Cornelli - Johanna Spyri - ebook

Spring had come again and the young beech trees were swaying to and fro. One moment their glossy foliage was sparkling in the sunshine, and the next a deep shadow was cast over the leaves. A strong south wind was blowing, driving huge clouds across the sun. A little girl with glowing cheeks and blowing hair came running through the wood. Her eyes sparkled with delight, while she was being driven along by the wind, or had to fight her way against it. From her arm was dangling a hat, which, as she raced along, seemed anxious to free itself from the fluttering ribbons in order to fly away. The child now slackened her pace and began to sing...

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Johanna Spyri

Johanna Spyri





New Edition

Published by Sovereign Classic

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This Edition

First published in 2015

Copyright © 2015 Sovereign

Design and Artwork © 2015

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Spring had come again on the banks of the Iller-Stream, and the young beech trees were swaying to and fro. One moment their glossy foliage was sparkling in the sunshine, and the next a deep shadow was cast over the leaves. A strong south wind was blowing, driving huge clouds across the sun.

A little girl with glowing cheeks and blowing hair came running through the wood. Her eyes sparkled with delight, while she was being driven along by the wind, or had to fight her way against it. From her arm was dangling a hat, which, as she raced along, seemed anxious to free itself from the fluttering ribbons in order to fly away. The child now slackened her pace and began to sing:

The snow’s on the meadow,

The snow’s all around,

The snow lies in heaps

All over the ground.

Hurrah, oh hurrah!

All over the ground.

Oh cuckoo from the woods,

Oh flowers so bright,

Oh kindliest sun,

Come and bring us delight!

Hurrah, oh hurrah!

Come and bring us delight!

When the swallow comes back

And the finches all sing,

I sing and I dance

For joy of the Spring.

Hurrah, oh hurrah!

For joy of the Spring.

The woods rang with her full, young voice, and her song also roused the birds, for they, too, now carolled loudly, ready to outdo each other. Laughingly the child sang once more with all her might:

Hurrah, oh hurrah!

For joy of the Spring.

and from all the branches sounded a many voiced chorus.

Right on the edge of the woods stood a splendid old beech tree with a high, firm trunk, under which the child had often sought quiet and shelter after running about in the sun. She had reached the tree now and was looking up at the far-spreading branches, which were rocking up and down.

The child, however, did not rest very long. Over where the wind struck an open space, it blew as mightily as ever, and the roaring, high up in the tree-tops, seemed to urge her on to new exertions. First she began fighting her way against the wind, but soon she turned. Driven by it, she flew down the steep incline to the path which led down to the narrow valley. She kept on running till she had reached a small wooden house, which looked down from a high bank to the roaring mountain stream. A narrow stairway led up from the ground to the front door of the little dwelling and to the porch, where on a wide railing were some fragrant carnations.

The lively little girl now leaped up the steps, two at a time. Soon she reached the top, and one could see that the house was familiar to her.

“Martha, Martha, come out!” she called through the open door. “Have you noticed yet how jolly the wind is to-day?”

A small old woman with gray hair now came out to greet the child. She was dressed in the simplest fashion, and wore a tight-fitting cap on her head. Her clothes were so very tidy and clean, however, that it seemed as if she might have sat on a chair all day for fear of spoiling them. Yet her hands told another tale, for they were roughened by hard work.

“Oh, Martha,” the child said, “I just wish you knew how wonderful the wind is to-day up there in the woods and on the hill. One has to fight it with all one’s might, otherwise one might be blown down the mountain side like a bird. It would be so hard then to get on one’s feet again, wouldn’t it? Oh, I wish you knew what fun it is to be out in the wind to-day.”

“I think I would rather not know,” said Martha, shaking the child’s hand. “It seems to me that the wind has pulled you about quite a little. Come, we’ll straighten you up again.”

The child’s thick dark hair was in a terrible state. What belonged on the left side of the parting had been blown to the right, and what belonged on the right side was thrown to the left. The little apron, instead of being in front, hung down on the side, and from the bottom of her skirt the braid hung loose, carrying upon it brambles and forest leaves. First Martha combed the little girl’s hair, then she pulled the apron into place. Finally she got a thread and needle and began to mend the braid on the dress.

“Stop, Martha, stop, please!” Cornelli called out suddenly, pulling her skirt away. “You must not sew, for your finger is all pricked to pieces. There is only half of it left with those horrible marks.”

“That does not matter; just give me your little skirt,” replied Martha, continuing her sewing. “This kind of work does not hurt me; but when I sew heavy shirts for the farmers and the workmen in the iron works the material is so rough that, as I push the needle in, I often prick off little pieces of my finger.”

