured to say, "I know why it went that
way; it always does when Rico doesn't sing."

"What is that I hear about you, Rico?" began the teacher, sharply.
"You are a very obedient little fellow, but inattention is a serious
fault, the result of which you have just seen. Let us try again. Now,
Rico, see that you sing this time."

The children joined heartily, and Rico's voice sustained the song to
the end. Then the teacher gave the violin a few final strokes and laid
it on the table. "A good instrument that!" he said, and rubbed his
hands with evident satisfaction.



CHAPTER III

THE SCHOOLMASTER'S VIOLIN


After school Stineli and Rico found their way out of the mass of
children and started for home.

"Were you dreaming about your lake when you forgot to sing this
morning?" asked Stineli.

"No, something quite different," answered Rico. "I was watching the
teacher, and I am sure that I can play 'Little Lambs,' if I only had a
violin."

The wish must have been a heartfelt one with Rico, for he said it with
such a deep sigh that Stineli's sympathy was at once aroused and she
said: "We will buy one together. I have ever so many pennies that
grandmother gave me--I think twelve in all. How many have you?"

"Not one," said Rico, sadly. "My father gave me some before he went
away, but my aunt took them. She said that I would only squander them
anyway. I know we can't get those."

"Maybe we have enough without them," said Stineli, consolingly.
"Grandmother will give me more soon, and it can't be, Rico, that a
violin costs much. You know it is only a piece of old wood with four
strings drawn across it. That ought not to cost a great deal. Ask the
teacher to-morrow how much one costs, and then we will try to get
one."

So the subject was left, but Stineli secretly resolved to get up early
to build the fires, because grandmother would notice it and give her
some more pennies.

The following day, after school, Stineli went out without Rico and
stood at the corner of the building waiting for him. Rico was to ask
the teacher concerning the violin. She waited so long that she
wondered what could be keeping him, but finally he appeared.

"What did he say? How much does it cost?" inquired Stineli, eagerly.

"I didn't dare ask him," said Rico in a dejected tone.

"Oh, what a shame!" she exclaimed; but noticing Rico's sadness, she
added, "It doesn't matter, Rico; you can ask him to-morrow." Then, in
her cheerful way, she took his hand and they walked home without
further mention of the subject.

Rico had no better success, however, on the second day nor on the
third. He remained nearly half an hour at the teacher's entrance, not
finding the courage to ring the bell. The fourth evening Stineli said
to herself, "If he doesn't ask the teacher to-night, I will." This
time, however, as Rico was standing at the door, the teacher came out
suddenly and noticed the boy's hesitating attitude.

"What does this mean, Rico?" he asked, standing surprised and
perplexed before him. "Why do you come to a person's door without
rapping? If you have no business here, why don't you go home? If you
wish to tell me something, you may do so now."

"What does a violin cost?" asked Rico, timidly.

The teacher's surprise and mistrust increased.

"Rico," he said severely, "what am I to think of you? Have you come
purposely to ask useless questions, or what is your idea? Will you
tell me what object you have in asking me what you did?"

"I only wish to find out what a violin costs," said Rico, still
trembling at his own boldness.

"You do not understand, Rico; now listen to what I say. One asks
something for a reason, otherwise it would be a useless question. Now
answer me truthfully, Rico, did you ask me this out of curiosity, or
did some one who wishes to buy a violin send you?"

"I should like to buy one," said Rico, a little more bravely.

"What did you say?" broke out the teacher, impatiently. "Such a
senseless boy--and an Italian besides--to wish to buy a violin! You
scarcely know what a violin is. Can you imagine how old I was before I
was able to buy one? I was twenty-two years old and ready to enter my
life work as teacher. What a child, to think of buying a violin! Now,
to show you how foolish you are, I will tell you the price of one. Six
solid dollars is what I paid for mine. Can you grasp an idea of the
amount? We will put it into pennies. If one dollar contains one
hundred pennies, then six dollars would contain six times one hundred,
which is--Now, Rico, you are not dull at your studies; six times one
hundred is--"

"Six hundred pennies," supplemented Rico, softly, for his voice nearly
failed him as he compared Stineli's twelve pennies with this large
sum.

"But further, Rico," continued the teacher, "do you suppose that one
need only to buy a violin in order to play it? One has to do much more
than that. Just step in and let me show you."

The teacher opened the door as he spoke and took down the violin from
its place on the wall.

"There, take it on your arm and hold the bow in your hand; so, my boy.
Now, if you can sound _C, D, E, F,_ I will give you a half dollar
right away."

Rico actually had the violin on his arm! His face flushed, as with
sparkling eyes he played firmly and correctly, _C, D, E, F_.

"You little rascal!" exclaimed the teacher. "Where did you learn that?
Who taught you so that you can find the notes?"

"I know something else too, if I might play it," Rico ventured to say.

"Play it," directed the teacher.

Rico played the melody of the song, "Little Lambs," with the greatest
confidence, his eyes speaking his pleasure.

The teacher had taken a chair and put on his spectacles. He had looked
attentively at Rico's fingers, moving with easy grace, then at his
joyous countenance, and again at his fingers. The boy had played
correctly.

"Come to me, Rico," said the teacher, as he moved his chair to the
window and put Rico directly in front of him; "I want to talk a little
with you. You see, your father is an Italian, Rico, and they do all
sorts of things down there, they say, that we know nothing of up here
in the hills. Now look me in the eyes and tell me the truth. How is it
that you are able to play this tune correctly on my violin?"

Rico looked steadily at the teacher and said frankly, "I learned it
from you in school, where we sing it so often."

The teacher got up and paced the floor. This put the matter in an
entirely different light. So he was himself the cause of this
wonderful intelligence! All his suspicions vanished, and he
good-naturedly took out his pocketbook.

"There is the half dollar, Rico; it belongs to you. You had better go
now, but keep on being attentive to the violin playing. It may be that
you can make it amount to something, so that in twelve or fourteen
years you can buy a violin for yourself. Good night."

Rico had looked longingly at the violin when he realized that he must
go, and he now laid it very tenderly on the table. He was pondering
the last words of the teacher, when Stineli came running to meet him.

"How long it did take you!" she exclaimed. "Did you ask him?"

"Yes, but it is all of no use," said Rico with frowning brow. "A
violin costs six hundred pennies, and in fourteen years, when
everybody will probably be dead, he thought I could perhaps buy one.
Who wants to live fourteen years from now? There, you may take that; I
don't want it," and he put the half dollar into Stineli's hand.

"Six hundred pennies!" repeated Stineli in amazement. "And how did you
get this money?"

Rico told Stineli what had passed between him and the teacher, and
again said, "It is of no use."

Stineli urged Rico to keep the money, but he would not take it again.

"Then I will keep it and put it away with the pennies, and it shall
belong to us both," she said.

Even Stineli felt discouraged, but happier thoughts came to her as
they turned the corner to enter the field and she saw the indications
of spring on every hand.

"See, Rico, it will be summer in a short time, and we can go to the
woods once more. Let us go this Sunday so that you will be happy
again."

"I shall never be happy again, Stineli, but if you would like to go, I
will go with you."

They arranged their plans so that they could go the following Sunday.
It was not an easy task for Stineli to get away, for Peter, Sam, and
Urschli had the measles, and a goat was sick at the stable. She was
kept busy from the time she returned from school until late at night.
Saturday she worked all day and much later than usual, but did it so
willingly and was so cheerful that her father said: "Stineli is a
perfect treasure. She makes us all happy."



CHAPTER IV

THE DISTANT LAKE WITHOUT A NAME


When Stineli awoke the following morning, she instantly realized that
it was Sunday. The grandmother's words of the previous evening were
still fresh in her memory, "You deserve the whole afternoon to-morrow,
and you shall have it."

After dinner, when Stineli had finished all the necessary duties and
was prepared to join Rico, Peter called from his bed, "Stineli, come,
stay with me!"

The two others who were ill shouted, "No, no, Stineli, we want you!"

The father said, "I should like to have you go to the barn and take a
look at the goat first."

"Hush, everybody!" broke in the grandmother. "Stineli shall go in
peace. I will look after these things myself. Remember, dear, that
when the vesper bell rings, you are to come home like good children."
The grandmother knew that there would be two of them.

Stineli flew away like a bird for whom the door of its cage had been
opened, and went directly to Rico, who was waiting as usual. The sun
was shining pleasantly, and the heaven was an unbroken blue above them
as they crossed the meadow to reach the hill beyond. They still found
patches of snow in the shaded places, until they got up where the
whole surface had been exposed to the sun; from here they could see
the waves beating steadily against the rocks on the shore. They
searched for a dry place on a cliff directly over the water, and here
they sat down. The wind was blowing a sharp gale at this height; it
whistled in their ears and swayed the woods above them like a living
mass of green.

"Oh, see, Rico, how beautiful it is here!" exclaimed Stineli as she
looked about. "I am so glad that spring has come again. See how the
water sparkles in the sunlight. There really cannot be a prettier lake
than this one."

"I should say there is!" exclaimed Rico. "You ought to see the one I
mean! No such black fir trees with needles grow by my lake. We have
shining green leaves and large red flowers there. The hills are not so
high and black, nor so near, but show their violet colors from a
distance. The sky and water are all a golden glow, and there is such a
warm, fragrant air that one can always sit on the shore without being
cold. The wind never blows like this, and there is no snow to cover
one's shoes as ours are covered now."

This description convinced Stineli that Rico was not speaking of a
place that he had simply dreamed about, so she said half sadly:
"Perhaps you can go there sometime and see it again. Do you know the
way?"

"No," answered Rico, "but I know that you have to go up the Maloja. I
have been as far as that with my father, and he showed me the road
that leads ever and ever so far down toward the lake. It is such a
long way that you could hardly get there."

"It would be easy enough," remarked Stineli. "All you have to do is
just to keep right on going farther and farther and at last you _must_
get there."

"Yes," said Rico, "but father told me something else too. You have to
go to hotels to eat and to sleep on the way, and it takes money for
that."

"But think of the money we own together!" cried Stineli.

Rico frowned and said: "That doesn't amount to anything. I found that
out when I wanted to buy a violin."

"Then you had better stay at home and not go, Rico. It is always nice
to be at home."

Rico sat lost in thought, his head resting on his arm. Stineli was
busy gathering some moss and shaping it into pillows, which she
intended to take to the sick ones when she and Rico went home. She
thought nothing of Rico's silence until he said: "You say that I can
stay at home, but it seems to me exactly as if that were something I
did not have. I am sure I don't know where it is."

"O Rico, what are you saying!" cried the astonished Stineli, letting
the moss fall unheeded in her lap. "You are at home here, of course.
You are always at home where your father and mother--" Here she
stopped abruptly as she remembered that Rico had no mother and that
his father had not been at home for ever so long, and she shuddered as
she thought of his aunt, of whom she had always been afraid. She
scarcely knew how to continue, yet it grieved her to see Rico so sadly
silent. She impulsively took his hand and said, "I should like to know
the name of the lake where it is so beautiful."

Rico meditated a moment. "I don't know it, Stineli. I wonder what it
can be and why I can't remember it!"

"Let us try to find out," suggested Stineli; "then, when we get money
enough, you will be able to find your way to it. We might ask the
teacher about it, and possibly grandmother could tell us."

"I think my father will know, and I will ask him just as soon as he
comes back."

They heard the vesper bell ringing in the distance. They rose
immediately and ran through the bushes and snow, down the hill and
across the meadow. In a few moments they were panting beside the
grandmother, who stood at the door waiting for them. She greeted them
hastily and motioned for Stineli to pass into the house; then she
added to Rico: "I think that you had better go in when you get to the
house to-night, instead of waiting awhile outside. It may be better."

No one had ever spoken like that to him before, and he wondered why
she asked it of him. He wished to obey the grandmother, but he could
not help entering the house reluctantly.



CHAPTER V

THE LAKE HAS A NAME


The aunt was not in the living room when Rico entered, so he went to
the kitchen door and opened it. There she stood, but before Rico had
time to take a step nearer, she raised her finger in warning: "Hush!
don't open and shut all the doors as if there were four of you coming.
Go into the other room and keep still. Your father was brought home in
a wagon, and he is sick upstairs."

Rico went to the bench by the window, where he sat motionless for
fully half an hour. Then he decided that he would go up quietly and
look at his father; it was past supper time, and perhaps the sick man
might be needing something. He heard the aunt walking about the
kitchen, so he silently slipped behind the stove and up the narrow
stairway into his father's room.

In a moment he was again in the kitchen, saying faintly, "Come, aunt!"

She was about to take him by the shoulders to shake him, when she
caught sight of his frightened face. She shrank from him, exclaiming,
"What has happened?"

"If you will go to my father," said Rico, "I will see if the
grandmother can come over. My father must be dead."

"I will run for the pastor!" cried the aunt, and rushed out ahead of
the trembling boy.

Later he heard his aunt tell the pastor that for several weeks his
father had been working down in the St. Gall district on a railroad.
He had received a bad wound on his head while blasting stone. The
journey home, part of which had to be taken in an open wagon, had
proved too much for him.

The following Sunday the man was buried. Rico was the only mourner to
follow the coffin. A few neighbors joined him through sympathy, and
thus the procession moved through Sils. Here Rico heard the pastor
read aloud during the service, "The dead man was called Enrico
Trevillo and was born in Peschiera on Lake Garda."

It seemed to Rico that he was hearing something he had known very well
but had not been able to recall. He understood now why he had always
had the lake in mind when he and the father had sung his favorite
song:

    "Una sera
    In Peschiera."

As Rico was returning alone from the funeral, he noticed that the
grandmother and Stineli were waiting in the yard. When he drew near
they beckoned him to come to them.

The grandmother gave the boy and girl some bread, saying: "Now go and
take a walk together. Rico had better not be left alone to-day."

She looked pityingly after the boy as the children walked away. When
she could see them no longer, she repeated softly:

    "Whatever in His care is laid
    Shall have a happy end."



CHAPTER VI

RICO'S MOTHER


The teacher was coming down the path from Sils, leaning heavily on his
cane. He came directly from the funeral of Rico's father. He was
coughing and panting as he greeted the grandmother, and he sank
heavily to the seat beside her.

"If you are willing," he said, "I will rest here a few moments. My
throat troubles me, and my chest is very weak. Of course, now that I
am seventy years old I must expect such things. What a pity that a man
of such powerful strength as the Italian must give up life! He was not
yet thirty-five years old."

"Yes," said the grandmother, "I, too, have been thinking how much
better I might have been spared than he."

"I know how you feel," replied the teacher, "but I suppose the older
people have their place in life to fill as well as the younger ones.
Where would they find precept and example but for us? What will become
of the boy yonder?"

"What will become of him?" repeated the grandmother. "I have been
asking the same question, and I cannot tell you. I only know that
there is a Heavenly Father whom he still has, and he will doubtless
find a place for the homeless one."

"Tell me, neighbor, how it ever happened that an Italian should get a
wife up here. There is no knowing what those strangers are."

"I will tell you about them," said the grandmother. "You remember that
the girl's mother had lost her husband and several children, leaving
her only this one daughter. She was a charming maiden, with whom the
mother lived for years alone. I think that it is about twelve years
since the handsome young Trevillo first came here. He had joined a
group of men who were working on the Maloja. It was a case of love at
first sight with the young people. I am glad to be able to say that
Trevillo was not only a very handsome man but also very capable. The
mother was proud of her son-in-law and wanted them to remain with her.
They meant to do as she wished, but the daughter had a longing to see
the place that Trevillo described to her when they walked up the
Maloja. The mother objected strongly at first, but when she heard that
Trevillo owned a house and farm, having left it simply to see
something of the hills, she gave her consent and they moved away. She
heard from them regularly through the mail, but the daughter preferred
to remain in the new home, where they were very happy.

"A number of years later, Trevillo came back to the mother, carrying a
little boy. 'There, mother,' he said, as he held the boy for her to
take, 'we have come back to you without Marie. She and the other baby
were buried a few days ago, and we cannot bear to live without her
down there. If you don't mind, we will stay here with you.'

"It brought both happiness and sorrow to the mother. Rico was four
years old and extremely lovable and good. He was a comfort to her and
her last great pleasure, for she died a year later. People advised
Trevillo to get the aunt to keep house for him and the boy, and thus
they have lived ever since."

"So that is their story!" remarked the teacher, when she had finished
speaking. "I never could imagine how it came about. It is possible
that some relative of Trevillo's may come to take the child."

"Relatives!" said the grandmother, scornfully. "The aunt is a
relative, and what does he get from her? Few enough kind words, I am
sure."

The teacher rose stiffly. "I am rapidly getting old, my friend," he
said. "I feel my strength leaving me to such an extent that I can
scarcely get about."

"You should still feel young in comparison with me," said the
grandmother, and she wondered at his feebleness as he walked away with
slow, unsteady steps.



CHAPTER VII

A PRECIOUS LEGACY AND A PRECIOUS PRAYER


The pleasant summer days were at hand. The grandmother did not forget
Rico's loneliness, and she helped Stineli with the work as much as
possible, so that she and Rico might play together.

In the early days of September, when every one made an effort to stay
out of doors for the last of the warm evenings, the teacher was forced
to remain in the house, for he was growing weaker and coughed more and
more. One morning, when he tried to rise as usual, he fell back upon
his pillow, exhausted. This brought to his mind serious thoughts of
how things would be left in case he died. He had lived among these
mountain people all his life and loved both his home and his work, but
he had no children, and his wife had been dead many years. The only
one who lived with him was a faithful old servant. He had made no
plans for disposing of his property. He loved his violin more than all
his other possessions, and it grieved him to realize that the time was
at hand when he must leave it. He remembered the day that Rico had
been there and had held it so lovingly, and the desire came to him to
leave it with the boy, so that it might always have the care it
deserved. It seemed a shame that he must actually give away things for
which he had worked so hard and cared so much. Many plans for
disposing of them presented themselves, but each was put aside as he
faced the grim messenger and realized that earthly things had served
him all they could.

A fever was taking firm hold upon him. All the evening and through the
long night he lay restless, thinking of his past and the little he had
done for the world. He was seized by a longing to do some one a real
kindness before it was too late. He reached for his cane and tapped
the wall for his servant, whom he directed to summon the grandmother
to him. It was not long before she stood by his bedside. Without
waiting to extend his hand in greeting, he said: "Please be so kind as
to take the violin from the wall and carry it to the little orphan,
Rico. I want to give it to him. Tell him that I hope he will take good
care of it."

The grandmother understood the restless impatience of the sick one, so
she immediately lifted the violin from its place, saying: "That is
truly good of you. How astonished he will be! I will come in later to
see how you are feeling."

Rico was standing on the doorsteps when he saw the grandmother coming,
and he ran to meet her.

"I have come with good news for you, Rico," she said. "The teacher has
asked me to bring you this violin. He wishes to give it to you. Take
it, Rico. It is your own now."

Rico seemed suddenly petrified. The grandmother touched his shoulder,
repeating: "It is yours; take it, child, and be happy. The teacher
wants you to have it."

Rico trembled as she laid the gift in his arms. "If that is true, I
will take it," was all he could say.

"You will always be careful of it, won't you?" asked the grandmother,
to fulfill the teacher's request, but she smiled as she thought how
unnecessary the caution was. "Now, Rico," she added, "I will go home,
but I hope that you will not forget about the teacher's kindness, for
he is very sick."

Rico went up to his room, where he could be alone with his treasure.
Here he examined it carefully and played softly to his heart's
content. So absorbed was he in his pleasure that he forgot to think of
the time until it began to grow dark.

His aunt met him at the foot of the stairs, saying: "You may have
something to eat to-morrow. You are so excited to-day that you deserve
nothing."

Rico had not thought about supper. He said nothing to his aunt, but
walked contentedly over to find the grandmother. Stineli was lighting
the kitchen fire when he went in. Ever since she had heard the good
news in the morning, she had been wishing that she had time to run
over to tell Rico how glad she was. Now that he suddenly stood before
her, she could contain herself no longer. She exclaimed over and over
as she danced about: "It is yours, Rico! I am so glad! It is yours! It
is yours!"

Before the rejoicing had subsided, the grandmother entered. Rico went
up to her and said, "Grandmother, will it be right for me to go over
to thank the teacher if he is sick?"

She considered a moment, because the old man had looked so ill that
morning; then she said, "Yes; I will go with you."

She led the way to the sick man's room, Rico following closely with
the precious violin, which had not been out of his arms since it had
been given to him.

The teacher had become very weak since morning. Rico stepped to the
bed with such a happy, grateful face that he did not need to say a
word. The sick man gave the boy a loving caress and then asked for the
grandmother. Rico stepped aside and she took his place. "Grandmother,"
said the teacher faintly, "I have been feeling so troubled that I
shall be glad if you will pray for me."

Just then the vesper bell rang. Rico bowed his head as the grandmother
prayed by the bed. After an interval of silence she gently closed the
eyes of her old friend, for he had died during prayer. Then taking
Rico by the hand, she led him softly from the room.

Rico understood what had happened. He and the grandmother walked in
silence until they reached her home.

"Do not be unhappy, Rico," she said; "your teacher has been suffering
for some time, and we should rather rejoice that he is now at rest
with the Heavenly Father. I know you will always remember him for his
useful life and for his loving gift to you."



CHAPTER VIII

AT LAKE SILS


During the week that followed Rico's good fortune Stineli was as happy
as a bird, in spite of the fact that there seemed to be ten more days
than usual before Sunday came. It arrived at last, and proved to be a
glorious day of sunshine. When she found herself with Rico, under the
evergreens on the hill overlooking the lake, she felt so thankful that
she could only dance about the moss-covered slope. After a while she
seated herself on the edge of the cliff, where she could see both the
lake and the village far down the hill.

"Come, Rico," she said; "now we can sing."

Rico sat down beside her and began tuning the violin, which, you may
be sure, he had not forgotten to bring with him. Then they sang
together:

    "Come down, little lambs,
    From the sunniest height--"

and on through every one of the stanzas. Stineli was brimming over
with fun.

"Come," she said, "let's make some more rhymes. How will this do?

    "Oh, climb, little lambs,
    To the beautiful green,
    Where the winds are all hushed
    And the clouds are unseen."

This made them laugh, and they sang the verses two or three times.
"More, Stineli!" cried Rico, encouragingly, and Stineli went on:

    "Little lambs, little lambs,
    Under heavenly blue,
    'Mong numberless flowers
    Of exquisite hue.

    "There's a boy who is sad,
    Here's a girl who is gay;
    But all lakes are alike
    Made of water, they say."

They laughed again and sang their verses over several times. "I wish
we had some more," said Rico; so Stineli added two more stanzas:

    "Little lambs, little lambs,
    So playful yet shy;
    Gay and happy are they,
    Though they know not just why.

    "Now the boy and the girl
    At the lake are so glad;
    If we think not at all,
    Can we ever be sad?"

Then they began from the beginning and sang all the verses over and
over again, and the more they sang them the better they liked their
song. They tried to sing other songs during the afternoon, but every
little while they would go back to what Rico called "Stineli's song,"
but what she called "our own song."

Once while they were singing, Stineli stopped abruptly and clapped her
hands for joy. "I have just thought of a way to get to your pretty
lake without money," she said exultantly.

Rico looked inquiringly at his companion.

"Don't you see?" she added hastily. "Now that you have a violin and
know a song, it is very simple. You can stop at the door of the inns
to play and sing; then the people will give you something to eat and
let you sleep there, for they will know that you are not a beggar. You
can keep on going until you get there, and you can come back in the
same way."

They were still discussing the plan when they noticed that it was
growing dark. They had not heard the vesper bell. Running down the
hill, they found the grandmother out looking for them.

They ran joyfully to her, taking it for granted that she knew they
would have come earlier had they been aware of the time. "Oh,
grandmother!" exclaimed Stineli; "you will be astonished to find how
well Rico can play. We have a song all our own that we want to sing
to you."

The grandmother smiled. It was a pleasure to her to see the children
together. "I can see that you have enjoyed the afternoon," she said
when the song was ended. "I wonder, Rico," she continued, "if you can
play my favorite tune, 'With heart and voice to Thee I sing.' We will
all sing if you can play for us."

The grandmother sang softly the first verses of the hymn and Rico took
it up readily, for it proved to be familiar. Then the three joined in
the singing, the grandmother speaking each verse before they began:

    "With heart and voice to Thee I sing,
      Lord of my life's delight!
    O'er all the earth let love take wing
      To make dark places bright!

    "I know that Thou the well of grace
      And everlasting art;
    Thou, Lord, to whom we all can trace
      The pure and true of heart.

    "Why then unhappy should we live
      And sorrow day and night?
    Oh, let us take our cares and give
      To Him who has the might.

    "He never will refuse His aid
      If you a prayer will send;
    Whatever in His care is laid
      Shall have a happy end.

    "Then let the blessing onward go,
      And cause it not to stay,
    That you may rest in peace below
      And happy be alway."

"There, that was a real benediction," said the grandmother. "You may
go to rest in peace, children."

"And I believe I like the violin just as well as Rico does," said
Stineli. "Aren't you glad he can play so well? And it's so nice here,
wouldn't you like to have him play some more?"

"I am very glad, dear," said the grandmother, "but we will not play or
sing any more to-night. We'll let Rico go now, and let us all keep in
our hearts the thought of the last song. Remember the Father will care
for his own. Good night."



CHAPTER IX

A PUZZLING OCCURRENCE


That evening Rico was later than usual in returning to the house, for
the grandmother's singing lesson had taken some time. The aunt met him
at the door.

