By Johanna Spyri
Public Domain Books
Chapter XVI. A Visitor
The early light of morning lay rosy red upon the mountains, and a fresh breeze rustled through the fir trees and set their ancient branches waving to and fro. The sound awoke Heidi and she opened her eyes. The roaring in the trees always stirred a strong emotion within her and seemed to drew her irresistibly to them. So she jumped out of bed and dressed herself as quickly as she could, but it took her some time even then, for she was careful now to be always clean and tidy.
When she went down her ladder she found her grandfather had already left the hut. He was standing outside looking at the sky and examining the landscape as he did every morning, to see what sort of weather it was going to be.
Little pink clouds were floating over the sky, that was growing brighter and bluer with every minute, while the heights and the meadow lands were turning gold under the rising sun, which was just appearing above the topmost peaks.
“O how beautiful! how beautiful! Good-morning, grandfather!" cried Heidi, running out.
“What, you are awake already, are you?” he answered, giving her a morning greeting.
Then Heidi ran round to the fir trees to enjoy the sound she loved so well, and with every fresh gust of wind which came roaring through their branches she gave a fresh jump and cry of delight.
Meanwhile the grandfather had gone to milk the goats; this done he brushed and washed them, ready for their mountain excursion, and brought them out of their shed. As soon as Heidi caught sight of her two friends she ran and embraced them, and they bleated in return, while they vied with each other in showing their affection by poking their heads against her and trying which could get nearest her, so that she was almost crushed between them. But Heidi was not afraid of them, and when the lively Little Bear gave rather too violent a thrust, she only said, “No, Little Bear, you are pushing like the Great Turk,” and Little Bear immediately drew back his head and left off his rough attentions, while Little Swan lifted her head and put on an expression as much as to say, “No one shall ever accuse me of behaving like the Great Turk.” For White Swan was a rather more distinguished person than Brown Bear.
And now Peter’s whistle was heard and all the goats came along, leaping and springing, and Heidi soon found herself surrounded by the whole flock, pushed this way and that by their obstreperous greetings, but at last she managed to get through them to where Snowflake was standing, for the young goat had in vain striven to reach her.
Peter now gave a last tremendous whistle, in order to startle the goats and drive them off, for he wanted to get near himself to say something to Heidi. The goats sprang aside and he came up to her.
“Can you come out with me to-day?” he asked, evidently unwilling to hear her refuse.
“I am afraid I cannot, Peter,” she answered. “I am expecting them every minute from Frankfurt, and I must be at home when they come.”
“You have said the same thing for days now,” grumbled Peter.
“I must continue to say it till they come,” replied Heidi. “How can you think, Peter, that I would be away when they came? As if I could do such a thing?”
“They would find Uncle at home,” he answered with a snarling voice.
But at this moment the grandfather’s stentorian voice was heard. “Why is the army not marching forward? Is it the field-marshal who is missing or some of the troops?”
Whereupon Peter turned and went off, swinging his stick round so that it whistled through the air, and the goats, who understood the signal, started at full trot for their mountain pasture, Peter following in their wake.
Since Heidi had been back with her grandfather things came now and then into her mind of which she had never thought in former days. So now, with great exertion, she put her bed in order every morning, patting and stroking it till she had got it perfectly smooth and flat. Then she went about the room downstairs, put each chair back in its place, and if she found anything lying about she put it in the cupboard. After that she fetched a duster, climbed on a chair, and rubbed the table till it shone again. When the grandfather came in later he would look round well pleased and say to himself, “We look like Sunday every day now; Heidi did not go abroad for nothing.”
After Peter had departed and she and her grandfather had breakfasted, Heidi began her daily work as usual, but she did not get on with it very fast. It was so lovely out of doors to- day, and every minute something happened to interrupt her in her work. Now it was a bright beam of sun shining cheerfully through the open window, and seeming to say, “Come out, Heidi, come out!" Heidi felt she could not stay indoors, and she ran out in answer to the call. The sunlight lay sparkling on everything around the hut and on all the mountains and far away along the valley, and the grass slope looked so golden and inviting that she was obliged to sit down for a few minutes and look about her. Then she suddenly remembered that her stool was left standing in the middle of the floor and that the table had not been rubbed, and she jumped up and ran inside again. But it was not long before the fir trees began their old song; Heidi felt it in all her limbs, and again the desire to run outside was irresistible, and she was off to play and leap to the tune of the waving branches. The grandfather, who was busy in his work-shed, stepped out from time to time smiling to watch her at her gambols. He had just gone back to his work on one of these occasions when Heidi called out, “Grandfather! grandfather! Come, come!”