“Why should you have to do that, Martha? They could make their own shirts and prick their own fingers,” cried Cornelli indignantly.

“No, no, Cornelli; do not speak like that,” replied the woman. “You see, I am glad and grateful to be able to get work enough to earn my living without help. I have to be thankful to our Lord for all the good things he gives me, and especially for giving me enough strength for my work.”

Cornelli looked about her searchingly, in the little room. It was modestly furnished, but most scrupulously clean.

“I do not think that God gave you so very much, really, but you keep everything so neat, and do it all yourself,” remarked Cornelli.

“I have to thank our Lord, though, that I am able to do it,” returned Martha. “You see, Cornelli, if I had not the health to do everything the way I like it done, who could do it for me? It is a great gift to be able to step out every morning into the sunshine and to my carnations. Then I thank God in my heart for the joy of a new day before me. There are many poor people who wake up only to sorrow and tears. They have to spend all day on their sick beds and have many troubles besides. Can you see now, Cornelli, how grateful I have to be to our Lord because nothing prevents me from sewing, even if I have to prick my fingers? But I believe I hear the bell in the foundry. You know that means supper time, so run back to the house as quickly as you can.”

Martha knew well enough that she had to remind her little friend about returning, for often time had been forgotten and Cornelli had had to be sent for. But now the little girl began to run swiftly down the incline beside the rushing stream. Soon she came to the large buildings from which the sound of hissing fires, loud thumping and hammering could be heard all day. The noise was so great that only the roaring of the stream could drown it. Here were the works of the great iron foundry, well known far and wide, since most of those who lived in the neighborhood found employment there.

Glancing at the large doors and seeing that they were closed, Cornelli flew by them with great bounds. In an isolated house, well raised above the stream, lived the proprietor of the foundry. Beautiful flower gardens were on three sides.

Cornelli approached the open space in front and was soon inside. Flinging her hat into a corner, she entered the room where her father was already sitting at table. He did not even look up, for he was holding a large newspaper in front of him. As Cornelli’s soup was waiting for her, she ate it quickly, and since her father made no movement behind his paper, she helped herself to everything else that was before her.

While she was nibbling on an apple, her father looked up and said: “I see that you have caught up with me, Cornelli. You even seem to be further along than I am. Just the same you must not come late to your meals. It is not right, even if you get through before me. Well, as long as you have finished, you can take this letter to the post office. There is something in it which concerns you and which will please you. I have to go now, but I shall tell you about it to-night.”

Cornelli was given the letter. Taking the remainder of her apple with her, she ran outside. With leaps and bounds she followed the rushing Iller-Stream, till the narrow path reached the wide country road. Here stood the stately inn, which was the post office of the place. In the open doorway stood the smiling and rotund wife of the innkeeper.

“How far are you going at this lively pace?” she smilingly asked the child.

“I am only coming to you,” Cornelli replied. She was very much out of breath, so she paused before adding: “I have to mail a letter.”

“Is that so? Just give it to me and we’ll attend to it,” said the woman. Holding the hand the child had offered her, she added: “You are well off, Cornelli, are you not? You do not know what trouble is, do you, child?”

Cornelli shook her head.

“Yes, of course. And why should you? It does one good to see your bright eyes. Come to see me sometimes; I like to see a happy child like you.”

Cornelli replied that she would gladly come again. She really meant to do so, for the woman always spoke kindly to her. After saying good-bye, she ran away again, jumping and bounding as before. The innkeeper’s wife meantime muttered to herself, while she looked after Cornelli: “I really think there is nothing better than to be always merry.”

The contents of the letter, which the little girl had taken to be mailed, were as follows:

ILLER-STREAM, 28th of April, 18—.


My trip to Vienna, which I have put off again and again, at last has to be made. As I must leave in the near future, I am asking you the great favor of spending the summer here to superintend my household. I am counting greatly on your good influence on my child, who has had practically no education, although Miss Mina, my housekeeper, has of course done her best, with the help of our good Esther, who reigns in the kitchen. Old Martha, a former nurse of my poor dead wife, has done more than anybody else. Of course one can hardly call it education, and I have to blame myself for this neglect. As I am so busy with my affairs, I do not see much of my child. Besides, I know extremely little about bringing up little girls. There is no greater misfortune than the loss of a mother, especially such a mother as my Cornelia. It was terrible for my poor child to lose her at the tender age of three. Please bring a good friend with you, so that you won’t suffer from solitude in this lonely place.

