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Rico and Wiseli
And Other Fairy Tales
LONDON ∙ NEW YORK ∙ TORONTO ∙ SAO PAULO ∙ MOSCOW
PARIS ∙ MADRID ∙ BERLIN ∙ ROME ∙ MEXICO CITY ∙ MUMBAI ∙ SEOUL ∙ DOHA
TOKYO ∙ SYDNEY ∙ CAPE TOWN ∙ AUCKLAND ∙ BEIJING
Published by Sovereign Classic
First published in 2015
Copyright © 2015 Sovereign
Design and Artwork © 2015 www.urban-pic.co.uk
Images and Illustrations © 2015 Stocklibrary.org
All Rights Reserved.
RICO AND STINELI.
HOW WISELI WAS PROVIDED FOR.
RICO AND STINELI.
IN THE QUIET HOUSE.
In the Ober Engadin, on the highway up to Maloja, stands the lonely village of Sils; and back towards the mountains, across the fields, nestles a little cluster of huts known as Sils Maria. Here, in an open field, two cottages stand, facing each other.
Noticeable in both are the old wooden house-doors, and the tiny windows quite imbedded in the thick walls. A bit of a garden-plot belongs to one of these poor dwellings, where the pot-herbs and the cabbages look only a trifle better than their spindling companions the flowers.
The other house has nothing but a little shed, where two or three hens may be seen running in and out. This cottage is smaller than its neighbor, and its wooden door is quite black from age.
Out of this door every morning, at the same hour, came a large man. In order to pass out he was obliged to stoop, so tall was he. His hair was black and glossy, and his eyes were also black; and under his finely-shaped nose grew a thick black beard, completely hiding the lower part of his face; so that, except the glistening of his white teeth when he spoke, nothing was visible. But he rarely spoke.
Everybody in Sils knew the man, but he was never called by his name,—it was always “the Italian.” He went by the foot-path across to Sils every day regularly, and thence up to Maloja. They were working on the highway in that place, and there he found employment.
When, however, he did not have work up there, he went down to the Baths of St. Moritz. Houses were being built down there, and he found work in plenty; and there passed the day, only returning to his cottage at nightfall.
When he came out of his house in the morning, he was usually followed by a little boy, who lingered on the threshold after his father had gone on his way, and looked with his big black eyes for a long time in the direction his father had taken; but where he was looking that no one could have told, for his eyes had a faraway look, as if they saw nothing that lay before them and near, but were searching for something invisible to everybody.
On Sunday mornings, when the sun shone brightly, father and son would saunter up the road together; and the close resemblance between them was most striking, for the child was the man in miniature, only his face was small and pale,—with his father’s well-formed nose, to be sure; but his mouth had an expression of great sadness, as if he could not laugh. In his father’s face this could not be detected, on account of the beard.
When they walked along together, side by side, they did not talk; but the father usually hummed a tune softly,—sometimes quite aloud,—and the lad listened attentively. On rainy Sundays they sat at the window together in the cottage, and seldom talked then; but the man drew his harmonica from his pocket, and played one tune after another to the lad, who listened most earnestly. Sometimes he would take a comb, or even a leaf, and coax forth music; or he would shape a bit of wood with his knife, and whistle a tune upon that. It really seemed as if there were no object from which he could not draw forth sweet sounds. Once, however, he brought a fiddle home with him, and the boy was so delighted with the instrument, that he never forgot it. The man played one tune after another, while the child listened and looked with all his might; and when the fiddle was laid aside, the little fellow took it up, and tried to find out for himself how the music was made. And it could not have sounded so very badly, for his father had smiled, saying, “Come, now!” and placed the big fingers of his left hand over his son’s, and held the little hand and the bow together in his right; and thus they played for a long time, and produced a great many sweet tunes.
On the following day, after his father’s departure, the boy tried again and again to play, until at last he did succeed in producing a tune quite correctly. Soon after, however, the fiddle disappeared, and never made its appearance again.
