"Herr Sesemann," began the lady in a solemn voice, "it is a matter which concerns Clara; we have been frightfully imposed upon."
"Indeed, in what way?" asked Herr Sesemann as he went on calmly drinking his wine.
"We had decided, as you remember, to get a companion for Clara, and as I knew how anxious you were to have only those who were well-behaved and nicely brought up about her, I thought I would look for a little Swiss girl, as I hoped to find such a one as I have often read about, who, born as it were of the mountain air, lives and moves without touching the earth."
"Still I think even a Swiss child would have to touch the earth if she wanted to go anywhere," remarked Herr Sesemann, "otherwise they would have been given wings instead of feet."
"Ah, Herr Sesemann, you know what I mean," continued Fraulein Rottenmeier. "I mean one so at home among the living creatures of the high, pure mountain regions, that she would be like some idealistic being from another world among us."
"And what could Clara do with such an idealistic being as you describe, Fraulein Rottenmeier."
"I am not joking, Herr Sesemann, the matter is a more serious one than you think; I have been shockingly, disgracefully imposed upon."
"But how? what is there shocking and disgraceful? I see nothing shocking in the child," remarked Herr Sesemann quietly.
"If you only knew of one thing she has done, if you only knew of the kind of people and animals she has brought into the house during your absence! The tutor can tell you more about that."
"Animals? what am I to understand by animals, Fraulein Rottenmeier?"
"It is past understanding; the whole behavior of the child would be past understanding, if it were not that at times she is evidently not in her right mind."
Herr Sesemann had attached very little importance to what was told him up till now—but not in her right mind! that was more serious and might be prejudicial to his own child. Herr Sesemann looked very narrowly at the lady opposite to assure himself that the mental aberration was not on her side. At that moment the door opened and the tutor was announced.
"Ah! here is some one," exclaimed Herr Sesemann, "who will help to clear up matters for me. Take a seat," he continued, as he held out his hand to the tutor. "You will drink a cup of coffee with me—no ceremony, I pray! And now tell me, what is the matter with this child that has come to be a companion to my daughter? What is this strange thing I hear about her bringing animals into the house, and is she in her right senses?"
The tutor felt he must begin with expressing his pleasure at Herr Sesemann's return, and with explaining that he had come in on purpose to give him welcome, but Herr Sesemann begged him to explain without delay the meaning of all he had heard about Heidi. The tutor started in his usual style. "If I must give my opinion about this little girl, I should like first to state that, if on one side, there is a lack of development which has been caused by the more or less careless way in which she has been brought up, or rather, by the neglect of her education, when young, and by the solitary life she has led on the mountain, which is not wholly to be condemned; on the contrary, such a life has undoubtedly some advantages in it, if not allowed to overstep a certain limit of time—"
"My good friend," interrupted Herr Sesemann, "you are giving yourself more trouble than you need. I only want to know if the child has caused you alarm by any animals she has brought into the house, and what your opinion is altogether as to her being a fit companion or not for my daughter?"
"I should not like in any way to prejudice you against her," began the tutor once more; "for if on the one hand there is a certain inexperience of the ways of society, owing to the uncivilised life she led up to the time of her removal to Frankfurt, on the other hand she is endowed with certain good qualities, and, taken on the whole—"
"Excuse me, my dear sir, do not disturb yourself, but I must—I think my daughter will be wanting me," and with that Herr Sesemann quickly left the room and took care not to return. He sat himself down beside his daughter in the study, and then turning to Heidi, who had risen, "Little one, will you fetch me," he began, and then paused, for he could not think what to ask for, but he wanted to get the child out of the room for a little while, "fetch me a glass of water."
"Fresh water?" asked Heidi.
"Yes—Yes—as fresh as you can get it," he answered. Heidi disappeared on the spot.
"And now, my dear little Clara," he said, drawing his chair nearer and laying her hand in his, "answer my questions clearly and intelligibly: what kind of animals has your little companion brought into the house, and why does Fraulein Rottenmeier think that she is not always in her right mind?"
Clara had no difficulty in answering. The alarmed lady had spoken to her also about Heidi's wild manner of talking, but Clara had not been able to put a meaning to it. She told her father everything about the tortoise and the kittens, and explained to him what Heidi had said the day Fraulein Rottenmeier had been put in such a fright. Herr Sesemann laughed heartily at her recital. "So you do not want me to send the child home again," he asked, "you are not tired of having her here?"
"Oh, no, no," Clara exclaimed, "please do not send her away. Time has passed much more quickly since Heidi was here, for something fresh happens every day, and it used to be so dull, and she has always so much to tell me."
"That's all right then—and here comes your little friend. Have you brought me some nice fresh water?" he asked as Heidi handed him a glass.
"Yes, fresh from the pump," answered Heidi.
"You did not go yourself to the pump?" said Clara.
"Yes I did; it is quite fresh. I had to go a long way, for there were such a lot of people at the first pump; so I went further down the street, but there were just as many at the second pump, but I was able to get some water at the one in the next street, and the gentleman with the white hair asked me to give his kind regards to Herr Sesemann."
"You have had quite a successful expedition," said Herr Sesemann laughing, "and who was the gentleman?"
"He was passing, and when he saw me he stood still and said, 'As you have a glass will you give me a drink; to whom are you taking the water?' and when I said, 'To Herr Sesemann,' he laughed very much, and then he gave me that message for you, and also said he hoped you would enjoy the water."
"Oh, and who was it, I wonder, who sent me such good wishes— tell me what he was like," said Herr Sesemann.
"He was kind and laughed, and he had a thick gold chain and a gold thing hanging from it with a large red stone, and a horse's head at the top of his stick."
"It's the doctor—my old friend the doctor," exclaimed Clara and her father at the same moment, and Herr Sesemann smiled to himself at the thought of what his friend's opinion must have been of this new way of satisfying his thirst for water.
That evening when Herr Sesemann and Fraulein Rottenmeier were alone, settling the household affairs, he informed her that he intended to keep Heidi; he found the child in a perfectly right state of mind, and his daughter liked her as a companion. "I desire, therefore," he continued, laying stress upon his words, "that the child shall be in every way kindly treated, and that her peculiarities shall not be looked upon as crimes. If you find her too much for you alone, I can hold out a prospect of help, for I am shortly expecting my mother here on a long visit, and she, as you know, can get on with anybody, whatever they may be like."
"O yes, I know," replied Fraulein Rottenmeier, but there was no tone of relief in her voice as she thought of the coming help.
Herr Sesemann was only home for a short time; he left for Paris again before the fortnight was over, comforting Clara, who could not bear that he should go from her again so soon, with the prospect of her grandmother's arrival, which was to take place in a few days' time. Herr Sesemann had indeed only just gone when a letter came from Frau Sesemann, announcing her arrival on the following day, and stating the hour when she might be expected, in order that a carriage should be sent to meet her at the station. Clara was overjoyed, and talked so much about her grandmother that evening, that Heidi began also to call her "grandmamma," which brought down on her a look of displeasure from Fraulein Rottenmeier; this, however, had no particular effect on Heidi, for she was accustomed now to being continually in that lady's black books. But as she was going to her room that night, Fraulein Rottenmeier waylaid her, and drawing her into her own, gave her strict injunctions as to how she was to address Frau Sesemann when she arrived; on no account was she to call her "grandmamma," but always to say "madam" to her. "Do you understand?" said the lady, as she saw a perplexed expression on Heidi's face. The latter had not understood, but seeing the severe expression of the lady's face she did not ask for more explanation.
CHAPTER X. ANOTHER GRANDMOTHER
There was much expectation and preparation about the house on the following evening, and it was easy to see that the lady who was coming was one whose opinion was highly thought of, and for whom everybody had a great respect. Tinette had a new white cap on her head, and Sebastian collected all the footstools he could find and placed them in convenient spots, so that the lady might find one ready to her feet whenever she chose to sit. Fraulein Rottenmeier went about surveying everything, very upright and dignified, as if to show that though a rival power was expected, her own authority was not going to be extinguished.
And now the carriage came driving up to the door, and Tinette and Sebastian ran down the steps, followed with a slower and more stately step by the lady, who advanced to greet the guest. Heidi had been sent up to her room and ordered to remain there until called down, as the grandmother would certainly like to see Clara alone first. Heidi sat herself down in a corner and repeated her instructions over to herself. She had not to wait long before Tinette put her head in and said abruptly, "Go downstairs into the study."
Heidi had not dared to ask Fraulein Rottenmeier again how she was to address the grandmother: she thought the lady had perhaps made a mistake, for she had never heard any one called by other than their right name. As she opened the study door she heard a kind voice say, "Ah, here comes the child! Come along in and let me have a good look at you."
Heidi walked up to her and said very distinctly in her clear voice, "Good-evening," and then wishing to follow her instructions called her what would be in English "Mrs. Madam."
"Well!" said the grandmother, laughing, "is that how they address people in your home on the mountain?"
"No," replied Heidi gravely, "I never knew any one with that name before."
"Nor I either," laughed the grandmother again as she patted Heidi's cheek. "Never mind! when I am with the children I am always grandmamma; you won't forget that name, will you?"
"No, no," Heidi assured her, "I often used to say it at home."
"I understand," said the grandmother, with a cheerful little nod of the head. Then she looked more closely at Heidi, giving another nod from time to time, and the child looked back at her with steady, serious eyes, for there was something kind and warm- hearted about this new-comer that pleased Heidi, and indeed everything to do with the grandmother attracted her, so that she could not turn her eyes away. She had such beautiful white hair, and two long lace ends hung down from the cap on her head and waved gently about her face every time she moved, as if a soft breeze were blowing round her, which gave Heidi a peculiar feeling of pleasure.
