PARTING TO MEET AGAIN
A day before her visit the grandmama had sent a letter to announce her coming. Peter brought it up with him next morning. The grandfather was already before the hut with the children and his merry goats. His face looked proud, as he contemplated the rosy faces of the girls and the shining hair of his two goats.
Peter, approaching, neared the uncle slowly. As soon as he had delivered the letter, he sprang back shyly, looking about him as if he was afraid. Then with a leap he started off.
"I should like to know why Peter behaves like the Big Turk when he is afraid of the rod," said Heidi, watching his strange behavior.
"Maybe Peter fears a rod that he deserves," said the old man.
All the way Peter was tormented with fear. He could not help thinking of the policeman who was coming from Frankfurt to fetch him to prison.
It was a busy morning for Heidi, who put the hut in order for the expected visitor. The time went by quickly, and soon everything was ready to welcome the good grandmama.
The grandfather also returned from a walk, on which he had gathered a glorious bunch of deep-blue gentians. The children, who were sitting on the bench, exclaimed for joy when they saw the glowing flowers.
Heidi, getting up from time to time to spy down the path, suddenly discovered grandmama, sitting on a white horse and accompanied by two men. One of them carried plenty of wraps, for without those the lady did not dare to pay such a visit.
The party came nearer and nearer, and soon reached the top.
"What do I see? Clara, what is this? Why are you not sitting in your chair? How is this possible?" cried the grandmama in alarm, dismounting hastily. Before she had quite reached the children she threw her arms up in great excitement:
"Clara, is that really you? You have red, round cheeks, my child! I hardly know you any more!" Grandmama was going to rush at her grandchild, when Heidi slipped from the bench, and Clara, taking her arm, they quietly took a little walk. The grandmama was rooted to the spot from fear. What was this? Upright and firm, Clara walked beside her friend. When they came back their rosy faces beamed. Rushing toward the children, the grandmother hugged them over and over again.
Looking over to the bench, she beheld the uncle, who sat there smiling. Taking Clara's arm in hers, she walked over to him, continually venting her delight. When she reached the old man, she took both his hands in hers and said:
"My dear, dear uncle! What have we to thank you for! This is your work, your care and nursing—"
"But our Lord's sunshine and mountain air," interrupted the uncle, smiling.
Then Clara called, "Yes, and also Schwänli's good, delicious milk. Grandmama, you ought to see how much goat-milk I can drink now; oh, it is so good!"
"Indeed I can see that from your cheeks," said the grandmama, smiling. "No, I hardly recognize you any more. You have become broad and round! I never dreamt that you could get so stout and tall! Oh, Clara, is it really true? I cannot look at you enough. But now I must telegraph your father to come. I shan't tell him anything about you, for it will be the greatest joy of all his life. My dear uncle, how are we going to manage it? Have you sent the men away?"
"I have, but I can easily send the goatherd."
So they decided that Peter should take the message. The uncle immediately whistled so loud that it resounded from all sides. Soon Peter arrived, white with fear, for he thought his doom had come. But he only received a paper that was to be carried to the post-office of the village.
Relieved for the moment, Peter set out. Now all the happy friends sat down round the table, and grandmama was told how the miracle had happened. Often the talk was interrupted by exclamations of surprise from grandmama, who still believed it was all a dream. How could this be her pale, weak little Clara? The children were in a constant state of joy, to see how their surprise had worked.
Meanwhile Mr. Sesemann, having finished his business in Paris, was also preparing a surprise. Without writing his mother he traveled to Ragatz on a sunny summer morning. He had arrived on this very day, some hours after his mother's departure, and now, taking a carriage, he drove to Mayenfeld.
The long ascent to the Alp from there seemed very weary and far to the traveller. When would he reach the goat-herd's hut? There were many little roads branching off in several directions, and sometimes Mr. Sesemann doubted if he had taken the right path. But not a soul was near, and no sound could be heard except the rustling of the wind and the hum of little insects. A merry little bird was singing on a larch-tree, but nothing more.
Standing still and cooling his brow, he saw a boy running down the hill at topmost speed. Mr. Sesemann called to him, but with no success, for the boy kept at a shy distance.
