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The Complete Collection of Johanna Spyri
Erick and Sally
Moni the Goat-Boy
Rico and Wiseli
Toni, the Little Woodcarver
Uncle Titus and His Visit to the Country
Veronica And Other Friends
What Sami Sings with the Birds
Cornelli, by Johanna Spyri
By JOHANNA SPYRI
Many writers have suffered injustice in being known as the author of but one book. Robinson Crusoe was not Defoe's only masterpiece, nor did Bunyan confine his best powers to Pilgrim's Progress. Not one person in ten of those who read Lorna Doone is aware that several of Blackmore's other novels are almost equally charming. Such, too, has been the fate of Johanna Spyri, the Swiss authoress, whose reputation is mistakenly supposed to rest on her story of Heidi.
To be sure, Heidi is a book that in its field can hardly be overpraised. The winsome, kind-hearted little heroine in her mountain background is a figure to be remembered from childhood to old age. Nevertheless, Madame Spyri has shown here but one side of her narrative ability.
If, as I believe, the present story is here first presented to readers of English, it must be through a strange oversight, for in it we find a deeper treatment of character, combined with equal spirit and humor of a different kind. Cornelli, the heroine, suffers temporarily from the unjust suspicion of her elders, a misfortune which, it is to be feared, still occurs frequently in the case of sensitive children. How she was restored to herself and reinstated in her father's affection forms a narrative of unusual interest and truth to life. Whereas in Heidi there is only one other childish figure--if we except the droll peasant boy Peter--we have here a lively and varied array of children. Manly, generous Dino; Mux, the irrepressible; and the two girls form a truly lovable group. The grown-ups, too, are contrasted with much humor and genuine feeling. The story of Cornelli, therefore, deserves to equal Heidi in popularity, and there can be no question that it will delight Madame Spyri's admirers and will do much to increase the love which all children feel for her unique and sympathetic genius.
CHARLES WHARTON STORK
BESIDE THE ROARING ILLER-STREAM II. UP IN THE TOP STORY III. NEW APPEARANCES IN ILLER-STREAM IV. THE UNWISHED-FOR HAPPENS V. A NEWCOMER IN ILLER-STREAM VI. A FRIEND IS FOUND VII. A NEW SORROW VIII. A MOTHER IX. A GREAT CHANGE X. NEW LIFE IN ILLER-STREAM
BESIDE THE ROARING ILLER-STREAM
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 DEAR COUSIN:
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--.
MY DEAR COUSIN:
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.
UP IN THE TOP STORY
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.
"Oh, here is another, still. I knew there was a smaller one," exclaimed the dismayed visitor. "Well, boy, what is your name?"
"Mux," was the reply.
The gentleman looked questioningly at the mother.
"That is the name his brother and sisters have given him and the one which seems to have remained quite permanently," she replied. "His name is really Marcus and he is just five years old."
"Well, well, and what do you want to be when you grow up, my young friend?" asked Mr. Schaller.
"An army general," unhesitatingly replied the small boy. After these words the gentleman got up.
"It seems to me, my dear Mrs. Halm, that all your children have pretty high-flown ideas," he said impressively. "I can only hope that before long they will learn that in this world it is not possible for everybody to do what he pleases."
The mother approved this good wish, but added: "I have to tell you, though, that Mux has gotten this idea from his favorite book, where the picture of a general on horseback interests him more than anything else. This, of course, is a passing impression, like many others."
"One can never urge proper and successful work too soon nor too often; please do not overlook that, my friend!" With these words the guardian ended the interview and, saying good-bye, carefully descended the steep staircase.
Just then a child was running up the stairs so quickly that it actually seemed as if she had no need to touch the steps at all. As the gentleman was taking up all the room, the only space left for a passage was under the arm with which he held the railing. Here the lithe creature tried to slip through.
"Stop, stop! Do you not belong to the parson's widow, Mrs. Halm?" asked the gentleman, making a barrier with his arm.
"Yes, I belong to her," was the quick answer. And stooping down still lower, the small person again tried to pass.
