Cornelli, p.1Johanna Spyri
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By JOHANNA SPYRI
Many writers have suffered injustice in being known as the author ofbut one book. Robinson Crusoe was not Defoe's only masterpiece, nordid Bunyan confine his best powers to Pilgrim's Progress. Not oneperson in ten of those who read Lorna Doone is aware that several ofBlackmore's other novels are almost equally charming. Such, too, hasbeen the fate of Johanna Spyri, the Swiss authoress, whose reputationis 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 backgroundis 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 readersof English, it must be through a strange oversight, for in it we finda deeper treatment of character, combined with equal spirit and humorof a different kind. Cornelli, the heroine, suffers temporarily fromthe unjust suspicion of her elders, a misfortune which, it is to befeared, still occurs frequently in the case of sensitive children. Howshe was restored to herself and reinstated in her father's affectionforms a narrative of unusual interest and truth to life. Whereas inHeidi there is only one other childish figure--if we except the drollpeasant boy Peter--we have here a lively and varied array of children.Manly, generous Dino; Mux, the irrepressible; and the two girls forma truly lovable group. The grown-ups, too, are contrasted with muchhumor and genuine feeling. The story of Cornelli, therefore, deservesto equal Heidi in popularity, and there can be no question that itwill delight Madame Spyri's admirers and will do much to increase thelove 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 youngbeech trees were swaying to and fro. One moment their glossy foliagewas sparkling in the sunshine, and the next a deep shadow was castover the leaves. A strong south wind was blowing, driving huge cloudsacross the sun.
A little girl with glowing cheeks and blowing hair came running throughthe wood. Her eyes sparkled with delight, while she was being drivenalong by the wind, or had to fight her way against it. From her armwas dangling a hat, which, as she raced along, seemed anxious to freeitself from the fluttering ribbons in order to fly away. The child nowslackened 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 rousedthe birds, for they, too, now carolled loudly, ready to outdo eachother. 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 witha high, firm trunk, under which the child had often sought quiet andshelter after running about in the sun. She had reached the tree nowand was looking up at the far-spreading branches, which were rockingup and down.
The child, however, did not rest very long. Over where the wind struckan open space, it blew as mightily as ever, and the roaring, high upin the tree-tops, seemed to urge her on to new exertions. First shebegan fighting her way against the wind, but soon she turned. Drivenby it, she flew down the steep incline to the path which led down tothe narrow valley. She kept on running till she had reached a smallwooden house, which looked down from a high bank to the roaring mountainstream. A narrow stairway led up from the ground to the front door ofthe little dwelling and to the porch, where on a wide railing weresome fragrant carnations.
The lively little girl now leaped up the steps, two at a time. Soonshe reached the top, and one could see that the house was familiar toher.
"Martha, Martha, come out!" she called through the open door. "Haveyou noticed yet how jolly the wind is to-day?"
A small old woman with gray hair now came out to greet the child. Shewas dressed in the simplest fashion, and wore a tight-fitting cap onher head. Her clothes were so very tidy and clean, however, that itseemed as if she might have sat on a chair all day for fear of spoilingthem. Yet her hands told another tale, for they were roughened by hardwork.
"Oh, Martha," the child said, "I just wish you knew how wonderful thewind is to-day up there in the woods and on the hill. One has to fightit with all one's might, otherwise one might be blown down the mountainside 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 windto-day."
"I think I would rather not know," said Martha, shaking the child'shand. "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 onthe left side of the parting had been blown to the right, and whatbelonged 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 bottomof her skirt the braid hung loose, carrying upon it brambles and forestleaves. First Martha combed the little girl's hair, then she pulledthe apron into place. Finally she got a thread and needle and beganto mend the braid on the dress.
"Stop, Martha, stop, please!" Cornelli called out suddenly, pullingher skirt away. "You must not sew, for your finger is all pricked topieces. 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 whenI sew heavy shirts for the farmers and the workmen in the iron worksthe material is so rough that, as I push the needle in, I often prickoff little pieces of my finger."
"Why should you have to do that, Martha? They could make their ownshirts and prick their own fingers," cried Cornelli indignantly.
"No, no, Cornelli; do not speak like that," replied the woman. "Yousee, I am glad and grateful to be able to get work enough to earn myliving without help. I have to be thankful to our Lord for all thegood things he gives me, and especially for giving me enough strengthfor my work."
Cornelli looked about her searchingly, in the little room. It wasmodestly furnished, but most scrupulously clean.