"So this is the way you have begun!" she said sharply. "Your supper
has been waiting for you long enough, so you may go to bed without it.
I am sure it will not be my fault if you become a tramp. Any drudgery
would be better than taking care of a boy like you."

Usually Rico made no response to her faultfinding. To-night he met her
angry look with an expression of determination that she had never seen
in his face before.

"Very well," he replied quietly, "I will take myself out of your way."
He said nothing more, and as he went up to his dark bedroom he heard
his aunt bolt the door.

The following evening, when the neighboring household had gathered
about the table for supper, the aunt surprised them by coming to the
door to inquire for Rico. She had not seen him that day.

"Don't worry," said Stineli's father, cheerfully; "he'll come when
he's hungry."

As soon as the aunt saw that the boy had not taken refuge at the
neighbor's, she went on to explain that in the early morning she had
found the door unbolted. At first she had supposed that her trouble
with Rico had made her forget to fasten it, but when she saw that he
was not in his room and that his bed had not been slept in, she
concluded that he had run away.

"If that is the case, something has surely happened to him," said the
father. "He may have fallen into a crevasse on the mountain. A boy
climbing about in the dark might easily break his neck. You were wrong
not to speak of it sooner, for how is any one to find him, now that
the daylight is gone?"

"Of course everybody will blame _me_ for it," the aunt retorted. "That
is the way when a person is uncomplaining. No one will believe" (and
here she told the truth) "what a stubborn, malicious, deceitful child
he has been, nor how he has made my life miserable all through these
long, long years. He will never be anything but an idle tramp."

The grandmother could bear no more in silence. She rose from the
table, her eyes flashing with indignation.

"Stop, neighbor, for pity's sake!" she protested. "I know Rico very
well. Ever since the father brought him here I have seen him almost
constantly. Instead of saying harsh things about the child remember
what danger he may be in this very minute. Don't you suppose that he
may also have some reason to complain?"

The aunt had been thinking all day of Rico's words, "I will take
myself out of your way," and trying to justify her own position. Now
the grandmother's rebuke made her ashamed. "I will go back," she said,
as she stepped out into the dark field. "Rico may have come home while
I have been standing here." In her heart she knew that she would be
glad to find this true, but the little house was empty and still.

Early the next morning the neighbors set forth to search carefully in
the ravines and along the approaches to the glacier. When Stineli's
father noticed that she had followed the others he said, "That is
right, Stineli; you can get into places where bigger folk could not
go."

"But, father," said Stineli, "if Rico went up the road he couldn't
have fallen into any such place, could he?"

"Of course he could!" said the father. "He was such a dreamer that it
would have been easy enough for him to lose his way. He probably paid
no attention to where he was going, and wandered off toward the
mountains."

A great fear entered Stineli's heart when she heard this. For days she
could scarcely eat or sleep and she went listlessly about her work as
if she did not know what she was doing.

No one could be found who had seen Rico since the night he left home.
As time went on he was given up for dead. The neighbors tried to
console one another by saying: "He is better off as it is. The child
had no one to look after him properly."



CHAPTER X

A LITTLE LIGHT


Stineli became more and more depressed as the days passed. The
children complained, "Stineli won't tell us any more stories and she
won't laugh with us any more."

One day the mother spoke to the father about the change in Stineli,
but all that he said was: "It is because she is growing so rapidly.
Let her rest a little and give her plenty of goat's milk to drink."

After about three weeks had passed in this way, the grandmother went
with Stineli to her room one evening and said, "I can understand,
dear, how hard you find it to forget about Rico, but I am afraid that
you are not resigning yourself to the inevitable as it should be your
duty to do for the sake of the dear ones about you."

"But, grandmother," sobbed Stineli, "you don't know how it hurts me to
think that I gave Rico the notion of going to the lake; and now that
he has been killed, I am to blame for it."

A great load seemed to fall from the grandmother as she heard these
words. She had given Rico up for lost, for she could not otherwise
account for his complete disappearance. A strong hope of his safety
now came to her.

"Tell me, child," she said, "all that you know about his going to the
lake."

Stineli told of Rico's longing to see the pretty lake he remembered,
and how she had advised him to make the trip. "I am sure," she said,
"that Rico started for the lake, but father says that he would get
killed anyway."

"We have a right to hope for something better," said the grandmother.
"Have you forgotten the song we sang the last night that Rico was with
us?

    'Whatever in His care is laid
    Shall have a happy end.'

Of course it was wrong of you to advise Rico without consulting your
parents, but you did it thoughtlessly and meant no harm, so you may
dare to hope that there will be a happy ending to Rico's going to the
lake. I feel satisfied now that the child is alive and that he will be
taken care of."

From that time on Stineli began to be her old self. To be sure, she
missed her friend, but she cherished a secret hope that he would
return to her. Day by day she looked up the road to see if he might
not possibly be coming down the Maloja Pass, but the seasons came and
went and nothing was heard from the missing boy.



CHAPTER XI

A LONG JOURNEY


When Rico was so harshly dismissed by his aunt that Sunday evening, he
went up to his room and took a chair in the darkness. His intention
was to stay there only until his aunt had gone to bed. It seemed a
simple undertaking to him to find his lake, now that Stineli had told
him her plan. He dreaded the aunt's interference, although he knew
that she would be glad to have him gone. His first thought upon
reaching his room was, "I will go to-night, as soon as she has gone to
bed."

A feeling of relief swept over Rico as he contemplated the future when
he should be able to live for days without seeing the aunt. He thought
of the beautiful flowers he would gather to bring back to Stineli, for
there was not the least doubt in his mind about his coming back to
her. Then, as he walked in fancy on the sunny shore of the lake, and
thought of its beautiful setting, he fell asleep.

His uncomfortable position awakened him at last. The violin still lay
in his lap, and as he felt it his plan came to his mind. The room was
still as dark as when he had entered in the early evening. He was
glad that he was wearing his best suit. He put on his hat and, going
softly down the stairs, he quietly pushed back the bolt and let
himself out into the brisk morning air.

Over the hills he could see the first glimmer of morning. Soon he
heard the cocks announcing the break of day, and he increased his pace
so that he might get beyond the town before it was light enough for
him to be recognized. He very much enjoyed the walk, combined with the
feeling of freedom, as soon as he got to the open country. It was
familiar to him, for he and the father had many times walked there
together. He had no idea of the distance to the top of the Maloja, but
after he had walked steadily for two hours, it began to seem like a
long way.

Bright daylight came at last, and after another hour of brisk walking
he reached the summit of the mountain, where he and the father had so
often stood looking at the scenery about them. A sunny morning was
spread over the hills. The evergreen tops shimmered in the distance as
if sprinkled with gold. Rico sat down by the roadside, a very tired
and hungry boy, and well he might be, for he had eaten nothing since
Sunday noon. Perhaps, he thought, he should find it much easier now
that his way would be going downhill, and possibly it would not be
much farther to the lake.

As Rico sat by the roadside, lost in thought, the large stagecoach
came rumbling by. Rico had often seen it and envied the coachman on
that high seat where he could look about him so well and have control
of those fine large horses. The coach halted in the driveway leading
to the inn at the summit. Rico came closer and watched the driver as
he came out of the inn; he had remained but a moment, and he was now
carrying a huge slice of black bread and a large piece of cheese. He
cut these into strips and began to eat them, occasionally giving a
bite to the horses. While they were contentedly eating, the driver
noticed Rico's interested attention.

"Well, little musician," he said, "will you eat with us? Come nearer
and I will give you some."

Rico had not realized how hungry he was until he saw the bread and
cheese, but he quickly stepped forward at the invitation. The coachman
cut such a large piece of bread and put such a thick slice of cheese
on it that Rico had to find a place to lay his violin in order to have
both hands free to hold his liberal portion. It pleased the man to see
the way in which Rico attacked his breakfast, and he took the occasion
to ask him a few questions.

"You are a very young musician. Can you play anything?"

"Yes, two new songs, and a few others."

"Is that so! And where do you expect your little legs to take you?"

"To Peschiera on Lake Garda," was Rico's prompt reply.

The coachman laughed so heartily at this that Rico was puzzled.

"That is great!" said he. "Don't you know that a little one like you
could wear out the soles of his shoes, and his feet too, before he
would see a drop of water from Lake Garda? Who sends you down there?"

"I go of my own accord," said Rico.

"Bless me, did you ever see such a child! Where is your home?"

"I don't know; maybe it is at Lake Garda," said Rico, earnestly.

The coachman looked thoughtfully at the boy. He did not look like a
runaway, neither did he have the appearance of neglect. His black
curly hair hanging over his Sunday frock was very pretty and
childlike. His attractive appearance and honest looks gained the man's
sympathy.

"You carry your passport in your face, my lad," he said. "It is all
right, even if you don't know where your home is. What will you give
me if I put you on the high seat beside me and take you a long way on
your journey?"

Rico stared in amazement. To think of sitting on that high seat and
riding down the valley! How he longed for the experience, but what had
he to pay? "I haven't anything to give but my violin, and I couldn't
part with that," he said at last.

"Well," said the coachman, laughing, "I shouldn't know what to do with
that if I had it, so you may keep it. Come, we will get on now, and
you can play for me anyway."

Rico scarcely dared believe that the man meant what he said, but it
was true, and he was hoisted up to the seat. The passengers were
inside the coach, with the windows down, as the morning was cool. The
driver took up the reins and they started down the hill that Rico had
wanted to pass over for so long a time. In what a remarkable way was
his desire fulfilled! He felt as if he were sailing between heaven and
earth, and wondered how it had all come about.

"Tell me, little traveler," began the coachman, "where is your
father?"

"He is dead," answered Rico.

"Is that so! Where is your mother?"

"She is dead, too," came the answer.

"That is too bad! How about grandfather and grandmother?"

"They are dead."

"Well, well!" exclaimed the man. "But you must have brother or
sister?"

"They are dead," was again Rico's sad reply.

"What was your father's name?"

"Enrico Trevillo from Peschiera on Lake Garda."

This made the coachman conclude that the boy belonged rightfully to
Peschiera and that possibly he had been kidnapped by a mountaineer.
However that might be, he determined to help the boy to get back to
where he evidently belonged, and so he dismissed the matter from his
mind.

After they had descended the first hill and were riding along on a
comparatively level stretch of road, the driver said, "Now, little
musician, play us a lively piece of music."

Rico tuned his instrument, and feeling very grateful to the good man
for letting him ride, he not only began to play but to sing with all
the strength of his bell-like voice, "Come down, little lambs, from
the sunniest height."

It so happened that there were on the coach three students who were
taking a vacation trip in the hills. To them the music was most
welcome, and Stineli's verses appealed to their sense of humor. Rico
was asked again and again to sing the song, and they joined in the
singing as soon as they had learned the words. Sometimes they laughed
so hard that they had to go back to the beginning.

Thus the journey progressed merrily. If Rico stopped playing, they
asked him for more, and threw him pieces of silver until he had quite
a sum in his hat which he held safely between his knees.

All the windows were now open, and some of the passengers were leaning
out, trying to get a glimpse of the musician. The fun did not cease
until the noon hour brought them to an inn, where they were to stop
for dinner. The driver helped Rico transfer the money from his hat to
his pockets, saying, "I am glad that you have that, for now you can
buy your dinner."

The students had not been able to see Rico from their position on the
coach, and were much surprised to find such a little boy. Their good
humor increased, and they took him in their midst, giving him a place
at their table and waiting upon him as upon an honored guest. Rico
could not remember of ever having seen so pretty a table or of ever
having eaten so good a dinner.

"From whom did you learn that song?" asked one.

"From Stineli; it is her song, because she made it herself," answered
Rico.

"That was clever of Stineli," said another. "Let us drink to her
health and happiness, since her song has so richly entertained us this
morning!"

The noon hour was gone all too soon. As the passengers began taking
their places in the coach, a large, heavily built man, clad in a
brown worsted suit and carrying a heavy cane, came to Rico and said:
"See here, little man, you sang very well this morning. I heard you
from my window, and I want to tell you that I am in the business of
buying and selling sheep, so I want to give you something, because you
sang to us about the little lambs." Then he pressed a large piece of
silver into Rico's hand.

The man entered the coach, and the sturdy driver tossed Rico to his
seat as if he were but a toy in his hands. A moment later they were
speeding down the valley.

Later in the afternoon Rico played again for them. He went over all
the tunes he knew and finally played the melody and sang the song that
he had learned from the grandmother the previous evening. This dreamy
air must have lulled the students to sleep, for he heard nothing more
from them. He put away his violin and watched the daylight fade and
the stars begin to twinkle. The evening breeze was cooling the air.
Rico thought of Stineli and the grandmother, and wondered what they
were doing. In imagination he heard the vesper bells, and then he
wondered no longer. He seemed to be with them as he folded his hands
and, looking up to the star-sprinkled heaven, prayed as they had
taught him.



CHAPTER XII

THE JOURNEY CONTINUED


Rico had fallen asleep. He was awakened by the coachman, who wanted to
help him from the wagon. Everybody had hurried away except the
students, who came to Rico to bid him good luck for the journey and
ask him to tell Stineli about them. Then with a merry "good-by" they
too departed. Rico could hear them singing Stineli's song as they
went.

    "If we think not at all,
    Can we ever be sad?"

The next moment found Rico standing in the darkness, without any idea
as to where he was or what he should do. It occurred to him that he
had not thanked the coachman for having taken him so far, and he
wanted to do so before going away. The man and the horses had
disappeared, and it was too dark to see where they were. Soon Rico
detected a faint glimmer to his left; this proved to be the light from
the lantern in the barn, and he could dimly see the horses being led
through the door into the stable. Rico hurried to the place, and
finding that the large man who carried the cane was standing in the
doorway, apparently waiting for the driver, the boy waited there also.

The sheep buyer could not have noticed Rico at first, for suddenly he
exclaimed: "What, you still here, little one? Where are you going to
spend the night?"

"I don't know where," answered Rico.

"You don't know where! at eleven o'clock at night--a little one like
you! What does this mean?" the man's breath nearly failed him in his
astonishment, but he had no chance to finish his exclamation, for the
coachman came out just at that moment, and Rico immediately stepped up
to him, saying, "I forgot to thank you for bringing me so far, and I
wanted to."

"Good that you did!" said the driver. "I was busy with the horses and
forgot that I meant to hand you over to a friend." The coachman turned
to the other man, saying: "Here, good friend, I intended to ask you if
you wouldn't take this child with you down the valley, since you were
going that way. He wants to go to Lake Garda, and he seems to be all
alone in the world--you know what I mean."

"Stolen, perhaps," said the large man as he cast a pitying glance at
Rico. "I have little doubt of his belonging to those who would do well
by him if they had him. Of course I will take him with me." He
motioned Rico to follow him as he bade the coachman good night.

A short walk brought them to the door of an inn; they entered and took
chairs at a small table in one corner of the room. "Let us count your
money," said Rico's new friend. "We can tell then how far it will take
you on your journey. Where is it that you wish to go?"

"To Peschiera on Lake Garda," answered Rico. He took all the money
from his pockets and piled it on the table, putting the large piece of
silver on top.

"Is that large piece the only one you have?" asked the friend.

"The only one. I got it from you," answered Rico.

It pleased the man to have Rico remember this, and he was glad to know
that of all the listeners he had been the most liberal. It occurred to
him to add another coin, but the supper he had ordered came in just
then, so he said instead: "Very well, you may keep what you have for
to-morrow. I will pay for the supper and lodging to-night."

Rico was so tired that he found it difficult to eat anything. The man
noticed this and let him go straight to bed. He had scarcely touched
the pillow before he was fast asleep.

Early the following morning Rico was aroused from a sound slumber by
his friend, who stood before him, cane in hand, ready for the journey.
A few moments later Rico joined him in the breakfast room, where
their coffee was awaiting them. The man helped Rico to an abundant
breakfast, telling him that they had a long journey before them, so
that they must be fortified against hunger on the way. "A part of our
trip to-day will be taken on the water, and that always sharpens a
person's appetite," said he.

The breakfast over, the travelers started on their way. They walked a
short distance and then turned a corner, where Rico caught his breath
in surprise, for a beautiful lake lay before them. "Aren't we at Lake
Garda?" he asked.

"No, no, we are a long way from it yet," replied his friend. "This is
Lake Como, where we take a steamer."

They were soon at the steamship landing, where they entered a small
vessel. The sunny shore seemed to speak a welcome to Rico. He and the
man had taken chairs at a table. Rico took his largest piece of silver
and laid it on the table in front of his friend, who was sitting with
his hands resting on his cane.

"What is that for?" he asked. "Have you too much money to suit you?"

"You told me that I must pay to-day," said Rico.

"It is good of you to remember," said the man, "but you mustn't put
your money on the table like that. Let me take it and I will settle
the bill for you."

He went to the ticket agent, but when he saw how full his own purse
was, he could not bear to use the only large piece the child
possessed, so he gave it back to Rico with his ticket, saying: "There,
you had better keep this; you may need it to-morrow. I am with you
now, and there may be no one to look after you when I am gone. Who
knows how much you may have occasion to use later! When you get to
Peschiera have you some one to whom you can go?"

"I don't know of any one," answered Rico.

The man stifled his surprise, but he had a secret fear that all might
not go well with the child. He resolved to find out more about the boy
on his return trip, thinking that the coachman would be able to tell
him, and so he asked Rico no more questions.

When the steamer had landed her passengers, the man said, "We must
hurry across to the railway station to catch our train, Rico, and I am
going to take you by the hand; then I shall be sure not to lose you."

Rico had all he could do to keep up with the man, who walked on
rapidly. He wished for time to look about him, but he had to wait
until they reached the train, which was the first one he had ever
seen. He felt very strange in it, even with the man at his side. He
was glad that he was near a window, where he could look out, as
everything was of interest to him.

After about an hour's ride, Rico's friend said: "We are coming into
Bergamo, where I shall have to leave you, Rico. All that you have to
do is to sit still until the conductor comes to help you off, and then
you will know that you are in Peschiera. He has promised me that he
will tell you."

Rico very earnestly thanked his benefactor, and then he and the good
man parted, each being sorry to leave the other.

Sitting in the corner of the car, Rico meditated upon all that had
come to pass in the last few days of his life. No one in the
compartment paid any attention to him, and he was glad to spend his
time looking out of the window, thinking of whatever he wished. Three
hours had passed before the conductor came to him and took his hand to
help him down the steps. Then pointing toward the station he said,
"Peschiera." The train started on, and Rico watched it move away until
it was lost to view in the distance.



CHAPTER XIII

LAKE GARDA


Rico walked a few paces away from the station and looked about him.
This large white building, the open space in front of it, the winding
street in the distance, were all strange to him. He was positive that
he had never seen them before. He had to confess to himself, "I have
not come to the right place, after all."

He sadly followed along the path between the trees until he came to a
turn in the road which brought him to a sudden standstill, for before
him lay the sky-blue lake, the water shimmering in the sunshine.
Yonder were the towering hills in the distance, with the faint
outlines of the white dwellings in the valleys. How familiar it
seemed! Many a time he had stood just where he was at present. He
recognized the trees, but where was the house? Oh, there should be a
little white house near by, but it was gone! There was the street that
led to it. How well he remembered it! There were the red flowers in
the abundance he had been used to seeing. There ought to be a bridge a
little farther down. In his eagerness to see it he ran toward it, and
sure enough, it was there, just as memory had pictured it.

A flood of recollections overpowered him. It was here that a lovely,
loving woman had held him by the hand,--his mother. In fancy he saw
her face distinctly and heard the sweet words of her lips, and
understood anew the love revealed in her youthful eyes. Throwing
himself upon the grass, Rico wept bitterly.

The sun was setting before he dried his eyes and began to think of
what he should do. The golden evening glow that his memory had
cherished was on the water, the hills had taken the violet tints, and
the fragrance of the roses perfumed the air. The beauty of the place
comforted him, and he thought, "How I wish Stineli could see this!"

When Rico left the bridge, the sun had set and the light of day was
fast fading away into darkness. It seemed more like a home than
anything he had known for years, and he reluctantly left the place.
His first purpose was to take a closer look at the red flowers that he
had noticed in the garden. He found a path leading from the street,
where he could obtain a good view of them. It seemed to Rico that
there must be bushels of the buds among the trees, shrubs, and vines.
Again he thought, "If only Stineli could see them!"

Rico could see a sturdy boy in the garden, cutting grapes from the
vines. The side door of the attractive white house in front of the
garden stood wide open. The young man noticed Rico and stopped his
whistling to say, "Come here and play a tune if you can." This was
said in Italian, and Rico wondered at his own understanding of the
words, for he was sure that he could not _speak_ like that. After the
young man had asked some questions and discovered that Rico could not
answer, he directed him to the house to play there.

Rico stopped at the door and played and sang Stineli's song from
beginning to end. Through the open door he noticed a lady sitting
beside a child's bed, sewing. When Rico was about to turn away, a
little pale face was raised from the pillow and he heard a voice say,
"Play some more, please."

Rico played another melody and again turned to go, but the child
repeated, "Play some more."

So it happened time after time until Rico had played all the tunes he
knew. When the little boy saw that Rico was really going away, he
began to cry, begging Rico to come to him. The lady came out, offering
a coin to Rico, who had played for the child with no thought of money.
Then it occurred to him again that Stineli had said that people would
give him something if he played for them, so he took it and put it
into his pocket.

The lady asked where Rico came from and where he was going, but he
could not answer.

"Have you parents here?" she continued, and Rico shook his head in
reply, thus telling her that he could understand. Then she asked if he
were all alone, and Rico nodded. "Then where will you go?" she
questioned, and Rico shook his head with a little gesture to indicate
that he did not know.

The lady called the young man from the garden, and Rico heard her
direct him to take the child to the hotel for the night, and to tell
the landlord that the bill for lodging and supper was to be sent to
her. "Perhaps the people at the hotel can understand the language he
speaks," she said. "He must have been away a long time to forget so
much. He is too young to be out alone, and I want you to tell them to
show him the way he wishes to go in the morning."

The little invalid was still crying, and the mother at last asked Rico
if he would come to see him in the morning. As soon as he saw Rico nod
his assent, the boy was satisfied.

It was about ten minutes' walk to the city proper. The young man led
Rico directly to the landlady and explained his errand. In the
meantime Rico noticed that the living room was filled with men who
were smoking and talking. He heard the landlady dismiss the boy with,
"Very well, I will do as you say."

She looked Rico over from head to foot as she asked him where he came
from. He answered in German that he had come down the Maloja and could
understand what the people said, although he could not speak in the
same way. The landlord, who understood German, told Rico that he had
been up to the mountains himself.

"We will talk about it later," he said, "if you will play for the
guests a few moments first." They had called for music as soon as they
saw the violin.

Rico was very tired, but he obediently played and sang, beginning as
usual with Stineli's song. None of the guests understood German, and
they talked and laughed during the song. As soon as he had finished,
some one called for a lively tune, and Rico tried to think of
something they might like. He had never heard the music of the dance
halls, but he finally thought of

    "Una sera
    In Peschiera."

The men joined Rico in the singing, much to his surprise, and they
made the strongest chorus he had ever heard. It was fine to lead so
many voices, and he played through the whole number of verses.

When the song was ended, there was such a jubilee that Rico could not
imagine what it meant. They surrounded him, shaking his hands and
patting his shoulders, and then asked him to drink with them.

Rico was bewildered, for he could not understand their surprise that
he, a stranger, should know their song,--the song that no one outside
their locality would care to learn. Moreover, he had played it with
feeling, like a loyal Peschieran; hence this hilarious gratitude and
brotherly welcome.

Rico's supper, consisting of boiled rice with chicken, was brought in
and put on a corner table, and the landlady rescued him from his
embarrassment by explaining that the child must eat and rest. She led
him to the table, remaining to serve him.

Rico was indeed hungry. It seemed as if a long time had elapsed since
he had taken breakfast with his friend in the early morning, and he
had tasted nothing since. He had scarcely finished eating when he
found it almost impossible to keep awake. He had told them, in
response to questions, that he had no home and that he was going
nowhere.

"That is too bad," said the husband, kindly. "Don't worry about
anything now, for you must go to bed and get a good sleep. Perhaps
Mrs. Menotti, the lady that sent you here, will give you some work if
you go to see her to-morrow morning. I have no doubt of her helping
you, since you have no home." He did not notice that his wife was
trying to keep him from saying this.

The guests called for another song, but Rico was sent to bed, the
wife taking him up to an attic storeroom that contained a quantity of
ear corn and had its walls decorated with harnesses. In one corner,
however, stood a bed, and Rico was soon tucked away in it and asleep.

After the guests had departed, the woman said to her husband: "I don't
want you to send the boy to Mrs. Menotti. I can make him useful
myself. Didn't you notice how well he can play? They were all pleased
with him, too. Mark my words that the boy will make a better player
than any of the three that we now hire. He will learn the music
easily, and we can soon get along by hiring only two men on dance
days, for we shall have him for nothing, and we can hire him out
besides. You would be more than foolish to let him go. I like his
looks very much, and I say that we will keep him."

"Very well; I am quite willing," the husband said amiably. He could
see how well she had reasoned.



CHAPTER XIV

NEW FRIENDS


The next morning the landlady was standing in the doorway of the inn,
observing the signs of the weather and planning the work of the day,
when suddenly Mrs. Menotti's servant appeared. This young man was
manager as well as servant. He understood his work thoroughly, and the
place prospered under his care. He had a habit of whistling wherever
he went, and people thought it was because his life was such a happy,
contented one that he could not help expressing his satisfaction.

