ALL night long the children slept soundly in the hayloft, with
the moon peering in at them through the chinks between the logs.
In the morning they were awakened by the music of cow-bells, and
by the voice of the old herdsman, who stuck his head up through
the hole in the floor and called out "Wake up, my young heroes!
The sun is already looking over the crest of Rigi, and it's time
you were on your way."
Seppi and Leneli sat up and rubbed their eyes, and for a moment
could not think where they were or how they came to be there.
Then they remembered, and, springing from their rude beds, ran
out into the glorious morning and washed their faces and hands in
the mountain stream that flowed near the hut. Then there were the
goats to be milked, and breakfast to be eaten, and the shadows
were already shortening when at last they were ready for their
lonely and dangerous journey.
The old herdsman packed some bread and cheese in their lunch-cloth,
Leneli slung the bundle on her alpenstock, and Seppi called Bello to
herd the goats. But the goats were well pleased with the rich green
grass of the alp, and were unwilling to leave the pasture. They
frisked and gamboled and stood on their hind legs butting each other
playfully, and it was some time before Seppi and Bello could get them
The old herdsman had done his milking very early in order to go a
little way with the children, and now, leaving the cows in charge
of his faithful dog, he led the way down the steep mountain path.
The morning air was so clear and sparkling and the sun shone so
bright upon the snow-capped peaks, that the children almost
forgot the dangers of the unknown path. It seemed impossible that
anything could happen to them in such a wonderful and beautiful
world, and they said good-bye quite cheerfully to the good old
herdsman when at last he stopped and told them he must go back to
his cheese-making. From the place where they stood, they could
see the path like a tiny thread, winding through forests, down a
long, narrow valley shut in by high cliffs, past waterfalls fed
by mountain snows, and losing itself at last where a tiny white
steeple marked the little village which was the home of the old
herdsman. The old man pointed to it. "Follow the path and
remember Peter of Lucerne," he said. "This is your chance! Trust
the good God, do not be afraid, and soon your troubles will be
over and you will be once more in your mother's arms." He stood
on a rock and watched the little procession until a bend in the
path hid it from sight, then he went back to his lonely pasture.
For an hour or so, the children trudged quite cheerfully on their
way. "This isn't hard at all," said Seppi. "The pass is easier to
follow than our own. How silly we were to be scared!"
They were so used to climbing about in perilous places that when
a little later the path led them along a shelf-like projection on
the side of steep cliffs, overhanging a mountain stream, they
were not frightened. But when they began to grow tired, and the
trail led them into a dark forest, where the sun came through the
thick boughs and shone only in patches of light upon the slippery
spruce needles, they grew less courageous.
"I don't like the forest," said Leneli, shivering a little and
looking behind her. "It always seems as if things would happen to
you in the woods."
"What kind of things?" said Seppi, who was beginning to feel a
bit shaky himself.
"Why—you know," answered Leneli, "the kind of things that giants
and dragons and dwarfs do! And then there's that story about
Pontius Pilate. You know our old Mount Pilatus was named that
because they say his body was thrown into one of its lakes, and
his spirit haunts the mountain. He only comes out once a year,
but oh, Seppi, suppose this should be the time!"
"Huh!" said Seppi scornfully. "Girls' talk! Of course I don't
believe such things; besides, he only comes out on Good Friday,
"Well," said Leneli, "lots of people do believe them, even
"Pooh," said Seppi, and just to show that he didn't care at all
about such idle tales he began to whistle; but Leneli noticed
that he too looked behind him now and then.
It grew more and more difficult to find the way, for there were
openings between the trees that looked like paths and the true
path wound in and out, and came near losing itself entirely among
the rocks. The brown needles covered the ground in every
direction, so the pass was no different in color from the rest of
the forest floor. When they looked behind them or peered
fearfully under the spruce boughs for dwarfs or giants, of course
they were not watching the trail carefully, and so, when suddenly
there was a loud whirring noise above the trees and a great bird
flew almost over their heads, they were so startled they just ran
without noticing which way they were going. Bello was startled
too, and began to bark. This started the goats, and before you
could say "Jack Robinson" children, dog, goats, and all were
galloping pell-mell through the woods.
After the loud whirring noise the forest was still again, and the
children stopped their mad race, but they could not stop the
goats. On and on they ran with Bello after them, and there was
nothing for the children to do but follow, for had not their
father told them that the welfare of the whole family depended
upon the goats, and if any should be lost, they alone would be to
blame? Stumbling over roots, dodging trees and rocks, they
plunged wildly along until finally they saw a light spot ahead
and a moment later came out suddenly upon the edge of a
precipice, from which they could look straight down into a deep
valley below. The goats were there before them huddled together
an the brow of the cliff, bleating piteously. Bello sat on his
haunches with his tongue hanging out and looked at the scenery!