"I do not think that God gave you so very much, really, but you keepeverything so neat, and do it all yourself," remarked Cornelli.
"I have to thank our Lord, though, that I am able to do it," returnedMartha. "You see, Cornelli, if I had not the health to do everythingthe way I like it done, who could do it for me? It is a great gift tobe able to step out every morning into the sunshine and to mycarnations. Then I thank God in my heart for the joy of a new daybefore me. There are many poor people who wake up only to sorrow andtears. They have to spend all day on their sick beds and have manytroubles besides. Can you see now, Cornelli, how grateful I have tobe to our Lord because nothing prevents me from sewin
Martha knew well enough that she had to remind her little friend aboutreturning, for often time had been forgotten and Cornelli had had tobe sent for. But now the little girl began to run swiftly down theincline beside the rushing stream. Soon she came to the large buildingsfrom which the sound of hissing fires, loud thumping and hammeringcould be heard all day. The noise was so great that only the roaringof the stream could drown it. Here were the works of the great ironfoundry, well known far and wide, since most of those who lived in theneighborhood found employment there.
Glancing at the large doors and seeing that they were closed, Cornelliflew by them with great bounds. In an isolated house, well raised abovethe stream, lived the proprietor of the foundry. Beautiful flowergardens were on three sides.
Cornelli approached the open space in front and was soon inside.Flinging her hat into a corner, she entered the room where her fatherwas already sitting at table. He did not even look up, for he washolding a large newspaper in front of him. As Cornelli's soup waswaiting for her, she ate it quickly, and since her father made nomovement behind his paper, she helped herself to everything else thatwas before her.
While she was nibbling on an apple, her father looked up and said: "Isee that you have caught up with me, Cornelli. You even seem to befurther along than I am. Just the same you must not come late to yourmeals. It is not right, even if you get through before me. Well, aslong as you have finished, you can take this letter to the post office.There is something in it which concerns you and which will please you.I have to go now, but I shall tell you about it to-night."
Cornelli was given the letter. Taking the remainder of her apple withher, she ran outside. With leaps and bounds she followed the rushingIller-Stream, till the narrow path reached the wide country road. Herestood the stately inn, which was the post office of the place. In theopen doorway stood the smiling and rotund wife of the innkeeper.
"How far are you going at this lively pace?" she smilingly asked thechild.
"I am only coming to you," Cornelli replied. She was very much out ofbreath, so she paused before adding: "I have to mail a letter."
"Is that so? Just give it to me and we'll attend to it," said thewoman. Holding the hand the child had offered her, she added: "You arewell off, Cornelli, are you not? You do not know what trouble is, doyou, child?"
Cornelli shook her head.
"Yes, of course. And why should you? It does one good to see yourbright eyes. Come to see me sometimes; I like to see a happy childlike you."
Cornelli replied that she would gladly come again. She really meantto do so, for the woman always spoke kindly to her. After sayinggood-bye, she ran away again, jumping and bounding as before. Theinnkeeper's wife meantime muttered to herself, while she looked afterCornelli: "I really think there is nothing better than to be alwaysmerry."
The contents of the letter, which the little girl had taken to bemailed, were as follows:
ILLER-STREAM, 28th of April, 18--.
MY DEAR COUSIN:
My trip to Vienna, which I have put off again and again, at last hasto be made. As I must leave in the near future, I am asking you thegreat favor of spending the summer here to superintend my household.I am counting greatly on your good influence on my child, who has hadpractically no education, although Miss Mina, my housekeeper, has ofcourse done her best, with the help of our good Esther, who reigns inthe kitchen. Old Martha, a former nurse of my poor dead wife, has donemore than anybody else. Of course one can hardly call it education,and I have to blame myself for this neglect. As I am so busy with myaffairs, I do not see much of my child. Besides, I know extremelylittle about bringing up little girls. There is no greater misfortunethan the loss of a mother, especially such a mother as my Cornelia.It was terrible for my poor child to lose her at the tender age ofthree. Please bring a good friend with you, so that you won't sufferfrom solitude in this lonely place.
Please gladden me soon by your arrival, and oblige
Your sincere cousin,
That same evening, when Director Hellmut was sitting in the livingroom with his daughter, he spoke of his hope that a cousin of his,Miss Kitty Dorner, would come to stay in Iller-Stream while he was onhis trip to Vienna. He also told Cornelli to be glad of this prospect.
After a few days came the following answer:
B----, The 4th of May, 18--.