Often, when they were together, the man would begin to sing softly,—softly at first, then more and more distinctly as he became more interested, and the boy know the words, he could at least follow the tune. The father sang Italian always; and the child understood a great deal, but not well enough to sing. One tune, however, he knew better than any other, for his father had repeated it many hundred times. It was part of a long song, and began in this wise:—
“One evening In Peschiera.”
It was a sad melody that some one had arranged to a pretty ballad, and it particularly pleased the lad, so that he always sang it with pleasure and with a feeling of awe; and it sounded very sweetly, for the lad had a clear, bell-like voice, that harmonized beautifully with his father’s strong basso. And each time after they had sung this song from beginning to end, his father clapped the boy kindly on the shoulder, saying, “Well done, Henrico! well done!” This was the way his father called him, but he was called “Rico” only by everybody else.
There was a cousin who lived in the cottage with them, and who mended and cooked and kept the house in order. In the winter she sat by the stove and spun, and Rico had to consider how he could enter the room, very carefully; for as soon as he had opened the door, his cousin called out, “Do let that door alone, or we shall have it cold enough in the room here.”
In winter he was very often alone with his cousin; for when his father had work to do in the valley, he would be away for long weeks at a time.
IN THE SCHOOL.
Rico was almost nine years old, and had been to school for two winters. Up there in the mountains there was no school in the summer-time; for then the teacher had his field to cultivate, and his hay and wood to cut, like everybody else, and nobody had time to think of going to school. This was not a great sorrow for Rico,—he knew how to amuse himself. When he had once taken his place in the morning on the threshold, he would stand there for hours without moving, gazing into the far distance with dreamy eyes, if the door of the house over the way did not open, and a little girl make her appearance and look over at him laughingly. Then Rico ran over to her in a trice, and the children were busy enough in telling each other what had happened since the evening before, and talked incessantly, until Stineli was called into the house. The girl’s name was Stineli, and she and Rico were of exactly the same age. They began to go to school at the same time, were in the same classes, and from that time forward were always together; for there was only a narrow path between their cottages, and they were the dearest of friends.
This was the only intimacy that Rico had, for he had no pleasure in the companionship of the other boys; and when they thrashed each other, or played at wrestling, or turned somersaults, he went away without even looking back at them. If they called out after him, “Now it is Rico’s turn to be thrashed,” he stood perfectly still and did nothing; but he looked at them so strangely with his dark eyes, that no one meddled with him.
In Stineli’s company he was always contented. She had a merry little pug-nose, and two brown eyes that were always laughing; and around her head were two thick braids of brown hair, that always looked smooth and neat, for Stineli was a very orderly girl, and knew very well how to take care of herself. For that her daily experience was excellent. It is true Stineli was scarcely nine years old, but she was the eldest daughter of the family, and had to help her mother in every thing, and there was a great deal to be done,—for after Stineli came Trudi and Sami and Peterli, then Urschli and Anne-Deteli and Kunzli, and last of all the baby, who was not baptized. From every corner, at every moment, Stineli was called for; and she had become so handy and skilful with all this practice, that work seemed to turn itself out of her hands of its own accord. She could always put on three stockings and fasten two shoes before Trudi had even placed the legs of the little one she was helping in the right position. And while her mother was calling for Stineli to help her in the kitchen, and the little children wanted her in the bedroom, her father was sure to shout out from the stable for Stineli to come to his help, for he had mislaid his cap, or his whip-lash was in a knot, and she found the one in a trice,—it was generally on the meal-box,—and her limber fingers had no trouble in untying the knotted lash. So, you see, Stineli was always busy running about and working, but always merry with it all, and rejoiced also in winter, when the school began. Then she went with Rico to school and back again, and in recess they were also together. And in summer she was still more happy, for then the lovely Sunday evenings came when she could go out; and she and Rico went, hand in hand,—the lad was always waiting for her in the doorway,—over the big meadow towards the wood on the hill-side that projected far out over the lake like an island. They used to sit up there under the pines, and look out over the green waters of the lake, and had so many questions to ask and so many answers to give, and were so happy, that Stineli was happy all the week in thinking it over and looking forward,—for Sunday always came again.
