By Johanna Spyri
Public Domain Books
Chapter VII. Fraulein Rottenmeier Spends An Uncomfortable Day
When Heidi opened her eyes on her first morning in Frankfurt she could not think where she was. Then she rubbed them and looked about her. She was sitting up in a high white bed, on one side of a large, wide room, into which the light was falling through very, very long white curtains; near the window stood two chairs covered with large flowers, and then came a sofa with the same flowers, in front of which was a round table; in the corner was a washstand, with things upon it that Heidi had never seen in her life before. But now all at once she remembered that she was in Frankfurt; everything that had happened the day before came back to her, and finally she recalled clearly the instructions that had been given her by the lady-housekeeper, as far as she had heard them. Heidi jumped out of bed and dressed herself; then she ran first to one window and then another; she wanted to see the sky and country outside; she felt like a bird in a cage behind those great curtains. But they were too heavy for her to put aside, so she crept underneath them to get to the window. But these again were so high that she could only just get her head above the sill to peer out. Even then she could not see what she longed for. In vain she went first to one and then the other of the windows–she could see nothing but walls and windows and again walls and windows. Heidi felt quite frightened. It was still early, for Heidi was accustomed to get up early and run out at once to see how everything was looking, if the sky was blue and if the sun was already above the mountains, or if the fir trees were waving and the flowers had opened their eyes. As a bird, when it first finds itself in its bright new cage, darts hither and thither, trying the bars in turn to see if it cannot get through them and fly again into the open, so Heidi continued to run backwards and forwards, trying to open first one and then the other of the windows, for she felt she could not bear to see nothing but walls and windows, and somewhere outside there must be the green grass, and the last unmelted snows on the mountain slopes, which Heidi so longed to see. But the windows remained immovable, try what Heidi would to open them, even endeavoring to push her little fingers under them to lift them up; but it was all no use. When after a while Heidi saw that her efforts were fruitless, she gave up trying, and began to think whether she would not go out and round the house till she came to the grass, but then she remembered that the night before she had only seen stones in front of the house. At that moment a knock came to the door, and immediately after Tinette put her head inside and said, “Breakfast is ready.” Heidi had no idea what an invitation so worded meant, and Tinette’s face did not encourage any questioning on Heidi’s part, but rather the reverse. Heidi was sharp enough to read its expression, and acted accordingly. So she drew the little stool out from under the table, put it in the corner and sat down upon it, and there silently awaited what would happen next. Shortly after, with a good deal of rustling and bustling Fraulein Rottenmeier appeared, who again seemed very much put out and called to Heidi, “What is the matter with you, Adelheid? Don’t you understand what breakfast is? Come along at once!”
Heidi had no difficulty in understanding now and followed at once. Clara had been some time at the breakfast table and she gave Heidi a kindly greeting, her face looking considerably more cheerful than usual, for she looked forward to all kinds of new things happening again that day. Breakfast passed off quietly; Heidi ate her bread and butter in a perfectly correct manner, and when the meal was over and Clara wheeled back into the study, Fraulein Rottenmeier told her to follow and remain with Clara until the tutor should arrive and lessons begin.
As soon as the children were alone again, Heidi asked, “How can one see out from here, and look right down on to the ground?”
“You must open the window and look out,” replied Clara amused.
“But the windows won’t open,” responded Heidi sadly.
“Yes, they will,” Clara assured her. “You cannot open them, nor I either, but when you see Sebastian you can ask him to open one.”
It was a great relief to Heidi to know that the windows could be opened and that one could look out, for she still felt as if she was shut up in prison. Clara now began to ask her questions about her home, and Heidi was delighted to tell her all about the mountain and the goats, and the flowery meadows which were so dear to her.
