What Sami Sings with the Birds by Johanna Spyri
Chapter Third. Another Life
One morning, a few days later, Mary Ann was so tired she couldn't get up. Sami sat beside her waiting for her to be fully awake in order to go into the kitchen and make the coffee. His grandmother opened her eyes once and fell asleep again. She had never done anything like this before. Now she was really awake. She tried to raise herself up a little, then took Sami by the hand and said in a low voice:
"Sami, listen to me, I must tell you something. See, when I am no longer with you, you have no one else here, and are an entire stranger. But there over the mountains you have relatives, and you must return to them. Malon will tell you how to get there. You must go to Zweisimmen. There ask for the sergeant, your cousin, who lives in the house with the big pear-trees near it. Tell him your grandmother was the sergeant's Mary Ann and your father was Sami. Work hard and willingly, you will have to earn your living. There in the chest is some money in the little bag; take it, it is yours; don't spend it foolishly. Sami, think of what you promised me. Don't neglect to pray, it will bring you comfort and happiness which you will need. Try to associate with God-fearing people and live with them, then you will learn only good. Go, now, Sami, and call Herr Malon. I must talk with him."
Sami went and came back with the man of the house. He stepped up to Mary Ann's bed, and tried to encourage her, as that was his way. But he was alarmed at her appearance and wanted to go for the doctor, as he told her. But she held him fast and tried with great difficulty to express herself in his language, for she had only a scanty knowledge of it. Malon nodded his head understandingly and then hurried away. When he returned to the room a couple of hours later with the doctor, Sami was still sitting in the same place by the bed, waiting very quietly for his grandmother to wake up again. The doctor drew near the bed. Then he spoke with Malon a while, and finally came to Sami. He told him his grandmother would never wake again, that she was dead.
Malon was a good man; he said he himself would go with Sami part of the way until he found some one who could talk with him and take him further; but he must put all his belongings together in a bundle. Then the two men went away.
After a while the young woman of the house came, for the forsaken boy had deeply aroused her sympathy. She found Sami still sitting in the same place by the bed. He was looking steadfastly at his grandmother and weeping piteously. The woman spoke to him, but he did not understand her. Then she took everything out of the cupboard and drawers, packed them into a bundle and showed Sami that he was to eat the bread and milk on the table. Sami swallowed the milk obediently, but the woman put the bread in his pocket. Then she led the boy once more to the bed, that he might take his grandmother's hand in farewell.
Sami obeyed still sobbing, and let himself be led away by the woman. Herr Malon was already waiting beside his little cart in which lay Sami's bundle. The boy understood that he was to draw the cart, but he knew not where. He wept softly to himself for it seemed to him as if he were going out into the wilderness where he would be wholly alone. Malon went on ahead of him.
It was the same way Sami had often gone with his grandmother down to La Tour. When he came to the wall by the brook, he sobbed aloud. How lovely it had been there with his grandmother! He could not see the way because of his falling tears, but he heard Herr Malon's heavy step in front of him, and he followed after. At the little station house above the vine-covered church Malon stopped. Soon after the train came puffing along. Malon got in and pulled Sami after him, and they started away. Sami crouched in a corner and did not stir. They travelled thus for an hour. Sami did not understand a word that was spoken around him, although several times one and another tried to talk with him a little, for the softly weeping boy had indeed awakened their sympathy.
The train stopped again. Malon got out and Sami followed him. They went a short distance together and then Malon stepped to the left into a large garden and then into the house. Here he talked a while with the man of the house, who from time to time looked pityingly at Sami. Then Malon took Sami's hand, shook it and left him behind alone in the big room.
After some time the man of the house came back and a sturdy fellow behind him. The latter began to talk in Sami's own language. He wanted to console the boy and said he would soon go on in a carriage. Then Sami asked if he was his cousin, and if this was the village of Zweisimmen? But the fellow laughed loudly and said he was no cousin, but a servant here in the inn, and the place was called Aigle. Sami would have to travel an hour longer and would not reach Zweisimmen before twelve o'clock at night. But there was a coachman here from Interlaken, who had to go back and would take him along.
