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A MOUNTAIN STORM
THE next day, and the day after that, the same lesson was
repeated. The Twins went away with Fritz in the early morning and
stayed all day long with the goats and came home with him in the
sunset glow. But on the fourth day it was quite, quite different.
It was different not only because they were to go alone with the
goats for the first time, but also because it was the day when
the greatest event of the whole year was to happen.
On that very morning the cattle were to start away to the high
alps to be gone all summer! Every one in the little gray
farm-house was up with the dawn, and while Mother Adolf milked
the goats, the Twins took their breakfast to a high rock beside
the mountain path, where they could get a good view of the
village below. Father Adolf and Fritz had kissed Mother Adolf and
the baby good-bye before daylight, and had gone to the village to
get the cattle in line for their long march. They did not say
good-bye to the Twins, for they were to join the procession when
it passed the house; since for the first two miles the paths to
the high alps where the cattle grazed and to the goat-pastures
were the same.
Leneli and Seppi had finished their bread and milk and were
hopping about in great excitement on the hill-top, when suddenly
from the village below there was a burst of gay music and they
knew that the procession had begun to move. Seppi ran back to the
milking-shed as fast as his legs could carry him. "They're
coming, they're coming!" he shouted.
"Our goats are ready," said Mother Adolf. "You and Bello may take
them out to the path and wait there until the cattle have passed
by. Then you must fall in behind them with Father and Fritz and
go with them as far as the Giant Pine Tree that stands at the
parting of the paths. Father and Fritz will leave you there, and
you and Leneli must go on alone. You are sure you know the way?"
She looked anxiously into Seppi's blue eyes.
"Oh, yes, Mother," said Seppi, confidently. "Don't you worry. I
know it well, and so does Leneli. We can take care of the goats
just as well as Fritz. You'll see!"
Seppi, with Bello's help, drove the goats to a place where they
could crop the grass beside the mountain path, and there a few
moments later Mother Adolf joined them, dragging the baby in the
wooden cart. The procession was already in plain sight, winding
up the steep mountain path from the village. First came three
fine brindled cows, each with a bell as big as a bucket hanging
from her neck and a wreath of flowers about her horns. After them
came thirty more, each with a smaller bell, marching proudly
along in single file behind the leaders. All the bells were
jingling, and all the people who followed them from the village
were singing and yodeling until the air was full of jolly sounds.
The last cow in line carried the milking-stool on her horns, and
behind her walked Father and Fritz.
Bello, who understood very well what was going on, kept the goats
herded together beside the path, and when Seppi and Leneli,
singing and shouting with the rest, drove them forward, Bello
marched proudly right behind the goats, barking and waving his
tail like a flag.
Mother Adolf's heart swelled with pride as she watched her
husband and children march away so gayly, but when they had
disappeared from view and the music sounded fainter and fainter
as it grew more distant, she wiped her eyes on her apron, picked
up the Twins' breakfast-bowls, and went slowly with little Roseli
back to the lonely farm-house. The people from the village walked
but a little way up the mountain-side, and when they too returned
to their homes, there were no mare songs and yodels; and a great
silence settled over the mountain.
Up and up the rocky trail wound the long train of cattle and
goats, until they came to the Giant Pine Tree, and here Father
Adolf and Fritz stopped.
"Remember, my children," said Father Adolf solemnly to the Twins,
"the goats are our only wealth. If they stray away and are lost
or fall over a cliff and are killed, the fault will be yours. You
must be faithful, watchful, and brave, and let nothing happen to
the goats lest we go hungry when winter comes." Then he and Fritz
said good-bye, and the children, feeling very solemn and
important, went on their lonely way.
Bello was a wonderful dog. He could count, for he always knew
when one of the goats was missing and would run about with his
nose to the trail until he found her, then he would bark at her
heels until she came back to join the flock. But, clever as he
was, he was puzzled when he saw the goats going in one direction
and Fritz in another. He stood at the parting of the paths and
looked first one way, then the other, and whined; then he dashed
"No, no, Bello, go with the goats," cried Fritz. Bello's ears and
tail drooped, and he looked pleadingly up at Fritz.
Fritz had given his little horn to Seppi, and now he shouted to
him, "Blow your horn." Seppi could not play Fritz's merry little
tune, but he blew a terrific blast, and Bello knew that he must
follow the sound of the horn, even though it meant parting from
his dear Fritz.
