Chapter XXIII. "Good-bye Till We Meet Again"
Grandmamma wrote the day before her arrival to let the children know that they might expect her without fail. Peter brought up the letter early the following morning. Grandfather and the children were already outside and the goats were awaiting him, shaking their heads frolicsomely in the fresh morning air, while the children stroked them and wished them a pleasant journey up the mountain. Uncle stood near, looking now at the fresh faces of the children, now at his well-kept goats, with a smile on his face, evidently well pleased with the sight of both.
As Peter neared the group his steps slackened, and the instant he had handed the letter to Uncle he turned quickly away as if frightened, and as he went he gave a hasty glance behind him, as if the thing he feared was pursuing him, and then he gave a leap and ran off up the mountain.
"Grandfather," said Heidi, who had been watching him with astonished eyes, "why does Peter always behave now like the Great Turk when he thinks somebody is after him with a stick; he turns and shakes his head and goes off with a bound just like that?"
"Perhaps Peter fancies he sees the stick which he so well deserves coming after him," answered grandfather.
Peter ran up the first slope without a pause; when he was well out of sight, however, he stood still and looked suspiciously about him. Suddenly he gave a jump and looked behind him with a terrified expression, as if some one had caught hold of him by the nape of the neck; for Peter expected every minute that the police-constable from Frankfurt would leap out upon him from behind some bush or hedge. The longer his suspense lasted, the more frightened and miserable he became; he did not know a moment's peace.
Heidi now set about tidying the hut, as grandmamma must find everything clean and in good order when she arrived.
Clara looked on amused and interested to watch the busy Heidi at her work.
So the morning soon went by, and grandmamma might now be expected at any minute. The children dressed themselves and went and sat together outside on the seat ready to receive her.
Grandfather joined them, that they might see the splendid bunch of blue gentians which he had been up the mountain to gather, and the children exclaimed with delight at the beauty of the flowers as they shone in the morning sun. The grandfather then carried them indoors. Heidi jumped up from time to time to see if there was any sign of grandmamma's approach.
At last she saw the procession winding up the mountain just in the order she had expected. First there was the guide, then the white horse with grandmamma mounted upon it, and last of all the porter with a heavy bundle on his back, for grandmamma would not think of going up the mountain without a full supply of wraps and rugs.
Nearer and nearer wound the procession; at last it reached the top and grandmamma was there looking down on the children from her horse. She no sooner saw them, however, sitting side by side, than she began quickly dismounting, as she cried out in a shocked tone of voice, "Why is this? why are you not lying in your chair, Clara? What are you all thinking about?" But even before she had got close to them she threw up her hands in astonishment, exclaiming further, "Is it really you, dear child? Why, your cheeks have grown quite round and rosy! I should hardly have known you again!" And she was hastening forward to embrace her, when Heidi slipped down from the seat, and Clara leaning on her shoulder, the two children began walking along quite coolly and naturally. Then indeed grandmamma was surprised, or rather alarmed, for she thought at first that it must be some unheard- of proceeding of Heidi's devising.
But no--Clara was actually walking steadily and uprightly beside Heidi--and now the two children turned and came towards her with beaming faces and rosy cheeks. Laughing and crying she ran to them and embraced first Clara and then Heidi, and then Clara again, unable to speak for joy. All at once she caught sight of Uncle standing by the seat and looking on smiling at the meeting. She took Clara's arm in hers, and with continual expressions of delight at the fact that the child could now really walk about with her, she went up to the old man, and then letting go Clara's arm she seized his hands.
"My dear Uncle! my dear Uncle! how much we have to thank you for! It is all your doing! it is your caring and nursing----"
"And God's good sun and mountain air," he interrupted her, smiling.
"Yes, and don't forget the beautiful milk I have," put in Clara. "Grandmamma, you can't think what a quantity of goat's milk I drink, and how nice it is!"
"I can see that by your cheeks, child," answered grandmamma. "I really should not have known you; you have grown quite strong and plump, and taller too; I never hoped or expected to see you look like that. I cannot take my eyes off you, for I can hardly yet believe it. But now I must telegraph without delay to my son in Paris, and tell him he must come here at once. I shall not say why; it will be the greatest happiness he has ever known. My dear Uncle, how can I send a telegram; have you dismissed the men yet?"