"If the boy I brought you last evening is still here," he began, "Mrs.
Menotti requests that you will send him over to her. Silvio wishes to
see him again."

The landlady stiffened, but tried to say pleasantly: "Yes, to be sure,
if she is not in too much of a hurry. It so happens that the boy is
still in bed, and I would rather let him have his sleep out. You can
go back and tell Mrs. Menotti that I will send him over later, as he
is not going any farther. I have taken him for good and all. He is a
little neglected orphan, but I will see that he is provided for
hereafter."

When Rico at last awoke, he felt as fresh as if he had not taken the
long journey the day before. The landlady admired his neat appearance
as he came down the stairway. She beckoned to him to come to the
kitchen, where she served him his late breakfast.

"You may breakfast as well as this every morning, if you like, Rico,"
she said, as she seated herself opposite him at the little table. "We
have a still better dinner and supper, for we cook for the guests
then. You might pay me by helping with the work and playing for us
when we want you to, but of course it remains for you to decide
whether you will stay or not."

The landlady had spoken in Italian, but Rico had understood her, and
he found words enough to say, "Yes, I will stay."

When Rico's breakfast was over, he was taken about the premises so
that he might become familiar with the house, barn, chicken shed, and
yard, and also the vegetable garden, for his help would be needed
about them all. He was later sent to several places of business to get
soap, oil, thread, and repaired shoes, and each time returned with his
errand correctly done. It was therefore evident to the landlady that
Rico knew the language well enough to be of great service to her. The
afternoon was half over before she said to him, "You may take your
violin over to Mrs. Menotti's and stay until night, if you would like
to. She is expecting you."

Rico was delighted, for that would take him near the place he loved.
As soon as he reached the lake, he went to the bridge and sat down. He
recognized this quiet, fragrant spot as all that was left to him of
his home, for it was still associated with the tender care of his
mother as no other place could be. Its restfulness appealed to him,
and the beauty of the scene was a feast after the years spent in the
hills. He longed to remain for the rest of the afternoon, but he
realized that his time belonged to those who had given him a home, and
so he resumed his way to the sick boy.

The door was open at Mrs. Menotti's, and the little invalid heard
Rico's step as soon as he entered the garden. Mrs. Menotti came down
the path to meet him, and welcomed him so cordially and led him to the
living room in such a motherly way that she won his affection
immediately.

Rico noticed how pleasantly the room opened to the garden. Each night
the boy's tiny bed was rolled into an adjoining room, where the mother
slept. Early every morning it was taken back to the living room,
where the morning sun and pleasant outlook gladdened the heart of the
little sufferer. Beside the bed were the tiny crutches with which the
mother at times assisted him to move about the room, for he was lame
and had never been able to walk.

As soon as the little one heard Rico, he lifted himself to a sitting
posture by means of a cord which hung suspended from the ceiling. He
could not raise himself without help. Rico noticed the frail hands and
arms, and the pinched look of the wan face. The little frame seemed
too delicate to be that of a boy. The child had seen but few
strangers, though he had often longed for company, and now his large
blue eyes fastened eagerly upon Rico.

"What is your name?" he asked at the first opportunity.

"Rico," was the answer.

"Mine is Silvio. How old are you?"

"I am eleven."

"So am I," said the little one.

"Why, Silvio, you are forgetting!" broke in Mrs. Menotti. "You are not
quite four, so Rico can see that you have made a mistake."

Silvio changed the subject. "Play something, Rico," he said.

Rico stepped some distance away from the bed before beginning to
play. Mrs. Menotti sat in her accustomed place at the head of the bed.
It was hard to tire Silvio by playing for him. Rico had exhausted his
entire list of pieces, and yet the boy called for more. Mrs. Menotti
tactfully brought in a plate of grapes and had Rico take her chair by
the bed, where he and Silvio might enjoy them together. She slipped
out of the room unnoticed by the children. She rejoiced to get out to
the garden, for it had been days since Silvio would consent to her
leaving him.

The children did not find it embarrassing to talk together. Rico could
answer all the questions that Silvio asked, and was never at a loss to
find a way of making himself understood where words failed him. The
mother had time to take a long walk about the garden without Silvio's
having once called for her.

It was getting dark when she returned. Rico rose to leave, but Silvio
caught hold of his jacket and begged him to stay.

"Unless you promise to come to see me every day I will not let you
go," he said.

"But, Silvio," said the mother, "you must remember that Rico cannot
promise that, even if he would like to, for he must first ask the
people with whom he is living. I will go to see them to-morrow, and
perhaps we can arrange it so that Rico can come every day."

Silvio grasped Rico's hand lovingly as he said good-by. "I hope you
won't forget to come every day," he said. Rico was sorry to leave
them. He loved Silvio and his mother for being so good to him. A
homelike atmosphere filled the place and made him wish that his work
might be done for them instead of for the people at the hotel.

The next afternoon Mrs. Menotti called at the Golden Sun. The landlady
was much flattered by this visit. She met her guest very cordially and
led her to the parlor upstairs. Mrs. Menotti at once made her errand
known, urging the landlady to let her have Rico at least a few
evenings a week, saying that she should be glad to pay well for the
favor.

The landlady had been thankful that Mrs. Menotti had not interfered
with her keeping Rico, so she willingly promised to let him go any
evening that he did not have to play for dances. She was willing, she
said, to let Mrs. Menotti pay what she pleased.

It was agreed that Mrs. Menotti should clothe Rico in return for the
time he would give her. This pleased the landlady immensely, for not
only would she have all his help for nothing, but he would soon be
earning something besides.

The days passed quickly for Rico. In a short time he was speaking
Italian as if he had always known it. It came to him the more readily
because he had once known it; then, too, he had a good ear, and
caught the true Italian accent with wonderful ease.

The landlady found Rico much more useful than she had expected. She
praised his neat way of doing his work by saying that she could not
have done it better herself. If he were sent on an errand, he never
failed to return promptly. He was industrious, patient, and
good-tempered. When people questioned him about his past, he was very
reticent. The landlady respected his silence and did not ask any
questions. Thus he never gave his reason for coming to Peschiera. A
story was told around the town, however, that Rico had run away from
the people who had abused him in the mountains, that he had suffered
many hardships on the long journey before he came to Peschiera, and
that he had found the people there so kind-hearted that he had decided
to go no farther. Whenever the landlady told the story, she always
added that Rico deserved the good fortune of having found a home with
them.

The first week of Rico's stay at the Golden Sun more people than usual
assembled for the regular dance out of curiosity to see the little boy
who had had such strange experiences, and to hear him play. In fact,
so many came that the capacity of the house was taxed. The landlady
flitted about among her guests as rosy as if she herself were the
Golden Sun. Once, as she passed her husband, she whispered, "I told
you that Rico would help out our dances."

Rico listened to the music as the pieces were played, and soon found
no trouble in playing with the others. When the dancing ceased, he was
asked to play the Peschiera song, and the dancers sang it
enthusiastically as a fitting close to their evening of fun. It seemed
to Rico that they had been boisterously happy all the evening. The
noise had hurt his ears and racked his nerves so that he was thankful
when it was over. The crowd dispersed after the song, and Rico hurried
away to his attic bed, where he could at least have quiet.

Later that evening the landlady said to her husband: "You see how well
my plan works? The next time Rico can take the place of one of the
players, so that we need hire but two."

The husband smiled at his wife's sagacity and added: "Yes, and he
ought to be a favorite with those who give tips. There is no question
of his getting something in that way."

Only two days later there was a dance in Desenzano, and Rico was sent
with the other players. The people there did not sing the Peschiera
song, but they were as boisterous or worse than the Golden Sun crowd
had been. The coarse laughter made Rico shudder, so that from
beginning to end he thought, "If it were only over!" He carried home a
pocketful of pennies, which he put uncounted into the landlady's lap.
She praised him for doing this and prepared a good supper for him.

Rico had been promised for another dance in Riva the following week,
and he was glad to go, for it would give him the opportunity to see
closely what he had always looked at from a distance. Riva lies at the
opposite end of the lake from Peschiera, and the white houses of the
little towns built along the shore under the towering, rocky cliffs,
had always seemed to throw him a glance of welcome.

The musicians crossed the lake in an open boat under a clear blue sky.
Rico's thoughts were mostly with Stineli. He wished again that she
might know how pretty the lake was, especially since she had at first
doubted its existence. He knew how much she would enjoy the beautiful
sight, and how much it would surprise her to see it. He meant to tell
her all about it when he went back to her.

The boat landed at Riva all too soon, and a few moments later Rico was
playing for the same kind of people that he had played for at the two
preceding dances. It occurred to him that it was much pleasanter to
look at the white houses and friendly rocks from his accustomed place
on the opposite shore, or to amuse Silvio at Mrs. Menotti's, than to
play amid the present tumult and applause. As they were returning to
Peschiera that night he found no time to look about the town, though
he had long wished to see the place.

When there were no dances Rico was allowed to go to Mrs. Menotti's
every evening, for the landlady wished to prove herself grateful not
only to Rico but to Mrs. Menotti as well. These evenings were Rico's
greatest pleasure. He invariably went to the bridge for a short time
on his way over. It always gave him fresh comfort, for he knew to a
certainty that it was a place that had once been a part of his home.
He had found the exact spot where his mother used to sit most
frequently when she held and fondled him. He would sit there and think
it over and over, actually living in the spirit of the past. Each time
he had to force himself to realize that Silvio needed him and would be
waiting. Though it was always a little hard to leave the place, his
peace of mind was restored as soon as he came to Mrs. Menotti's, for
she had endeared herself to him, and he realized that from her he
received more affection than from any one else except Stineli.

Mrs. Menotti had heard the story about Rico's suffering in the hills,
and she considered it wise to forbear asking questions, for fear of
recalling to his mind painful scenes that had much better be
forgotten. She longed to take Rico away from the hotel, for she knew
that it was not the place for a sensitive nature such as his, but she
saw that this would be an impossibility. Once she fondly put her hand
on his head and said, "You poor little orphan, I do so wish I could
keep you."

To Silvio, Rico became more and more necessary. He spoke of him at all
times of the day and was always listening for his coming. Rico could
speak fluently by this time, and it was Silvio's greatest comfort to
listen to the stories he would tell him. One day Rico told him about
Stineli. Silvio was so interested that Rico enjoyed telling him about
her. He told of Stineli's seeing her brother Sam fall into the creek,
and how she reached the place in time to catch one of his feet,
holding on to him until the father, for whom she called as loudly as
she could, should get to them. The frightened boy was in the meantime
screaming with all his might. The father, taking it for granted that
children are always noisy, did not trouble himself to go immediately,
but when he had leisurely strolled across the field to find out why
they called, he found Stineli still holding her brother.

Rico told how she drew pictures for Peter and made playthings for
Urschli out of wood, moss, or rushes,--sometimes with all
combined,--and how all the children wanted her when they were sick,
because she could entertain them so well. He also told of the good
times he and Stineli had enjoyed together, and he became so animated
in the telling that one would scarcely have recognized the quiet,
sober Rico. Silvio's delight in these stories made both boys forget to
look at the clock in time for Rico to leave as early as usual. He was
startled to see how late it was and hastily rose to go.

"Good night, Silvio," he said. "I am sorry that I cannot come
to-morrow or the next day, but I must play for some dances."

This was too much for Silvio's patience, and he called to his mother,
who hastily came from the garden in the greatest anxiety.

"Mother!" he cried, "Rico shall not go back to the hotel any more! I
want him to stay here and I wish that you would make him. You will do
it, won't you, Rico?"

"If I didn't have to help at the hotel, I would," answered Rico.

Mrs. Menotti had feared such a scene for some time, but was troubled
to know how to meet it even now. She knew too well what Rico was worth
to the landlady and her husband in dollars and cents to entertain the
faintest hope of their letting him go from them. She tried to quiet
Silvio as best she could, and affectionately drew Rico to her, saying
"You poor little orphan! I wish it were so that you might stay with
us."

"What is an orphan? I want to be one, too," said Silvio.

"I am afraid my little boy is naughty to-night," Mrs. Menotti
admonished him. "An orphan is one who has neither father nor mother,
and no place that he can call home. Don't ever wish that again."

Mrs. Menotti did not notice Rico's pathetic glance when she gave
Silvio the meaning of the word. Later when she saw that Rico was gone,
she supposed that he had slipped away without saying good night, for
the sake of keeping Silvio quiet, and she gave it no further thought.

"Now, Silvio," she said, as she sat down by his bed, "I want to tell
you something, so that you will never make such a fuss again. We have
no more right to take Rico away from those people than they would have
to take you away from me. How should you like never to see the garden
again?"

"I would come right home if they took me," was Silvio's valiant
answer, but the illustration had served to quiet him, and he was soon
tucked in his little bed and willing to go to sleep.

It would be hard to tell just what passed in Rico's mind when he
quietly left the house that night and went down to the bridge. "I
know now that I am an orphan," he murmured, "and that there is no
place that I can call home." He longed to stay on the bridge all
night, for its sweet association with the past was his only comfort,
but he knew that the landlady would become alarmed at his absence, so
he forced himself away to his cheerless attic.

He did not need a candle to find his way to the bed, and he much
preferred not to see his surroundings. An eager desire to see Stineli
possessed him. He meant to tell her how it comforted him to know that
she cared for him. It was late in the night before he could quiet his
thoughts for sleep.



CHAPTER XV

AN EMPHATIC APPEAL


The matter, however, was not at all satisfactorily settled for Silvio.
He understood that he must do without Rico for two days, but it wore
upon his patience as the hours dragged along. He fretted and tossed
about, wishing continually for Rico. Before the second day was over
Mrs. Menotti's strength had been severely taxed.

When Rico understood that he was really homeless, his thoughts turned
to Stineli more than ever before. A new feeling of satisfaction came
to him as he considered how much her friendship had meant to him and
how much the future might mean if they could be again together as in
days past. So continually had she been in his mind the last few days,
that he had scarcely reached Silvio's side before he said, "Silvio, it
seems to me as if no one could be quite happy without Stineli."

"Mamma, I want Stineli," said Silvio, as he pulled himself to a
sitting posture. "I want her to come to me because I can't have Rico,
and he says that no one can be quite happy without her."

Mrs. Menotti knew of whom they were speaking, for she had often heard
Rico mention her during the years he had been with them. "Yes," she
said, "it would be delightful if we could have her, but my little boy
must not forget to be reasonable."

"But we _can_ have her, mamma," broke in Silvio. "Rico knows where she
is, and he can go to-morrow and bring her to us."

Mrs. Menotti had for some time secretly wished that Rico might find
for her some one to assist in the care of Silvio, but she would not
for a moment consider letting the boy go back to the perils from which
he had so fortunately escaped. She sought to change the subject of
conversation between the children, and endeavored to interest them in
other things, but she failed to keep them from going back to the
original subject. Silvio would invariably say, "Rico knows where she
is and he must get her."

"Do you suppose that Rico will deliberately go among those wicked
people to get her, when he can stay here in safety?" asked the mother.

"Will you?" said Silvio, fastening his large blue eyes upon Rico.

"Surely, I will go," said Rico enthusiastically.

"Rico, have you lost your senses?" exclaimed Mrs. Menotti. "What do
you suppose I can do with you when you both begin to be unreasonable?
You had better play something for Silvio, Rico, and I will go to the
garden for a while. By the time I get back I shall hope to find two
good, sensible boys."

The boys, however, did not care for music to-night, and they talked,
instead, of possible ways of bringing Stineli to them and of how it
would seem to have her there.

When she returned from the garden, where she had enjoyed the quiet
evening, Mrs. Menotti had to remind Rico that it was time to go home.
Silvio urged his mother for a promise that Rico might be allowed to go
for Stineli, and both boys eagerly awaited her answer.

"You may feel differently about it in the morning, children," she
said. "I want you to go to sleep in peace; possibly before the night
is over I can think of a way to satisfy you."

Early the following morning Silvio raised himself in bed to see if his
mother was awake and said, "Have you thought of a way, mamma?"

Mrs. Menotti could not say that she had, and again the child's
discontent broke out. All that day and the next and for many days
thereafter he would not be comforted. Mrs. Menotti thought it was only
a fancy and would wear itself out, but the extra strain upon the boy
began to tell upon his health to such an extent that the mother became
alarmed. She was convinced that Silvio ought to have a companion, and
she resolved to consult with some trustworthy person, to see if it
were possible to get a child from the hills in safety. Mrs. Menotti
understood that Rico had escaped from ill treatment in the hill
country, and she avoided asking him questions about his past life,
hoping that he was young enough to let silence efface all unpleasant
memories. On this account she felt quite unwilling to let him
undertake the journey, and even the consideration of such a
possibility brought to her a fuller realization of how necessary he
had become to their own happiness.



CHAPTER XVI

THE ADVICE


Under these conditions it was a pleasure and relief to Mrs. Menotti to
see the pastor walking up the garden path. He came frequently to
inquire after the health of the little one. As usual he was dressed in
his long black coat.

"Silvio, the pastor is coming; isn't that nice?" said Mrs. Menotti, as
she went to the door to meet him.

"I don't want to see him. I wish it were Stineli," said Silvio,
pouting. Then seeing that the pastor had heard him, he covered his
head with the bedclothes.

"My little boy is out of humor to-day, and I am sure he didn't mean
what he said," apologized the mother.

They heard the boy under the covers say, "I did mean it."

The pastor must have suspected where the voice came from, for he
walked straight over to the bed, although there was not a bit of
Silvio in sight. He said: "God bless you, my son, how are you feeling,
and why do you hide yourself like a little fox? Creep out of there and
tell me what you mean by Stineli."

Instantly Silvio's head was out and he said, "Rico's Stineli."

"You must be seated, pastor," said Mrs. Menotti. "I will tell you what
Silvio means, for I want your advice very much."

Mrs. Menotti recited in detail all that she knew about Stineli, the
reason why they wished for her, and the obstacles in the way of
getting her. "I have thought," she said, "that it might be a good
thing for the girl to get away from those wicked people, and I wonder
if you can think of a safe way to bring her here."

"I think," said the pastor, "that you have been misinformed about
those people in the mountains. I am sure that there are kind-hearted
men and women living there as well as here. People travel so much in
these days that I am sure that it cannot be much of a task to get up
there. One thing I am positive about is that the journey can be taken
in absolute safety. I know some live-stock dealers who regularly make
the trip from Bergamo to the mountains, and who will be able to tell
me all about it. Since you are interested, I will see one of the men
as soon as I go to Bergamo and I will let you know when I return."

Silvio's eyes had grown larger as the pastor spoke, and he began to
feel a great respect for the man who could so ably take his part. When
the pastor extended his hand to Silvio in parting, the boy fairly
plunged his little palm into the larger one, as much as to say, "You
deserve it now."

Weeks passed by as Mrs. Menotti waited to hear further news from the
minister, but Silvio's patience did not again fail him. He felt sure
that the good man would help him to get what he wished.

When Rico heard that there was hope of his being sent for Stineli, he
forgot that he had ever been sad. The expectation of having her there
to enjoy the beautiful scenes and to share his companionship fairly
made the world over for him. His serious expression gave way to a
happy one, and his purpose so animated him that it added a new charm
to his manner. He went often to see Silvio, and took pleasure in
entertaining him by relating incidents of his active life among the
people with whom he lived. He stopped playing the dreamy airs and
substituted those more suited to his present mood. He played so well
by this time that Mrs. Menotti was proud of his ability, and she often
gave up a walk in order to listen to him. It was here, with those who
loved him, that Rico enjoyed the music he had learned. The only regret
of the day came when he had to bid them good night and go away, for it
always brought afresh the longing for a home of his own.

The change in Rico was noticed at the hotel where he lived. The
landlady was much astonished one morning to have him ask her to hire
some one else to care for the chickens and outbuildings. He thought
that he had performed those duties as long as was necessary, and he
preferred to be released also from blacking shoes and from similar
work. The landlady remarked that he was indeed getting fastidious, but
she was too wise to remonstrate, for she knew that there would still
be enough for him to do.

Mrs. Menotti had liberally provided Rico with wearing apparel. She
selected as carefully in material and workmanship as if he were her
own child. The landlady said that he always went about looking like a
little prince, and she meant to find no fault in regard to the work he
chose to do. "I am sure," she said to her husband, "that since he
brings so much money from the dances where he plays, I ought not to
object to the slight expense of hiring a boy to do the menial work
about the house and garden. Rico has been a credit to us so far."

The years had passed rapidly since Rico came to Peschiera. The vague,
dreamy look in his eyes had given place to one of purpose and
determination. He had the appearance of one much older than he was.

Another autumn was at hand. The purple grapes were temptingly ripe on
the vines, and the oleander blossoms sparkled in the sunshine. One
morning, about the usual time for Rico to arrive at Mrs. Menotti's,
Silvio was listening for his step on the garden walk. He heard the
gate open, but when he raised himself to look, there was the pastor
instead of Rico! Silvio did not hide under the covers; instead, he
clapped his hands, shouting, "Mamma, the pastor is here," and
stretched his arms to him as soon as he entered the room.

This cordial welcome pleased the minister, and he went directly to
Silvio's bed, although he had seen the mother gathering some figs in
the garden. He took the little one in his arms and said, "How is our
Silvio to-day?"

"Well, thank you. When can Rico go?"

The good man laughed. "To-morrow morning, my son; he is to go at five
o'clock," he answered.

Later the pastor explained to Mrs. Menotti that he had just returned
from Bergamo, where he had spent a few days. He had looked up a stock
dealer, according to his promise, and found that the man had made
regular trips to the mountains for the last thirty years; every bit of
the way that Rico would have to go was familiar to him. It so happened
that he had made his plans to go up again, and if they would send Rico
on the early morning train, he would take him along and see that he
was well cared for; moreover, he had said that as he was acquainted
with all the coachmen and conductors on the way, he would arrange for
a safe return trip, so that the young travelers could not possibly go
astray.

"I wish that I could be certain that no harm would come to Rico," said
Mrs. Menotti to the pastor, as she accompanied him to the gate on his
departure that morning.

"You have no reasonable cause for worry," replied the pastor. "Let the
child go in peace, and we will pray God to bless the journey."

Just at this moment Rico came in sight. Silvio saw him from the
doorway and shouted: "Don't tell him! Please don't tell him! I want to
tell him myself. Come, Rico; I have something wonderful to tell you."

Mrs. Menotti left the boys alone while she packed some things for the
journey. In a large traveling bag she put a great piece of smoked ham,
a loaf of fresh bread, a package of dried fruit, some figs fresh from
the garden, and a bottle of her best fruit juice wrapped in a napkin;
next came shirts, stockings, shoes, handkerchiefs, and various other
things, so that one might suppose that Rico were going for a month's
stay instead of a week.

"How much I have learned to care for that boy," she thought, as she
looked about to make sure that nothing had been forgotten, and her
heart sent up a silent prayer for a safe journey.

"I think you had better take this bag to the station now, Rico," she
said to him when she came downstairs. "Silvio has told you that you
are to go on the early train, and you will wish to explain matters to
the landlady. You must ask her if it greatly inconveniences her to let
you go so soon."

Rico was astonished to find that he was expected to take a traveling
bag of such huge proportions, but knowing that loving hands had
prepared it, he did not remonstrate, but took it gladly and did as he
was directed.

When Rico told the landlady that the pastor had planned for him to go
to the mountains in the morning to get Stineli, she took it for
granted that the girl was his sister, and inferred that the sister
would live with them. Rico's statement that Stineli was to live with
Mrs. Menotti undeceived her. It was a disappointment, but she gave her
consent, feeling thankful to Mrs. Menotti for not having tried to get
Rico.

"It must be that Rico likes it here," said the landlady to some guests
that evening, "because he is going back to get his sister." She meant
to let those people in the hills know how good a place the boy had, so
she packed a large basket with sausages, cheese, and boiled eggs, and
spread a loaf of bread with fresh butter, saying: "You mustn't be
hungry on the trip. If I put up more than you need, they will no
doubt be glad to have some up there; besides, you must have something
on the way back, for you will surely come back to me, won't you,
Rico?"

"In a week I will be here again," said Rico. He took his violin and
went over to bid Silvio and the mother good-by. He asked them to care
for his violin, for he would not have dared to intrust it to any one
else. Rico could not spend the evening with them, because he was
expected to go to bed early. Mrs. Menotti's motherly farewell made his
heart go out to her in gratitude, and Silvio's "Come back soon" rang
in his ears again and again as he walked through the darkness to the
hotel.



CHAPTER XVII

OVER THE MOUNTAINS


Long before five o'clock the following morning, Rico was at the
station, impatient to be off. He had slept but little during the
night, for his mind was in a whirl at the thought that he was actually
going back to Stineli. How glad he was that he might bring her to his
good friends on his return! When he found that sleep was out of the
question, he dressed, and going to the station, paced back and forth
along the narrow platform until the train came in.

When Rico selected his place in the car, he was reminded of his ride,
years ago, when he sat half-frightened in a corner of the seat, with
only his violin beside him. This time his luggage required more space
in the compartment than he himself did.

The stock dealer did not fail to join Rico at Bergamo, and they both
enjoyed the lovely daylight sail on Lake Como. The boy recognized the
place where they landed and also the inn where they took the stage. He
looked especially for the door of the stable, where the lantern had
shown him the way to the coachman on his former trip. He had not at
that time been able to see his surroundings very clearly.