"Good old dog!" said Fritz, patting him; "go find them," and
Bello licked his hand, then tore away up the mountain after the
When he reached them, he tried to round them up and drive them
back to Fritz, and it was some time before Seppi could make him
understand that the goats must go to the pastures as usual. Then,
though he followed them faithfully, he did not run about in
circles and bark down every hollow log as he usually did.
Instead, he walked along solemnly beside Leneli with his nose in
"See, Seppi," she said, "he knows he must help with the goats,
but he wants to go with Fritz."
"There are lots of people in the world that know less than
Bello," Seppi answered wisely. He put the horn to his lips,
puffed out his cheeks, and blew with all his might. It made a
fearful noise, which was echoed from all the surrounding cliffs
and was answered by Fritz's yodel far away on the mountain
path. Bello pricked up his ears and whined. They called back and
forth in this way, the sounds growing fainter and fainter in the
distance, until they could no longer hear each other at all, and
the Twins were for the first time quite alone on the mountain
with Bello and the goats.
When at last they reached the pasture, they threw themselves down
on the grass, and Leneli at once took her knitting out of her
pocket and went to work. Bello sighed and lay down beside her,
with his eyes on the goats. The sun was warm and it was very
still on the mountain-side. There was no sound except the tearing
noise made by the goats as they cropped the grass and the tinkle
of their bells. Then Seppi began to practice on his horn. He blew
and blew until he was red in the face, trying to play Fritz's
tune, but only a hoarse bellow came from its throat.
Leneli stood the noise for some time. Then she plucked a blade of
grass, stretched it across a hollow between her two thumbs, and,
when Seppi was not looking, blew with all her might right by his
ear! It made a fearful screech, which echoed and reechoed until
it seemed as if the very air had been broken into a million bits.
Seppi gave a screech of his own and clapped his hands over his
ears. "What did you do that for?" he said crossly, "just when I
was beginning to get the tune."
"Well," said Leneli, "you may have begun, but you were still a
long, long way from getting it! My noise was just as good as
yours! I'll stop if you will."
Seppi grumpily laid aside his horn and sat hugging his knees and
looking at the wonderful view spread out before them. Across the
valley the Rigi lifted its crest to the sky. Little toy villages,
each with its white spire, lay sleeping silently in the sunshine.
On the shores of the lake far below he could see the city of
Lucerne. It might have been a painted city, for not a sound
reached them from its busy streets, and there was no movement to
be seen except here and there the waving of a tiny thread of
smoke. On the lake the white sails looked, at that distance, like
tiny white butterflies hovering over the blue water.
"I suppose we can see almost the whole world from here; don't
you?" said Leneli.
"Pooh! no," Seppi answered loftily. "There's lots more to it than
this, though this is the best part of it, of course. Why, there
are oceans bigger than Lake Lucerne and a mile deep, and there's
Paris and London besides."
"Dear, dear," said Leneli. "Mother says we are very near to God
on the mountains, and I suppose He can look down and see
everybody and know just what they are doing all the time, but I
don't see how He possibly can keep track of all of us at once."
"He can't, silly," answered her brother, still more loftily.
"Don't you know that the earth is round, so He can't see but one
side at a time, if He looks ever so hard? I suppose that's why He
made the nighttime. He shuts some of the people up in the dark
whole He watches the rest of them on the other side." Seppi had
never thought this out before, but he always tried to have some
answer to give to Leneli when she asked questions, or else she
might get the idea that he didn't know any more than she did.
Leneli usually believed whatever he told her, and, this question
being settled, she went on with her knitting.
The goats grazed peacefully about them; the air was very still
and grew quite warm in the sunshine. About the snow-white crest
of the Rigi little wisps of clouds were gathering. They grew
longer and longer and sank lower on the mountain-side.
"It's raining in Lucerne," said Seppi.
The clouds fell still lower and spread over the whole valley,
until the children from their high seat looked out over a sea of
mist. There were sounds of distant thunder from the rolling
clouds and vivid flashes of lightning far below them.
"It's a little lonesome up here with all the world shut away out
of sight, and nobody around but God; isn't it?" said Leneli
"There are the goats, and Bello," answered Seppi comfortingly. He
looked straight up into the sky. Little wisps of clouds were
gathering around the crest of old Pilatus now. The sun was
suddenly hidden, and he felt a drop of rain. "It's going to rain
here in a minute, and hard, too," he said.
"What shall we do?" cried Leneli, rolling up her knitting and
springing to her feet.
