HEIDI





RETALIATION

 

Early the next morning the doctor climbed up the mountain in company with Peter and his goats. The friendly gentleman made several attempts to start a conversation with the boy, but as answer to his questions he got nothing more than monosyllables. When they arrived on top, they found Heidi already waiting, fresh and rosy as the early dawn.

"Are you coming?" asked Peter as usual.

"Of course I shall, if the doctor comes with us," replied the child.

The grandfather, coming out of the hut, greeted the newcomer with great respect. Then he went up to Peter, and hung on his shoulder the sack, which seemed to contain more than usual that day.

When they had started on their way, Heidi kept urging forward the goats, which were crowding about her. When at last she was walking peacefully by the doctor's side, she began to relate to him many things about the goats and all their strange pranks, and about the flowers, rocks and birds they saw. When they arrived at their destination, time seemed to have flown. Peter all the time was sending many an angry glance at the unconscious doctor, who never even noticed it.

Heidi now took the doctor to her favorite spot. From there they could hear the peaceful-sounding bells of the grazing cattle below. The sky was deep blue, and above their heads the eagle was circling with outstretched wings. Everything was luminous and bright about them, but the doctor had been silent. Suddenly looking up, he beheld Heidi's radiant eyes.

"Heidi, it is beautiful up here," he said. "But how can anybody with a heavy heart enjoy the beauty? Tell me!"

"Oh," exclaimed Heidi, "one never has a sad heart here. One only gets unhappy in Frankfurt."

A faint smile passed over the doctor's face. Then he began: "But if somebody has brought his sorrow away with him, how would you comfort him?"

"God in Heaven alone can help him."

"That is true, child," remarked the doctor. "But what can we do when God Himself has sent us the affliction?"

After meditating a moment, Heidi replied: "One must wait patiently, for God knows how to turn the saddest things to something happy in the end. God will show us what He has meant to do for us. But He will only do so if we pray to Him patiently."

"I hope you will always keep this beautiful belief, Heidi," said the doctor. Then looking up at the mighty cliffs above, he continued: "Think how sad it would make us not to be able to see all these beautiful things. Wouldn't that make us doubly sad? Can you understand me, child?"

A great pain shot through Heidi's breast. She had to think of the poor grandmother. Her blindness was always a great sorrow to the child, and she had been struck with it anew. Seriously she replied:

"Oh yes, I can understand it. But then we can read grandmother's songs; they make us happy and bright again."

"Which songs, Heidi?"

"Oh, those of the sun, and of the beautiful garden, and then the last verses of the long one. Grandmother loves them so that I always have to read them over three times," said Heidi.

"I wish you would say them to me, child, for I should like to hear them," said the doctor.

Heidi, folding her hands, began the consoling verses. She stopped suddenly, however, for the doctor did not seem to listen. He was sitting motionless, holding his hand before his eyes. Thinking that he had fallen asleep, she remained silent. But the verses had recalled his childhood days; he seemed to hear his mother and see her loving eyes, for when he was a little boy she had sung this song to him. A long time he sat there, till he discovered that Heidi was watching him.

"Heidi, your song was lovely," he said with a more joyful voice. "We must come here another day and then you can recite it to me again."

During all this time Peter had been boiling with anger. Now that Heidi had come again to the pasture with him, she did nothing but talk to the old gentleman. It made him very cross that he was not even able to get near her. Standing a little distance behind Heidi's friend, he shook his fist at him, and soon afterwards both fists, finally raising them up to the sky, as Heidi and the doctor remained together.

When the sun stood in its zenith and Peter knew that it was noon, he called over to them with all his might: "Time to eat."

When Heidi was getting up to fetch their dinner, the doctor just asked for a glass of milk, which was all he wanted. The child also decided to make the milk her sole repast, running over to Peter and informing him of their resolution.

When the boy found that the whole contents of the bag was his, he hurried with his task as never in his life before. But he felt guilty on account of his former anger at the kind gentleman. To show his repentance he held his hands up flat to the sky, indicating by his action that his fists did not mean anything any more. Only after that did he start with his feast.

Heidi and the doctor had wandered about the pasture till the gentleman had found it time to go. He wanted Heidi to remain where she was, but she insisted on accompanying him. All the way down she showed him many places where the pretty mountain flowers grew, all of whose names she could tell him. When they parted at last, Heidi waved to him. From time to time he turned about, and seeing the child still standing there, he had to think of his own little daughter who used to wave to him like that when he went away from home.

The weather was warm and sunny that month. Every morning the doctor came up to the Alp, spending his day very often with the old man. Many a climb they had together that took them far up, to the bare cliffs near the eagle's haunt. The uncle would show his guest all the herbs that grew on hidden places and were strengthening and healing. He could tell many strange things of the beasts that lived in holes in rock or earth, or in the high tops of trees.

In the evening they would part, and the doctor would exclaim: "My dear friend, I never leave you without having learned something."

But most of his days he spent with Heidi. Then the two would sit together on the child's favorite spot, and Peter, quite subdued, behind them. Heidi had to recite the verses, as she had done the first day, and entertain him with all the things she knew.

At last the beautiful month of September was over. One morning the doctor came up with a sadder face than usual. The time had come for him to go back to Frankfurt, and great was the uncle's sadness at that news. Heidi herself could hardly realize that her loving friend, whom she had been seeing every day, was really leaving. The doctor himself was loath to go, for the Alp had become as a home to him. But it was necessary for him to go, and shaking hands with the grandfather, he said good-bye, Heidi going along with him a little way.

Hand in hand they wandered down, till the doctor stood still. Then caressing Heidi's curly hair, he said: "Now I must go, Heidi! I wish I could take you along with me to Frankfurt; then I could keep you."

At those words, all the rows and rows of houses and streets, Miss Rottenmeier and Tinette rose before Heidi's eyes. Hesitating a little, she said: "I should like it better if you would come to see us again."

"I believe that will be better. Now farewell!" said the friendly gentleman. When they shook hands his eyes filled with tears. Turning quickly he hurried off.

Heidi, standing on the same spot, looked after him. What kind eyes he had! But they had been full of tears. All of a sudden she began to cry bitterly, and ran after her friend, calling with all her might, but interrupted by her sobs:

"Oh doctor, doctor!"

Looking round he stood still and waited till the child had reached him. Her tears came rolling down her cheeks while she sobbed: "I'll come with you to Frankfurt and I'll stay as long as ever you want me to. But first I must see grandfather."

"No, no, dear child," he said affectionately, "not at once. You must remain here, I don't want you to get ill again. But if I should get sick and lonely and ask you to come to me, would you come and stay with me? Can I go away and think that somebody in this world still cares for me and loves me?"

"Yes, I shall come to you the same day, for I really love you as much as grandfather," Heidi assured him, crying all the time.

Shaking hands again, they parted. Heidi stayed on the same spot, waving her hand and looking after her departing friend till he seemed no bigger than a little dot. Then he looked back a last time at Heidi and the sunny Alp, muttering to himself: "It is beautiful up there. Body and soul get strengthened in that place and life seems worth living again."




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