Meanwhile her tutor had arrived; Fraulein Rottenmeier, however, did not bring him straight into the study but drew him first aside into the dining-room, where she poured forth her troubles and explained to him the awkward position in which she was placed, and how it had all come about. It appeared that she had written some time back to Herr Sesemann to tell him that his daughter very much wished to have a companion, and had added how desirable she thought it herself, as it would be a spur to Clara at her lessons and an amusement for her in her playtime. Fraulein Rottenmeier had privately wished for this arrangement on her own behalf, as it would relieve her from having always to entertain the sick girl herself, which she felt at times was too much for her. The father had answered that he was quite willing to let his daughter have a companion, provided she was treated in every way like his own child, as he would not have any child tormented or put upon, “which was a very unnecessary remark,” put in Fraulein Rottenmeier, “for who wants to torment children!” But now she went on to explain how dreadfully she had been taken in about the child, and related all the unimaginable things of which she had already been guilty, so that not only would he have to begin with teaching her the A B C, but would have to start with the most rudimentary instruction as regarded everything to do with daily life. She could see only one way out of this disastrous state of affairs, and that was for the tutor to declare that it was impossible for the two to learn together without detriment to Clara, who was so far ahead of the other; that would be a valid excuse for getting rid of the child, and Herr Sesemann would be sure to agree to the child being sent home again, but she dared not do this without his order, since he was aware that by this time the companion had arrived. But the tutor was a cautious man and not inclined to take a partial view of matters. He tried to calm Fraulein Rottenmeier, and gave it as his opinion that if the little girl was backward in some things she was probably advanced in others, and a little regular teaching would soon set the balance right. When Fraulein Rottenmeier saw that he was not ready to support her, and evidently quite ready to undertake teaching the alphabet, she opened the study door, which she quickly shut again as soon as he had gone through, remaining on the other side herself, for she had a perfect horror of the A B C. She walked up and down the dining-room, thinking over in her own mind how the servants were to be told to address Adelaide. The father had written that she was to be treated exactly like his own daughter, and this would especially refer, she imagined, to the servants. She was not allowed, however, a very long interval of time for consideration, for suddenly the sound of a frightful crash was heard in the study, followed by frantic cries for Sebastian. She rushed into the room. There on the floor lay in a confused heap, books, exercise-books, inkstand, and other articles with the table-cloth on the top, while from beneath them a dark stream of ink was flowing all across the floor. Heidi had disappeared.
“Here’s a state of things!” exclaimed Fraulein Rottenmeier, wringing her hands. “Table-cloth, books, work-basket, everything lying in the ink! It was that unfortunate child, I suppose!”
The tutor was standing looking down at the havoc in distress; there was certainly only one view to be taken of such a matter as this and that an unfavorable one. Clara meanwhile appeared to find pleasure in such an unusual event and in watching the results. “Yes, Heidi did it,” she explained, “but quite by accident; she must on no account be punished; she jumped up in such violent haste to get away that she dragged the tablecloth along with her, and so everything went over. There were a number of vehicles passing, that is why she rushed off like that; perhaps she has never seen a carriage.”
“Is it not as I said? She has not the smallest notion about anything! not the slightest idea that she ought to sit still and listen while her lessons are going on. But where is the child who has caused all this trouble? Surely she has not run away! What would Herr Sesemann say to me?” She ran out of the room and down the stairs. There, at the bottom, standing in the open door- way, was Heidi, looking in amazement up and down the street.
“What are you doing? What are you thinking of to run away like that?” called Fraulein Rottenmeier.
“I heard the sound of the fir trees, but I cannot see where they are, and now I cannot hear them any more,” answered Heidi, looking disappointedly in the direction whence the noise of the passing carriages had reached her, and which to Heidi had seemed like the blowing of the south wind in the trees, so that in great joy of heart she had rushed out to look at them.
“Fir trees! do you suppose we are in a wood? What ridiculous ideas are these? Come upstairs and see the mischief you have done!”
Heidi turned and followed Fraulein Rottenmeier upstairs; she was quite astonished to see the disaster she had caused, for in her joy and haste to get to the fir trees she had been unaware of having dragged everything after her.
“I excuse you doing this as it is the first time, but do not let me know you doing it a second time,” said Fraulein Rottenmeier, pointing to the floor. “During your lesson time you are to sit still and attend. If you cannot do this I shall have to tie you to your chair. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” replied Heidi, “but I will certainly not move again,” for now she understood that it was a rule to sit still while she was being taught.
Sebastian and Tinette were now sent for to clear up the broken articles and put things in order again; the tutor said good- morning and left, as it was impossible to do any more lessons that day; there had been certainly no time for gaping this morning.
