What Sami Sings with the Birds by Johanna Spyri
Chapter Sixth. Sami Sings Too
Sami had now been working five days for the tinker, and had passed his nights in the wagon. He was well treated, for the man and his wife were pleased with him. Every day Sami dragged along such a pile of old pans, pots and kettles, that they both wondered where he found them. His grandmother had not charged him in vain to do everything he had to do as well as he possibly could, because the dear Lord always saw what he was doing.
He never loitered on the way, and if a woman was going to send him away quickly and would not listen to him, then he looked at her so beseechingly that she would find an old pan somewhere and bring it out. From morning till night he ran with the greatest zeal, in order to get as much work as possible for his master, and the praise he won every evening he enjoyed as much as the savoury soup which followed.
Nevertheless Sami was not very well contented. Every evening as he sat in the wagon, he had to think what his grandmother would say to all the dirt around him, and things pleased him less and less. The woman did not do for the little children as his grandmother had done for him. All four crawled around in the dirt and looked so that Sami didn't care to have anything to do with them. If they cried they were knocked this way and that, and at night the woman took up one after another from the ground, put it in the wagon, pulled the dirty grey blanket over them and went away again.
The largest boy could talk quite well. He could have learned a little prayer long before this, but the woman never taught him any.
Such a homesickness for his grandmother now arose in Sami's heart every evening that he had to bury his head deep in his bundle, so that no one would hear him sob.
Often on his expeditions he would come near the wall, under the ash-trees, but he never went over to it, for he had to work and did not dare sit idle and listen to the birds. But every time he had looked longingly there and sent a whistle from a distance as greeting to the birds.
From the old house on the hillside, from which one could look down at the ash-trees and the wall, he had brought a little kettle to the tinker, and was delighted at the thought of taking it back again, for then he could look down there for a moment and perhaps hear the birds.
Two days had passed, and Sami hoped that on the following day the little kettle would be ready. When he returned that evening to the fire with his last collection, the tinker was sitting thoughtfully there, turning the little kettle round and round in his hands. His wife was looking over his shoulders and both were scrutinizing the old kettle as if it were something unusual.
"It is as like the other as if it were its brother," said the wife. "You know how the man said you must not spoil the pictures scratched on it, and on that account he gave you so much more for it. Here are exactly the same figures on this, and the nose in front has just the same curve as the other, which he would not have mended for fear it would be spoiled."
"I see it all, surely," said the man, "but I don't know what can be done about it. With the other one I could say, it couldn't be mended any more, for it looked much worse than this, and the people didn't know that the old stuff was worth anything, and I wouldn't have believed it was myself."
"They won't know either. The boy brought the kettle from the old house up there. They only know the ground they hoe, but not such a thing as this. Just say it can't be mended any more, it is not good for anything, and give them something for the copper. They will be satisfied enough. If we go back to Bern we will take it to the man, who will give eighty francs for it."
"That is true. We can do that," said the man, delighted; "perhaps they won't want anything for the kettle when they know they can't use it any more. Come, Sami," he called to the boy, who stood staring at them on the other side of the fire, and had heard and understood everything--"come here, I want to tell you something."
"Run quickly up to the old house, where you brought the little kettle from, and say it isn't good for anything, that it can't be mended any more."
Sami, filled with horror, stared at the man. "Now hurry up and go along," said his wife, who was still standing there; "you understand well enough what you have to do."
Sami continued looking at the man without moving, as if he really had not understood his words.
"What is the matter with you? Why don't you hurry along?" snarled the man to him.
"I can't do that. You are not God-fearing if you do such a thing as that," said Sami.
"What is it to you, what I do? Be quick and go along!" commanded the tinker, and his wife screamed angrily:
"Do you think a little beggar like you is going to tell us what is God-fearing? We ought to know much better than you! Will you do at once what you are told, or not?"
Sami did not stir.
