Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Heidi: Chapter 5.



Two winters had nearly passed. Heidi was happy, for the spring was
coming again, with the soft delicious wind that made the fir-trees
roar. Soon she would be able to go up to the pasture, where blue and
yellow flowers greeted her at every step. She was nearly eight years
old, and had learned to take care of the goats, who ran after her like
little dogs. Several times the village teacher had sent word by Peter
that the child was wanted in school, but the old man had not paid any
attention to the message and had kept her with him as before. It was a
beautiful morning in March. The snow had melted on the slopes, and was
going fast. Snowdrops were peeping through the ground, which seemed to
be getting ready for spring. Heidi was running to and fro before the
door, when she suddenly saw an old gentleman, dressed in black,
standing beside her. As she appeared frightened, he said kindly: "You
must not be afraid of me, for I love children. Give me your hand,
Heidi, and tell me where your grandfather is."

"He is inside, making round wooden spoons," the child replied, opening
the door while she spoke.

It was the old pastor of the village, who had known the grandfather
years ago. After entering, he approached the old man, saying:
"Good-morning, neighbor."

The old man got up, surprised, and offering a seat to the visitor,
said: "Good-morning, Mr. Parson. Here is a wooden chair, if it is good

Sitting down, the parson said: "It is long since I have seen you,
neighbor. I have come to-day to talk over a matter with you. I am sure
you can guess what it is about."

The clergyman here looked at Heidi, who was standing near the door.

"Heidi, run out to see the goats," said the grandfather, "and bring
them some salt; you can stay till I come."

Heidi disappeared on the spot. "The child should have come to school a
year ago," the parson went on to say. "Didn't you get the teacher's
warning? What do you intend to do with the child?"

"I do not want her to go to school," said the old man, unrelentingly.

"What do you want the child to be?"

"I want her to be free and happy as a bird!"

"But she is human, and it is high time for her to learn something. I
have come now to tell you about it, so that you can make your plans.
She must come to school next winter; remember that."

"I shan't do it, pastor!" was the reply.

"Do you think there is no way?" the clergyman replied, a little hotly.
"You know the world, for you have travelled far. What little sense you

"You think I am going to send this delicate child to school in every
storm and weather!" the old man said excitedly. "It is a two hours'
walk, and I shall not let her go; for the wind often howls so that it
chokes me if I venture out. Did you know Adelheid, her mother? She was
a sleep-walker, and had fainting-fits. Nobody shall compel me to let
her go; I will gladly fight it out in court."

"You are perfectly right," said the clergyman kindly. "You could not
send her to school from here. Why don't you come down to live among us
again? You are leading a strange life here; I wonder how you can keep
the child warm in winter."

"She has young blood and a good cover. I know where to find good wood,
and all winter I keep a fire going. I couldn't live in the village,
for the people there and I despise each other; we had better keep

"You are mistaken, I assure you! Make your peace with God, and then
you'll see how happy you will be."

The clergyman had risen, and holding out his hand, he said cordially:
"I shall count on you next winter, neighbor. We shall receive you
gladly, reconciled with God and man."

But the uncle replied firmly, while he shook his visitor by the hand:
"Thank you for your kindness, but you will have to wait in vain."

"God be with you," said the parson, and left him sadly.

The old man was out of humor that day, and when Heidi begged to go to
the grandmother, he only growled: "Not to-day." Next day they had
hardly finished their dinner, when another visitor arrived. It was
Heidi's aunt Deta; she wore a hat with feathers and a dress with such
a train that it swept up everything that lay on the cottage floor.
While the uncle looked at her silently, Deta began to praise him and
the child's red cheeks. She told him that it had not been her
intention to leave Heidi with him long, for she knew she must be in
his way. She had tried to provide for the child elsewhere, and at
last she had found a splendid chance for her. Very rich relations of
her lady, who owned the largest house in Frankfurt, had a lame
daughter. This poor little girl was confined to her rolling-chair and
needed a companion at her lessons. Deta had heard from her lady that a
sweet, quaint child was wanted as playmate and schoolmate for the
invalid. She had gone to the housekeeper and told her all about Heidi.
The lady, delighted with the idea, had told her to fetch the child at
once. She had come now, and it was a lucky chance for Heidi, "for one
never knew what might happen in such a case, and who could tell--"

"Have you finished?" the old man interrupted her at last.

"Why, one might think I was telling you the silliest things. There is
not a man in Praetiggan who would not thank God for such news."

"Bring them to somebody else, but not to me," said the uncle, coldly.

