CHAPTER XXI. HOW LIFE WENT ON AT GRANDFATHER'S
The sun had just risen above the mountains and was shedding its
first golden rays over the hut and the valley below. Alm-Uncle,
as was his custom, had been standing in a quiet and, devout
attitude for some little while, watching the light mists
gradually lifting, and the heights and valley emerging from their
twilight shadows and awakening to another day.
The light morning clouds overhead grew brighter and brighter,
till at last the sun shone out in its full glory, and rock and
wood and hill lay bathed in golden light.
Uncle now stepped back into the hut and went softly up the
ladder. Clara had just opened her eyes and was looking with
wonder at the bright sunlight that shone through the round window
and danced and sparkled about her bed. She could not at first
think what she was looking at or where she was. Then she caught
sight of Heidi sleeping beside her, and now she heard the
grandfather's cheery voice asking her if she had slept well and
was feeling rested. She assured him she was not tired, and that
when she had once fallen asleep she had not opened her eyes again
all night. The grandfather was satisfied at this and immediately
began to attend upon her with so much gentleness and
understanding that it seemed as if his chief calling had been to
look after sick children.
Heidi now awoke and was surprised to see Clara dressed, and
already in the grandfather's arms ready to be carried down. She
must be up too, and she went through her toilette with
lightning-like speed. She ran down the ladder and out of the hut,
and there further astonishment awaited her, for grandfather had
been busy the night before after they were in bed. Seeing that it
was impossible to get Clara's chair through the hut-door, he had
taken down two of the boards at the side of the shed and made an
opening large enough to admit the chair; these he left loose so
that they could be taken away and put up at pleasure. He was at
this moment wheeling Clara out into the sun; he left her in front
of the hut while he went to look after the goats, and Heidi ran
up to her friend.
The fresh morning breeze blew round the children's faces, and
every fresh puff brought a waft of fragrance from the fir trees.
Clara drew it in with delight and lay back in her chair with an
unaccustomed feeling of health and comfort.
It was the first time in her life that she had been out in the
open country at this early hour and felt the fresh morning
breeze, and the pure mountain air was so cool and refreshing that
every breath she drew was a pleasure. And then the bright sweet
sun, which was not hot and sultry up here, but lay soft and warm
on her hands and on the grass at her feet. Clara had not imagined
that it would be like this on the mountain.
"O Heidi, if only I could stay up here for ever with you," she
exclaimed happily, turning in her chair from side to side that
she might drink in the air and sun from all quarters.
"Now you see that it is just what I told you," replied Heidi
delighted; "that it is the most beautiful thing in the world to
be up here with grandfather."
The latter at that moment appeared coming from the goat shed and
bringing two small foaming bowls of snow-white milk--one for
Clara and one for Heidi.
"That will do the little daughter good," he said, nodding to
Clara; "it is from Little Swan and will make her strong. To your
health, child! drink it up."
Clara had never tasted goat's milk before; she hesitated and
smelt it before putting it to her lips, but seeing how Heidi
drank hers up without hesitating, and how much she seemed to like
it, Clara did the same, and drank till there was not a drop left,
for she too found it delicious, tasting just as if sugar and
cinnamon had been mixed with it.
"To-morrow we will drink two," said the grandfather, who had
looked on with satisfaction at seeing her follow Heidi's example.
Peter now arrived with the goats, and while Heidi was receiving
her usual crowded morning greetings, Uncle drew Peter aside to
speak to him, for the goats, bleated so loudly and continuously
in their wish to express their joy and affection that no one
could be heard near them.
"Attend to what I have to say," he said. "From to-day be sure you
let Little Swan go where she likes. She has an instinct where to
find the best food for herself, and so if she wants to climb
higher, you follow her, and it will do the others no harm if they
go too; on no account bring her back. A little more climbing
won't hurt you, and in this matter she probably knows better than
you what is good for her; I want her to give as fine milk as
possible. Why are you looking over there as if you wanted to eat
somebody? Nobody will interfere with you. So now be off and
remember what I say."
Peter was accustomed to give immediate obedience to Uncle, and he
marched off with his goats, but with a turn of the head and roll
of the eye that showed he had some thought in reserve. The goats
carried Heidi along with them a little way, which was what Peter
wanted. "You will have to come with them," he called to her, "for
I shall be obliged to follow Little Swan."
"I cannot," Heidi called back from the midst of her friends, "and
I shall not be able to come for a long, long time--not as long as
Clara is with me. Grandfather, however, has promised to go up the
mountain with both of us one day."