"Will you go and do what I told you, or--"
The man raised his hand high up. Sami was pale with fright. Suddenly he turned around, ran to the wagon, took his bundle out, and ran with all his might up the road, turned to the right between the high walls and rushed on into the open field. Not a moment did he stop running, until he had reached the ash-trees. The spot was like a place of refuge to him. Breathless, he sat down on the wall. The twilight was already coming on and it was perfectly still all around. No one had run after him as he feared. He was quite alone.
Now he began to think. It was all done so quickly that he had only now come to his senses. Yes, it was right that he had run away, for what he had to do was something wrong, and he had to come away because they were not God-fearing. It surely would seem right to his grandmother that he had done this. But where should he go now? The people had all gone home from the fields, perhaps were already asleep. Up in the ash-trees not one little bird made a single sound. They were surely all in their nests and fast asleep. If the dear Lord kept them up there in the trees safe from all harm, so that they could sleep so well, He would surely protect him too under the trees. In this spot he always had the feeling that his grandmother was nearer to him than anywhere else, and this gave him confidence. So he laid himself down under the tree quite trustfully and immediately after he had ended his evening prayer, his eyes closed, for the brook was murmuring such a beautiful slumber song under the ash-trees there.
Golden sunshine was streaming in Sami's eyes when he awoke. Above him all the birds were warbling their morning song up into the blue sky. It sounded like pure thanksgiving and delight. It awakened in Sami's heart the same tones, and he had to sing praise and thanksgiving, for the dear Lord had protected him too so well through the night and let His golden sun shine on him again. With a clear voice Sami joined in the glad chorus and sang a hymn of praise and thanksgiving, the only one he knew:
"Last night Summer breezes blew:-- All the flowers awake anew,"
And when he had come to the end, he sang like the merry finch with all his might:
"Trust! Trust! Trust! Trust! Only trust the dear Lord!"
The song had awakened in Sami new assurance that he would find a piece of bread and some worthy work. This he wanted to look for now, for his grandmother had not impressed it upon him in vain from his earliest days, that in the morning after praying one should immediately go to work. So Sami started off.
He did not go down to the Lake this day, lest he should come near the tinker. With his bundle under his arm he wandered up the gradually rising field road. Where this crossed the narrow street, leading over to Clarens, Sami met a child's carriage which a girl was pushing in front of her. She wore a spotless white cap and a white apron. Over the carriage, too, was spread a snow-white cover, and out from under it peeped a little head with bright golden hair and a little white hat on it.
This unusual neatness and the smart appearance of the carriage attracted Sami very much and he followed along the same way. On the white carriage robe was worked a wreath of blue silk, but not of flowers. It was of strange figures. The shining blue silk on the white cloth looked so beautiful that Sami could not keep his eyes away from it. Suddenly it became plain to him that the strange figures were letters, but he had never seen any like them in his life. Their appearance captivated him more and more. Then he began to try to see if he couldn't spell them out and perhaps read the words. He tried as hard as he could, but it was difficult. Sami kept beginning over again from the first. Finally he made out all the words. It was a proverb which read thus:
"So let the little angels sing: This child is safe beneath our wing."
This proverb reminded him so much of his grandmother; he didn't know why, but it seemed to him as if she had prayed exactly like this over his bed. The tears came to his eyes, and yet it seemed so good, just as if he had found his home again. The girl now turned suddenly to the left from the road, and went through the high iron gate which stood open, and led into a wide courtyard. Great, ancient plane-trees stood inside and cast their broad shade over the sunny courtyard. A large flower garden surrounded the high stone house, which looked forth from behind the trees.
Sami followed the carriage into the courtyard. It stopped under the trees.
"What do you want here? That is the way out," said the girl impatiently to Sami, pointing so plainly to the gate that Sami would have understood the meaning of her words even if her language had been foreign. But it was surely German, and he had understood it all very well, although he could not speak like that himself. His grandmother had told him that there were people who spoke just like the reading in the books.
Sami did not reply, and the girl did not wait for him. She snatched the child quickly out of the carriage, took the beautiful robe over her arm, and went into the house.
