Chapter Fifth. The Bibds are Still Singing

The next morning when Sami sat at the table with the family, no one said a word to him. The farmer's wife pushed a piece of bread towards his coffee-cup and made up an unfriendly face. The farmer was no different. The three boys looked sourly down at their coffee-cups, for they had no good consciences, and all three feared that their lies of the day before might yet be found out, if Sami should happen to speak.

When they rose from the table, the farmer said shortly:

"Get your bundle! I shall have to lose more time with you, until I have found a place for you, for surely no one will want you."

Since the night before a change had taken place in Sami. He no longer hung his head, as he had done almost always before from fear; he lifted it up and said:

"I know already where I must go."

The farmer and his wife looked at each other in astonishment.

"I want to go over the mountains," he added.

"Yes, that is best, that he should go back there, where he came from," said the farmer's wife quickly; "there will no doubt be someone going over there from the inn. Go quickly with him up there."

This seemed right to the farmer also. The leave-taking was as short as possible, and Sami was light-hearted when he started with his little bundle on his back away from his cousins' house.

At the inn, sure enough, they found a driver who was going with a big wood-wagon to Chateau d'Aeux. He was ready to take the boy with him and thought he would be able to find someone to take him farther, if the boy knew his way down there on the French side. The farmer said Sami had been brought up there and wanted to go back, he knew where.

Now the driver was ready. Sami's bundle was thrown into the wagon and the boy seated on it.

"Good luck!" said the farmer, gave Sami his hand and went away.

Then the driver swung himself up on his seat and the two strong horses started off. Although the wood-wagon was far less handsome and easy than the coach in which Sami had come, still he sat much happier in his hard seat than when he had left his grandmother lying so alone and had to go away, without knowing where. Now he was going home, where he knew everything and where everything was dear to him, every tree and every wall by the way; and although he wouldn't see his grandmother any longer, he would find all the places where he had been with her and where it was more beautiful than anywhere else. With these thoughts a multitude of questions arose in Sami's mind: Would everything be still the same as before? Would the ash-trees still be standing there by the wall? and the red and yellow flowers be growing on the hillside? And Sami had so much to think about that he didn't notice how the time was passing. So he was very much astonished when the wagon stopped, for they had come to a large village, and the driver took firm hold of him, lifted him up and set him down on the street. Sami looked around him. They had stopped in front of an inn, above which a big brown bear stood for a sign and which was surrounded by all kinds of vehicles. But he couldn't look around any longer, for the driver had already seized him again and lifted him together with his bundle into another team and then went away. Soon he came back with a large piece of bread and said:

"There, eat; you still have far to go."

"Are we yet in Chateau d'Aeux?" asked Sami.

"Yes, to be sure, but you are going farther," was the reply; then the driver disappeared.

Sami was now sitting in a small country wagon to which an enormous horse was harnessed. No one was as yet up in the high seat, but Sami was seated with his bundle back in the empty space on the floor. Then two big, stout men climbed up on the high seat, and they started away. After a short time Sami's eyes closed involuntarily, he slipped off on the floor of the wagon, his head fell over on his bundle, and he sank into a deep sleep. When he woke again, he was still in the wagon on the floor, but everything was quiet around him; he did not hear the horse trotting; the wagon was no longer moving forward. It looked very strange all around him. He looked, and looked again, until he realized what had happened. The wagon was standing without horse or driver in a shed; they had forgotten Sami and left him lying there.

"Where can I be?" Sami asked himself. The door of the shed stood open, and outside there was bright sunshine. Sami climbed down from his sleeping-place, stepped outside and went a little way farther around the house, which stood directly in front of the shed. Then he knew everything about it--there stood the house with the garden, where he had taken the beautiful coach; right before him was the railway station--he was in Aigle again. Only a little way farther in the train and he would be at home!

Then it came to Sami that here he could no longer talk with the people, for now he was among the French. But he knew what to do. He still had the little bag with his grandmother's money. He ran to the place where the people were getting their tickets, laid a piece of money in front of the little window, and said: "La Tour!"

Immediately he had his ticket; he sprang into the train, which was already standing outside, and crouched down quickly in his corner, the very same corner where he had sat before with Herr Malon. He knew all the names which were called out at the stations; nearer and nearer he came--now--"La Tour!" He jumped down and ran to the right across the fields, then to the left up the hill. He knew every tree along the way. Now--there stood the wall, there stood the ash-trees and their tops were waving to and fro. Underneath, the clear brook was murmuring, and above, on the hillside, the bright sun was shining on the big golden primroses and the red anemones. It was all exactly as it had been before! Moreover, above--oh, that was the most beautiful of all!--up in the ash-trees the birds were piping and singing as loudly and as merrily as ever and, to be sure, there was the chief singer, the finch. "Trust! Trust! Trust! Trust!" sounded his clear song, and all the birds joined in with their warbling and rejoiced loudly:

"Only trust the dear Lord!"

Sami was so overcome because everything was still exactly the same as he had known it before, that he stood speechless for a long time and listened, looking around him and listening again. It seemed so good to him and he had never felt such happiness in his heart since that evening when he had sat there with his grandmother. Now his grandmother rose so vividly before him, that he suddenly threw himself down on the wall and wept. She was no longer there, and would come back to him no more. But all the good words she had spoken to him here that evening rose vividly in his heart, and it seemed as if he distinctly heard her talking again, and as if she must really be quite near and see him.

