Rico and Stineli.
Chapter V. A Sad House, but the Lake Gets a Name.
 

Rico did not find his cousin in the sitting-room; so he went to the kitchen, and opened the door. There she stood; but before he could enter, she raised her finger, saying, "Sch! sch! Do not open and shut the doors, and make a noise, as if there were four of you. Go into the other room, and keep still. Your father is lying in the bedroom up there. They brought him home in a wagon: he is sick."

Rico went into the room, seated himself on a bench, and did not stir.

He sat there for at least a half-hour. Presently he heard the cousin moving about in the kitchen. Then he thought that he would go up very softly, and peep into the bedroom. Perhaps his father would like something to eat: it was long past the meal-time.

He slipped behind the stove, mounted the little steps, and went very softly into the bedroom. After a while he returned, went at once into the kitchen, approached quite close to his cousin, and said softly,--

"Cousin, come up."

The woman was about to strike him angrily, when she happened to glance at his face. He was perfectly colorless,--cheeks and lips as white as a sheet, and his eyes looked so black that the cousin was almost afraid of him.

"What is the matter with you?" she asked hastily, and followed him almost involuntarily.

He mounted the little steps softly, and entered the chamber. His father lay on the bed with staring, wide-open eyes,--he was dead.

"Oh, my God!" screamed the cousin, and ran crying out of the door that opened upon the passage on the other side of the room, went down the staircase, and across into the opposite house, where she called out to tell the neighbor and the grandmother the sad news; and thence she ran on to the teacher and to the mayor.

One after another they came, and entered the quiet room until it was full of people; for the news spread from one to another of what had taken place. And in the midst of all the tumult, and of all the clamor of the crowd of neighbors, Rico stood by the bedside speechless, motionless, and gazed at his father. All through the week the house was filled with people who wished to look at the man, and hear from the cousin how it had all happened; so that the lad heard it repeated over and over, that his father had been at work down in St. Gall on the railroad.

He had received a deep wound on the head when they were blasting a rock; and, as he could not work any longer, he wished to go home to take care of himself until the wound was healed. But the long journey--sometimes on foot, sometimes in an open wagon--was too much for him; and when he had reached his home on Sunday, towards evening, he he had lain down on the bed never to rise again. Without any one knowing it, he had passed away; for he was already stiff when Rico had found him. On the following Sunday the burial took place. Rico was the only mourner to follow the coffin. Several kind neighbors joined in, and thus the little procession went on to Sils. In the church, Rico heard the pastor when he read out, "The deceased was called Henrico Trevillo, and was a native of Peschiera on the Lake of Garda."

These words brought the feeling to Rico that he had heard something that he knew perfectly well before, and yet could not recollect. He had always seen a picture of the lake before his eyes when he had sung,--

  "One evening
  In Peschiera,"

with his father, but he had never known the reason. He repeated the name softly to himself, while one old song after another arose in his memory.

As he came back from the burial all alone, he saw the grandmother seated on the log of wood, and Stineli by her side. She beckoned him to come over to them. She gave the lad a bit of cake and another to Stineli, and said now they might go off together for a walk. Rico ought not to be alone.

So the children rambled off together, hand in hand. The grandmother remained seated on her log, sadly gazing after the black-haired lad until they had wandered slowly up the hillside and passed out of sight. Then she said softly to herself,--

  "Whate'er He does, or lets be done,
  Is always for the best."