TWO VISITS AND WHAT CAME OF THEM
Quickly the winter passed, and still more quickly the bright glad
summer, and now another winter was drawing to its close. Heidi
was still as light-hearted and happy as the birds, and looked
forward with more delight each day to the coming spring, when the
warm south wind would roar through the fir trees and blow away
the snow, and the warm sun would entice the blue and yellow
flowers to show their heads, and the long days out on the
mountain would come again, which seemed to Heidi the greatest joy
that the earth could give. Heidi was now in her eighth year; she
had learnt all kinds of useful things from her grandfather; she
knew how to look after the goats as well as any one, and Little
Swan and Bear would follow her like two faithful dogs, and give a
loud bleat of pleasure when they heard her voice. Twice during
the course of this last winter Peter had brought up a message
from the schoolmaster at Dorfli, who sent word to Alm-Uncle that
he ought to send Heidi to school, as she was over the usual age,
and ought indeed to have gone the winter before. Uncle had sent
word back each time that the schoolmaster would find him at home
if he had anything he wished to say to him, but that he did not
intend to send Heidi to school, and Peter had faithfully
delivered his message.
When the March sun had melted the snow on the mountain side and
the snowdrops were peeping out all over the valley, and the fir
trees had shaken off their burden of snow and were again merrily
waving their branches in the air, Heidi ran backwards and
forwards with delight first to the goat-shed then to the
fir-trees, and then to the hut-door, in order to let her
grandfather know how much larger a piece of green there was under
the trees, and then would run off to look again, for she could
hardly wait till everything was green and the full beautiful
summer had clothed the mountain with grass and flowers. As Heidi
was thus running about one sunny March morning, and had just
jumped over the water-trough for the tenth time at least, she
nearly fell backwards into it with fright, for there in front of
her, looking gravely at her, stood an old gentleman dressed in
black. When he saw how startled she was, he said in a kind voice,
"Don't be afraid of me, for I am very fond of children. Shake
hands! You must be the Heidi I have heard of; where is your grandfather?"
"He is sitting by the table, making round wooden spoons," Heidi
informed him, as she opened the door.
He was the old village pastor from Dorfli who had been a neighbor
of Uncle's when he lived down there, and had known him well. He
stepped inside the hut, and going up to the old man, who was
bending over his work, said, "Good-morning, neighbor."
The grandfather looked up in surprise, and then rising said,
"Good-morning" in return. He pushed his chair towards the visitor
as he continued, "If you do not mind a wooden seat there is one for
The pastor sat down. "It is a long time since I have seen you,
neighbor," he said.
"Or I you," was the answer.
"I have come to-day to talk over something with you," continued
the pastor. "I think you know already what it is that has brought
me here," and as he spoke he looked towards the child who was
standing at the door, gazing with interest and surprise at the stranger.
"Heidi, go off to the goats," said her grandfather. You take them
a little salt and stay with them till I come."
Heidi vanished on the spot.
"The child ought to have been at school a year ago, and most
certainly this last winter," said the pastor. "The schoolmaster
sent you word about it, but you gave him no answer. What are you
thinking of doing with the child, neighbor?"
"I am thinking of not sending her to school," was the answer.
The visitor, surprised, looked across at the old man, who was
sitting on his bench with his arms crossed and a determined
expression about his whole person.
"How are you going to let her grow up then?" he asked.
"I am going to let her grow up and be happy among the goats and
birds; with them she is safe, and will learn nothing evil."
"But the child is not a goat or a bird, she is a human being. If
she learns no evil from these comrades of hers, she will at the
same time learn nothing; but she ought not to grow up in
ignorance, and it is time she began her lessons. I have come now
that you may have leisure to think over it, and to arrange about
it during the summer. This is the last winter that she must be
allowed to run wild; next winter she must come regularly to
school every day."
"She will do no such thing," said the old man with calm determination.
"Do you mean that by no persuasion can you be brought to see
reason, and that you intend to stick obstinately to your
decision?" said the pastor, growing somewhat angry. "You have
been about the world, and must have seen and learnt much, and I
should have given you credit for more sense, neighbor."