The man of the house had bread and eggs brought for Sami and when he said he wasn't hungry, he put everything kindly into the boy's pocket. Then he led the boy out. Outside stood a large coach with two horses and high up on the top sat the driver. No one was inside. Sami was lifted up, the driver placed him next himself and drove away. At any other time this would have pleased Sami very much, but now he was too sad. He kept thinking of his grandmother, who could no longer talk with him and would never wake again. After some time the driver began to talk to him. Sami had to tell him where he came from and to whom he was going. He told him everything, how he had lived with his grandmother, how she had fallen asleep early that day, and did not wake up again; and that he was going to find a cousin in Zweisimmen and would have to live with him. Sami's childish description touched the driver so deeply that he finally said:
"It will be too late when we reach there, you must stay with me to-night."
Then when he saw Sami's eyes close with the approaching twilight and only open again when they went over a stone, and the two of them up on the box were jounced almost dangerously against each other, he grasped the boy firmly, lifted him up and slipped him backwards into the coach. Here he fell at once fast asleep and when he finally opened his eyes again, the sun was shining brightly in his face. He was lying in his clothes on a huge, big bed in a room with white walls. In all his life he had never seen such walls. He looked around in consternation. Then the coachman of the day before came in the door.
"Have you had your sleep out?" he said laughing. "Come and have some coffee with me. Then I will take you to your cousin. Some one else must carry your bundle. It is too heavy for you."
Sami followed him into the coffee-room. Here the good man kept pouring out coffee for the boy, but Sami could neither eat nor drink.
When the coachman had finished his breakfast, he rose and started with Sami on the way to the sergeant's house. It was not far. At the house in the meadow among the pear-trees he laid Sami's bundle down, shook him by the hand and said:
"Well, good luck to you. I have nothing to do in there and have farther to go."
Sami thanked him for all his kindness, and gazed after his benefactor, until he disappeared behind the trees. Then he knocked on the door. A woman came out, looked in amazement first at the boy, then at his big bundle, and said rudely: "Where have you come from with all your household goods?"
Sami informed her where he had come from and that his grandmother was Mary Ann, and his father, Sami. Meanwhile three boys had come running up to them, placed themselves directly in front of him, and were looking at him from top to toe with wide-open eyes. This embarrassed Sami exceedingly.
"Bring your father out," said the mother to one of her boys. Their father was sitting inside at the table, eating his breakfast.
"What's the matter now?" he growled.
"There is someone here, who claims to be a relative of yours. He doesn't know where he is going," exclaimed his wife.
"He can come in to me, perhaps I can tell him, if I know," replied the man, without moving.
"Well, go in," directed the woman, giving Sami an assisting push. The boy went in and replied very timidly, where he had come from and to whom he had belonged. The peasant scratched his head.
"Make quick work of it," said the woman impatiently, who had followed with her three boys.
"I think we have enough with the three of them, and there are people who might need such a boy."
"This is quickly decided," said the peasant, thoughtfully cutting his piece of bread in two; "send all four boys out."
After this command had been carried out, he continued slowly: "There is no help for it. It was stipulated at the time the house was sold, that room must be made in the house if either Mary Ann, Sami or the child should come back. Besides, it is not so bad as it seems. Where three sleep together there is room for a fourth, and he can do some work for his food. The parish can do something for his clothes."
His wife had no desire to have a fourth added to her three boys, for her own made enough noise and trouble for her. She protested, saying she knew how it was with such stray children and they could expect to have a fine time!
But it was of no use; it was decided that Sami should have a place in the house. The farmer brought in the bundle and carried it up to the oldest boy's room, where until now the broad-shouldered Stoeffi had slept in a bed alone. He could take Sami in with him, for he was smaller than the other two; Michael and Uli could stay together as before.
Then the woman opened the bundle. She was not a little surprised, when she found inside not only Sami's clothes, all in the best of order, but also two good dresses, aprons and neckerchiefs. She called Sami up to her, and showed him the corner in the chest where she had put his things. Then she said she would take the woman's clothes for herself, since he could surely make no use of them. The clothes which his grandmother had always worn were so dear to Sami, that he looked on with sad eyes, as they were carried away, but he thought it had to be so.
He had already made the acquaintance of the three boys. They had shown him below in front of the house how one of them could best throw down the others, and had demonstrated all sorts of useful tricks. But as each tried to outdo the others in showing off his knowledge, a struggle ensued and the tricks were immediately applied; one threw another over the third, Sami was knocked and thrown around by all three.
