CHAPTER VI. A NEW CHAPTER ABOUT NEW THINGS
In her home at Frankfurt, Clara, the little daughter of Herr
Sesemann, was lying on the invalid couch on which she spent her
whole day, being wheeled in it from room to room. Just now she
was in what was known as the study, where, to judge by the
various things standing and lying about, which added to the cosy
appearance of the room, the family was fond of sitting. A
handsome bookcase with glass doors explained why it was called
the study, and here evidently the little girl was accustomed to
have her lessons.
Clara's little face was thin and pale, and at this moment her two
soft blue eyes were fixed on the clock, which seemed to her to go
very slowly this day, and with a slight accent of impatience,
which was very rare with her, she asked, "Isn't it time yet,
This lady was sitting very upright at a small work-table, busy
with her embroidery. She had on a mysterious-looking loose
garment, a large collar or shoulder-cape that gave a certain
solemnity to her appearance, which was enhanced by a very lofty
dome-shaped head dress. For many years past, since the mistress
of the house had died, the housekeeping and the superintendence
of the servants had been entrusted by Herr Sesemann to Fraulein
Rottenmeier. He himself was often away from home, and he left her
in sole charge, with the condition only that his little daughter
should have a voice in all matters, and that nothing should be
done against her wish.
As Clara was putting her impatient question for the second time,
Dete and Heidi arrived at the front door, and the former inquired
of the coachman, who had just got down from his box, if it was
too late to see Fraulein Rottenmeier.
"That's not my business," grumbled the coachman; "ring the bell
in the hall for Sebastian."
Dete did so, and Sebastian came downstairs; he looked astonished
when he saw her, opening his eyes till they were nearly as big as
the large round buttons on his coat.
"Is it too late for me to see Fraulein Rottenmeier?" Dete asked
"That's not my business," answered the man; "ring that other bell
for the maid Tinette," and without troubling himself any farther
Dete rang again. This time Tinette appeared with a spotless white
cap perched on the top of her head and a mocking expression of
"What is it?" she called from the top of the stairs. Dete
repeated her question. Tinette disappeared, but soon came back
and called down again to Dete, "Come up, she is expecting you."
Dete and Heidi went upstairs and into the study, Tinette
following. Dete remained standing politely near the door, still
holding Heidi tightly by the hand, for she did not know what the
child might take it into her head to do amid these new
Fraulein Rottenmeier rose slowly and went up to the little new
companion for the daughter of the house, to see what she was
like. She did not seem very pleased with her appearance. Heidi
was dressed in her plain little woollen frock, and her hat was an
old straw one bent out of shape. The child looked innocently out
from beneath it, gazing with unconcealed astonishment at the
lady's towering head dress.
"What is your name?" asked Fraulen Rottenmeier, after
scrutinisingly examining the child for some minutes, while Heidi
in return kept her eyes steadily fixed upon the lady.
"Heidi," she answered in a clear, ringing voice.
"What? what? that's no Christian name for a child; you were not
christened that. What name did they give you when you were
baptized?" continued Frauleln Rottenmeier.
"I do not remember," replied Heidi.
"What a way to answer!" said the lady, shaking her head. "Dete,
is the child a simpleton or only saucy?"
"If the lady will allow me, I will speak for the child, for she
is very unaccustomed to strangers," said Dete, who had given
Heidi a silent poke for making such an unsuitable answer. "She is
certainly not stupid nor yet saucy, she does not know what it
means even; she speaks exactly as she thinks. To-day she is for
the first time in a gentleman's house and she does not know good
manners; but she is docile and very willing to learn, if the lady
will kindly make excuses for her. She was christened Adelaide,
after her mother, my sister, who is now dead."
"Well, that's a name that one can pronounce," remarked Fraulein
Rottenmeier. "But I must tell you, Dete, that I am astonished to
see so young a child. I told you that I wanted a companion of the
same age as the young lady of the house, one who could share her
lessons, and all her other occupations. Fraulein Clara is now
over twelve; what age is this child?"
"If the lady will allow me," began Dete again, in her usual
fluent manner, "I myself had lost count of her exact age; she is
certainly a little younger, but not much; I cannot say precisely,
but I think she is ten, or thereabouts."