"Indeed," replied the old man, and there was a tone in his voice
that betrayed a growing irritation on his part too, "and does the
worthy pastor really mean that he would wish me next winter to
send a young child like that some miles down the mountain on
ice-cold mornings through storm and snow, and let her return at
night when the wind is raging, when even one like ourselves would
run a risk of being blown down by it and buried in the snow? And
perhaps he may not have forgotten the child's mother, Adelaide?
She was a sleep-walker, and had fits. Might not the child be
attacked in the same way if obliged to over-exert herself? And
some one thinks they can come and force me to send her? I will go
before all the courts of justice in the country, and then we
shall see who will force me to do it!"
"You are quite right, neighbor," said the pastor in a friendly
tone of voice. "I see it would have been impossible to send the
child to school from here. But I perceive that the child is dear
to you; for her sake do what you ought to have done long ago:
come down into Dorfli and live again among your fellowmen. What
sort of a life is this you lead, alone, and with bitter thoughts
towards God and man! If anything were to happen to you up here
who would there be to help you? I cannot think but what you must
be half-frozen to death in this hut in the winter, and I do not
know how the child lives through it!"
"The child has young blood in her veins and a good roof over her
head, and let me further tell the pastor, that I know where wood
is to be found, and when is the proper time to fetch it; the
pastor can go and look inside my wood-shed; the fire is never out
in my hut the whole winter through. As to going to live below
that is far from my thoughts; the people despise me and I them;
it is therefore best for all of us that we live apart."
"No, no, it is not best for you; I know what it is you lack,"
said the pastor in an earnest voice. "As to the people down there
looking on you with dislike, it is not as bad as you think.
Believe me, neighbor; seek to make your peace with God, pray for
forgiveness where you need it, and then come and see how
differently people will look upon you, and how happy you may yet be."
The pastor had risen and stood holding out his hand to the old
man as he added with renewed earnestness, "I will wager,
neighbor, that next winter you will be down among us again, and
we shall be good neighbors as of old. I should be very grieved if
any pressure had to be put upon you; give me your hand and
promise me that you will come and live with us again and become
reconciled to God and man."
Alm-Uncle gave the pastor his hand and answered him calmly and
firmly, "You mean well by me I know, but as to that which you
wish me to do, I say now what I shall continue to say, that I
will not send the child to school nor come and live among you."
"Then God help you!" said the pastor, and he turned sadly away
and left the hut and went down the mountain.
Alm-Uncle was out of humor. When Heidi said as usual that
afternoon, "Can we go down to grandmother now?" he answered, "Not
to-day." He did not speak again the whole of that day, and the
following morning when Heidi again asked the same question, he
replied, "We will see." But before the dinner bowls had been
cleared away another visitor arrived, and this time it was Cousin
Dete. She had a fine feathered hat on her head, and a long
trailing skirt to her dress which swept the floor, and on the
floor of a goatherd's hut there are all sorts of things that do
not belong to a dress.
The grandfather looked her up and down without uttering a word.
But Dete was prepared with an exceedingly amiable speech and
began at once to praise the looks of the child. She was looking
so well she should hardly have known her again, and it was
evident that she had been happy and well-cared for with her
grandfather; but she had never lost sight of the idea of taking
the child back again, for she well understood that the little one
must be much in his way, but she had not been able to do it at
first. Day and night, however, she had thought over the means of
placing the child somewhere, and that was why she had come
to-day, for she had just heard of something that would be a lucky
chance for Heidi beyond her most ambitious hopes. Some immensely
wealthy relatives of the people she was serving, who had the most
splendid house almost in Frankfurt, had an only daughter, young
and an invalid, who was always obliged to go about in a wheeled
chair; she was therefore very much alone and had no one to share
her lessons, and so the little girl felt dull. Her father had
spoken to Dete's mistress about finding a companion for her, and
her mistress was anxious to help in the matter, as she felt so
sympathetic about it. The lady-housekeeper had described the sort
of child they wanted, simple-minded and unspoilt, and not like
most of the children that one saw now-a-days. Dete had thought at
once of Heidi and had gone off without delay to see the
lady-housekeeper, and after Dete had given her a description of
Heidi, she had immediately agreed to take her. And no one could
tell what good fortune there might not be in store for Heidi, for
if she was once with these people and they took a fancy to her,
and anything happened to their own daughter--one could never
tell, the child was so weakly--and they did not feel they could
live without a child, why then the most unheard of luck--
"Have you nearly finished what you had to say? broke in
Alm-Uncle, who had allowed her to talk on uninterruptedly so far.