Heidi had now extricated herself from the goats and she ran back
to Clara. Peter doubled his fists and made threatening gestures
towards the invalid on her couch, and then climbed up some
distance without pause until he was out of sight, for he was
afraid Uncle might have seen him, and he did not care to know
what Uncle might have thought of the fists.
Clara and Heidi had made so many plans for themselves that they
hardly knew where to begin. Heidi suggested that they should
first write to grandmamma, to whom they had promised to send word
every day, for grandmamma had not felt sure whether it would in
the long run suit Clara's health to remain up the mountain, or if
she would continue to enjoy herself there. With daily news of her
granddaughter she could stay on without anxiety at Ragatz, and be
ready to go to Clara at a moment's notice.
"Must we go indoors to write?" asked Clara, who agreed to Heidi's
proposal but did not want to move from where she was, as it was
so much nicer outside. Heidi was prepared to arrange everything.
She ran in and brought out her school-book and writing things and
her own little stool. She put her reading book and copy book on
Clara's knees, to make a desk for her to write upon, and she
herself took her seat on the stool and sat to the bench, and then
they both began writing to grandmamma. But Clara paused after
every sentence to look about her; it was too beautiful for much
letter writing. The breeze had sunk a little, and now only gently
fanned her face and whispered lightly through the fir trees.
Little winged insects hummed and danced around her in the clear
air, and a great stillness lay over the far, wide, sunny pasture
lands. Lofty and silent rose the high mountain peaks above her,
and below lay the whole broad valley full of quiet peace. Only
now and again the call of some shepherd-boy rang out through the
air, and echo answered softly from the rocks. The morning passed,
the children hardly knew how, and now grandfather came with the
mid-day bowls of steaming milk, for the little daughter, he said,
was to remain out as long as there was a gleam of sun in the sky.
The mid-day meal was set out and eaten as yesterday in the open
air. Then Heidi pushed Clara's chair under the fir trees, for
they had agreed to spend the afternoon under their shade and
there tell each other all that had happened since Heidi left
Frankfurt. If everything had gone on there as usual in a general
way, there were still all kinds of particular things to tell
Heidi about the various people who composed the Sesemann
household, and who were all so well known to Heidi.
So they sat and chatted under the trees, and the more lively grew
their conversation, the more loudly sang the birds overhead, as
if wishing to take part in the children's gossip, which evidently
pleased them. So the hours flew by and all at once, as it seemed,
the evening had come with the returning Peter, who still scowled
and looked angry.
"Good-night, Peter," called out Heidi, as she saw he had no
intention of stopping to speak.
"Good-night, Peter," called out Clara in a friendly voice. Peter
took no notice and went surlily on with his goats,
As Clara saw the grandfather leading away Little Swan to milk
her, she was suddenly taken with a longing for another bowlful of
the fragrant milk, and waited impatiently for it.
"Isn't it curious, Heidi," she said, astonished at herself, "as
long as I can remember I have only eaten because I was obliged
to, and everything used to seem to taste of cod liver oil, and I
was always wishing there was no need to eat or drink; and now I
am longing for grandfather to bring me the milk."
"Yes, I know what it feels like," replied Heidi, who remembered
the many days in Frankfurt when all her food used to seem to
stick in her throat. Clara, however, could not understand it; the
fact was that she had never in her life before spent a whole day
in the open air, much less in such high, life-giving mountain
air. When grandfather at last brought her the evening milk, she
drank it up so quickly that she had emptied her bowl before
Heidi, and then she asked for a little more. The grandfather went
inside with both the children's bowls, and when he brought them
out again full he had something else to add to their supper. He
had walked over that afternoon to a herdsman's house where the
sweetly-tasting butter was made, and had brought home a large
pat, some of which he had now spread thickly on two good slices
of bread. He stood and watched with pleasure while Clara and
Heidi ate their appetising meal with childish hunger and
That night, when Clara lay down in her bed and prepared to watch
the stars, her eyes would not keep open, and she fell asleep as
soon as Heidi and slept soundly all night--a thing she never
remembered having done before. The following day and the day
after passed in the same pleasant fashion, and the third day
there came a surprise for the children. Two stout porters came up
the mountain, each carrying a bed on his shoulders with bedding
of all kinds and two beautiful new white coverlids. The men also
had a letter with them from grandmamma, in which she said that
these were for Clara and Heidi, and that Heidi in future was
always to sleep in a proper bed, and when she went down to Dorfli
in the winter she was to take one with her and leave the other at
the hut, so that Clara might always know there was a bed ready
for her when she paid a visit to the mountain. She went on to
thank the children for their long letters and encouraged them to
continue writing daily, so that she might be able to picture all
they were doing.
