HEIDI





WITH THE GRANDFATHER

 

After Deta had disappeared, the Uncle sat down again on the bench, blowing big clouds of smoke out of his pipe. He did not speak, but kept his eyes fastened on the ground. In the meantime Heidi looked about her, and discovering the goat-shed, peeped in. Nothing could be seen inside. Searching for some more interesting thing, she saw the three old fir-trees behind the hut. Here the wind was roaring through the branches and the tree-tops were swaying to and fro. Heidi stood still to listen. After the wind had ceased somewhat, she walked round the hut back to her grandfather. She found him in exactly the same position, and planting herself in front of the old man, with arms folded behind her back, she gazed at him. The grandfather, looking up, saw the child standing motionless before him. "What do you want to do now?" he asked her.

"I want to see what's in the hut," replied Heidi.

"Come then," and with that the grandfather got up and entered the cottage.

"Take your things along," he commanded.

"I do not want them anymore," answered Heidi.

The old man, turning about, threw a penetrating glance at her. The child's black eyes were sparkling in expectation of all the things to come. "She is not lacking in intelligence," he muttered to himself. Aloud he added: "Why don't you need them anymore?"

"I want to go about like the light-footed goats!"

"All right, you can; but fetch the things and we'll put them in the cupboard." The child obeyed the command. The old man now opened the door, and Heidi followed him into a fairly spacious room, which took in the entire expanse of the hut. In one corner stood a table and a chair, and in another the grandfather's bed. Across the room a large kettle was suspended over the hearth, and opposite to it a large door was sunk into the wall. This the grandfather opened. It was the cupboard, in which all his clothes were kept. In one shelf were a few shirts, socks and towels; on another a few plates, cups and glasses; and on the top shelf Heidi could see a round loaf of bread, some bacon and cheese. In this cupboard the grandfather kept everything that he needed for his subsistence. When he opened it, Heidi pushed her things as far behind the grandfather's clothes as she could reach. She did not want them found again in a hurry. After looking around attentively in the room, she asked, "Where am I going to sleep, grandfather?"

"Wherever you want to," he replied. That suited Heidi exactly. She peeped into all the corners of the room and looked at every little nook to find a cosy place to sleep. Beside the old man's bed she saw a ladder. Climbing up, she arrived at a hayloft, which was filled with fresh and fragrant hay. Through a tiny round window she could look far down into the valley.

 

"I want to sleep up here," Heidi called down. "Oh, it is lovely here. Please come up, grandfather, and see it for yourself."

"I know it," sounded from below.

"I am making the bed now," the little girl called out again, while she ran busily to and fro. "Oh, do come up and bring a sheet, grandfather, for every bed must have a sheet."

"Is that so?" said the old man. After a while he opened the cupboard and rummaged around in it. At last he pulled out a long coarse cloth from under the shirts. It somewhat resembled a sheet, and with this he climbed up to the loft. Here a neat little bed was already prepared. On top the hay was heaped up high so that the head of the occupant would lie exactly opposite the window.

The grandfather was well pleased with the arrangement. To prevent the hard floor from being felt, he made the couch twice as thick. Then he and Heidi together put the heavy sheet on, tucking the ends in well. Heidi looked thoughtfully at her fresh, new bed and said, "Grandfather, we have forgotten something."

"What?" he asked.

"I have no cover. When I go to bed I always creep in between the sheet and the cover."

"What shall we do if I haven't any?" asked the grandfather.

"Never mind, I'll just take some more hay to cover me," Heidi reassured him, and was just going to the heap of hay when the old man stopped her.

"Just wait one minute," he said, and went down to his own bed. From it he took a large, heavy linen bag and brought it to the child.

"Isn't this better than hay?" he asked.

Heidi pulled the sack to and fro with all her might, but she could not unfold it, for it was too heavy for her little arms. The grandfather put the thick cover on the bed while Heidi watched him. After it was all done, she said: "What a nice bed I have now, and what a splendid cover! I only wish the evening was here, that I might go to sleep in it."

"I think we might eat something first," said the grandfather. "Don't you think so?"

Heidi had forgotten everything else in her interest for the bed; but when she was reminded of her dinner, she noticed how terribly hungry she really was. She had had only a piece of bread and a cup of thin coffee very early in the morning, before her long journey. Heidi said approvingly: "I think we might, grandfather!"

"Let's go down then, if we agree," said the old man, and followed close behind her. Going up to the fireplace, he pushed the big kettle aside and reached for a smaller one that was suspended on a chain. Then sitting down on a three-legged stool, he kindled a bright fire. When the kettle was boiling, the old man put a large piece of cheese on a long iron fork, and held it over the fire, turning it to and fro, till it was golden-brown on all sides. Heidi had watched him eagerly. Suddenly she ran to the cupboard. When her grandfather brought a pot and the toasted cheese to the table, he found it already nicely set with two plates and two knives and the bread in the middle. Heidi had seen the things in the cupboard and knew that they would be needed for the meal.