Deta, flaming up, replied: "Do you want to hear what I think? Don't I
know how old she is; eight years old and ignorant of everything. They
have told me that you refuse to send her to church and to school. She
is my only sister's child, and I shall not bear it, for I am
responsible. You do not care for her, how else could you be
indifferent to such luck. You had better give way or I shall get the
people to back me. If I were you, I would not have it brought to
court; some things might be warmed up that you would not care to hear

"Be quiet!" the uncle thundered with flaming eyes. "Take her and ruin
her, but do not bring her before my sight again. I do not want to see
her with feathers in her hat and wicked words like yours."

With long strides he went out.

"You have made him angry!" said Heidi with a furious look.

"He won't be cross long. But come now, where are your things?" asked

"I won't come," Heidi replied.

"What?" Deta said passionately. But changing her tone, she continued
in a more friendly manner: "Come now; you don't understand me. I am
taking you to the most beautiful place you have ever seen." After
packing up Heidi's clothes she said again, "Come, child, and take your
hat. It is not very nice, but we can't help it."

"I shall not come," was the reply.

"Don't be stupid and obstinate, like a goat. Listen to me. Grandfather
is sending us away and we must do what he commands, or he will get
more angry still. You'll see how fine it is in Frankfurt. If you do
not like it, you can come home again and by that time grandfather will
have forgiven us."

"Can I come home again to-night?" asked Heidi.

"Come now, I told you you could come back. If we get to Mayenfeld
today, we can take the train to-morrow. That will make you fly home
again in the shortest time!"

Holding the bundle, Deta led the child down the mountain. On their
way they met Peter, who had not gone to school that day. The boy
thought it was a more useful occupation to look for hazel-rods than to
learn to read, for he always needed the rods. He had had a most
successful day, for he carried an enormous bundle on his shoulder.
When he caught sight of Heidi and Deta, he asked them where they were

"I am going to Frankfurt with Aunt Deta," Heidi replied; "but first I
must see grandmother, for she is waiting."

"Oh no, it is too late. You can see her when you come back, but not
now," said Deta, pulling Heidi along with her, for she was afraid that
the old woman might detain the child.

Peter ran into the cottage and hit the table with his rods. The
grandmother jumped up in her fright and asked him what that meant.

"They have taken Heidi away," Peter said with a groan.

"Who has, Peter? Where has she gone?" the unhappy grandmother asked.
Brigida had seen Deta walking up the footpath a short while ago and
soon they guessed what had happened. With a trembling hand the old
woman opened a window and called out as loudly as she could: "Deta,
Deta, don't take the child away. Don't take her from us."

When Heidi heard that she struggled to get free, and said: "I must go
to grandmother; she is calling me."

But Deta would not let her go. She urged her on by saying that she
might return soon again. She also suggested that Heidi might bring a
lovely present to the grandmother when she came back.

Heidi liked this prospect and followed Deta without more ado. After a
while she asked: "What shall I bring to the grandmother?"

"You might bring her some soft white rolls, Heidi. I think the black
bread is too hard for poor grandmother to eat."

"Yes, I know, aunt, she always gives it to Peter," Heidi confirmed
her. "We must go quickly now; we might get to Frankfurt today and
then I can be back tomorrow with the rolls."


Heidi was running now, and Deta had to follow. She was glad enough to
escape the questions that people might ask her in the village. People
could see that Heidi was pulling her along, so she said: "I can't
stop. Don't you see how the child is hurrying? We have still far to
go," whenever she heard from all sides: "Are you taking her with you?"
"Is she running away from the uncle?" "What a wonder she is still
alive!" "What red cheeks she has," and so on. Soon they had escaped
and had left the village far behind them.

From that time on the uncle looked more angry than ever when he came
to the village. Everybody was afraid of him, and the women would warn
their children to keep out of his sight.

He came down but seldom, and then only to sell his cheese and buy his
provisions. Often people remarked how lucky it was that Heidi had left
him. They had seen her hurrying away, so they thought that she had
been glad to go.

The old grandmother alone stuck to him faithfully. Whenever anybody
came up to her, she would tell them what good care the old man had
taken of Heidi. She also told them that he had mended her little
house. These reports reached the village, of course, but people only
half believed them, for the grandmother was infirm and old. She began
her days with sighing again. "All happiness has left us with the
child. The days are so long and dreary, and I have no joy left. If
only I could hear Heidi's voice before I die," the poor old woman
would exclaim, day after day.

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