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By JOHANNA SPYRI
Many writers have suffered injustice in being known as the author of but one book. Robinson Crusoe was not Defoe's only masterpiece, nor did Bunyan confine his best powers to Pilgrim's Progress. Not one person in ten of those who read Lorna Doone is aware that several of Blackmore's other novels are almost equally charming. Such, too, has been the fate of Johanna Spyri, the Swiss authoress, whose reputation is mistakenly supposed to rest on her story of Heidi.
To be sure, Heidi is a book that in its field can hardly be overpraised. The winsome, kind-hearted little heroine in her mountain background is a figure to be remembered from childhood to old age. Nevertheless, Madame Spyri has shown here but one side of her narrative ability.
If, as I believe, the present story is here first presented to readers of English, it must be through a strange oversight, for in it we find a deeper treatment of character, combined with equal spirit and humor of a different kind. Cornelli, the heroine, suffers temporarily from the unjust suspicion of her elders, a misfortune which, it is to be feared, still occurs frequently in the case of sensitive children. How she was restored to herself and reinstated in her father's affection forms a narrative of unusual interest and truth to life. Whereas in Heidi there is only one other childish figure--if we except the droll peasant boy Peter--we have here a lively and varied array of children. Manly, generous Dino; Mux, the irrepressible; and the two girls form a truly lovable group. The grown-ups, too, are contrasted with much humor and genuine feeling. The story of Cornelli, therefore, deserves to equal Heidi in popularity, and there can be no question that it will delight Madame Spyri's admirers and will do much to increase the love which all children feel for her unique and sympathetic genius.
CHARLES WHARTON STORK
I. BESIDE THE ROARING ILLER-STREAM II. UP IN THE TOP STORY III. NEW APPEARANCES IN ILLER-STREAM IV. THE UNWISHED-FOR HAPPENS V. A NEWCOMER IN ILLER-STREAM VI. A FRIEND IS FOUND VII. A NEW SORROW VIII. A MOTHER IX. A GREAT CHANGE X. NEW LIFE IN ILLER-STREAM
BESIDE THE ROARING ILLER-STREAM
Spring had come again on the banks of the Iller-Stream, and the young beech trees were swaying to and fro. One moment their glossy foliage was sparkling in the sunshine, and the next a deep shadow was cast over the leaves. A strong south wind was blowing, driving huge clouds across the sun.
A little girl with glowing cheeks and blowing hair came running through the wood. Her eyes sparkled with delight, while she was being driven along by the wind, or had to fight her way against it. From her arm was dangling a hat, which, as she raced along, seemed anxious to free itself from the fluttering ribbons in order to fly away. The child now slackened her pace and began to sing:
The snow's on the meadow, The snow's all around, The snow lies in heaps All over the ground. Hurrah, oh hurrah! All over the ground.
Oh cuckoo from the woods, Oh flowers so bright, Oh kindliest sun, Come and bring us delight! Hurrah, oh hurrah! Come and bring us delight!
When the swallow comes back And the finches all sing, I sing and I dance For joy of the Spring. Hurrah, oh hurrah! For joy of the Spring.
The woods rang with her full, young voice, and her song also roused the birds, for they, too, now carolled loudly, ready to outdo each other. Laughingly the child sang once more with all her might:
Hurrah, oh hurrah! For joy of the Spring.
and from all the branches sounded a many voiced chorus.
Right on the edge of the woods stood a splendid old beech tree with a high, firm trunk, under which the child had often sought quiet and shelter after running about in the sun. She had reached the tree now and was looking up at the far-spreading branches, which were rocking up and down.
The child, however, did not rest very long. Over where the wind struck an open space, it blew as mightily as ever, and the roaring, high up in the tree-tops, seemed to urge her on to new exertions. First she began fighting her way against the wind, but soon she turned. Driven by it, she flew down the steep incline to the path which led down to the narrow valley. She kept on running till she had reached a small wooden house, which looked down from a high bank to the roaring mountain stream. A narrow stairway led up from the ground to the front door of the little dwelling and to the porch, where on a wide railing were some fragrant carnations.
The lively little girl now leaped up the steps, two at a time. Soon she reached the top, and one could see that the house was familiar to her.
"Martha, Martha, come out!" she called through the open door. "Have you noticed yet how jolly the wind is to-day?"
A small old woman with gray hair now came out to greet the child. She was dressed in the simplest fashion, and wore a tight-fitting cap on her head. Her clothes were so very tidy and clean, however, that it seemed as if she might have sat on a chair all day for fear of spoiling them. Yet her hands told another tale, for they were roughened by hard work.
"Oh, Martha," the child said, "I just wish you knew how wonderful the wind is to-day up there in the woods and on the hill. One has to fight it with all one's might, otherwise one might be blown down the mountain side like a bird. It would be so hard then to get on one's feet again, wouldn't it? Oh, I wish you knew what fun it is to be out in the wind to-day."
"I think I would rather not know," said Martha, shaking the child's hand. "It seems to me that the wind has pulled you about quite a little. Come, we'll straighten you up again."
The child's thick dark hair was in a terrible state. What belonged on the left side of the parting had been blown to the right, and what belonged on the right side was thrown to the left. The little apron, instead of being in front, hung down on the side, and from the bottom of her skirt the braid hung loose, carrying upon it brambles and forest leaves. First Martha combed the little girl's hair, then she pulled the apron into place. Finally she got a thread and needle and began to mend the braid on the dress.
"Stop, Martha, stop, please!" Cornelli called out suddenly, pulling her skirt away. "You must not sew, for your finger is all pricked to pieces. There is only half of it left with those horrible marks."
"That does not matter; just give me your little skirt," replied Martha, continuing her sewing. "This kind of work does not hurt me; but when I sew heavy shirts for the farmers and the workmen in the iron works the material is so rough that, as I push the needle in, I often prick off little pieces of my finger."
"Why should you have to do that, Martha? They could make their own shirts and prick their own fingers," cried Cornelli indignantly.
"No, no, Cornelli; do not speak like that," replied the woman. "You see, I am glad and grateful to be able to get work enough to earn my living without help. I have to be thankful to our Lord for all the good things he gives me, and especially for giving me enough strength for my work."
Cornelli looked about her searchingly, in the little room. It was modestly furnished, but most scrupulously clean.
"I do not think that God gave you so very much, really, but you keep everything so neat, and do it all yourself," remarked Cornelli.
"I have to thank our Lord, though, that I am able to do it," returned Martha. "You see, Cornelli, if I had not the health to do everything the way I like it done, who could do it for me? It is a great gift to be able to step out every morning into the sunshine and to my carnations. Then I thank God in my heart for the joy of a new day before me. There are many poor people who wake up only to sorrow and
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