Rico and Stineli.
Chapter XXI. Sunshine on the Lake of Garda.

Two years have passed, every day bringing more enjoyment than the last.

To Stineli came the knowledge that it was time for her to return to her home, and she had many a hard battle with herself to keep up her courage and cheerfulness; for to go away, and probably never return, was the most dreadful prospect that ever presented itself to the young girl's imagination. Rico also knew what was before them, and sometimes he would only speak when it became absolutely necessary. And a strange, unnatural feeling took possession of mother Menotti, and she tried to discover the secret cause; for she had quite forgotten that Stineli was to go home again to be confirmed. When at last the cause of the trouble came out, she said, "Oh! you can put that off for another year;" and so things fell back into their old comfort again.

On the third year, however, a message came from Bergamo (some one came down there from the mountain) that Stineli was wanted at home, and must go. Now there was no help for it. Silvio might fight against it like one possessed: it did no good. Against fate it is useless to struggle.

Mother Menotti said, day after day, towards the end, "Only promise to come back, Stineli. You may tell your father I will do any thing he wishes, if he will only let you come back soon."

Rico said nothing at all. And Stineli went off; and day after day it seemed as if a big black cloud lay over the household, and as if the very sun outside had ceased to shine.

And so it went on from November to Easter, when everybody was rejoicing; but it was still sad in Rico's house. After the Easter festival was over, and every thing was beginning to be more beautiful than ever before in the garden, and flowers and sweet odors were spread all abroad, Rico sat by Silvio's bedside, and played every sad melody that he could remember, until the little fellow was in a most melancholy mood, when suddenly from the garden a merry voice called out,--

"Rico, Rico! have you no more cheerful welcome for me than this?"

Silvio screamed as if beside himself. Rico threw his violin on the bed, and ran out; and mother Menotti came in, half frightened.

On the threshold stood Rico with Stineli; and so in Silvio's room there was the long-lost sunshine back again, and they were as merry as ever again, and happy as they had never believed would be possible during their long separation. There they all sat at table by Silvio's bedside, and questioned and answered, and told all that had happened, and ever and again broke out into rejoicing over their reunion. Who would have thought, to see them there, that any thing could be wanting to the perfect happiness of these four people? But Rico knew another tale. In the midst of all the merriment, he became absent-minded, and fell into one of his old dreamy moods. It did not last as long as formerly, however. He must have reached a satisfactory conclusion pretty soon; for suddenly his reverie was over, and he said these words, with the utmost decision, "Stineli must be my wife this very moment, or else she will have to go away again directly; and that we could not endure."

This decision pleased Silvio mightily; and in a short time they were all of the same way of thinking, that the sooner the marriage took place the better.

On the very most beautiful May morning that ever shone over Peschiera, a long procession started from the church towards the "Golden Sun."

At the head, tall and well-proportioned, came Rico with his stately mien; and at his side walked Stineli, looking happy and pretty, her smooth braids crowned with the fresh bridal wreath. Next in the procession, in a well-upholstered little wagon, drawn by two merry Peschiera urchins, Silvio might be seen, beaming with satisfaction like a triumphant victor; and last of all followed mother Menotti, very much moved and affected, in a rustling wedding-dress; behind her the servant lad, with a nosegay that covered his whole shirt-front; and after them streamed all Peschiera, with the very noisiest kind of participation, for they all wanted to look at the handsome couple, and to do them honor. It was almost like a great family festival, in which they all joined to help the strayed and lost Peschiera boy to found his own home in his native town.

The joy of the landlady of the "Golden Sun," when she saw the procession coming towards her house, is quite indescribable. Whenever the question arose concerning any wedding, low or high, she always said, with emphasis,--

"That is nothing at all in comparison with Rico's wedding in the 'Golden Sun.'"

The house in the garden never again lost its sunshine, and Stineli took good care "Our Father" was never forgotten again; and on every Sunday evening the grandmother's hymn was sung in the garden in full chorus.