Rico And Wiseli by Johanna Spyri
How Wiseli was Provided For.
Chapter VIII. Something Very Strange Happens.
On the "Heights" there was a great deal of talk about Andrew and Wiseli. Mrs. Ritter went down every day, and always brought back good accounts. They all rejoiced together over this, and Otto and Pussy formed a plan to have a great convalescence festival in Andrew the carpenter's room while Wiseli was still with him. It should be a great surprise for them both. But before that came another feast,--their father's birthday. And the children had invented all sorts of "celebrations" from early morning on, but the great moment was yet to come; namely, at dinner-time. Otto and Pussy had taken their seats, full of excitement and expectancy.
The father and mother made their appearance, and the merriment began.
After one or two surprises came a large covered dish,--certainly that was a birthday dish. The cover was removed, and, behold, a beautiful cauliflower!
"This is a fine vegetable," said the father; "I must admire it. But, to tell the truth," he went on, with an air of disappointment, "I expected something different. I expected artichokes. They are to be found and bought as well as cauliflowers. You know, my dear Mary, there is no dish I care for so much as artichokes."
Suddenly Pussy called out,--
"That is it! that is it! That is exactly what he called to me twice. And he raised his stick in the air, and did so,"--and Pussy raised her arm in the air in great excitement. But suddenly she was quiet, and put her arm under the table, and turned crimson; and Otto, who sat on the other side of the table, looked at her with flashing eyes and very angry looks.
"What is this?" asked the colonel. "A strange way to celebrate my birthday. My daughter cries out, on one side, as if some one were going to kill her; and, on the other, my son is giving me such kicks on the shin that I shall soon be covered with black-and-blue spots. I should like to know where you learned this agreeable amusement, Otto?"
Now it was Otto's turn to become fiery red. His intention had been to give Pussy certain decided warnings to keep quiet, but his boot had encountered his father's leg instead, and not gently either. When he discovered his mistake, he did not dare to raise his eyes.
"Now, Pussy," said the colonel, "tell me the end of your robber story. You said the terrible man called out 'artichokes' to you, and raised his stick in the air; and then"--
"Then--then," stammered Pussy, who perceived that she had betrayed every thing, and would have to give the sugar cock back to Otto again. "Then he did not strike me, or kill me."
"Well, that was nice of him," said her father, laughing. "And what else?"
"Nothing else," said Pussy, whimpering.
"Well, then, the story had a good ending. The stick remained in the air, and Pussy came back to the house like an 'artichoke.' Now we will drink the health of the 'artichokes' and of Andrew the carpenter together."
The father raised his glass, and his companions did the same. When they left the table, they were all rather sad; all except the father, who took his newspaper, and lighted his cigar, as usual. Otto stayed in another room in the corner, and thought how, when the children were all allowed to go again to coast by moonlight, he would be obliged to remain at home; for his mother would not now let him go, he was sure. Pussy crept into her bedroom, nestled down in a corner by the bed upon a footstool, took the red candy cock upon her lap, and felt very sadly at the thought that she held it for the last time.
At the window her mother stood sadly thinking. She soon became agitated, however, and moved uneasily about the room, and presently began to seek for her little daughter in every corner. She found her at last, in her hiding-place behind the bed, sunk in deep dejection.
"Pussy," said her mother, "I want you to tell me the story about the man who threatened you. When was it, and where, and what words did he use?"
Pussy told all that she knew, but did not give much more information than she had conveyed at the table. The man had called out the same word that her father had used at table,--that she was sure of. Her mother turned away, went directly to the room where her husband was smoking, and said, in a very excited tone, "I must tell you, for I am more and more sure of it."
The colonel put down his newspaper and looked at his wife, much surprised.
"That scene at table has made me think of something; and the more I think, the surer I am about it."
"Do sit down, and tell me what you mean," said the colonel, who now became very curious. His wife did as he desired, and went on.