Seppi and Leneli looked at each other in dismay.
"Now you've done it!" said Seppi miserably. "We've lost the path,
and it's all your fault! If we had been thinking about Peter of
Lucerne instead of about those silly old giants and dwarfs, this
would not have happened."
"You were just as scared as I was," said Leneli, "and you needn't
try to lay it all on me! You jumped and ran just as soon as I
did, when that bird flew over our heads."
Seppi knew that this was true, so he said nobly: "Very well,
let's not quarrel about it. What we need to do is to get the
goats back to the path."
He took some salt from his pocket, as his big brother had taught
him to do, and walked slowly toward them, holding out his hand.
Nanni stretched her neck forward and had taken just one lick of
the salt when suddenly the loud whirring noise came again, there
was a terrific scream overhead, and from the crags above them a
great golden eagle swooped down towards the frightened group on
the cliff, and, sticking his terrible talons into Nanni's back,
tried to lift her bodily into the air! For an instant she swung
dizzily over the edge of the cliff as the eagle beat his wings
furiously in an effort to rise with his heavy burden. But in that
instant Seppi leaped forward and, seizing the goat by the tail,
pulled back with all his might. Leneli sprang to the rescue of
Seppi, grasping him firmly around the waist, and screaming like a
wildcat as she added her strength to his.
Meanwhile Bello barked furiously, and the rest of the goats fled
bleating into the woods in a mad stampede. It was all over in
less time that it takes to tell it. The goat, wounded and
bleeding, dropped to the ground, the great bird soared away into
the dizzy spaces beyond the cliff, and the children dashed into
the shelter of the woods, dragging Nanni after them. They could
not sink down on the ground and recover from their fright as they
longed to do, for by this time the goats had scattered among the
trees and must be brought together again at once. Bello was
distractedly trying to round them up, but as he had no idea of
the direction in which to drive them, they were all galloping
wildly about, first this way, then that.
It was some time before the children succeeded in getting the
flock together again, but at last they were able to drive them
farther into the woods, and away from the dangers of the cliffs,
and were soon fortunate enough to come upon a little mountain
stream which was singing its way through the forest. Here the
goats stopped willingly to drink, and for the first time the
children were able to give some attention to Nanni. Her back was
torn and bloody, but her injuries were not serious and on the
whole she seemed little the worse for her experience.
"We must let all the goats rest a little," said Seppi. "There
isn't any food for them, but they can have a good drink while we
eat our lunch, and then we just must find that path."
They sat down on a rock and Leneli opened the bundle of food
which the old herdsman had given them. "Isn't it queer?" said
she, as she handed Seppi a piece of cheese, "I'm not as scared as
I was before that dreadful eagle came. Are you?"
Seppi paused with his mouth open for a bite. "Why, I'm not,
either!" he said with surprise.
Leneli's eyes grew big. "Seppi," said she earnestly, "do you
suppose, maybe, we're heroes like Peter of Lucerne, after all,
and never knew it?"
Seppi thought about this so seriously that for a minute he forgot
to eat. Then he said, "Why, of course we are! We were scared but
we did the right thing! My, but I'm glad!" He sighed with relief
and took a big bite and munched away in silence.
At last he said solemnly, "Of course, now that we know we really
are heroes, we won't be scared any more! We'll stop before we
Leneli looked doubtful. "I'm afraid I shall be scared again if we
don't find the Pass," she said. "We might die up here in the
mountains just like Moses in sight of the promised land. And some
time maybe a hunter would find our bones lying scattered about on
the ground." She sniffed a little at this pathetic picture, and
her eyes filled with tears.
"Look here," said Seppi, jumping to his feet and gazing down at
her sternly. "Is that any way for a hero to talk? They aren't
going to find any bones of mine, I can tell you! I'm going to get
down this mountain with all the goats, and so are you!"
"Well," said the heroine, doubtfully, "I was only supposing."
"Well, then, don't suppose that way," growled Seppi. "Just
suppose we find the pass and get somewhere in time for supper,
and get home to-morrow!"
At that very minute a bright thought struck him. "What a silly!"
he said. "Why didn't I think of it before? This stream runs down
hill, and if we follow it we shall have to get down to the
valley, too. Come along!"
He was in such a hurry to carry out his idea that he started at
once with his bread and cheese in his hand.
"But maybe it won't be anywhere near the village where the
herdsman's home is, if we do get down," objected Leneli; "we
ought to find the path."
"We'll be more likely to find it by following the stream," said
Seppi, giving a loud blast on his horn, "and if we don't find
that village, we'll find another place just as good. I'll bet
there are some kind people everywhere."
Bello was at that moment barking down a hollow log in the hope of
catching a hare, but he obediently rounded up the goats when
Seppi called him, and the little caravan began to move.