When he now came down from his room a voice from the barn called out: "Come here and help pull."
Sami ran along. There stood the two younger boys, Michael and Uli, with great hoes on their shoulders, and Stoeffi beside a cart which had to be taken along. They waited for their father, and then all went out to the field. Here Stoeffi and Sami had to rake together the grass, which the father cut, and load it on the cart, and bring home to the cows. Michael and Uli had to hoe the weeds in the next field near by. Now it appeared that Sami did not know at all how to use the rake, for he had never done such work.
"He shall weed with Uli, and Michael can do this work," said the farmer.
But when Sami tried to do this, the hoe was too heavy for him, and he could do nothing.
"Then kneel on the ground and pull them up with your hands," said the farmer.
Sami squatted down and pulled at the weeds with all his might. The ground was hard and the work very tiresome. But Sami did not forget how his grandmother had impressed it upon him to do all his work well and willingly.
At noon the two weeders took their hoes on their shoulders and Sami had to pull the cart, which was now much heavier than on the way there. The boy had to use all his strength, for Stoeffi showed him plainly that he would not take upon himself the larger part of the work.
Then when they passed by the field the father indicated to each one the piece he would have to weed that afternoon; for he himself would be obliged to go to the cattle market. They would find a smaller hoe at home for Sami to take with him in the afternoon, for pulling up the weeds was too slow work.
After the boys had worked several hours in the afternoon, they sat down in the shade of an old apple-tree to eat their luncheon, and the piece of black bread with pear juice tasted very good after the hot work.
"Have you ever seen a bear?" asked Stoeffi of Sami.
He said he had not.
"Then you would be fearfully frightened if you should suddenly see one," continued Stoeffi; "only those who know them are not afraid of them. This evening there is to be one in the village, and, as I am almost through with my piece in the field, you can finish it, so I can go early to see the bear."
Sami agreed. When all four had begun to hoe again, Stoeffi soon exclaimed:
"Well, you won't have much more to do now, Sami, but keep your promise, or--"
Stoeffi doubled up his fist, and Sami understood what that meant.
He had hardly gone when Michael said:
"See, Sami, there isn't much left of mine, you can do that too; I am going to see the bear."
Whereupon Michael ran off.
"Me, too," cried Uli, throwing down his hoe. "You can finish that also, Sami."
When the twilight came on and the family put the sour milk and the steaming potatoes on the table, Sami was missing.
"I suppose he will keep us waiting," remarked the farmer's wife sharply. When all had finished and the milk mugs were empty, the woman cleared them away and placed the few potatoes left over on the kitchen table and growled:
"He can eat here, if he wants anything."
It was quite dark, and Sami still had not come. Just as the other three were being sent to bed, he came in, so tired he could hardly stand. The woman asked him harshly, if he couldn't come home with the others. The farmer assumed that the piece he had told Sami to weed had been too much for him to do, and he said consolingly:
"It is right that you wanted to finish your work, but you must work faster."
Sami understood the signs which Stoeffi made behind his father's back, that he was to keep silent about the bear, and he was too much afraid of the three boys' fists to say anything about it.
He preferred to go straight to bed, for he was too tired to eat. But he couldn't go to sleep. He had received so many new impressions, he had borne so much anguish, and had to do so much work besides, he could think of nothing else. But now his grandmother came before his eyes again as she had prayed with him at evening and had been so kind to him, and everything she had told him. He wanted so much to pray, it seemed to him as if his grandmother was near and told him the dear Lord would always comfort him if he prayed, and that comfort he was so anxious to have.
He was so troubled, when he wondered if he could do his work the next day, so that the farmer would not be cross, and how his wife would be, for he was very much afraid of her, and how it would be with the boys, who forced him to make everything appear contrary to the truth.
Then Sami began to pray and prayed for a long time, for he already began to feel comforted, because he could take refuge with the dear Lord and ask Him to help him, now that he had no one left in the world to whom he could speak and who could assist him. When at last his eyes closed from great weariness he dreamed he was sitting with his grandmother on the wall and above them all the birds were singing so loud and so joyfully that he had to sing with them: "Only trust the dear Lord!"