"Just hold still one moment, if you can," the gentleman now demanded. "You probably know that I am Mr. Schaller, your guardian. I have just given your mother some advice, which was meant for your good. You do not look in the least stupid, so you can help to persuade your mother. I am sure you can understand what is good for you. Are you the elder?"
"No, the younger one," came quickly back for answer.
"So much the better. Then the elder will be still more sensible. If you take my advice you can both contribute to the prosperity of the whole family." With these words the gentleman gave the little girl his hand and went away.
Agnes flew up the rest of the stairs and into the narrow hall. Her brother Mux was standing expectantly in the open doorway. He did this every day at the time his brother and sisters were coming home from school. He loved the change that their coming brought after the quiet morning.
"A fat gentleman was here and mother said afterward: 'Oh God!' and you can't play the piano any more," he reported.
Agnes ran into the next room and as quickly out again. "Where is mother? Mother, mother!" she called, opening one door after another.
"Here I am, Agnes, but do not be so violent," sounded the mother's voice from the kitchen.
Agnes ran to her. "Mother, what is Mux saying? Is it really true? I know that Mr. Schaller has been here and that he can tell us what we have to do. What did he say? Is it really true what Mux has said? Oh, I'll never eat again! I don't want to sleep or do anything any more. Everything, then, is lost!"
Agnes was frightfully excited. Her cheeks were dark red and her eyes seemed to shoot forth flashes of lightning.
"But, child, you must not speak this way. Do not get so terribly excited," the mother calmly admonished her. "There is no time now to discuss a subject which we have to talk over quietly. We shall do so to-night. You know perfectly well that I have the greatest sympathy for your wishes and ambitions, and that it means as much to me as to you. As soon as we have a quiet hour together we can talk it all over."
These words quieted the child. She knew that her mother always shared every experience with them. In coming to town, mother and daughter had hoped to be able to carry out their most fervent wish, namely, the completion of Agnes' musical education. Agnes could count on her mother's help. It was for the happiness of both of them. So Agnes went out to the kitchen to do her work as usual. Both the sisters always helped to lighten their mother's work, for their only servant was quite a young girl, who did not do much besides run errands.
Mux went back to his former place. He was intensely pleased with the great effect and excitement his words had produced on Agnes. Hearing somebody else coming upstairs, he prepared to repeat his speech.
When Nika was near enough to hear him he said: "A fat gentleman has been here, and when he was gone mother said: 'Oh God!' and you are not to paint any more trees and flowers."
Nika, not having seen Mr. Schaller, did not understand these words. Unruffled and silent, she passed Mux and went into the other room, which disappointed Mux terribly. So when he heard Dino coming up the stairs, he unloaded his disappointment on him.
"We are not going to have them to-day," he announced.
"What do you think we will have? What am I supposed to be thinking of, little guesser?" Dino called out.
"Oh, I know. Whenever you think we are going to have green peas for lunch, you run up very quickly. You can't even wait, you love them so," Mux asserted. "But we won't have any to-day, for we are going to have cabbage instead. There, now you have it!"
"Now come in and we'll see who makes a worse face about it, you or I!"
With these words Dino took his little brother's hand, and together they ran into the room. Very soon afterwards, the family all sat down to their mid-day meal. On most days the children would be telling their mother about the happenings of the morning. They would all talk at once until it was quite hard for her to do them all justice. But to-day it was different. It seemed as if a storm was in the air; everybody was silent, and on all faces, except one, heavy clouds seemed to be resting. Nika sat brooding and staring in front of her, for Agnes had interpreted to her their little brother's words. She swallowed very hard on every mouthful, because she had to swallow a great deal more besides. Agnes was frowning so that her whole forehead was like one huge wrinkle. The mother, too, was busy with deep thoughts, as one could see from her worried expression.
Mux, who generally was extremely talkative, was quietly nibbling on his dish of cabbage, with many a deep sigh. Dino alone was merry. He glanced with great expectation from one to the other, and his lunch did not keep him very busy.