Clara had to rest for a certain time during the afternoon, and during this interval, as Fraulein Rottenmeier informed Heidi, the latter might amuse herself as she liked. When Clara had been placed on her couch after dinner, and the lady-housekeeper had retired to her room, Heidi knew that her time had come to choose her own occupation. It was just what she was longing for, as there was something she had made up her mind to do; but she would require some help for its accomplishment, and in view of this she took her stand in the hall in front of the dining-room door in order to intercept the person she wanted. In a few minutes up came Sebastian from the kitchen with a tray of silver tea-things, which he had to put away in the dining-room cupboard. As he reached the top stairs Heidi went up to him and addressed him in the formal manner she had been ordered to use by Fraulein Rottenmeier.
Sebastian looked surprised and said somewhat curtly, “What is it you want, miss?”
“I only wished to ask you something, but it is nothing bad like this morning,” said Heidi, anxious to conciliate him, for she saw that Sebastian was rather in a cross temper, and quite thought that it was on account of the ink she had spilt on the floor.
“Indeed, and why, I should first like to know, do you address me like that?” replied Sebastian, evidently still put out.
“Fraulein Rottenmeier told me always to speak to you like that," said Heidi.
Then Sebastian laughed, which very much astonished Heidi, who had seen nothing amusing in the conversation, but Sebastian, now he understood that the child was only obeying orders, added in a friendly voice, “What is it then that miss wants?”
It was now Heidi’s turn to be a little put out, and she said, “My name is not miss, it is Heidi.”
“Quite so, but the same lady has ordered me to call you miss," explained Sebastian.
“Has she? oh, then I must be called so,” said Heidi submissively, for she had already noticed that whatever Fraulein Rottenmeier said was law. “Then now I have three names,” she added with a sigh.
“What was it little miss wished to ask?” said Sebastian as he went on into the dining-room to put away his silver.
“How can a window be opened?”
“Why, like that!” and Sebastian flung up one of the large windows.
Heidi ran to it, but she was not tall enough to see out, for her head only reached the sill.
“There, now miss can look out and see what is going on below," said Sebastian as he brought her a high wooden stool to stand on.
Heidi climbed up, and at last, as she thought, was going to see what she had been longing for. But she drew back her head with a look of great disappointment on her face.
“Why, there is nothing outside but the stony streets,” she said mournfully; “but if I went right round to the other side of the house what should I see there, Sebastian?”
“Nothing but what you see here,” he told her.
“Then where can I go to see right away over the whole valley?”
“You would have to climb to the top of a high tower, a church tower, like that one over there with the gold ball above it. From there you can see right away ever so far.”
Heidi climbed down quickly from her stool, ran to the door, down the steps and out into the street. Things were not, however, quite so easy as she thought. Looking from the window the tower had appeared so close that she imagined she had only to run over the road to reach it. But now, although she ran along the whole length of the street, she still did not get any nearer to it, and indeed soon lost sight of it altogether; she turned down another street, and went on and on, but still no tower. She passed a great many people, but they all seemed in such a hurry that Heidi thought they had not time to tell her which way to go. Then suddenly at one of the street corners she saw a boy standing, carrying a hand-organ on his back and a funny-looking animal on his arm. Heidi ran up to him and said, “Where is the tower with the gold ball on the top?”
“I don’t know,” was the answer.
“Who can I ask to show me?” she asked again.
“I don’t know.”
“Do you know any other church with a high tower?”
“Yes, I know one.”
“Come then and show it me.”
“Show me first what you will give me for it,” and the boy held out his hand as he spoke. Heidi searched about in her pockets and presently drew out a card on which was painted a garland of beautiful red roses; she looked at it first for a moment or two, for she felt rather sorry to part with it; Clara had only that morning made her a present of it–but then, to look down into the valley and see all the lovely green slopes! “There,” said Heidi, holding out the card, “would you like to have that?”
The boy drew back his hand and shook his head.
“What would you like then?” asked Heidi, not sorry to put the card back in her pocket.
“I have none, but Clara has; I am sure she will give me some; how much do you want?”
“Come along then.”
They started off together along the street, and on the way Heidi asked her companion what he was carrying on his back; it was a hand-organ, he told her, which played beautiful music when he turned the handle. All at once they found themselves in front of an old church with a high tower; the boy stood still, and said, “There it is.”
“But how shall I get inside?” asked Heidi, looking at the fast closed doors.
“I don’t know,” was the answer.
“Do you think that I can ring as they do for Sebastian?”
“I don’t know.”