"And what is your name, child?" the grandmother now asked.
"I am always called Heidi; but as I am now to be called Adelaide, I will try and take care—" Heidi stopped short, for she felt a little guilty; she had not yet grown accustomed to this name; she continued not to respond when Fraulein Rottenmeier suddenly addressed her by it, and the lady was at this moment entering the room.
"Frau Sesemann will no doubt agree with me," she interrupted, "that it was necessary to choose a name that could be pronounced easily, if only for the sake of the servants."
"My worthy Rottenmeier," replied Frau Sesemann, "if a person is called 'Heidi' and has grown accustomed to that name, I call her by the same, and so let it be."
Fraulein Rottenmeier was always very much annoyed that the old lady continually addressed her by her surname only; but it was no use minding, for the grandmother always went her own way, and so there was no help for it. Moreover the grandmother was a keen old lady, and had all her five wits about her, and she knew what was going on in the house as soon as she entered it.
When on the following day Clara lay down as usual on her couch after dinner, the grandmother sat down beside her for a few minutes and closed her eyes, then she got up again as lively as ever, and trotted off into the dining-room. No one was there. "She is asleep, I suppose," she said to herself, and then going up to Fraulein Rottenmeier's room she gave a loud knock at the door. She waited a few minutes and then Fraulein Rottenmeier opened the door and drew back in surprise at this unexpected visit.
"Where is the child, and what is she doing all this time? That is what I came to ask," said Frau Sesemann.
"She is sitting in her room, where she could well employ herself if she had the least idea of making herself useful; but you have no idea, Frau Sesemann, of the out-of-the-way things this child imagines and does, things which I could hardly repeat in good society."
"I should do the same if I had to sit in there like that child, I can tell you; I doubt if you would then like to repeat what I did, in good society! Go and fetch the child and bring her to my room; I have some pretty books with me that I should like to give her."
"That is just the misfortune," said Fraulein Rottenmeier with a despairing gesture, "what use are books to her? She has not been able to learn her A B C even, all the long time she has been here; it is quite impossible to get the least idea of it into her head, and that the tutor himself will tell you; if he had not the patience of an angel he would have given up teaching her long ago."
"That is very strange," said Frau Sesemann, "she does not look to me like a child who would be unable to learn her alphabet. However, bring her now to me, she can at least amuse herself with the pictures in the books."
Fraulein Rottenmeier was prepared with some further remarks, but the grandmother had turned away and gone quickly towards her own room. She was surprised at what she had been told about Heidi's incapacity for learning, and determined to find out more concerning this matter, not by inquiries from the tutor, however, although she esteemed him highly for his uprightness of character; she had always a friendly greeting for him, but always avoided being drawn into conversation with him, for she found his style of talk somewhat wearisome.
Heidi now appeared and gazed with open-eyed delight and wonder at the beautiful colored pictures in the books which the grandmother gave her to look at. All of a sudden, as the latter turned over one of the pages to a fresh picture, the child gave a cry. For a moment or two she looked at it with brightening eyes, then the tears began to fall, and at last she burst into sobs. The grandmother looked at the picture—it represented a green pasture, full of young animals, some grazing and others nibbling at the shrubs. In the middle was a shepherd leaning upon his staff and looking on at his happy flock. The whole scene was bathed in golden light, for the sun was just sinking below the horizon.
The grandmother laid her hand kindly On Heidi's.
"Don't cry, dear child, don't cry," she said, "the picture has reminded you perhaps of something. But see, there is a beautiful tale to the picture which I will tell you this evening. And there are other nice tales of all kinds to read and to tell again. But now we must have a little talk together, so dry your tears and come and stand in front of me, so that I may see you well—there, now we are happy again."
But it was some little time before Heidi could overcome her sobs. The grandmother gave her time to recover herself, saying cheering words to her now and then, "There, it's all right now, and we are quite happy again."
When at last she saw that Heidi was growing calmer, she said, "Now I want you to tell me something. How are you getting on in your school-time; do you like your lessons, and have you learnt a great deal?"
"O no!" replied Heidi, sighing, "but I knew beforehand that it was not possible to learn."
"What is it you think impossible to learn?"
"Why, to read, it is too difficult."
"You don't say so! and who told you that?"
"Peter told me, and he knew all about it, for he had tried and tried and could not learn it."
"Peter must be a very odd boy then! But listen, Heidi, we must not always go by what Peter says, we must try for ourselves. I am certain that you did not give all your attention to the tutor when he was trying to teach you your letters."
"It's of no use," said Heidi in the tone of one who was ready to endure what could not be cured.
"Listen to what I have to say," continued the grandmother. "You have not been able to learn your alphabet because you believed what Peter said; but now you must believe what I tell you—and I tell you that you can learn to read in a very little while, as many other children do, who are made like you and not like Peter. And now hear what comes after—you see that picture with the shepherd and the animals—well, as soon as you are able to read you shall have that book for your own, and then you will know all about the sheep and the goats, and what the shepherd did, and the wonderful things that happened to him, just as if some one were telling you the whole tale. You will like to hear about all that, won't you?"
Heidi had listened with eager attention to the grandmother's words and now with a sigh exclaimed, "Oh, if only I could read now!"
"It won't take you long now to learn, that I can see; and now we must go down to Clara; bring the books with you." And hand in hand the two returned to the study.
Since the day when Heidi had so longed to go home, and Fraulein Rottenmeier had met her and scolded her on the steps, and told her how wicked and ungrateful she was to try and run away, and what a good thing it was that Herr Sesemann knew nothing about it, a change had come over the child. She had at last understood that day that she could not go home when she wished as Dete had told her, but that she would have to stay on in Frankfurt for a long, long time, perhaps for ever. She had also understood that Herr Sesemann would think it ungrateful of her if she wished to leave, and she believed that the grandmother and Clara would think the same. So there was nobody to whom she dared confide her longing to go home, for she would not for the world have given the grandmother, who was so kind to her, any reason for being as angry with her as Fraulein Rottenmeier had been. But the weight of trouble on the little heart grew heavier and heavier; she could no longer eat her food, and every day she grew a little paler. She lay awake for long hours at night, for as soon as she was alone and everything was still around her, the picture of the mountain with its sunshine and flowers rose vividly before her eyes; and when at last she fell asleep it was to dream of the rocks and the snow-field turning crimson in the evening light, and waking in the morning she would think herself back at the hut and prepare to run joyfully out into—the sun—and then— there was her large bed, and here she was in Frankfurt far, far away from home. And Heidi would often lay her face down on the pillow and weep long and quietly so that no one might hear her.
Heidi's unhappiness did not escape the grandmother's notice. She let some days go by to see if the child grew brighter and lost her down-cast appearance. But as matters did not mend, and she saw that many mornings Heidi had evidently been crying before she came downstairs, she took her again into her room one day, and drawing the child to her said, "Now tell me, Heidi, what is the matter; are you in trouble?"
But Heidi, afraid if she told the truth that the grandmother would think her ungrateful, and would then leave off being so kind to her, answered, "can't tell you."
"Well, could you tell Clara about it?"
"Oh, no, I cannot tell any one," said Heidi in so positive a tone, and with a look of such trouble on her face, that the grandmother felt full of pity for the child.
"Then, dear child, let me tell you what to do: you know that when we are in great trouble, and cannot speak about it to anybody, we must turn to God and pray Him to help, for He can deliver us from every care, that oppresses us. You understand that, do you not? You say your prayers every evening to the dear God in Heaven, and thank Him for all He has done for you, and pray Him to keep you from all evil, do you not?"
"No, I never say any prayers," answered Heidi.
"Have you never been taught to pray, Heidi; do you not know even what it means?"
"I used to say prayers with the first grandmother, but that is a long time ago, and I have forgotten them."
"That is the reason, Heidi, that you are so unhappy, because you know no one who can help you. Think what a comfort it is when the heart is heavy with grief to be able at any moment to go and tell everything to God, and pray Him for the help that no one else can give us. And He can help us and give us everything that will make us happy again."
A sudden gleam of joy came into Heidi's eyes. "May I tell Him everything, everything?"
"Yes, everything, Heidi, everything."
Heidi drew her hand away, which the grandmother was holding affectionately between her own, and said quickly, "May I go?"
"Yes, of course," was the answer, and Heidi ran out of the room into her own, and sitting herself on a stool, folded her hands together and told God about everything that was making her so sad and unhappy, and begged Him earnestly to help her and to let her go home to her grandfather.
It was about a week after this that the tutor asked Frau Sesemann's permission for an interview with her, as he wished to inform her of a remarkable thing that had come to pass. So she invited him to her room, and as he entered she held out her hand in greeting, and pushing a chair towards him, "I am pleased to see you," she said, "pray sit down and tell me what brings you here; nothing bad, no complaints, I hope?"
"Quite the reverse," began the tutor. "Something has happened that I had given up hoping for, and which no one, knowing what has gone before, could have guessed, for, according to all expectations, that which has taken place could only be looked upon as a miracle, and yet it really has come to pass and in the most extraordinary manner, quite contrary to all that one could anticipate—"
"Has the child Heidi really learnt to read at last?" put in Frau Sesemann.
The tutor looked at the lady in speechless astonishment. At last he spoke again. "It is indeed truly marvellous, not only because she never seemed able to learn her A B C even after all my full explanations, and after spending unusual pains upon her, but because now she has learnt it so rapidly, just after I had made up my mind to make no further attempts at the impossible but to put the letters as they were before her without any dissertation on their origin and meaning, and now she has as you might say learnt her letters over night, and started at once to read correctly, quite unlike most beginners. And it is almost as astonishing to me that you should have guessed such an unlikely thing."
