Rico and Stineli.
Chapter XX. At Home.
 

One beautiful Sunday morning in autumn, Mrs. Menotti seated herself on the garden-bench in the midst of the glowing red flowers, and thoughtfully gazed about her,--now at the oleander and laurel bushes, now at the fig-trees laden with fruit, and again at the vines heavy with golden grapes; and she said, softly, "God knows I should be glad if I could lay aside this feeling of wrong-doing that weighs on my conscience, but certainly such a lovely spot as this one I could never find for a home."

Presently Rico came into the garden. He was obliged to go away in the afternoon; and he never passed a whole day without paying them a visit, if it were possible to do otherwise. As he was passing on towards Silvio's room, Mrs. Menotti called him.

"Come and sit down by me, Rico, for a moment. Who knows how long we may be able to stay in this place together?"

Rico was alarmed.

"Why do you say this, Mrs. Menotti? You do not think of going away, do you?"

Mrs. Menotti had to stop, for she could not tell him all her story. She remembered what Stineli had said to her the evening before about Rico. She was so full of her own thoughts at that time, that she did not fairly take in the import of her words. Now she began to wonder about it, the more she thought it over.

"Do tell me, Rico," she said, "were you ever here earlier?--I mean before; or what made you want to see the lake again, as Stineli told me was the case yesterday?"

"Yes; when I was little," said the lad. "Then I went away."

"How did you get here when you were little, Rico?"

"I was born here."

"What! here? What was your father, if he came here from the mountains yonder?"

"He did not come here from the mountains; only my mother did."

"Do I hear aright, Rico? Was your father born here?"

"Certainly. He was a native of this place."

"You never told me this before. This is wonderful. You have not a name like the people here. What was your father's name?"

"What was his name? It was Henrico Trevillo."

Mrs. Menotti sprang up from the seat as if she had had a shock.

"What did you say, Rico?" she cried out. "What did you say just now? Tell me again."

"I told you my father's name."

Mrs. Menotti was not listening: she ran towards the door.

"Stineli, bring me a kerchief," she cried. "I must go to the priest at once: I am trembling all over."

In great surprise, Stineli brought out the kerchief.

"Come with me a few steps, Rico," said the good woman, as she went through the garden. "I must ask you something more."

Rico had to repeat his father's name twice over; and when they had fairly reached the door of the priest's house, for a third time Mrs. Menotti asked,--

"What did you say it was? Are you quite sure?"

She hurried into the priest's house, and left Rico wondering what could have happened to put her into such a way.

Rico had brought his violin with him, for he knew that Stineli was particularly pleased to hear it. When he reached Silvio's room, he found the little boy and his companion in the best of humor. Stineli had fulfilled her promise about the story of Peterli's funny doings, and this had amused Silvio exceedingly. When the latter espied the violin, he cried out at once, "Now let us sing; let us sing the 'Lambkins' with Stineli."

Stineli had never heard her song since it was composed that day on the mountain, for now Rico played such beautiful airs that she had quite forgotten the old ones. But she was astonished to hear Silvio asking for the German song, for she had no idea of the hundred times the two boys had repeated it during the three years that were past. She was much pleased to hear the old song again, and, above all, to sing it with Rico; and so they began. Silvio sang with all his might,--without understanding a single word, to be sure, but the tune was quite correct. It was the girl's turn to laugh now; for Silvio's pronunciation was most wonderful, and she could not join in for laughter, and it was contagious; for the child could not resist the merry expression of her face, and joined her in laughing, and sang again still more queerly and louder; and all the while Rico played his accompaniment without stopping.

And thus Mrs. Menotti's ears were greeted with laughter and song as she drew near the house on her return, and she could not understand how they could be so light-hearted and merry on such a momentous occasion. She came hastily through the garden, and into the room, and sank upon the nearest seat; for the shock and the joy, and the anticipation of what was to follow, had overpowered her, and she needed to recover herself a little. The sight of her agitation silenced the singers, and they gazed at her in surprise. At last she recovered, and said,--

"Rico,"--and her voice was quite solemn,--"Rico, listen to me. Look about you. This house, this garden, that field,--all, all that you can see, and much that you cannot see, belongs to you: it is all yours. You are the owner; it is your inheritance from your father; your home is here; your name stands in the baptismal record; you are the son of Henrico Trevillo, and he was my husband's dearest friend."

Stineli had understood the whole story at the first word, and her face beamed with unspeakable happiness.

Rico sat as if turned to stone, and made no sound; but Silvio broke out into shouts of delight,--it was all a play to him.

"Oh! now the house belongs to Rico, where is he going to sleep?"

"He can sleep in any room he chooses, Silvio. He can sleep in them all if he wishes to. He can turn us all out-of-doors if he has a mind to, and stay all sole alone in this house."