Heidi had by this time caught sight of a bell in the wall which she now pulled with all her might. “If I go up you must stay down here, for I do not know the way back, and you will have to show me.”
“What will you give me then for that?”
“What do you want me to give you?”
They heard the key turning inside, and then some one pulled open the heavy creaking door; an old man came out and at first looked with surprise and then in anger at the children, as he began scolding them: “What do you mean by ringing me down like this? Can’t you read what is written over the bell, ’For those who wish to go up the tower’?”
The boy said nothing but pointed his finger at Heidi. The latter answered, “But I do want to go up the tower.”
“What do you want up there?” said the old man. “Has somebody sent you?”
“No,” replied Heidi, “I only wanted to go up that I might look down.”
“Get along home with you and don’t try this trick on me again, or you may not come off so easily a second time,” and with that he turned and was about to shut the door. But Heidi took hold of his coat and said beseechingly, “Let me go up, just once.”
He looked around, and his mood changed as he saw her pleading eyes; he took hold of her hand and said kindly, “Well, if you really wish it so much, I will take you.”
The boy sat down on the church steps to show that he was content to wait where he was.
Hand in hand with the old man Heidi went up the many steps of the tower; they became smaller and smaller as they neared the top, and at last came one very narrow one, and there they were at the end of their climb. The old man lifted Heidi up that she might look out of the open window.
“There, now you can look down,” he said.
Heidi saw beneath her a sea of roofs, towers, and chimney-pots; she quickly drew back her head and said in a sad, disappointed voice, “It is not at all what I thought.”
“You see now, a child like you does not understand anything about a view! Come along down and don’t go ringing at my bell again!”
He lifted her down and went on before her down the narrow stairway. To the left of the turn where it grew wider stood the door of the tower-keeper’s room, and the landing ran out beside it to the edge of the steep slanting roof. At the far end of this was a large basket, in front of which sat a big grey cat, that snarled as it saw them, for she wished to warn the passers- by that they were not to meddle with her family. Heidi stood still and looked at her in astonishment, for she had never seen such a monster cat before; there were whole armies of mice, however, in the old tower, so the cat had no difficulty in catching half a dozen for her dinner every day. The old man seeing Heidi so struck with admiration said, “She will not hurt you while I am near; come, you can have a peep at the kittens.”
Heidi went up to the basket and broke out into expressions of delight.
“Oh, the sweet little things! the darling kittens,” she kept on saying, as she jumped from side to side of the basket so as, not to lose any of the droll gambols of the seven or eight little kittens that were scrambling and rolling and falling over one another.
“Would you like to have one?” said the old man, who enjoyed watching the child’s pleasure.
“For myself to keep?” said Heidi excitedly, who could hardly believe such happiness was to be hers.
“Yes, of course, more than one if you like–in short, you can take away the whole lot if you have room for them,” for the old man was only too glad to think he could get rid of his kittens without more trouble.
Heidi could hardly contain herself for joy. There would be plenty of room for them in the large house, and then how astonished and delighted Clara would be when she saw the sweet little kittens.
“But how can I take them with me?” asked Heidi, and was going quickly to see how many she could carry away in her hands, when the old cat sprang at her so fiercely that she shrank back in fear.
“I will take them for you if you will tell me where,” said the old man, stroking the cat to quiet her, for she was an old friend of his that had lived with him in the tower for many years.
“To Herr Sesemann’s, the big house where there is a gold dog’s head on the door, with a ring in its mouth,” explained Heidi.
Such full directions as these were not really needed by the old man, who had had charge of the tower for many a long year and knew every house far and near, and moreover Sebastian was an acquaintance of his.
“I know the house,” he said, “but when shall I bring them, and who shall I ask for?–you are not one of the family, I am sure.”
“No, but Clara will be so delighted when I take her the kittens.”
The old man wished now to go downstairs, but Heidi did not know how to tear herself away from the amusing spectacle.
“If I could just take one or two away with me! one for myself and one for Clara, may I?”
“Well, wait a moment,” said the man, and he drew the cat cautiously away into his room, and leaving her by a bowl of food came out again and shut the door. “Now take two of them.”
Heidi’s eyes shone with delight. She picked up a white kitten and another striped white and yellow, and put one in the right, the other in the left pocket. Then she went downstairs. The boy was still sitting outside on the steps, and as the old man shut the door of the church behind them, she said, “Which is our way to Herr Sesemann’s house?”
