Rico and Stineli.
Chapter VI. Rico's Mother.
 

Along the road from Sils came the teacher leaning on his staff. He had assisted at the burial. He coughed and cleared his throat; and as he drew near to the grandmother and bade her "good evening," he seated himself by her side. "If you have no objection, I will sit here with you for a few moments, neighbor," said he; "for I feel very badly in my throat and chest. But what can we expect when we are almost seventy years old, and have witnessed such a funeral as this one to-day? He was not thirty-five years of age, and as strong as a tree."

"It always sets me thinking," said the grandmother, "when I, an old woman of seventy-five years, am left, and here and there a young person is called away,--a useful one, too."

"Yet the old folks are good for something. Who else can set an example to the youth?" remarked the teacher. "But what is your opinion, neighbor: what will become of the little fellow over yonder, do you think?"

"Yes, what will become of him?" repeated the old woman. "I also ask myself that question; and if my only reliance were upon human help, I should not know of an answer. But there is a heavenly Father who looks after the forsaken children. He will provide something for the lad."

"Will you not tell me, neighbor, how it happened that the Italian married the daughter of your friend who lived over there opposite? One never knows how these people may turn out."

"It happened as such things always happen, neighbor. You know how my old friend Anne-Dete had lost all her children, and her husband also, and lived alone in the cottage over yonder with Marie-Seppli, who was a merry little girl. About eleven or twelve years ago Trevillo made his appearance here. He had work in the Maloja, and came down here with the other boys; and he and Marie-Seppli had scarcely become acquainted before they were resolved to have each other.

"And it must be said, in justice to Trevillo, that he was not only a handsome fellow who was agreeable to everybody, but also an industrious and well-conducted man, with whom Anne-Dete (the mother) was well pleased. Naturally she wished that they should stay in the house and live with her, and Trevillo would gladly have done so. He was fond of his wife's mother, and he always did as Marie-Seppli wished him to. He had taken her, however, towards the Maloja in his walks, and they had together looked down the road where you can see how far it goes winding down the mountain; and he had told her how every thing was down there where he was born. So Marie-Seppli got it into her head that she must go there, and no matter how much her mother worried and fretted, and said that they could not live there, she still was bent upon going; and Trevillo himself said that as to living there she need not fear, for he had a nice little property and a house; but, for his part, he would like to see a little of the world. But the bride prevailed, and after the wedding she was all for starting directly down the mountain.

"She wrote to her mother occasionally that it was very nice where they lived, and that Trevillo was the best of husbands.

"About five or six years later, who should walk into the room where Anne-Dete was sitting but Trevillo, leading a little boy by the hand. He said, 'There, mother, this is the only thing I have left of Marie-Seppli. She lies buried down yonder with her other little children. This one was her first, and her favorite.'

"This is what my old friend told me. Then he threw himself down on the bench where he had first seen his wife, saying that he should like to make his home there with her and the boy, if she had no objection, for down below it was not possible for him to continue to live. This was joy and sorrow at the same time for Anne-Dete.

"Little Rico was then about four years old,--a quiet, thoughtful boy, never noisy or mischievous, and the very apple of her eye; but she died in the course of a year, and Trevillo was advised to take a cousin of hers to keep house for him and his boy."

"So, so!" said the teacher when the old woman was silent, having finished her story. "I had not understood all this thoroughly before. Perhaps some of Trevillo's relations will come forward, in good time, and they can be asked to do something for the child."

"Relations!" said the grandmother with a sigh. "That cousin is a relation, and little enough of comfort he gets from her in the course of the year."

The schoolmaster rose with difficulty from his seat. "I am going down-hill, neighbor," he said, shaking his head. "I cannot imagine where my strength has gone to."

The old woman encouraged him, and said he was still a young man in comparison with her. But, in truth, it did surprise her to see how slowly and painfully he walked as he left her.