Please gladden me soon by your arrival, and oblige

Your sincere cousin,


That same evening, when Director Hellmut was sitting in the living room with his daughter, he spoke of his hope that a cousin of his, Miss Kitty Dorner, would come to stay in Iller-Stream while he was on his trip to Vienna. He also told Cornelli to be glad of this prospect.

After a few days came the following answer:

B——, The 4th of May, 18—.


To oblige you I shall spend the summer at your house. I have already planned everything and I have asked my friend Miss Grideelen to accompany me. I am very grateful that you realize how monotonous it would have been for me to stay alone in your house all summer. You do not need to have such disturbing thoughts about your daughter’s education. No time has yet been lost, for these small beings do not need the best of care at the start. They require that only when they are ripe enough for mental influences. Such small creatures merely vegetate, and I am quite sure Miss Mina was the right person to look after the child’s well-being and proper nourishment. Esther, who you say is very reliable, too, has probably helped in taking care of the child as much as was necessary. The time may, however, have come now when the child is in need of a proper influence in her education.

We shall not arrive before the last week of this month, for it would be inconvenient for me to come sooner.

With best regards,

I am your cousin,


“Your cousin is really coming, Cornelli, and I am certain that you are happy now,” said her father. He had read the letter while they were having supper. “Another lady is coming, too, and with their arrival a new delightful life will begin for you.”

Cornelli, who had never before heard anything about this relation of her father’s, felt no joy at this news. She did not see anything pleasing in the prospect. On the contrary, it only meant a change in the household, which she did not in the least desire. She wanted everything to remain as it was. She had no other wish.

Cornelli saw her father only at meals, for he spent all the rest of his time in his business offices and in the extensive works. But the child never felt lonely or forsaken. She always had many plans, and there was hardly a moment when she was not occupied. Her time between school hours always seemed much too short and the evenings only were half as long as she wanted them to be. It was then that she loved to walk and roam around. Her father had barely left the room, when she again ran outside and, as usual, down the path.

At that moment the energetic Esther was coming from the garden with a large basket on her arm. She had wisely picked some vegetables for the following day.

“Don’t go out again, Cornelli,” she said. “Just look at the gray clouds above the mountain! I am afraid we shall have a thunderstorm.”

“Oh, I just have to go to Martha,” replied Cornelli quickly. “I must tell her something, and I don’t think a storm will come so soon.”

“Of course it won’t come for a long while,” called Miss Mina. Through the open door she had overheard the warning and had stepped outside to say: “Just go to Martha, Cornelli; the storm won’t come for a long time, I am sure.”

So the child flew away while Esther passed Miss Mina, silently shrugging her shoulders. That was always the way it happened when Cornelli wanted anything. If Miss Mina thought that something should not be done, Esther always arrived, saying that nothing on earth would be easier than to do that very thing. Or, if she thought that Cornelli should not do a thing, Miss Mina always helped to have it put through. The reason for this was a very simple one: each of them wanted to be the favorite with the child.

Cornelli, arriving at Martha’s house, shot up the stairs and into the little room. Full of excitement, she called out: “Just think, Martha, two strange people are coming to our house. They are two ladies from the city, and father said that I should be glad; but I am not a bit glad, for I do not know them. Would you be glad, Martha, if two new people suddenly came to visit you?”

The child had to take a deep breath. She had been running fast and had spoken terribly quickly.

“Just sit down here with me, Cornelli, and get your breath again,” said Martha quietly. “I am sure that somebody is coming whom your father loves, otherwise he would not tell you to be glad. When you know them, I am sure you will feel happy.”

“Yes, perhaps. But what are you writing, Martha? I have never before seen you write,” said the child, full of interest, for her thoughts had been suddenly turned.

“Writing is not easy for me,” answered Martha, “and you could do it so much better than I can. It is a long time since I have written anything.”

“Just give it to me, Martha, and I’ll write for you if you will only tell me what.” Cornelli readily took hold of the pen and dipped it into the bottom of the inkstand.

“I’ll tell you about it and then you can write it in your own way; I am sure that you can do it better than I can,” said Martha, quite relieved. She had been sitting for a long time with a pen in her hand, absolutely unable to find any beginning.

“You see, Cornelli,” she began, “I have been getting along so well with my work lately that I have been able to buy a bed. For a long time I have wanted to do that, for I already had a table and two chairs, besides an old wardrobe. Now I have put them all into my little room upstairs, so that I can take somebody in for the summer. Sometimes delicate ladies or children come out of town to the country, and I could take such good care of them. I am always at home and I could do my usual work besides. You see, Cornelli, I wanted to put this in the paper, but I do not know how to do it and how to begin.”