There was yet one other person in the household who called for Stineli now and then,—that was her old grandmother.
She did not want her assistance, however, but had generally a bit of money to give her that she had put aside, or some little thing that would give the girl pleasure; for the grandmother noticed how much there was for Stineli to do, and that she had less pleasure than other children of her age, and the child was her favorite. She always had something ready so that she could buy herself a red ribbon at the yearly market, or a needle-case, if she wished.
Rico was also a favorite with this good grandmother, and she liked to see the children together, and tried to contrive a little recreation for them now and then.
On summer evenings the grandmother always sat by the door on a tree-stump that was there, and often Stineli and Rico stood by her side while she told them stories. But when the prayer-bell sounded from the little church tower she always said, “Now say, ‘Our Father;’ and be sure, children, that you never forget to say that prayer every evening; the prayer-bells ring to remind you of that.” “Now remember, little ones,” she would now and then repeat, “I have lived for a long, long time, and had a great deal of experience, and I have never known a single person who has not, at some time or other in his life, sore need of ‘Our Father;’ but I have known many a one who has sought to say it anxiously, and not found it, in his great need.” So Stineli and Rico stood reverently side by side and said their evening prayer.
Now May had come, and there was only a short time to pass before school would cease, for under the trees there were signs of green, and the snow had melted and vanished in many places. Rico had been standing for a long time in the doorway making these welcome observations. At the same time he looked again and again towards the opposite door, hoping that it would open. It did at last, and out came Stineli.
“How long have you been standing there?” she called out merrily. “It is early to-day, and we can go along slowly.”
They took each other’s hands, and went towards the schoolhouse.
“Are you always thinking about the lake?” asked Stineli as they went along.
“Yes, of course,” said Rico, with a serious expression; “and I often dream about it too, and see great red flowers there, and in the distance the purple mountains.”
“Oh! what one dreams does not count,” said Stineli. “I dreamed once that Peterli climbed, all alone, to the top of the highest pine-tree; and when he was on the top twig, suddenly he changed into a bird and called out, ‘Come, Stineli, and put on my stockings for me.’ So you see that it does not mean any thing when you dream.”
Rico pondered over this, for his dream might certainly mean something, and yet only be thoughts passing through his mind. Now, however, they were near the schoolhouse, and a troop of noisy children came towards them from the opposite direction. They all entered together, and soon the teacher came in. He was an old man with thin, gray hair, for he had been teacher for an incredibly long time,—so long, that his hair had grown gray and fallen out.
Now a busy spelling and pronouncing began; then followed the multiplication-table, and, lastly, the singing. For this the teacher brought out his old fiddle and tuned it. Then they began, and all shouted at the top of their lungs,—
“Little lambkins, come down From the bright sunny height,”
and the teacher played the accompaniment.
Rico, however, had his eyes fixed so attentively upon the fiddle, and on the teacher’s fingers as he touched the strings, that he quite forgot the song; and at this the whole choir lost their pitch, and fell away a half-note, and the fiddle became uncertain, and lost a half-note also; and then the voices fell lower still, until at last nobody could have told where they were going to all together; but the teacher tossed his fiddle upon the table and called out angrily, “What sort of a song do you call that? You are nothing but a lot of screamers! I should like to know who it is who sings false and spoils the whole time.”
At this a little boy spoke up,—the one who sat nearest to Rico: “I know why it all goes wrong. It always goes that way when Rico stops singing.”
The teacher himself knew that the fiddle was somewhat dependent on Rico’s leading.