"They have gone," he answered, "but if you are in a hurry I will fetch Peter, and he can take it for you."
Grandmamma thanked him, for she was anxious that the good news should not be kept from her son a day longer than was possible.
So Uncle went aside a little way and blew such a resounding whistle through his fingers that he awoke a responsive echo among the rocks far overhead. He had not to wait many minutes before Peter came running down in answer, for he knew the sound of Uncle's whistle. Peter arrived, looking as white as a ghost, for he quite thought Uncle was sending for him to give him up. But as it was he only had a written paper given him with instructions to take it down at once to the post-office at Dorfli; Uncle would settle for the payment later, as it was not safe to give Peter too much to look after.
Peter went off with the paper in his hand, feeling some relief of mind for the present, for as Uncle had not whistled for him in order to give him up it was evident that no policeman had yet arrived.
So now they could all sit down in peace to their dinner round the table in front of the hut, and grandmamma was given a detailed account of all that had taken place. How grandfather had made Clara try first to stand and then to move her feet a little every day, and how they had settled for the day's excursion up the mountain and the chair had been blown away. How Clara's desire to see the flowers had induced her to take the first walk, and so by degrees one thing had led to another. The recital took some time, for grandmamma continually interrupted it with fresh exclamations of surprise and thankfulness: "It hardly seems possible! I can scarcely believe it is not all a dream! Are we really awake, and are all sitting here by the mountain hut, and is that round-faced, healthy-looking child my poor little, white, sickly Clara?"
And Clara and Heidi could not get over their delight at the success of the surprise they had so carefully arranged for grandmamma and at the latter's continued astonishment.
Meanwhile Herr Sesemann, who had finished his business in Paris, had also been preparing a surprise. Without saying a word to his mother he got into the train one sunny morning and travelled that day to Basle; the next morning he continued his journey, for a great longing had seized him to see his little daughter from whom he had been separated the whole summer. He arrived at Ragatz a few hours after his mother had left. When he heard that she had that very day started for the mountain, he immediately hired a carriage and drove off to Mayenfeld; here he found that he could if he liked drive on as far as Dorfli, which he did, as he thought the walk up from that place would be as long as he cared for.
Herr Sesemann found he was right, for the climb up the mountain, as it was, proved long and fatiguing to him. He went on and on, but still no hut came in sight, and yet he knew there was one where Peter lived half way up, for the path had been described to him over and over again.
There were traces of climbers to be seen on all sides; the narrow footpaths seemed to run in every direction, and Herr Sesemann began to wonder if he was on the right one, and whether the hut lay perhaps on the other side of the mountain. He looked round to see if any one was in sight of whom he could ask the way; but far and wide there was not a soul to be seen or a sound to be heard. Only at moments the mountain wind whistled through the air, and the insects hummed in the sunshine or a happy bird sang out from the branches of a solitary larch tree. Herr Sesemann stood still for a while to let the cool Alpine wind blow on his hot face. But now some one came running down the mountain- side--it was Peter with the telegram in his hand. He ran straight down the steep slope, not following the path on which Herr Sesemann was standing. As soon as the latter caught sight of him he beckoned to him to come. Peter advanced towards him slowly and timidly, with a sort of sidelong movement, as if he could only move one leg properly and had to drag the other after him. "Hurry up, lad," called Herr Sesemann, and when Peter was near enough, "Tell me," he said, "is this the way to the hut where the old man and the child Heidi live, and where the visitors from Frankfurt are staying?"
A low sound of fear was the only answer he received, as Peter turned to run away in such precipitous haste that he fell head over heels several times, and went rolling and bumping down the slope in involuntary bounds, just in the same way as the chair, only that Peter fortunately did not fall to pieces as that had done. Only the telegram came to grief, and that was torn into fragments and flew away.
"How extraordinarily timid these mountain dwellers are!" thought Herr Sesemann to himself, for he quite believed that it was the sight of a stranger that had made such an impression on this unsophisticated child of the mountains.
After watching Peter's violent descent towards the valley for a few minutes he continued his journey.
Peter, meanwhile, with all his efforts, could not stop himself, but went rolling on, and still tumbling head over heels at intervals in a most remarkable manner.