The sun had set when the stage left the inn, so Rico entered the coach
with his companion. He fell asleep almost immediately and did not wake
until morning, when the sun was shining over the mountain tops. To his
great surprise and joy he found that they were going up the zigzag
road of the Maloja, so familiar to him. He could, however, see nothing
but the sharp angles in the road, until they arrived at the summit,
where they alighted for breakfast and to give the horses a rest. After
breakfast Rico looked for the place where he sat years ago, when he
was a tired and hungry little boy. He remembered distinctly how he had
watched the stage which later picked him up and took him down the
valley. Everything about him was of interest now, and he said to the
coachman, "Will it trouble you if I sit up there with you so that I
can see better?"

"Certainly not," said the man; "come up if you want to."

The passengers had already taken their places in the coach, and it was
but a moment later when they started at a lively pace down the long,
sloping grade. Rico presently saw the lake, the island with its pine
trees, and beyond, the white houses of Sils. Across the fields was
Sils-Maria. The little church showed up most distinctly at that
distance, but Rico's eyes were searching for something farther down
the hill; soon he saw, as he had hoped, the two familiar houses.

Rico's heart began to beat wildly. Where and how would he find the
little girl he had not seen for years? Suppose she should not be there
any longer? Suppose she had forgotten him? It seemed but a moment
before the stage stopped in Sils, and Rico alighted with his luggage.

Stineli had seen many hard days since Rico's disappearance. The
children had grown older, so that they were less care, but the work,
especially since the grandmother had died, had fallen more than ever
upon her. The children were wont to say, "Stineli is the oldest, so
she can do that," and the parents often said, "Stineli is young and
strong, so she can do that"; thus the willing hands were kept busy.
She sorely missed Rico and the grandmother, the only ones who had ever
regarded her comfort, but she tried hard to keep her cheerful nature
uppermost, although she often thought, "The world is not the same now
that they are gone."

On this sunny Saturday morning Stineli came out of the granary with a
bundle of straw which she intended to braid into a broom. As she
reached the path leading to Sils, she let her eyes follow along the
dry, smooth way until her glance was arrested by the appearance of a
strange young man coming in her direction. She knew from his dress
that he was not a Silsan. He came more rapidly as soon as he noticed
her and when quite close, stopped and looked at her. She glanced
inquiringly at his face and immediately recognized her long-lost
friend. Dropping her bundle, she ran to him, exclaiming: "O Rico, you
are not dead after all! How glad I am to see you! How very tall you
have grown! I would never have known you if it had not been for your
face; nobody else has a face like yours. O Rico, how glad I am that
you are here again!"

Rico was pale,--the joy seemed too great,--and he had not been able to
say one word. Stineli stood blushing in her pride of him, and waited
for him to speak.

"You have grown, too, Stineli," he said at length; "otherwise you are
the same as ever. The nearer I got to the house the more afraid I
became that you would be different, so that it would not seem the same
here."

"O Rico, if only grandmother could know!" said Stineli. "But I must
take you to the others; they will all be so astonished to see you."

When Stineli took Rico into the house the children, unaccustomed to
strangers, began to hide. The two older ones, Trudt and Sam, came in a
moment later and shyly said "Good morning" in passing. The mother
simply inquired if there was anything she could do for the stranger.

"Don't any of you know him?" inquired Stineli. "Why, mother, it is
Rico."

They were just exclaiming in surprise when the father came in to
breakfast. Rico advanced to shake hands cordially, but the man looked
at him blankly and said: "Are you a relative? There are so many I may
not know them all."

"Now father doesn't know him either!" exclaimed Stineli. "It is Rico,
papa."

"Why, Rico, to be sure," the father said, gazing at him from head to
foot. "You look prosperous, my boy; I suppose you have learned a good
trade. Let us sit down to breakfast, and then you must tell us about
yourself."

When Rico noticed that the grandmother did not come to breakfast, he
asked for her. It was the father who answered that they had buried her
beside the teacher a year ago. Rico said nothing, for the news came as
a shock to him. He had counted upon the pleasure of seeing the dear
old lady who had always shown him so much kindness.

Rico was immediately urged to tell about his wanderings and how he
happened to go away. He began his story from the night he left, but he
spoke in detail only when he told of Mrs. Menotti and of Silvio's
home. This led him easily to tell them the object of his visit to the
hills, and to beg them to let him take Stineli back with him when he
returned.

Stineli opened her eyes wide in astonishment, for she had not even
dreamed of such a possibility. How delightful it would be if she were
allowed to go with Rico to that beautiful place! The best part of it,
of course, would be to have him with her or near her again, and how
she would love Silvio for sending Rico back to her! Thoughts like
these kept surging through her brain while the father was considering
the matter.

"It would, no doubt, be a good thing for Stineli," he said. "I should
like to have her get out among people and learn their ways; but there
is no use to talk about it, for she can't be spared. We could let
Trudt go just as well as not."

"Yes," agreed the mother; "I couldn't possibly get along without
Stineli. I am willing that Trudt should go if she wants to."

"Goody! goody! I am going and I am glad," and Trudt clapped her hands
and danced about.

Stineli's face had clouded, but she made no protest, preferring to
have Rico say what was needful.

"It so happens," said Rico, calmly, "that Silvio wants Stineli and no
one else. If Trudt went down there, he would only send her away, so
that is out of the question. Mrs. Menotti told me to tell you that if
Stineli got along well with Silvio, she could send home two dollars
and a half every month. I am just as sure that Stineli will get along
with Silvio as if I had already seen them together."

Stineli's father pushed his chair away from the table and put on his
cap,--a habit of his whenever he wished to think seriously about
anything. The money was an important factor to him. How hard he had to
work to earn a dollar, and here was an opportunity to get two dollars
and a half every month without the least effort on his part! It was
not long before he hung up his cap and said: "She can go if that is
the case. I suppose one of the others can learn to do things here."

Stineli's face beamed, but the mother sighed as she realized what it
would mean to her.

In a moment the father put his cap on again. "I had forgotten," he
said, "that Stineli has not been confirmed; she will have to wait
until after that."

"But, father," exclaimed Stineli, "I was not planning to be confirmed
for two years. I can go now and come back when the two years are
over."

This plan was at last approved, and the parents consoled themselves by
thinking that they could then keep her at home if they wished.

"Just as soon as she gets back, I am going," said Trudt. They all
laughed at this, while Rico and Stineli exchanged glances and were
happy.

"Now, Stineli, I want to tell you something," said the father. "I know
that pandemonium will reign here until you two are gone, so I say the
sooner it is accomplished the better; then we can have peace and
quiet." It was accordingly decided that they should leave the
following Monday.

Rico realized how busy a day Stineli would have, so he asked Sam to
accompany him about Sils-Maria and the neighborhood. They stopped
first of all to look at the house across the way, that had at one time
sheltered Rico. He was informed that strangers lived there, that the
aunt had been gone several years, and that no one knew where she was.

Wherever Rico and Sam went that day they failed to find a single
person who recognized the "foreign-looking young man," as they called
him. On their return Rico wished to visit the grandmother's grave, but
they could not find it.

It was evening before they came back to the house, carrying with them
Rico's luggage from the station. They found Stineli at the well,
scrubbing the pails used about the barn. "I can't believe yet that I
am going, Rico," she said as they passed her.

"I can," said Rico; "but you haven't thought about it so long as I
have."

Stineli was delighted with the change in Rico. "How well and forcibly
he speaks," she thought. "He was timid and shy before he went away. He
seems to inspire confidence, and he looks wonderfully strong and
capable."

A bed was prepared for Rico in the attic. He did not unpack his lunch
until the following morning, when it provided a real feast for the
children. The figs were a novelty to them, and the abundance of good
things assured the parents that Rico was among friends in the valley.
They had no further fears about letting Stineli go with him.



CHAPTER XVIII

TWO HAPPY TRAVELERS


The return trip had been fully explained to Rico, and he knew that
they must leave Sils in the evening. Sam was going with Stineli and
Rico as far as Sils; the rest of the family gathered about the door
and waved farewell to them until they were lost to view.

"If grandmother could only see us!" said Stineli, as they neared the
little church. "Let us go over to her grave for a moment." This they
did, for Stineli knew exactly where it was.

"Are the two children here who are to go to Lake Garda?" they heard
the coachman say as soon as he arrived.

Rico and Stineli stepped forward. "All right," said the man. "I have
instructions to look after you. The coach happens to be full inside,
but I am thinking that you are young enough to like it up here with
me." He helped them up, tucked a large blanket around them because the
night was cool, and then the stage rolled on.

This was the first time that Rico and Stineli had been alone since he
came back, and they were both glad of the opportunity to sit so
cozily in the starry night and feel again the sweet companionship that
they had given up long ago. They had so much to say that they slept
but little during the night. They reached Lake Como in the morning,
and arrived in Peschiera on the same train that had carried Rico when
he came before. He led Stineli by a roundabout way in order to keep
the view of the lake hidden by the trees until they came to his
favorite place on the bridge.

Suddenly it burst upon them in all its beauty, as Rico had often
wished to describe it, only it seemed much more beautiful to Rico now
that Stineli was seeing it, too. He rejoiced to hear her say
presently, "Oh, it _is_ prettier than Lake Sils--ever so much
prettier."

They sat down on the bridge, and for the first time Rico spoke to
Stineli about his mother. He told her how well he remembered her, and
how often they had been together on this bridge, and how much they had
cared for each other.

"Then your home must have been here," said Stineli. "Where did you go
when you left the bridge? Can't you remember that?"

"Yes, I know just where we went, but I can't find the house.
Everything is just as it used to be until I get to the station; I
never saw that until I came here by myself, and I think they must
have taken the house away."

The sun was low in the heavens before they left the bridge. Rico was
secretly rejoicing over the fact that their coming would be a
surprise, for they were not expected for a week and here they were at
the garden!

"What a lovely place!" exclaimed Stineli. "What gorgeous flowers!"

Silvio's sharp ears heard this exclamation. He pulled himself up in
bed and called to his mother, "I do believe that Rico has come with
Stineli."

Mrs. Menotti hastily ran to her son, fearing that he was ill, but just
at that moment Rico appeared. How glad she was to see him safely back!
Her surprise and warm welcome were more than Rico had anticipated.
Before Rico had time to present Stineli the girl had gone directly to
Silvio's bed, speaking to him so kindly that he put his arms around
her neck and gave her the greatest hug his little arms were capable of
giving. Mrs. Menotti told Rico that she was more than satisfied with
the girl's appearance, and he had no fears about her conduct.

Although she spoke no Italian, Stineli found various ways in which she
could immediately make herself useful. The Latin words she had learned
in school helped her, and she tactfully used motions when Rico did
not explain for her. She carried the tray with Silvio's supper to his
bed and cut the food for him, propping him up comfortably with pillows
before she joined the mother and Rico in the dining room. After supper
Stineli made the others go to Silvio until she had finished the work,
and then she joined them.

She began to amuse Silvio with a little gift that she had brought in
her pocket so that it might be convenient when she wished to give it
to him. It was simply a number of wooden figures, with faces and
dresses gaily painted on them, and put together on a central piece so
that they would dance comically when shaken out. This was Peter's
handiwork, and it afforded Silvio unceasing amusement. Stineli also
made the shapes of animals with her hands, and let Silvio watch the
shadows on the wall. The mother could hear him say, "A rabbit! An
animal with horns! A long-legged spider!"

The clock struck ten before they thought it could possibly be so late.
Rico immediately arose, for it was his usual time to leave, but a dark
cloud seemed to settle on his face as he said good night and went out.

Stineli noticed that something was wrong with Rico, so she followed
him to the garden. She took his hand impulsively and said: "You have
been so good to bring me here, Rico, that I shall be very sorry if
you are not going to be happy. You can come over every day; don't you
think we can be happy?"

"Yes, and every night, no matter how happy we are here, I have to go
away and remember that I don't belong to anybody."

"But you must not think that, because you and I have always belonged
to each other. If you only knew how I missed you all those long years
that you were away! Many times I had to work so hard that I would
rather not have lived at all, but I used to think that I would gladly
bear it if I could just see you once more. Now that everything has
turned out so beautifully, I am sure that we ought to be happy."

"Really, Stineli, I will try," said Rico, and the cloud vanished as
they stood with clasped hands for a moment before he left the garden.

Stineli bade Silvio good night when she returned to the house, but he
grasped her hand and begged her to stay with him.

"Very well," said the mother, "Stineli may stay, but to-morrow she
will be ill, and you will have to do without her."

"Then go to sleep now, but come early in the morning," said the boy.

Mrs. Menotti had prepared a cozy room upstairs for Stineli. It
overlooked the garden, and the outdoor fragrance greeted them as they
entered. The girl went to sleep feeling assured that her new home
would prove to be a happy one.

At first Stineli was handicapped in her new surroundings by her
ignorance of Italian, but it was remarkable how well she and Silvio
entertained each other. He was always obedient and cheerful in her
presence, and complained of loneliness whenever she was gone. Mrs.
Menotti noticed with gratitude how rapidly her son was gaining in
strength. He enjoyed his meals more than ever before, for Stineli
liked to arrange things prettily, and to plan surprises for him on his
tray. Then, too, he slept better and longer than had been his custom.

Stineli was tireless in her efforts to please the sick child. She
adapted everything at hand to his entertainment. Having always lived
with children, she understood how to amuse them. In a remarkably short
time she had learned all the Italian that Silvio used. She soon began
to tell him stories, although some words failed her and others came
with painful slowness for a time.

Now that Mrs. Menotti was freed from the care of Silvio, she formed
the habit of going to meet Rico when she saw him coming. She was
always eager to express her appreciation of Stineli.

"I hadn't supposed that a young girl could be so thoughtful," she said
at one time. "She does things for Silvio from morning until night as
if it were a real pleasure to her, and she knows as much about
housekeeping as a woman. I feel as if it were Sunday every day." Rico
never tired of hearing Stineli praised.

Any one seeing the group sitting so cozily together when Rico was
there would have taken them to be a very happy family, and so they
were until the hour arrived for Rico to leave them. His face darkened
every night so that Stineli was worried, but Mrs. Menotti was too much
absorbed in Silvio's happiness to notice it.



CHAPTER XIX

CLOUDS AT LAKE GARDA


One evening when Rico came, he said that he could not be with them
again for two days, as he must go to Riva to play for a dance. This
was a disappointment to them all, and especially to Stineli. "I hope
the weather will be good," she said; "then you will have such a fine
sail on the lake. It will be beautiful, too, coming back in the
moonlight."

Everything Rico played that night was sad, and he failed, in spite of
his efforts, to shake off his wretchedness. Long before it was ten
o'clock he put up his violin and rose to go. Mrs. Menotti urged him to
stay, but she did not notice his unhappy face.

"I will go with Rico for a little way," said Stineli.

"No, no; don't go away, Stineli!" cried Silvio.

"Stay with him, Stineli; never mind me," said Rico, with the same
finality with which he had said, "There is no use to think of it,"
after his interview with the teacher, when he had found out the price
of a violin.

Stineli whispered to Silvio, "Be a brave little boy, dearie, and don't
cry for me; then I will tell you ever so many stories to-morrow." As
usual he obeyed her.

When Rico and Stineli came to the garden gate he said: "Go back,
Stineli; you belong there and I belong to the street. I am only a
poor, homeless orphan, so just let me go and don't worry."

"No, no, you shall not leave me while you feel in this way. Where can
we go to talk a little while?"

"To the bridge," answered Rico, eagerly.

They walked on in silence, and after reaching their favorite place on
the bridge, stood listening to the splash of the waves below them
until Rico said, "Really, Stineli, if it were not for you, I wouldn't
stay here any longer. I would go ever so far away, it would make
little difference where, since there is no one that cares for me and I
shall always have to live in hotels, and sleep in storerooms, and play
for dances where people act as if they were crazy. Since I have seen
you living with these good people, I have wished that my mother had
thrown me into the lake before she died, so that I need not have come
to be what I am."

"O Rico, how dare you think such wicked thoughts, much less express
them! It must be that you have been neglecting the Lord's Prayer or
you would not be so unhappy," said Stineli.

"It is true," said Rico; "I have not said it, and I am sure I have
forgotten it altogether by this time."

"But how dare you live so?" asked Stineli. "Just think how
grandmother would worry about you if she knew that! You must remember
how she said to us, 'The one that forgets to pray will have a hard
time.' You must learn the prayer again. Let us sit down here and I
will teach it to you."

After Stineli had repeated the prayer twice she said, "You can see
from this that the whole kingdom belongs to God, and you can trust Him
to find a home for you, because it also says that the power is His."

"If He has a home for me in His kingdom and has the power to give it,
He clearly doesn't want to," retorted Rico.

"Have you asked Him to give it to you?"

"No."

"Grandmother said that we must ask for things we want. It is very
likely that He thinks you can ask Him if you really want anything."

After a moment's silence Rico said, "Say the prayer once more; I will
learn it."

In a short time they were walking back to the garden, where they
parted for the night. On the way to the hotel Rico thought of the
kingdom and the power. He felt convinced that he had neglected a
sacred duty, and that night, in his cheerless attic room, he knelt by
his bed and prayed.

Stineli meant to go in as soon as Rico left her, and tell Mrs.
Menotti of his unhappiness, hoping that she might help the boy to find
some more suitable employment, since he so disliked playing for
dances, but this intention was not carried out, for Silvio had been
taken suddenly ill while she was gone, and was lying exhausted on his
pillow, flushed and breathing heavily. The mother sat crying softly
beside him. Stineli had never seen him ill before, and she stood
wondering what she should do.

Mrs. Menotti soon noticed her presence and said: "Sit down, Stineli;
he is better now, and I should like to tell you about something that
troubles me greatly. You are young, but I feel sure it will do me good
to have you know about it.

"When Mr. Menotti and I were first married, he brought me here from
Riva, where my father is still living. An old friend of my husband's
lived here, but he wished to go away for a few years, because his wife
had died and he found it too hard to live here without her; he wanted
us to live on his place while he was away. He had a little house and a
large farm of not especially good land, but since Mr. Menotti
understood perfectly how to manage a farm, it was agreed between them,
as intimate friends, that there was to be no rent; we were simply to
keep everything in good condition so that he would find his place in
order when he returned.

"A few years later the railway officials decided to build on the land,
and paid much more than it was worth to get it. Mr. Menotti took the
money, and being able to buy much better land, including this garden,
he built this house. There was money enough to pay for it all. The
land brought rich returns, and we prospered to such an extent that I
was worried, for it did not belong to us. Mr. Menotti was happy over
it because he had such a pleasant surprise for his friend, to whom he
meant to turn it all over as soon as he returned; but he never came.

"As Silvio grew older, and I saw how weak he was, I feared that his
illness might be sent as a punishment to us for living upon the
profits of another's money, and I have felt the same to-night. Mr.
Menotti died four years ago. I am sure I would gladly give things over
to the rightful owner, if I could, but I don't know where to find him.
The man may be sick somewhere, or in need, and it worries me beyond
measure."

"I think you have no reason to worry, since you have done the best you
could," said Stineli. "My grandmother taught me to ask God to make
things right, if it was beyond my own power.

"_I_ am worried about Rico," Stineli continued, "and I can do nothing
for him, so I have asked God to help him, and Rico has promised that
he will do his part. I feel sure that this burden can be lifted from
you in the same way, if you will only ask Him to make it right in His
sight. My grandmother has taught me that we are all governed in
harmony by the Creator so long as we seek the divine will. It is like
a great chorus in which every member sings in tune because he is
governed by the harmony of music, and so I always try to put myself
back where I belong, when I feel any discord. I have never been
disappointed in trusting God with the results."

"You are a wise girl, Stineli, and you have truly comforted me," said
Mrs. Menotti, as she kissed Stineli and bade her good night.



CHAPTER XX

AT HOME


A glorious day dawned upon Peschiera the next morning, and Mrs.
Menotti hurried to the garden to enjoy it more fully. She took her
accustomed seat on a rustic bench near the gate and looked about her
with appreciative eyes. The oleander bushes were in full bloom beside
her, behind her was the hedge to screen the garden from the street,
and yonder were the loaded fig trees, while near by were the
grapevines, dotted with clusters of ripe fruit.

"I realize," she said to herself, "that I shall never find so pretty a
home again."

Just at this moment Rico opened the gate. He had not been able to let
the beautiful morning pass without seeing his friends, as he was
obliged to go to Riva a little later. He had not noticed Mrs. Menotti,
and was going directly to the house when she called to him.

"I want you to sit here with me for a few moments, Rico, if you will.
What a fine day this promises to be! I have just been wondering how
long I may still be here to enjoy it."

"You alarm me, Mrs. Menotti. You are not thinking of going away?"

"I beg your pardon, Rico, for speaking so thoughtlessly; I should not
have mentioned it." She changed the subject, and presently, recalling
what Stineli had told her the previous evening about Rico's trouble,
she began to wonder what it could be. She had been so absorbed in her
own affairs at the time that she had given it but a moment's thought.

"Won't you tell me, Rico, why you came to Lake Garda? Stineli told me
last evening that you used to long to come here. Were you ever here
before?"

"Yes, when I was a child, but I was taken away."

"How did you happen to come here as a child?"

"I came into the world here."

"You were born here? Who was your father, and why did he come here
from the mountains?"

"He wasn't from the mountains; it was my mother who lived there."

"Why, Rico, your father was not a Peschieran?"

"He surely was, Mrs. Menotti; this was his home."

"How very strange! And you never have told me this in all these years!
Feeling that you did not care to talk of your earlier life, I have
never asked you to tell me your last name. But 'Rico' is not Italian.
What was your father called?"

"The same as I, Enrico Trevillo."

Mrs. Menotti sprang from the seat as if she had been struck. "What are
you saying?" she exclaimed. "What did you say just now?"

"My father's name," said Rico. "Why, what is the matter?"

Mrs. Menotti did not stay to answer him. She ran to the house and
hastily said to Stineli: "Get me a wrap, please. I must go over to see
the pastor, but I will be back soon and explain."

Stineli, much astonished, put a cape around the trembling form.

"Come with me, Rico, for I want to ask a few questions," said Mrs.
Menotti, but she was so agitated that she could think of nothing to
ask except if he were sure that Enrico Trevillo was his father. Rico
returned to the house after leaving Mrs. Menotti with the pastor.
Stineli and Silvio were laughing over a funny story when he arrived.
As soon as Silvio saw the violin he shouted, "Let us sing 'Little
Lambs' with Stineli, because Rico is here to play."

Rico had learned a great number of new songs, so that Stineli had
nearly forgotten all about "her song." She had not heard it since they
sang it for the grandmother the evening they had composed it. It
astonished her to find that Silvio knew anything about it. How was she
to know that Rico had been singing that song time after time, before
he knew any others?

She gladly consented to sing it with Rico. To her great surprise
Silvio began singing with them. To be sure, he did not know the
meaning of a word he was saying, but he remembered the sounds from
having heard them so often. He gave the words such a funny
pronunciation that Stineli had to laugh. Silvio laughed because she
laughed; then Rico could not help laughing, and so the song waited.
They began again time after time, only to stop as before, and when
Mrs. Menotti returned, she found them all still laughing and trying to
sing.

She had been making a strong effort to adjust herself to the new order
of things which the eventful morning had brought about. She crossed
the garden hastily and came in where the children were. The laughter
hushed as she sank exhausted into a chair, and they gazed at her in
astonishment.

"Rico," she said, as soon as she had gathered a little composure, "I
have just found out from the pastor that this home--the house, garden,
farm, and everything--is yours. It is your inheritance from your
father and belongs to you. Your name is recorded in the baptismal
record of the church; you are the son of Enrico Trevillo, who was my
husband's most intimate friend."

Stineli had almost from the first grasped the meaning of it all, and
it gave her an unspeakable happiness. Her face was radiant, and Mrs.
Menotti thought, "How beautiful the girl looks!"

Rico sat staring at the mother, speechless and bewildered. Silvio
shouted, "All of a sudden the house belongs to Rico; where shall he
sleep?"

"Where, Silvio?" repeated the mother. "In all the rooms, if he
chooses. He can turn us out on the street at once if he likes."

"Then I should certainly go out on the street with you," said Rico.

"Oh, you good Rico! We will gladly stay if it will give you pleasure.
I was thinking on the way home of how we could arrange it if you
should wish to have us here. I could buy a half interest in the place,
and then one half would belong to you and one half to Silvio."

"Then I will give my half to Stineli," declared Silvio.

"And I my half too," said Rico.

"Hurrah! now everything belongs to Stineli," shouted Silvio,
gleefully. "The garden, the house, and everything in it--the chairs,
the table, the violin, and you and I too are hers. Now let's sing
again!"

Rico, in the meantime, had been thinking, and now hesitatingly asked,
"How can it be that Silvio's father's house belongs to me, even if he
was my father's best friend?"

This reminded Mrs. Menotti that as yet Rico knew none of the
circumstances leading up to her discovery, so she began from the
beginning and related the events in the proper order. When she
finished, there was a grand jubilee among the children, because they
realized that there was nothing to hinder Rico's coming to live with
them immediately.

After the commotion had somewhat subsided, Rico said to Mrs. Menotti:
"You must let nothing here be changed because this good fortune has
come to me. I will simply come and live with you, and we shall all be
at home, and you can be our mother."

"O Rico, to think it should be you of all people!" exclaimed Mrs.
Menotti. "How well Stineli has advised us to let our troubles be made
right, and how soon the answer came! I gladly give the property over
to you, and I gladly remain here, too. I will be a true mother to you,
Rico, for I have long loved you as an own son. You and Stineli must
call me mother after this. We shall be the happiest family in all
Peschiera."

"Now we _must_ finish our song," burst out Silvio, who felt so happy
that his feelings needed an outlet. Rico and Stineli were no less
jubilant, and they sang merrily.