“Rico, Rico! what is this that I hear?” he said, turning to the lad. “You are generally a well-behaved boy; but inattention is a sad fault, as you now see. One single careless scholar can easily spoil a whole song. Now we will begin anew; and be more attentive, Rico.”
After this the boy sang with his steady, clear voice; the fiddle followed, and the children sang with all their might, and it went on very satisfactorily to the very end.
The teacher was well satisfied, and rubbed his hands together, and then drew his bow over the string, saying, with a pleased air, “It is a good instrument, after all.”
THE OLD SCHOOLMASTER’S FIDDLE.
Stineli and Rico freed themselves from the crowd of children gathered before the schoolhouse, and wandered off together. “Were you thinking so that you could not sing with us to-day, Rico?” asked Stineli. “Were you thinking again about the lake?”
“No, it was quite another thing,” replied the boy. “I know how to play ‘Little lambkins, come down,’ if I only had a fiddle.”
Judging from the deep sigh that accompanied these words, the wish must have weighed heavily on Rico’s heart. The sympathetic little Stineli began at once to contrive some means of helping him to get his wish.
“We will buy one together, Rico,” she said suddenly, full of delight at a happy thought that had entered her head. “I have ever so many pieces of money,—as many as twelve. How much have you got?”
“None at all,” said the boy sadly. “My father gave me some before he went away, but my cousin said I should only spend it foolishly, and she took it from me, and put it up on the shelf in a box where I cannot get it.”
Such a trifle did not discourage Stineli. “Perhaps we have enough without that, and my grandmother will give me some more soon,” she said consolingly. “You know, Rico, a fiddle can’t cost so very much; it is nothing but a bit of old wood with four strings stretched across it, that will be cheap, I’m sure. You must ask the teacher about it to-morrow morning, and then we will try to find one.”
So it was settled, and Stineli resolved to do all she could at home to make herself useful by getting up bright and early, and making the fire before her mother was afoot, thinking that, if she worked busily from morning till night, perhaps her grandmother would put a bit of money for her in the bag.
After school the next day Stineli went out and waited alone behind the wood-pile at the schoolhouse corner, for Rico had made up his mind at last to ask the teacher how much it would cost to buy a fiddle. He was such a long time about it, that Stineli kept peeping out from behind the wood-pile, quite overcome with impatience, but only saw the other school children who were standing about and playing; but now certainly,—yes, that was Rico who came around the corner.
“What did he say? How much does it cost?” cried Stineli, almost breathless with suspense.
“I had not the courage to ask,” was the sad answer.
“Oh, what a shame!” said the girl, and stood still and disappointed for a moment, but not more. “Never mind, Rico; you can try again to-morrow,” she said cheerfully, taking him by the hand and turning homeward. “I got another bit of money from my grandmother this morning, because I got up early and was in the kitchen when she came in.”
The same thing happened, however, the next day and the day after. Rico stood for half an hour before the door without getting courage to go in to ask his question. At last Stineli made up her mind to go herself, if this lasted three days more. On the fourth day, however, as Rico was standing, timid and depressed, before the door, it opened suddenly, and the teacher came out quickly, and ran into Rico with such force, that the slender little fellow, who did not weigh more than a feather, was thrown backward several feet. The teacher stood looking at the child in great surprise and some displeasure. Then he said, “What does this mean, Rico? Why do you stand before the door without knocking, if you have a message to deliver? If you have no message, why do you not go away? If you wish to tell me any thing, do so at once. What is it that you wish?”
“How much does a fiddle cost?” Rico blurted out his question in great fear and haste. The teacher’s surprise and displeasure increased visibly.
“I do not understand, Rico,” he said, with a severe glance at the boy. “Have you come here on purpose to mock me? or have you any particular reason for asking this? What did you mean to say?”
“I did not mean any thing,” said Rico abashed, “only to ask how much it would cost to buy a fiddle.”