"Many unlikely things happen in life," said Frau Sesemann with a pleased smile. "Two things coming together may produce a happy result, as for instance, a fresh zeal for learning and a new method of teaching, and neither does any harm. We can but rejoice that the child has made such a good start and hope for her future progress."
After parting with the tutor she went down to the study to make sure of the good news. There sure enough was Heidi, sitting beside Clara and reading aloud to her, evidently herself very much surprised, and growing more and more delighted with the new world that was now open to her as the black letters grew alive and turned into men and things and exciting stories. That same evening Heidi found the large book with the beautiful pictures lying on her plate when she took her place at table, and when she looked questioningly at the grandmother, the latter nodded kindly to her and said, "Yes, it's yours now."
"Mine, to keep always? even when I go home?" said, Heidi, blushing with pleasure.
"Yes, of course, yours for ever," the grandmother assured her. "To-morrow we will begin to read it."
"But you are not going home yet, Heidi, not for years," put in Clara. "When grandmother goes away, I shall want you to stay on with me."
When, Heidi went to her room that night she had another look at her book before going to bed, and from that day forth her chief pleasure was to read the tales which belonged to the beautiful pictures over and over again. If the grandmother said, as they were sitting together in the evening, "Now Heidi will read aloud to us," Heidi was delighted, for reading was no trouble to her now, and when she read the tales aloud the scenes seemed to grow more beautiful and distinct, and then grandmother would explain and tell her more about them still.
Still the picture she liked best was the one of the shepherd leaning on his staff with his flock around him in the midst of the green pasture, for he was now at home and happy, following his father's sheep and goats. Then came the picture where he was seen far away from his father's house, obliged to look after the swine, and he had grown pale and thin from the husks which were all he had to eat. Even the sun seemed here to be less bright and everything looked grey and misty. But there was the third picture still to this tale: here was the old father with outstretched arms running to meet and embrace his returning and repentant son, who was advancing timidly, worn out and emaciated and clad in a ragged coat. That was Heidi's favorite tale, which she read over and over again, aloud and to herself, and she was never tired of hearing the grandmother explain it to her and Clara. But there were other tales in the book besides, and what with reading and looking at the pictures the days passed quickly away, and the time drew near for the grandmother to return home.
CHAPTER XI. HEIDI GAINS IN ONE WAY AND LOSES IN ANOTHER
Every afternoon during her visit the grandmother went and sat down for a few minutes beside Clara after dinner, when the latter was resting, and Fraulein Rottenmeier, probably for the same reason, had disappeared inside her room; but five minutes sufficed her, and then she was up again, and Heidi was sent for to her room, and there she would talk to the child and employ and amuse her in all sorts of ways. The grandmother had a lot of pretty dolls, and she showed Heidi how to make dresses and pinafores for them, so that Heidi learnt how to sew and to make all sorts of beautiful clothes for the little people out of a wonderful collection of pieces that grandmother had by her of every describable and lovely color. And then grandmother liked to hear her read aloud, and the oftener Heidi read her tales the fonder she grew of them. She entered into the lives of all the people she read about so that they became like dear friends to her, and it delighted her more and more to be with them. But still Heidi never looked really happy, and her bright eyes were no longer to be seen. It was the last week of the grandmother's visit. She called Heidi into her room as usual one day after dinner, and the child came with her book under her arm. The grandmother called her to come close, and then laying the book aside, said, "Now, child, tell me why you are not happy? Have you still the same trouble at heart?"
Heidi nodded in reply.
"Have you told God about it?"
"And do you pray every day that He will make things right and that you may be happy again?"
"No, I have left off praying."
"Do not tell me that, Heidi! Why have you left off praying?"
"It is of no use, God does not listen," Heidi went on in an agitated voice, "and I can understand that when there are so many, many people in Frankfurt praying to Him every evening that He cannot attend to them all, and He certainly has not heard what I said to Him."
"And why are you so sure of that, Heidi?"
"Because I have prayed for the same thing every day for weeks, and yet God has not done what I asked."
"You are wrong, Heidi; you must not think of Him like that. God is a good father to us all, and knows better than we do what is good for us. If we ask Him for something that is not good for us, He does not give it, but something better still, if only we will continue to pray earnestly and do not run away and lose our trust in Him. God did not think what you have been praying for was good for you just now; but be sure He heard you, for He can hear and see every one at the same time, because He is a God and not a human being like you and me. And because He thought it was better for you not to have at once what you wanted, He said to Himself: Yes, Heidi shall have what she asks for, but not until the right time comes, so that she may be quite happy. If I do what she wants now, and then one day she sees that it would have been better for her not to have had her own way, she will cry and say, 'If only God had not given me what I asked for! it is not so good as I expected!' And while God is watching over you, and looking to see if you will trust Him and go on praying to Him every day, and turn to Him for everything you want, you run away and leave off saying your prayers, and forget all about Him. And when God no longer hears the voice of one He knew among those who pray to Him, He lets that person go his own way, that he may learn how foolish he is. And then this one gets into trouble, and cries, 'Save me, God, for there is none other to help me,' and God says, 'Why did you go from Me; I could not help you when you ran away.' And you would not like to grieve God, would you Heidi, when He only wants to be kind to you? So will you not go and ask Him to forgive you, and continue to pray and to trust Him, for you may be sure that He will make everything right and happy for you, and then you will be glad and lighthearted again."
Heidi had perfect confidence in the grandmother, and every word she said sunk into her heart.
"I will go at once and ask God to forgive me, and I will never forget Him again," she replied repentantly.
"That is right, dear child," and anxious to cheer her, added, "Don't be unhappy, for He will do everything you wish in good time."
And Heidi ran away and prayed that she might always remember God, and that He would go on thinking about her.
The day came for grandmother's departure—a sad one for Clara and Heidi. But the grandmother was determined to make it as much like a holiday as possible and not to let them mope, and she kept them so lively and amused that they had no time to think about their sorrow at her going until she really drove away. Then the house seemed so silent and empty that Heidi and Clara did not know what to do with themselves, and sat during the remainder of the day like two lost children.
The next day, when the hour came for Clara and Heidi to be together, the latter walked in with her book and proposed that she should go on reading aloud every afternoon to Clara, if the latter liked it. Clara agreed, and thought anyhow it would be nice for that day, so Heidi began with her usual enthusiasm. But the reading did not last long, for Heidi had hardly begun a tale about a dying grandmother before she cried out, "O! then grandmother is dead!" and burst into tears; for everything she read was so real to her that she quite thought it was the grandmother at home who had died, and she kept on exclaiming as her sobs increased, "She is dead, and I shall never see her again, and she never had one of the white rolls!"
Clara did all she could to explain to Heidi that the story was about quite a different grandmother; but even when at last she had been able to convince Heidi of this, the latter continued to weep inconsolably, for now she had awakened to the thought that perhaps the grandmother, and even the grandfather also, might die while she was so far away, and that if she did not go home for a long time she would find everything there all silent and dead, and there she would be all alone, and would never be able to see the dear ones she loved any more.
Fraulein Rottenmeier had meanwhile come into the room, and Clara explained to her what had happened. As Heidi continued her weeping, the lady, who was evidently getting impatient with her, went up to Heidi and said with decision, "Now, Adelaide, that is enough of all this causeless lamentation. I will tell you once for all, if there are any more scenes like this while you are reading, I shall take the book away from you and shall not let you have it again."
Her words had immediate effect on Heidi, who turned pale with fear. The book was her one great treasure. She quickly dried her tears and swallowed her sobs as best she could, so that no further sound of them should be heard. The threat did its work, for Heidi never cried aloud again whatever she might be reading, but she had often to struggle hard to keep back her tears, so that Clara would look at her and say,
"What faces you are making, Heidi, I never saw anything like it!" But the faces made no noise and did not offend Fraulein Rottenmeier, and Heidi, having overcome her fit of despairing misery, would go quietly on for a while, and no one perceived her sorrow. But she lost all her appetite, and looked so pale and thin that Sebastian was quite unhappy when he looked at her, and could not bear to see her refusing all the nice dishes he handed her. He would whisper to her sometimes, in quite a kind, fatherly manner, "Take a little; you don't know how nice it is! There, a good spoonful, now another." But it was of no use, Heidi hardly ate anything at all, and as soon as she laid her head down at night the picture of home would rise before her eyes, and she would weep, burying her face in the pillow that her crying might not be heard.
And so many weeks passed away. Heidi did not know it is was winter or summer, for the walls and windows she looked out upon showed no change, and she never went beyond the house except on rare occasions when Clara was well enough to drive out, and then they only went a very little way, as Clara could not bear the movement for long. So that on these occasions they generally only saw more fine streets and large houses and crowds of people; they seldom got anywhere beyond them, and grass and flowers, fir trees and mountains, were still far away. Heidi's longing for the old familiar and beautiful things grew daily stronger, so that now only to read a word that recalled them to her remembrance brought her to the verge of tears, which with difficulty she suppressed. So the autumn and winter passed, and again the sun came shining down on the white walls of the opposite houses, and Heidi would think to herself that now the time had come for Peter to go out again with the goats, to where the golden flowers of the cistus were glowing in the sunlight, and all the rocks around turned to fire at sunset. Heidi would go and sit in a corner of her lonely room and put her hands up to her eyes that she might not see the sun shining on the opposite wall; and then she would remain without moving, battling silently with her terrible homesickness until Clara sent for her again.