MY DEAR COUSIN:
To oblige you I shall spend the summer at your house. I have alreadyplanned everything and I have asked my friend Miss Grideelen toaccompany me. I am very grateful that you realize how monotonous itwould have been for me to stay alone in your house all summer. You donot need to have such disturbing thoughts about your daughter'seducation. No time has yet been lost, for these small beings do notneed the best of care at the start. They require that only when theyare ripe enough for mental influences. Such small creatures merelyvegetate, and I am quite sure Miss Mina was the right person to lookafter the child's well-being and proper nourishment. Esther, who yousay is very reliable, too, has probably helped in taking care of thechild as much as was necessary. The time may, however, have come nowwhen the child is in need of a proper influence in her education.
We shall not arrive before the last week of this month, for it wouldbe inconvenient for me to come sooner.
With best regards,
I am your cousin,
"Your cousin is really coming, Cornelli, and I am certain that you arehappy now," said her father. He had read the letter while they werehaving supper. "Another lady is coming, too, and with their arrivala new delightful life will begin for you."
Cornelli, who had never before heard anything about this relation ofher father's, felt no joy at this news. She did not see anythingpleasing in the prospect. On the contrary, it only meant a change inthe household, which she did not in the least desire. She wantedeverything to remain as it was. She had no other wish.
Cornelli saw her father only at meals, for he spent all the rest ofhis time in his business offices and in the extensive works. But thechild never felt lonely or forsaken. She always had many plans, andthere was hardly a moment when she was not occupied. Her time betweenschool hours always seemed much too short and the evenings only werehalf as long as she wanted them to be. It was then that she loved towalk and roam around. Her father had barely left the room, when sheagain ran outside and, as usual, down the path.
At that moment the energetic Esther was coming from the garden witha large basket on her arm. She had wisely picked some vegetables forthe following day.
"Don't go out again, Cornelli," she said. "Just look at the gray cloudsabove the mountain! I am afraid we shall have a thunderstorm."
"Oh, I just have to go to Martha," replied Cornelli quickly. "I musttell her something, and I don't think a storm will come so soon."
"Of course it won't come for a long while," called Miss Mina. Throughthe open door she had overheard the warning and had stepped outsideto say: "Just go to Martha, Cornelli; the storm won't come for a longtime, I am sure."
So the child flew away while Esther passed Miss Mina, silently shruggingher shoulders. That was always the way it happened when Cornelli wantedanything. If Miss Mina thought that something should not be done,Esther always arrived, saying that nothing on earth would be easierthan to do that very thing. Or, if she thought that Cornelli shouldnot do a thing, Miss Mina always helped to have it put through. Thereason for this was a very simple one: each of them wanted to be thefavorite with the child.
Cornelli, arriving at Martha's house, shot up the stairs and into thelittle room. Full of excitement, she called out: "Just think, Martha,two strange people are coming to our house. They are two ladies fromthe city, and father said that I should be glad; but I am not a bitglad, for I do not know them. Would you be glad, Martha, if two n
The child had to take a deep breath. She had been running fast and hadspoken terribly quickly.
"Just sit down here with me, Cornelli, and get your breath again,"said Martha quietly. "I am sure that somebody is coming whom yourfather loves, otherwise he would not tell you to be glad. When youknow them, I am sure you will feel happy."
"Yes, perhaps. But what are you writing, Martha? I have never beforeseen you write," said the child, full of interest, for her thoughtshad been suddenly turned.
"Writing is not easy for me," answered Martha, "and you could do itso much better than I can. It is a long time since I have writtenanything."
"Just give it to me, Martha, and I'll write for you if you will onlytell me what." Cornelli readily took hold of the pen and dipped itinto the bottom of the inkstand.
"I'll tell you about it and then you can write it in your own way; Iam sure that you can do it better than I can," said Martha, quiterelieved. She had been sitting for a long time with a pen in her hand,absolutely unable to find any beginning.
"You see, Cornelli," she began, "I have been getting along so wellwith my work lately that I have been able to buy a bed. For a longtime I have wanted to do that, for I already had a table and two chairs,besides an old wardrobe. Now I have put them all into my little roomupstairs, so that I can take somebody in for the summer. Sometimesdelicate ladies or children come out of town to the country, and Icould take such good care of them. I am always at home and I could domy usual work besides. You see, Cornelli, I wanted to put this in thepaper, but I do not know how to do it and how to begin."
"Oh, I'll write it so plainly that somebody is sure to come rightaway," Cornelli replied, full of zeal. "But first of all, let us lookat the little room! I am awfully anxious to see it."