"You noticed Pussy's excitement. She must have been very much frightened by the man of whom she spoke. She was not joking. Therefore it is clear to my mind that the word was not 'artichoke,' but 'aristocrat,' that he used. Now you know who used to call us that,--my brother and I. Pussy has just told me that this took place on that evening when they all went coasting by moonlight; and that was the night when Andrew was assaulted and robbed. That rascally fellow Jorg has not been seen for years in this vicinity; and the very first time that there is any trace of him, we hear of this act of brutality towards his brother, against whom no one but he has any grudge. Do not you think there is something strange in this?"
"Yes; certainly there may be something in it," said the colonel. "I must look it up at once."
He arose, called his servant, and presently rode off at a sharp trot towards the town.
And for several days he continued to go there, to hear if the investigation had produced any result. On the fourth day he came home towards evening, and sent word to Mrs. Ritter, who was seated by Pussy's bed, that he had something important to tell her. It was that the police had been seeking for Jorg, and had found him without much delay; for he had not taken precautions to conceal himself, being sure that no one had seen him on the evening when he visited his native village. He had, therefore, merely gone to the city, and was spending his time in the taverns. When they took him into custody, and accused him, he denied every thing; but when he heard that Colonel Ritter had accusations to make against him, he was intimidated, thinking that the colonel must have seen him, or he would never have suspected him, as he had just returned from the Neapolitan army service. It never occurred to him that one single word that he had thrown to a little child had betrayed him.
When he heard the truth, he began to swear terribly, and declared he had always known that those aristocrats would bring him into trouble. On further examination, he said he had gone to his brother's house with the intention of asking him for a loan of money; but when he looked through the brilliantly lighted window and saw the big pile of money lying on the table, it occurred to him that he would strike Andrew down and rob him. He had not meant to kill him,--only render him insensible. Nearly all the money was found at his lodgings, and taken. Jorg was lodged in the prison.
When these facts were made known in the village, everybody was very much interested and excited, for nothing of the kind had happened before in that small place. In the school, particularly, every thing was topsy-turvy, for the children were as much excited as their elders. Otto scarcely stopped to take breath all day long, for he ran from one place to another, hoping to hear the latest news at each. He came to the house, on the third evening, in such a state, that his mother told him that he must sit perfectly quiet and silent for a little while before he communicated the piece of news with which he was bursting.
At last he was calm enough to tell them that they wanted to set Joggi free, for he had been shut up all this time; but the poor fellow was so convinced that they only wanted to take him out to cut off his head, that he fought against being removed with all his might. So they decided to take him out by force, and two men dragged him into the open air. He fought and screamed so violently, that a crowd soon assembled; and the poor, foolish fellow, becoming more and more alarmed, had darted away like an arrow to the nearest barn, where he took refuge from his imaginary danger in a stall, cowering down in a heap in one corner, and would not let anybody approach him. His countenance showed his terrible fear. He had been there all day and night; and now the peasant to whom the barn belonged said if he did not move soon, he would use the pitchfork to him.
"It is a sad, sad story, my children," said their mother, when Otto had finished. "Poor Joggi! how terribly he must suffer from his fear, that nobody can relieve him of, because he cannot understand what is said; and yet he is perfectly innocent of any evil deed or wish. Oh, if you had only told me what had happened that evening on the coast! Your keeping that a secret has had very, very sad consequences. Cannot we do something to comfort and reassure him again?"
Pussy was almost crying. "I will give him my red candy cock," she said, tearfully.
Otto was much disturbed, but he said, scornfully,--
"Yes; a nice present for a grown up man,--a sugar cock! You had better keep it for yourself."
After a moment he asked his mother, however, to allow Pussy to carry some food to Joggi in the barn: he had not eaten any thing for nearly two days.
His mother was more than willing, and had a basket filled at once with bread and sausage and cheese for the children, and sent them off without delay. Poor Joggi! there he was cowering in the stall, white as a sheet, and dared not stir. The children gradually drew near, and presently Otto held out his basket and showed the food, hoping to tempt Joggi.
