TWT logo

Together We Teach
Reading Room

Take time to read.
Reading is the
fountain of wisdom.

| Home | Reading Room Heidi


< BACK    NEXT >






In her home at Frankfurt, Clara, the little daughter of Herr

Sesemann, was lying on the invalid couch on which she spent her

whole day, being wheeled in it from room to room. Just now she

was in what was known as the study, where, to judge by the

various things standing and lying about, which added to the cosy

appearance of the room, the family was fond of sitting. A

handsome bookcase with glass doors explained why it was called

the study, and here evidently the little girl was accustomed to

have her lessons.

Clara's little face was thin and pale, and at this moment her two

soft blue eyes were fixed on the clock, which seemed to her to go

very slowly this day, and with a slight accent of impatience,

which was very rare with her, she asked, "Isn't it time yet,

Fraulein Rottenmeier?"

This lady was sitting very upright at a small work-table, busy

with her embroidery. She had on a mysterious-looking loose

garment, a large collar or shoulder-cape that gave a certain

solemnity to her appearance, which was enhanced by a very lofty

dome-shaped head dress. For many years past, since the mistress

of the house had died, the housekeeping and the superintendence

of the servants had been entrusted by Herr Sesemann to Fraulein

Rottenmeier. He himself was often away from home, and he left her

in sole charge, with the condition only that his little daughter

should have a voice in all matters, and that nothing should be

done against her wish.

As Clara was putting her impatient question for the second time,

Dete and Heidi arrived at the front door, and the former inquired

of the coachman, who had just got down from his box, if it was

too late to see Fraulein Rottenmeier.

"That's not my business," grumbled the coachman; "ring the bell

in the hall for Sebastian."

Dete did so, and Sebastian came downstairs; he looked astonished

when he saw her, opening his eyes till they were nearly as big as

the large round buttons on his coat.

"Is it too late for me to see Fraulein Rottenmeier?" Dete asked again.

"That's not my business," answered the man; "ring that other bell

for the maid Tinette," and without troubling himself any farther

Sebastian disappeared.

Dete rang again. This time Tinette appeared with a spotless white

cap perched on the top of her head and a mocking expression of face.

"What is it?" she called from the top of the stairs. Dete

repeated her question. Tinette disappeared, but soon came back

and called down again to Dete, "Come up, she is expecting you."

Dete and Heidi went upstairs and into the study, Tinette

following. Dete remained standing politely near the door, still

holding Heidi tightly by the hand, for she did not know what the

child might take it into her head to do amid these new surroundings.

Fraulein Rottenmeier rose slowly and went up to the little new

companion for the daughter of the house, to see what she was

like. She did not seem very pleased with her appearance. Heidi

was dressed in her plain little woollen frock, and her hat was an

old straw one bent out of shape. The child looked innocently out

from beneath it, gazing with unconcealed astonishment at the

lady's towering head dress.

"What is your name?" asked Fraulen Rottenmeier, after

scrutinisingly examining the child for some minutes, while Heidi

in return kept her eyes steadily fixed upon the lady.

"Heidi," she answered in a clear, ringing voice.

"What? what? that's no Christian name for a child; you were not

christened that. What name did they give you when you were

baptized?" continued Frauleln Rottenmeier.

"I do not remember," replied Heidi.

"What a way to answer!" said the lady, shaking her head. "Dete,

is the child a simpleton or only saucy?"

"If the lady will allow me, I will speak for the child, for she

is very unaccustomed to strangers," said Dete, who had given

Heidi a silent poke for making such an unsuitable answer. "She is

certainly not stupid nor yet saucy, she does not know what it

means even; she speaks exactly as she thinks. To-day she is for

the first time in a gentleman's house and she does not know good

manners; but she is docile and very willing to learn, if the lady

will kindly make excuses for her. She was christened Adelaide,

after her mother, my sister, who is now dead."

"Well, that's a name that one can pronounce," remarked Fraulein

Rottenmeier. "But I must tell you, Dete, that I am astonished to

see so young a child. I told you that I wanted a companion of the

same age as the young lady of the house, one who could share her

lessons, and all her other occupations. Fraulein Clara is now

over twelve; what age is this child?"

"If the lady will allow me," began Dete again, in her usual

fluent manner, "I myself had lost count of her exact age; she is

certainly a little younger, but not much; I cannot say precisely,

but I think she is ten, or thereabouts."

"Grandfather told me I was eight," put in Heidi. Dete gave her

another poke, but as the child had not the least idea why she did

so she was not at all confused.