"I am sure I should much prefer to go away with you, then," said Rico.

"Oh, you good Rico!" cried Mrs. Menotti. "If you will let us stay here, we shall be so glad to remain. I have thought it out as I came along towards home, and know how we can arrange it so that we shall be happy. I will take half of the house of you, and the same with the garden and all the land; so one half will be yours, and the other Silvio's."

"I shall give my half to Stineli," said the child.

"So shall I," said Rico.

"Oh, ho! now the whole thing belongs to her,--the garden, and the house, and all that is in them; and Rico and his fiddle, and I too. Now let us go on with our song."

But Rico did not take the same view of the affair as his little friend. He had thought over Mrs. Menotti's words, and now asked, anxiously,--

"I do not understand how Silvio's house can belong to me because our fathers were friends."

It now occurred to Mrs. Menotti for the first time that Rico did not know any thing about the circumstances; and she told him the whole story, with all the particulars, even more minutely than she had told it to Stineli; and when she had finished they all understood perfectly how it was, and were at liberty to rejoice without restraint; for since the house and all belonged partly to Rico, there was no reason why he should not take possession at once, and never leave them again; and their rejoicing was great.

In the midst of their merry-making Rico said, suddenly,--

"Since things have turned out this way, Mrs. Menotti, do not let any of the arrangements be disturbed in the house; but every thing go on as usual. I will simply come here to live, and you shall be our mother."

"O Rico! to think that it is yours, that it is you who are the master. How good God is to let it all turn out in this way,--that I can give it all to you, and yet stay here myself with a clear conscience. I will be a mother to you, Rico; and indeed you have long been as dear to me as if you were my own child. Now you must call me 'mother,' and so must Stineli; and we shall be the happiest household in all Peschiera."

"Well, now let us finish our song," cried little Silvio; for he was so excited and glad that he felt that singing was the only way to express his joy; and the others were not unwilling to join him, and they did finish their song; then Stineli said,--

"Now will you not sing one other song with me, Rico? You know which one I mean."

And they sang the grandmother's hymn piously, and in beautiful accord, especially the favorite verses at the end,--

  "He never yet has done amiss;
  And, perfect in His sight,
  All that He does or orders is
  Sure to be finished right.

  "Now only let His 'will be done,'
  Nor clamor constantly,
  Peace to the heart on earth will come,
  And joy eternally."

The next day Rico did not go to Riva. Mother Menotti advised him to go at once to the landlady, to explain to her the change in his circumstances, and to order another fiddler to be sent to Riva, while he at once entered upon his possessions. Well pleased with these suggestions, the youth hastened to carry them out.

The landlady heard his wonderful story with great interest, and at the end she called out to her husband and told it all over to him, and testified real pleasure at the good fortune that had befallen her young friend, and was sincere in what she said. She certainly was sorry to lose him; but she had suspected for some time that the hostess of the "Three Crowns" was making advances to Rico in the hope of enticing him away from her; and that would have been dreadful to the "Golden Sun." Now any danger of that misfortune was averted, and she was glad to hear that Rico was a house and land holder himself, for he was a great favorite with her. Her husband was particularly well pleased; for he had been a friend of Rico's father, and did not now understand why he had not earlier noticed that the lad was the exact image of the man.

So the farewells were all spoken in good feeling, and the landlady took his hand at parting, and asked for his patronage if ever there was occasion for her services in his house.

That very evening the news was known in all Peschiera, with all the true details, and a great many more; and everybody expressed pleasure, and said that Rico looked exactly as if he owned an estate, and would grace the position.

Mother Menotti did not know how she could do enough to make Rico comfortable in his own house. She arranged the big room for him--the one that had two windows overlooking the garden, and with a view over the lake--with beautiful marble statuettes adorning the walls; and on the table she placed a vase of flowers, and the whole room was most prettily furnished, so that Rico stood still on the threshold when, at Mrs. Menotti's request, Stineli led him up there. And when the kind, motherly woman took his hand and led him to the window, and he looked down in the shimmering lake, and over at the purple mountains in the distance, his heart filled to overflowing with thankfulness, and he could only murmur, softly,--

"Oh, how beautiful! And this is my home!" And now day after day the four happy friends lived their peaceful life in the comfortable room looking on the garden, where Silvio lay, and never perceived how the time was speeding away.

In the daytime Rico went about with his whistling servant lad through the fig-trees and over the fields planted with corn, for he wanted to learn the care of it all.

Now the servant naturally thought, "I know much more than my new master," and felt sensible of his superiority over Rico; but when, in the evening, beautiful and heart-stirring music came forth upon the evening breeze from the well-lighted room, where they all sat together, the boy leaned against the hedge and listened for long hours; for music was his greatest delight, and he said to himself, "My master knows more than I do, after all;" and he could not help feeling a great respect for Rico.