"Come out, Joggi. See, all this is for you to eat."
There was no sign of movement.
"Do come out, or the peasant will stick his pitchfork into you."
The poor fellow gave a piteous moan, but still did not stir.
Now Pussy went quite close to him, put her mouth to his ear, and said, gently, "Do not be frightened, Joggi; they won't cut off your head. My papa will help you, and will not let anybody harm you. And see, Joggi; here is a candy cock, all red. Santa Claus sent you this on the Christmas-tree." And the little girl took the cock very carefully from her pocket, and held it out to Joggi.
This little gift had a wonderful effect. Joggi looked at his friend without fear, then at the candy cock, and presently began to laugh. It was many days since he had laughed. He rose slowly from his corner, and followed Otto out of the barn behind Pussy. When they got well out of the yard, Otto said,--
"You can take this basket, Joggi; we are going up there to our house. Your way is down yonder."
But Joggi shook his head, and followed close to Pussy's heels. They all went up the hill. Their mother watched the little procession coming, and her heart began to feel lighter; and she also noticed how the poor, foolish Joggi held his sugar cock in his hand, and laughed at it with childish satisfaction.
They all three entered the house and went into the sitting-room, where Pussy fetched a chair, and, taking the basket in her hand, beckoned Joggi to come to her; and when he was seated at the table, she spread out the bread and cheese and sausage before him, saying, very gently, "Now do eat,--eat up every bit, Joggi, and be happy again."
The poor fellow obeyed, and left no crumbs. He never relinquished his hold of the red cock, however. He held it in his left hand, and nodded and smiled at it from time to time. For bread and cheese and sausage he had often received, but a red candy cock never before.
At last he went down the hill to his cottage. With very happy looks Mrs. Ritter and Otto and Pussy followed his retreating form, and noticed that he changed the red cock from one hand to another, and had evidently forgotten his fears. Mrs. Ritter had not visited Andrew during three days. There was so much going on all the time, that she had not perceived how the time passed; and then she no longer felt the least anxiety about him. He was well cared for,--of that she was certain,--and was on the best road towards health and strength.
As soon as Colonel Ritter could go, he took the news of the arrest and imprisonment of Andrew's brother to the good carpenter, who listened to the story quietly, and said, after a while,--
"It was his will. It would have been far better for him to have asked me for a little money. I should have given it to him, but his way was ever a blow rather than a kind word."
Mrs. Ritter went down the mountain one cold, frosty morning, and went smiling to herself all the way; for she had pleasant plans and projects in her heart. Just as she opened the door of Andrew's cottage, Wiseli came out of the sitting-room. Her eyes were swollen and red. She had been crying. She gave Mrs. Ritter her hand very shyly, and ran into the kitchen, and shut the door. Mrs. Ritter had never seen Wiseli look in this way. What could have happened? She went into the sitting-room. There sat Andrew by the window. He, too, looked as if a bad piece of news had been brought to him.
"What has happened?" asked Mrs. Ritter; and forgot to say "good-morning," in her anxiety.
"Oh, oh!" sighed Andrew. "I wish that the child had never entered my house."
"Wiseli!" exclaimed his visitor. "Is it possible that Wiseli can have displeased you in any way?"
"Not that, by any means, good lady," Andrew hastened to answer. "No; she has made my home a paradise for me, and now she is going away; and it will seem so empty and lonely without her, I cannot bear it. You never could think, Mrs. Ritter, how I love that child. I cannot bear it, if they take her away. And the cousin Gotti has sent his boy twice to say that she is wanted at his house; and, since then, Wiseli has been so quiet, and cries in secret. It breaks my heart; for I see that she does not want to go there, though she says nothing, and to-morrow is the last day. I do not exaggerate, Mrs. Ritter; but I assure you I would prefer to give all that I have earned and saved for thirty years to her cousin Gotti, than have him take the child away."