It was not so simple as it sounded. The stream had worn a deep
channel among the rocks. Trees had fallen across it, undermined
by the swift current. Here it roared through a narrow gorge and
there spread into a wide pool, then again plunged through
underbrush and among rocks in its haste to reach the lake far
below. The goats made slow progress and, whenever it was possible
to do so, wandered away into easier paths and had to be driven
At last, to their great relief, the children saw a break in the
trees, and they rushed joyfully forward, only to find that the
stream at this point leaped over a cliff in a waterfall fifty
feet high! The young explorers gazed at this new difficulty
without a word.
Far below in the green valley they could see little white specks
which were farm buildings, and tiny villages nestling among trees
along the banks of a wide stream. They could even see the glacier
which fed this river, lying like some huge white monster along
the valley, its broad nose thrust between the banks on either
"Every time we think we've found the way out, we just get deeper
in than ever," moaned Leneli, at last. "We can't get down this
way, and if we did we'd have to cross the glacier."
"It isn't a very big one," said Seppi, looking down at it.
"You can't tell from here," quavered Leneli.
Seppi looked about him. To the right the forest slopes stretched
upward toward the mountain-top. In front was the plunge, and at
the left the stream gurgled over rocks and stones to its fall.
"We'll just have to cross it," said Seppi firmly. He drove the
goats back a little way to a place where it was possible to ford
the stream, and in, a little while the whole caravan stood
dripping on the farther bank.
"I'm going to follow along the edge of this cliff," said Seppi,
"and you and the goats follow after me. I'm sure we shall find a
place where we can get down. I'll keep calling, so you'll know
which way to go."
He plunged into the forest at the word and was lost to sight, and
Leneli, driving the goats before her, plunged after him. Guided
by the sound of the waterfall, they forced their way through
underbrush, over great piles of rocks and around perilous curves,
seeking always the lower levels, until at last, when she was
almost ready to give up in despair, Leneli heard a joyful shout
from Seppi and, hastening forward, found him at the edge of the
forest, looking out over a wide range of foothills. The forest
was now behind them, and before them lay green slopes spangled
like the stars in the milky way with yellow daffodils and blue
The goats, wild with delight at seeing fresh pasturage, leaped
forward and began to browse, and dear old Bello sat down on his
haunches with his tongue hanging out and gazed upon the scene as
benevolently as if his own stomach were full instead of empty.
The children were so weary they threw themselves down in the
grass beside him to rest.
Now that they had escaped the perils of the forest, it almost
seemed to them for a little while as if their troubles were over,
but by and by Seppi sat up and studied the scene before them. He
looked past the long slopes to the glacier and the river in the
"We've got to get across that somehow," he said to Leneli, at
last, pointing to the stream, "and there are only two ways of
doing it. When we get down there, we must either go through the
river, or across the glacier which feeds it."
"We can't go through it," answered Leneli. "We don't know how
deep it is."
"Then it will have to be the glacier," said Seppi, "and I'm glad goats
are so sure-footed. We'd better start along, for it's getting later
every minute, and I'm bound to reach that farm-house before dark." He
pointed to a speck in the distance.
"Oh, dear," sighed Leneli, as she followed his finger with her
eye, "it's like dying to get to heaven! Suppose we fall into
cracks in the glacier?"
"You're the worst supposer I ever saw," snapped Seppi. "Suppose
we don't fall in! Suppose we get across all right with all the
goats, and suppose there's a good woman at the farm-house who
feeds us, and Bello too! Suppose she gives us... what would you
like best for supper, Leneli?"
"Oh!" cried Leneli, clasping her hands, "soup and pancakes!"
"Hurry up, then," said Seppi. "We shall surely never get them,
nor anything else, by staying here."
Leneli struggled to her feet, and once more they moved forward.
Half an hour of brisk walking brought them to the edge of the
glacier, and here Seppi arranged their marching order.
"I'll go first," he said, "the same as a guide, then the goats,
and then you and Bello. You must watch every step, and keep
sticking in your alpenstock to be sure you are on solid ice. If
you don't, you might strike a hollow place and fall through the
"I'll be careful," said Leneli.
"All right, then! here we go!" said Seppi. "I can just smell
those pancakes!" and with that he set out across the river of
The children understood very well the dangers of the glaciers. It
was not simply a frozen stream on which one might skate. It was a
great slow-moving, grinding avalanche of ice and rocks, full of
seams and cracks and holes, which was creeping steadily down the
valley. The river formed by the melting snows, gushed forth from
beneath it and rushed away to join the lake still far below.
Even the goats knew it was a perilous journey, and besides they
were unwilling to leave the rich grass of the fields, so it was
with some difficulty that they were finally driven forward upon
the glacier. Seppi led the way, blowing on his little horn to
encourage them, trying every step with his stick, and waiting for
them to catch up before going farther. They were nearly half way
across, when Seppi stopped and called to Leneli to stand still.