But this was not the most terrible part of his sufferings at the moment, for far worse was the fear and horror that possessed him, feeling sure, as he did now, that the policeman had really come over for him from Frankfurt. He had no doubt at all that the stranger who had asked him the way was the very man himself. Just as he had rolled to the edge of that last high slope above Dorfli he was caught in a bush, and at last able to keep himself from falling any farther. He lay still for a second or two to recover himself, and to think over matters.
"Well done! another of you come bumping along like this!" said a voice close to Peter, "and which of you to-morrow is the wind going to send rolling down like a badly-sewn sack of potatoes?" It was the baker, who stood there laughing. He had been strolling out to refresh himself after his hot day's work, and had watched with amusement as he saw Peter come rolling over and over in much the same way as the chair.
Peter was on his feet in a moment. He had received a fresh shock. Without once looking behind him he began hurrying up the slope again. He would have liked best to go home and creep into bed, so as to hide himself, for he felt safest when there. But he had left the goats up above, and Uncle had given him strict injunctions to make haste back so that they might not be left too long alone. And he stood more in awe of Uncle than any one, and would not have dared to disobey him on any account. There was no help for it, he had to go back, and Peter went on groaning and limping. He could run no more, for the anguish of mind he had been through, and the bumping and shaking he had received, were beginning to tell upon him. And so with lagging steps and groans he slowly made his way up the mountain.
Shortly after meeting Peter, Herr Sesemann passed the first hut, and so was satisfied that he was on the right path. He continued his climb with renewed courage, and at last, after a long and exhausting walk, he came in sight of his goal. There, only a little distance farther up, stood the grandfather's home, with the dark tops of the fir trees waving above its roof.
Herr Sesemann was delighted to have come to the last steep bit of his journey, in another minute or two he would be with his little daughter, and he pleased himself with the thought of her surprise. But the company above had seen his approaching figure and recognized who it was, and they were preparing something he little expected as a surprise on their part.
As he stepped on to the space in front of the hut two figures came towards him. One a tall girl with fair hair and pink cheeks, leaning on Heidi, whose dark eyes were dancing with joy. Herr Sesemann suddenly stopped, staring at the two children, and all at once the tears started to his eyes. What memories arose in his heart! Just so had Clara's mother looked, the fair-haired girl with the delicate pink-and-white complexion. Herr Sesemann did not know if he was awake or dreaming.
"Don't you know me, papa?" called Clara to him, her face beaming with happiness. "Am I so altered since you saw me?"
Then Herr Sesemann ran to his child and clasped her in his arms.
"Yes, you are indeed altered! How is it possible? Is it true what I see?" And the delighted father stepped back to look full at her again, and to make sure that the picture would not vanish before his eyes.
"Are you my little Clara, really my little Clara?" he kept on saying, then he clasped her in his arms again, and again put her away from him that he might look and make sure it was she who stood before him.
And now grandmamma came up, anxious for a sight of her son's happy face.
"Well, what do you say now, dear son?" she exclaimed. "You have given us a pleasant surprise, but it is nothing in comparison to what we have prepared for you, you must confess," and she gave her son an affectionate kiss as she spoke. "But now," she went on, "you must come and pay your respects to Uncle, who is our chief benefactor."
"Yes, indeed, and with the little inmate of our own house, our little Heidi, too," said Herr Sesemann, shaking Heidi by the hand. "Well? are you still well and happy in your mountain home? but I need not ask, no Alpine rose could look more blooming. I am glad, child, it is a pleasure to me to see you so."
And Heidi looked up with equal pleasure into Herr Sesemann's kind face. How good he had always been to her! And that he should find such happiness awaiting him up here on the mountain made her heart beat with gladness.
Grandmamma now led her son to introduce him to Uncle, and while the two men were shaking hands and Herr Sesemann was expressing his heartfelt thanks and boundless astonishment to the old man, grandmamma wandered round to the back to see the old fir trees again.
Here another unexpected sight met her gaze, for there, under the trees where the long branches had left a clear space on the ground, stood a great bush of the most wonderful dark blue gentians, as fresh and shining as if they were growing on the spot. She clasped her hands, enraptured with their beauty.