"I would not think of doing that. In your place, Andrew, I would go to work another way," said Mrs. Ritter, when Andrew had finished his excited talk.
He questioned her with his eyes in silence.
"I mean in this way. All your worldly goods you will leave to some one who is very dear to you. You will take Wiseli as your adopted child; will be a father to her; she shall henceforth live in your house as your own daughter. You would like that, Andrew, would you not?"
He had listened with all his might, and his eyes grew bigger and bigger. Presently he grasped Mrs. Ritter's hand, and pressed it almost painfully. He leaned forward.
"Can that be done? Can I obtain the right to say that Wiseli is really my own child,--all my own, so that nobody will be able to take her from me again?"
"You can do all that, Andrew. And, once Wiseli is recognized as your child, no one will have the least right to her. You will be her father. And, to tell the truth, Andrew, I hoped that you might wish to do this; and therefore have kept my husband at home, in case you want to go into the city to take the necessary steps towards the adoption. You know you cannot walk, Andrew."
Andrew fairly lost his head over all this. He ran this way and that, looking for his Sunday coat; and kept asking all the time,
"Can it be true? Is it possible? To-day, did you say? May I go to-day?"
"At once," she said; and gave her hand to Andrew as she left him, to tell the colonel that all was ready for the visit to the town. "It will be better not to tell Wiseli until the evening, when every thing is settled, and you are quietly together here," she said, as she stepped out of the door. "Do not you agree with me?"
"Yes, certainly," was the answer. "I could not tell her now."
While Andrew was waiting until Colonel Ritter came for him to drive to the town, he sat trembling in every limb, and thought he could scarcely stand up, he was so happy and so excited. In about half an hour Wiseli saw, to her great surprise, the colonel's wagon drive up, stop at Andrew's door, the servant get down, come to the steps, take Andrew under the arm, and help him to get into the carriage. The child looked at it, as it passed away from the house down the road, and could not understand it at all; for the carpenter had not said any thing to her,--not even that he was going to drive. He had remained seated where he was, after Mrs. Ritter's departure, until the colonel's servant came for him; and the child had kept herself hidden all the time.
After his departure, she went into the sitting-room, and looked out of the window where Andrew always sat, and kept saying to herself, "To-day is the last day. To-morrow I must go to cousin Gotti."
Towards noon the child went into the kitchen, put every thing in order, and arranged Andrew's dinner; but he did not come, and she did not like to remove the things until he did. So she went back into the sitting-room; but the sad thought of the coming separation made her almost ill, and she said to herself, over and over, "To-morrow I must go to cousin Gotti;" and did not see, in her sadness, that the sunset was very beautiful, and betokened a still more beautiful morrow.
The child sprang to her feet when presently she heard the door opened. Andrew the carpenter stood before her with happy eyes, and with a look that Wiseli had never seen on his face. He sunk into a chair. He was overcome, but not with fatigue. At last he cried out, in a triumphant tone,--
"It is true, Wiseli! It is all really true! All the gentlemen said 'Yes,'--every one. You belong to me. I am your father. Call me 'father,' Wiseli."
Wiseli became white as a sheet. She stood staring at Andrew, but did not speak nor move.
"Oh! of course, of course," said the carpenter. "You can't understand me, I tell you all so confusedly. Now I will begin at the beginning. I have just written in the record book in the town, and you are my child now, and I am your father; and you will always stay here with me, and not go back to your cousin Gotti again. This is your home,--here with me."
Wiseli understood now. She sprang into Andrew's arms, clung round his neck, and cried, "Father, father!" They neither could speak a word after this for a long time,--too many things were crowding upon them. After a little, Wiseli felt a sudden light that seemed to break in upon her thoughts; and she exclaimed, looking up at Andrew,--
"O father! I know how it has all happened, and who has helped us."
"Who may it be, Wiseli?" asked Andrew.
"Your mother, child,--who do you mean? Your mother?"