"Now, my boy, can't you tell me if I am on the right path to the hut where Heidi lives and the people from Frankfurt are staying?"
A dull sound of terror was the only reply. Peter shot off and rushed head over heels down the mountain-side, turning wild somersaults on his perilous way. His course resembled the course his enemy had taken some days ago.
"What a funny, bashful mountaineer!" Mr. Sesemann remarked to himself, thinking that the appearance of a stranger had upset this simple son of the Alps. After watching the downward course of the boy a little while, he soon proceeded on his way.
In spite of the greatest effort, Peter could not stop himself, and kept rolling on. But his fright and terror were still more terrible than his bumps and blows. This stranger was the policeman, that was a certain fact! At last, being thrown against a bush, he clutched it wildly.
"Good, here's another one!" a voice near Peter said. "I wonder who is going to be pushed down tomorrow, looking like a half-open potato-bag?" The village baker was making fun of him. For a little rest after his weary work, he had quietly watched the boy.
Peter regained his feet and slunk away. How did the baker know the chair had been pushed? He longed to go home to bed and hide, for there alone he felt safe. But he had to go up to the goats, and the uncle had clearly told him to come back as quickly as he could. Groaning, he limped away up to the Alp. How could he run now, with his fear and all his poor, sore limbs?
Mr. Sesemann had reached the hut soon after meeting Peter, and felt reassured. Climbing further, with renewed courage, he at last saw his goal before him, but not without long and weary exertion. He saw the Alm-hut above him, and the swaying fir-trees. Mr. Sesemann eagerly hurried to encounter his beloved child. They had seen him long ago from the hut, and a treat was prepared for him that he never suspected.
As he made the last steps, he saw two forms coming towards him. A tall girl, with light hair and rosy face, was leaning on Heidi, whose dark eyes sparkled with keen delight. Mr. Sesemann stopped short, staring at this vision. Suddenly big tears rushed from his eyes, for this shape before him recalled sweet memories. Clara's mother had looked exactly like this fair maiden. Mr. Sesemann at this moment did not know if he was awake or dreaming.
"Papa, don't you know me any more?" Clara called with beaming eyes. "Have I changed so much?"
Mr. Sesemann rushed up to her, folding her in his arms. "Yes, you have changed. How is it possible? Is it really true? Is it really you, Clara?" asked the over-joyed father, embracing her again and again, and then gazing at her, as she stood tall and firm by his side.
His mother joined them now, for she wanted to see the happiness of her son.
"What do you say to this, my son? Isn't our surprise finer than yours?" she greeted him. "But come over to our benefactor now,—I mean the uncle."
"Yes, indeed, I also must greet our little Heidi," said the gentleman, shaking Heidi's hand. "Well? Always fresh and happy on the mountain? I guess I don't need to ask, for no Alpine rose can look more blooming. Ah, child, what joy this is to me!"
With beaming eyes the child looked at the kind gentleman who had always been so good to her. Her heart throbbed in sympathy with his joy. While the two men, who had at last approached each other, were conversing, grandmama walked over to the grove. There, under the fir-trees, another surprise awaited her. A beautiful bunch of wondrously blue gentians stood as if they had grown there.
"How exquisite, how wonderful! What a sight!" she exclaimed, clapping her hands. "Heidi, come here! Have you brought me those? Oh, they are beautiful!"
The children had joined her, Heidi assuring her that it was another person's deed.
"Oh grandmama, up on the pasture it looks just like that," Clara remarked. "Just guess who brought you the flowers?"
At that moment a rustle was heard, and they saw Peter, who was trying to sneak up behind the trees to avoid the hut. Immediately the old lady called to him, for she thought that Peter himself had picked the flowers for her. He must be creeping away out of sheer modesty, the kind lady thought. To give him his reward, she called:
"Come here, my boy! don't be afraid."
Petrified with fear, Peter stood still. What had gone before had robbed him of his courage. He thought now that all was over with him. With his hair standing up on end and his pale face distorted by anguish, he approached.
"Come straight to me, boy," the old lady encouraged him. "Now tell me, boy, if you have done that."