"Ugh!" exclaimed Dete, throwing up her head in disgust, "one
would think I had been talking to you about the most ordinary
matter; why there is not one person in all Prattigau who would
not thank God if I were to bring them such a piece of news as I
am bringing you."
"You may take your news to anybody you like, I will have nothing
to do with it."
But now Dete leaped up from her seat like a rocket and cried, "If
that is all you have to say about it, why then I will give you a
bit of my mind. The child is now eight years old and knows
nothing, and you will not let her learn. You will not send her to
church or school, as I was told down in Dorfli, and she is my own
sister's child. I am responsible for what happens to her, and
when there is such a good opening for a child, as this which
offers for Heidi, only a person who cares for nobody and never
wishes good to any one would think of not jumping at it. But I am
not going to give in, and that I tell you; I have everybody in
Dorfli on my side; there is not one person there who will not
take my part against you; and I advise you to think well before
bringing it into court, if that is your intention; there are
certain things which might be brought up against you which you
would not care to hear, for when one has to do with law-courts
there is a great deal raked up that had been forgotten."
"Be silent!" thundered the Uncle, and his eyes flashed with
anger. "Go and be done with you! and never let me see you again
with your hat and feather, and such words on your tongue as you
come with today!" And with that he strode out of the hut.
"You have made grandfather angry," said Heidi, and her dark eyes
had anything but a friendly expression in them as she looked at Dete.
"He will soon be all right again; come now," said Dete hurriedly,
"and show me where your clothes are."
"I am not coming," said Heidi.
"Nonsense," continued Dete; then altering her tone to one
half-coaxing, half-cross, "Come, come, you do not understand any
better than your grandfather; you will have all sorts of good
things that you never dreamed of." Then she went to the cupboard
and taking out Heidi's things rolled them up in a bundle. "Come
along now, there's your hat; it is very shabby but will do for
the present; put it on and let us make haste off."
"I am not coming," repeated Heidi.
"Don't be so stupid and obstinate, like a goat; I suppose it's
from the goats you have learnt to be so. Listen to me: you saw
your grandfather was angry and heard what he said, that he did
not wish to see us ever again; he wants you now to go away with
me and you must not make him angrier still. You can't think how
nice it is at Frankfurt, and what a lot of things you will see,
and if you do not like it you can come back again; your
grandfather will be in a good temper again by that time."
"Can I return at once and be back home again here this evening?"
"What are you talking about, come along now! I tell you that you
can come back here when you like. To-day we shall go as far as
Mayenfeld, and early to-morrow we shall start in the train, and
that will bring you home again in no time when you wish it, for
it goes as fast as the wind."
Dete had now got the bundle under her arm and the child by the
hand, and so they went down the mountain together.
As it was still too early in the year to take his goats out,
Peter continued to go to school at Dorfli, but now and again he
stole a holiday, for he could see no use in learning to read,
while to wander about a bit and look for stout sticks which might
be wanted some day he thought a far better employment. As Dete
and Heidi neared the grandmother's hut they met Peter coming
round the corner; he had evidently been well rewarded that day
for his labors, for he was carrying an immense bundle of long
thick hazel sticks on his shoulders. He stood still and stared at
the two approaching figures; as they came up to him, he
exclaimed, "Where are you going, Heidi?"
"I am only just going over to Frankfurt for a little visit with
Dete," she replied; "but I must first run in to grandmother, she
will be expecting me."
"No, no, you must not stop to talk; it is already too late," said
Dete, holding Heidi, who was struggling to get away, fast by the
hand. "You can go in when you come back, you must come along
now," and she pulled the child on with her, fearing that if she
let her go in Heidi might take it into her head again that she
did not wish to come, and that the grandmother might stand by
her. Peter ran into the hut and banged against the table with his
bundle of sticks with such violence that everything in the room
shook, and his grandmother leaped up with a cry of alarm from her
spinning-wheel. Peter had felt that he must give vent to his
"What is the matter? What is the matter?" cried the frightened
old woman, while his mother, who had also started up from her
seat at the shock, said in her usual patient manner, "What is it,
Peter? why do you behave so roughly?"
