What Sami Sings with the Birds by Johanna Spyri
Chapter Second. At the Grandmother's
Old Mary Ann had now to begin over again, where she had left off twenty-one years before, to bring up a little Sami. But then she was fresh and strong, she had her husband by her side, and lived at home among friends and acquaintances. Now she was in a strange land and was a worn-out woman, and felt that her strength would not last much longer. But little Sami did not realise all this. He was tended and cared for as if his grandmother wanted to make up to him every moment for what he had lost, and she was always saying to him, pityingly:
"You poor little thing, you have nobody in the world now but an old grandmother."
Moreover it was so. Father Sami could not be consoled. As soon as his young wife was buried he went away, and must have landed a long time ago in the far away country.
Little Sami grew finely, and as his grandmother talked with him a great deal, he began very early to imitate her. His words became more and more distinct, and when the end of his second year came, he talked very plainly and in whole sentences. His grandmother didn't know what to do for joy, when she realised that her little Sami spoke not a word of French, but pure Swiss-German, as she had heard it only in her native land. He spoke exactly like his grandmother, who was indeed the only one he had to talk with.
Now every day her baby gave her a new surprise. First he began to say after her the little prayer she repeated for him morning and evening; then he said it all alone. She had to weep for joy when the little one began to sing after her the little Summer song she had learned in her own childhood and had always sung to him, and one day suddenly knew the whole song from beginning to end and sang one verse after another without hesitation.
In spite of all the grandmother's trouble and work, the years passed so quickly to her, that one day when she began to reckon she discovered that Sami must be fully seven years old. Then she thought it was really time that he learned something. But suddenly to send the boy to a French school when he didn't understand a word of French seemed dreadful to her, for he would be as helpless as a chicken in water. She would rather try, as well as she possibly could, to teach him herself to read. She thought it would be very hard but it went quite easily. In a short time, the youngster knew all his letters, and could even put words together quite well. That something could be made out of this which he could understand and which he did not know before was very amusing to him, and he sat over his reading-book with great eagerness. But to go out with his grandmother to deliver her mending and to get new work was a still greater pleasure to him, for nothing pleased him better than roaming through the green meadows, then stopping at the brook to listen to the birds singing up in the ash-trees.
The changeable April days had just come to an end and the beaming May sun shone so warm and alluring that all the flowers looked up to it with wide-open petals. Mary Ann with Sami by the hand, her big basket on her arm, was coming along up from La Tour. The boy opened both his eyes as wide as he could, for the red and blue flowers in the green grass and the golden sunshine above them delighted him very much.
"Grandmother," he said taking a deep breath, "to-day we will sit on the low wall for twelve long hours, won't we, really?"
"Yes, indeed," assented his grandmother, "we will stay there long enough to get well rested and enjoy ourselves; but when the sun goes down and it grows dark, then we will go. Then all the little birds are silent in the trees and the old night-owl begins to hoot."
This seemed right to Sami, for he didn't want to hear the old owl hoot. Now they had reached the wall. A cool shadow was lying on it; below the fresh brook murmured, and up in the ash-trees the birds piped and sang merrily together and one kept singing very distinctly:
"Sing too! Sing too!"
Sami listened. Suddenly he lifted up his voice and sang as loud and lustily as the birds above, the whole song that his grandmother had taught him:
Last night Summer breezes blew:-- All the flowers awake anew, Open wide their eyes to see, Nodding, bowing in their glee.
All the merry birds we hear Greet the sunshine bright and clear; See them flitting thru the sky, Singing low and singing high!
Flowers in Summer warmth delight:-- What of Winter and its blight? Snowy fields and forests cold? Flowers are by their faith consoled.
Songsters, all so blithe and gay, Know ye what your carols say? How will your sweet carols fare When your nests the snow-storms tear?
All the birdlings everywhere Now their loveliest songs prepare; All the birdlings gayly sing:-- "Trust the Lord in everything!"
Then Sami listened very attentively, as if he wanted to hear whether the birds really sang so.
"Listen, listen, grandmother!" he said after a while. "Up there in the tree is one that doesn't sing like the others. At first he keeps singing 'Trust! Trust! Trust! Trust!' and then the rest comes after."
"Yes, yes, that is the finch, Sami," she replied. "See, he wants to impress it upon you, so that you will think about what will always keep you safe and happy. Just listen, now, he is calling again: Trust! trust! trust! trust! trust! Only trust the dear Lord."
Sami listened again. It was really wonderful, how the finch always sounded above the other birds with his emphatic "Trust! trust! trust!" "You must never forget what the finch calls," continued the grandmother. "See, Sami, perhaps I cannot stay with you much longer, and then you will have no one else, and will have to make your way alone. Then the little bird's song can oftentimes be a comfort to you. So don't forget it, and promise me too that you will say your little prayer every day, so that you will be God-fearing; then no matter what happens, it will be well with you."
Sami promised that he would never forget to pray. Then he became thoughtful and asked somewhat timidly:
"Must I always be afraid, grandmother?"
"No, no! Did you think so because I said God-fearing? It doesn't mean that: I will explain it to you as well as I can. You see to be God-fearing is when one has the dear Lord before his eyes in everything he does, and fears and hesitates to do what is not pleasing to Him, everything that is wicked and wrong. Whoever lives so before Him has no reason to fear what may happen to him, for such a man has the dear Lord's help everywhere, and if he has to meet hardship oftentimes, he knows that the dear Lord allows it so, in order that some good may come out of it for him, and then he can sing as happily as the little birds: 'Only trust the dear Lord!' Will you remember that well, Sami?"
"Yes, that I will," said Sami, decidedly, for this pleased him much better, than if he had to be always afraid.
Now the setting sun cast its last long rays across the meadows, and disappeared. The grandmother left the wall, took Sami by the hand and then the two wandered in the rosy twilight along the meadow path, then up the green vine-clad hill to the little village of Chailly up on the mountain.