Rico was about to put up his violin, when Stineli said, "I should like
to stop with a different song, Rico; can you guess which one?"

"Yes, I can." Then they sang in gratitude to God and in sweet memory
of the dear old grandmother who taught it to them:

    "He never will refuse His aid
      If you a prayer will send;
    Whatever in His care is laid
      Shall have a happy end.

    Then let the blessing onward go,
      And cause it not to stay,
    That you may rest in peace below
      And happy be alway."

It is needless to say that Rico did not go to Riva that day. The
situation was immediately explained to the hotel people, so that they
could hire a substitute to play for the dance. How glad Rico was to be
excused they could scarcely imagine.

The landlady received the information with the greatest astonishment.
She hastily called her husband and told him the news. Later she
congratulated Rico and said to him that she heartily wished for God's
blessing upon his home. Not in the least did she begrudge him his good
fortune. She had really grown very fond of him, and her pleasure was
genuine. For some time the people of the hotel Three Crosses had been
making Rico liberal offers to come to live with them, and she was
relieved that now this could not happen. Her husband was glad for
Rico, because he had known the father well; he wondered now that he
had never noticed the striking resemblance between father and son.

Rico left word to have his belongings sent over to his house the next
day, and then bade them a friendly farewell.

"We want you to give us your orders for all the entertaining you may
do in the future," the landlady said, as he was about to leave. Rico
thanked them in his usual quiet fashion and departed.

Before night nearly all Peschiera had heard of Rico's good fortune. He
was a favorite in town, and the news caused much rejoicing.

Mrs. Menotti spared no pains to make Rico comfortable in his new home.
The large front room upstairs was prepared for his special use. After
everything had been arranged to her satisfaction, she went to gather
some flowers as a finishing touch, and she had just placed them on the
table when she heard Rico coming.

"Mrs. Menotti has your room ready, and she is upstairs," said Stineli.
"Won't you go up to see it now?"

Rico expected to see a pleasant room, but he was not prepared to find
the artistic effect which held him spellbound as he reached the
threshold. Mrs. Menotti understood his nature so well that she knew
what he would like, and she had arranged every detail herself. She met
him at the door, and taking his hand, led him to the windows
overlooking the lake. Rico wished to express his gratitude, but he
could only murmur, "I am so glad to be at home."

In the sitting room downstairs, where the doors opened so pleasantly
into the garden, the family, after Rico had come to stay, spent the
most delightful evenings imaginable. Ten o'clock no longer brought
sadness to the happy circle, and the months slipped by quite unheeded.

Rico was now supposed to manage his business, and he usually spent the
days in the field and garden with his foreman. The first day they were
out together the foreman thought, "I know more than my master," but
that evening, when the soul-inspiring strains of the violin and voice
came floating out to him across the garden, he thought, "My master
does know more than I"; and thereafter he had a profound respect for
Rico.



CHAPTER XXI

SUNSHINE AT LAKE GARDA


Two years had passed since Rico had come to his home, and it seemed to
them all that every day was filled with more pleasure than the
preceding one. Stineli knew that the time was at hand when she ought
to go home, and it made her sad whenever she thought of it. There was
the possibility that she might not be allowed to come back, and she
could think of nothing worse than that. Rico, too, began to be unhappy
about it, for he had promised that she should go back to be confirmed.
It seemed to be his duty to let her go, and though he put it off from
day to day, it weighed upon his mind to such an extent that he
scarcely spoke except when it was necessary.

Mrs. Menotti saw that something was wrong, and inquired into the
cause; she had long ago forgotten that Stineli would ever have to
leave them. When they told her she said, "Stineli is still very young;
it will be just as well to wait until she is older"; so they had one
more year of undisturbed pleasure.

One day, about a year later, a message came from Bergamo, saying that
some one was there who was to take Stineli back with him. There was no
way out of it now, so the preparations for the journey began. Silvio
cried and cried because his Stineli was going away.

"You must be sure to come back," said Mrs. Menotti. "Promise your
father anything he wants if he will only let you come."

Rico said scarcely a word when Stineli went, but it seemed to him that
she took all the sunshine in the world away with her. The clouds
remained from November to the following Easter. The days had dragged
along in monotonous fashion, with the zest of life completely gone.

Now it was Easter Sunday. The festivities of the day were over, the
garden was one mass of bloom, and the fields gave promise of a
bountiful harvest. It ought to have made everybody happy, yet here was
Rico, sitting with Silvio in the midst of all this luxury and beauty,
playing the most melancholy tunes he could think of. To be sure they
suited Rico's mood, but they depressed Silvio and made him extremely
fretful. Suddenly they heard, "Rico, haven't you a more cheerful
welcome?"

Silvio screamed for joy. Rico threw the violin on the bed and rushed
out. Mrs. Menotti came in from an adjoining room to see what had
happened. There on the threshold stood Stineli. The sunshine was back
again. She had not had the slightest notion of the hearty welcome that
awaited her return. In fact, the others had not realized how necessary
she was to their happiness until she was gone. They gathered about
Silvio's bed as usual, and they asked questions and answered them and
rejoiced that the days of separation were over.

A few years later something came about so naturally that it seemed as
if it could not have been otherwise. One lovely day in May--as fine a
day as Peschiera had ever seen--a long wedding procession moved from
the church to the Golden Sun. The tall, handsome Rico was at the head,
and by his side, with a wreath of roses on her fair brow, was the
beautiful Stineli. Next came Silvio, in a softly upholstered cart
drawn by two Peschiera boys. Next in line was the mother, in her
rustling festive attire, looking somewhat pale and tired. The flower
girls who came next were almost hidden in the roses they carried;
following them came the guests, and it seemed from their number that
all Peschiera must have turned out to do honor to the young bride and
bridegroom.

The pride of the landlady of the Golden Sun, when she saw the
procession coming, can be better imagined than described. Ever after,
when anybody told about a wedding, she would say scornfully, "That is
nothing compared to Rico's wedding at the Golden Sun."

The loyal Peschierans rejoiced that Rico was to make his home among
them. The sunshine never again left him, and the home nestled in the
beautiful garden was always a happy one. Stineli never let the Lord's
Prayer be forgotten, and the grandmother's song could be heard every
Sunday night.



WISELI FINDS HER PLACE



CHAPTER I

COASTING


Directly opposite the city of Bern lies a small village beautifully
situated on a hill. I cannot tell you what it is called, but I will
describe it to you so that you may know it if you are ever there. On
the summit of the hill there is but one house; it is surrounded by a
flower garden, which meets on each side of the house the stretch of
lawn at the front. This residence is called The Hill, and is the home
of Colonel Ritter. A short distance down the hill, on a level stretch
of ground, stands the church, with the parsonage beside it. This is
where Mrs. Ritter spent her happy girlhood as the pastor's daughter.
Still farther down, amid a group of houses, is the schoolhouse. On the
left of these, all by itself, stands an attractive little house with a
garden. In the front lawn are placed some flower beds containing
roses, carnations, and mignonette. The asparagus beds at the sides of
the house are screened from the front by a low raspberry hedge. The
whole place presents a well-kept appearance. The road goes on down the
hill to the main road that follows along the Aar River to the open
country.

This long, sloping hill provided excellent coasting during the winter.
The distance from the top of the hill to the Aar road below made a
continuous coast of about ten minutes' duration. This incomparable
sledge course gave to the children of the village the greatest
pleasure of the year. No sooner was school dismissed than they ran for
their sleds and hurried up the hill. The hours passed like minutes, so
that six o'clock, the time when they were expected at home, came much
too soon. The closing scene on the hill was usually an interesting
one, for they always wanted to go down once more before they broke up
for the night, and then once again, and after that just one single
time more, so that it might be inferred from their excited haste that
their lives depended upon making as many trips as possible.

They were usually governed by a wise rule that compelled them all to
ride down and return in the same order, so as to avoid the possibility
of collision and confusion; but the rule was occasionally disregarded,
when the final excitement swayed them. This happened to be the case on
a bright January night, when the intense cold made the snow crackle as
it was crunched under the feet of the children, who came panting up
the hill, drawing their sleds after them, their faces glowing from
their exertions. The boys were shouting, "Once more! once more!" as
they turned their sleds and fell into line.

Now it happened that three of the boys claimed the same place in the
file, and not one was willing to go behind the others. During the
dispute two of them crowded the big boy Chappi to one side into the
snow, where his heavy sled sank into the drift. This made him angry,
for it gave the others the opportunity to get ahead of him. In
glancing back he noticed a little girl standing near, watching him;
she had wrapped her hands in her apron to keep them warm, but she was
shivering in her thin dress.

"Can't you get out of the way, you ragged thing?" he cried angrily.
"What business have you here anyway, since you have no sled? I'll
teach you how to get away."

He kicked a cloud of snow at her and was just ready to repeat it when
some one behind him gave him a fierce blow. In great rage he doubled
up his fist and turned savagely to attack his unknown foe.

It was Otto Ritter, who had just placed his sled in line and who now
stood looking calmly at Chappi's clenched fist and raised arm. "Strike
if you dare," was all he said.

Otto was a tall, slender boy, not nearly so stout as Chappi, but he
had already proved, in previous encounters, that he possessed a skill
in handling himself against which Chappi's weight counted for little.
Chappi was too wise to strike, but he shook his fist in the air and
snarled, "Clear out! I don't care to have anything to do with you."

"But I have something to do with you," retorted Otto. "What business
have you to drive Wiseli into the drift and then pelt her with snow
besides? You are a coward to attack a defenseless child."

Otto disdainfully turned his back upon Chappi and went toward the
girl, who was standing knee-deep in the snowdrift. "Come out of the
snow, Wiseli," he said gently. "Is it true that you have no sled?"

"I was only looking at the rest," she answered timidly.

"Take mine and go down once," said Otto. "Hurry, for they are going to
start in a minute."

Wiseli glanced quickly at Chappi, afraid that he would interfere with
her going, but the boy seemed to have forgotten all about her. Otto
helped her to seat herself on the sled, and the next minute she was
going down the hill behind the others.

Wiseli had watched them for ten or fifteen minutes, and had secretly
wished that she might be allowed to sit on one of the large sleds used
to carry several at a time, but to go down alone was more than she
had even hoped for; besides, this was the prettiest sled of all. It
had a lion's head for the front decoration, and was finished with
steel runners and made of light material so that it beat all the
others in a race.

It seemed to Otto but a moment before the party returned, so he
shouted, "Stay in line, Wiseli, and go down once more."

Wiseli immediately turned her sled and gladly led the line down the
hill. She murmured timid thanks to Otto when she returned with the
sled, but the happy, flushed face would have satisfied him even if she
had said nothing. She heard Otto calling his sister as she started
homeward through the panting crowd.

"Here I am!" and a plump, rosy-cheeked little girl came to him with
her sled. Otto took his sister's warm little hand in his and they
hastened home. They had spent much more than the allotted time
to-night, but they had enjoyed themselves too much to entertain any
regrets whatever.



CHAPTER II

THE HOME ON THE HILL


As Otto and his sister rushed into the long hall with its stone floor,
they were met by Trina, an old and faithful servant, who held the lamp
she was carrying high above her head to avoid getting the light in her
eyes.

"You are here at last," she said half impatiently and half
indulgently. "Your mother has been wanting you, and we have all waited
for you until long after supper time."

Trina had been in the family before the children were born, and she
exercised the same authority over them as did the parents, while she
was even more indulgent. In fact, she idolized them both; but for
their good, according to her views, she did not wish them to be too
sure of it. Consequently she was always trying to be somewhat gruff
for their especial benefit.

"Out of your shoes and into your slippers!" she commanded. She put the
light down, and kneeling before Otto she unfastened his shoes and put
the dry slippers on his feet. In the meantime she was urging the
little sister to begin removing her wet shoes, but Miezi stood
listening intently to something she thought she heard from the living
room.

"Well," said Trina, "are you going to wait until next summer? Your
shoes will be dry before then."

"Hush!" warned Miezi with upraised hand; "I heard something. Who is in
the other room, Trina?"

"Only people with dry shoes are going in there," said Trina, still
kneeling before Otto.

Just then Miezi gave a startled exclamation. "There, I heard it again!
It is Uncle Max's laugh, I am sure."

"What!" exclaimed Otto, and both children rushed for the living room
door. "Let me go in first, Otto; I heard him first!" cried Miezi,
endeavoring to push herself ahead of him; but Trina picked her up in
her arms and carried her to the hall seat, where the old servant had a
hard time trying to get the wet shoes from the impatient feet. The
moment the girl was released she bounded into the living room and into
Uncle Max's arms, for it was really he, sitting in the large armchair,
looking as happy and prosperous as ever.

The children quite worshiped Uncle Max. He was their especial friend,
from whom they had no secrets. His travels kept him away much of the
time, and they seldom saw him more than once a year, but this seemed
to make his visits the more appreciated, especially as he always
brought them remembrances from the remotest parts of the world. Each
time he came seemed a holiday to the children.

To-night they were hurried to the table, where a steaming supper
awaited them. The children's excitement over the uncle's coming abated
somewhat before this enjoyment, for coasting always brought sharpened
appetites. Miezi was industriously engaged with her soup when her
father said: "I think my little girl has forgotten her papa to-night.
I missed my usual kiss and handshake."

Miezi instantly let her spoon drop and pushed her chair back to run to
the neglected parent, but he stopped her with, "No, no, you need not
trouble now."

"I didn't mean to forget you, papa," she said.

"We will make up for it after supper, Miezchen," said the father.
"What did we christen the child, anyway?" he continued. "Wasn't it
Maria?"

"I was there when she was baptized," said Max, "but I cannot remember.
It surely was not Miezchen."

"Of course you were there," asserted his sister. "You were the child's
godfather, and we called her Marie. It was papa himself who first
called her Miezchen, and Otto made it still worse."

"No, mamma, surely not worse," interposed Otto. "You see, Uncle Max,
it is like this: if she is a good little girl I call her Miezchen;
this she is so seldom, however, that I usually call her Miezi. When
she is angry and looks like a little ruffled hen, I call her Miez."

"And when Otto is angry, what does he look like?" inquired Uncle Max,
addressing Miezi.

Before she could think of a comparison, Otto answered, "Like a man!"

They all laughed so heartily that Miezi stirred her soup violently in
her confusion.

Uncle Max tactfully changed the subject: "It has been over a year
since I have seen you children, and I wish you would tell me what you
have been doing while I have been away."

Naturally the latest news was related first, and, in their eagerness
to have Uncle Max know everything, both children wished to speak at
once. Among other things they told of the fun they had in school, and
that led Otto to tell about his experience with Chappi and Wiseli; how
she had been driven into the snowdrift and rudely treated, and how,
though she had no sled, she finally had had two rides on his.

"That was right, Otto," said his father; "always take the part of the
weak and the oppressed, and honor the meaning of your name. Who is
this little girl you speak of?"

"I doubt if you know her," answered Mrs. Ritter, "but Max knew the
mother very well. You remember the frail linen weaver that lived near
us? She was his daughter and only child, and she used to come often to
the parsonage. She was a pretty girl with large brown eyes, and she
could sing beautifully. Do you remember whom I mean?"

Just at this moment Trina brought in a message: "Joiner Andreas begs
permission to speak with Mrs. Ritter, if it will not disturb her."

Quite a commotion followed this announcement. Mrs. Ritter dropped the
spoon with which she was serving, and saying hastily, "Excuse me,
please," left the room.

Otto and Miezi immediately pushed back their chairs to go also, but
Uncle Max held Miezi fast. Otto stumbled over something in his haste,
and Miezi struggled hard to free herself. "Do let me go, Uncle Max!
Let me go!" she cried.

"Why do you want to go, Miezchen?"

"To see Joiner Andreas. Let me go. Help me, papa."

"Tell me why you want to see Joiner Andreas, and I will let you go."

"My sheep has but two legs left and no tail, and only Joiner Andreas
knows how to fix it. Now let me go."

Miezi's papa and Uncle Max laughed as she ran from the room.

"Who is this man that has the whole household at his command?"
inquired Uncle Max.

"You ought to know better than I," answered Colonel Ritter. "Very
likely he is an old playmate of yours. I am sure you would enjoy
knowing him. Your sister makes us all love him. He is really the
corner stone of this household, without whom things generally would go
to rack and ruin. It doesn't matter what happens, for 'Joiner Andreas
will fix it.' In fact he is helper, adviser, comforter, and friend,
all in one."

"You may laugh," said Mrs. Ritter, who returned just then, "but I know
that Joiner Andreas is a comfort."

"So do I," said the husband, playfully.

"So do I," echoed Miezi, as she seated herself at the table.

"So do I," added Otto, who was rubbing the knuckles he had bruised in
his hasty exit.

"Then we are all agreed," said the mother. "Now I want you children to
go to bed."

"To which we are not all agreed," said Otto, teasingly.

However, Trina came and they were obliged to go. The mother followed
after a time, as was her custom, to hear the children's evening
prayer and receive their last embrace for the night. This often
required some time, for they were eager to tell her many things, and
detained her for their own pleasure. To-night she remained until they
were quiet and then returned to the gentlemen in the sitting room.

"At last," said Colonel Ritter, apparently as relieved as if he had
just conquered an enemy. "You see, Max, my wife's time belongs first
of all to Joiner Andreas, and then to the children; if there is any
left, it belongs to me."

"Oh, it's not quite so bad as that!" corrected Mrs. Ritter. "You like
Andreas just as well as the rest of us do, even though you won't admit
it. That reminds me, he told me that he had received the money from
his yearly profit and wanted your advice about investing it."

"Yes, it is a fact," said the colonel, "that I never saw a more
trustworthy or energetic man than he. I would trust him with all I
have. He is by far the most reliable and wide-awake man in our
parish."

"Now you know what he thinks of him, Max," said Mrs. Ritter, laughing.

"Yes, to be sure," said the brother, "but you have said so much about
this man that I am curious to see him. Did I ever know him?"

"Why, Max! to think of your asking!" his sister admonished him. "You
used to go to school together and you knew him well. Don't you
remember the two brothers who were in your class, the older one such a
good-for-nothing boy? Not that he was stupid, but he didn't care to
study, so the younger one was in the same class. The older one's name
was George, and he was rather striking in appearance because of his
heavy black hair. Whenever he saw us he would pelt us with stones or
apples, and he invariably called us 'aristocrat-breed.'"

Uncle Max laughed. "Yes, I should say I do remember him distinctly,"
he said. "That word I shall never forget--'aristocrat-breed.' I should
like to know how he got hold of it. I remember very well what a tyrant
he was. I interfered once when I saw him unmercifully pommeling a much
smaller boy, and he took his vengeance on me by calling me
'aristocrat-breed' at least a dozen times. Now, of a sudden, I
remember the other one too. Can it be that little Andreas with the
violets has become your hero? Now I comprehend the intimacy, Marie."

"The violets!" broke in Colonel Ritter. "I have heard nothing about
the violets."

"Why, I see that scene before me as if it were but yesterday,"
continued Max, "and I am going to tell you about it, Otto. You have no
doubt heard Marie tell about the teacher we had in those days, who
believed that the bad should be whipped out of children and the good
whipped into them. Consequently he was much of the time engaged in
punishing us for one or both purposes. At one time he was
administering this treatment to the little Andreas, and he struck the
boy such a heavy blow across the back that he screamed outright. Well,
my little sister, who had just begun to go to school, and who didn't
understand the teacher's well-meant methods, immediately rose from her
seat and marched down the aisle to the door.

"The teacher stopped to see what had happened, holding his rod poised
in the air long enough to ask, 'Where are you going?'

"Marie turned around and, with tears streaming down her face, answered
loud enough for the whole school to hear, 'I am going home to tell my
papa.'

"I shall never forget how the teacher left the astonished Andreas and
rushed upon Marie. 'Just wait and I'll teach _you_,' he threatened. He
roughly took her by the arm and forced her back to her seat,
muttering, 'I'll teach _you_!' That ended the scene, however, for he
sent Andreas to his seat without further punishment, and nothing more
was said to Marie.

"Andreas never forgot this kind act in his behalf, and he always
brought Marie a bunch of violets when he came to school; I used to
notice how they perfumed the schoolroom. Occasionally there would be
a cluster of strawberries or something else equally appropriate. How
the friendship has extended to the present state of affairs I shall
have to let my sister explain."

"My dear wife, I am eager to have this brought up to date," remarked
the colonel.

Mrs. Ritter laughed with the others and began: "The strawberries and
violets were given as Max said, but you have forgotten how soon
Andreas left school after I entered. He went to the city to learn the
joiner's trade. I didn't lose track of him, however, for he often came
home. When Otto and I were married and bought this place, he came to
consult us about his own purchase of some property. The owner of the
place wanted cash, and Andreas, who had lost his parents, hadn't the
money. Otto lent him the sum he needed and has never regretted it."

"I should say not," broke in the colonel. "He paid for that long ago,
and since that time has laid by a good sum of his own. He brings his
money to me, and I invest it for him. His interest is adding to his
capital, and he could now afford to build a much better house and live
with more comforts. It is a shame that he is all alone in the world."

"Hasn't he a wife? And where is George?" asked Max.

"Andreas lives all alone," answered the sister. "I think his history
is too sad for him ever to take a wife. George led a wild life around
here until Andreas refused to help him out of any more scrapes, and
now he has disappeared, for he couldn't pay his debts. People were
relieved to have him out of the neighborhood, but everybody respects
Andreas."

"What do you mean by his sad experience, Marie?" inquired Max.

"I should like to hear about that, too," said the husband.

"Why, Otto!" said Mrs. Ritter, "I have told you about it at least a
dozen times."

"Is that so? It must please me," answered the husband, laughing.

"Can you recall, Max, the girl whom we were speaking of at the table
to-night when Andreas came? We could hear her father's loom from our
garden, they lived so near us. I told you the girl was very pretty.
She had a charming manner and her name was Aloise."

"Never in my life have I known anybody by that name," asserted Max.

"I know why you say so," corrected his sister. "We never called her
that, and I am sure that you never did. We called her Wisi, much to
our dear mother's disgust. You often went over to get her when we
wanted to have some music, because she could sing so well."

"Oh, yes, I remember Wisi," said Max, "and I used to like the girl,
too; but I don't believe that I ever knew of her being named anything
else."

"I know that you used to know, Max," persisted Mrs. Ritter. "Mother so
often deplored the fact that we would not use the pretty name Aloise,
and she never liked what we did call her."

"What became of Wisi?" inquired Max.

"Well," continued Mrs. Ritter, "Wisi and I were much together, for we
were in the same class and went from grade to grade at the same time.
Andreas, through all those years, was her stanchest friend, and she
willingly accepted his attentions, often finding his friendship of
great advantage to herself.

"For one thing we were supposed to bring certain examples worked out
on our slates when we came to school in the morning, but Wisi's slate
was usually blank. She was always light-hearted and merry, and she
would put her slate on her desk in a very unconcerned way and go out
to play; when she returned, the slate was filled with neatly copied
examples.

"Once it was brought before the school that some one had broken a
windowpane, and again, that some one had shaken the teacher's fruit
trees, and I remember that we all knew it was Wisi's fault; but
Andreas took the blame upon himself and the punishment also. The rest
of us accepted it as a matter of course, for we all liked Wisi and
were used to having her escape.

"How it happened that the quietest, most earnest boy in school should
care especially about the most mischievous girl used to puzzle us, and
I often wondered if Wisi were not indifferent to Andreas's interest in
her. I asked mamma about it one day, and she said, 'I am afraid that
Aloise is somewhat vain, and that she may live to see the bad results
of her carelessness.' After that I worried about her myself.

"Some time later we had Bible studies together, preparatory to our
confirmation, and she took such an interest in them that we began to
think she had given up her mischievous ways. She regularly came to
sing with us Sunday evenings, and we liked to have her with us, for
her cheerfulness infected us all. By this time she was a very pretty
young woman, not rugged, but perfectly well; and she far surpassed the
other girls of the neighborhood in grace, beauty, and accomplishments.
Andreas was still at his trade, but he managed to come home nearly
every Sunday. We could all see how much he cared for Wisi. He was the
only one that ever called her Wiseli, and he always accented the name
so softly that we thought it was very pretty.

"One Sunday night, when Wisi and I were not quite eighteen years of
age, she came in radiantly happy and told us that she was soon to be
married. The man to whom she was betrothed had but recently come to
the village and was employed at the factory. I was so astonished and
grieved over the news that I could say nothing. Mother, however, asked
her to take some time to consider the matter thoroughly, because it
was too important a step to take hurriedly. Mother told her that she
was very young and that she must not forget that there was some one
else who had loved her for years, of whose intentions she could have
no doubt; then, too, her father needed her, and she ought to help him
a few years more.

"Wisi cried because mother talked so earnestly, but she said that her
father had given his consent and it was all arranged that they were to
be married in two weeks. 'Then,' said mother, 'we must make the best
of it and try to be happy. I will play our favorite melody and we will
sing the words.

    "Commit thou all thy ways
      And all that grieves thy heart
    To Him whose endless days
      Can strength and grace impart.

    "He gives to wind and wave
      The power to be still;
    For thee He'll surely save
      A place to work His will."'

"When Wisi left us that night she was as cheerful as ever, but I could
not help feeling that her happiest days were over. Then, too, I feared
for Andreas, but he said nothing, although he has never been the same
since. For several years he seemed to be far from well, but he did not
give up work."

"Poor fellow!" exclaimed Max; "and he never married?"

