HEIDI





MISS ROTTENMEIER HAS AN UNCOMFORTABLE DAY

 

When Heidi opened her eyes next morning, she did not know where she was. She found herself on a high white bed in a spacious room. Looking around she observed long white curtains before the windows, several chairs, and a sofa covered with cretonne; in a corner she saw a wash-stand with many curious things standing on it.

Suddenly Heidi remembered all the happenings of the previous day. Jumping out of bed, she dressed in a great hurry. She was eager to look at the sky and the ground below, as she had always done at home. What was her disappointment when she found that the windows were too high for her to see anything except the walls and windows opposite. Trying to open them, she turned from one to the other, but in vain. The poor child felt like a little bird that is placed in a glittering cage for the first time. At last she had to resign herself, and sat down on a low stool, thinking of the melting snow on the slopes and the first flowers of spring that she had hailed with such delight.

Suddenly Tinette opened the door and said curtly: "Breakfast's ready."

Heidi did not take this for a summons, for the maid's face was scornful and forbidding. She was waiting patiently for what would happen next, when Miss Rottenmeier burst into the room, saying: "What is the matter, Adelheid? Didn't you understand? Come to breakfast!"

Heidi immediately followed the lady into the dining-room, where Clara greeted her with a smile. She looked much happier than usual, for she expected new things to happen that day. When breakfast had passed without disturbance, the two children were allowed to go into the library together and were soon left alone.

"How can I see down to the ground?" Heidi asked.

"Open a window and peep out," replied Clara, amused at the question.

"But it is impossible to open them," Heidi said, sadly.

"Oh no. You can't do it and I can't help you, either, but if you ask Sebastian he'll do it for you."

Heidi was relieved. The poor child had felt like a prisoner in her room. Clara now asked Heidi what her home had been like, and Heidi told her gladly about her life in the hut.

The tutor had arrived in the meantime, but he was not asked to go to the study as usual. Miss Rottenmeier was very much excited about Heidi's coming and all the complications that arose therefrom. She was really responsible for it, having arranged everything herself. She presented the unfortunate case before the teacher, for she wanted him to help her to get rid of the child. Mr. Candidate, however, was always careful of his judgments, and not afraid of teaching beginners.

When the lady saw that he would not side with her, she let him enter the study alone, for the A,B,C held great horrors for her. While she considered many problems, a frightful noise as of something falling was heard in the adjoining room, followed by a cry to Sebastian for help. Running in, she beheld a pile of books and papers on the floor, with the table-cover on top. A black stream of ink flowed across the length of the room. Heidi had disappeared.

"There," Miss Rottenmeier exclaimed, wringing her hands. "Everything drenched with ink. Did such a thing ever happen before? This child brings nothing but misfortunes on us."

The teacher was standing up, looking at the devastation, but Clara was highly entertained by these events, and said: "Heidi has not done it on purpose and must not be punished. In her hurry to get away she caught on the table-cover and pulled it down. I think she must never have seen a coach in all her life, for when she heard a carriage rumbling by, she rushed out like mad."

"Didn't I tell you, Mr. Candidate, that she has no idea whatever about behavior? She does not even know that she has to sit quiet at her lessons. But where has she gone? What would Mr. Sesemann say if she should run away?"

When Miss Rottenmeier went down-stairs to look for the child, she saw her standing at the open door, looking down the street.

"What are you doing here? How can you run away like that?" scolded Miss Rottenmeier.

"I heard the fir-trees rustle, but I can't see them and do not hear them any more," replied Heidi, looking in great perplexity down the street. The noise of the passing carriage had reminded her of the roaring of the south-wind on the Alp.

"Fir-trees? What nonsense! We are not in a wood. Come with me now to see what you have done." When Heidi saw the devastation that she had caused, she was greatly surprised, for she had not noticed it in her hurry.

"This must never happen again," said the lady sternly. "You must sit quiet at your lessons; if you get up again I shall tie you to your chair. Do you hear me?"

Heidi understood, and gave a promise to sit quietly during her lessons from that time on. After the servants had straightened the room, it was late, and there was no more time for studies. Nobody had time to yawn that morning.

In the afternoon, while Clara was resting, Heidi was left to herself. She planted herself in the hall and waited for the butler to come up-stairs with the silver things. When he reached the head of the stairs, she said to him: "I want to ask you something." She saw that the butler seemed angry, so she reassured him by saying that she did not mean any harm.

"All right, Miss, what is it?"

"My name is not Miss, why don't you call me Heidi?"

"Miss Rottenmeier told me to call you Miss."

"Did she? Well then, it must be so. I have three names already," sighed the child.

"What can I do for you?" asked Sebastian now.

"Can you open a window for me?"

"Certainly," he replied.

Sebastian got a stool for Heidi, for the window-sill was too high for her to see over. In great disappointment, Heidi turned her head away.

"I don't see anything but a street of stone. Is it the same way on the other side of the house?"

"Yes."

"Where do you go to look far down on everything?"

"On a church-tower. Do you see that one over there with the golden dome? From there you can overlook everything."

Heidi immediately stepped down from the stool and ran down-stairs. Opening the door, she found herself in the street, but she could not see the tower any more. She wandered on from street to street, not daring to accost any of the busy people. Passing a corner, she saw a boy who had a barrel-organ on his back and a curious animal on his arm. Heidi ran to him and asked: "Where is the tower with the golden dome?"

