The Swiss Twins  by Lucy Fitch Perkins

A Mountain Storm

Part 1 of 2


T HE 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 42 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 after Fritz.

"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 goats.

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 her hand.

"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 night-time. 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 timidly.

"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 thunder.

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."