CHAPTER XII. A GHOST IN THE HOUSE
For some days past Fraulein Rottenmeier had gone about rather silently and as if lost in thought. As twilight fell, and she passed from room to room, or along the long corridors, she was seen to look cautiously behind her, and into the dark corners, as if she thought some one was coming silently behind her and might unexpectedly give her dress a pull. Nor would she now go alone into some parts of the house. If she visited the upper floor where the grand guest-chambers were, or had to go down into the large mysterious council-chamber, where every footstep echoed, and the old senators with their big white collars looked down so solemnly and immovably from their frames, she regularly called Tinette to accompany her, in case, as she said, there might be something to carry up or down. Tinette on her side did exactly the same; if she had business upstairs or down, she called Sebastian to accompany her, and there was always something he must help her with which she could not carry alone. More curious still, Sebastian, also, if sent into one of the more distant rooms, always called John to go with him in case he should want his assistance in bringing what was required. And John readily obeyed, although there was never anything to carry, and either might well have gone alone; but he did not know how soon he might want to ask Sebastian to do the same service for him. And while these things were going on upstairs, the cook, who had been in the house for years, would stand shaking her head over her pots and kettles, and sighing, "That ever I should live to know such a thing."
For something very strange and mysterious was going on in Herr Sesemann's house. Every morning, when the servants went downstairs, they found the front door wide open, although nobody could be seen far or near to account for it. During the first few days that this happened every room and corner was searched in great alarm, to see if anything had been stolen, for the general idea was that a thief had been hiding in the house and had gone off in the night with the stolen goods; but not a thing in the house had been touched, everything was safe in its place. The door was doubly locked at night, and for further security the wooden bar was fastened across it; but it was no good—next morning the door again stood open. The servants in their fear and excitement got up extra early, but not so early but what the door had been opened before they got downstairs, although everything and everybody around were still wrapped in slumber, and the doors and windows of the adjoining houses all fast shut. At last, after a great deal of persuasion from Fraulein Rottenmeier, Sebastian and John plucked up courage and agreed to sit up one night in the room next to the large council-chamber and to watch and see what would happen. Fraulein Rottenmeier looked up several weapons belonging to the master, and gave these and a bottle of spirits to Sebastian, so that their courage might not faint if it came to a fight.
On the appointed night the two sat down and began at once to take some of the strengthening cordial, which at first made them very talkative and then very sleepy, so that they leant back in their seats and became silent. As midnight struck, Sebastian roused himself and called to his companion, who, however, was not easy to wake, and kept rolling his head first to one side and then the other and continuing to sleep. Sebastian began to listen more attentively, for he was wide awake now. Everything was still as a mouse, all sound had died away from the streets even. He did not feel inclined to go to sleep again, for the stillness was ghostly to him, and he was afraid now to raise his voice to rouse John, so he shook him gently to make him stir. At last, as one struck, John work up, and came back to the consciousness of why he was sitting in a chair instead of lying in his bed. He now got up with a great show of courage and said, "Come, Sebastian, we must go outside and see what is going on; you need not be afraid, just follow me."
Whereupon he opened the door wide and stepped into the hall. Just as he did so a sudden gust of air blew through the open front door and put out the light which John held in his hand. He started back, almost overturning Sebastian, whom he clutched and pulled back into the room, and then shutting the door quickly he turned the key as far as he could make it go. Then he pulled out his matches and lighted his candle again. Sebastian, in the suddenness of the affair, did not know exactly what had happened, for he had not seen the open door or felt the breeze behind John's broad figure. But now, as he saw the latter in the light, he gave a cry of alarm, for John was trembling all over and as white as a ghost. "What's the matter? What did you see, outside?" asked Sebastian sympathetically.
"The door partly open," gasped John, "and a white figure standing at the top of the steps—there it stood, and then all in a minute it disappeared."
Sebastian felt his blood run cold. The two sat down close to one another and did not dare move again till the morning broke and the streets began to be alive again. Then they left the room together, shut the front door, and went upstairs to tell Fraulein Rottenmeier of their experience. She was quite ready to receive them, for she had not been able to sleep at all in the anxiety of waiting to hear their report. They had no sooner given her details of the night's experience than she sat down and wrote straight off to Herr Sesemann, who had never received such a letter before in his life. She could hardly write, she told him, for her fingers were stiff with fear, and Herr Sesemann must please arrange to come back at once, for dreadful and unaccountable things were taking place at home. Then she entered into particulars of all that had happened, of how the door was found standing open every morning, and how nobody in the house now felt sure of their life in this unprotected state of things, and how it was impossible to tell what terrible results might follow on these mysterious doings.
Herr Sesemann answered that it was quite impossible for him to arrange to leave his business and return home at once. He was very much astonished at this ghost tale, but hoped by this time the ghost had disappeared. If, however, it still continued to disturb the household, would Fraulein Rottenmeier write to the grandmother and ask her if she could come and do something; she, he was sure, would soon find out a way to deal with the ghost so that it would not venture again to haunt his house. Fraulein Rottenmeier was not pleased with the tone of this letter; she did not think the matter was treated seriously enough. She wrote off without delay to Frau Sesemann, but got no more satisfactory reply from that quarter, and some remarks in the letter she considered were quite offensive. Frau Sesemann wrote that she did not feel inclined to take the journey again from Holstein to Frankfurt because Rottenmeier fancied she saw ghosts. There had never been a ghost in the house since she had known it, and if there was one now it must be a live one, with which Rottenmeier ought to be able to deal; if not she had better send for the watchman to help her.
Fraulein Rottenmeier, however, was determined not to pass any more days in a state of fear, and she knew the right course to pursue. She had as yet said nothing to the children of the ghostly apparitions, for she knew if she did that the children would not remain alone for a single moment, and that might entail discomfort for herself. But now she walked straight off into the study, and there in a low mysterious voice told the two children everything that had taken place. Clara immediately screamed out that she could not remain another minute alone, her father must come home, and Fraulein Rottenmeier must sleep in her room at night, and Heidi too must not be left by herself, for the ghost might do something to her. She insisted that they should all sleep together in one room and keep a light burning all night, and Tinette had better be in the next room, and Sebastian and John come upstairs and spend the night in the hall, so that they might call out and frighten the ghost the instant they saw it appear on the steps. Clara, in short, grew very excited, and Fraulein Rottenmeier had great difficulty in quieting her. She promised to write at once to her father, and to have her bed put in her room and not to be left alone for a moment. They could not all sleep in the same room, but if Heidi was frightened, why Tinette must go into her room. But Heidi was far more frightened of Tinette than of ghosts, of which the child had never before heard, so she assured the others she did not mind the ghost, and would rather be alone at night.
Fraulein Rottenmeier now sat down to write another letter to Herr Sesemann, stating that these unaccountable things that were going on in the house had so affected his daughter's delicate constitution that the worst consequences might be expected. Epileptic fits and St. Vitus's dance often came on suddenly in cases like this, and Clara was liable to be attacked by either if the cause of the general alarm was not removed.
The letter was successful, and two days later Herr Sesemann stood at his front door and rang the bell in such a manner that everybody came rushing from all parts of the house and stood looking affrighted at everybody else, convinced that the ghost was impudently beginning its evil tricks in daylight. Sebastian peeped cautiously through a half-closed shutter; as he did so there came another violent ring at the bell, which it was impossible to mistake for anything but a very hard pull from a non-ghostly hand. And Sebastian recognised whose hand it was, and rushing pell-mell out of the room, fell heels over head downstairs, but picked himself up at the bottom and flung open the street door. Herr Sesemann greeted him abruptly and went up without a moment's delay into his daughter's room. Clara greeted him with a cry of joy, and seeing her so lively and apparently as well as ever, his face cleared, and the frown of anxiety passed gradually away from it as he heard from his daughter's own lips that she had nothing the matter with her, and moreover was so delighted to see him that she was quite glad about the ghost, as it was the cause of bringing him home again.
"And how is the ghost getting on?" he asked, turning to Fraulein Rottenmeier, with a twinkle of amusement in his eye.
"It is no joke, I assure you," replied that lady. "You will not laugh yourself to-morrow morning, Herr Sesemann; what is going on in the house points to some terrible thing that has taken place in the past and been concealed."
"Well, I know nothing about that," said the master of the house, "but I must beg you not to bring suspicion on my worthy ancestors. And now will you kindly call Sebastian into the dining- room, as I wish to speak to him alone."
Herr Sesemann had been quite aware that Sebastian and Fraulein Rottenmeier were not on the best of terms, and he had his ideas about this scare.
"Come here, lad," he said as Sebastian appeared, "and tell me frankly—have you been playing at ghosts to amuse yourself at Fraulein Rottenmeier's expense?"
"No, on my honor, sir; pray, do not think it; I am very uncomfortable about the matter myself," answered Sebastian with unmistakable truthfulness.
"Well, if that is so, I will show you and John to-morrow morning how ghosts look in the daylight. You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Sebastian, a great strong lad like you, to run away from a ghost! But now go and take a message to my old friend the doctor; give him my kind regards, and ask him if he will come to me to-night at nine o'clock without fail; I have come by express from Paris to consult him. I shall want him to spend the night here, so bad a case is it; so he will arrange accordingly. You understand?"
"Yes, sir," replied Sebastian, "I will see to the matter as you wish." Then Herr Sesemann returned to Clara, and begged her to have no more fear, as he would soon find out all about the ghost and put an end to it.
Punctually at nine o'clock, after the children had gone to bed and Fraulein Rottenmeier had retired, the doctor arrived. He was a grey-haired man with a fresh face, and two bright, kindly eyes. He looked anxious as he walked in, but, on catching sight of his patient, burst out laughing and clapped him on the shoulder. "Well," he said, "you look pretty bad for a person that I am to sit up with all night."
"Patience, friend," answered Herr Sesemann, "the one you have to sit up for will look a good deal worse when we have once caught him."
"So there is a sick person in the house, and one that has first to be caught?"