"I am glad to see that you can think for yourself," said the grandfather, while he put the cheese on top of the bread, "but something is missing yet."

Heidi saw the steaming pot and ran back to the cupboard in all haste. A single little bowl was on the shelf. That did not perplex Heidi though, for she saw two glasses standing behind. With those three things she returned to the table.

"You certainly can help yourself! Where shall you sit, though?" asked the grandfather, who occupied the only chair himself, Heidi flew to the hearth, and bringing back the little stool, sat down on it.

"Now you have a seat, but it is much too low. In fact, you are too little to reach the table from my chair. Now you shall have something to eat at last!" and with that the grandfather filled the little bowl with milk. Putting it on his chair, he pushed it as near to the stool as was possible, and in that way Heidi had a table before her. He commanded her to eat the large piece of bread and the slice of golden cheese. He sat down himself on a corner of the table and started his own dinner. Heidi drank without stopping, for she felt exceedingly thirsty after her long journey. Taking a long breath, she put down her little bowl.

"How do you like the milk?" the grandfather asked her.

"I never tasted better," answered Heidi.

"Then you shall have more," and with that the grandfather filled the little bowl again. The little girl ate and drank with the greatest enjoyment. After she was through, both went out into the goat-shed. Here the old man busied himself, and Heidi watched him attentively while he was sweeping and putting down fresh straw for the goats to sleep on. Then he went to the little shop alongside and fashioned a high chair for Heidi, to the little girl's greatest amazement.

"What is this?" asked the grandfather.

"This is a chair for me. I am sure of it because it is so high. How quickly it was made!" said the child, full of admiration and wonder.

"She knows what is what and has her eyes on the right place," the grandfather said to himself, while he walked around the hut, fastening a nail or a loose board here and there. He wandered about with his hammer and nails, repairing whatever was in need of fixing. Heidi followed him at every step and watched the performance with great enjoyment and attention.

At last the evening came. The old fir-trees were rustling and a mighty wind was roaring and howling through the tree-tops. Those sounds thrilled Heidi's heart and filled it with happiness and joy. She danced and jumped about under the trees, for those sounds made her feel as if a wonderful thing had happened to her. The grandfather stood under the door, watching her, when suddenly a shrill whistle was heard. Heidi stood still and the grandfather joined her outside. Down from the heights came one goat after another, with Peter in their midst. Uttering a cry of joy, Heidi ran into the middle of the flock, greeting her old friends. When they had all reached the hut, they stopped on their way and two beautiful slender goats came out of the herd, one of them white and the other brown. They came up to the grandfather, who held out some salt in his hands to them, as he did every night. Heidi tenderly caressed first one and then the other, seeming beside herself with joy.

"Are they ours, grandfather? Do they both belong to us? Are they going to the stable? Are they going to stay with us?" Heidi kept on asking in her excitement. The grandfather hardly could put in a "yes, yes, surely" between her numerous questions. When the goats had licked up all the salt, the old man said, "Go in, Heidi, and fetch your bowl and the bread."

Heidi obeyed and returned instantly. The grandfather milked a full bowl from the white goat, cut a piece of bread for the child, and told her to eat. "Afterwards you can go to bed. If you need some shirts and other linen, you will find them in the bottom of the cupboard. Aunt Deta has left a bundle for you. Now good-night, I have to look after the goats and lock them up for the night."

"Good-night, grandfather! Oh, please tell me what their names are," called Heidi after him.

"The white one's name is Schwänli and the brown one I call Bärli," was his answer.

"Good-night, Schwänli! Good-night, Bärli," the little girl called loudly, for they were just disappearing in the shed. Heidi now sat down on the bench and took her supper. The strong wind nearly blew her from her seat, so she hurried with her meal, to be able to go inside and up to her bed. She slept in it as well as a prince on his royal couch.

Very soon after Heidi had gone up, before it was quite dark, the old man also sought his bed. He was always up in the morning with the sun, which rose early over the mountain-side in those summer days. It was a wild, stormy night; the hut was shaking in the gusts and all the boards were creaking. The wind howled through the chimney and the old fir-trees shook so strongly that many a dry branch came crashing down. In the middle of the night the grandfather got up, saying to himself: "I am sure she is afraid." Climbing up the ladder, he went up to Heidi's bed. The first moment everything lay in darkness, when all of a sudden the moon came out behind the clouds and sent his brilliant light across Heidi's bed. Her cheeks were burning red and she lay peacefully on her round and chubby arms. She must have had a happy dream, for she was smiling in her sleep. The grandfather stood and watched her till a cloud flew over the moon and left everything in total darkness. Then he went down to seek his bed again.




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