So the grandfather went up and threw back the hay from Heidi's
bed on to the great heap, and then with his help the beds were
transported to the loft. He put them close to one another so that
the children might still be able to see out of the window, for he
knew what pleasure they had in the light from the sun and stars.
Meanwhile grandmamma down at Ragatz was rejoicing at the
excellent news of the invalid which reached her daily from the
mountain. Clara found the life more charming each day and could
not say enough of the kindness and care which the grandfather
lavished upon her, nor of Heidi's lively and amusing
companionship, for the latter was more entertaining even than
when in Frankfurt with her, and Clara's first thought when she
woke each morning was, "Oh, how glad I am to be here still."
Having such fresh assurances each day that all was going well
with Clara, grandmamma thought she might put off her visit to the
children a little longer, for the steep ride up and down was
somewhat of a fatigue to her.
The grandfather seemed to feel an especial sympathy for this
little invalid charge, for he tried to think of something fresh
every day to help forward her recovery. He climbed up the
mountain every afternoon, higher and higher each day, and came
home in the evening with a large bunch of leaves which scented
the air with a mingled fragrance as of carnations and thyme, even
from afar. He hung it up in the goat shed, and the goats on their
return were wild to get at it, for they recognised the smell. But
Uncle did not go climbing after rare plants to give the goats the
pleasure of eating them without any trouble of finding them; what
he gathered was for Little Swan alone, that she might give extra
fine milk, and the effect of the extra feeding was shown in the
way she flung her head in the air with ever-increasing
frolicsomeness, and in the bright glow of her eye.
Clara had now been on the mountain for three weeks. For some days
past the grandfather, each morning after carrying her down, had
said, "Won't the little daughter try if she can stand for a
minute or two?" And Clara had made the effort in order to please
him, but had clung to him as soon as her feet touched the ground,
exclaiming that it hurt her so. He let her try a little longer,
however, each day.
It was many years since they had had such a splendid summer among
the mountains. Day after day there were the same cloudless sky
and brilliant sun; the flowers opened wide their fragrant
blossoms, and everywhere the eye was greeted with a glow of
color; and when the evening came the crimson light fell on
mountain peaks and on the great snow-field, till at last the sun
sank in a sea of golden flame.
And Heidi never tired of telling Clara of all this, for only
higher up could the full glory of the colors be rightly seen; and
more particularly did she dwell on the beauty of the spot on the
higher slope of the mountain, where the bright golden rock-roses
grew in masses, and the blue flowers were in such numbers that
the very grass seemed to have turned blue, while near these were
whole bushes of the brown blossoms, with their delicious scent,
so that you never wanted to move again when you once sat down
She had just been expatiating on the flowers as she sat with
Clara under the fir trees one evening, and had been telling her
again of the wonderful light from the evening sun, when such an
irrepressible longing came over her to see it all once more that
the jumped up and ran to her grandfather, who was in the shed,
calling out almost before she was inside,--
"Grandfather, will you take us out with the goats to-morrow? Oh,
it is so lovely up there now!"
"Very well," he answered, "but if I do, the little daughter must
do something to please me: she must try her best again this
evening to stand on her feet."
Heidi ran back with the good news to Clara, and the latter
promised to try her very best as the grandfather wished, for she
looked forward immensely to the next day's excursion. Heidi was
so pleased and excited that she called out to Peter as soon as
she caught sight of him that evening,--
"Peter, Peter, we are all coming out with you to-morrow and are
going to stay up there the whole day."
Peter, cross as a bear, grumbled some reply, and lifted his stick
to give Greenfinch a blow for no reason in particular, but
Greenfinch saw the movement, and with a leap over Snowflake's
back she got out of the way, and the stick only hit the air.
Clara and Heidi got into their two fine beds that night full of
delightful anticipation of the morrow; they were so full of their
plans that they agreed to keep awake all night and talk over them
until they might venture to get up. But their heads had no sooner
touched their soft pillows than the conversation suddenly ceased,
and Clara fell into a dream of an immense field, which looked the
color of the sky, so thickly inlaid was it with blue bell-shaped
flowers; and Heidi heard the great bird of prey calling to her
from the heights above, "Come! come! come!"