"Get wet, I guess," answered Seppi. "There's no shelter."
"There must be something," said Leneli. "I'll look, while you and
Bello get the goats together." She dashed away as she spoke, and
soon from a point farther down the mountain they heard her call.
Goats, Bello, and Seppi, all came thundering down the path
together and found her huddled under an overhanging rock,
sheltered by the branches of a spreading pine. Bello and Seppi
dived under the rock beside her, and the goats gathered close
about them just as the storm broke in earnest. The lightning
flashed, the thunder rolled, and the rain came down in torrents,
making a gray curtain of water about the rock. The children
shrank back under the shelter as far as they could go, and
neither one said a word, except once when a stream of water
suddenly ran down the back of Leneli's neck. Then she jumped and
said "Ow," in a voice that Seppi heard even above the roar of the
For a long time they sat there while the storm raged about them.
Then the thunder went roaring away farther and farther down the
valley, the rain ceased, and the sun came out.
"The storm's over," said Seppi. "Let's get out of here."
The goats had already scattered and were nibbling tufts of wet
grass, when the two children crawled out from under the rock.
Leneli's dress was quite muddy where the rain had come through
the crack and poured down her neck, and she was twisting herself
round, trying to see the extent of the damage, when suddenly
there was a terrific roar and rumble as if the thunder had begun
all over again, though the sky was blue and clear. Crash followed
crash, and there was a sound of great rocks falling from dizzy
mountain-heights far above them.
The children clung to each other in terror, the goats trembled,
and Bello crept farther under the rock. "The avalanche!" gasped
Leneli, shaking with fright. "Father thought there wouldn't be
any more this spring! Oh, I wish we were home!"
Far down the mountain-side there were sounds of mighty trees
being torn up by the roots and of rocks broken from the cliffs
and bounding from ledge to ledge.
It seemed as if the whole world were being torn to pieces. At
last the terrible roar ceased and a terrible silence settled over
the mountains. The children knew well the awful dangers of the
avalanche. Ever since they could remember they had heard stories
of travelers buried alive under masses of snow and ice, and of
whole villages swept away, or so covered with stones, trees, and,
earth that not a sign of them was ever seen again.
Their first thought was of their mother.
"Oh," shuddered Leneli, "do you suppose our house was in the path
Seppi thought a moment; then he said soberly, "No, that couldn't
be, for there is a wide hollow between our farm and the
mountain-slope that would have to be filled first. I'm quite sure
no avalanche could possibly carry the house away."
"Father—Fritz," sobbed Leneli.
"They are far round on the other side of the mountain by this
time," said Seppi, "where the sun has not yet had so much chance
to melt the snow and start avalanches. They could not have been
harmed by this one, for it fell on our side of the mountain."
"Let us start home anyway," said Leneli, "even if it is early. I
can't wait until night to know that Mother and Baby Roseli are
"We ought to keep the goats up here eating all day," objected
Seppi, "or they won't give any milk to-night."
"They may not give much anyway," answered Leneli, "because
they've been so frightened, but we will let them go slowly and
they can get a bite here and there as they go."
She took up her alpenstock, a long stick which she always carried
with her, hung the little bundle of lunch, tied up in a cloth,
from the end of it, put the stick over her shoulder, and, calling
Bello, began at once to herd the goats together.
Seppi followed her a little doubtfully, and soon they were all on
their way down the steep mountain path. The sun was now shining
again as brilliantly as ever; the white clouds were floating
lazily across the deep blue sky, and it did not seem as if
anything unusual could possibly have happened.
Seppi's conscience troubled him. "It was only a thunder-storm
after all," he said to Leneli, "and the avalanche is past and
gone. It can't do any more harm. I'm afraid Father wouldn't like
us to give up and go home now. He might think we were no better
than babies to be so scared when we know we aren't hurt."
Leneli did not answer, but she kept right on going, and for a
time they trudged along in silence. They had reached the Giant
Pine where the trails divided, and had rounded a bend in the
path, when Bello, who was a little way ahead with the goats,
suddenly set up a furious barking.
"It's that Nanni, I do not doubt," said Seppi. "She's probably
trying to break her neck somewhere." He dashed ahead and
disappeared around a high rock, Leneli following him at a slower
In a moment Seppi came running back to her, his face pale with
surprise and alarm.
"It isn't Nanni," he gasped, "it's the avalanche! It's all across
the pass! We can't get by."