"Much worse than that, doctor! a ghost in the house! My house is haunted!"
The doctor laughed aloud.
"That's a nice way of showing sympathy, doctor!" continued Herr, Sesemann. "It's a pity my friend Rottenmeier cannot hear you. She is firmly convinced that some old member of the family is wandering about the house doing penance for some awful crime he committed."
"How did she become acquainted with him?" asked the doctor, still very much amused.
So Herr Sesemann recounted to him how the front door was nightly opened by somebody, according to the testimony of the combined household, and he had therefore provided two loaded revolvers, so as to be prepared for anything that happened; for either the whole thing was a joke got up by some friend of the servants, just to alarm the household while he was away—and in that case a pistol fired into the air would procure him a wholesome fright— or else it was a thief, who, by leading everybody at first to think there was a ghost, made it safe for himself when he came later to steal, as no one would venture to run out if they heard him, and in that case too a good weapon would not be amiss.
The two took up their quarters for the night in the same room in which Sebastian and John had kept watch. A bottle of wine was placed on the table, for a little refreshment would be welcome from time to time if the night was to be passed sitting up. Beside it lay the two revolvers, and two good-sized candles had also been lighted, for Herr Sesemann was determined not to wait for ghosts in any half light.
The door was shut close to prevent the light being seen in the hall outside, which might frighten away the ghost. And now the two gentlemen sat comfortably back in the arm-chairs and began talking of all sorts of things, now and then pausing to take a good draught of wine, and so twelve o'clock struck before they were aware.
"The ghost has got scent of us and is keeping away to-night," said the doctor.
"Wait a bit, it does not generally appear before one o'clock," answered his friend.
They started talking again. One o'clock struck. There was not a sound about the house, nor in the street outside. Suddenly the doctor lifted his finger.
"Hush! Sesemann, don't you hear something?"
They both listened, and they distinctly heard the bar softly pushed aside and then the key turned in the lock and the door opened. Herr Sesemann put out his hand for his revolver.
"You are not afraid, are you?" said the doctor as he stood up.
"It is better to take precautions," whispered Herr Sesemann, and seizing one of the lights in his other hand, he followed the doctor, who, armed in like manner with a light and a revolver, went softly on in front. They stepped into the hall. The moonlight was shining in through the open door and fell on a white figure standing motionless in the doorway.
"Who is there?" thundered the doctor in a voice that echoed through the hall, as the two men advanced with lights and weapons towards the figure.
It turned and gave a low cry. There in her little white nightgown stood Heidi, with bare feet, staring with wild eyes at the lights and the revolvers, and trembling from head to foot like a leaf in the wind. The two men looked as one another in surprise.
"Why, I believe it is your little water-carrier, Sesemann," said the doctor.
"Child, what does this mean?" said Herr Sesemann. "What did you want? why did you come down here?"
White with terror, and hardly able to make her voice heard, Heidi answered, "I don't know."
But now the doctor stepped forward. "This is a matter for me to see to, Sesemann; go back to your chair. I must take the child upstairs to her bed."
And with that he put down his revolver and gently taking the child by the hand led her upstairs. "Don't be frightened," he said as they went up side by side, "it's nothing to be frightened about; it's all right, only just go quietly."
On reaching Heidi's room the doctor put the candle down on the table, and taking Heidi up in his arms laid her on the bed and carefully covered her over. Then he sat down beside her and waited until Heidi had grown quieter and no longer trembled so violently. He took her hand and said in a kind, soothing voice, "There, now you feel better, and now tell me where you were wanting to go to?"
"I did not want to go anywhere," said Heidi. "I did not know I went downstairs, but all at once I was there."
"I see, and had you been dreaming, so that you seemed to see and hear something very distinctly?"
"Yes, I dream every night, and always about the same things. I think I am back with the grandfather and I hear the sound in the fir trees outside, and I see the stars shining so brightly, and then I open the door quickly and run out, and it is all so beautiful! But when I wake I am still in Frankfurt." And Heidi struggled as she spoke to keep back the sobs which seemed to choke her.
"And have you no pain anywhere? no pain in your head or back?"
"No, only a feeling as if there were a great stone weighing on me here."
"As if you had eaten something that would not go down."
"No, not like that; something heavy as if I wanted to cry very much."
"I see, and then do you have a good cry?"
"Oh, no, I mustn't; Fraulein Rottenmeier forbade me to cry."
"So you swallow it all down, I suppose? Are you happy here in Frankfurt?"
"Yes," was the low answer; but it sounded more like "No."
"And where did you live with your grandfather?"
"Up on the mountain."
"That wasn't very amusing; rather dull at times, eh?"
"No, no, it was beautiful, beautiful!" Heidi could go no further; the remembrance of the past, the excitement she had just gone through, the long suppressed weeping, were too much for the child's strength; the tears began to fall fast, and she broke into violent weeping.
The doctor stood up and laid her head kindly down on the pillow. "There, there, go on crying, it will do you good, and then go to sleep; it will be all right to-morrow."
Then he left the room and went downstairs to Herr Sesemann; when he was once more sitting in the armchair opposite his friend, "Sesemann," he said, "let me first tell you that your little charge is a sleep-walker; she is the ghost who has nightly opened the front door and put your household into this fever of alarm. Secondly, the child is consumed with homesickness, to such an extent that she is nearly a skeleton already, and soon will be quite one; something must be done at once. For the first trouble, due to her over-excited nerves, there is but one remedy, to send her back to her native mountain air; and for the second trouble there is also but one cure, and that the same. So to- morrow the child must start for home; there you have my prescription."
Herr Sesemann had arisen and now paced up and down the room in the greatest state of concern.
"What!" he exclaimed, "the child a sleep-walker and ill! Home- sick, and grown emaciated in my house! All this has taken place in my house and no one seen or known anything about it! And you mean, doctor, that the child who came here happy and healthy, I am to send back to her grandfather a miserable little skeleton? I can't do it; you cannot dream of my doing such a thing! Take the child in hand, do with her what you will, and make her whole and sound, and then she shall go home; but you must do something first."
"Sesemann," replied the doctor, "consider what you are doing! This illness of the child's is not one to be cured with pills and powders. The child has not a tough constitution, but if you send her back at once she may recover in the mountain air, if not—you would rather she went back ill than not at all?"
Herr Sesemann stood still; the doctor's words were a shock to him.
"If you put it so, doctor, there is assuredly only one way—and the thing must be seen to at once." And then he and the doctor walked up and down for a while arranging what to do, after which the doctor said good-bye, for some time had passed since they first sat down together, and as the master himself opened the hall door this time the morning light shone down through it into the house.
CHAPTER XIII. A SUMMER EVENING ON THE MOUNTAIN
Herr Sesemann, a good deal irritated and excited, went quickly upstairs and along the passage to Fraulein Rottenmeier's room, and there gave such an unusually loud knock at the door that the lady awoke from sleep with a cry of alarm. She heard the master of the house calling to her from the other side of the door, "Please make haste and come down to me in the dining-room; we must make ready for a journey at once." Fraulein Rottenmeier looked at her clock: it was just half-past four; she had never got up so early before in her life. What could have happened? What with her curiosity and excitement she took hold of everything the wrong way, and it was a case with her of more haste less speed, for she kept on searching everywhere for garments which she had already put on.
Meanwhile Herr Sesemann had gone on farther and rung the bells in turn which communicated with the several servants' rooms, causing frightened figures to leap out of bed, convinced that the ghost had attacked the master and that he was calling for help. One by one they made their appearance in the dining-room, each with a more terrified face than the last, and were astonished to see their master walking up and down, looking well and cheerful, and with no appearance of having had an encounter with a ghost. John was sent off without delay to get the horses and carriage ready; Tinette was ordered to wake Heidi and get her dressed for a journey; Sebastian was hurried off to the house where Dete was in service to bring the latter round. Then Fraulein Rottenmeier, having at last accomplished her toilet, came down, with everything well adjusted about her except her cap, which was put on hind side before. Herr Sesemann put down her flurried appearance to the early awakening he had caused her, and began without delay to give her directions. She was to get out a trunk at once and pack up all the things belonging to the Swiss child— for so he usually spoke of Heidi, being unaccustomed to her name— and a good part of Clara's clothes as well, so that the child might take home proper apparel; but everything was to be done immediately, as there was no time for consideration.
Fraulein Rottenmeier stood as if rooted to the spot and stared in astonishment at Herr Sesemann. She had quite expected a long and private account of some terrible ghostly experience of his during the night, which she would have enjoyed hearing about in the broad daylight. Instead of this there were these prosaic and troublesome directions, which were so unexpected that she took some time to get over her surprise and disappointment, and continued standing awaiting further explanation.
But Herr Sesemann had no thought or time for explanations and left her standing there while he went to speak to Clara. As he anticipated, the unusual commotion in the house had disturbed her, and she was lying and listening and wondering what had happened. So he sat down and told her everything that had occurred during the past night, and explained that the doctor had given his verdict and pronounced Heidi to be in a very highly strung state, so that her nightly wanderings might gradually lead her farther and farther, perhaps even on to the roof, which of course would be very dangerous for her. And so they had decided to send her home at once, as he did not like to take the responsibility of her remaining, and Clara would see for herself that it was the only thing to do. Clara was very much distressed, and at first made all kinds of suggestions for keeping Heidi with her; but her father was firm, and promised her, if she would be reasonable and make no further fuss, that he would take her to Switzerland next summer. So Clara gave in to the inevitable, only stipulating that the box might be brought into her room to be packed, so that she might add whatever she liked, and her father was only too pleased to let her provide a nice outfit for the child. Meanwhile Dete had arrived and was waiting in the hall, wondering what extraordinary event had come to pass for her to be sent for at such an unusual hour. Herr Sesemann informed her of the state Heidi was in, and that he wished her that very day to take her home. Dete was greatly disappointed, for she had not expected such a piece of news. She remembered Uncle's last words, that he never wished to set eyes on her again, and it seemed to her that to take back the child to him, after having left it with him once and then taken it away again, was not a safe or wise thing for her to do. So she excused herself to Herr Sesemann with her usual flow of words; to-day and to-morrow it would be quite impossible for her to take the journey, and there was so much to do that she doubted if she could get off on any of the following days. Herr Sesemann understood that she was unwilling to go at all, and so dismissed her. Then he sent for Sebastian and told him to make ready to start: he was to travel with the child as far as Basle that day, and the next day take her home. He would give him a letter to carry to the grandfather, which would explain everything, and he himself could come back by return.