Meanwhile a little girl had come out of the house and was standing at some distance gazing at Sami with two big eyes. Now she came quickly forward, jumped nimbly into the empty carriage, and said:
"Come, give me a ride!"
"Where?" asked Sami.
"Out there along the road, and far, far away!"
Sami obeyed immediately. For a long while he trotted along without stopping. The little girl seemed to enjoy the ride. She looked so eagerly around with her bright eyes on every side, as if she couldn't see enough. Then they came to a meadow thick with flowers.
"Hold still! Hold still!" cried the little one suddenly, and sprang with a big jump out of the low carriage.
"Now we must have all the flowers, every single one! Come!"
And the little girl was already in the midst of the grass, stamping bravely forward. But Sami said quite prudently:
"You mustn't go so into the grass. It is forbidden. But see, if we go around outside and take all the flowers you can reach, there will be a big bunch."
The little one came out, for she knew that she ought not to do what was forbidden. Then the flowers were gathered according to Sami's advice, but the little companion soon had enough of such exertion, seated herself on the ground and said:
"Come, sit down by me. But you must not speak French to me. I have to learn that with Madame Laurent, but I would rather speak German, and you must do so too."
"I don't speak French, I don't know how," replied Sami; "but I can't speak like you either."
"Where do you come from then, if you don't speak German and don't speak French?" the little one wanted to know.
Sami thought for a moment, then he said:
"First I came from Chailly and then from Zweisimmen."
"No, no," interrupted the little one warmly. "People are never from two places, only from one. I am from Berlin, in Germany, you see. Then Papa bought an estate and now we are living on Lake Geneva. What is your name?"
Sami told her.
"And my name is Betti. Why did you come into the courtyard when Tina wanted to send you out?"
Sami had to think for a while, then he said:
"Because those words were on the robe, I knew they were God-fearing people where it belonged, and my grandmother told me I must stay with such people and never go away, for I should learn nothing but good from them."
"Must you stay with us now, and never go away again?" asked little Betti eagerly.
"Yes, I think so," answered Sami. "Perhaps I can weed the garden."
"That is right," said Betti, delighted. "You see, Tina will not take me in the carriage; she says I am too big. Will you take me every day in the carriage to the meadow for ever so many hours?"
"Yes, indeed, I will do that gladly," promised Sami, "and you shall have all the flowers. Then I will take you besides to the trees where all the birds sing 'Only trust the dear Lord!' and where the finch cries so loud above them all: 'Trust! Trust! Trust! Trust!' Have you heard him too?"
At this description little Betti's eyes grew bigger and brighter with expectation.
"Come now, let's go right away to the birds," she exclaimed, jumped up and ran in haste to the carriage.
At this moment Tina, with a very red face, came running up from below. Her looks did not portend anything good.
"So I have found you at last," she cried angrily from a distance. "Everybody is running around looking for you--your three brothers, the servants, the coachman--everybody! I have run myself half dead for you. Sit down in the carriage, you naughty little thing. The little tramp can go where he likes. No, he must come back again; his bundle is lying in the courtyard. So he can pull the carriage if he has to come with us."
Little Betti did not seem very much frightened by this lively speech. She climbed quickly into the carriage and said gaily: "Go ahead, Sami!"
He obeyed quite crushed, for now he could only return for his bundle; then he would have to go away again, and he had so firmly believed this was the place where he was to stay according to his grandmother's advice, and it had pleased him so much. He had started out in the morning full of trust from the song of the birds, and now he was returning very down-hearted the same way.
When the three on their way home came to the courtyard, a tall man was standing there, looking out up and down the road; a lady was coming out of the house and going in again very restlessly, and three young boys were running first one way and then another, screaming at the top of their voices:
"She is nowhere to be seen! She is nowhere to be seen!"