Martha was quite willing, so she led the way up a narrow stairway intothe little chamber.
"Oh, how fine it is, how lovely!" exclaimed Cornelli, running, fullof admiration, from one corner to the other. Martha had in truth fixedit so daintily that it looked extremely pleasing. Around the windowsshe had arranged curtains of some thin white material with tiny blueflowers, and the same material had been used to cover an old woodencase. This she had fixed as a dainty washstand. The bed and two oldchairs were likewise covered; the whole effect was very cheerful andinviting.
"Oh, how pretty!" Cornelli exclaimed over and over again. "How couldyou ever do it, Martha, or have so much money?"
"Oh no, no, it was not much, but just enough for the bed and a littlepiece of material. I got the stuff very cheap, because it was a remnant.So you really do not think it is bad, child? Do you think that somebodywould like to live here?" Martha was examining every object she hadso carefully worked over.
"Yes, of course, Martha, you can believe me," Cornelli repliedreassuringly. "I should just love to come right away, if I did notlive here already. But now I shall write, for I know exactly what Ishall say." Cornelli, running down stairs, dipped her pen into the inkand began to write.
"But do not forget to say that it is in the country, and tell the nameof the place here, so that they can find me," said Martha, fearing shehad set Cornelli a very difficult task.
"That is true, I have to say that, too," remarked Cornelli. When shehad written the ending she began to read aloud: "If somebody shouldwant a nice room, he can have it with Martha Wolf. She will take goodcare of delicate ladies or children and will see that they will becomfortable. Everything is very neat and there are lovely new blue andwhite covers on everything. It is in the country, in Iller-Stream,beside the Iller-Stream, quite near the large iron works."
Martha was thoroughly pleased. "You have said everything so clearlythat one can easily understand it," she remarked. "I could not havesaid it myself, you see, for it would have seemed like boasting. Nowif I only knew where to send it for the paper. I do not know quitewhat address to write on it."
"Oh, I know quite well what to do," Cornelli reassured her friend, "Ishall take it quickly to the post office. Sometimes when I have takenletters there, I have heard people say to the innkeeper: 'This mustbe put in the paper.' Then he took it and said: 'I'll look after it.'Now I shall do the same. Just give it to me, Martha."
Once more the woman glanced through what had been written. It seemedvery strange to her that her name was going to appear in the newspaper,but, of course, it was necessary.
"No, no, my good child," she replied, "you have done enough for menow. You have helped me wonderfully, and I do not want you to go therefor me. But your advice is good and I shall take the paper theremyself."
"Oh yes, and I'll come, too," said Cornelli delightedly. She knew nogreater pleasure than to take a walk with her old friend, for Marthaalways discovered such interesting things and could point them out toCornelli, telling her many, many things about them. In many placesMartha would be reminded of Cornelli's mother; then with greattenderness she would tell the child about her. Martha was the only onewho ever talked to Cornelli about her mother. Her father never spokeof her; and Esther, who had been in their service for a long time,always replied when the child wanted to talk to her about her mother:"Do not talk, please; it only makes one sad. People shouldn't stir upsuch memories."
"So you are coming, too?" Martha said happily. It was her greatest joyto take a walk with her small, merry companion. Cornelli hung on herarm, and together they wandered forth in the beautiful evening. Thestorm clouds had passed over, and towards the west the sky was flaminglike fiery gold.
"Do you think, Martha, that my mother can see the golden sky as wellfrom inside as we see it from the outside?" asked the child, pointingto the sunset.
"Yes, I am quite sure of that, Cornelli," Martha eagerly answered. "Ifour dear Lord lets his dwelling glow so beautifully from outside, justthink how wonderful it must be inside where the blessed are in theirhappiness!"
"Why are they so glad?" Cornelli wanted to know.
"Oh, because they are freed from all sorrow and pain. They are alsoglad because they know that every pain or sorrow their loved ones onearth have to bear is only a means to bring their prayers to Him whoalone can guide them to Heaven."
"Did my mother pray to Him, too?" asked Cornelli again.
"Yes, yes, Cornelli, you can be sure of that," Martha reassured her."Your mother was a good, pious lady. Everybody should pray to be ableto go where she is."
The two now reached the post office and gave their message to theinnkeeper and postmaster. When twilight had come and the evening bellhad long ago rung, they wandered back along the pleasant valley roadbetween green meadows.
UP IN THE TOP STORY
Cornelli by Johanna Spyri / Young Adult have rating 3.3 out of 5 / Based on20 votes