THE BIG ALP
NTON, standing on a mound, saw John first and shouted long
and loud. When John saw Anton standing there against
the sky waving to him there came a lump in his throat,
and he ran and Anton ran and they met and flung their
arms about each other's necks and kissed each other
heartily on both cheeks as is the way of men in the Toy
"And have you really been out beyond the Big Alp?"
Anton asked, breathless with surprise and pleasure.
 "That I have," said John, "and now I am here on your
Big Alp at last, and I like that as well as anything,"
at which Anton looked mightily pleased, and led John
into the hut and showed him the rows of goats'-milk
cheeses on the shelves, for he herded goats this year
with a man to help him. The man had gone down the
mountain to get some flour and thus Anton was in the
"Now we will sit and talk," said John, going out again
into the light and turning towards the west where the
sky was like gold.
"But, first," said Anton, "help me with the goats so we
shall be through." So the two boys milked the goats
that stood bleating about, and when this was done and
the milk was put away in the hut and all was in order
for the night they went outside. Anton wished to
 sit on a bench by the door but John preferred a knoll
near by, for he had never been so near the sky before
and did not want the wall of the hut to be in the way.
So they went out and sat down where the sky was like a
great blue bowl turned over them and the stars were
dotting it. Then John told Anton all that had happened
to him and showed him his money in the fading light.
"Have you counted it?" asked Anton, looking at it in
"Yes," said John, and told him how much there was.
"Why, John, if you go to the Fair every year you will
be as rich as Herr Herder!"
"He goes far away to the very large cities, even as far
as Spain, and some day I shall do that too, but not
 Then John showed Anton the shawl he had for his mother
and the shears for his father and the shoes for
Angelica, and Anton was very much impressed by John's
importance in being able to buy such things and all
with his own money. And John, seeing how Anton regarded
him, kept silent concerning the purchase of the sugar
cookies and their subsequent fate, lest revealing these
things he should lose something in Anton's esteem.
Then was Anton moved to ask a question that for a
moment tumbled all John's castle to the ground.
"Where is your new hat?" he demanded.
At the crestfallen expression that came over John's
face Anton gave a shriek and rolled over on the grass
 "You forgot the hat!" he yelled, "you forgot the hat!"
"Anton," said John at last, "if you don't quit I'll
punch your head."
Since Anton was considerably larger and stronger than
John this terrible threat did not frighten him,
nevertheless he stopped laughing, sat up, and wiped his
streaming eyes. Then he looked at John quite seriously.
"How did it happen?" he asked.
"I don't know," replied John, meekly. "I saw the hats
the first day, but I had no money then, and
afterwards—well, there was so much, and I did not go to
that part of the Fair again, and somehow I never
thought of them."
John felt very badly, for the purchase of the hat had
been one of his chief anticipations in going to the
Fair,—he had dreamed of that hat so long! He was
 also extremely mortified, for what would they say at
Anton, although he loved John, felt just a little
envious of his wonderful pilgrimage out into the big
world dressed like a person of importance in his
father's gala dress, and now that the chance had come
could not help taking a little spiteful satisfaction in
lowering John's pride because of the hat.
The cloud soon passed, however, and the boys lay under
the stars and talked earnestly until late in the night.
John had been pent up so long that it sometimes seemed
as though he would burst, and as he poured out all the
wonders of his journey into Anton's sympathetic ears
the memory and the recital of it seemed almost better
than the journey itself. One felt so safe lying on the
mountain-pasture under the stars!
 "You must know, Anton, that I have seen the Trostberg
Castle," he said, among other important things. "That,
you know, is where Oswald von Wolkenstein was born. I
saw it across the valley standing where it could
overlook everything, just where my path went down into
the valley of the Eisack. I should certainly have
climbed up to it had there been time, and some day I
shall go on purpose, and perhaps you will go with me."
Anton grunted what might be construed as assent to this
pilgrimage, for he did not take the same interest in
Minnesingers that John did. He liked better the pursuit
of happiness on the Big Alp where, though it had lost
some of the glamour that overlaid it in the old days
when he and John herded goats on the mountain side
together, yet remained
 the place of places to him, the home of his heart.