"I am expecting a thunderstorm," he said, while the quiet was still unbroken. "Nika is going to let loose the lightning which is flashing under her lashes, and Agnes will follow with the thunder. After this I predict a heavy rainstorm, for Mux can hardly keep back his tears about this cabbage."
"But you have eaten much less cabbage than I have," Mux cried out.
"I do this only from moderation, my little man, so that nobody will get too little."
"I would answer you about the thunder and the cabbage, Dino, if I had time," Agnes at last exploded. "But I have a music lesson at one o'clock and I have enough to swallow without this horrid cabbage."
"I only wish you could be more moderate in other things instead of in eating, Dino," said the mother with a melancholy smile. "You have hardly eaten anything, and I heard you cough all night. Your health worries me dreadfully, Dino. Did you cough much in school this morning?"
"Certainly, mother. But that is nothing to worry about," Dino replied merrily. "It always goes away again. My professor said to-day that it would have been better for me to remain in the pastoral fields of my native village, than to have sought the dust-laden corners of town. But I answered: 'Unfortunately the Latin language does not sprout from the pastoral fields, professor.'"
"Oh, I hope you did not answer that," the mother said, quite frightened.
"Oh yes, but only in my thoughts! Please, mother, don't worry about me," Dino implored.
"I am afraid that your professor is right," the mother said with a sigh. "But I have a plan which we shall talk over to-night. I shall also talk over our guardian's proposal, girls. Please try not to look so terribly unhappy, for everything is not yet lost."
"Oh, it will come to that in the end," said Nika, leaving the room.
"Yes, and much worse, I guess," said Agnes. Violently pushing her chair in place, she departed, after thrusting her music into a folder.
"What can be worse than when all is lost?" Dino called after her. "I know what," responded Mux knowingly, while Agnes looked back at Dino as if to say: If I had time I certainly would give an answer to you.
"What is it, wise little man?" asked Dino.
"If she had to eat nothing but cabbage all the time," replied Mux, full of a conviction which he seemed to have acquired from his own experience.
Dino, too, prepared to depart. With a sorrowful look, the mother passed her hand over the boy's thick hair. "Please be careful, and do not run too fast," she begged. "It's very bad for you to sit in the cool school room when you are so overheated. I can scarcely ever see you go, without anxiety."
"But I am surely not as sick as that, little mother," Dino said, tenderly embracing her. "When somebody has a cough it always goes away again after a while. That is the way with me. Be merry and everything will be all right in the end. But I have to go now, it is late," he exclaimed.
"But do not hurry so terribly, Dino, there is time enough yet, and remember what I told you," she called after him. Then stepping to the open window, she followed the running boy down the street with her eyes.
Dino gave Mrs. Halm great anxiety, for he seemed more delicate every day. Her watchful eye had detected how poor his appetite had been lately. Despite that, the boy had a very sweet disposition and was always full of fun. He was always anxious to have everybody in a good humor, and above all, his mother. Of all the burdens she had to bear, the trouble about her son's health was the hardest. One could see this by the painful expression on her face when she left the window and sat down beside her work table.
Mux was just repeating a question for the third time, but his mother did not hear him. Loudly raising his voice he said once more: "Oh, mother, why does one have to eat what the cows get?"
"What do you mean, Mux? What are you talking about?" she asked.
"I saw it in my picture book. The leaves the cows get are just the same as those in the kitchen," he explained none too clearly, but the mother understood him directly. She remembered how interestedly he had looked at the cabbage leaves when the girl had brought them home from market. She also bore in mind a picture in his favorite book, where a stable boy was shown giving a glossy brown cow splendid green leaves to eat.
"So you still have the cabbage in your head, Mux?" said the mother. "You must not be dissatisfied when there are so many poor children who have to go hungry. While you get bread and good vegetables, they may be suffering."
"Oh, can't we send them the rest of the cabbage?" Mux quickly suggested.
"Come and work on the embroidery I have started for you, Mux. We shall see who can beat to-day. Perhaps that will clear away your thoughts about the cabbage. Come and sit beside me, Mux."
The mother put a little chair beside hers and placed the work in the boy's nimble fingers. Now a race with stitches began, and in his zeal to beat his mother he at last forgot the subject that had troubled him so much.
The late evening had come and the children's work for school was done. Mrs. Halm put the big mending basket away and took up her knitting. The time had come, when, clustering eagerly about their mother, the children told her all the troubles and joys of the day.
It was the hardest hour of the day for Mux, for it was his bedtime. His mother always took him by the hand, to lead him to bed, before she began to talk with the three elder children. Every evening he put up a fight, for the wily youngster always thought that by obstinate resistance he could break the rule. His mother, however, knew well that his success would only result in dreadful yawns and heavy eyes.
This evening he found himself ready for bed before he had had time to prepare for his fight. His mother seemed anxious to have him in bed punctually that night. The boy was always reconciled to his fate when she sat down a moment beside his bed to hear of anything that might be troubling him. Mux, knowing that all conversation was irrevocably closed after his prayers were said, would try every night to prolong this period.
After Mux had climbed into bed, he said thoughtfully: "Don't you think, mother, that if people planted cherries where cabbage now grows everybody could eat cherries instead of cabbage?"
"We simply have to stop now, Mux," Mrs. Halm replied to his astonishment, for he had hoped to start a long conversation.
"Well, Mux, you don't seem to be able to get over the cabbage to-day. Go to sleep, for you have talked enough about it."
Mux knew then that nothing could be done that day, After his evening prayer and a kiss from his mother, he lay down and was fast asleep before his mother had even shut the door.
Agnes had just finished her last task and was throwing her books into a drawer, each more violently than the other. She was still terribly excited, and as soon as her mother came back to the room, she burst forth: "Oh, mother, if I am not allowed to study music any more, I would rather stop learning anything. Why can't I become a servant girl? I could do the work well enough. As soon as I have earned enough money, I'll buy a harp and then I can wander from house to house, singing and playing. I can easily live like that. Nobody needs to be a dressmaker. People can wear petticoats and jackets. That is enough, and those can be woven. All other children are better off than we are. They can learn what they please and we can't learn anything!" An outburst of tears choked all further words.
During her sister's speech Nika had been quietly drawing, but she was holding her head lower and lower over her work without once looking up. She continued her studies, but her eyes seemed to be filling. Pushing her work away, she held her handkerchief before her face.
"Oh, children," said the mother, looking sadly at them, "do not be so desperate right away. You know that your good is my good as well, and that I am doing and shall keep on doing everything in my power to fulfill your ambitions. It would be my happiest joy to have your talents developed, so that you could devote all your lives to music and painting. If we should find it impossible, however, dear children, we must firmly believe that it would not have been for the best, had we succeeded, for God alone knows which way to lead us.
"Do not lose your confidence in a kind Father in Heaven, for that is our greatest consolation. He won't forget us, if we do not forget Him, and we must remember that He can see further than we can, for He knows why and where He is leading us. We cannot look into the future, but later we shall understand it all and realize why we had to bear our troubles. Out of them will come the greatest blessings."
"Now let us be happy again and let us sing a song," said Dino, who loved to be gay and who liked to see everyone about him merry, too.
"Let us sing:
If winter's storms are wild and long We know that spring is coming. To Agnes, whom I hear rebel, This consolation I here tell."
"Yes, Dino, it is easy enough for you to laugh," Agnes exclaimed. "You would probably whistle another tune if you had to become a tailor. But you can learn and study everything you want to."
"I shall certainly not study everything," Dino informed her. "But your singing is much nicer than your arguing, Agnes, so please begin, and if you don't like my song, you can start another."
"We shall all sing together later on, children," said the mother. "I have to speak to you, too, Dino. I am troubled about your cough and your health. I have looked about for quite a while to find a suitable place in the country where I could send you. Of course, there are plenty of places, but I want you to go into some modest house where you can be looked after. I found a notice in the paper to-day which might be just what I am looking for. Read it yourself, Dino."
Dino began to read. "Yes, yes, mother, I must go there," he said, shaking with merriment. "I must go to Martha in Iller-Stream. I am sure that it is very cosy in Martha Wolf's house, where everything is so neat and the covers are so fresh."
The sisters now wanted also to see the notice that made Dino laugh so heartily. He read the paragraph aloud about Martha Wolf in Iller-Stream and they all agreed that it would be pleasant there. The mother decided to write to the woman at once and to take Dino there as soon as possible.
"Now we shall sing a song to end the day," she said, sitting down at the old piano. Every day the children sang an evening song to her accompaniment. Opening the book she herself started and the three children took up the song with their pure, fresh voices:
When bowed with grief, Go seek relief Of God, our Lord above.
UP IN THE TOP STORY
Thy need has grown, When left alone, For great and helping love. Before thou'st said, Before thou'st prayed, He knows thy inmost need. And by His care, His love so rare, From sorrow thou art freed.
NEW APPEARANCES IN ILLER-STREAM
In the Director's house in Iller-Stream reigned great excitement. The day had come when the two ladies from town were expected to arrive for their lengthy stay. To celebrate the coming of his guests, the master of the house had ordered a festive dinner for the middle of the day. He had been longing for this day, so was in a splendid humor. It was very important for him to start on his journey right away, and he had waited only to be able formally to receive his visitors. Also he had promised his cousin to give the reins of the household into her hands himself, after which event he had planned to start on his journey.
To Cornelli the preparations for the arrival of the new members of the household seemed very annoying, everything being different from usual. She commonly very much enjoyed the prospect of company, for on such occasions she paid frequent visits to the kitchen, where Esther was always busy cooking.
As soon as Cornelli appeared in the doorway, Esther would call to her: "Come and see which you like best, Cornelli; I am sure they are not so bad." A small yellow apple tart and a round purple plum cake were ready for the child to taste, for her visit had been anticipated. Cornelli always assured the cook that the apple tarts were excellent and the plum cakes even better.
Then Cornelli would go into the pantry, where Miss Mina was fixing fruit on the crystal platters. Here many a raisin and almond would drop beside the plate, and from there find its way into Cornelli's pocket. It was pleasant to have a supply whenever she felt like eating. The housekeeper dropped many nuts on purpose, for she did not want to be less sought after than her rival in the kitchen.
To-day Esther was flying around the kitchen violently rattling her pots and pans, and when Cornelli appeared, to see what was going on, the cook called to her: "Off with you! I have nothing for you here to-day. The ladies from town must not think that they have to show me how to cook a good dinner. I'll show them. Go away and make room here for me. Make room, Cornelli! I have to fix the vegetables."
Cornelli ran to the pantry.
Mina was just building up a splendid pile of cookies and almond rings. "Don't come rushing in like that, or it will all tumble down," she objected. "Don't come so near to the table; this plate is all ready and nothing must be missing from it. I won't have it said that one can see there is no mistress in this house, and that nobody here knows how to set a table."
"If you are all so stingy to-day, I won't bother you any more," said Cornelli, and with these words she turned around and marched indignantly out of the house.
That moment, hearing the sound of approaching wheels, and looking down the road through the open place in front of the house, she spied the expected carriage with two ladies sitting in it.
"Matthew, Matthew," she called out, in the direction of the large stable and the barn. These lay a little distance from the house, and were hidden by trees.
Matthew was the gardener who looked after the horses, and had also to superintend all the work done by his assistant in the garden and the stable. He was Cornelli's special friend, whom she had known ever since she could remember, for he had served her grandfather.
He now came from the stable and mysteriously beckoned to her: "Come here quickly, run fast!" he said. "We'll still get to the carriage in time. Only come for a moment."
Cornelli ran to him, and looking into the stable, saw lying on soft fresh hay a tiny, snow-white kid. It looked like a toy, but was really alive.