In his anxiety, Peter did not see the grandmama's finger that pointed to the flowers. He only saw the uncle standing near the hut, looking at him penetratingly, and beside him the policeman, the greatest horror for him in the world. Trembling in every limb, Peter answered, "Yes!"
"Well, but what are you so frightened about?"
"Because—because it is broken and can never be mended again," Peter said, his knees tottering under him.
The grandmama now walked over to the hut: "My dear uncle," she asked kindly, "is this poor lad out of his mind?"
"Not at all," was the reply; "only the boy was the wind which blew away the wheel-chair. He is expecting the punishment he well deserves."
Grandmama was very much surprised, for she vowed that Peter looked far from wicked. Why should he have destroyed the chair? The uncle told her that he had noticed many signs of anger in the boy since Clara's advent on the Alp. He assured her that he had suspected the boy from the beginning.
"My dear uncle," the old lady said with animation, "we must not punish him further. We must be just. It was very hard on him when Clara robbed him of Heidi, who is and was his greatest treasure. When he had to sit alone day after day, it roused him to a passion which drove him to this wicked deed. It was rather foolish, but we all get so when we get angry."
The lady walked over to the boy again, who was still quivering with fear.
Sitting down on the bench, she began:
"Come, Peter, I'll tell you something. Stop trembling and listen. You pushed the chair down, to destroy it. You knew very well that it was wicked and deserved punishment. You tried very hard to conceal it, did you not? But if somebody thinks that nobody knows about a wicked deed, he is wrong; God always knows it. As soon as He finds that a man is trying to conceal an evil he has done, He wakens a little watchman in his heart, who keeps on pricking the person with a thorn till all his rest is gone. He keeps on calling to the evildoer: 'Now you'll be found out! Now your punishment is near!'—His joy has flown, for fear and terror take its place. Have you not just had such an experience, Peter?"
Peter nodded, all contrite. He certainly had experienced this.
"You have made a mistake," the grandmama continued, "by thinking that you would hurt Clara by destroying her chair. It has so happened that what you have done has been the greatest good for her. She would probably never have tried to walk, if her chair had been there. If she should stay here, she might even go up to the pasture every single day. Do you see, Peter? God can turn a misdeed to the good of the injured person and bring trouble on the offender. Have you understood me, Peter? Remember the little watchman when you long to do a wicked deed again. Will you do that?"
"Yes, I shall," Peter replied, still fearing the policeman, who had not left yet.
"So now that matter is all settled," said the old lady in conclusion. "Now tell me if you have a wish, my boy, for I am going to give you something by which to remember your friends from Frankfurt. What is it? What would you like to have?"
Peter, lifting his head, stared at the grandmama with round, astonished eyes. He was confused by this sudden change of prospect.
Being again urged to utter a wish, he saw at last that he was saved from the power of the terrible man. He felt as if the most crushing load had fallen off him. He knew now that it was better to confess at once, when something had gone wrong, so he said: "I have also lost the paper."
Reflecting a while, the grandmama understood and said: "That is right. Always confess what is wrong, then it can be settled. And now, what would you like to have?"
So Peter could choose everything in the world he wished. His brain got dizzy. He saw before him all the wonderful things in the fair in Mayenfeld. He had often stood there for hours, looking at the pretty red whistles and the little knives; unfortunately Peter had never possessed more than half what those objects cost.
He stood thinking, not able to decide, when a bright thought struck him.
"Ten pennies," said Peter with decision.
"That certainly is not too much," the old lady said with a smile, taking out of her pocket a big, round thaler, on top of which she laid twenty pennies. "Now I'll explain this to you. Here you have as many times ten pennies as there are weeks in the year. You'll be able to spend one every Sunday through the year."
"All my life?" Peter asked quite innocently.
The grandmama began to laugh so heartily at this that the two men came over to join her.
Laughingly she said: "You shall have it my boy; I will put it in my will and then you will do the same, my son. Listen! Peter the goatherd shall have a ten-penny piece weekly as long as he lives."
Mr. Sesemann nodded.