"Grandfather told me I was eight," put in Heidi. Dete gave her
another poke, but as the child had not the least idea why she did
so she was not at all confused.
"What--only eight!" cried Fraulein Rottenmeier angrily. "Four
years too young! Of what use is such a child! And what have you
learnt? What books did you have to learn from?"
"None," said Heidi.
"How? what? How then did you learn to read?" continued the lady.
"I have never learnt to read, or Peter either," Heidi informed
"Mercy upon us! you do not know how to read! Is it really so?"
exclaimed Fraulein Rottenmeier, greatly horrified. "Is it
possible--not able to read? What have you learnt then?"
"Nothing," said Heidi with unflinching truthfulness.
"Young woman," said the lady to Dete, after having paused for a
minute or two to recover from her shock, "this is not at all the
sort of companion you led me to suppose; how could you think of
bringing me a child like this?"
But Dete was not to be put down so easily, and answered warmly,
"If the lady will allow me, the child is exactly what I thought
she required; the lady described what she wished for, a child
unlike all other children, and I could find no other to suit, for
the greater number I know are not peculiar, but one very much the
same as the other, and I thought this child seemed as if made for
the place. But I must go now, for my mistress will be waiting for
me; if the lady will permit I will come again soon and see how
she is getting on." And with a bow Dete quickly left the room and
ran downstairs. Fraulein Rottenmeier stood for a moment taken
aback and then ran after Dete. If the child was to stop she had
many things yet to say and ask about her, and there the child
was, and what was more, Dete, as she plainly saw, meant to leave
Heidi remained by the door where she had been standing since she
first came in. Clara had looked on during the interview without
speaking; now she beckoned to Heidi and said, "Come here!"
Heidi went up to her.
"Would you rather be called Heidi or Adelaide? asked Clara.
"I am never called anything but Heidi," was the child's prompt
"Then I shall always call you by that name," said Clara, "it
suits you. I have never heard it before, but neither have I ever
seen a child like you before. Have you always had that short
"Yes, I think so," said Heidi.
"Are you pleased to come to Frankfurt? went on Clara.
"No, but I shall go home to-morrow and take grandmother a white
loaf," explained Heidi.
"Well, you are a funny child!" exclaimed Clara. "You were
expressly sent for to come here and to remain with me and share
my lessons; there will be some fun about them now as you cannot
read, something new to do, for often they are dreadfully dull,
and I think the morning will never pass away. You know my tutor
comes every morning at about ten o'clock, and then we go on with
lessons till two, and it does seem such a long time. Sometimes he
takes up the book and holds it close up to his face, as if he was
very short-sighted, but I know it's only because he wants so
dreadfully to gape, and Fraulein Rottenmeier takes her large
handkerchief out also now and then and covers her face with it,
as if she was moved by what we had been reading, but that is only
because she is longing to gape too. And I myself often want to
gape, but I am obliged to stop myself, for if Fraulein
Rottenmeier sees me gaping she runs off at once and fetches the
cod-liver oil and says I must have a dose, as I am getting weak
again, and the cod-liver oil is horrible, so I do my best not to
gape. But now it will be much more amusing, for I shall be able
to lie and listen while you learn to read."
Heidi shook her head doubtfully when she heard of learning to
"Oh, nonsense, Heidi, of course you must learn to read, everybody
must, and my tutor is very kind, and never cross, and he will
explain everything to you. But mind, when he explains anything to
you, you won't be able to understand; but don't ask any
questions, or else he will go on explaining and you will
understand less than ever. Later when you have learnt more and
know about things yourself, then you will begin to understand
what he meant."
Fraulein Rottenmeier now came back into the room; she had not
been able to overtake Dete, and was evidently very much put out;
for she had wanted to go into more details concerning the child,
and to convince Dete how misleading she had been, and how unfit
Heidi was as a companion for Clara; she really did not know what
to be about, or how to undo the mischief, and it made her all the
more angry that she herself was responsible for it, having
consented to Heidi being fetched. She ran backwards and forwards
in a state of agitation between the study and the dining-room,
and then began scolding Sebastian, who was standing looking at
the table he had just finished laying to see that nothing was
"You can finish your thoughts to-morrow morning; make haste, or
we shall get no dinner to-day at all."