There in front of him yawned a wide crevasse. The frozen river
had cracked open, and if they went forward in a straight line
they would plunge down into an ice prison from which they could
never escape alive.
It was the hardest puzzle and the greatest danger they had met in
their whole journey, and for a minute poor Seppi almost gave up
in despair. He thought they would have to go back and try the
river after all. Shouting to Leneli to keep the goats together if
she could, he turned and made his way up-stream along the edge of
the crevasse. It grew narrower as he followed it, and broke into
a number of smaller cracks.
The only way to get to the other side was to follow along these
smaller cracks where they made a crooked natural bridge across
the chasm. Even Seppi's stout heart quailed a little as he gazed
down into the depths of the huge rifts. The walls of ice gleamed
with wonderful greens and blues, but he had no heart to admire
the beautiful colors.
"Remember Peter of Lucerne, and come on," he shouted back to Leneli,
and without another word started across the treacherous ice bridge. It
made no difference whether she was frightened or not, Leneli simply
had to follow him even though the goats, sure-footed as they were,
shrank from the journey, and Bello hung back and whined.
"Follow exactly in my footsteps," shouted Seppi, and Leneli
swallowed a lump in her throat, grasped her alpenstock more
firmly and went forward.
"Don't look down into the hole! Look at the bridge across it!"
He stepped carefully forward, finding solid footing with his
stick before each step, and in a short time stood safely on the
other side of the chasm. There he waited and held his breath,
while the goats picked their way daintily across the ice bridge
after him, and when Leneli and Bello at last reached his side, he
hugged them both for joy.
"There," he said, "there can't be anything worse than that, and
we'll soon be on green grass again."
They passed other smaller crevasses, but they could make their way
around the ends of these, and it was not long before they had
scrambled over the rocks at the glacier's edge and once more stood on
solid ground. Even Bello seemed to realize that their troubles were
now nearly over, for he barked and ran round them in circles and
leaped up with his paws on their shoulders to give them dog kisses,
and, as for his tail—he nearly wagged it loose in his joy. The goats
sprang forward to reach the grass, and when the children drove them
on, snatched greedy mouthfuls as they passed. The children could see
the farm-house growing from a mere speck larger and larger as they
came down the valley toward it, and at last the little group of
stragglers pattered into the door-yard.
The noise of bleating goats and a barking dog brought the
farmer's wife to the door, and for a moment she stood there with
her baby in her arms and looked down at them in astonishment,
just as the old herdsman had done on the mountain.
"Where in the world did you come from?" she cried at last. "Who
are you? and what do you want here?"
Leneli opened her mouth to answer, but when she saw the woman's
kind face, and the baby sucking its thumb and looking at them
solemnly, it reminded her so of her mother and Baby Roseli that,
instead of explaining, she burst into tears.
The woman clattered down the steps of once, put her free arm
around Leneli, and patted her comfortingly, while Seppi told her
their story. Before he had got farther than the avalanche part of
it, she seemed to guess all the rest. It was not the first time
that people had been lost on the mountain.
"Come right in this minute," she cried. "Don't stop to talk! You
must be as hungry as wolves. I'll get you something to eat, and
then you can tell me every word."
"Please," said Leneli timidly, drying her tears, "could you give
Bello something first? The goats have had a little grass and we
had some bread and cheese, but Bello hasn't had a bite all day."
"Bless my soul!" said the woman. "What a little woman it is, to
think first of the dog! Here," she cried to Seppi; "take this
bone to him right away, and shut up the goats in the barn-yard.
Then come back and I'll give you whatever you like best, if I've
"If you please, ma'am," said Seppi, his eyes shining, "up on the
mountain when we were lost, we saw your house and we just
supposed that maybe you might have soup and pancakes!"
"Bless my soul!" cried the woman. "Soup and pancakes it shall be,
and that's soon ready!"
She put the baby into Leneli's arms and flew about the kitchen,
rattling pots and pans, stirring up the fire, and mixing her
batter; and when Seppi returned, the smell of pancakes was
already in the air, and the soup was bubbling in the pot. In five
minutes more the children were seated at the kitchen table with
steaming bowls before them, while their new friend cooked a pile
of pancakes that it would have warmed the cockles of your heart
The farmer himself was far away on the high alps with his cattle,
and came down the mountain only once in a while with a load of
cheeses on his back. His wife was very lonely in his absence and
was glad to have company, if only for a single night; so she
comforted the children and talked with them about their mother,
and piled pancakes on their plates until they could not hold
another mouthful. Then she helped them milk the goats, and when
the sun went down, sent them to bed so they would be well rested
for their long walk the next day.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics