RICO AND WISELI
RICO AND WISELI
Translated By Louise Brooks
RICO AND STINELI
I. IN THE QUIET HOUSE
II. IN THE SCHOOL
III. THE OLD SCHOOLMASTER'S FIDDLE
IV. THE BEAUTIFUL DISTANT LAKE WITHOUT A NAME
V. A SAD HOUSE BUT THE LAKE GETS A NAME
VI. RICO'S MOTHER
VII. A PRECIOUS LEGACY AND A PRECIOUS PRAYER
VIII. ON THE LAKE OF SILS
IX. A PERPLEXING AFFAIR
X. A LITTLE LIGHT
XI. A LONG JOURNEY
XII. IT STILLS GOES ON
XIII. ON THE DISTANT BEAUTIFUL LAKE
XIV. NEW FRIENDSHIPS FORMED WHILE THE OLD ONES ARE NOT FORGOTTEN
XV. SILVIO'S WISHES PRODUCE RESULTS
XVI. COUNSEL THAT BRINGS JOY TO MANY
XVII. BACK AGAIN OVER THE MOUNTAINS
XVIII. TWO HAPPY TRAVELLERS
XIX. CLOUDS ON THE BEAUTIFUL LAKE OF GARDA
XX. AT HOME
XXI. SUNSHINE ON THE LAKE OF GARDA
HOW WISELI WAS PROVIDED FOR
II. AT HOME WHERE ALL ARE HAPPY
III. ALSO AT HOME
IV. AT COUSIN GOTTI'S
V. HOW TIME WENT ONE AND SUMMER CAME
VI. OLD AND NEW
VII. ANDREW IS BETTER AND SOMEBODY ELSE ALSO
VIII. SOMETHING VERY STRANGE HAPPENS
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
"So the lad seated himself and placed his fiddle in position."
"Rico played correctly and with enthusiasm."
"Wiseli hastened into the room and went to her mother's side."
"Andrew raised himself in his bed to see who was there."
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
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
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
"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 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
"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;