HEIDI





HEIDI GAINS IN SOME RESPECTS AND LOSES IN OTHERS

 

The grandmama sent for Heidi every day after dinner, while Clara was resting and Miss Rottenmeier disappeared into her room. She talked to Heidi and amused her in various ways, showing her how to make clothes for pretty little dolls that she had brought. Unconsciously Heidi had learned to sew, and made now the sweetest dresses and coats for the little people out of lovely materials the grandmama would give her. Often Heidi would read to the old lady, for the oftener she read over the stories the dearer they became to her. The child lived everything through with the people in the tales and was always happy to be with them again. But she never looked really cheerful and her eyes never sparkled merrily as before.

In the last week of Mrs. Sesemann's stay, Heidi was called again to the old lady's room. The child entered with her beloved book under her arm. Mrs. Sesemann drew Heidi close to her, and laying the book aside, she said: "Come, child, and tell me why you are so sad. Do you still have the same sorrow?"

"Yes," Heidi replied.

"Did you confide it to Our Lord?"

"Yes."

"Do you pray to Him every day that He may make you happy again and take your affliction away?"

"Oh no, I don't pray any more."

"What do I hear, Heidi? Why don't you pray?"

"It does not help, for God has not listened. I don't wonder," she added, "for if all the people in Frankfurt pray every night, He cannot listen to them all. I am sure He has not heard me."

"Really? Why are you so sure?"

"Because I have prayed for the same thing many, many weeks and God has not done what I have asked Him to."

"That is not the way, Heidi. You see, God in heaven is a good Father to all of us, who knows what we need better than we do. When something we ask for is not very good for us, He gives us something much better, if we confide in Him and do not lose confidence in His love. I am sure what you asked for was not very good for you just now; He has heard you, for He can hear the prayers of all the people in the world at the same time, because He is God Almighty and not a mortal like us. He heard your prayers and said to Himself: 'Yes, Heidi shall get what she is praying for in time.' Now, while God was looking down on you to hear your prayers, you lost confidence and went away from Him. If God does not hear your prayers any more, He will forget you also and let you go. Don't you want to go back to Him, Heidi, and ask His forgiveness? Pray to Him every day, and hope in Him, that He may bring cheer and happiness to you."

Heidi had listened attentively; she had unbounded confidence in the old lady, whose words had made a deep impression on her. Full of repentance, she said: "I shall go at once and ask Our Father to pardon me. I shall never forget Him any more!"

"That's right, Heidi; I am sure He will help you in time, if you only trust in Him," the grandmother consoled her. Heidi went to her room now and prayed earnestly to God that He would forgive her and fulfill her wish.

The day of departure had come, but Mrs. Sesemann arranged everything in such a way that the children hardly realized she was actually going. Still everything was empty and quiet when she had gone, and the children hardly knew how to pass their time.

Next day, Heidi came to Clara in the afternoon and said: "Can I always, always read to you now, Clara?"

Clara assented, and Heidi began. But she did not get very far, for the story she was reading told of a grandmother's death. Suddenly she cried aloud: "Oh, now grandmother is dead!" and wept in the most pitiful fashion. Whatever Heidi read always seemed real to her, and now she thought it was her own grandmother at home. Louder and louder she sobbed: "Now poor grandmother is dead and I can never see her anymore; and she never got one single roll!"

Clara attempted to explain the mistake, but Heidi was too much upset. She pictured to herself how terrible it would be if her dear old grandfather would die too while she was far away. How quiet and empty it would be in the hut, and how lonely she would be!

Miss Rottenmeier had overheard the scene, and approaching the sobbing child she said impatiently: "Adelheid, now you have screamed enough. If I hear you again giving way to yourself in such a noisy fashion, I shall take your book away forever!"

Heidi turned pale at that, for the book was her greatest treasure. Quickly drying her tears, she choked down her sobs. After that Heidi never cried again; often she could hardly repress her sobs and was obliged to make the strangest faces to keep herself from crying out. Clara often looked at her, full of surprise, but Miss Rottenmeier did not notice them and found no occasion to carry out her threat. However, the poor child got more cheerless every day, and looked so thin and pale that Sebastian became worried. He tried to encourage her at table to help herself to all the good dishes, but listlessly she would let them pass and hardly touch them. In the evening she would cry quietly, her heart bursting with longing to go home.

Thus the time passed by. Heidi never knew if it was summer or winter, for the walls opposite never changed. They drove out very seldom, for Clara was only able to go a short distance. They never saw anything else than streets, houses and busy people; no grass, no fir-trees and no mountains. Heidi struggled constantly against her sorrow, but in vain. Autumn and winter had passed, and Heidi knew that the time was coming when Peter would go up the Alp with his goats, where the flowers were glistening in the sunshine and the mountains were all afire. She would sit down in a corner of her room and put both hands before her eyes, not to see the glaring sunshine on the opposite wall. There she would remain, eating her heart away with longing, till Clara would call for her to come.



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