HEIDI





THE MASTER OF THE HOUSE HEARS OF STRANGE DOINGS

 

A few days afterwards there was great excitement in the Sesemann residence, for the master of the house had just arrived. The servants were taking upstairs one load after another, for Mr. Sesemann always brought many lovely things home with him.

When he entered his daughter's room, Heidi shyly retreated into a corner. He greeted Clara affectionately, and she was equally delighted to see him, for she loved her father dearly. Then he called to Heidi: "Oh, there is our little Swiss girl. Come and give me your hand! That's right. Are you good friends, my girls, tell me now? You don't fight together, what?"

"Oh, no, Clara is always kind to me," Heidi replied.

"Heidi has never even tried to fight, Papa," Clara quickly remarked.

"That's good, I like to hear that," said the father rising. "I must get my dinner now, for I am hungry. I shall come back soon and show you what I have brought home with me."

In the dining-room he found Miss Rottenmeier surveying the table with a most tragic face. "You do not look very happy at my arrival, Miss Rottenmeier. What is the matter? Clara seems well enough," he said to her.

"Oh, Mr. Sesemann, we have been terribly disappointed," said the lady.

"How do you mean?" asked Mr. Sesemann, calmly sipping his wine.

"We had decided, as you know, to have a companion for Clara. Knowing as I did that you would wish me to get a noble, pure child, I thought of this Swiss child, hoping she would go through life like a breath of pure air, hardly touching the earth."

"I think that even Swiss children are made to touch the earth, otherwise they would have to have wings."

"I think you understand what I mean. I have been terribly disappointed, for this child has brought the most frightful animals into the house. Mr. Candidate can tell you!"

"The child does not look very terrible. But what do you mean?"

"I cannot explain it, because she does not seem in her right mind at times."

Mr. Sesemann was getting worried at last, when the tutor entered.

"Oh, Mr. Candidate, I hope you will explain. Please take a cup of coffee with me and tell me about my daughter's companion. Make it short, if you please!"

But this was impossible for Mr. Candidate, who had to greet Mr. Sesemann first. Then he began to reassure his host about the child, pointing out to him that her education had been neglected till then, and so on. But poor Mr. Sesemann, unfortunately, did not get his answer, and had to listen to very long-winded explanations of the child's character. At last Mr. Sesemann got up, saying: "Excuse me, Mr. Candidate, but I must go over to Clara now."

He found the children in the study. Turning to Heidi, who had risen at his approach, he said: "Come, little one, get me—get me a glass of water."

"Fresh water?"

"Of course, fresh water," he replied. When Heidi had gone, he sat down near Clara, holding her hand. "Tell me, little Clara," he asked, "please tell me clearly what animals Heidi has brought into the house; is she really not right in her mind?"

Clara now began to relate to her father all the incidents with the kittens and the turtle, and explained Heidi's speeches that had so frightened the lady. Mr. Sesemann laughed heartily and asked Clara if she wished Heidi to remain.

"Of course, Papa. Since she is here, something amusing happens every day; it used to be so dull, but now Heidi keeps me company."

"Very good, very good, Clara; Oh! Here is your friend back again. Did you get nice fresh water?" asked Mr. Sesemann.

Heidi handed him the glass and said: "Yes, fresh from the fountain."

"You did not go to the fountain yourself, Heidi?" said Clara.

"Certainly, but I had to get it from far, there were so many people at the first and at the second fountain. I had to go down another street and there I got it. A gentleman with white hair sends his regards to you, Mr. Sesemann."

Clara's father laughed and asked: "Who was the gentleman?"

"When he passed by the fountain and saw me there with a glass, he stood still and said: 'Please give me to drink, for you have a glass; to whom are you bringing the water?' Then I said: 'I am bringing it to Mr. Sesemann.' When he heard that he laughed very loud and gave me his regards for you, with the wish that you would enjoy your drink."

"I wonder who it was? What did the gentleman look like?"

"He has a friendly laugh and wears a gold pendant with a red stone on his thick gold chain; there is a horsehead on his cane."

"Oh, that was the doctor—" "That was my old doctor," exclaimed father and daughter at the same time.

In the evening, Mr. Sesemann told Miss Rottenmeier that Heidi was going to remain, for the children were very fond of each other and he found Heidi normal and very sweet. "I want the child to be treated kindly," Mr. Sesemann added decidedly. "Her peculiarities must not be punished. My mother is coming very soon to stay here, and she will help you to manage the child, for there is nobody in this world that my mother could not get along with, as you know, Miss Rottenmeier."

"Of course, I know that, Mr. Sesemann," replied the lady, but she was not very much pleased at the prospect.

Mr. Sesemann only stayed two weeks, for his business called him back to Paris. He consoled his daughter by telling her that his mother was coming in a very few days. Mr. Sesemann had hardly left, when the grandmother's visit was announced for the following day.

Clara was looking forward to this visit, and told Heidi so much about her dear grandmama that Heidi also began to call her by that name, to Miss Rottenmeier's disapproval, who thought that the child was not entitled to this intimacy.




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