He stepped quickly out, almost afraid something had happened to the child, but he saw her running towards where the mountain path descended, crying, “They are coming! they are coming! and the doctor is in front of them!”
Heidi rushed forward to welcome her old friend, who held out his hands in greeting to her. When she came up to him she clung to his outstretched arm, and exclaimed in the joy of her heart, “Good-morning, doctor, and thank you ever so many times.”
“God bless you, child! what have you got to thank me for?” asked the doctor, smiling.
“For being at home again with grandfather,” the child explained.
The doctor’s face brightened as if a sudden ray of sunshine had passed across it; he had not expected such a reception as this. Lost in the sense of his loneliness he had climbed the mountain without heeding how beautiful it was on every side, and how more and more beautiful it became the higher he got. He had quite thought that Heidi would have forgotten him; she had seen so little of him, and he had felt rather like one bearing a message of disappointment, anticipating no great show of favor, coming as he did without the expected friends. But instead, here was Heidi, her eyes dancing for joy, and full of gratitude and affection, clinging to the arm of her kind friend.
He took her by the hand with fatherly tenderness.
“Take me now to your grandfather, Heidi, and show me where you live.”
But Heidi still remained standing, looking down the path with a questioning gaze. “Where are Clara and grandmother?” she asked.
“Ah, now I have to tell you something which you will be as sorry about as I am,” answered the doctor. “You see, Heidi, I have come alone. Clara was very ill and could not travel, and so the grandmother stayed behind too. But next spring, when the days grow warm and long again, they are coming here for certain.”
Heidi was greatly concerned; she could not at first bring herself to believe that what she had for so long been picturing to herself was not going to happen after all. She stood motionless for a second or two, overcome by the unexpected disappointment. The doctor said nothing further; all around lay the silence, only the sighing of the fir trees could be heard from where they stood. Then Heidi suddenly remembered why she had run down there, and that the doctor had really come. She lifted her eyes and saw the sad expression in his as he looked down at her; she had never seen him with that look on his face when she was in Frankfurt. It went to Heidi’s heart; she could not bear to see anybody unhappy, especially her dear doctor. No doubt it was because Clara and grandmother could not come, and so she began to think how best she might console him.
“Oh, it won’t be very long to wait for spring, and then they will be sure to come,” she said in a reassuring voice. “Time passes very quickly with us, and then they will be able to stay longer when they are here, and Clara will be pleased at that. Now let us go and find grandfather.”
Hand in hand with her friend she climbed up to the hut. She was so anxious to make the doctor happy again that she began once more assuring him that the winter passed so quickly on the mountain that it was hardly to be taken account of, and that summer would be back again before they knew it, and she became so convinced of the truth of her own words that she called out quite cheerfully to her grandfather as they approached, “They have not come to-day, but they will be here in a very short time.”
The doctor was no stranger to the grandfather, for the child had talked to him so much about her friend. The old man held out his hand to his guest in friendly greeting. Then the two men sat down in front of the hut, and Heidi had her little place too, for the doctor beckoned her to come and sit beside him. The doctor told Uncle how Herr Sesemann had insisted on his taking this journey, and he felt himself it would do him good as he had not been quite the thing for a long time. Then he whispered to Heidi that there was something being brought up the mountain which had travelled with him from Frankfurt, and which would give her even more pleasure than seeing the old doctor. Heidi got into a great state of excitement on hearing this, wondering what it could be, The old man urged the doctor to spend as many of the beautiful autumn days on the mountain as he could, and at least to come up whenever it was fine; he could not offer him a lodging, as he had no place to put him; he advised the doctor, however, not to go back to Ragatz, but to stay at Dorfli, where there was a clean tidy little inn. Then the doctor could come up every morning, which would do him no end of good, and if he liked, he, the grandfather, would act as his guide to any part of the mountains he would like to see. The doctor was delighted with this proposal, and it was settled that it should be as the grandfather suggested.
Meanwhile the sun had been climbing up the sky, and it was now noon. The wind had sunk and the fir trees stood motionless. The air was still wonderfully warm and mild for that height, while a delicious freshness was mingled with the warmth of the sun.
Alm-Uncle now rose and went indoors, returning in a few minutes with a table which he placed in front of the seat.
“There, Heidi, now run in and bring us what we want for the table,” he said. “The doctor must take us as he finds us; if the food is plain, he will acknowledge that the dining-room is pleasant.”