"How exquisite! what a lovely sight!" she exclaimed. "Heidi, dearest child, come here! Is it you who have prepared this pleasure for me? It is perfectly wonderful!"
The children ran up.
"No, no, I did not put them there," said Heidi, "but I know who did."
"They grow just like that on the mountain, grandmamma, only if anything they look more beautiful still," Clara put in; "but guess who brought those down to-day," and as she spoke she gave such a pleased smile that the grandmother thought for a moment the child herself must have gathered them. But that was hardly possible.
At this moment a slight rustling was heard behind the fir trees. It was Peter, who had just arrived. He had made a long round, having seen from the distance who it was standing beside Uncle in front of the hut, and he was trying to slip by unobserved. But grandmamma had seen and recognized him, and suddenly the thought struck her that it might be Peter who had brought the flowers and that he was now trying to get away unseen, feeling shy about it; but she could not let him go off like that, he must have some little reward.
"Come along, boy; come here, do not be afraid," she called to him.
Peter stood still, petrified with fear. After all he had gone through that day he felt he had no longer any power of resistance left. All he could think was, "It's all up with me now." Every hair of his head stood on end, and he stepped forth from behind the fir trees, his face pale and distorted with terror.
"Courage, boy," said grandmamma in her effort to dispel his shyness, "tell me now straight out without hesitation, was it you who did it?"
Peter did not lift his eyes and therefore did not see at what grandmamma was pointing. But he knew that Uncle was standing at the corner of the hut, fixing him with his grey eyes, while beside him stood the most terrible person that Peter could conceive--the police-constable from Frankfurt. Quaking in every limb, and with trembling lips he muttered a low, "Yes."
"Well, and what is there dreadful about that?" said grandmamma.
"Because--because--it is all broken to pieces and no one can put it together again." Peter brought out his words with difficulty, and his knees knocked together so that he could hardly stand.
Grandmamma went up to Uncle. "Is that poor boy a little out of his mind?" she asked sympathisingly.
"Not in the least," Uncle assured her, "it is only that he was the wind that sent the chair rolling down the slope, and he is expecting his well-deserved punishment."
Grandmamma found this hard to believe, for in her opinion Peter did not look an entirely bad boy, nor could he have any reason for destroying such a necessary thing as the chair. But Uncle had only given expression to the suspicion that he had from the moment the accident happened. The angry looks which Peter had from the beginning cast at Clara, and the other signs of his dislike to what had been taking place on the mountain, had not escaped Uncle's eye. Putting two and two together he had come to the right conclusion as to the cause of the disaster, and he therefore spoke without hesitation when he accused Peter. The lady broke into lively expostulations on hearing this.
"No, no, dear Uncle, we will not punish the poor boy any further. One must be fair to him. Here are all these strangers from Frankfurt who come and carry away Heidi, his one sole possession, and a possession well worth having too, and he is left to sit alone day after day for weeks, with nothing to do but brood over his wrongs. No, no, let us be fair to him; his anger got the upper hand and drove him an act of revenge--a foolish one, I own, but then we all behave foolishly when we are angry." And saying this she went back to Peter, who still stood frightened and trembling. She sat down on the seat under the fir trees and called him to her kindly,--
"Come here, boy, and stand in front of me, for I have something to say to you. Leave off shaking and trembling, for I want you to listen to me. You sent the chair rolling down the mountain so that it was broken to pieces. That was a very wrong thing to do, as you yourself knew very well at the time, and you also knew that you deserved to be punished for it, and in order to escape this you have been doing all you can to hide the truth from everybody. But be sure of this, Peter: that those who do wrong make a mistake when they think no one knows anything about it. For God sees and hears everything, and when the wicked doer tries to hide what he has done, then God wakes up a little watchman that He places inside us all when we are born and who sleeps on quietly till we do something wrong. And the little watchman has a small goad in his hand, And when he wakes up he keeps on pricking us with it, so that we have not a moment's peace. And the watchman torments us still further, for he keeps on calling out, 'Now you will be found out! Now they will drag you off to punishment!' And so we pass our life in fear and trouble, and never know a moment's happiness or peace. Have you not felt something like that lately, Peter?"
Peter gave a contrite nod of the head, as one who knew all about it, for grandmamma had described his own feelings exactly.