“Oh, I’ll write it so plainly that somebody is sure to come right away,” Cornelli replied, full of zeal. “But first of all, let us look at the little room! I am awfully anxious to see it.”

Martha was quite willing, so she led the way up a narrow stairway into the little chamber.

“Oh, how fine it is, how lovely!” exclaimed Cornelli, running, full of admiration, from one corner to the other. Martha had in truth fixed it so daintily that it looked extremely pleasing. Around the windows she had arranged curtains of some thin white material with tiny blue flowers, and the same material had been used to cover an old wooden case. This she had fixed as a dainty washstand. The bed and two old chairs were likewise covered; the whole effect was very cheerful and inviting.

“Oh, how pretty!” Cornelli exclaimed over and over again. “How could you ever do it, Martha, or have so much money?”

“Oh no, no, it was not much, but just enough for the bed and a little piece of material. I got the stuff very cheap, because it was a remnant. So you really do not think it is bad, child? Do you think that somebody would like to live here?” Martha was examining every object she had so carefully worked over.

“Yes, of course, Martha, you can believe me,” Cornelli replied reassuringly. “I should just love to come right away, if I did not live here already. But now I shall write, for I know exactly what I shall say.” Cornelli, running down stairs, dipped her pen into the ink and began to write.

“But do not forget to say that it is in the country, and tell the name of the place here, so that they can find me,” said Martha, fearing she had set Cornelli a very difficult task.

“That is true, I have to say that, too,” remarked Cornelli. When she had written the ending she began to read aloud: “If somebody should want a nice room, he can have it with Martha Wolf. She will take good care of delicate ladies or children and will see that they will be comfortable. Everything is very neat and there are lovely new blue and white covers on everything. It is in the country, in Iller-Stream, beside the Iller-Stream, quite near the large iron works.”

Martha was thoroughly pleased. “You have said everything so clearly that one can easily understand it,” she remarked. “I could not have said it myself, you see, for it would have seemed like boasting. Now if I only knew where to send it for the paper. I do not know quite what address to write on it.”

“Oh, I know quite well what to do,” Cornelli reassured her friend, “I shall take it quickly to the post office. Sometimes when I have taken letters there, I have heard people say to the innkeeper: ‘This must be put in the paper.’ Then he took it and said: ‘I’ll look after it.’ Now I shall do the same. Just give it to me, Martha.”

Once more the woman glanced through what had been written. It seemed very strange to her that her name was going to appear in the newspaper, but, of course, it was necessary.

“No, no, my good child,” she replied, “you have done enough for me now. You have helped me wonderfully, and I do not want you to go there for me. But your advice is good and I shall take the paper there myself.”

“Oh yes, and I’ll come, too,” said Cornelli delightedly. She knew no greater pleasure than to take a walk with her old friend, for Martha always discovered such interesting things and could point them out to Cornelli, telling her many, many things about them. In many places Martha would be reminded of Cornelli’s mother; then with great tenderness she would tell the child about her. Martha was the only one who ever talked to Cornelli about her mother. Her father never spoke of her; and Esther, who had been in their service for a long time, always replied when the child wanted to talk to her about her mother: “Do not talk, please; it only makes one sad. People shouldn’t stir up such memories.”

“So you are coming, too?” Martha said happily. It was her greatest joy to take a walk with her small, merry companion. Cornelli hung on her arm, and together they wandered forth in the beautiful evening. The storm clouds had passed over, and towards the west the sky was flaming like fiery gold.

“Do you think, Martha, that my mother can see the golden sky as well from inside as we see it from the outside?” asked the child, pointing to the sunset.

“Yes, I am quite sure of that, Cornelli,” Martha eagerly answered. “If our dear Lord lets his dwelling glow so beautifully from outside, just think how wonderful it must be inside where the blessed are in their happiness!”

“Why are they so glad?” Cornelli wanted to know.

“Oh, because they are freed from all sorrow and pain. They are also glad because they know that every pain or sorrow their loved ones on earth have to bear is only a means to bring their prayers to Him who alone can guide them to Heaven.”

“Did my mother pray to Him, too?” asked Cornelli again.

“Yes, yes, Cornelli, you can be sure of that,” Martha reassured her. “Your mother was a good, pious lady. Everybody should pray to be able to go where she is.”

The two now reached the post office and gave their message to the innkeeper and postmaster. When twilight had come and the evening bell had long ago rung, they wandered back along the pleasant valley road between green meadows.