"Don't know," was the reply.

"Who can tell me?"

"Don't know."

"Can you show me another church with a tower?"

"Of course I can."

"Then come and show me."

"What are you going to give me for it?" said the boy, holding out his hand. Heidi had nothing in her pocket but a little flower-picture. Clara had only given it to her this morning, so she was loath to part with it. The temptation to look far down into the valley was too great for her, though, and she offered him the gift. The boy shook his head, to Heidi's satisfaction.

"What else do you want?"

"Money."

"I have none, but Clara has some. How much must I give you?"

"Twenty pennies."

"All right, but come."

While they were wandering down the street, Heidi found out what a barrel-organ was, for she had never seen one. When they arrived before an old church with a tower, Heidi was puzzled what to do next, but having discovered a bell, she pulled it with all her might. The boy agreed to wait for Heidi and show her the way home if she gave him a double fee.

The lock creaked now from inside, and an old man opened the door. In an angry voice, he said: "How do you dare to ring for me? Can't you see that it is only for those who want to see the tower?"

"But I do," said Heidi.

"What do you want to see? Did anybody send you?" asked the man.

"No; but I want to look down from up there."

"Get home and don't try it again." With that the tower-keeper was going to shut the door, but Heidi held his coat-tails and pleaded with him to let her come. The tower-keeper looked at the child's eyes, which were nearly full of tears.

"All right, come along, if you care so much," he said, taking her by the hand. The two climbed up now many, many steps, which got narrower all the time. When they had arrived on top, the old man lifted Heidi up to the open window.

Heidi saw nothing but a sea of chimneys, roofs and towers, and her heart sank. "Oh, dear, it's different from the way I thought it would be," she said.

"There! what could such a little girl know about a view? We'll go down now and you must promise never to ring at my tower any more."

On their way they passed an attic, where a large grey cat guarded her new family in a basket. This cat caught half-a-dozen mice every day for herself, for the old tower was full of rats and mice. Heidi gazed at her in surprise, and was delighted when the old man opened the basket.

"What charming kittens, what cunning little creatures!" she exclaimed in her delight, when she saw them crawling about, jumping and tumbling.

"Would you like to have one?" the old man asked.

"For me? to keep?" Heidi asked, for she could not believe her ears.

"Yes, of course. You can have several if you have room for them," the old man said, glad to find a good home for the kittens.

How happy Heidi was! Of course there was enough room in the huge house, and Clara would be delighted when she saw the cunning things.

"How can I take them with me?" the child asked, after she had tried in vain to catch one.

"I can bring them to your house, if you tell me where you live," said Heidi's new friend, while he caressed the old cat, who had lived with him many years.

"Bring them to Mr. Sesemann's house; there is a golden dog on the door, with a ring in his mouth."

The old man had lived in the tower a long time and knew everybody; Sebastian also was a special friend of his.

"I know," he said. "But to whom shall I send them? Do you belong to Mr. Sesemann?"

"No. Please send them to Clara; she will like them, I am sure."

Heidi could hardly tear herself away from the pretty things, so the old man put one kitten in each of her pockets to console her. After that she went away.

The boy was waiting patiently for her, and when she had taken leave of the tower-keeper, she asked the boy: "Do you know where Mr. Sesemann's house is?"

"No," was the reply.

She described it as well as she could, till the boy remembered it. Off they started, and soon Heidi found herself pulling the door-bell. When Sebastian arrived he said: "Hurry up." Heidi went in, and the boy was left outside, for Sebastian had not even seen him.

"Come up quickly, little Miss," he urged. "They are all waiting for you in the dining-room. Miss Rottenmeier looks like a loaded cannon. How could you run away like that?"

Heidi sat down quietly on her chair. Nobody said a word, and there was an uncomfortable silence. At last Miss Rottenmeier began with a severe and solemn voice: "I shall speak with you later, Adelheid. How can you leave the house without a word? Your behavior was very remiss. The idea of walking about till so late!"

"Meow!" was the reply.

"I didn't," Heidi began—"Meow!"

Sebastian nearly flung the dish on the table, and disappeared.

"This is enough," Miss Rottenmeier tried to say, but her voice was hoarse with fury. "Get up and leave the room."

 

 

Heidi got up. She began again. "I made—" "Meow! meow! meow!—"

"Heidi," said Clara now, "why do you always say 'meow' again, if you see that Miss Rottenmeier is angry?"

"I am not doing it, it's the kittens," she explained.

"What? Cats? Kittens?" screamed the housekeeper. "Sebastian, Tinette, take the horrible things away!" With that she ran into the study, locking herself in, for she feared kittens beyond anything on earth. When Sebastian had finished his laugh, he came into the room. He had foreseen the excitement, having caught sight of the kittens when Heidi came in. The scene was a very peaceful one now; Clara held the little kittens in her lap, and Heidi was kneeling beside her. They both played happily with the two graceful creatures. The butler promised to look after the new-comers and prepared a bed for them in a basket.

A long time afterwards, when it was time to go to bed, Miss Rottenmeier cautiously opened the door. "Are they away?" she asked. "Yes," replied the butler, quickly seizing the kittens and taking them away.

The lecture that Miss Rottenmeier was going to give Heidi was postponed to the following day, for the lady was too much exhausted after her fright. They all went quietly to bed, and the children were happy in the thought that their kittens had a comfortable bed.



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