"And you calculated wrongly also in another way," continued grandmamma, "for you see the harm you intended has turned out for the best for those you wished to hurt. As Clara had no chair to go in and yet wanted so much to see the flowers, she made the effort to walk, and every day since she has been walking better and better, and if she remains up here she will in time be able to go up the mountain every day, much oftener than she would have done in her chair. So you see, Peter, God is able to bring good out of evil for those whom you meant to injure, and you who did the evil were left to suffer the unhappy consequences of it. Do you thoroughly understand all I have said to you, Peter? If so, do not forget my words, and whenever you feel inclined to do anything wrong, think of the little watchman inside you with his goad and his disagreeable voice. Will you remember all this?"
"Yes, I will," answered Peter, still very subdued, for he did not yet know how the matter was going to end, as the police constable was still standing with the Uncle.
"That's right, and now the thing is over and done for," said grandmamma. "But I should like you to have something for a pleasant reminder of the visitors from Frankfurt. Can you tell me anything that you have wished very much to have? What would you like best as a present?"
Peter lifted his head at this, and stared open-eyed at grandmamma. Up to the last minute he had been expecting something dreadful to happen, and now he might have anything that he wanted. His mind seemed all of a whirl.
"I mean what I say," went on grandmamma. "You shall choose what you would like to have as a remembrance from the Frankfurt visitors, and as a token that they will not think any more of the wrong thing you did. Now do you understand me, boy?"
The fact began at last to dawn upon Peter's mind that he had no further punishment to fear, and that the kind lady sitting in front of him had delivered him from the police constable. He suddenly felt as if the weight of a mountain had fallen off him. He had also by this time awakened to the further conviction that it was better to make a full confession at once of anything he had done wrong or had left undone, and so he said, "And I lost the paper, too."
Grandmamma had to consider a moment what he meant, but soon recalled his connection with her telegram, and answered kindly,--
"You are a good boy to tell me! Never conceal anything you have done wrong, and then all will come right again. And now what would you like me to give you?"
Peter grew almost giddy with the thought that he could have anything in the world that he wished for. He had a vision of the yearly fair at Mayenfeld with the glittering stalls and all the lovely things that he had stood gazing at for hours, without a hope of ever possessing one of them, for Peter's purse never held more than a halfpenny, and all these fascinating objects cost double that amount. There were the pretty little red whistles that he could use to call his goats, and the splendid knives with rounded handles, known as toad-strikers, with which one could do such famous work among the hazel bushes.
Peter remained pondering; he was trying to think which of these two desirable objects he should best like to have, and he found it difficult to decide. Then a bright thought occurred to him; he would then be able to think over the matter between now and next year's fair.
"A penny," answered Peter, who was no longer in doubt.
Grandmamma could not help laughing. "That is not an extravagant request. Come here then!" and she pulled out her purse and put four bright round shillings in his hand and, then laid some pennies on top of it. "We will settle our accounts at once," she continued, "and I will explain them to you. I have given you as many pennies as there are weeks in the year, and so every Sunday throughout the year you can take out a penny to spend."
"As long as I live?" said Peter quite innocently.
Grandmamma laughed more still at this, and the men hearing her, paused in their talk to listen to what was going on.
"Yes, boy, you shall have it all your life--I will put it down in my will. Do you hear, my son? and you are to put it down in yours as well: a penny a week to Peter as long as he lives."
Herr Sesemann nodded his assent and joined in the laughter.
Peter looked again at the present in his hand to make sure he was not dreaming, and then said, "Thank God!"
And he went off running and leaping with more even than his usual agility, and this time managed to keep his feet, for it was not fear, but joy such as he had never known before in his life, that now sent him flying up the mountain. All trouble and trembling had disappeared, and he was to have a penny every week for life.
As later, after dinner, the party were sitting together chatting, Clara drew her father a little aside, and said with an eagerness that had been unknown to the little tired invalid,--
"O papa, if you only knew all that grandfather has done for me from day to day! I cannot reckon his kindnesses, but I shall never forget them as long as I live! And I keep on thinking what I could do for him, or what present I could make him that would give him half as much pleasure as he has given me."
"That is just what I wish most myself, Clara," replied her father, whose face grew happier each time he looked at his little daughter. "I have been also thinking how we can best show our gratitude to our good benefactor."