"What--only eight!" cried Fraulein Rottenmeier angrily. "Four

years too young! Of what use is such a child! And what have you

learnt? What books did you have to learn from?"

"None," said Heidi.

"How? what? How then did you learn to read?" continued the lady.

"I have never learnt to read, or Peter either," Heidi informed her.

"Mercy upon us! you do not know how to read! Is it really so?"

exclaimed Fraulein Rottenmeier, greatly horrified. "Is it

possible--not able to read? What have you learnt then?"

"Nothing," said Heidi with unflinching truthfulness.

"Young woman," said the lady to Dete, after having paused for a

minute or two to recover from her shock, "this is not at all the

sort of companion you led me to suppose; how could you think of

bringing me a child like this?"

But Dete was not to be put down so easily, and answered warmly,

"If the lady will allow me, the child is exactly what I thought

she required; the lady described what she wished for, a child

unlike all other children, and I could find no other to suit, for

the greater number I know are not peculiar, but one very much the

same as the other, and I thought this child seemed as if made for

the place. But I must go now, for my mistress will be waiting for

me; if the lady will permit I will come again soon and see how

she is getting on." And with a bow Dete quickly left the room and

ran downstairs. Fraulein Rottenmeier stood for a moment taken

aback and then ran after Dete. If the child was to stop she had

many things yet to say and ask about her, and there the child

was, and what was more, Dete, as she plainly saw, meant to leave

her there.

Heidi remained by the door where she had been standing since she

first came in. Clara had looked on during the interview without

speaking; now she beckoned to Heidi and said, "Come here!"

Heidi went up to her.

"Would you rather be called Heidi or Adelaide? asked Clara.

"I am never called anything but Heidi," was the child's prompt answer.

"Then I shall always call you by that name," said Clara, "it

suits you. I have never heard it before, but neither have I ever

seen a child like you before. Have you always had that short

curly hair?"

"Yes, I think so," said Heidi.

"Are you pleased to come to Frankfurt? went on Clara.

"No, but I shall go home to-morrow and take grandmother a white

loaf," explained Heidi.

"Well, you are a funny child!" exclaimed Clara. "You were

expressly sent for to come here and to remain with me and share

my lessons; there will be some fun about them now as you cannot

read, something new to do, for often they are dreadfully dull,

and I think the morning will never pass away. You know my tutor

comes every morning at about ten o'clock, and then we go on with

lessons till two, and it does seem such a long time. Sometimes he

takes up the book and holds it close up to his face, as if he was

very short-sighted, but I know it's only because he wants so

dreadfully to gape, and Fraulein Rottenmeier takes her large

handkerchief out also now and then and covers her face with it,

as if she was moved by what we had been reading, but that is only

because she is longing to gape too. And I myself often want to

gape, but I am obliged to stop myself, for if Fraulein

Rottenmeier sees me gaping she runs off at once and fetches the

cod-liver oil and says I must have a dose, as I am getting weak

again, and the cod-liver oil is horrible, so I do my best not to

gape. But now it will be much more amusing, for I shall be able

to lie and listen while you learn to read."

Heidi shook her head doubtfully when she heard of learning to read.

"Oh, nonsense, Heidi, of course you must learn to read, everybody

must, and my tutor is very kind, and never cross, and he will

explain everything to you. But mind, when he explains anything to

you, you won't be able to understand; but don't ask any

questions, or else he will go on explaining and you will

understand less than ever. Later when you have learnt more and

know about things yourself, then you will begin to understand

what he meant."

Fraulein Rottenmeier now came back into the room; she had not

been able to overtake Dete, and was evidently very much put out;

for she had wanted to go into more details concerning the child,

and to convince Dete how misleading she had been, and how unfit

Heidi was as a companion for Clara; she really did not know what

to be about, or how to undo the mischief, and it made her all the

more angry that she herself was responsible for it, having

consented to Heidi being fetched. She ran backwards and forwards

in a state of agitation between the study and the dining-room,

and then began scolding Sebastian, who was standing looking at

the table he had just finished laying to see that nothing was missing.

"You can finish your thoughts to-morrow morning; make haste, or

we shall get no dinner to-day at all."

Then hurrying out she called Tinette, but in such an ill-tempered

voice that the maid came tripping forward with even more mincing

steps than usual, but she looked so pert that even Fraulein

Rottenmeier did not venture to scold her, which only made her

suppressed anger the greater.

"See that the room is prepared for the little girl who has just

arrived," said the lady, with a violent effort at self-control.

"Everything is ready; it only wants dusting."

"It's worth my troubling about," said Tinette mockingly as she

turned away.