But there she was, drawn by Sami, just coming into the courtyard. Before any question, reproach or accusation could be heard in regard to the unlawful expedition, Betti had run straight to her Papa, and in his delight that she was safely there again, he had taken her in his arms, and with the greatest eagerness she said:
"He will take me every day in the carriage, Papa, the whole day long, if I like, and bring all the flowers to me, because I must not go in the high grass. And he must always stay with us, because his grandmother knew about it, and, Papa, think, he knows birds that sing a whole song, and the finch sings above them all: 'Trust! Trust!' We were going right to see them when Tina came and we had to come home. But now we can go, can't we, Papa, right away? Sami will take me there again; he isn't tired yet. Only say yes, Papa."
"Your story is wonderful," said her Papa, laughing. "Where is the little coachman whom you have engaged and who, according to his grandmother's advice, must stay with us?"
Meanwhile the three brothers had come running along and, together with their mother, stood near their father under the gateway, so that Sami, who with his bundle on his arm was trying to go out, could not pass through, and had betaken himself very quietly to a corner of the courtyard. The master of the house now placed his daughter on the ground and looked towards the boy. But he was already surrounded, for during their little sister's story the three brothers had made their examination and calculation and then had turned to the boy. Nine-year-old Edward had decided with satisfaction that Sami was the one he had for a long time needed, for since the donkey, which had been given to him at Christmas, had overturned him and his little cart three times running, his father had forbidden him to drive out again without the coachman, Johann. But when Edward wanted to go out driving Johann was always occupied some other way, and when Johann announced that he could go it didn't suit Edward at all. Now Sami was found, an attendant whom he could call whenever he wanted him.
Eleven-year-old Karl was an enthusiastic archer, but to have to be always running after his arrows after they were shot and to hunt for them was very irksome to him. Suddenly someone was found whom he could make use of to hunt for his arrows.
Fourteen-year-old Arthur had permission to sail in his boat on the lake, but he needed some one to steer for him. Now here was a satisfactory boy, on the spot, whom he could teach, and have to steer for him. So it happened that there was a great uproar when their Papa drew near the group in the corner of the courtyard.
"Keep him, Papa, I have enough work for him to do!" cried Arthur, while Karl's voice was heard above his screaming:
"Let him stay here, Papa, please, I need him so much!"
But Edward's piercing voice was heard above the other two:
"Papa, he can drive the donkey, he must stay with us, then Johann won't need to come with me any longer!"
And in the midst of all sounded Betti's high little voice, untiringly:
"Can we go to see the birds now, Papa? Can we go now to the birds?"
Then Papa turned away from the noisy group and said, laughing:
"My dear wife, what do you say to this whole story?"
The lady addressed had until now listened silently and watched Sami, whose eyes grew brighter and brighter the louder the children begged for him to stay. She looked at him kindly and said first of all she would like to know from him where he came from, and what the story which Betti told about his grandmother meant; he ought to tell where he had been living hitherto, who his parents were and who his grandmother was.
The kind lady had inspired Sami with great confidence and he now told from the beginning all that he knew about his life up to the present moment, and also how he had come into the courtyard, on account of the proverb, which led him to believe that here lived the people with whom he should stay.
When Sami came to an end, the lady turned to her husband and said:
"It is the dear Lord who has led him here. We cannot send him away!"
The children all shouted together for joy.
"Can we go to the birds now, Papa? Right away?" repeated Betti with irrepressible eagerness.
"By and by, by and by," said her father, soothingly. "Sami is going with me first up to Chailly, to show me where Herr Malon lives. I want to talk with him. When we come back, we will see what to do first."
The mother understood that her husband wanted to have Herr Malon's assurance that everything Sami had told was true, and held back the children, who all four were anxious to explain immediately to Sami what they desired of him.
"But bring him back again, Papa!" cried Betti following after them as they started away.
Herr Malon was very much surprised to see Sami again, and moreover in such company, for he recognized the master of the plane-tree estate at once. After the first greeting Sami was sent out doors for a little, and this delighted him very much, for now he could look at the garden again and the crooked maple-tree, under which he had so often sat with his grandmother.