Herr Sesemann now went over to where Uncle and grandmamma were engaged in lively conversation. Uncle stood up as he approached, and Herr Sesemann, taking him by the hand said,--
"Dear friend, let us exchange a few words with one another. You will believe me when I tell you that I have known no real happiness for years past. What worth to me were money and property when they were unable to make my poor child well and happy? With the help of God you have made her whole and strong, and you have given new life not only to her but to me. Tell me now, in what way can I show my gratitude to you? I can never repay all you have done, but whatever is in my power to do is at your service. Speak, friend, and tell me what I can do?"
Uncle had listened to him quietly, with a smile of pleasure on his face as he looked at the happy father.
"Herr Sesemann," he replied in his dignified way, "believe me that I too have my share in the joy of your daughter's recovery, and my trouble is well repaid by it. I thank you heartily for all you have said, but I have need of nothing; I have enough for myself and the child as long as I live. One wish alone I have, and if that could be satisfied I should have no further care in life."
"Speak, dear friend, and tell me what it is," said Herr Sesemann entreatingly.
"I am growing old," Uncle went on, "and shall not be here much longer. I have nothing to leave the child when I die, and she has no relations, except one person who will always like to make what profit out of her she can. If you could promise me that Heidi shall never have to go and earn her living among strangers, then you would richly reward me for all I have done for your child."
"There could never be any question of such a thing as that, my dear friend," said Herr Sesemann quickly. "I look upon the child as our own. Ask my mother, my daughter; you may be sure that they will never allow the child to be left in any one else's care! But if it will make you happier I give you here my hand upon it. I promise you: Heidi shall never have to go and earn her living among strangers; I will make provision against this both during my life and after. But now I have something else to say. Independent of her circumstances, the child is totally unfitted to live a life away from home; we found out that when she was with us. But she has made friends, and among them I know one who is at this moment in Frankfurt; he is winding up his affairs there, that he may be free to go where he likes and take his rest. I am speaking of my friend, the doctor, who came over here in the autumn and who, having well considered your advice, intends to settle in this neighborhood, for he has never felt so well and happy anywhere as in the company of you and Heidi. So you see the child will henceforth have two protectors near her-- and may they both live long to share the task!"
"God grant it indeed may be so!" added grandmamma, shaking Uncle's hand warmly as she spoke, to show how sincerely she echoed her son's wish. Then putting her arm round Heidi, who was standing near, she drew the child to her.
"And I have a question to ask you too, dear Heidi. Tell me if there is anything you particularly wish for."
"Yes, there is," answered Heidi promptly, looking up delightedly at grandmamma.
"Then tell me at once, dear, what it is."
"I want to have the bed I slept in at Frankfurt with the high pillows and the thick coverlid, and then grandmother will not have to lie with her head down hill and hardly able to breathe, and she will be warm enough under the coverlid not to have to wear her shawl in bed to prevent her freezing to death."
In her eagerness to obtain what she had set her heart upon Heidi hardly gave herself time to get out all she had to say, and did not pause for breath till she reached the end of her sentence.
"Dearest child," answered grandmamma, moved by Heidi's speech, "what is this you tell me of grandmother! You are right to remind me. In the midst of our own happiness we forget too often that which we ought to remember before all things. When God has shown us some special mercy we should think at once of those who are denied so many things. I will telegraph to Frankfurt at once! Fraulein Rottenmeier shall pack up the bed this very day, and it will be here in two days' time. God willing, grandmother shall soon be sleeping comfortably upon it."
Heidi skipped round grandmamma in her glee, and then stopping all of a sudden, said quickly, "I must make haste down and tell grandmother, and she will be in trouble too at my not having been to see her for such a long time." For she felt she could not wait another moment before carrying the good news down to grandmother, and, moreover, the recollection came to her of the distress the old woman was in when she last saw her.
"No, no, Heidi, what can you be thinking of," said her grandfather reprovingly. "You can't be running backwards and forwards like that when you have visitors."
But grandmamma interfered on Heidi's behalf. "The child is not so far wrong, Uncle," she said, "and poor grandmother has too long been deprived of Heidi for our sakes. Let us all go down to her together. I believe my horse is waiting for me and I can ride down from there, and as soon as I get to Dorfli the message shall be sent off. What do you think of my plan, son?"