"But there is one thing in particular which I wish you to look after," said Herr Sesemann in conclusion, "and be sure you attend to what I say. I know the people of this hotel in Basle, the name of which I give you on this card. They will see to providing rooms for the child and you. When there, go at once into the child's room and see that the windows are all firmly fastened so that they cannot be easily opened. After the child is in bed, lock the door of her room on the outside, for the child walks in her sleep and might run into danger in a strange house if she went wandering downstairs and tried to open the front door; so you understand?"
"Oh! then that was it?" exclaimed Sebastian, for now a light was thrown on the ghostly visitations.
"Yes, that was it! and you are a coward, and you may tell John he is the same, and the whole household a pack of idiots." And with this Herr Sesemann went off to his study to write a letter to Alm-Uncle. Sebastian remained standing, feeling rather foolish.
"If only I had not let that fool of a John drag me back into the room, and had gone after the little white figure, which I should do certainly if I saw it now!" he kept on saying to himself; but just now every corner of the room was clearly visible in the daylight.
Meanwhile Heidi was standing expectantly dressed in her Sunday frock waiting to see what would happen next, for Tinette had only woke her up with a shake and put on her clothes without a word of explanation. The little uneducated child was far too much beneath her for Tinette to speak to.
Herr Sesemann went back to the dining-room with the letter; breakfast was now ready, and he asked, "Where is the child?"
Heidi was fetched, and as she walked up to him to say "Good- morning," he looked inquiringly into her face and said, "Well, what do you say to this, little one?"
Heidi looked at him in perplexity.
"Why, you don't know anything about it, I see," laughed Herr Sesemann. "You are going home today, going at once."
"Home," murmured Heidi in a low voice, turning pale; she was so overcome that for a moment or two she could hardly breathe.
"Don't you want to hear more about it?"
"Oh, yes, yes!" exclaimed Heidi, her face now rosy with delight.
"All right, then," said Herr Sesemann as he sat down and made her a sign to do the same, "but now make a good breakfast, and then off you go in the carriage."
But Heidi could not swallow a morsel though she tried to do what she was told; she was in such a state of excitement that she hardly knew if she was awake or dreaming, or if she would again open her eyes to find herself in her nightgown at the front door.
"Tell Sebastian to take plenty of provisions with him," Herr Sesemann called out to Fraulein Rottenmeier, who just then came into the room; "the child can't eat anything now, which is quite natural. Now run up to Clara and stay with her till the carriage comes round," he added kindly, turning to Heidi.
Heidi had been longing for this, and ran quickly upstairs. An immense trunk was standing open in the middle of the room.
"Come along, Heidi," cried Clara, as she entered; "see all the things I have had put in for you—aren't you pleased?"
And she ran over a list of things, dresses and aprons and handkerchiefs, and all kinds of working materials. "And look here," she added, as she triumphantly held up a basket. Heidi peeped in and jumped for joy, for inside it were twelve beautiful round white rolls, all for grandmother. In their delight the children forgot that the time had come for them to separate, and when some one called out, "The carriage is here," there was no time for grieving.
Heidi ran to her room to fetch her darling book; she knew no one could have packed that, as it lay under her pillow, for Heidi had kept it by her night and day. This was put in the basket with the rolls. Then she opened her wardrobe to look for another treasure, which perhaps no one would have thought of packing—and she was right—the old red shawl had been left behind, Fraulein Rottenmeier not considering it worth putting in with the other things. Heidi wrapped it round something else which she laid on the top of the basket, so that the red package was quite conspicuous. Then she put on her pretty hat and left the room. The children could not spend much time over their farewells, for Herr Sesemann was waiting to put Heidi in the carriage. Fraulein Rottenmeier was waiting at the top of the stairs to say good-bye to her. When she caught sight of the strange little red bundle, she took it out of the basket and threw it on the ground. "No, no, Adelaide," she exclaimed, "you cannot leave the house with that thing. What can you possibly want with it!" And then she said good-bye to the child. Heidi did not dare take up her little bundle, but she gave the master of the house an imploring look, as if her greatest treasure had been taken from her.
"No, no," said Herr Sesemann in a very decided voice, "the child shall take home with her whatever she likes, kittens and tortoises, if it pleases her; we need not put ourselves out about that, Fraulein Rottenmeier."
Heidi quickly picked up her bundle, with a look of joy and gratitude. As she stood by the carriage door, Herr Sesemann gave her his hand and said he hoped she would remember him and Clara. He wished her a happy journey, and Heidi thanked him for all his kindness, and added, "And please say good-bye to the doctor for me and give him many, many thanks." For she had not forgotten that he had said to her the night before, 'It will be all right to-morrow,' and she rightly divined that he had helped to make it so for her. Heidi was now lifted into the carriage, and then the basket and the provisions were put in, and finally Sebastian took his place. Then Herr Sesemann called out once more, "A pleasant journey to you," and the carriage rolled away.
Heidi was soon sitting in the railway carriage, holding her basket tightly on her lap; she would not let it out of her hands for a moment, for it contained the delicious rolls for grandmother; so she must keep it carefully, and even peep inside it from time to time to enjoy the sight of them. For many hours she sat as still as a mouse; only now was she beginning to realize that she was going home to the grandfather, the mountain, the grandmother, and Peter, and pictures of all she was going to see again rose one by one before her eyes; she thought of how everything would look at home, but this brought other thoughts to her mind, and all of a sudden she said anxiously, "Sebastian, are you sure that grandmother on the mountain is not dead?"
"No, no," said Sebastian, wishing to soothe her, "we will hope not; she is sure to be alive still."
Then Heidi fell back on her own thoughts again. Now and then she looked inside the basket, for the thing she looked forward to most was laying all the rolls out on grandmother's table. After a long silence she spoke again, "If only we could know for certain that grandmother is alive!"
"Yes, yes," said Sebastian, half asleep; "she is sure to be alive, there is no reason why she should be dead."
After a while sleep fell on Heidi too, and after her disturbed night and early rising she slept so soundly that she did not wake till Sebastian shook her by the arm and called to her, "Wake up, wake up! we shall have to get out directly; we are just in Basle!"
There was a further railway journey of many hours the next day. Heidi again sat with her basket on her knee, for she would not have given it up to Sebastian on any consideration; to-day she never even opened her mouth, for her excitement, which increased with every mile of the journey, kept her speechless. All of a sudden, before Heidi expected it, a voice called out, "Mayenfeld." She and Sebastian both jumped up, the latter also taken by surprise. In another minute they were both standing on the platform with Heidi's trunk, and the train was steaming away down the valley. Sebastian looked after it regretfully, for he preferred the easier mode of travelling to a wearisome climb on foot, especially as there was danger no doubt as well as fatigue in a country like this, where, according to Sebastian's idea, everything and everybody were half savage. He therefore looked cautiously to either side to see who was a likely person to ask the safest way to Dorfli.
Just outside the station he saw a shabby-looking little cart and horse which a broad-shouldered man was loading with heavy sacks that had been brought by the train, so he went up to him and asked which was the safest way to get to Dorfli.
"All the roads about here are safe," was the curt reply.
So Sebastian altered his question and asked which was the best way to avoid falling over the precipice, and also how a box could be conveyed to Dorfli. The man looked at the box, weighing it with his eye, and then volunteered if it was not too heavy to take it on his own cart, as he was driving to Dorfli. After some little interchange of words it was finally agreed that the man should take both the child and the box to Dorfli, and there find some one who could be sent on with Heidi up the mountain.
"I can go by myself, I know the way well from Dorfli," put in Heidi, who had been listening attentively to the conversation. Sebastian was greatly relieved at not having to do any mountain climbing. He drew Heidi aside and gave her a thick rolled parcel, and a letter for her grandfather; the parcel, he told her, was a present from Herr Sesemann, and she must put it at the bottom of her basket under the rolls and be very careful not to lose it, as Herr Sesemann would be very vexed if she did, and never be the same to her again; so little miss was to think well of what he said.
"I shall be sure not to lose it," said Heidi confidently, and she at once put the roll and the letter at the bottom of her basket. The trunk meanwhile had been hoisted into the cart, and now Sebastian lifted Heidi and her basket on to the high seat and shook hands with her; he then made signs to her to keep her eye on the basket, for the driver was standing near and Sebastian thought it better to be careful, especially as he knew that he ought himself to have seen the child safely to her journey's end. The driver now swung himself up beside Heidi, and the cart rolled away in the direction of the mountains, while Sebastian, glad of having no tiring and dangerous journey on foot before him, sat down in the station and awaited the return train.
The driver of the car was the miller at Dorfli and was taking home his sacks of flour. He had never seen Heidi, but like everybody in Dorfli knew all about her. He had known her parents, and felt sure at once that this was the child of whom he had heard so much. He began to wonder why she had come back, and as they drove along he entered into conversation with her. "You are the child who lived with your grandfather, Alm-Uncle, are you not?"