One bright morning in May, a portly gentleman, leaning heavily on a gold-headed cane, was walking up the narrow city street. The houses here were so high that the upper windows could scarcely be seen from below. A steep rise in the street caused the gentleman to stop from time to time to get his breath. Scrutinizing the house numbers, he said to himself several times: “Not yet, not yet.” Then, climbing up still higher, he at last reached a house beside whose open door six bells were hanging.

The gentleman now began to study the names under the bells, meanwhile gravely shaking his head, for he did not seem to find the name he was seeking.

“Oh dear, at last! and the highest one up, too,” he sighed, while he entered the house. Now the real climbing began. At first the steps, though rather high, were white and neat. But after a while they became dark and narrow, and in the end the way led over worn, uneven steps to a narrow door. The only standing room was on the last small step.

“Is this a cage?” said the climber to himself, breathing hard and holding fast to the railing. The thin and creaking steps seemed to him extremely unsafe. After he had pulled the bell-rope, the door opened, and a lady dressed in black stood before him.

“Oh, is it you, kind guardian?” she exclaimed with astonishment. “I am so sorry that you had to come up these winding steps,” she added, for she noticed that the stout gentleman had to wipe his face after the great exertion. “I should have been very glad to go down to you, if you had let me know that you were here.” The lady meanwhile had led the gentleman into the room and asked him to seat himself.

“As your guardian I simply had to come once to see you,” he declared, seating himself on an old sofa and still leaning with both hands on the golden knob of his cane. “I have to tell you, my dear Mrs. Halm, that I am sorry you moved to town. You should have followed my advice and lived in a small house in the country. It would have been so much more practical for you than to live in this garret lodging where you have no conveniences whatever. I am quite sure that the country air would have been much better for both you and the children.”

“I could not think about conveniences for myself, when my husband died, and I had to leave the parsonage, Mr. Schaller,” replied the lady, with a faint smile. “The country air would naturally have been much better for my children, especially for my older boy. But he had to come to town on account of school, and I could not possibly have sent him away from me, delicate as he is. Besides——”

“There are boarding places in town where such boys are well taken care of,” the visitor interrupted. “What other reasons did you have?”

“My girls, too, are old enough to learn something which they can make use of later on,” continued the lady. “You know that this is necessary and that it is very hard to get such opportunities in the country. I hope I have persuaded you that coming to town with the children was not a foolish undertaking. I am extremely glad that you have given me an opportunity to explain why I did not follow your advice.”

“What are your daughters going to learn?” the gentleman asked abruptly.

“Nika, the elder, paints quite well,” replied the lady, “and Agnes has a decided talent for music. If both girls are earnest in their studies, they hope later on to be able to teach; indeed, they are very anxious to do so.”

“These arts do not bring good returns, even after years and years of study,” said the gentleman. “It would be much more sensible for the sisters to busy themselves with dressmaking. They could quickly begin a business in which they might help each other and make some money. This would really help both you and your son a great deal. If your boy is going to study, it will be a long time before he can be independent.”

The parson’s widow looked sadly in front of her without saying a word.

“Please do not misunderstand me. I am only speaking in your and your children’s interest,” the gentleman began again. “I am very sorry not to have met your daughters, for they would soon have agreed with me, if they had heard my reasons. Nowadays young people understand quite well what it means to make one’s way easily and advantageously. You can be sure of that.”

“My children may still be a little backward in this knowledge. They may, through the influence of their parents, still care for the things which you call the breadless arts,” said the lady with a sigh. “But I shall make my children acquainted with your ideas and I shall try to speak to them according to your views, at least as far as I am able.”

“How old is the eldest? She ought to be old enough to understand my reasons,” remarked the gentleman.

“Nika is in her fourteenth year. Her education is, of course, still incomplete in many ways,” replied the lady. “Dino is twelve and Agnes eleven years old. The latter must first of all complete her compulsory school years.”

“Still rather young people,” said Mr. Schaller, shaking his head. “I am sure of one thing, however. The longer their education will take, the shorter should be the ways to the goal. I am more and more convinced that my advice is right. If you give your little daughters into the hands of a clever dressmaker, your moving to the city will have been of some real use.”

In his great zeal to convince his silent listener, the visitor had not noticed that a small boy had entered. This little fellow had at first hidden behind his mother, but, at a sign from her, approached the gentleman. He noticed the child only when a small fist pushed itself forcibly into his closed right hand.

“Please forgive the rather aggressive greeting of my small son,” begged the mother.