Peter, looking at his gift, said solemnly: "God be thanked!" Jumping and bounding, he ran away. His heart was so light that he felt he could fly.
A little later the whole party sat round the table holding a merry feast. After dinner, Clara, who was lively as never before, said to her father:
"Oh, Papa, if you only knew all the things grandfather did for me. It would take many days to tell you; I shall never forget them all my life. Oh, if we could please him only half as much as what he did for me."
"It is my greatest wish, too, dear child," said her father; "I have been trying to think of something all the time. We have to show our gratitude in some way."
Accordingly Mr. Sesemann walked over to the old man, and began: "My dear friend, may I say one word to you. I am sure you believe me when I tell you that I have not known any real joy for years. What was my wealth to me when I could not cure my child and make her happy! With the help of the Lord you have made her well. You have given her a new life. Please tell me how to show my gratitude to you. I know I shall never be able to repay you, but what is in my power I shall do. Have you any request to make? Please let me know."
The uncle had listened quietly and had looked at the happy father.
"Mr. Sesemann, you can be sure that I also am repaid by the great joy I experience at the recovery of Clara," said the uncle firmly. "I thank you for your kind offer, Mr. Sesemann. As long as I live I have enough for me and the child. But I have one wish. If this could be fulfilled, my life would be free of care."
"Speak, my dear friend," urged Clara's father.
"I am old," continued the uncle, "and shall not live many years. When I die I cannot leave Heidi anything. The child has no relations except one, who even might try to take advantage of her if she could. If you would give me the assurance, Mr. Sesemann, that Heidi will never be obliged to go into the world and earn her bread, you would amply repay me for what I was able to do for you and Clara."
"My dear friend, there is no question of that," began Mr. Sesemann; "the child belongs to us! I promise at once that we shall look after her so that there will not be any need of her ever earning her bread. We all know that she is not fashioned for a life among strangers. Nevertheless, she has made some true friends, and one of them will be here very shortly. Dr. Classen is just now completing his last business in Frankfurt. He intends to take your advice and live here. He has never felt so happy as with you and Heidi. The child will have two protectors near her, and I hope with God's will, that they may be spared a long, long time."
"And may it be God's will!" added the grandmama, who with Heidi had joined them, shaking the uncle tenderly by the hand. Putting her arms around the child, she said: "Heidi, I want to know if you also have a wish?"
"Yes indeed, I have," said Heidi, pleased.
"Tell me what it is, child!"
"I should like to have my bed from Frankfurt with the three high pillows and the thick, warm cover. Then grandmother will be able to keep warm and won't have to wear her shawl in bed. Oh, I'll be so happy when she won't have to lie with her head lower than her heels, hardly able to breathe!"
Heidi had said all this in one breath, she was so eager.
"Oh dear, I had nearly forgotten what I meant to do. I am so glad you have reminded me, Heidi. If God sends us happiness we must think of those who have many privations. I shall telegraph immediately for the bed, and if Miss Rottenmeier sends it off at once, it can be here in two days. I hope the poor blind grandmother will sleep better when it comes."
Heidi, in her happiness, could hardly wait to bring the old woman the good news. Soon it was resolved that everybody should visit the grandmother, who had been left alone so long. Before starting, however, Mr. Sesemann revealed his plans. He proposed to travel through Switzerland with his mother and Clara. He would spend the night in the village, so as to fetch Clara from the Alm next morning for the journey. From there they would go first to Ragatz and then further. The telegram was to be mailed that night.
Clara's feelings were divided, for she was sorry to leave the Alp, but the prospect of the trip delighted her.
When everything was settled, they all went down, the uncle carrying Clara, who could not have risked the lengthy walk. All the way down Heidi told the old lady of her friends in the hut; the cold they had to bear in winter and the little food they had.
Brigida was just hanging up Peter's shirt to dry, when the whole company arrived. Rushing into the house, she called to her mother: "Now they are all going away. Uncle is going, too, carrying the lame child."
"Oh, must it really be?" sighed the grandmother. "Have you seen whether they took Heidi away? Oh, if she only could give me her hand once more! Oh, I long to hear her voice once more!"
