Rico was almost nine years old and had been to school for two winters. Up there in the mountains there was no school in the summertime; for then the teacher had his field to cultivate and his hay and wood to cut, like everybody else and nobody had time to think of going to school. This was not a great sorrow for Rico, -- he knew how to amuse himself. When he had once taken his place in the morning on the threshold, he would stand there for hours without moving, gazing into the far distance with dreamy eyes, if the door of the house over the way did not open and a little girl make her appearance and look over at him laughingly. Then Rico ran over to her in a trice and the children were busy enough in telling each other what had happened since the evening before and talked incessantly, until Stineli was called into the house. The girl's name was Stineli and she and Rico were of exactly the same age. They began to go to school at the same time, were in the same classes and from that time forward were always together; for there was only a narrow path between their cottages and they were the dearest of friends. . . .