Herr Sesemann had not yet had time to speak of his travelling plans, so he begged his mother to wait a few moments that he might tell her what he proposed doing.
Herr Sesemann had been arranging that he and his mother should make a little tour in Switzerland, first ascertaining if Clara was in a fit state to go some part of the way with them. But now he would have the full enjoyment of his daughter's company, and that being so he did not want to miss any of these beautiful days of later summer, but to start at once on the journey that he now looked forward to with such additional pleasure. And so he proposed that they should spend the night in Dorfli and that next day he should come and fetch Clara, then they would all three go down to Ragatz and make that their starting point.
Clara was rather upset at first at the thought of saying good- bye like this to the mountain; she could not help being pleased, however, at the prospect of the journey, and no time was allowed her to give way to lamentation.
Grandmamma had already taken Heidi by the hand, preparatory to leading the way, when she suddenly turned. "But what is to become of Clara?" she asked, remembering all at once that the child could not yet take so long a walk. She gave a nod of satisfaction as she saw that Uncle had already taken Clara up in his arms and was following her with sturdy strides. Herr Sesemann brought up the rear, and so they all started down the mountain.
Heidi kept jumping for joy as she and grandmamma walked along side by side, and grandmamma asked all about grandmother, how she lived, and what she did, especially in the winter when it was so cold. And Heidi gave her a minute account of everything, for she knew all that went on at grandmother's, and told her how grandmother sat crouching in her corner and trembling with cold. She was able to give her exact particulars of what grandmother had and had not to eat. Grandmamma listened with interest and sympathy until they came to Grandmother's. Brigitta was just hanging out Peter's second shirt in the sun, so that he might have it ready to put on when he had worn the other long enough. As soon as she saw the company approaching she rushed indoors.
"The whole party of them are just going past, mother, evidently all returning home again," she informed the old woman. "Uncle is with them, carrying the sick child."
"Alas, is it really to be so then?" sighed the grandmother. "And you saw Heidi with them? Then they are taking her away. If only she could come and put her hand in mine again! If I could but hear her voice once more!"
At this moment the door flew open and Heidi sprang across to the corner and threw her arms round grandmother.
"Grandmother! grandmother! my bed is to be sent from Frankfurt with all the three pillows and the thick coverlid; grandmamma says it will be here in two days." Heidi could not get out her words quickly enough, for she was impatient to see grandmother's great joy at the news. The latter smiled, but said a little sadly,--
"She must indeed be a good kind lady, and I ought to be glad to think she is taking you with her, but I shall not outlive it long."
"What is this I hear? Who has been telling my good grandmother such tales?" exclaimed a kindly voice, and grandmother felt her hand taken and warmly pressed, for grandmamma had followed Heidi in and heard all that was said. "No, no, there is no thought of such a thing! Heidi is going to stay with you and make you happy. We want to see her again, but we shall come to her. We hope to pay a visit to the Alm every year, for we have good cause to offer up especial thanks to God upon this spot where so great a miracle has been wrought upon our child."
And now grandmother's face was lighted up with genuine happiness, and she pressed Frau Sesemann's hand over and over again, unable to speak her thanks, while two large tears of joy rolled down her aged cheeks. And Heidi saw the glad change come over grandmother's face, and she too now was entirely happy.
She clung to the old woman, saying, "Hasn't it all come about, grandmother, just like the hymn I read to you last time? Isn't the bed from Frankfurt sent to make you well?"
"Yes, Heidi, and many, many other good things too, which God has sent me," said the grandmother, deeply moved. "I did not think it possible that there were so many kind people, ready to trouble themselves about a poor old woman and to do so much for her. Nothing strengthens our belief in a kind heavenly Father who never forgets even the least of His creatures so much as to know that there are such people, full of goodness and pity for a poor useless creature such as I am."
"My good grandmother," said Frau Sesemann, interrupting her, "we are all equally poor and helpless in the eyes of God, and all have equal need that He should not forget us. But now we must say good-bye, but only till we meet again, for when we pay our next year's visit to the Alm you will be the first person we shall come and see; meanwhile we shall not forget you." And Frau Sesemann took grandmother's hand again and shook it in farewell.