Then hurrying out she called Tinette, but in such an ill-tempered
voice that the maid came tripping forward with even more mincing
steps than usual, but she looked so pert that even Fraulein
Rottenmeier did not venture to scold her, which only made her
suppressed anger the greater.
"See that the room is prepared for the little girl who has just
arrived," said the lady, with a violent effort at self-control.
"Everything is ready; it only wants dusting."
"It's worth my troubling about," said Tinette mockingly as she
Meanwhile Sebastian had flung open the folding doors leading into
the dining-room with rather more noise than he need, for he was
feeling furious, although he did not dare answer back when
Fraulein Rottenmeier spoke to him; he then went up to Clara's
chair to wheel her into the next room. As he was arranging the
handle at the back preparatory to doing so, Heidi went near and
stood staring at him. Seeing her eyes fixed upon him, he suddenly
growled out, "Well, what is there in me to stare at like that?"
which he would certainly not have done if he had been aware that
Fraulein Rottenmeier was just then entering the room. "You look
so like Peter," answered Heidi. The lady-housekeeper clasped her
hands in horror. "Is it possible!" she stammered half-aloud, "she
is now addressing the servant as if he were a friend! I never
could have imagined such a child!"
Sebastian wheeled the couch into the dining-room and helped Clara
on to her chair. Fraulein Rottenmeier took the seat beside her
and made a sign to Heidi to take the one opposite. They were the
only three at table, and as they sat far apart there was plenty
of room for Sebastian to hand his dishes. Beside Heidi's plate
lay a nice white roll, and her eyes lighted up with pleasure as
she saw it. The resemblance which Heidi had noticed had evidently
awakened in her a feeling of confidence towards Sebastian, for
she sat as still as a mouse and without moving until he came up
to her side and handed her the dish of fish; then she looked at
the roll and asked, "Can I have it?" Sebastian nodded, throwing a
side glance at Fraulein Rottenmeier to see what effect this
request would have upon her. Heidi immediately seized the roll
and put it in her pocket. Sebastian's face became convulsed, he
was overcome with inward laughter but knew his place too well to
laugh aloud. Mute and motionless he still remained standing
beside Heidi; it was not his duty to speak, nor to move away
until she had helped herself. Heidi looked wonderingly at him for
a minute or two, and then said, "Am I to eat some of that too?"
Sebastian nodded again. "Give me some then," she said, looking
calmly at her plate. At this Sebastian's command of his
countenance became doubtful, and the dish began to tremble
suspiciously in his hands.
"You can put the dish on the table and come back presently," said
Fraulein Rottenmeier with a severe expression of face. Sebastian
disappeared on the spot. "As for you, Adelaide, I see I shall
have to teach you the first rules of behavior," continued the
lady-housekeeper with a sigh. "I will begin by explaining to you
how you are to conduct yourself at table," and she went on to
give Heidi minute instructions as to all she was to do. "And
now," she continued, "I must make you particularly understand
that you are not to speak to Sebastian at table, or at any other
time, unless you have an order to give him, or a necessary
question to put to him; and then you are not to address him as if
he was some one belonging to you. Never let me hear you speak to
him in that way again! It is the same with Tinette, and for
myself you are to address me as you hear others doing. Clara must
herself decide what you are to call her."
"Why, Clara, of course," put the latter. Then followed a long
list of rules as to general behavior, getting up and going to
bed, going in and out of the room, shutting the doors, keeping
everything tidy, during the course of which Heidi's eyes
gradually closed, for she had been up before five o'clock that
morning and had had a long journey. She leant back in her chair
and fell fast asleep. Fraulein Rottenmeier having at last come to
the end of her sermonizing said, "Now remember what I have said,
Adelaide! Have you understood it all?"
"Heidi has been asleep for ever so long," said Clara, her face
rippling all over with amusement, for she had not had such an
entertaining dinner for a long time.
"It is really insupportable what one has to go through with this
child," exclaimed Fraulein Rottenmeier, in great indignation, and
she rang the bell so violently that Tinette and Sebastian both
came running in and nearly tumbling over one another; but no
noise was sufficient to wake Heidi, and it was with difficulty
they could rouse her sufficiently to get her along to her
bedroom, to reach which she had to pass first through the study,
then through Clara's bedroom, then through Fraulein Rottenmeier's
sitting-room, till she came to the corner room that had been set
apart for her.