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But the excitement had not subsided in Silvio's mind, by any means; and now that he knew that two days must elapse before Rico could come again, he began to cry early in the morning, "Rico won't come to-day! Rico won't come to-day!" and scarcely ceased until the evening; and the second day it was the same, but on the third,--he was tired out by that time, and seemed like a little heap of straw, that the least spark could have reduced to ashes.
In the evening Rico made his appearance, quite worn out with the noise and tumult of the dances for which he had been obliged to play. Since he had fully realized that he had no home on the earth, the thought of Stineli had become of more importance than ever, and he said to himself,--
"There is only Stineli in the whole world to whom I belong, or who troubles her head about me!" And he felt a terrible homesickness for Stineli. He had scarcely reached the side of Silvio's bed when he said, "Do you know, Silvio, with Stineli only can one feel perfectly well, and nowhere else." These words were scarcely out of his mouth before the little invalid hoisted himself up like a flash, calling out at the top of his lungs, "Mother, I must have Stineli; Stineli must come; only with Stineli can one feel perfectly well, and nowhere else."
His mother came at his call; and as she had often listened to Rico's stories about Stineli and her brothers and sisters with great interest, she knew at once what they were talking about, and replied, "Yes, yes; it would suit me very well. I could find great use for Stineli for you, and for myself, if I only had her here."
But such an indefinite way of talking did not suit Silvio in the least, for he was interested, heart and soul, in the matter.
"You can have her at once," he cried out. "Rico knows where she is: he must go to fetch her. I want her every day, and always. To-morrow Rico must go to get her: he knows where."
Now that his mother saw that the little fellow had thought the whole thing out, and was really in serious earnest about it, she tried to turn his attention away, and to introduce other thoughts into his mind, for she had often heard the story of the incredible adventures Rico passed through on his journey over the mountains, and of the wonder of his having survived and come down safely, and that the mountaineer were a fearful and wild people. She was, therefore, fully persuaded that nobody could bring a girl away, and certainly not a tender little lad like Rico. He might meet a sad fate, and be lost altogether, if he attempted any thing of the kind; and then she would be responsible for it all. She would not run that risk,--she thought she had enough to bear already.
So she placed all the impossibility of the affair before Silvio's eyes, and told him of the terrible circumstances, and of the wicked men whom Rico would have to encounter, and who might ruin him. But nothing had the slightest effect. The little fellow had set his heart upon this thing as he never had upon any thing before; and whatever his mother brought forward, and no matter how anxiously she insisted, the moment she ceased the child said, "Rico must go to fetch her: he knows where to find her."
Then his mother replied, "And even if he does know, do you mean to say that he would run the risk and go into such dangerous places, when he can live comfortably as he does here, and never have to do with any wicked men again?"
Then Silvio looked at Rico, and said, "Will you go to fetch Stineli, Rico, or not?"
"Yes; I will," said Rico firmly.
"Oh, merciful heavens! now Rico is getting unmanageable too," cried the mother, quite horrified. "And now I do not know what to do. Take your fiddle, Rico, and play something, and sing; I must go into the garden." And the good woman ran quickly forth into the garden under the fig-trees, for she thought that her little son would forget the thing more quickly if he had not a chance to talk to her about it.
But the two good friends within neither played nor sang, but excited each other almost to fever point with all kinds of representations of how Stineli should be brought there, and of what would happen afterwards when she had fairly arrived. Rico utterly forgot to take his leave, although it was quite dark; and Mrs. Menotti purposely remained in the garden, thinking that Silvio would soon fall asleep. At last, however, she did come in, and Rico took his departure at once; but she had a bad time of it with Silvio, after all. He positively would not close his eyes until his mother promised that Rico should go to fetch Stineli; but she could not make any such promise, and the little fellow did not cease insisting until his mother said, "Be quiet, now; the night will set every thing straight." For she thought in the night he will forget his notion, as had often been the case, and he will have some other fancy.
At last the child was quiet and slept; but his mother had miscalculated the affair. Scarcely was it dawn when the little fellow called out from his bed, "Is every thing set straight now, mother?"
As it was impossible for her to reply in the affirmative to this question, the storm broke out again, and a more violent one than she had ever experienced before with her little boy, and lasted through the whole day quite late into the evening; and on the following day the same thing recommenced.
Silvio had never been so persistent in any fancy before. When he screamed and cried she was able to bear it; but when the hours of pain and suffering came, and the child went on whining and complaining in the most touching manner, saying,
"One only feels perfectly well with Stineli, and nowhere else," that cut his mother to the heart, and seemed like a reproach to her, as if she would not do something that might make him well again; but how could she possibly even think of it?
She had heard herself Rico's answer to Silvio when he asked if he knew how to go to Stineli. It was,--
"No, I do not know the way; but I can easily find one."
She went on hoping day after day that Silvio would take up some new whim, as had always before been the case: she had never found it otherwise. If he had wished for something when he was well, he had always given it up when his pain came on. But it was quite different this time, and there really was a reason too. Rico's stories and remarks about his friend Stineli had taken firm possession of the mind of the over-sensitive child; and he believed that nothing would hurt him again, if she were only by his side. So Silvio went on day after day in increasing distress; and his mother did not know where to turn for counsel and support.
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