"Didn't they treat you well down there that you have come back so soon?"
"Yes, it was not that; everything in Frankfurt is as nice as it could be."
"Then why are you running home again?"
"Only because Herr Sesemann gave me leave, or else I should not have come."
"If they were willing to let you stay, why did you not remain where you were better off than at home?"
"Because I would a thousand times rather be with grandfather on the mountain than anywhere else in the world."
"You will think differently perhaps when you get back there," grumbled the miller; and then to himself, "It's strange of her, for she must know what it's like."
He began whistling and said no more, while Heidi looked around her and began to tremble with excitement, for she knew every tree along the way, and there overhead were the high jagged peaks of the mountain looking down on her like old friends. And Heidi nodded back to them, and grew every moment more wild with her joy and longing, feeling as if she must jump down from the cart and run with all her might till she reached the top. But she sat quite still and did not move, although inwardly in such agitation. The clock was striking five as they drove into Dorfli. A crowd of women and children immediately surrounded the cart, for the box and the child arriving with the miller had excited the curiosity of everybody in the neighborhood, inquisitive to know whence they came and whither they were going and to whom they belonged. As the miller lifted Heidi down, she said hastily, "Thank you, grandfather will send for the trunk," and was just going to run off, when first one and then another of the bystanders caught hold of her, each one having a different question to put to her. But Heidi pushed her way through them with such an expression of distress on her face that they were forced to let her go. "You see," they said to one another, "how frightened she is, and no wonder," and then they went on to talk of Alm-Uncle, how much worse he had grown that last year, never speaking a word and looking as if he would like to kill everybody he met, and if the child had anywhere else to go to she certainly would not run back to the old dragon's den. But here the miller interrupted them, saying he knew more about it than they did, and began telling them how a kind gentleman had brought her to Mayenfeld and seen her off, and had given him his fare without any bargaining, and extra money for himself; what was more, the child had assured him that she had had everything she wanted where she had been, and that it was her own wish to return to her grandfather. This information caused great surprise and was soon repeated all over Dorfli, and that evening there was not a house in the place in which the astounding news was not discussed, of how Heidi had of her own accord given up a luxurious home to return to her grandfather.
Heidi climbed up the steep path from Dorfli as quickly as she could; she was obliged, however, to pause now and again to take breath, for the basket she carried was rather heavy, and the way got steeper as she drew nearer the top. One thought alone filled Heidi's mind, "Would she find the grandmother sitting in her usual corner by the spinning-wheel, was she still alive?" At last Heidi caught sight of the grandmother's house in the hollow of the mountain and her heart began to beat; she ran faster and faster and her heart beat louder and louder—and now she had reached the house, but she trembled so she could hardly open the door—and then she was standing inside, unable in her breathlessness to utter a sound.
"Ah, my God!" cried a voice from the corner, "that was how Heidi used to run in; if only I could have her with me once again! Who is there?"
"It's I, I, grandmother," cried Heidi as she ran and flung herself on her knees beside the old woman, and seizing her hands, clung to her, unable to speak for joy. And the grandmother herself could not say a word for some time, so unexpected was this happiness; but at last she put out her hand and stroked Heidi's curly hair, and said, "Yes, yes, that is her hair, and her voice; thank God that He has granted my prayer!" And tears of joy fell from the blind eyes on to Heidi's hand. "Is it really you, Heidi; have you really come back to me?"
"Yes, grandmother, I am really here," answered Heidi in a reassuring voice. "Do not cry, for I have really come back and I am never going away again, and I shall come every day to see you, and you won't have any more hard bread to eat for some days, for look, look!"
And Heidi took the rolls from the basket and piled the whole twelve up on grandmother's lap.
"Ah, child! child! what a blessing you bring with you!" the old woman exclaimed, as she felt and seemed never to come to the end of the rolls. "But you yourself are the greatest blessing, Heidi," and again she touched the child's hair and passed her hand over her hot cheeks, and said, "Say something, child, that I may hear your voice."
Then Heidi told her how unhappy she had been, thinking that the grandmother might die while she was away and would never have her white rolls, and that then she would never, never see her again.
Peter's mother now came in and stood for a moment overcome with astonishment. "Why, it's Heidi," she exclaimed, "and yet can it be?"
Heidi stood up, and Brigitta now could not say enough in her admiration of the child's dress and appearance; she walked round her, exclaiming all the while, "Grandmother, if you could only see her, and see what a pretty frock she has on; you would hardly know her again. And the hat with the feather in it is yours too, I suppose? Put it on that I may see how you look in it?"
"No, I would rather not," replied Heidi firmly. "You can have it if you like; I do not want it; I have my own still." And Heidi so saying undid her red bundle and took out her own old hat, which had become a little more battered still during the journey. But this was no trouble to Heidi; she had not forgotten how her grandfather had called out to Dete that he never wished to see her and her hat and feathers again, and this was the reason she had so anxiously preserved her old hat, for she had never ceased to think about going home to her grandfather. But Brigitta told her not to be so foolish as to give it away; she would not think of taking such a beautiful hat; if Heidi did not want to wear it she might sell it to the schoolmaster's daughter in Dorfli and get a good deal of money for it. But Heidi stuck to her intention and hid the hat quietly in a corner behind the grandmother's chair. Then she took off her pretty dress and put her red shawl on over her under-petticoat, which left her arms bare; and now she clasped the old woman's hand. "I must go home to grandfather," she said, "but to-morrow I shall come again. Good- night, grandmother."
"Yes, come again, be sure you come again tomorrow," begged the grandmother, as she pressed Heidi's hands in hers, unwilling to let her go.
"Why have you taken off that pretty dress?" asked Brigitta.
"Because I would rather go home to grandfather as I am or else perhaps he would not know me; you hardly did at first."
Brigitta went with her to the door, and there said in rather a mysterious voice, "You might have kept on your dress, he would have known you all right; but you must be careful, for Peter tells me that Alm-Uncle is always now in a bad temper and never speaks."
Heidi bid her good-night and continued her way up the mountain, her basket on her arm. All around her the steep green slopes shone bright in the evening sun, and soon the great gleaming snow- field up above came in sight. Heidi was obliged to keep on pausing to look behind her, for the higher peaks were behind her as she climbed. Suddenly a warm red glow fell on the grass at her feet; she looked back again—she had not remembered how splendid it was, nor seen anything to compare to it in her dreams— for there the two high mountain peeks rose into the air like two great flames, the whole snow-field had turned crimson, and rosy- colored clouds floated in the sky above. The grass upon the mountain sides had turned to gold, the rocks were all aglow, and the whole valley was bathed in golden mist. And as Heidi stood gazing around her at all this splendor the tears ran down her cheeks for very delight and happiness, and impulsively she put her hands together, and lifting her eyes to heaven, thanked God aloud for having brought her home, thanked Him that everything was as beautiful as ever, more beautiful even than she had thought, and that it was all hers again once more. And she was so overflowing with joy and thankfulness that she could not find words to thank Him enough. Not until the glory began to fade could she tear herself away. Then she ran on so quickly that in a very little while she caught sight of the tops of the fir trees above the hut roof, then the roof itself, and at last the whole hut, and there was grandfather sitting as in old days smoking his pipe, and she could see the fir trees waving in the wind. Quicker and quicker went her little feet, and before Alm-Uncle had time to see who was coming, Heidi had rushed up to him, thrown down her basket and flung her arms round his neck, unable in the excitement of seeing him again to say more than "Grandfather! grandfather! grandfather!" over and over again.
And the old man himself said nothing. For the first time for many years his eyes were wet, and he had to pass his hand across them. Then he unloosed Heidi's arms, put her on his knee, and after looking at her for a moment, "So you have come back to me, Heidi," he said, "how is that? You don't look much of a grand lady. Did they send you away?"
"Oh, no, grandfather," said Heidi eagerly, "you must not think that; they were all so kind—Clara, and grandmamma, and Herr Sesemann. But you see, grandfather, I did not know how to bear myself till I got home again to you. I used to think I should die, for I felt as if I could not breathe; but I never said anything because it would have been ungrateful. And then suddenly one morning quite early Herr Sesemann said to me—but I think it was partly the doctor's doing—but perhaps it's all in the letter—" and Heidi jumped down and fetched the roll and the letter and handed them both to her grandfather.
"That belongs to you," said the latter, laying the roll down on the bench beside him. Then he opened the letter, read it through and without a word put it in his pocket.
"Do you think you can still drink milk with me, Heidi?" he asked, taking the child by the hand to go into the hut. "But bring your money with you; you can buy a bed and bedclothes and dresses for a couple of years with it."
"I am sure I do not want it," replied Heidi. "I have got a bed already, and Clara has put such a lot of clothes in my box that I shall never want any more."
"Take it and put it in the cupboard; you will want it some day I have no doubt."
Heidi obeyed and skipped happily after her grandfather into the house; she ran into all the corners, delighted to see everything again, and then went up the ladder—but there she came to a pause and called down in a tone of surprise and distress, "Oh, grandfather, my bed's gone."
"We can soon make it up again," he answered her from below. "I did not know that you were coming back; come along now and have your milk."
Heidi came down, sat herself on her high stool in the old place, and then taking up her bowl drank her milk eagerly, as if she had never come across anything so delicious, and as she put down her bowl, she exclaimed, "Our milk tastes nicer than anything else in the world, grandfather."