Herr Malon assured his guest that all Sami's words were correct and besides gave a description of Old Mary Ann, her fidelity and conscientiousness, so that the gentleman was very glad to have such good news to carry to his wife.
A loud shout of delight welcomed them on their return, and still louder was the applause, when their father announced that Sami was henceforth to remain in the house and be the children's playmate.
Sami did not know what to make of it. Since his grandmother's death, no one had shown the slightest pleasure in his presence; on the contrary everywhere he had felt as if he were tolerated only out of pity, and now he was received with loud rejoicing by the children of a house to which he had been more attracted than anywhere else before, and where his grandmother would be glad to see him; of that he was sure. His heart was so overflowing with joy that he wanted to sing aloud and give praise and thanksgiving evermore like the finch:
"Trust! Trust! Only trust the dear Lord!"
* * * * *
It is now ten years since Sami entered the plane-tree estate. Whoever passes by there on a beautiful Spring day will surely stand still at the high iron gateway and listen for a little, for there is seldom heard such a merry song as sounds from the thick branches of the planetrees. Up in the tree sits the young gardener pruning the branches. At the same time he sings continually, like the merriest finch, and carols loudest the end of his song, accompanied by all the birds:
"Only trust the dear Lord!"
The young gardener is Sami. At first he received a good knowledge of reading, writing and arithmetic with the children of the house; later, according to his great wish, he was trained as a gardener of the estate. But he is now not only gardener, he has much more to oversee about the estate than any one would imagine. Arthur, who has just finished his studies, is still an ardent sailor. Without Sami, no trip is possible, and Arthur is apt to say:
"Without God's help and Sami's assistance I should have been drowned twenty times."
When Karl comes from the university in his vacation, his first question is, "Where is Sami?" and this he asks numberless times every day, for without him he can never get ready. He alone knows where to find everything Karl needs in vacation-time for his amusements, from his old bow and quiver up to his riding whip and gun.
Edward has now given up his donkey cart and instead is interested in strange animals, which have their dwelling-place in the back of the courtyard and often make a great spectacle there. He owns two marmots, two parrots and a monkey. No one could manage these and keep them in order but Sami, and he does it so well and so successfully that Edward often exclaims:
"Without Sami everything we have would go to ruin, animals and people, the animals for want of proper care and the people from anger over it."
But Betti still remains Sami's greatest friend. She can call him at any hour of the day she pleases, Sami is immediately on the spot, and Betti knows he is more devoted than any one else and besides can keep secrets like a stone. No one knows how many little notes he has to carry every week to the neighbouring estates. Sami will not tell, for her brothers would laugh at their sister Betti's endless correspondence which she has with numerous girl friends around on all the estates. Sami is her most devoted friend, for he would run through fire and water for her without hesitation. He never forgets what persuasive words in his behalf Betti used with her father, when, broken-hearted, he was going to fetch his bundle and go away again.
The youngest, Ella, with golden curls, who has taken over the donkey and cart from her brother Edward, is entrusted to Sami's especial care when she desires to go for a drive. Whenever she brings out her white robe to spread over her knees, Sami's eyes sparkle with delight and thankfulness as he remembers how the proverb led him to his good fortune, and still more at the memory of his grandmother, who brought about all this good, and whom he never forgets.
When, recently, a lady, owning one of the neighbouring estates, proposed to Herr von K. to transfer his merry gardener to her, merely because the servants in her house had sullen faces, he replied:
"You can have him, just as much as you can have one of my own children, if you should try to entice one away. Sami is the most faithful, trustworthy, conscientious person who has ever come in my way. I can leave my whole house and go wherever I will, I know that everything will be taken care of, as if I stood by. This is so because Sami has another Master besides me, before whose eyes he performs all his work. The dear Lord himself sent my glad-hearted Sami to me, and I esteem him. He belongs to my house, and it shall remain his home!"