The same moment the door was flung open and Heidi held her tight.
"Grandmother, just think. My bed with the three pillows and the thick cover is coming from Frankfurt. Grandmama has said that it will be here in two days."
Heidi thought that grandmother would be beside herself with joy, but the old woman, smiling sadly, said:
"Oh, what a good lady she must be! I know I ought to be glad she is taking you with her, Heidi, but I don't think I shall survive it long."
"But nobody has said so," the grandmama, who had overheard those words, said kindly. Pressing the old woman's hand, she continued: "It is out of the question. Heidi will stay with you and make you happy. To see Heidi again, we will come up every year to the Alm, for we have many reasons to thank the Lord there."
Immediately the face of the grandmother lighted up, and she cried tears of joy.
"Oh, what wonderful things God is doing for me!" said the grandmother, deeply touched. "How good people are to trouble themselves about such a poor old woman as I. Nothing in this world strengthens the belief in a good Father in Heaven more than this mercy and kindness shown to a poor, useless little woman, like me."
"My dear grandmother," said Mrs. Sesemann, "before God in Heaven we are all equally miserable and poor; woe to us, if He should forget us!—But now we must say good-bye; next year we shall come to see you just as soon as we come up the Alp. We shall never forget you!" With that, Mrs. Sesemann shook her hand. It was some time before she was allowed to leave, however, because the grandmother thanked her over and over again, and invoked all Heaven's blessings on her and her house.
Mr. Sesemann and his mother went on down, while Clara was carried up to spend her last night in the hut.
Next morning, Clara shed hot tears at parting from the beloved place, where such gladness had been hers. Heidi consoled her with plans for the coming summer, that was to be even more happy than this one had been. Mr. Sesemann then arrived, and a few last parting words were exchanged.
Clara, half crying, suddenly said: "Please give my love to Peter and the goats, Heidi! Please greet Schwänli especially from me, for she has helped a great deal in making me well. What could I give her?"
"You can send her salt, Clara. You know how fond she is of that," advised little Heidi.
"Oh, I will surely do that," Clara assented. "I'll send her a hundred pounds of salt as a remembrance from me."
It was time to go now, and Clara was able to ride proudly beside her father. Standing on the edge of the slope, Heidi waved her hand, her eyes following Clara till she had disappeared.
The bed has arrived. Grandmother sleeps so well every night now, that before long she will be stronger than ever. Grandmama has not forgotten the cold winter on the Alp and has sent a great many warm covers and shawls to the goatherd's hut. Grandmother can wrap herself up now and will not have to sit shivering in a corner.
In the village a large building is in progress. The doctor has arrived and is living at present in his old quarters. He has taken the uncle's advice and has bought the old ruins that sheltered Heidi and her grandfather the winter before. He is rebuilding for himself the portion with the fine apartment already mentioned. The other side is being prepared for Heidi and her grandfather. The doctor knows that his friend is an independent man and likes to have his own dwelling. Bärli and Schwänli, of course, are not forgotten; they will spend the winter in a good solid stable that is being built for them.
The doctor and the Alm-Uncle become better friends every day. When they overlook the progress of the building, they generally come to speak of Heidi. They both look forward to the time when they will be able to move into the house with their merry charge. They have agreed to share together the pleasure and responsibility that Heidi brings them. The uncle's heart is filled with gratitude too deep for any words when the doctor tells him that he will make ample provision for the child. Now her grandfather's heart is free of care, for if he is called away, another father will take care of Heidi and love her in his stead.
At the moment when our story closes, Heidi and Peter are sitting in grandmother's hut. The little girl has so many interesting things to relate and Peter is trying so hard not to miss anything, that in their eagerness they are not aware that they are near the happy grandmother's chair. All summer long they have hardly met, and very many wonderful things have happened. They are all glad at being together again, and it is hard to tell who is the happiest of the group. I think Brigida's face is more radiant than any, for Heidi has just told her the story of the perpetual ten-penny piece. Finally the grandmother says: "Heidi, please read me a song of thanksgiving and praise. I feel that I must praise and thank the Lord for the blessings He has brought to us all!"