Sami straightened himself up again, sat a while longer listening, and then began to think what he should do. At first he wanted to go to Malon and ask him if he could work for him, perhaps get out the weeds in his vineyard. But he could not explain to him why he was there again; they would not understand each other and Malon might think he had done something wrong and had been sent away for it by his cousin. But perhaps the woman who always gave mending to his grandmother would set him to work in her garden. She lived down below, near the Lake. He jumped down from the wall. Once more he looked at the hillside, and up into the tree, but he could come here again; he was here and could stay here.

On the way he thought how he could explain to the woman what he wanted to do for her. He would bend down and show her how he could pull up the weeds; then he would show her by a gesture that he knew how to hoe.

There stood already the old castle of La Tour before him, with its two high, weather-beaten towers, which he had looked at so many times. All around and high up thick ivy covered the old walls, and above them multitudes of merry birds were chirping. Sami had to stop and listen to their happy singing for a while, then he went along by the high old wall around the courtyard, for he wanted to see if it was still the same as before down below in the lonely place where the water kept falling on the old stones and singing a gentle song. He had once stood there a long time with his grandmother. There lay the place before him, but it was not lonely. A big wagon was standing there, with a grey cover stretched over it. No horse stood in front of it, but a thin nag was nibbling the hedge, and this evidently belonged to the wagon. Near the old castle tower a fire was blazing merrily; a man was sitting by it, hammering with all his might. Close by him four little children were crawling around on the ground. Sami stood still at this unexpected sight, then came slowly a little nearer. Then he heard the man warning the children not to come so near the fire. This he was doing in Sami's own language, exactly as all the people in Zweisimmen had spoken. This gave courage to Sami; he came along quite near, and watched the man mend a hole in an old pan.

"Does it please you?" asked the man, after Sami had looked on attentively for some time. The boy answered by nodding his head.

"Are you French, that you can't talk?" asked the man again.

Sami then said he could talk, but not at all in French, but he was glad that the tinker spoke German, because otherwise he would not be able to understand anyone there.

"Whom do you belong to?" asked the man again.

"Nobody," answered Sami.

Then the man wanted to know where he had come from and why he had come among the French. Sami told him his history, and how he had only come there again that morning.

"And now don't you know at all what you are going to do, and where you are going?" asked the man.

Sami said he did not.

"If I knew that you would do something, and not just stand around and look in the air, I would give you work," continued the man, "but such stray waifs as you are not willing to do anything."

Meanwhile a woman had come from the wagon. She had heard her husband's last words.

"Take him," she said. "What work is there for him? He might run errands; all boys can do that. I never get through with the running about and the four bawlers, and the cooking besides; take him!"

"Well, stay here," said the man; "you can carry the pan back; it is very good that you know the way."

Sami had suddenly found a place; he did not himself know how, but he was very glad about it. Quite content, he started out with his pan and did exactly as the tinker had told him. He wandered through the long street of La Tour, went into every house and showed his mended pan. He made significant gestures, to make the people understand that he would like to get more articles to mend. This he did so eagerly and earnestly that most of the people burst out laughing, and this put them in such good humor that they always found a pan or a kettle with a hole hi it which they handed him to be repaired.

Thus in a short time Sami had collected as much old stuff as he was able to carry, and could now take his pan to the house pointed out to him, where it belonged. Then he turned back.

The tinker was very much pleased with Sami's harvest and his wife said very kindly, if he kept on doing like that, he would get along all right, but he must sit down at once and have some supper. The four little children were no longer there. Sami guessed that they were lying out in the wagon asleep. On the fire a pot was now standing. It was bubbling merrily inside and from under the cover came forth a very inviting odor. Sami had never been so hungry in his life before, for he had had nothing the whole day but the rest of the piece of bread which the driver had given him the day before in Chateau d'Aeux.

The woman took the cover off the pot and filled three dishes with the good-smelling soup. Each of the three now placed his dish before him on the ground, and the meal began.

Nothing had ever tasted so good to Sami in all his life as this soup. It was not a thin soup, it was as thick as pulp, of cooked peas and potatoes, and with this quite large lumps of meat came into his spoon.

When he had finished, the woman said:

"You can go to sleep whenever you want to. In the back of the wagon there is room, and your bundle will make a good pillow."

This seemed a little strange to Sami, and he said:

"Must I sleep in my clothes?"

The woman thought he would find that he would not be too warm in the night. He would be ready all the sooner in the morning. Then he could wash his face quickly down in the lake and be all in order again for the next day.

Sami was tired. He went immediately to the wagon and climbed up from the back, and was able to slip in under the big cover. There was a little room where he could lie down, and next him came the four little children, one after another. Sami sat down and said his evening prayer. Then he thought of his grandmother for a while, and what she would say if she could see him thus in the wagon, and know that he would have to sleep all the time in his clothes, and if only she could see how it looked in the wagon, so dirty and in disorder. She had been so neat and orderly about everything and had kept him so clean from a baby up. But she had never spoken to him about this, as about other things which he must avoid, and perhaps the people were quite God-fearing; then he ought to stay with them. That would be as his grandmother wished. Then he placed his bundle under his head, and went peacefully to sleep.