"Why, no, Max!" said Mrs. Ritter, impatiently, "how could he when he
is faithfulness itself?"

"How was I to know that he possessed that virtue also, dear sister? He
seems to have them all. How did Wisi get along? I should be sorry to
hear that her marriage proved a failure."

"I can plainly see that your sympathy is with her," replied Mrs.
Ritter. "To you, Andreas's fate does not matter so much."

"Not so, sister, but those pretty eyes of hers ought never to have
been spoiled with tears. Isn't she happy?"

"I fear not, Max. I have seen but little of her since her marriage.
There was a coarseness in her husband's nature that repelled me, and
he was always cross to her. Six children were born to them, and all
but one, a frail little girl, have died. She is called Wiseli, and is
about the size of our Miezchen, although she is three years older. She
is the little girl whom Otto defended this evening. Her mother has
suffered so much during all these years, that there is little hope of
her ever being well again."

"That is too bad," said Max; "we must try to do something for her.
Don't you think that we might help her?"

"I am afraid that it is too late. Wisi was much too delicate for all
the work and worry that fell to her lot."

"What is the husband doing?"

"I forgot to tell you, Max. About six months ago he had an arm and a
leg badly crushed in the factory, and he died a few weeks after being
injured. Since then Wisi has been living alone with her little girl."

"So that is her story," mused Max. "And one child is all that she has
left. What would become of her in case Wisi died? It is more likely,
though, that the mother will get well, and that Andreas will yet be
happy."

"No, I am sure it is too late for that," asserted Mrs. Ritter.
"Although Wisi repented long ago, the wrong could not be undone, and
she has suffered in silence. But we are forgetting that we must have
some sleep to-night."

Colonel Ritter had fallen asleep in his chair. It was past midnight.
Max roguishly went behind his sleeping brother and shook his shoulders
so roughly that the colonel sprang from his chair in alarm. Max
laughed and patted his shoulder by way of atonement, saying
apologetically, "I only intended to give you a gentle warning that my
sister says we must take to our beds."

A few moments later the house stood dark and quiet in the moonlight.

At the foot of the hill was another house where it would soon be quiet
also; from a tiny window a small lamp still sent a faint glimmer into
the night.



CHAPTER III

ANOTHER HOME


While Otto and Miezi Ritter were going home after the coasting, Wiseli
was running down the hill as fast as her little feet could take her;
she realized that she was later than usual and was sorry to have kept
her mother waiting. The pleasure of her coast gave an added impetus,
for she could scarcely wait to tell her mother about it. In her haste
she would have run against a man coming from the house, had he not
quickly stepped to one side. She found her mother reclining in a chair
by the window, and she wondered at it because it was so unusual. She
threw her arms about her neck, saying eagerly, "Are you vexed with me,
mother, for not coming sooner?"

"Why, no, child; but I am glad that you are here now."

She hastily told her mother about Otto's kindness, and how she had
enjoyed two long rides on the prettiest sled in school. "But, mother,"
she added, "what is the matter? Why haven't you a light?"

"You may get the lamp now and bring me a glass of water. I am so
thirsty."

Wiseli went to the kitchen and returned carrying the lamp in one hand
and a bottle of fruit juice in the other.

"What are you bringing me?" asked the mother.

"I don't know myself. I found it on the kitchen table. See how it
sparkles." The mother drew the cork. "It is raspberry juice, as
fragrant as the berries fresh from the garden," she said.

Wiseli poured some of the rich juice into a tumbler and diluted it
with water; this the mother drank in long draughts until the tumbler
was emptied. "Leave it near me, Wiseli," she said. "It seems as if I
could drink it all, I am so thirsty and it is so refreshing. I wonder
who was so thoughtful as to bring it to me! It must have come from
Mrs. Ritter's and very likely Trina brought it over."

"Trina always comes in when she brings anything. Was she here to-day?"

"No. No one came in."

"Joiner Andreas may have left it when he was here," said Wiseli.

"Wiseli!" exclaimed the mother. "Joiner Andreas has not been here
either."

"But I saw him, mother. He came out of the house just as I came in. I
nearly ran into him in my hurry. Didn't you hear any one? It seems
strange that he should have been so quiet."

"I do remember that I thought the kitchen door opened, and I listened
for your footsteps, but you came in a few moments later, so I thought
I must have been mistaken. Are you sure that it was Andreas whom you
saw?"

Wiseli was certain, but to convince the mother she described him as he
invariably looked. "I shouldn't wonder," she added, "if it were he who
brought that large jar of honey you liked so much, and also the cakes
you found that day. Don't you remember thanking Trina for them when
she brought you the hot dinner, and she told you that she knew nothing
about them? It must have been Joiner Andreas who did it."

Tears filled the mother's eyes as she said, "I think that probably you
are right, Wiseli."

"Surely you are not going to be sorry about it, mother," said Wiseli,
as she fondly stroked her mother's hair.

"No, but I want you to thank him for me sometime, Wiseli. I am afraid
that I cannot do it myself. Tell him that it did me good; that I was
glad he was so kind. Give me a little more, please."

Wiseli prepared the fruit juice and brought a pillow from the bed so
that her mother could rest her head on the window seat. She drew a
footstool to the window and made her mother comfortable. Then she sat
down beside her and said, "It is time for me to say the verses you
taught me.

    Commit thou all thy ways
      And all that grieves thy heart
    To Him whose endless days
      Can strength and grace impart.

    "He gives to wind and wave
      The power to be still;
    For thee He'll surely save
      A place to work His will."

"Remember that, Wiseli," said the mother, drowsily. "If the time ever
comes when it seems as if you were not cared for, take comfort and
courage from the verses you have just repeated."

The mother's regular breathing soon told Wiseli that she was asleep;
but the child remained quietly by her side for fear of waking her.
Thus it happened that she too fell asleep, and the lamp burned on,
growing fainter and fainter until it burned itself out and left the
house dark in the quiet night.

Early the following morning a neighbor passed the window on her way to
the well, and, glancing in as usual, she saw Wiseli crying beside the
mother, who had her head pillowed on the window seat. She ran to the
child, saying, "What is it, Wiseli? I hope your mother is not worse."

Wiseli only sobbed. The neighbor bent over the mother in surprise
and alarm. "Go to your uncle quickly, Wiseli," she said; "tell him to
come immediately. I will wait here until you get back."

The uncle's house was about fifteen minutes' walk from the church, and
Wiseli ran on obediently, although the tears would not be kept back.
Her aunt answered the knock at the door; seeing the child in tears she
said gruffly, "What is the matter with you?"

"I have been sent over to get my uncle; my mother is dead," answered
Wiseli, for she had reasoned it out to herself that it must be so or
else the mother would speak to her.

The aunt softened perceptibly. "He is not here just now," she said
almost kindly. "I will have him come as soon as possible, so you
needn't wait."

It was not long after Wiseli's return that the uncle came. He directed
the neighbor to look after everything so that he might take the child
away at once.

"But where shall we go?" inquired Wiseli.

"You shall go home with me, for I am all that you have left now. I
will take care of you."

In spite of this assurance a great dread seized Wiseli. To go home
with her uncle meant to live with the aunt of whom she was so afraid
that she had always dreaded even meeting her. Then there were the
three rude cousins, of whom Chappi was the oldest. The thought of how
Hans and Rudi were always throwing stones at children made her
shudder. How could she go there to live, and yet how dared she refuse?

All these thoughts flashed through Wiseli's mind as she stood
hesitating. "You needn't be afraid," said her uncle kindly; "there are
a good many of us, to be sure, but you will find that all the more
interesting."

Wiseli tied a few of her things in a bundle, put a shawl over her
head, and joined her uncle who was waiting near the door.

"That is a good girl," said the uncle; "now let us be off. Don't cry
any more; that never helps anything."

Wiseli choked back the sobs as best she could and followed the uncle,
whose stern nature had never been so touched before. Thus the little
home where Wiseli had lived, loving and beloved, passed out of her
life forever.

They had a glimpse of Trina, who was crossing a vacant lot with a
basket on her arm, and Wiseli knew that she was going to see her
mother.

Trina said to the neighbor who met her at the door; "I have something
good for the sick one's dinner; I hope I am not too late. We have a
visitor, and everything is late when he is there."

"It doesn't matter now, for you would have been too late even if you
had come early this morning; she died in the night," said the
neighbor.

"Oh, what will Mrs. Ritter say!" exclaimed Trina in alarm. "She tried
so hard to have me come yesterday, but we were all so taken up with
the uncle's arrival that it was put off. I am so sorry to have to tell
her of this because I know how she will blame herself for neglecting
her friend so long."

"Yes," said the neighbor, "we are all apt to do that. Yesterday I did
not suspect that she was any worse than usual."

Trina sorrowfully returned to the Ritter home.



CHAPTER IV

THE GOTTI HOME


When Wiseli and her uncle arrived at Beechgreen, the three boys rushed
in from the barn and stood staring at her. Soon the mother came in
from the kitchen and did the same thing. Wiseli did not know what to
do except to stand and hold her bundle.

Presently the father seated himself at the table and said, "I think we
had better have something to eat. I am afraid the little one has not
had much to-day. Put your things down, Wiseli, and sit here with me."

Wiseli obeyed without a word. The aunt brought a large loaf of black
bread and some cheese, after which she went on staring at Wiseli as if
she had never seen a child before.

The uncle cut a slice of the bread, put a piece of cheese on it, and
pushed it over in front of Wiseli. "There, little one," he said
kindly, "eat that. You must be hungry."

The suppressed tears welled up in Wiseli's eyes, and her throat was so
choked that she could scarcely breathe. She knew that she could not
swallow a single crumb. "No, thank you," she managed to say; "I am
not hungry."

"But you had better try," urged the uncle. "You mustn't be afraid."

Still Wiseli left the bread untouched, and the boys and their mother
continued to stare at her. Presently the aunt dropped her hands from
her hips and said, "If it isn't good enough for you, then let it
alone." Wiseli was glad that she went out after this rebuke.

"You had better put your slice of bread in your pocket, Wiseli, for
you may want it a little later," said the uncle, and then he too went
out to the kitchen, closing the door after him.

Wiseli knew that her uncle meant to be good to her, and she wanted to
obey him, so she tried to put the bread in her pocket. Unfortunately
this was much too small, so she laid the bread back on the table.

At this point Chappi snatched the slice saying, "I will help you." He
was just in the act of taking a bite when one of the brothers struck
his arm so that the bread dropped to the floor. Then the other brother
tried to get it, and a general scuffle ensued.

The father opened the kitchen door to ask what the trouble was. The
boys answered together, "Wiseli didn't want it."

"Unless you want me to come in with a strap you had better stop that
racket," threatened the father.

He had just closed the door again when one of the younger boys seized
the other by the hair, with the idea of holding him at bay while he
got the bread, but this only made matters worse, and the bread
disappeared bite by bite as each found an opportunity to snatch it.

The aunt was washing potatoes in the kitchen. When her husband came in
she said, "What do you mean by bringing the girl home with you? I
should like to ask what you intend to do with her."

"The child had to go somewhere," he answered. "I am her uncle and the
only relative she has. She ought to be of some help to you. I am sure
she could do the kind of work you are doing now, and you could take
your time for something you like better. You have always said that the
boys make work, and you can surely find something for her to do."

"Oh, bosh! So far as that is concerned, she will be no better than the
boys. You can hear what is going on in there now, and she has scarcely
been here fifteen minutes."

"Yes," said the uncle; "but I have heard the same thing many times
before she came, and I imagine she has little enough to do with it."

"Didn't you hear them all lay it upon her when you opened the door?"
she asked angrily.

"They have to blame some one," the husband calmly answered; "they
always do, I notice. I am of the opinion that you will have little
trouble from the girl; she acts and obeys better than the boys."

"You needn't set her up as a model for the boys already," retorted his
wife. "There isn't a place for her to sleep, anyway."

"Well," said the husband, "one can't plan everything at once. She has,
no doubt, had a bed to sleep on, and it can easily be brought over
here. I will talk with the pastor about her to-morrow. She can sleep
on the bench behind the stove to-night; it will at least be warm.
Later we can partition off a part of our chamber large enough for her
little bed."

"I never in my life heard of any one bringing a child and a week later
her bed!" sneered the aunt. "I should like to know who is going to pay
the bills if we have to go to building on her account."

"If the church agrees to let us have her, they will also pay something
for her keeping," explained the husband. "I will take her for less
money than any one else would ask, because I am her uncle, and she
will be happier with us than with strangers. I wish you would tell
Chappi that I want him at the barn."

The aunt called to Chappi, but the boys were still struggling on the
floor and he did not hear. She went into the room and gruffly ordered
quiet. Wiseli stood crouching against the wall, scarcely daring to
move.

"I wonder that you stand by and watch such a scene without trying to
stop it," scolded the aunt. "Can you knit?"

Wiseli trembled as she answered, "Yes, I can knit stockings."

The aunt handed Wiseli a large brown stocking, at the same time
sending Chappi to the barn. The two brothers followed him out.
"Remember that it is the foot you are knitting on, and don't make it
too short," cautioned the aunt, and then she returned to the kitchen.

Wiseli was glad to be alone. She sat down on the bench behind the
stove so that she might hold her work in her lap, for the stocking was
so heavy that she could not otherwise manage the needles.

She had just begun her knitting when the aunt returned to say, "You
had better come to the kitchen now, so that you can learn how I do the
work, for I want you to do it next time."

Wiseli followed to the kitchen, where she tried to help, but there
seemed to be little that she dared to do. She kept thinking how gladly
she would have done any number of tasks for her mother, because she
would have been kind. The comparison brought the tears, so she
desperately fought against thinking about herself.

"Now pay attention!" cautioned the aunt, as she walked about doing
the work while Wiseli stood by the stove; "I want you to know how to
do it the next time."

They were still there when the father and sons came up the walk from
the barn, stamping the snow from their heavy boots.

"They are coming; run, Wiseli, and open the door," said the aunt.

Then the woman drained a large kettle of potatoes, which she took from
the stove, ran to the living room and dumped them in the middle of the
warped dining table. Next she brought a large pan of sour milk, and
said to Wiseli, "The knives and forks are in the table drawer; you can
put them on."

Wiseli found five knives and five forks in the drawer and put them on
the table; then supper was ready. The father and the boys took their
places on the bench behind the table next the window. There was a
chair at one end of the table, and one at the side next the kitchen,
which the aunt took. The uncle motioned Wiseli to take the other
chair, saying to his wife, "She can sit there, I suppose?"

"Of course," snapped the aunt, and then went out to the kitchen on
pretense of being busy. She kept coming back for only a moment at a
time. The uncle, understanding her, said impatiently, "I wish you
would sit still and eat your supper."

"I don't find the time to sit still," she retorted; "I should like to
know who is going to look after things out there if I don't." Just at
that moment she noticed that Wiseli was not eating her supper.

"Why are you sitting with your hands in your lap?" she demanded.

"She hasn't anything to eat with," replied Rudi, who had already
solved the problem to his own satisfaction, for he could not
understand how anybody could help eating so long as there was anything
on the table.

"So that is it," said the aunt. "How was I to know that all of a
sudden we must have six knives and forks when we have always needed
but five. I suppose we must get an extra spoon, too. Why couldn't you
have said something?" she went on, turning to Wiseli. "You must know
that one has to have a spoon to eat with."

Wiseli timidly answered, "It didn't matter, because I am not hungry."

"But why not?" snapped the aunt. "Are you used to something better? I
haven't any notion of making a change on your account."

"I think you had better let the child alone," interrupted the husband.
"I don't want you to frighten her. She will get along well enough
after a while."

Wiseli sat quietly while the rest finished their meal. Then the father
said that Speck, the goat, was ailing at the barn, so he would go
back. He put on his fur cap, took the lantern, and went out.

Wiseli watched her aunt brush the potato peelings from the table into
the empty milk pan with her hands; then she wiped the table, after
which the other things were soon washed and put away. When all was
finished she said, "Now you have seen how I do up the supper work,
Wiseli; you can do it hereafter."

When they came into the living room, Chappi was seated at the table
with his number book and pencil, as if he intended writing his sums on
the table; he now began to stare at Wiseli. She had picked up the
stocking on the bench by the stove, but had not dared to go near the
light on the table.

"You ought to be working examples yourself," he said to Wiseli; "you
aren't the smartest one in school by any means."

Wiseli did not know what to say. She had not been in school that day,
and did not know what examples had been given out. In fact, she seemed
to be out of harmony with everything.

"If I have to do sums, you have to," continued Chappi.

Wiseli said nothing, and did not stir.

"All right," said Chappi, "I'll not do one single example more," and
he threw down his pencil.

"Goody!" exclaimed Hans; "then I don't need to either," and he put
his multiplication table back in his book sack. Study was the most
unpleasant thing he ever had to do.

"I shall tell the teacher who is to blame for all this laziness," said
Chappi, threateningly; "you will find out what he will do to you."

This might have been carried on indefinitely had not the father
returned from the barn. He brought two large mill sacks and asked
Chappi to take his things from the table; then he spread out the
sacks, folded them neatly, and laid them on the bench behind the
stove.

"There," he said, "that is all right. Where is your bundle, little
one?"

Wiseli brought it from the corner, where she had put it, and was
surprised to see her uncle place it at one end of the sacks and press
it flat with his hands.

"There!" he repeated as he gave the bundle a last pat. Then turning to
Wiseli, he added: "You may go to sleep now; the bundle will be your
pillow and the stove will keep you from getting cold. You three boys
must be off to bed!"

He took the lamp and followed the boys out, but he returned presently
and said: "I hope you will sleep well, Wiseli. Try hard not to think
about what has happened to-day. It will all come right later." Then he
left her to herself.

A moment later the aunt came, carrying a small lamp, and wished to see
the bed. "Can you sleep that way?" she asked, almost kindly. "It will
be nice and warm for you. Some people haven't any bed and are cold
besides. It may happen to be the case with you yet, so you better be
thankful that you have a roof over your head. Good night."

"Good night," answered Wiseli, but the door closed too quickly for the
aunt to hear.

Wiseli was glad to know that she was to be alone for the night. The
moon dimly lighted the room. She had been in such constant dread of
those about her that she had scarcely dared to think of herself. Now
she lifted up her heart in prayer, simply saying, "Help me, Heavenly
Father, for I am afraid, and mother is not with me now."

She felt comforted after a time because she had the assurance, from
her mother's teaching, that her prayer would be answered. She
remembered that it was only the evening before that her mother had
told her to take comfort and courage from the verses she had repeated.
The real meaning came to her now as she said the lines over.

    "For thee He'll surely save
      A place to work His will."

The load she had been carrying all day seemed lifted. A quiet peace
filled her trusting heart, and she resolved in her new-found strength
never to fear her cousins and the aunt again. She was soon sound
asleep.

Wiseli dreamed that she saw a path before her which was beautiful with
roses and carnations on either side, and that the sun was shining
pleasantly overhead. She was so happy that she danced for joy. Beside
her stood the mother, holding her by the hand. She pointed down the
path and said: "See, Wiseli, God is giving that to you. Didn't I tell
you he would find the place?

    For thee He'll surely save
      A place to work His will."

Wiseli had forgotten all her sorrow and fear, and slept as well with
her head on the bundle on the hard bench as if she had been dreaming
in the softest bed.



CHAPTER V

HOW LIFE CONTINUES AND SUMMER COMES


When the faithful Trina returned to The Hill with the unopened basket
upon her arm, a look of anxiety came over Mrs. Ritter's countenance.
Trina explained that the mother was dead and that Wiseli had been
taken to the home of her uncle Gotti. The news shocked the entire
household, for none of them had realized that the sickness would
terminate so suddenly.

"Here I have tried for several days to visit the poor, lonely woman,
and now it is too late," said Mrs. Ritter. "If I had only gone I
should feel more reconciled to the loss."

"It is a shame that Wiseli must go there," said Otto as he paced the
floor with his hands clenched. "I tell you if I catch him abusing her,
he will need to count his ribs to see if any are left."

"Of whom are you speaking in that fashion?" asked Mrs. Ritter.

"Of Chappi. Think of the mean things that he can do to her now that
she has to live in the same house with him. It is unjust and ought
not to be allowed. I'll attend to him if I find out that--"

Just then Otto's voice was nearly drowned by a loud stamping behind
the stove, and he paused to say, "What are you making such an
outlandish noise for, you Miez behind the stove?"

Miezi came out in sight of the others, her cheeks flaming red from the
heat of the stove combined with her exertions in trying to get her
feet into a pair of wet shoes which Trina had but a short time before
taken off with the greatest difficulty.

She continued her efforts, but managed to say, "You can see that I
have to do it; no one on earth could put on these things without
stamping."

"Why must they be put on, when I have just taken the pains to get you
out of them?" asked Trina.

"I am going to Beechgreen to get Wiseli; she can have my bed," replied
Miezi, with a finality that seemed to admit of no interference.

Her operations were nevertheless cut short by Trina, who picked her up
in her arms and carried her to a chair.

"That is nice of you, Miezchen," she said, "but I had better do that
errand for you. There is no reason why you should wear out your shoes
getting ready. You can let Wiseli have your bed and you can go to the
attic to sleep. There is plenty of room up there."

This, however, was not in harmony with Miezi's plans; she had solved
the sleeping problem to her own as well as to Wiseli's advantage, for
nothing else would suit her so well as never to have to go to bed. So
long as she could remember, she had always been sent to bed when she
wanted very much to be up.

It soon became evident to Miezi, not only that Trina was keeping her
from going to Wiseli, but that she had no intention of going in her
place. When Trina frankly refused to go, Miezi cried so bitterly that
Otto put his hands over his ears, and the mother came to make terms of
peace. She promised to talk the matter over with papa just as soon as
he and Uncle Max returned from a long-contemplated visit at a friend's
house some distance away.

It was four days later when the colonel and Uncle Max returned. The
children brought the subject of Wiseli's coming to live with them
before the father at once, and he promised to investigate the
conditions the next morning.

At noon the following day the colonel came home with the information
that he was too late to get Wiseli. "You know, children," he said,
"her uncle Gotti really wants to help the girl. He is a highly
respected man and he offered to take the child for very little money.
Wiseli's mother left her scarcely anything, so somebody had to offer
her a home, and it seemed natural that her uncle should do so.
Everybody feels satisfied that she has been well placed. I believe it
is the best arrangement that could be made, for she is much too young
to go out to work. We cannot take all the homeless children unless we
put up an orphanage."

"I had only hoped," said Mrs. Ritter, "that we might help to find a
place more suited to the child. She has a sensitive nature as well as
a frail body, and she ought to be somewhere else. She will hear a
great deal that is coarse and rude where she is, and will have to work
much too hard for her delicate constitution. We shall have to accept
the situation, but I am sorry that we cannot help her in some way."

Miezi cried, and Otto struck the table with his clenched fist to
emphasize how he would deal with Chappi if he were unkind to Wiseli.
It was only a few days, however, before the children grew accustomed
to thinking of the little girl in her new surroundings, and the weeks
sped on as rapidly as ever.

In the meantime Wiseli was becoming reconciled to her new home. Her
bed had been brought over as her uncle had planned, and it was put in
a box-like apartment partitioned off from the aunt's sleeping room.
This was barely large enough for the bed and the small trunk which had
been brought over with the remainder of the little girl's things.
Wiseli had to stand either on the bed or on the trunk when she
dressed, and she had to climb over the trunk to get into bed. She had
to go to the well out of doors to wash her hands and face. When it was
so cold that the water would freeze, the aunt told her to let it go
altogether. "I am sure," she said, "that you can wash yourself enough
when it gets warmer." Since this advice was not in accordance with her
mother's teaching, Wiseli did not accept it.

The life in Wiseli's present surroundings was so different in every
way from that to which she had been accustomed, that the comparison
often produced severe homesickness, although she was never again so
unhappy as on the first evening at her uncle's house. She remembered
her beautiful dream and she did not doubt that a better place would be
found for her, since she had prayed for it. "My mother will not let
God forget me," was the assurance that held up hope before her during
those trying days, and the thought of the verses was constantly with
her.

    "For thee He'll surely save
    A place to work His will."

The winter had passed and a promising spring was at hand. The trees
put forth their green leaves and the meadow was dotted with primroses
and anemones. In the woods the birds were merry, and the warm
sunshine changed the barren waste of winter to a living beauty that
made all hearts rejoice.

Probably no one enjoyed the balmy days more than Wiseli, and she felt
quite happy as she walked to and from school. At other times there was
scarcely a moment to spare, not even to notice the pretty flowers, for
not only did she have to work every moment, but she had to work hard.
She helped with the garden, and, since the aunt worked in the field on
the farm, she had to get the meals and wash dishes as well. She did
the patching for the whole family, made the gruel for the little pigs,
and carried it to them besides; in short, she did everything about the
house, so that she often had to stay away from school in order to
finish her duties.

Going to school was Wiseli's greatest pleasure. It rested her tired
body and, best of all, she heard there kind and friendly words. During
recess and after school hours Otto was sure to speak to her in a
cordial way, and it did much to relieve the lonely feeling. Sometimes
a message came from Mrs. Ritter inviting Wiseli to spend the following
Sunday with her children. Wiseli was never allowed to accept these
invitations to The Hill, for the aunt would say, "It is the only day
that you don't have to go to school, and I can't spare you every day."

Wiseli worked all day Sunday, but it was pleasant to know that the
Ritter family had invited her, and there was always the hope that some
day she might be allowed to go.

