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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.
Turn to the next chapter: CHAPTER XIV. SUNDAY BELLS