He seized his sister's hand and dragged her to the top of the rock
which overlooked the pass, and there they gazed in dismay at the scene
before them. Where that morning the procession from the village had so
gayly followed the winding trail up the mountain-side, there was now a
great mass of rocks, ice, and snow completely blocking the path. Worse
than that, the avalanche had made a dam across the bed of the mountain
stream where the cattle stopped to drink, turning it into a little
lake which was growing wider and deeper every moment. The goats were
huddled together on the brink, bleating anxiously, while Bello,
completely bewildered, ran back and forth, barking wildly.
The children knew well how serious their situation was; they were
alone on the mountain, the only pass to the village closed, and
without food except the lunch they had brought from home that
morning. For a few moments they watched the water rising steadily
in the little lake, too terrified to speak; then Leneli said,
"Let's go back to the Giant Pine and think."
Seppi blew his little horn, but, instead of rounding up the
goats, Bello only looked at him and whined. It had been a day of
tremendous surprises to Bello. First Fritz had left him; then
came the thunder-storm; then starting home in the middle of the
day instead of at the proper time; and now the path itself was
gone! No wonder he was bewildered. Seppi dashed down to the
water's edge and drove the goats up the trail again himself, and
while they snatched stray mouthfuls here and there about the pine
tree, he and Leneli sat down under it to think.
"We can't get home that way; that's certain," said Seppi,
pointing to the buried pass.
"And we can't stay here either," moaned Leneli; "not if there is
a way out in any direction."
"There's the path Father and Fritz took this morning," said
Seppi. "We might try that. It must go somewhere."
"Perhaps that is blocked too," said Leneli.
"I'll go a little way and see," said Seppi. "You stay here and
watch the goats."
"Give me your horn, then," said Leneli; "and I'll blow it every
little while so you can find your way back. You know Father
always tells us not to leave the path because it's so easy to get
"That's a good idea," said Seppi. "See if you can blow it."
Leneli put it to her lips and blew until her face was purple,
but achieved only a dismal squawk.
"I'll keep the horn myself," said Seppi, taking it from her, "and
every little while I'll blow it. You can answer by blowing on a
grass stem the way you did up yonder. Girls can't manage a horn
Leneli was too miserable to reply, and in another minute Seppi
had disappeared up the strange path. For what seemed to her a
very long time, Leneli answered the horn, as it grew fainter and
fainter in the distance. Finally she could not hear it at all.
"Oh, what shall I do if Seppi's gone too?" she moaned when her
desperate signals brought no answer.
Then her Mother's words came back to her, and, plumping herself
down on her knees among the goats, she sent up a fervent prayer.
"Oh, dear God," she cried, clasping her hands, "Mother said we
should be very close to you on the mountain and I suppose you can
see me and Seppi both at the same time, from where you are.
Please, please send him back for I'm scared. Dear God, do please
hurry and help us find the way down the mountain before it gets
dark and you have to go away to watch the other side of the
She rose from her knees and listened. Far away there came the
sound of Seppi's horn. "Oh, thank you, God! There he comes!" she
dried joyfully, and, snatching a grass-blade, she put it between
her thumbs and gave an answering blast.
Soon Seppi himself came bounding into sight. "Come along," he
shouted, waving his hand frantically toward the path, and Leneli
at once called Bello, and together they started the goats.
"The avalanche must have begun on the other side of our pass,"
said Seppi when Leneli caught up with him. "There's no sign of it
on this side."
"Maybe if we follow far enough we'll find Father and Fritz," said
"I thought of that, too," answered Seppi, "but if there is any
way to get down the mountain, I think we ought to do it on
Mother's account. Father and Fritz won't know about it, so they
won't be anxious, but if we don't get home Mother will think we
"Oh, I wish we could fly," said Leneli.
"Then we must wish for wings on the goats too," said Seppi, "for
you know Father said we must take care of them whatever happens."
Sad and frightened though she was, Leneli giggled a little at
that. "Wouldn't they look funny flying through the air with you
and me and Bello all flopping after them?" she said. "Anyway,
they might go a little faster than they do now," she added
impatiently, giving Nanni a poke with her stick.
"They are hungry," said Seppi. "They hardly had time to eat
anything before the storm came up."
Then a bright idea came into his head. "I'm hungry, too," he
said, "and so are you. Let's eat our lunch while the goats get a
few mouthfuls among the rocks, and then we shall all have more
strength and shall get along faster."