There was another reason why Wiseli liked to go to school. The road
went by the home of Joiner Andreas. She had not forgotten that she had
the message from her mother to deliver to him. She was too timid to go
to the house and ask for him, but she watched for the opportunity to
see him in his garden or near his home. She never passed his place
without looking over the garden fence to see if he was there. She had
not yet seen him, although the garden was in the best of trim and
indicated that he spent many hours there.

May and June had passed, and now the long hot summer days had come,
bringing increased work on the farm. Wiseli had to go to the
haymaking. She was expected either to rake the hay together or to use
the fork in spreading it in the sun, working all day long until her
arms ached so wretchedly that she could not sleep. This, however, was
not what made her unhappy, for it did not occur to her that she ought
not to work as she did. Her great trouble was that she had to miss
school, except on rainy days, or occasionally when the aunt said that
she might go. Chappi often said in the evening, when he was doing his
examples, "Why don't you get your lessons, Wiseli? You never know
anything, and you seem to think that you can live without working."

It was this that hurt Wiseli, for she could rarely go to school two
days in succession, and so she was not able to keep up with the class.
One day, when she failed to give a correct answer, the teacher said,
"I did not expect that of you, Wiseli; you used to be a good scholar."
How it shamed the child, and how she cried all the way home that
night, no one but herself realized! It seemed to her that day that no
one cared for her after all, and when she got into her little bed at
night, she felt too miserable even to pray. But she could not sleep
until she had repeated her usual prayer, although it was said almost
hopelessly.

This happened in July. The following morning Wiseli was standing at
the table when the boys went off to school, and she was wondering
whether or not she should be allowed to go. The aunt said nothing, and
the uncle was not in the room.

The aunt had a large washing on hand for that day. Would she be asked
to carry it to the trough and help?

Yes, she heard her aunt calling, and she was just about to answer when
her uncle came in, saying, "Hurry, Wiseli, the boys have gone already.
The hay is safe in the barn, and you shall go to school now. You may
tell the teacher that you will not be kept out any more for a while,
and explain to him that it was because we had so much work on our
hands that you had to stay away."

Wiseli felt as free as a bird that morning. She knew that she might go
to school every day that week, and it was something worth living for.
How beautiful the morning was! The birds warbled their care-free notes
in the tree tops, the sunlight sparkled on the dewy grass, and the air
was fragrant with the perfume of the wild flowers. Wiseli had no time
to stop, but she noticed all this beauty as she ran along.

That afternoon, just as the school children were about to rush out to
their freedom, the teacher asked, "Whose turn is it to care for the
schoolroom this week?"

"It is Otto's; it is Otto's!" cried the children, and the next moment
they were gone.

"Otto," said the teacher sternly, "you didn't do your duty here last
night. I will overlook it this time, but I want you to see that it
does not happen again, or I shall be obliged to enforce the penalty
upon you."

Otto glanced around the room and saw the nutshells, apple parings, and
bits of paper that he was supposed to clean up; then he looked at the
children playing out of doors, and the first thing he knew he was
among them. The teacher had already left the room.

Later, when the children were all gone, Otto stood for a moment
watching the golden glow of the evening sky and thought, "If I could
only go home now! I would pick my cap full of cherries and take a ride
out to the meadow with the hired man; now I have to go to that stuffy
room and sweep and dust it."

Otto's patience forsook him as he started for the schoolroom. "I
shouldn't care," he said, "if a cyclone came along and shattered the
old house into a thousand pieces." There was no alternative, however;
he must either take his turn at cleaning the schoolroom, or he must
stay in at recess to-morrow. He had no sooner entered the room than he
noticed, to his great surprise, that the work was done. Not a speck of
dust was to be seen, and the windows had been opened wide, letting the
air enter freely, so that the room seemed as fresh as out of doors.

Just at this moment the teacher entered hastily and looked in
astonishment at the staring Otto. Then he noticed the clean room and
said kindly, "You may be satisfied with your work to-night. I did not
expect you to do so well, although you are always good at your
lessons. Good night."

Now that Otto was convinced that what he saw was real, he seized his
cap and, clearing the steps in two jumps, ran all the way up the hill.
It did not occur to him to seek for an explanation of what had
happened, until he told his mother about it when he reached home.

"You may be sure that no one did it for you by mistake," said his
mother. "You must have some good friend who has willingly sacrificed
himself for you. Perhaps you can think of some one who may have done
it."

"I know who it was," said Miezi, who had been listening.

"Who?" asked Otto.

"Henry, because you gave him an apple about a year ago," said Miezi,
emphatically.

"Yes, or William Tell, because I didn't take his away from him about a
year ago; that would be just as sensible, you little Miezi," said
Otto, as he playfully stroked her cheek. Just then he saw an
opportunity to ride out to the hayfields, so the subject was dropped.

In the meantime Wiseli was tripping down the hill happier than she had
been for many a day. She passed Joiner Andreas's house, but retraced
her steps in order to get a good view of the carnation bed.

"It is a little late," she thought, "but I shall get home before the
boys, anyway, for they are probably playing somewhere."

Just as she was admiring the flowers, the joiner came out of the house
and walked directly toward her. "Wouldn't you like to have a few
carnations, Wiseli?" he said.

"Yes, very much," she answered. "My mother wanted me to tell you
something, too."

"Your mother!" he gasped, and the carnations he had just picked fell
unheeded to the ground. Wiseli darted through the gate and picked them
up. "When my mother was sick and didn't eat anything any more, she
drank that nice fruit juice you put in the kitchen, and it made her
feel better. She told me to thank you for bringing it, and for all
that you did for her. She said you were very kind."

Wiseli was surprised to see the tears in the good man's eyes. He tried
to say something, but he could not. He took Wiseli's hand in both of
his, patted it gently, and returned to the house without another word.

Wiseli was amazed. Nobody else had shed any tears for her mother, and
she had not allowed herself to do so when anybody could see her; yet
here was a man so moved that he could not speak of her. How she loved
him for it! She started homeward for fear of being later than the
boys, and it was well she did so, for they had just turned in at the
gate when she got there.

Wiseli felt so much better when she went to bed that night that she
wondered how she could have been so discouraged the evening before.
She resolved to keep herself cheerful in the future, if it were
possible. The good, kind face of Joiner Andreas was the last thing she
thought of before going to sleep.

The following day (it was Wednesday) Otto had a repetition of his
strange experience. It had not occurred to him that the good fairy
would again appear, and, as usual, he was not able to keep from
rushing out with the others and frolicking until the children left the
playground. When he returned to do his work, the room was again in the
best of order.

He began to be really curious as to whom he had to thank for this
favor. He decided to play the spy the next night and solve the
mystery. Accordingly, after the school had been dismissed the
following afternoon, Otto waited a moment at his seat, wondering how
he could get to a hiding place unseen, when the boys began to shout,
"Come on, Otto, come on; we want to play robber and you must lead."

"I have to clean up this week, so I won't play to-night," he said.

"What difference will fifteen minutes make? Come on."

He gave up his scheme of playing spy and went with the boys. Instead
of the game's lasting fifteen minutes, it was half an hour before it
was over, and Otto felt anxious as to whether he must still do his
work. He ran panting to the schoolroom and gave the door such a
vigorous kick that the teacher came in to see what had happened.

"What do you want, Otto?" he asked.

"Just to see if I did everything," stammered Otto.

"Very well done," commented the teacher, as he looked about. "Your
zeal is praiseworthy, Otto, but you needn't be so boisterous when you
come to the door again."

Otto went out more curious than ever. He determined to find out the
next night without fail, for, with the exception of Saturday morning,
it would be his last opportunity.

"Otto," called the teacher as soon as he had dismissed school the next
day, "I wish you would take this note to the pastor's for me and wait
for an answer; you can be back in five or ten minutes to do your
cleaning."

Otto was not in the least pleased to do the teacher's errand, but he
dared not refuse, so he started off at a run, hoping to be back in
time to capture the good fairy, if she appeared to do his work. When
he got to the parsonage, he was admitted at once, and told that the
pastor would see him directly. Then the minister's wife called him to
the garden to chat a moment, and it seemed an age to him before he
could free himself courteously, for she asked not only about himself
and his health, but that of his mother, father, Uncle Max, Miezi, and
apparently all the relatives in Germany.

Finally the opportunity came to present the note to the pastor, and it
was but a moment later when he was speeding back to the schoolhouse
with the written answer in his hand. He fairly stumbled into the
schoolroom in his eagerness to see if any one was there, but, as
before, the room was in the best of order and not a soul to be seen.

"Not once this week have I had to do that disagreeable task," he
thought. "Since there is some one who is doing such work without
needing to, I am at least going to find out who it is."

The school closed at eleven o'clock on Saturday. Otto let all the
children pass out; when they had gone, he went outside, locked the
door, and stood with his back against it waiting to see who would come
back to do the work. He stood there waiting until half past eleven,
and still no one came.

Otto remembered that the family at home were to have lunch promptly at
twelve, for an afternoon's outing had been planned and he had promised
to get home as early as possible. It became evident that he was going
to have to do the work himself, and he dared wait no longer. Greatly
disappointed, he unlocked the door and entered the room, but--Otto
could scarcely believe his eyes--the work was finished as usual.

How very strange it seemed! For a moment a superstitious fear
possessed him, and he tiptoed to the door and went out, taking pains
to lock it securely behind him.

Just at that moment Wiseli came quietly out of the teacher's kitchen
door; she listened intently for a moment, but hearing no one, started
on her way home, which led her by the schoolhouse door. The next
moment she and Otto were face to face. Each was startled at the
other's presence, and Wiseli blushed deeply, as if she had been caught
doing something very wrong. This partly betrayed her to Otto, who
said: "Surely, Wiseli, _you_ have not been doing all that work for me
this week? How _could_ any one who didn't have to?"

"It has given me a great deal of pleasure," said Wiseli.

"Oh, no, don't say that!" exclaimed Otto. "To do such work _couldn't_
give anybody any pleasure."

"But it did, really, Otto. I was always glad when night came and I
could do it again. I was all the time thinking how glad and surprised
you would be to find the task finished."

"What made you do it for me, Wiseli?"

"I knew that you didn't like to do it, and I have many a time wished
for an opportunity to do something for you."

"I am sure you have done a great deal more for me than I did for you,
and I shall not forget it, Wiseli." Otto had taken Wiseli's hand in
his and she was very happy.

"I waited to-day until everybody had gone, and even now I cannot see
how you got into that room," said Otto.

"I never went out," she replied. "I hid behind my seat, for I expected
you to go out as usual."

"How have you always before managed to get away without my seeing
you?" asked Otto.

"You don't notice much when you are playing," said Wiseli. "Yesterday
and to-day, when I was not sure where you were, I went through the
teacher's room and asked his wife if she had an errand she would like
to have me do on the way home. I have several times done things for
her. I was behind the kitchen door yesterday when you stormed into the
schoolroom."

Both children laughed heartily at the remembrance. Otto impulsively
pressed Wiseli's hand and said, "I am truly grateful to you. Good-by."
After they had gone their separate ways, they both rejoiced that they
had discovered each other.



CHAPTER VI

A NEW FEATURE


The summer had passed, and now the late autumn was at hand. The nights
were getting cold and damp. The cows were eating the last bits of
grass in the chilly pastures, while the boys herding them built fires
to warm themselves and to roast potatoes.

One such unpleasant evening Otto came home from school to tell his
mother that he was going over to see what Wiseli was doing, for she
had not been at school for a whole week. He took an apple and hurried
away. As he went up the path to Beechgreen he noticed Rudi sitting on
the ground in front of the door with a pile of pears beside him; he
was busily engaged biting into first one and then another.

"Where is Wiseli?" asked Otto.

"Outdoors," answered Rudi.

"Where outdoors?"

"In the pasture."

"In what pasture?"

"I don't know."

"You will not suffer from overpoliteness at least," remarked Otto. He
started for the large pasture near the woods. Just then he noticed
some people under a pear tree near at hand, and soon he saw Wiseli
gathering pears into a basket. Hans had thrown himself face upward
across a filled basket and was rocking himself in a way which
threatened the overturn of the pears. Chappi was perched up in the
tree laughing at his brother's antics. When Wiseli saw Otto coming,
her face broke into happy smiles.

"I have come to see how you are, Wiseli," said Otto, as he took her
hand. "Why have you been out of school so long?"

"There was so much to be done that I couldn't go, Otto. See what a lot
of pears there are! I have to pick pears from morning until night."

"Your shoes and stockings are soaked," remarked Otto. "Ugh, it is cold
here. Doesn't it make you sick to get so wet?"

"Yes, sometimes; but the work usually keeps me warm."

Just then Hans gave such a violent lurch that the basket went over and
the pears scattered in every direction.

"Oh," cried Wiseli, "that is too bad! Now we must gather them all over
again."

"And that one too," cried Chappi, and he laughed as the pear that he
threw hit Wiseli on the forehead hard enough to bring tears to her
eyes.

It had scarcely happened, however, before Otto had pulled Chappi from
the tree and had taken a firm grip on his throat.

"Stop, you're choking me," gurgled Chappi. He was not laughing any
more.

"I will teach you that you are responsible to me when you treat Wiseli
in that way," said Otto, his voice strained in his anger. He tightened
his grip as he added, "Is this enough to make you remember what I told
you?"

"Yes," gasped Chappi, whose face was turning purple.

"I will let you go," said Otto, "but I want you to keep in mind that I
will give you such a choking as you will remember to your dying day if
you ever hurt Wiseli again. Good-by, Wiseli." Then Otto was gone.

He went straight to his mother and indignantly protested against the
necessity of Wiseli's having to live with those boys at her uncle's
home. He declared his intention of going over to ask the pastor if
complaint might be entered against the whole family, so that Wiseli
might be taken from them.

"My dear son," said Mrs. Ritter; "there is no lawful way of taking
Wiseli from them, and a complaint of that character would only lead
the whole family to treat her more unkindly than they do now. So long
as the uncle means well by her there is nothing we can do. I realize
fully what a hard time Wiseli is having, and I don't want you to think
that I have not taken the matter to heart, Otto. I am looking
earnestly for an opening to do something for her, and I hope that in
the meantime you will protect her as much as possible, without being
rude and rough yourself."

Otto tried to help his mother think of a way to free Wiseli, but each
plan proposed proved impracticable, if not impossible. The children
had a custom of writing their Christmas wishes upon a slate, and Otto
wrote, "I wish Santa Claus would set Wiseli free."

January had come and again brought to the children the great pleasure
of the year by providing them with snow for the coasting. One
beautiful moonlight night the idea came to Otto that it would be great
sport to coast by moonlight, and the next day he accordingly suggested
to the children that they assemble at seven o'clock for a moonlight
ride. The suggestion was enthusiastically received. When they broke up
that evening, there were cries of "All hands back at seven!" "Hurrah
for moonlight!" "Good-by till seven!"

The Ritter children did not tell their mother of this plan until they
came home from school toward evening. Much to their surprise she was
not at all enthusiastic over what they considered such a capital
idea. She spoke of the intense cold of the evening, the danger,
especially to Miezi, in the uncertain light, and the likelihood of the
younger ones being frightened in the shadows. In spite of these
objections they wished to carry out their plan, and Otto promised not
to let Miezi out of his sight if she might go with him. Their request
was finally granted, and they started off as happy as birds on the
wing.

It was great sport. The track had been worn as smooth as ice, and the
fear of the timid ones in the dark places gave zest to the
undertaking. Nearly all the children from the neighborhood were there,
and the best of humor prevailed. Otto let them all precede him with
their sleds, permitting only Miezi to follow him, so that there would
be no danger of any one's running into her from behind, and he looked
back every moment to see that she was coming safely.

After several rides in this fashion some one proposed that they ride
"tandem fashion," that is, with all the sleds tied together. The idea
was immediately accepted, and they began tying their sleds together in
joyful anticipation. Otto, however, considered the sport too dangerous
for Miezi, as the sleds sometimes became tangled and the whole company
was piled up in a mass. He tied his sled last, letting his sister
follow with hers untied. In this way it was expected that they would
go as usual, except that Otto would not be free to stop in case Miezi
did not keep up with them. Soon the children were off and went down
the slippery hill with the speed of the wind.

They had gone but halfway down, when Otto heard a scream behind him in
which he recognized his sister's voice, but he was powerless to stop,
and he was going too fast to dare to roll himself from his sled until
their speed diminished near the foot of the hill. He found Miezi
halfway down the hill crying with all her might. Almost breathless,
Otto gathered her in his arms, saying, "What happened, Miezchen? Tell
me, what is the matter?"

"He wanted to--he wanted to--he was going to--" sobbed Miezi.

"What did he want to do? Who? Where?" asked Otto.

"The big man over there, he wanted to--he was going to kill me--and he
said things."

"Never mind, Miezchen; be quiet now; he didn't kill you. Did he even
hit you?" asked Otto, somewhat puzzled by the occurrence, for he knew
Miezi to be a rather fearless child.

"No," sobbed Miezi, "but he had a big stick and he raised it like this
and was going to strike and he said, 'You look out!' and he called me
dreadful names."

"So he really didn't hurt you at all," said Otto, much relieved to
find it true, although Miezi was of a different opinion.

"Yes, he did--he was going to--and you were all gone ahead and I was
all alone," and from sheer self-pity came a fresh burst of tears.

"Hush now, Miezchen," coaxed Otto. "I shall never leave you like that
again, so the man shall never get you. If you will be a happy little
girl now, just as soon as we get home I will give you the red candy
rooster I had on the Christmas tree."

This promise restored Miezi to her normal self in a moment. She wiped
the tears away, but did not let go of Otto's hand for the rest of the
evening. The other children had joined them and as they climbed the
hill they discussed what had happened. Several of the children had
noticed a large man turn out of the road to let them pass, and it was
Otto's opinion that it must have made the man angry to have to step
into the snow, and he had threatened Miezi because she was the only
one within reach. This seemed a likely explanation to the children,
and the subject was dropped. The party broke up after the next ride,
as most of them had promised to be at home by eight o'clock.

"Now, Miezchen," said Otto on the way home, "if you tell mamma about
your being so frightened, you may be sure that she will never let you
go with me again. No harm was done, and I think we had better not say
anything about it."

Miezi promised to say nothing. All traces of tears had been removed by
the expectation of receiving the candy rooster, which Otto did not
fail to give to her as soon as they reached home, and the children
went happily to bed.

They had been in bed and asleep for some time when a loud rapping at
the door startled the parents, who were sitting at the table in the
living room, talking about their children. Trina had gone upstairs,
but she leaned out of her window and called, "What is it you want?"

"Something dreadful has happened," came the answer from the man below.
"Joiner Andreas has been killed, and we want the colonel to come over
at once."

The messenger departed without waiting. Through the open window
Colonel and Mrs. Ritter had heard what he said. The colonel threw his
cloak over his shoulder and hurried to Andreas's home. A number of
people had assembled there when he arrived. The police and the pastor
had been summoned, and others, hearing of the misfortune, had come to
see what could be done. Colonel Ritter worked his way into the crowd
to where the joiner lay.

"Where is the doctor?" was his first question.

"What is the use of getting a doctor when the man is dead?" some one
answered.

"He may not be dead," said the colonel, impatiently. "Some one must go
for a doctor immediately; tell him I said that he must hurry. This
call should be answered before all others."

Some one reluctantly started, then, with the help of others, the
colonel lifted the apparently lifeless body and carried it to the bed.

The miller's son explained to the colonel that he had passed the house
about half an hour earlier, that he had noticed a light and the open
door and had decided to stop a moment to see the joiner, when, to his
horror, he saw that he was dead; that Meadow Joggi was standing in the
room, holding a gold piece in his hand; and that Joggi had laughed as
he looked at the gold.

Meadow Joggi, so called because he lived in the meadow, was a man who
had lost his reason, but whom people had always regarded as perfectly
harmless. The neighborhood supported him, and he often helped them
with simple work, which he managed to do fairly well. The miller's son
had told him to stay where he was until some one came, and he had
obeyed, still clutching his gold piece and smiling, not in the least
concerned about himself.

The physician came at last and hastened to examine the body.

"He was struck on the back of his head; it is a bad wound," said the
doctor.

"Do you think that he is dead, doctor?" asked Colonel Ritter.

"No; he is not dead, but he is very near it. Bring me sponges,
bandages, and some water." The men searched the house in vain for the
things that were needed.

"I wish there were a woman here to find things!" exclaimed the
exasperated physician. "A woman knows intuitively what a sick person
needs and where to find it."

"Trina can come," said the colonel. "Will some one please run over to
my house and tell Mrs. Ritter to send her at once."

"I am afraid your wife will not thank you, Colonel," said the doctor,
"for whoever comes must stay at least three days, and perhaps longer."

"You need not worry about that," replied the colonel. "Mrs. Ritter
will gladly do more than give Trina's time if it will save the
joiner."

Trina appeared sooner than they had thought it possible for her to get
there, and she brought with her a basket of necessary supplies which
she and Mrs. Ritter had in readiness for an emergency.

The doctor was much pleased. "Now, Colonel," he said, "please dismiss
every one, and lock up the house for the night."

The policemen decided to put Joggi in jail until they could
investigate matters. He walked along with them willingly, opening his
hand occasionally and laughing at his gold piece.

Early the following morning Mrs. Ritter went to the home of the joiner
to inquire after him. Trina met her at the door and said that toward
morning the patient had recovered partial consciousness. The doctor
had just left, she said, and had expressed his opinion that the man
was doing better than he had dared to hope. "I have had to promise
him," she added, "that I would let no one come into the room, not even
my dear mistress."

"I am sure he is right about it," said Mrs. Ritter smiling. "I am glad
to know that Andreas is in safe hands, and I will hurry home, so that
my husband may know that he is doing well."

So eight days passed. Mrs. Ritter never failed to come every morning
to inquire. She supplied Trina with whatever she needed. No one had
yet been allowed in the sick room, and Trina was kept at her post.

Several days later the doctor gave his permission to have the colonel
question Andreas in regard to the accident, as the police were
anxious to know if he could give them any information.

The joiner received the colonel warmly; he realized how much he was
indebted to him. The sick man could tell nothing about his injury
except that some one had entered his room as he sat counting his
money. "I was evidently struck senseless before I had time to look
around to see who it was," he added.

This proved to the officers that Andreas had been injured for the sake
of his gold. They wondered what had become of the rest of the money,
if Joggi had committed the deed. This was the first that Andreas had
heard about Joggi's being suspected.

"I want you to release Joggi immediately," he said. "I am positive
that he did not do it. Why, Joggi wouldn't kill a fly if he could help
it."

"A stranger might have done it," suggested the doctor; "the windows
are low, and seeing them open and the pile of money at hand, he might
have felt a sudden desire to possess it."

"That is very likely," replied the joiner. "I have never thought about
being careful, and my house has always been unlocked."

"Well," said the colonel, "it is a good thing that you have enough
saved for a rainy day, so you will not suffer from the loss of the
money. The best of it all is that you yourself were saved."

"Yes, colonel," said the joiner, as he gave his hand in farewell, "I
have enough to be thankful for. I shall never use all I have, anyway."

"I am sure you are more at peace with yourself than the man that robbed
you," remarked the doctor.

A sad story was being told about the neighborhood concerning Joggi. He
had been so reluctant to give up his gold piece, that the police had
taken it from him by force after conducting him to the prison. The
policeman's son was supposed to have said to him: "You just wait,
Joggi; you will get your pay for this night's work. You'll see what
you will get after a while."

This had so thoroughly frightened Joggi that he had moaned constantly
ever since; he would not eat or sleep, but sat crouched in a corner,
fearing that they would come to kill him.

The police came to see him a few days after his imprisonment, and
promised him their protection if he would confess the truth to them.
He said that he had looked in at the window and had seen the joiner
lying on the floor. He went in, he said, and touched him with his foot
and saw that he was dead. Then he saw the gold piece on the floor and
picked it up a moment before the miller's son came in; other people
soon came after that. This was his simple story, and every one was
inclined to believe it, but Joggi did not get over his fright.



CHAPTER VII

BRIGHTER DAYS FOR THE PATIENT AND FOR SOME ONE ELSE


Since the day that Colonel Ritter had called with the physician to see
the joiner after his recovery, Mrs. Ritter had daily visited the
patient, and she rejoiced to see how rapidly he was gaining strength.
Otto and Miezi had been over twice and taken their friend everything
they could think of that might please him. They were glad to have the
joiner tell them that a king could not have had better care.

One day the doctor was just leaving his patient, when the colonel
came. "The joiner is doing well," said the doctor. "Your wife has
spared Trina so long that she ought to go back now, but the poor
fellow needs to have somebody with him a while longer. What a pity
that he has no relatives! I have been wondering if Mrs. Ritter might
not know of some one that we could get to take Trina's place for a
couple of weeks."

"I will ask her as soon as I go back, although I am sure that she will
be in no haste about taking Trina away."

The next morning, as Mrs. Ritter made her accustomed call, she said to
her friend, "Do you feel like talking over a little business matter
this morning?"

"Certainly; I am feeling quite like myself," replied the joiner, as he
propped his head on his elbow.

"I am thinking of taking Trina away, since you are doing so well," she
began.

"Believe me, Mrs. Ritter, for several days I have been urging her to
go; I have realized what it meant to you to do without her."

"I shouldn't have let her in if she had taken your advice, but the
doctor assures us now that it will be safe for her to leave you, in
case some one can be found to take her place. It need not be any one
so proficient as Trina, because we could send you your meals from our
house. I have been giving the matter a great deal of thought, Andreas,
and I think that you ought to have Wiseli come over to stay with you."