A shrill whistle was heard outside. Heidi darted out like a flash of lightning. There were the goats leaping and springing among the rocks, with Peter in their midst. When he caught sight of Heidi he stood still with astonishment and gazed speechlessly at her. Heidi called out, "Good-evening, Peter," and then ran in among the goats. "Little Swan! Little Bear! do you know me again?" And the animals evidently recognized her voice at once, for they began rubbing their heads against her and bleating loudly as if for joy, and as she called the other goats by name one after the other, they all came scampering towards her helter- skelter and crowding round her. The impatient Greenfinch sprang into the air and over two of her companions in order to get nearer, and even the shy little Snowflake butted the Great Turk out of her way in quite a determined manner, which left him standing taken aback by her boldness, and lifting his beard in the air as much as to say, You see who I am.
Heidi was out of her mind with delight at being among all her old friends again; she flung her arms round the pretty little Snowflake, stroked the obstreperous Greenfinch, while she herself was thrust at from all sides by the affectionate and confiding goats; and so at last she got near to where Peter was still standing, not having yet got over his surprise.
"Come down, Peter," cried Heidi, "and say good-evening to me."
"So you are back again?" he found words to say at last, and now ran down and took Heidi's hand which she was holding out in greeting, and immediately put the same question to her which he had been in the habit of doing in the old days when they returned home in the evening, "Will you come out with me again to- morrow?"
"Not to-morrow, but the day after perhaps, for to-morrow I must go down to grandmother."
"I am glad you are back," said Peter, while his whole face beamed with pleasure, and then he prepared to go on with his goats; but he never had had so much trouble with them before, for when at last, by coaxing and threats, he had got them all together, and Heidi had gone off with an arm over either head of her grandfather's two, the whole flock suddenly turned and ran after her. Heidi had to go inside the stall with her two and shut the door, or Peter would never have got home that night. When Heidi went indoors after this she found her bed already made up for her; the hay had been piled high for it and smelt deliciously, for it had only just been got in, and the grandfather had carefully spread and tucked in the clean sheets. It was with a happy heart that Heidi lay down in it that night, and her sleep was sounder than it had been for a whole year past. The grandfather got up at least ten times during the night and mounted the ladder to see if Heidi was all right and showing no signs of restlessness, and to feel that the hay he had stuffed into the round window was keeping the moon from shining too brightly upon her. But Heidi did not stir; she had no need now to wander about, for the great burning longing of her heart was satisfied; she had seen the high mountains and rocks alight in the evening glow, she had heard the wind in the fir trees, she was at home again on the mountain.
CHAPTER XIV. SUNDAY BELLS
Heidi was standing under the waving fir trees waiting for her grandfather, who was going down with her to grandmother's, and then on to Dorfli to fetch her box. She was longing to know how grandmother had enjoyed her white bread and impatient to see and hear her again; but no time seemed weary to her now, for she could not listen long enough to the familiar voice of the trees, or drink in too much of the fragrance wafted to her from the green pastures where the golden-headed flowers were glowing in the sun, a very feast to her eyes. The grandfather came out, gave a look round, and then called to her in a cheerful voice, "Well, now we can be off."
It was Saturday, a day when Alm-Uncle made everything clean and tidy inside and outside the house; he had devoted his morning to this work so as to be able to accompany Heidi in the afternoon, and the whole place was now as spick and span as he liked to see it. They parted at the grandmother's cottage and Heidi ran in. The grandmother had heard her steps approaching and greeted her as she crossed the threshold, "Is it you, child? Have you come again?"
Then she took hold of Heidi's hand and held it fast in her own, for she still seemed to fear that the child might be torn from her again. And now she had to tell Heidi how much she had enjoyed the white bread, and how much stronger she felt already for having been able to eat it, and then Peter's mother went on and said she was sure that if her mother could eat like that for a week she would get back some of her strength, but she was so afraid of coming to the end of the rolls, that she had only eaten one as yet. Heidi listened to all Brigitta said, and sat thinking for a while. Then she suddenly thought of a way.
"I know, grandmother, what I will do," she said eagerly, "I will write to Clara, and she will send me as many rolls again, if not twice as many as you have already, for I had ever such a large heap in the wardrobe, and when they were all taken away she promised to give me as many back, and she would do so I am sure."
"That is a good idea," said Brigitta; "but then, they would get hard and stale. The baker in Dorfli makes the white rolls, and if we could get some of those he has over now and then—but I can only just manage to pay for the black bread."
A further bright thought came to Heidi, and with a look of joy, "Oh, I have lots of money, grandmother," she cried gleefully, skipping about the room in her delight, "and I know now what I will do with it. You must have a fresh white roll every day, and two on Sunday, and Peter can bring them up from Dorfli."
"No, no, child!" answered the grandmother, "I cannot let you do that; the money was not given to you for that purpose; you must give it to your grandfather, and he will tell you how you are to spend it."
But Heidi was not to be hindered in her kind intentions, and she continued to jump about, saying over and over again in a tone of exultation, "Now, grandmother can have a roll every day and will grow quite strong again—and, Oh, grandmother," she suddenly exclaimed with an increase of jubilation in her voice, "if you get strong everything will grow light again for you; perhaps it's only because you are weak that it is dark." The grandmother said nothing, she did not wish to spoil the child's pleasure. As she went jumping about Heidi suddenly caught sight of the grandmother's song book, and another happy idea struck her, "Grandmother, I can also read now, would you like me to read you one of your hymns from your old book?"
"Oh, yes," said the grandmother, surprised and delighted; "but can you really read, child, really?"
Heidi had climbed on to a chair and had already lifted down the book, bringing a cloud of dust with it, for it had lain untouched on the shelf for a long time. Heidi wiped it, sat herself down on a stool beside the old woman, and asked her which hymn she should read.
"What you like, child, what you like," and the grandmother pushed her spinning-wheel aside and sat in eager expectation waiting for Heidi to begin. Heidi turned over the leaves and read a line out softly to herself here and there. At last she said,
"Here is one about the sun, grandmother, I will read you that." And Heidi began, reading with more and more warmth of expression as she went on,—
The morning breaks, And warm and bright The earth lies still In the golden light— For Dawn has scattered the clouds of night.
God's handiwork Is seen around, Things great and small To His praise abound— Where are the signs of His love not found?
All things must pass, But God shall still With steadfast power His will fulfil— Sure and unshaken is His will.
His saving grace Will never fail, Though grief and fear The heart assail— O'er life's wild seas He will prevail.
Joy shall be ours In that garden blest, Where after storm We find our rest— I wait in peace—God's time is best.
The grandmother sat with folded hands and a look of indescribable joy on her face, such as Heidi had never seen there before, although at the same time the tears were running down her cheeks. As Heidi finished, she implored her, saying, "Read it once again, child, just once again."
And the child began again, with as much pleasure in the verses as the grandmother,—
Joy shall be ours In that garden blest, Where after storm We find our rest— I wait in peace—God's time is best.
"Ah, Heidi, that brings light to the heart! What comfort you have brought me!"
And the old woman kept on repeating the glad words, while Heidi beamed with happiness, and she could not take her eyes away from the grandmother's face, which had never looked like that before. It had no longer the old troubled expression, but was alight with peace and joy as if she were already looking with clear new eyes into the garden or Paradise.
Some one now knocked at the window and Heidi looked up and saw her grandfather beckoning her to come home with him. She promised the grandmother before leaving her that she would be with her the next day, and even if she went out with Peter she would only spend half the day with him, for the thought that she might make it light and happy again for the grandmother gave her the greatest pleasure, greater even than being out on the sunny mountain with the flowers and goats. As she was going out Brigitta ran to her with the frock and hat she had left. Heidi put the dress over her arm, for, as she thought to herself, the grandfather had seen that before, but she obstinately refused to take back the hat; Brigitta could keep it, for she should never put it on her head again. Heidi was so full of her morning's doings that she began at once to tell her grandfather all about them: how the white bread could be fetched every day from Dorfli if there was money for it, and how the grandmother had all at once grown stronger and happier, and light had come to her. Then she returned to the subject of the rolls. "If the grandmother won't take the money, grandfather, will you give it all to me, and I can then give Peter enough every day to buy a roll and two on Sunday?"
"But how about the bed?" said her grandfather. "It would be nice for you to have a proper bed, and there would then be plenty for the bread."
But Heidi gave her grandfather no peace till he consented to do what she wanted; she slept a great deal better, she said, on her bed of hay than on her fine pillowed bed in Frankfurt. So at last he said, "The money is yours, do what you like with it; you can buy bread for grandmother for years to come with it."
Heidi shouted for joy at the thought that grandmother would never need any more to eat hard black bread, and "Oh, grandfather!" she said, "everything is happier now than it has ever been in our lives before!" and she sang and skipped along, holding her grandfather's hand as light-hearted as a bird. But all at once she grew quiet and said, "If God had let me come at once, as I prayed, then everything would have been different, I should only have had a little bread to bring to grandmother, and I should not have been able to read, which is such a comfort to her; but God has arranged it all so much better than I knew how to; everything has happened just as the other grandmother said it would. Oh, how glad I am that God did not let me have at once all I prayed and wept for! And now I shall always pray to God as she told me, and always thank Him, and when He does not do anything I ask for I shall think to myself, It's just like it was in Frankfurt: God, I am sure, is going to do something better still. So we will pray every day, won't we, grandfather, and never forget Him again, or else He may forget us."
"And supposing one does forget Him?" said the grandfather in a low voice.
"Then everything goes wrong, for God lets us then go where we like, and when we get poor and miserable and begin to cry about it no one pities us, but they say, You ran away from God, and so God, who could have helped you, left you to yourself."
"That is true, Heidi; where did you learn that?"
"From grandmamma; she explained it all to me."
The grandfather walked on for a little while without speaking, then he said, as if following his own train of thought: "And if it once is so, it is so always; no one can go back, and he whom God has forgotten, is forgotten for ever."