"Oh, where did it come from, Matthew? Oh, how cunning it is! The white fine fur is just like silk! Can it walk alone? Can it stand, too, if it wants to? Oh, just see how friendly it is and how it is rubbing its little head against me."
"Yes, but come, now; the carriage is driving up," Matthew urged. "Come quickly, you can see it every day. Just think! It was only born to-day."
The carriage had just driven into the court and Matthew was there the moment the horses stopped. The Director was there, too; not to lose any time and yet not be tardy, he had put a watcher at the door to let him know when the carriage was approaching. The Director was very polite and lifted his cousin out of the carriage, greeting her heartily. Then he helped Miss Grideelen to dismount, thanking her warmly for coming. He told her how glad he was that she had been willing to follow his cousin into this solitude, for otherwise it would have worried him to leave her alone so long. He appreciated their great sacrifice in coming and he hoped that his trip, which was very urgent, would not keep him away too long.
"Where is your daughter, Frederick?" asked Miss Dorner now.
The Director glanced about.
"I saw her just a moment ago. Where are you, Cornelli?" he called towards the house.
"Here I am!" It sounded from very near, for Cornelli had hidden behind her father, so as to inspect the new arrivals without being seen herself.
"Come forward and speak to your cousin and to Miss Grideelen!" ordered Mr. Hellmut.
Cornelli gave her hand first to her relative and then to the other lady, saying to each: "How do you do?"
"You can call me cousin, and this lady is called Miss Grideelen," said the cousin, hoping that the child would repeat her greeting and would call her and her friend by the names she was just told to use in speaking to them. But the child did not say another word.
The Director now turned towards the carriage, giving Matthew instructions for the horses. Then everybody stepped into the house and soon the whole company sat down at the richly laden dinner table. Miss Mina earned many praises for the deliciously planned meal. When the afternoon came the host took the ladies around his place, for his cousin was anxious to become acquainted with everything she had to take care of.
"Oh, what an abundance of fruit!" Miss Grideelen exclaimed over and over again. "How many cherry trees and what enormous apple trees! Oh, what a row of pear trees! You must be able to fill your bins with fruit in the autumn, Mr. Hellmut! Where do you have room for it all?"
"I do not know about it; my servants take care of that, for I have no time."
"It is a great shame, Frederick, that you do not have half a dozen children. They would help to look after these matters," the cousin remarked. "By the way, I wonder where your child is. She does not seem to be very sociable."
"I do not know where she is," replied Mr. Hellmut. "I am generally at work about this time and Mina probably knows what she is doing. Perhaps she is busy with her teacher. Cornelli has been alone so much that she could not get very sociable. That is why I am so grateful to you both for coming. I am so glad she can at last be in the environment I have always wanted for her. But what could I do? I have twice taken governesses into the house, to supply her with proper intercourse and opportunity for study. The first ran away because she could not stand the solitude. The second wanted every servant to leave who had been here before her; Esther was to go, and even Matthew. She told me that I had to choose between her and the 'old house-rats,' as she called them.
"I showed no desire to send either of them away, and said to her: 'It is better for you to go, for when the two have departed, it will probably be my turn next, as I shall be the oldest house-rat left.' After that she departed and I had no more courage to go through another experience. But I knew that it was time for Cornelli to have a lady of refinement and culture with her. I am sure, dear cousin, that you can give me some good advice as to her education, as soon as you have become acquainted with her."
"I should like to know whom she resembles," said Miss Dorner; "she does not seem to resemble either you or your late wife."
"Do you think so?" replied the father quickly. "Do you really think so? The child certainly does not need to resemble me, but I have always hoped that she resembled her mother. I always hoped that this would increase with the years and that she would grow up to be my wife's image. Do you not think that she has Cornelia's eyes? I think that my child's rather straggly mane will in time resemble my Cornelia's beautiful brown hair; the child's hair is very thick and has just the same color."
The Director looked imploringly at his cousin. He seemed anxious for her to agree with him.