“You did not understand me just now,—pay attention to what I am saying. There are two ways of asking a question: either to obtain information, or simply from idle curiosity, which is foolishness. Now pay attention, Rico: is this a mere idle question, or did somebody send you who wishes to buy a fiddle?”
“I want to buy one myself,” said the boy, taking courage a little; but he was frightened when the angry reply came, “What! what did you say? A forlorn little fellow like you buy a fiddle! Do you even know what the instrument is? Have you any idea of how old I was, and what I knew, before I obtained one? I was a teacher, a regular teacher; was twenty-two years old, with an assured profession, and not a child like you.
“Now I will tell you what a fiddle costs, and then you will see how foolish you are. Six hard gulden I paid for mine. Can you realize what that means? We will separate it into blutsgers. If one gulden contains a hundred blutsgers, then six guldens will be equal to six times one hundred,—quickly, quickly! Now, Rico, you are generally ready enough.”
“Six hundred blutsgers,” said the lad softly, for he was quite overpowered with the magnitude of this sum as compared with Stineli’s twelve blutsgers.
“And, moreover, my son, do you imagine that you have only to take a fiddle in your hand to be able to play on it at once? It takes a long time to do that. Come in here now, for a moment.” And the teacher opened the door, and took his fiddle from its place on the wall. “There,” he said, as he placed it on Rico’s arm, “take the bow in your hand,—so, my boy; and if you can play me c, d, e, f, I will give you a half-gulden.”
Rico had the fiddle really in his hand; his eyes sparkled with fire; c, d, e, f,—he played the notes firmly and perfectly correctly. “You little rascal!” cried the astonished teacher, “where did you learn that? Who taught you? How do you find the notes?”
“I can do more than that, if I may,” said the boy.
And Rico played correctly, and with enthusiasm,—
“Little lambkins, come down
From the bright sunny height;
The daylight is fading,
The sun says, ‘Good-night!’”
The teacher sunk into a chair, and put his spectacles on his nose. His eyes rested on Rico’s fingers as he played, then on his sparkling eyes, and again on his hands. When the air was finished, he said, “Come here to me, Rico;” and, moving his chair into the light, he placed the lad directly before him. “Now I have something to say to you. Your father is an Italian; and I know that down there all sorts of things go on of which we have no idea here in the mountains. Now look me straight in the eye, and answer me truly and honestly. How did you learn to play this air so correctly?”
Looking up with his honest eyes, the boy replied, “I learned it from you, in the school where it is so often sung.”
These words gave an entirely new aspect to the affair. The teacher stood up, and went back and forth several times in the room. Then he was himself the cause of this wonderful event; there was no necromancy concerned in it.
In a far better humor, he took out his purse, saying, “Here is your half-gulden, Rico; it is justly yours. Now go; and for the future be very attentive to the music-lesson as long as you go to the school. In that way you may, perhaps, accomplish something; and in twelve or fourteen years perhaps you may be able to buy a fiddle. Now you may go.”
Rico cast one look at the fiddle, and departed with deep sadness in his heart.
Stineli came running to meet him from behind the wood-pile. “You did stay a long time. Have you asked the question?”
“It is all of no use,” said the boy; and his eyebrows came together in his distress, and formed a thick black line across his forehead over his eyes. “A fiddle costs six hundred blutsgers; and in fourteen years I can buy one, when everybody will be dead. Who will be living fourteen years from now? There, you may have this; I do not want it.” With these words he pressed the half-gulden into Stineli’s hand.
“Six hundred blutsgers!” repeated the girl, horrified. “But where did this half-gulden come from?”
Rico told her all that had happened at the teacher’s, ending with the same words expressing his great regret, “It is all of no use!”
Stineli tried to console him a little with the half-gulden; but he was furious at the thought of the innocent piece of money, and would not even look at it.
So Stineli said, “I will put it with my blutsgers, and we will have it all between us.”