“I don’t know,” was the answer.
Heidi began a description of the front door and the steps and the windows, but the boy only shook his head, and was not any the wiser.
“Well, look here,” continued Heidi, “from one window you can see a very, very large grey house, and the roof runs like this–" and Heidi drew a zigzag line in the air with her forefinger.
With this the boy jumped up, he was evidently in the habit of guiding himself by similar landmarks. He ran straight off with Heidi after him, and in a very short time they had reached the door with the large dog’s head for the knocker. Heidi rang the bell. Sebastian opened it quickly, and when he saw it was Heidi, “Make haste! make haste,” he cried in a hurried voice.
Heidi sprang hastily in and Sebastian shut the door after her, leaving the boy, whom he had not noticed, standing in wonder on the steps.
“Make haste, little miss,” said Sebastian again; “go straight into the dining-room, they are already at table; Fraulein Rottenmeier looks like a loaded cannon. What could make the little miss run off like that?”
Heidi walked into the room. The lady housekeeper did not look up, Clara did not speak; there was an uncomfortable silence. Sebastian pushed her chair up for her, and when she was seated Fraulein Rottenmeier, with a severe countenance, sternly and solemnly addressed her: “I will speak with you afterwards, Adelheid, only this much will I now say, that you behaved in a most unmannerly and reprehensible way by running out of the house as you did, without asking permission, without any one knowing a word about it; and then to go wandering about till this hour; I never heard of such behavior before.”
“Miau!” came the answer back.
This was too much for the lady’s temper; with raised voice she exclaimed, “You dare, Adelheid, after your bad behavior, to answer me as if it were a joke?”
“I did not–” began Heidi–"Miau! miau!”
Sebastian almost dropped his dish and rushed out of the room.
“That will do,” Fraulein Rottenmeier tried to say, but her voice was almost stifled with anger. “Get up and leave the room.”
Heidi stood up frightened, and again made an attempt to explain. “I really did not–” “Miau! miau! miau!”
“But, Heidi,” now put in Clara, “when you see that it makes Fraulein Rottenmeier angry, why do you keep on saying miau?”
“It isn’t I, it’s the kittens,” Heidi was at last given time to say.
“How! what! kittens!” shrieked Fraulein Rottenmeier. “Sebastian! Tinette! Find the horrid little things! take them away!” And she rose and fled into the study and locked the door, so as to make sure that she was safe from the kittens, which to her were the most horrible things in creation.
Sebastian was obliged to wait a few minutes outside the door to get over his laughter before he went into the room again. He had, while serving Heidi, caught sight of a little kitten’s head peeping out of her pocket, and guessing the scene that would follow, had been so overcome with amusement at the first miaus that he had hardly been able to finish handing the dishes. The lady’s distressed cries for help had ceased before he had sufficiently regained his composure to go back into the dining- room. It was all peace and quietness there now, Clara had the kittens on her lap, and Heidi was kneeling beside her, both laughing and playing with the tiny, graceful little animals.
“Sebastian,” exclaimed Clara as he came in, “you must help us; you must find a bed for the kittens where Fraulein Rottenmeier will not spy them out, for she is so afraid of them that she will send them away at once; but we want to keep them, and have them out whenever we are alone. Where can you put them?”
“I will see to that,” answered Sebastian willingly. “I will make a bed in a basket and put it in some place where the lady is not likely to go; you leave it to me.” He set about the work at once, sniggling to himself the while, for he guessed there would be a further rumpus about this some day, and Sebastian was not without a certain pleasure in the thought of Fraulein Rottenmeier being a little disturbed.
Not until some time had elapsed, and it was nearing the hour for going to bed, did Fraulein Rottenmeier venture to open the door a crack and call through, “Have you taken those dreadful little animals away, Sebastian?”
He assured her twice that he had done so; he had been hanging about the room in anticipation of this question, and now quickly and quietly caught up the kittens from Clara’s lap and disappeared with them.
The castigatory sermon which Fraulein Rottenmeier had held in reserve for Heidi was put off till the following day, as she felt too exhausted now after all the emotions she had gone through of irritation, anger, and fright, of which Heidi had unconsciously been the cause. She retired without speaking, Clara and Heidi following, happy in their minds at knowing that the kittens were lying in a comfortable bed.