And Wiseli related her dream about the beautiful garden with the red carnations, and a rose-bush on the other side, where the sun shone; and told him how her mother had taken her by the hand and showed her the garden, and said that her way led through that. And Wiseli was sure that her mother had not ceased to pray God to let her child's way be through that garden,--which was Andrew's garden, and the happiest place in the world for Wiseli.
"Do not you believe it too, father, now that you know that in my dream my mother showed me my road to your garden?"
Andrew could not answer. Big tears rolled down his face, but he smiled all the time that he wept. When, at last, he opened his mouth to speak, there came such a terrible knocking at the door, that nothing else could be heard. Open flew the door, and Otto was in the middle of the room with one leap; then he jumped over a chair, and shouted, "Hurrah! we have won, and Wiseli is delivered." Pussy came in behind him, ran at once to her friend, and said, pointing towards the door,--
"Now, Andrew, you will see what is coming for you, to celebrate your recovery."
Scarcely had she spoken, than the baker's boy came struggling through the doorway with a big tray upon his head that could scarcely come through. A good push from behind, however, helped him along, and he put the tray down on the table. Otto and Pussy had ordered the biggest cake, to be made at the baker's, that was ever known; and as it would not have been very large if it were round, they ordered it square, and it quite filled the oven when it was baked. Old Trine stood behind the baker's boy, and her big basket was at her feet. She had brought, among other delicacies, a bottle of good wine; for Mrs. Ritter declared that Andrew had, in all probability, not eaten a morsel since breakfast, and Wiseli was probably fasting also; and the child remembered the fact, now that she saw the feast that Trine spread upon the table. They all took their places, and a merry company they were. To be sure, the grand cake had to be cut in halves, and part put away, for otherwise there was not room on the table for the rest of the supper; but after that they were all more merry than ever feasters were before.
But the time went by, and Trine stood there waiting to take the children home,--it was late. Andrew said, at leave-taking,--
"To-day you have prepared a feast for me, and I thank you with all my heart; but I invite you to come here again on Sunday, and I will give you a feast,--the feast to celebrate my daughter's adoption."
And so they parted, all rejoicing over the fact of Wiseli being so happily at home with Andrew, and the children promising to come to the Sunday celebration. At the door Wiseli gave Otto her hand again, and said, "I thank you a thousand times for all your kindness to me, Otto. Cheppi never was so rude to me again after you frightened him that day. He was afraid to throw things at me. I owe it to your kindness."
"And I owe you something, Wiseli," replied Otto. "I have never had to sweep out the schoolhouse since the time you know of."
"And I thank you, too, Wiseli," said Pussy; for she would not be behind the others in her thanks.
Now every thing was quiet in the little room, and the moonlight streamed in through the window where Andrew took his seat, while Wiseli put all the supper dishes away, and made every thing neat again; then she came to him, and stood before him with folded hands.
"Father," she said, "let me say my mother's hymn aloud to you. I have always said it softly to myself; but I shall never forget it now, I am sure."
Andrew was glad to listen; and the child, raising her eyes to the stars, said, with the very deepest feeling thrilling through her heart,--
"To God you must confide Your sorrow and your pain; He will true care provide, And show you heaven again. "For clouds and air and wind He points the path and way; Your road He'll also find, Nor let your footsteps stray."
From this day forward the happiest cottage in the whole village was that of Andrew the carpenter, with its sunny garden. Wherever Wiseli showed herself, she received the very kindest notice from all the neighbors, much to the child's surprise. Formerly no one had noticed her particularly, but now even her cousin Gotti and his wife never passed the cottage without coming in to take her by the hand, and invite her to visit them.
This gave the child keen satisfaction, for she had always feared secretly her cousin's feelings about her adoption; so this kindness on his part freed her from all anxiety, and she could go her way peacefully. But these thoughts often rose within her, and she repeated to herself,--
"Otto and his family have always shown me kindness when I was alone in the wide world and friendless: these others are only kind to me since I am happy and have a father. I know well enough who are really my friends."