Stineli herself was very much discouraged now; but as they went around the corner into the field, the little pathway that led to their doors shone so prettily in the bright sunlight, and the plat before the houses was so white and dry, that she called out,—
“See, see! now it is summer, Rico; and we can go up into the wood, and we will be happy again. Shall we go next Sunday?”
“Nothing will ever make me happy again,” said Rico; “but if you want to go, I will go with you.”
When they reached the door, they had arranged to go to the wood on the following Sunday, and Stineli was very happy at the thought. She did all that she was able to do through the week, and there was a great deal of work for her. Peterli, Sami, and Urschli had the measles, and in the stable one of the goats was sick, and needed hot water very often; and Stineli had to run hither and thither, lending a helping hand in every direction as soon as she came home from school, and on Saturday all day long until late in the evening; and then there were the stable buckets to be cleaned. But that night her father said,—
“Stineli is a handy child.”
THE BEAUTIFUL DISTANT LAKE WITHOUT A NAME
When Stineli awoke on the following Sunday morning, she was conscious of an unusual light-heartedness, and at first could not understand the cause, until she remembered what day it was, and that her grandmother had said, on the previous evening, “To-morrow you must have the whole afternoon to yourself: it is rightfully yours.”
After dinner was finished, and all the dishes taken away, and the table washed off by Stineli, Peterli called out, “Come here to me;” and the two others screamed, “No, to me!” and her father said, “Now Stineli must go to look after the goats.”
But at this moment her grandmother went through the kitchen, and made a sign to Stineli to follow her.
“Now go in peace, my child,” she said. “I will take care of the goats and the children; but be sure to come home, both of you, punctually when the bell rings for prayer.” The grandmother knew very well that there were two of them.
Off flew Stineli, like a bird whose cage-door has suddenly been opened; and outside stood Rico, who had been waiting for a long time. They went on together, across the meadow towards the wood.
On the mountains the sun was shining brightly, and the blue heavens lay over all the landscape. They were obliged to pass, for a little while, through the shade in the snow; but the sun was shining a little farther on, and shimmered on the waters of the lake, and there were lovely dry spots on the slope that was almost hanging over the lake.
There the children seated themselves. A sharp wind came down from the heights, and whistled about their ears. Stineli was as happy as happy could be. She shouted out, again and again, “Oh, look, Rico; look! How beautiful it is in the sun! Now summer has come, look how the lake glistens! There cannot be a more beautiful lake than this one anywhere,” she said confidently.
“Yes, yes, Stineli! You ought to see the lake I know about just once,” said Rico; and looked so longingly across the lake, that it seemed as if that which he wanted to see began just beyond their vision.
“Over there are no dark fir-trees, with sharp needles, but shining green leaves, and great red flowers; and the mountains are not so high and dark, nor so near, but lie off in the distance, and are purple; and the sky and the lake are all golden and still and warm. There the wind does not feel like this, and one’s feet never get full of snow; and one can sit all day long on the sunny ground, and look about.”
Stineli was quite carried away by this description. She already saw the red flowers and the golden lake before her eyes, and seemed to know exactly how beautiful it all was.
“Perhaps you may be able to go there again to see it all, Rico. Do you know the way?”
“You must cross the Maloja. I have been there with my father once. He pointed me out the road that goes all the way down the mountain,—first this way, then that, and far below lies the lake; but so far, so far, that it is scarcely possible to go there.”
“Oh! that is easy enough,” said Stineli. “You have to go farther and farther, that is all; and at the end you will surely get there.”
“But my father told me something else. Do you know, Stineli, when you are travelling and stop at an inn, and eat something and sleep there, then there is something to pay, and you must have money for that.”
“Oh! we have lots of money,” cried Stineli triumphantly. But her companion was not triumphant.
“That is exactly as good as nothing. I know that by the affair of the fiddle,” he said sadly.
“Then it will be better for you to stay at home, Rico. Look! it is beautiful here at home, I am sure.”