At last the boys stopped talking, and Anton proposed
going to bed, but John wanted to lie and look at the
stars which, as Anton had long ago told him, were
peculiarly large and bright up there in the pure air of
the high Alpine pasture. Anton yawned a few times, then
went inside and left John alone, who in spite of his
long walk and his steep climb up the mountain, did not
feel in the least sleepy.
So this was the Big Alp! He was lying on it at last and
looking up at the stars! What a journey into the world
it had been!—altogether wonderful and quite perfect but
for two things, the eating of the cakes and the loss of
the hat! Then his broad mouth widened into its
accustomed smile. "The mother
 has lost the sweet cakes," he thought, "and I guess it
was to punish me for that that I lost the hat!"
With this comforting reflection he began to feel very
sleepy and also to shiver with cold, for the nights are
extremely chilly on the Big Alp, even in midsummer. So
he went into the hut and lay down on the hay at Anton's
side, pulling a corner of the heavy blanket about him.
When he woke in the morning the first thing he noticed
was the sweet smell of the room, not at all like the
close and stuffy smell of the city house. It was the
clean hay upon which he lay that smelled so sweet, and
through the holes in which the walls of the hut
abounded there came in the fine air of the mountain
Anton was already gone, and John
 sprang out into the thrilling morning as fresh as a
lark. It would take a good deal to make one feel tired
on the Big Alp in that air. He found that Anton had
just finished milking the goats. Then they made a fire
in one corner of the hut on a pile of stones that
served for a fireplace, and Anton stirred up a sort of
porridge which they ate, along with bowls of fresh
milk, with prodigious appetites.
They talked fast all the time; it seemed as though they
had not begun to tell it all, though they had talked so
long and so steadily the night before. Now Anton, for
his part, wanted to tell all the particulars of the
summer on the Alp,—how one of the goats had fallen over
a precipice and been rescued with the greatest
difficulty; how one morning he had seen a flock of
seven chamois file along the
 rocky ledge of the mountain opposite; and all the
particulars of how Ludovico the hunter had been killed
from falling over a cliff, about which he had heard
from a passing cowherd on his way to his place on the
Alp after a flying visit home.
So the two exchanged confidences until noon, John
accompanying Anton as he wandered about with the goats.
Then they sat down under the wide sky on the treeless,
grassy plain, cooled by the breezes from the near snow
fields, and ate the stale bread and fresh cheese Anton
had brought for their dinner. Then John took leave of
his friend and started alone towards the giant peaks
that towered, he well knew, above the Toy Valley that
lay below the Big Alp and quite out of sight.
He walked rapidly over the level
pas-  ture, for here the grass was not high, having been
cropped all summer by the flocks and herds. It was not
long before he came to the edge of the Alp and began to
descend a ravine that led down, steep and rough, to the
foot of the plateau.
More than halfway down he took a path leading off along
the side of the mountain, and turning the corner of a
great rock he saw, spread before him, the Toy Valley,
the familiar village looking like a toy itself from
that height. Eagerly his eyes scanned the mountain
opposite, and there above the broad fir belt was a
shining spot,—his home!
As he stood there looking over the dear scene, up
through the clear air came the sound, faint and sweet,
of the evening bells. John took off his hat, bowed his
head and murmured a prayer as did every man, woman, and
 child in all that fair land who heard the Ave Maria
announced the close of day.
Thus did John with grateful heart once more see the
dear home and the beloved Toy Valley as he stood safe
and sound on the mountain side after his wonderful
journey out into the world.
As though to fill his cup of happiness to overflowing,
a few miles farther down the mountain he saw a slender
form hastening along the path ahead of him.
"Angelica!" he called, and Angelica stopped, looked
back, and seeing who it was, waited. She had been up
the mountain to visit an aunt who lived in a distant
village and was now on her way home.
"Oh, John!" she cried, "how fine you look! They say you
have been out in the world."
Her eyes shone and her cheeks were
 very pink and pretty and John's eyes shone too as he
took her hand in his and answered, "Yes, I have been
out in the world, and I have come back, and there is
nothing to be seen so good as our own valley."
They walked along together, hand in hand as is the
custom in the Toy Valley, and over the great gray peaks
the sunset sweetly stole and turned them rosy red, and
the clear sky shone with golden light, and all the
earth was beautiful.
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