Meanwhile Sebastian had flung open the folding doors leading into

the dining-room with rather more noise than he need, for he was

feeling furious, although he did not dare answer back when

Fraulein Rottenmeier spoke to him; he then went up to Clara's

chair to wheel her into the next room. As he was arranging the

handle at the back preparatory to doing so, Heidi went near and

stood staring at him. Seeing her eyes fixed upon him, he suddenly

growled out, "Well, what is there in me to stare at like that?"

which he would certainly not have done if he had been aware that

Fraulein Rottenmeier was just then entering the room. "You look

so like Peter," answered Heidi. The lady-housekeeper clasped her

hands in horror. "Is it possible!" she stammered half-aloud, "she

is now addressing the servant as if he were a friend! I never

could have imagined such a child!"

Sebastian wheeled the couch into the dining-room and helped Clara

on to her chair. Fraulein Rottenmeier took the seat beside her

and made a sign to Heidi to take the one opposite. They were the

only three at table, and as they sat far apart there was plenty

of room for Sebastian to hand his dishes. Beside Heidi's plate

lay a nice white roll, and her eyes lighted up with pleasure as

she saw it. The resemblance which Heidi had noticed had evidently

awakened in her a feeling of confidence towards Sebastian, for

she sat as still as a mouse and without moving until he came up

to her side and handed her the dish of fish; then she looked at

the roll and asked, "Can I have it?" Sebastian nodded, throwing a

side glance at Fraulein Rottenmeier to see what effect this

request would have upon her. Heidi immediately seized the roll

and put it in her pocket. Sebastian's face became convulsed, he

was overcome with inward laughter but knew his place too well to

laugh aloud. Mute and motionless he still remained standing

beside Heidi; it was not his duty to speak, nor to move away

until she had helped herself. Heidi looked wonderingly at him for

a minute or two, and then said, "Am I to eat some of that too?"

Sebastian nodded again. "Give me some then," she said, looking

calmly at her plate. At this Sebastian's command of his

countenance became doubtful, and the dish began to tremble

suspiciously in his hands.

"You can put the dish on the table and come back presently," said

Fraulein Rottenmeier with a severe expression of face. Sebastian

disappeared on the spot. "As for you, Adelaide, I see I shall

have to teach you the first rules of behavior," continued the

lady-housekeeper with a sigh. "I will begin by explaining to you

how you are to conduct yourself at table," and she went on to

give Heidi minute instructions as to all she was to do. "And

now," she continued, "I must make you particularly understand

that you are not to speak to Sebastian at table, or at any other

time, unless you have an order to give him, or a necessary

question to put to him; and then you are not to address him as if

he was some one belonging to you. Never let me hear you speak to

him in that way again! It is the same with Tinette, and for

myself you are to address me as you hear others doing. Clara must

herself decide what you are to call her."

"Why, Clara, of course," put the latter. Then followed a long

list of rules as to general behavior, getting up and going to

bed, going in and out of the room, shutting the doors, keeping

everything tidy, during the course of which Heidi's eyes

gradually closed, for she had been up before five o'clock that

morning and had had a long journey. She leant back in her chair

and fell fast asleep. Fraulein Rottenmeier having at last come to

the end of her sermonizing said, "Now remember what I have said,

Adelaide! Have you understood it all?"

"Heidi has been asleep for ever so long," said Clara, her face

rippling all over with amusement, for she had not had such an

entertaining dinner for a long time.

"It is really insupportable what one has to go through with this

child," exclaimed Fraulein Rottenmeier, in great indignation, and

she rang the bell so violently that Tinette and Sebastian both

came running in and nearly tumbling over one another; but no

noise was sufficient to wake Heidi, and it was with difficulty

they could rouse her sufficiently to get her along to her

bedroom, to reach which she had to pass first through the study,

then through Clara's bedroom, then through Fraulein Rottenmeier's

sitting-room, till she came to the corner room that had been set

apart for her.



Top of Page

< BACK    NEXT >

| Home | Reading Room Heidi




Why not spread the word about Together We Teach?
Simply copy & paste our home page link below into your emails... 

Want the Together We Teach link to place on your website?
Copy & paste either home page link on your webpage...
Together We Teach 





Use these free website tools below for a more powerful experience at Together We Teach!

****Google™ search****

For a more specific search, try using quotation marks around phrases (ex. "You are what you read")


*** Google Translate™ translation service ***

 Translate text:


  Translate a web page:

****What's the Definition?****
(Simply insert the word you want to lookup)

 Search:   for   

S D Glass Enterprises

Privacy Policy

Warner Robins, GA, USA