The lad sat thoughtfully silent for a long time, leaning his head on his hand, and his eyebrows brought in a close line down over his eyes. At last he turned again to Stineli, who had been gathering the soft green moss that grew around the spot where they were lying, and of which she made a tiny bed with two pillows and a coverlet. She meant to carry them home to the sick Urschli.
“You say I had better stay at home, Stineli; but, do you know, it is just as if I did not know where my home really is.”
“Oh, dear me! what do you mean?” cried the girl; and in her surprise she threw away a whole handful of moss. Your home is here, of course. It is always home where father and mother”—She stopped suddenly. Rico had no mother, and his father had been away now for a very long time; and the cousin? Stineli never went near that cousin, who had never spoken one pleasant word to her. The child did not know what to say, but it was not natural to her to remain long in uncertainty. Rico had already fallen into one of his reveries, when she grasped him by the arm, and said,—
“I should just like to know something; that is, the name of the lake where it is so lovely.”
Rico pondered. “I do not know,” he said; and felt very much surprised himself as he spoke.
Now Stineli proposed that they should ask somebody what it was called; for even if Rico had ever so much money, and was able to travel, he must know how to inquire the way, and what the name of the lake was. They began at once to think of whom they should inquire,—of the teacher, or of the grandmother.
At last it occurred to Rico that his father would know better than anybody else, and he thought he would certainly ask him when he came home again.
The time had slipped away quickly as they sat talking, and presently the children heard the distant sound of a bell. They recognized the sound. It was the bell for prayers.
They sprang up quickly, and ran off, hand in hand, down the hill-side through bushes, and through the snow across the meadow; and it had scarcely stopped ringing when they reached the door where the grandmother was on the lookout for them.
Stineli had to go at once into the house, and her grandmother said quickly, “Go home directly, Rico, and do not hang around the door any longer.”
The grandmother had never said such a thing to him before, although he had always been in the habit of hanging around the door; for he was never in haste to go home, and stood always for a while before he could make up his mind to enter. He obeyed at once, however, and went into the house.
A SAD HOUSE, BUT THE LAKE GETS A NAME.
Rico did not find his cousin in the sitting-room; so he went to the kitchen, and opened the door. There she stood; but before he could enter, she raised her finger, saying, “Sch! sch! Do not open and shut the doors, and make a noise, as if there were four of you. Go into the other room, and keep still. Your father is lying in the bedroom up there. They brought him home in a wagon: he is sick.”
Rico went into the room, seated himself on a bench, and did not stir.
He sat there for at least a half-hour. Presently he heard the cousin moving about in the kitchen. Then he thought that he would go up very softly, and peep into the bedroom. Perhaps his father would like something to eat: it was long past the meal-time.
He slipped behind the stove, mounted the little steps, and went very softly into the bedroom. After a while he returned, went at once into the kitchen, approached quite close to his cousin, and said softly,—
“Cousin, come up.”
The woman was about to strike him angrily, when she happened to glance at his face. He was perfectly colorless,—cheeks and lips as white as a sheet, and his eyes looked so black that the cousin was almost afraid of him.
“What is the matter with you?” she asked hastily, and followed him almost involuntarily.
He mounted the little steps softly, and entered the chamber. His father lay on the bed with staring, wide-open eyes,—he was dead.
“Oh, my God!” screamed the cousin, and ran crying out of the door that opened upon the passage on the other side of the room, went down the staircase, and across into the opposite house, where she called out to tell the neighbor and the grandmother the sad news; and thence she ran on to the teacher and to the mayor.
One after another they came, and entered the quiet room until it was full of people; for the news spread from one to another of what had taken place. And in the midst of all the tumult, and of all the clamor of the crowd of neighbors, Rico stood by the bedside speechless, motionless, and gazed at his father. All through the week the house was filled with people who wished to look at the man, and hear from the cousin how it had all happened; so that the lad heard it repeated over and over, that his father had been at work down in St. Gall on the railroad.