But grandmother would not let her off even then without more words of gratitude, and without calling down on her benefactress and all belonging to her every blessing that God had to bestow.
At last Herr Sesemann and his mother were able to continue their journey downwards, while Uncle carried Clara back home, with Heidi beside him, so full of joy of what was coming for grandmother that every step was a jump.
But there were many tears shed the following morning by the departing Clara, who wept to say good-bye to the beautiful mountain home where she had been happier than ever in her life before. Heidi did her best to comfort her. "Summer will be here again in no time," she said, "and then you will come again, and it will be nicer still, for you will be able to walk about from the beginning. We can then go out every day with the goats up to where the flowers grow, and enjoy ourselves from the moment you arrive."
Herr Sesemann had come as arranged to fetch his little daughter away, and was just now standing and talking with Uncle, for they had much to say to one another. Clara felt somewhat consoled by Heidi's words, and wiped away her tears.
"Be sure you say good-bye for me to Peter and the goats, and especially to Little Swan. I wish I could give Little Swan a present, for she has helped so much to make me strong."
"Well, you can if you like," replied Heidi, "send her a little salt; you know how she likes to lick some out of grandfather's hand when she comes home at night."
Clara was delighted at this idea. "Oh, then I shall send a hundred pounds of salt from Frankfurt, for I want her to have something as a remembrance of me."
Herr Sesemann now beckoned to the children as it was time to be off. Grandmamma's white horse had been brought up for Clara, as she was no longer obliged to be carried in a chair.
Heidi ran to the far edge of the slope and continued to wave her hand to Clara until the last glimpse of horse and rider had disappeared.
And now the bed has arrived, and grandmother is sleeping so soundly all night that she is sure to grow stronger.
Grandmamma, moreover, has not forgotten how cold the winter is on the mountain. She has sent a large parcel of warm clothing of every description, so that grandmother can wrap herself round and round, and will certainly not tremble with cold now as she sits in her corner.
There is a great deal of building going on at Dorfli. The doctor has arrived, and, for the present, is occupying his old quarters. His friends have advised him to buy the old house that Uncle and Heidi live in during the winter, which had evidently, judging from the height of the rooms and the magnificent stove with its artistically-painted tiles, been a fine gentleman's place at one time. The doctor is having this part of the old house rebuilt for himself, the other part being repaired for Uncle and Heidi, for the doctor is aware that Uncle is a man of independent spirit, who likes to have a house to himself. Quite at the back a warm and well-walled stall is being put up for the two goats, and there they will pass their winter in comfort.
The doctor and Uncle are becoming better friends every day, and as they walk about the new buildings to see how they are getting on, their thoughts continually turn to Heidi, for the chief pleasure to each in connection with the house is that they will have the light-hearted little child with them there.
"Dear friend," said the doctor on one of these occasions as they were standing together, "you will see this matter in the same light as I do, I am sure. I share your happiness in the child as if, next to you, I was the one to whom she most closely belonged, but I wish also to share all responsibilities, concerning her and to do my best for the child. I shall then feel I have my rights in her, and shall look forward to her being with me and caring for me in my old age, which is the one great wish of my heart. She will have the same claims upon me as if she were my own child, and I shall provide for her as such, and so we shall be able to leave her without anxiety when the day comes that you and I must go."
Uncle did not speak, but he clasped the doctor's hand in his, and his good friend could read in the old man's eyes how greatly moved he was and how glad and grateful he felt.
Heidi and Peter were at this moment sitting with grandmother, and the one had so much to relate, and the others to listen to, that they all three got closer and closer to one another, hardly able to breathe in their eagerness not to miss a word.
And how much there was to tell of all the events that had taken place that last summer, for they had not had many opportunities of meeting since then.
And it was difficult to say which of the three looked the happiest at being together again, and at the recollection of all the wonderful things that had happened. Mother Brigitta's face was perhaps the happiest of all, as now, with the help of explanation she was able to understand for the first time the history of Peter's weekly penny for life.
Then at last the grandmother spoke, "Heidi, read me one of the hymns! I can feel I can do nothing for the remainder of my life but thank the Father in Heaven for all the mercies he has shown us!"