"Because she is taking Heidi away," explained Peter.
"Who? who? where to, Peter, where to?" asked the grandmother,
growing still more agitated; but even as she spoke she guessed
what had happened, for Brigitta had told her shortly before that
she had seen Dete going up to Alm-Uncle. The old woman rose
hastily and with trembling hands opened the window and called out
beseechingly, "Dete, Dete, do not take the child away from us! do
not take her away!"
The two who were hastening down the mountain heard her voice, and
Dete evidently caught the words, for she grasped Heidi's hand
more firmly. Heidi struggled to get free, crying, "Grandmother is
calling, I must go to her."
But Dete had no intention of letting the child go, and quieted
her as best she could; they must make haste now, she said, or
they would be too late and not able to go on the next day to
Frankfurt, and there the child would see how delightful it was,
and Dete was sure would not wish to go back when she was once
there. But if Heidi wanted to return home she could do so at
once, and then she could take something she liked back to
grandmother. This was a new idea to Heidi, and it pleased her so
much that Dete had no longer any difficulty in getting her along.
After a few minutes' silence, Heidi asked, "What could I take
back to her?"
"We must think of something nice," answered Dete; "a soft
white bread; she would enjoy that, for now she is old she can
hardly eat the hard, black bread."
"No, she always gives it back to Peter, telling him it is too
hard, for I have seen her do it myself," affirmed Heidi. "Do let
us make haste, for then perhaps we can get back soon from
Frankfurt, and I shall be able to give her the white bread
to-day." And Heidi started off running so fast that Dete with the
bundle under her arm could scarcely keep up with her. But she was
glad, nevertheless, to get along so quickly, for they were
nearing Dorfli, where her friends would probably talk and
question in a way that might put other ideas into Heidi's head.
So she went on straight ahead through the village, holding Heidi
tightly by the hand, so that they might all see that it was on
the child's account she was hurrying along at such a rate. To all
their questions and remarks she made answer as she passed "I
can't stop now, as you see, I must make haste with the child as
we have yet some way to go."
"Are you taking her away?" "Is she running away from Alm-Uncle?"
"It's a wonder she is still alive!" "But what rosy cheeks
has!" Such were the words which rang out on all sides, and Dete
was thankful that she had not to stop and give any distinct
answers to them, while Heidi hurried eagerly forward without
saying a word.
From that day forward Alm-Uncle looked fiercer and more
forbidding than ever when he came down and passed through Dorfli.
He spoke to no one, and looked such an ogre as he came along with
his pack of cheeses on his back, his immense stick in his hand,
and his thick, frowning eyebrows, that the women would call to
their little ones, "Take care! get out of Alm-Uncle's way or he
may hurt you!"
The old man took no notice of anybody as he strode through the
village on his way to the valley below, where he sold his cheeses
and bought what bread and meat he wanted for himself. After he
had passed the villagers all crowded together looking after him,
and each had something to say about him; how much wilder he
looked than usual, how now he would not even respond to anybody's
greeting, while they all agreed that it was a great mercy the
child had got away from him, and had they not all noticed how the
child had hurried along as if afraid that her grandfather might
be following to take her back? Only the blind grandmother would
have nothing to say against him, and told those who came to her
to bring her work, or take away what she had spun, how kind and
thoughtful he had been with the child, how good to her and her
daughter, and how many afternoons he had spent mending the house
which, but for his help, would certainly by this time have fallen
down over their heads. And all this was repeated down in Dorfli;
but most of the people who heard it said that grandmother was too
old to understand, and very likely had not heard rightly what was
said; as she was blind she was probably also deaf.
Alm-Uncle went no more now to the grandmother's house, and it was
well that he had made it so safe, for it was not touched again
for a long time. The days were sad again now for the old blind
woman, and not one passed but what she would murmur
complainingly, "Alas! all our happiness and pleasure have gone
with the child, and now the days are so long and dreary! Pray
God, I see Heidi again once more before I die!"
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