“I should think so indeed,” replied the doctor as he looked down over the sun-lit valley, “and I accept the kind invitation; everything must taste good up here.”
Heidi ran backwards and forwards as busy as a bee and brought out everything she could find in the cupboard, for she did not know how to be pleased enough that she could help to entertain the doctor. The grandfather meanwhile had been preparing the meal, and now appeared with a steaming jug of milk and golden- brown toasted cheese. Then he cut some thin slices from the meat he had cured himself in the pure air, and the doctor enjoyed his dinner better than he had for a whole year past.
“Our Clara must certainly come up here,” he said, “it would make her quite a different person, and if she ate for any length of time as I have to-day, she would grow plumper than any one has ever known her before.”
As he spoke a man was seen coming up the path carrying a large package on his back. When he reached the hut he threw it on the ground and drew in two or three good breaths of the mountain air.
“Ah, here’s what travelled with me from Frankfurt,” said the doctor, rising, and he went up to the package and began undoing it, Heidi looking on in great expectation. After he had released it from its heavy outer covering, “There, child,” he said, “now you can go on unpacking your treasures yourself.”
Heidi undid her presents one by one until they were all displayed; she could not speak the while for wonder and delight. Not till the doctor went up to her again and opened the large box to show Heidi the cakes that were for the grandmother to eat with her coffee, did she at last give a cry of joy, exclaiming, “Now grandmother will have nice things to eat,” and she wanted to pack everything up again and start at once to give them to her. But the grandfather said he should walk down with the doctor that evening and she could go with them and take the things. Heidi now found the packet of tobacco which she ran and gave to her grandfather; he was so pleased with it that he immediately filled his pipe with some, and the two men then sat down together again, the smoke curling up from their pipes as they talked of all kinds of things, while Heidi continued to examine first one and then another of her presents. Suddenly she ran up to them, and standing in front of the doctor waited till there was a pause in the conversation, and then said, “No, the other thing has not given me more pleasure than seeing you, doctor.”
The two men could not help laughing, and the doctor answered that he should never have thought it.
As the sun began to sink behind the mountains the doctor rose, thinking it was time to return to Dorfli and seek for quarters. The grandfather carried the cakes and the shawl and the large sausage, and the doctor took Heidi’s hand, so they all three started down the mountain. Arrived at Peter’s home Heidi bid the others good-bye; she was to wait at grandmother’s till her grandfather, who was going on to Dorfli with his guest, returned to fetch her. As the doctor shook hands with her she asked, “Would you like to come out with the goats to-morrow morning?" for she could think of no greater treat to offer him.
“Agreed!” answered the doctor, “we will go together,”
Heidi now ran in to the grandmother; she first, with some effort, managed to carry in the box of cakes; then she ran out again and brought in the sausage–for her grandfather had put the presents down by the door–and then a third time for the shawl. She had placed them as close as she could to the grandmother, so that the latter might be able to feel them and understand what was there. The shawl she laid over the old woman’s knees.
“They are all from Frankfurt, from Clara and grandmamma,” she explained to the astonished grandmother and Brigitta, the latter having watched her dragging in all the heavy things, unable to imagine what was happening.
“And you are very pleased with the cakes, aren’t you, grandmother? taste how soft they are!” said Heidi over and over again, to which the grandmother continued to answer, “Yes, yes, Heidi, I should think so! what kind people they must be!” And then she would pass her hand over the warm thick shawl and add, “This will be beautiful for the cold winter! I never thought I should ever have such a splendid thing as this to put on.”
Heidi could not help feeling some surprise at the grandmother seeming to take more pleasure in the shawl than the cakes. Meanwhile Brigitta stood gazing at the sausage with almost an expression of awe. She had hardly in her life seen such a monster sausage, much less owned one, and she could scarcely believe her eyes. She shook her head and said doubtfully, “I must ask Uncle what it is meant for,”
But Heidi answered without hesitation, “It is meant for eating, not for anything else.”
Peter came tumbling in at this minute. “Uncle is just behind me, he is coming–” he began, and then stopped short, for his eye had caught sight of the sausage, and he was too much taken aback to say more. But Heidi understood that her grandfather was near and so said good-bye to grandmother. The old man now never passed the door without going in to wish the old woman good-day, and she liked to hear his footstep approaching, for he always had a cheery word for her. But to-day it was growing late for Heidi, who was always up with the lark, and the grandfather would never let her go to bed after hours; so this evening he only called good-night through the open door and started home at once with the child, and the two climbed under the starlit sky back to their peaceful dwelling.