"No, no, Mrs. Ritter, of course not!" exclaimed Andreas in
astonishment. "Do you suppose I could expect that delicate child to do
my work? Oh, Mrs. Ritter, do you imagine I have forgotten for a moment
about the girl's mother? Please say nothing more about it, for I would
rather never get well."

"But, Andreas, you do not understand me, and I want to tell you
something more about it. The child is given very hard work to do where
she is, and the worst of it is that they are not kind to her. I
should feel so greatly relieved to have her here, because she would at
least be treated kindly. I know that Wiseli's mother would want you to
take her, so that she might have a real home, and you will be
surprised to see how gladly she will come to you and do the little
necessary tasks."

"But how could I get the child if I wanted her?"

"I shall be more than glad to arrange that for you if you will trust
me with it," replied Mrs. Ritter.

"I must make you promise that she shall be brought only on the
condition that she wants to come," said the joiner.

"Yes," said Mrs. Ritter; "Wiseli shall not come unless it is her own
wish. I will see you again to-morrow. Good-by."

Instead of going home, Mrs. Ritter went to find Wiseli, for she was
eager to free the child from her present surroundings. When she
arrived at Beechgreen, she met Mr. Gotti, who was himself just going
into the house. "I am surprised to see you over here, and so early in
the morning, Mrs. Ritter," he said, as he cordially shook her hand.

"Yes, I am sure you are, Mr. Gotti," she replied. "I have come to see
if you could possibly spare Wiseli for about two weeks to care for
Joiner Andreas. The doctor thinks that he doesn't need Trina any
more, but that he must have some one. I hope that you will not refuse,
and that the cure so well begun may be carried to a successful
finish."

Mrs. Gotti joined them just then, and her husband explained the matter
to her before answering Mrs. Ritter.

"Wiseli couldn't do anything if she went," said Mrs. Gotti.

"The child knows how to do a number of things," corrected the husband.
"She is bright and learns readily. I am willing to let her go for two
weeks. The spring work will soon begin, and we must have her back
then. The joiner will no doubt be well by that time, so this
arrangement will be satisfactory to everybody."

"It is very well for you to talk," broke in Mrs. Gotti. "I have just
gone through all the trouble of teaching her everything, and when she
comes back I shall have it to do over again. The joiner can afford to
train a girl for himself if he needs one."

"But, wife, two weeks is not a long time. Mrs. Ritter has spared Trina
much longer, and we all have to ask favors sometimes."

"I thank you for the kindness," said Mrs. Ritter, as she rose to take
her leave. "I am sure, too, that the joiner will fully appreciate your
sacrifice. If you will allow me, I will take the child now."

The aunt objected seriously, but the husband said firmly: "That will
be the best way. The sooner she goes, the sooner she will get back,
and I want it distinctly understood that it is to be for only two
weeks."

Wiseli was called, and told without further explanation to tie a few
belongings together; she silently obeyed, not daring to ask any
questions. It was just a year since she had come to the house with her
bundle. She had been given nothing new during that time except the
black jacket she had on; it was thinly lined, and her skirt hung
limply to her knees. It was only a moment before she appeared with her
bundle under her arm. She looked timidly from her dress to Mrs. Ritter
as she entered.

"You are all right, Wiseli; we are not going far," said Mrs. Ritter.
Wiseli followed her down the path, after a hasty farewell to the aunt
and uncle, and she could not help wondering what was going to be done
with her. Mrs. Ritter cut across the fields to make the distance
shorter, for she felt as if she could not get the child away fast
enough.

As soon as they were out of sight of Beechgreen, Mrs. Ritter turned to
Wiseli, saying, "You know who Joiner Andreas is, don't you, Wiseli?"

"Oh, yes," she answered, her face lighting up on hearing the name.

Mrs. Ritter was pleasantly surprised, and continued, "He is sick,
Wiseli; do you think that you would like to stay with him a couple of
weeks and wait on him so that he will get well again?"

"Of course, Mrs. Ritter, I shall be very glad to go," Wiseli said, and
Mrs. Ritter wished that Andreas could have seen her as she said it.

"You must remember to tell him that you are glad to be with him, if
you are," said Mrs. Ritter; "otherwise he might think we made you
come."

"I shall not forget to tell him," said the little girl.

When they reached the joiner's gate, Mrs. Ritter bade Wiseli enter
without her. "Since I know that you like to go to him, I shall not
need to go in, but you can tell the joiner that I will be over in the
morning, and you must come to me for anything you may want at any
time. Good-by."

It was with a light heart that Wiseli ran up the path to the house,
for she rejoiced that she was to see the man who had been so kind to
her, and that this was to be her home for a few weeks. She understood
what was expected of her, and she knew that the joiner was in bed,
with no one else in the house, so she entered without ringing. How
homelike everything seemed as she looked about! At the farther end of
the room she noticed, through the parted curtains, a large bed freshly
dressed with a white spread and pillows; she wondered who slept in
that room. Then she tapped lightly on the joiner's door, which she
opened as soon as she heard a response. The joiner raised himself on
his elbow to see who was there.

"Wiseli!" he exclaimed, as if in doubt whether to be glad or sorry.
"Come over here and give me your hand." Wiseli silently did as she was
told.

"I am sorry that you had to come to me."

"Why?"

"I only mean that perhaps you would a little rather not have come.
Mrs. Ritter is always so kind that you did it to please her, didn't
you?"

"No, not at all. She never asked me to do it for her. She wanted to
know if I cared to come, and I said, 'Yes.' There is no place in the
whole world where I should have been so glad to go as to your house."

This must have satisfied the joiner, for his head dropped back to the
pillows, and he tried to look at Wiseli, but the tears persisted in
filling his eyes.

"What must I do?" asked Wiseli, when he said nothing further.

"I am sure I don't know, Wiseli," said the joiner, gently. "I shall be
glad to have you do exactly as you please, if you will stay with me a
while first and keep me company."

Wiseli could scarcely believe she had heard aright. Nobody but her
mother had ever spoken to her like that. Her first thought was that
her mother would be glad if she knew how kind he was. There was the
same tenderness in his tones that she used to feel in the mother's,
and she unconsciously loved him in the same way. She took his hand in
both of hers and chatted with him as freely as if she had always known
him.

"I am afraid I ought to be getting dinner," she said at length; "what
should you like to have me cook for you?"

"I want you to have just what you like," replied the joiner.

This, however, did not satisfy Wiseli, for she desired above all else
to please him, so she asked question after question until she found
out what she wanted to know. She knew how to make the soup he said he
liked, and she realized now that she had learned many useful things
from her aunt, even if they had been taught without kindness. Wiseli
prepared the joiner's dinner on a tray and carried it to him.

"I wish you would draw the little table over here and eat your dinner
with me," said the joiner. "Mine will taste so much better if you
will."

Wiseli was again surprised, but she said, "That is just what mamma
would have said."

What a pleasant dinner that was! The joiner was so considerate of
Wiseli's comfort that it made the humblest task a pleasure to her.

"Now what are you going to do?" he asked, when they had finished
dinner and Wiseli rose from the table.

"I am going to wash the dishes," she replied.

"I suppose such things have to be done," said the joiner, "but I
think, since this is your first day with me, that you might stack them
up and do them to-morrow; you know there are only a few."

"Why, I should be so ashamed if Mrs. Ritter should happen to come in
that I shouldn't know what to do," said Wiseli, and she turned such a
serious face to him that he laughed.

"All right," he said; "only remember that you are to do just as you
like while you are with me."

Wiseli had not thought that it could be so much fun to do up the
dinner work. When it was finished, she said to herself, "Now this
kitchen is nice enough for any one to inspect."

She had been told that the alcove opening off from the living room was
to be hers, so she hung her few garments in the closet opening from
one corner of the room. When she returned to the joiner's room he
said, "Good, I have been waiting for you a long time."

"Haven't you a stocking that I could knit while I sit here?" she
asked, as she took the chair beside the bed.

"Of course not," answered the sick man; "you have already done too
much, and I want you to rest now."

"But I am not allowed to sit idle except on Sunday. Besides, I can
knit and talk at the same time."

"If you will be any more contented with a stocking, get one, by all
means, but please remember that I don't want you to work unless you
prefer to do so," said the joiner.

In this quiet way they passed one day after another. Everything Wiseli
did pleased the joiner, and she was thanked for every little service
as if it were of the utmost importance. The patient gained so much in
strength that he was soon clamoring for permission to get up. The
doctor told him that he might sit up whenever he wished, and much of
his time was now spent sitting in the bay window in the living room,
where the warm sunshine helped to make the days cheerful. He liked to
watch his little housekeeper moving about at her household duties, and
she succeeded in making his house more attractive than he had ever
hoped to see it.

Wiseli so enjoyed herself in this comfortable home, where she had the
assurance of being cared for and protected, that she sometimes forgot
she must soon give it up and return to her uncle at Beechgreen.



CHAPTER VIII

THE UNEXPECTED HAPPENS


In the home on the hill they talked often of the good joiner and
Wiseli. Mrs. Ritter went to see them every morning, and she always
brought encouraging news home with her. Otto and Miezi were planning a
surprise for Andreas and Wiseli in which they meant to celebrate their
friend's recovery. To-day, however, they had a celebration in their
own home, for it was their father's birthday. It had seemed like a
real holiday to the children ever since they got up in the morning,
and now they were about to enjoy the birthday feast. They were all in
the best of humor. After the first course had been served, there was
placed before Mrs. Ritter a covered dish which, when the cover had
been removed, displayed a cabbage head looking as fresh and natural as
if it had just come from the garden.

"That dish is certainly pretty enough to be praised," said the father;
"but really I was expecting to see something else, Marie. You know at
every feast I am on the lookout for my favorite vegetable, the
artichoke. Isn't it on the menu to-day?"

"There," broke in Miezi, "that is just what he called me! Twice he
called me that, and he had his big stick raised like this, and he was
going--"

Miezi had her arm raised to illustrate the man's attempt to strike
her, when she suddenly caught the warning look from her brother across
the table, and remembered her promise not to tell her parents about
what had happened that night. In her great confusion her face grew
scarlet, and she pushed her arms as far as possible under the table.

"I am surprised to have my birthday celebration take this turn," said
the father. "On one side of the table my daughter speaks of something
about which we have heard nothing, while, on the opposite side, my son
kicks my leg until it feels as if it might be black and blue. I should
like to know, Otto, where you learned such gymnastics."

It was now Otto's turn to blush, which he did to the roots of his
hair. He had intended to hush his sister with the kicks, but evidently
he had not struck where he intended. For a time he was too embarrassed
to look his father in the face.

"Well, Miezchen, what was the rest of the story which Otto did not
allow you to finish? You say he called you a dreadful name, raised his
stick at you, and--?"

"Then, then," began Miezi,--she realized, now, that she had told, and
must sacrifice the candy rooster in consequence,--"then he didn't kill
me, anyway."

The father laughed heartily. "It was good of him not to kill my little
girl, but what then?"

"That was all."

"The story has a happy ending," said the father. "The stick remains
poised in the air and little Miezchen comes home as the artichoke. Now
let us forget everything except that this is my birthday and that we
are to do justice to the feast provided."

Otto, however, still felt somewhat disturbed, and after dinner went
off to a corner by himself. He seemed to be reading, but instead, he
was thinking about what had happened, for he was very sure that his
mother would never again let him go with the others to coast by
moonlight.

Miezi went to her room to take a last look at the candy rooster with
which she must part, now that she had failed to keep her promise. Mrs.
Ritter was seated at the window trying to explain to herself the
strange actions of her children. She became more and more restless as
she thought about it, and finally went in search of Miezi, whom she
found at the foot of the bed in a very unhappy state of mind.

"Miezchen, mamma has come to have a talk with you. I want you to tell
me when it was that you were frightened by that man."

"The night that we went coasting by moonlight. I know he called me
that word papa used at the table to-night."

Mrs. Ritter now went to find her husband. "I should like to tell you
something, Otto," she said.

The colonel laid his newspaper aside and looked inquiringly at his
wife.

"I have been thinking about the scene at the table to-night, and I have
come to the conclusion that the children were frightened by the same
man that tried to kill the joiner. I have just found out from Miezi
that it happened the evening I gave the children permission to coast
by moonlight, and that was the very night the joiner was hurt. It is
much more likely that the man called her 'aristocrat' than
'artichoke.' If so, I should say that the man was Andreas's brother.
He is the only one in the world who would think of using that word,
and I am sure the only one who would hurt Andreas. Don't you think it
likely that it was Andreas's brother George?"

"It does seem probable," answered the colonel, thoughtfully; "I will
see what can be done about it." He rang for the coachman to bring the
carriage, and a few moments later he was on his way to the city.

For several days Colonel Ritter went frequently to confer with the
police, but it was not until two weeks later that they succeeded in
getting results. One evening, when the Colonel returned to his home,
he told the members of his family that the thief had been captured,
and that it was, as Mrs. Ritter had surmised, the joiner's own brother
George. He had been living in the near-by hotels, confident that no
one had seen him in his home town, because he had passed through in
the night.

He denied knowing anything about the affair when he was first
arrested, but when told that Colonel Ritter had weighty evidence
against him, he inferred that he must have been recognized after all.
He lost his temper, and said that of course those "aristocrats" would
like to make trouble for him. In answer to questions he said that he
had just returned from service in the Neapolitan War; and that he had
intended to go to his brother to borrow some money, but finding him
with the large sum before him, he saw the opportunity to get it all.
It had been his intention merely to knock his brother senseless, so
that he could make his escape, and he protested that he had never
wished to kill him.

Fortunately, most of the money was still in George's possession. It
was recovered, and he was put in prison.

This story caused quite a commotion in the little town, especially
among the school children.

Several nights after George had been arrested, Otto came home very
much excited. Although Joggi had been set free as soon as George had
confessed, he was still too frightened to take advantage of his
liberty. He thought that he should be killed if he went out. Finally
the police authorities turned him out by force, but he ran quickly to
a near-by barn where he hid himself in the farthest corner. Here he
had remained for three days, and the farmer had threatened to take the
pitchfork to him if he did not go away soon.

"That is very sad indeed," said Mrs. Ritter, when Otto had finished
telling her about it. "The poor fellow suffers because his mind is too
feeble to understand what is said to him. It is hard that an innocent
man should be made so miserable. If you had told me that night about
what had happened to Miezi, we should not have caused Joggi so much
suffering. You had better try to do something for him, since you might
have spared him all this."

"I will give him my red candy rooster," said Miezi, sympathetically.

"A red candy rooster to a grown-up man!" laughed Otto. "You had better
keep it, since you are so fond of it."

"They say he has had no food, mother," Otto continued. "I shall be
glad to take him some dinner."

Mrs. Ritter gave her consent, so the children packed a basket with
good things to eat, and started for the barn to find Joggi. He was
there, crouched in the corner as they had supposed.

Otto opened the basket for him to see and said, "Come out here, Joggi,
and you shall have all there is in this basket."

Joggi did not move.

"Come, Joggi," continued Otto, "you know the farmer may take the
pitchfork to you if you stay here."

At this Joggi screamed and tried to get farther back in his corner.

Miezi was very sorry for the poor man. Going up to him, she whispered
in his ear: "My papa will not let them hurt you, so you had better
come along with me. I brought you something from Santa Claus. See!"
She held out the candy rooster to him as she spoke.

These whispered words restored Joggi's confidence. He looked
fearlessly about, took the candy rooster from her hand, and began to
laugh in his old way. He allowed Miezi to lead him out, but he would
not touch the basket, so they let him follow them home.

Mrs. Ritter was relieved to see Joggi with them. She opened the door
for them, and had a good supper placed before the hungry man, saying,
"Eat all you want, Joggi, and be happy."

Joggi ate heartily and seemed as pleased as a child over the rooster,
which he held constantly. As soon as he had finished eating, he rose
to go home, and they noticed that he looked at the rooster and laughed
as he went, his great fright apparently forgotten.

For several days Mrs. Ritter did not see the joiner. It seemed a
longer time to her, for so much had happened in the meantime; she had
not worried about him, however, because she knew that he was well
cared for.

The colonel had told Andreas about his brother's confession. "It is
like him to do things in that fashion," said the joiner. "I would
gladly have given it all to him, but he always takes the wrong way to
get what he wants."

One bright sunny morning Mrs. Ritter went tripping down the hill like
a schoolgirl. She was going to see Andreas, and she had some plans in
mind, the carrying out of which would give her a great deal of
pleasure.

When she reached his house and entered as usual, she was surprised to
see Wiseli run out of the room in tears, and the joiner sitting in the
deepest gloom, as if a great sorrow had befallen him.

"What has happened?" she exclaimed, as she stood still in
astonishment.

"Mrs. Ritter," he faltered, "I wish that the child had never come to
my house."

"What!" she exclaimed, more amazed than ever. "Wiseli? What can she
have done?"

"Oh, for heaven's sake, don't misunderstand me, Mrs. Ritter!" he
cried. "It is only because she has been here and has made a little
paradise out of my humble home that I am so unhappy. They have sent
for her the second time, and she has to go back to Beechgreen. I shall
be miserable without her. You don't know how hard it is for me to let
her go. She would rather stay with me, too, so we are both unhappy
over it. I would give the uncle all I have saved in the last thirty
years, if he would only let me keep her."

Mrs. Ritter sighed in relief and said, "I should do nothing of the
sort; I know of a much better way."

He looked at her questioningly.

"I should adopt Wiseli, if I were you and wanted her. Then you will be
her father and she will be your child and heir. Wouldn't that be a
better way, Andreas?"

Andreas grasped Mrs. Ritter's hand as he asked eagerly, "Is such a
thing possible?"

"Yes"; said Mrs. Ritter, "I thought that you might want to keep her,
so I have been looking the matter up, and Mr. Ritter is at home now,
so that, in case you want to settle the legal part of it, he can take
you to the city immediately, for you are not yet able to go by
yourself. Then you will have nothing to worry about, and you can tell
Wiseli after you come back."

It was the first time that she had ever seen the joiner excited. He
began to get into his overcoat as she rose to go.

"Are you sure," he asked, "that we can get the matter settled to-day?"

"Yes, I am sure," she replied, "and I will send the carriage over at
once."

A few moments later Wiseli noticed the Ritter carriage drive up to the
gate and the coachman come to assist the joiner down the walk. She was
surprised to see him get into the carriage, for he had not told her
that he was going for a drive. "Perhaps," she thought, "he did not
feel like telling me, because this is the last day that I can be with
him."

Wiseli had the dinner ready at the usual hour, but the joiner was not
there. She did not wish to eat without him, so she waited and waited,
but still he did not come. Finally, she fell asleep. She dreamed that
she was again at her uncle's home and that she was very unhappy. She
was not aware of the beautiful evening glow in the sunset which
promised a pleasant to-morrow.

Wiseli started from her slumber when the door opened. It was the
joiner, who had just returned, and his face was as radiant as the
sunset. He had been in such a different mood in the morning that
Wiseli stared in astonishment.

"I have good news, Wiseli," he said, as he hung up his hat and stepped
about as lightly as a boy. "It is all settled. You are legally my
child, and I am your father. Call me father this very minute, my
little girl."

All the color had left Wiseli's cheeks, and she stood uncomprehending
and speechless.

"Of course you don't know what I am talking about," he said. "I begin
at the wrong end because I am so glad. This is what has happened,
Wiseli: the proper authorities have to-day given me the legal right to
take care of you. I have been to the city and the matter is arranged,
so that we really belong to each other. You shall never go back to
your uncle's again, for now you have a home of your own."

His meaning dawned at length upon Wiseli, although it seemed too good
to be true. Impulsively she sprang into his arms. "Then I can always
call you father," she said. "I know who knew that this was going to
happen," she added.

"Who knew it would happen, Wiseli?"

"My mother knew it would."

"Your mother! How, Wiseli?"

"In my dream I saw the path that leads to your house, and she was
pointing to it and saying, 'See, Wiseli, that is your path.' So mother
must have known it," she added. "Don't you think that she helped to
bring it about, father?"

The good man could not answer, for his heart was full and his eyes
were dimmed with tears, but he looked at Wiseli so lovingly that she
understood.

Suddenly the door was thrown open, and Otto fairly sprang into the
room. He threw up his cap and shouted, "Hurrah! We've won, and Wiseli
is free."

Miezi came in next, almost breathless, and as she held the door open
she cried, "See what is coming for the celebration!"

There was the baker's boy carrying so large a board on his head that
he stuck fast in the doorway, and they had to help him to get it into
the house.

It was explained that Otto and Miezi, having permission to order as
large a cake as they wished for the occasion, had told the baker to
make them the largest he could, so he had baked one just the size of
his oven.

Trina came with loaded baskets which contained a well-browned roast
and tempting vegetables, for Mrs. Ritter knew that the joiner had not
been able to eat his dinner, and surmised rightly that Wiseli would
not have eaten much by herself. Trina prepared things on the table so
that they could all sit down. It was a joyous occasion for every one
present. The feast was followed with merriment and song until a late
hour.

At last Trina stood ready to return, and the guests rose to go.

"To-night you have brought the feast to us," said the joiner, "but one
week from to-night I invite you all to come back to a feast that I
wish to provide in honor of my little daughter."

Then they shook hands in the pleasant anticipation of coming together
again soon, and in general satisfaction that their little friend had
at last a home of her own. Wiseli followed Otto to the door and said:
"I thank you a thousand times, Otto, for all that you have done for
me. Chappi never hurt me again after you choked him, because he was
afraid that I might tell you, so you see how much reason I have to be
grateful."

"I am much more indebted to you," said Otto. "I haven't had to do that
work in the schoolroom again, and that I disliked much more than
punishing Chappi, so we shall have to call it even."

Miezi, who had been the gayest of the party all the evening, waved her
hand in answer to the last farewell, and then the guests were lost to
view. Joiner Andreas sat down by the window in his accustomed place,
but Wiseli first restored order to dishes and furniture. When she had
finished that task, she went to her father and said: "Shouldn't you
like to hear the verses that mother taught me? They have been running
in my mind all the evening, and I don't intend ever to forget them."

"I shall be very glad to hear them," said the joiner, as he took her
on his knee. Then Wiseli, leaning on his shoulder and looking out to
the stars, repeated with joyful heart:

    "Commit thou all thy ways
      And all that grieves thy heart
    To Him whose endless days
      Shall grace and strength impart.

    "He gives to wind and wave
      The power to be still;
    For thee He'll surely save
      A place to work His will."

From this time on the little home of the joiner, nestling among the
flowers, remained one of the happiest in the world. Wherever Wiseli
went, people were so polite to her that she was quite astonished, for
they had scarcely noticed her before. Her aunt and uncle Gotti never
passed the house without coming in to see her, and they always invited
her to make them a visit.

Wiseli was very much relieved to see their friendly manner, for she
had had secret fears as to how they would accept the situation. She
was glad to live in peace with all the people about her, but she said
to herself, "Otto and the rest of the Ritter family were kind to me
when I was unhappy and poor, but the others paid no attention to me
until my father took me, so I know where to look for my real
friends."



PRONOUNCING VOCABULARY OF PROPER NAMES


The vowels are marked as in Webster's dictionary.

In unaccented syllables, long vowels and ä should not be pronounced
too strongly; but they should not become indistinct, especially in the
names around Lake Garda (both persons and places). In unaccented
syllables the vowel [~e] should be very light and rather indistinct; a
very common pronunciation, though not the most exact, is to sound this
vowel in German names like the _a_ in _sofa_.

    Aar (är)
    Aloise (ä l[=o][=e]'z[~e])
    Andreas (än dr[=a]'äs)
    Bergamo (b[ve]r'gä m[=o])
    Bern (b[ve]rn)
    Chappi (käp'p[=e])
    Como (c[=o]'m[=o])
    Desenzano (d[=a] s[ve]n dzä'n[=o])
    Engadine ([ve]n gä d[=e]n')
    Enrico ([ve]n r[=e]'c[=o])
    Garda (gär'dä)
    Gotti (g[vo]t't[=e])
    Hans (häns)
    Heimatlos (h[=i]'mät l[=o]s): homeless
    Joggi (y[vo]g'g[=e])
    Kunzli (kunts'l[=e])
    Maloja (mä l[=o]'yä)
    Maria (mä r[=e]'ä)
    Marie (mä r[=e]')
    Menotti (m[=a] n[vo]t't[=e])
    Miez (m[=e]ts)
    Miezchen (m[=e]ts'ch[ve]n)
    Miezi (m[=e]t's[=e])
    Peschiera (p[ve] skyâ'rä)
    Rico (r[=e]'c[=o])
    Ritter (r[vi]t'ter)
    Riva (r[=e]'vä)
    Rudi (r[u:]'d[=e])
    St. Gall (saint gäl)
    St. Moritz (saint m[=o]'r[vi]ts)
    Sils (z[vi]ls)
    Sils-Maria (z[vi]ls-mä r[=e]'ä)
    Silvio (s[=e]l'vy[=o])
    Stineli (st[=e]'n[~e] l[=e])
    Trevillo (tr[=a] v[=e]l'l[=o])
    Trina (tr[=e]'nä)
    Trudt (tr[u:]t)
    Una sera ([u:]'nä s[=a]'rä): one evening
    Urschli (ur'shl[=e])
    Wiseli (v[=e]'z[~e] l[=e])
    Wisi (v[=e]'z[=e])



Transcriber's Note:


Not all letters can be shown as in the original text. The following
convention has been used to indicate letters which can not be
represented (where x denotes the letter).

  [vx] letter with caron above
  [=x] letter with macron above
  [~x] letter with tilde above
  [x:] letter with dieresis below





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