CHAPTER VIII. THERE IS GREAT COMMOTION IN THE LARGE HOUSE
Sebastian had just shown the tutor into the study on the
following morning when there came another and very loud ring at
the bell, which Sebastian ran quickly to answer. "Only Herr
Sesemann rings like that," he said to himself; "he must have
returned home unexpectedly." He pulled open the door, and there
in front of him he saw a ragged little boy carrying a hand-organ
on his back.
"What's the meaning of this?" said Sebastian angrily. "I'll teach
you to ring bells like that! What do you want here?"
"I want to see Clara," the boy answered.
"You dirty, good-for-nothing little rascal, can't you be polite
enough to say 'Miss Clara'? What do you want with her?" continued
Sebastian roughly. She owes me fourpence," explained the boy.
"You must be out of your mind! And how do you know that any young
lady of that name lives here?"
"She owes me twopence for showing her the way there, and twopence
for showing her the way back."
"See what a pack of lies you are telling! The young lady never
goes out, cannot even walk; be off and get back to where you came
from, before I have to help you along."
But the boy was not to be frightened away; he remained standing,
and said in a determined voice, "But I saw her in the street, and
can describe her to you; she has short, curly black hair, and
black eyes, and wears a brown dress, and does not talk quite like
"Oho!" thought Sebastian, laughing to himself, "the little miss
has evidently been up to more mischief." Then, drawing the boy
inside he said aloud, "I understand now, come with me and wait
outside the door till I tell you to go in. Be sure you begin
playing your, organ the instant you get inside the room; the lady
is very fond of music."
Sebastian knocked at the study door, and a voice said, "Come in."
"There is a boy outside who says he must speak to Miss Clara
herself," Sebastian announced.
Clara was delighted at such an extraordinary and unexpected
"Let him come in at once," replied Clara; "he must come in, must
he not," she added, turning to her tutor, "if he wishes so
particularly to see me?"
The boy was already inside the room, and according to Sebastian's
directions immediately began to play his organ. Fraulein
Rottenmeier, wishing to escape the A B C, had retired with her
work to the dining-room. All at once she stopped and listened.
Did those sounds come up from the street? And yet they seemed so
near! But how could there be an organ playing in the study? And
yet--it surely was so. She rushed to the other end of the long
dining-room and tore open the door. She could hardly believe her
eyes. There, in the middle of the study, stood a ragged boy
turning away at his organ in the most energetic manner. The tutor
appeared to be making efforts to speak, but his voice could not
be heard. Both children were listening delightedly to the music.
"Leave off! leave off at once!" screamed Fraulein Rottenmeier.
But her voice was drowned by the music. She was making a dash for
the boy, when she saw something on the ground crawling towards
her feet--a dreadful dark object--a tortoise. At this sight she
jumped higher than she had for many long years before, shrieking
with all her might, "Sebastian! Sebastian!"
The organ-player suddenly stopped, for this time her voice had
risen louder than the music. Sebastian was standing outside bent
double with laughter, for he had been peeping to see what was
going on. By the time he entered the room Fraulein Rottenmeier
had sunk into a chair.
"Take them all out, boy and animal! Get them away at once!" she
Sebastian pulled the boy away, the latter having quickly caught
up the tortoise, and when he had got him outside he put something
into his hand. "There is the fourpence from Miss Clara, and
another fourpence for the music. You did it all quite right!" and
with that he shut the front door upon him.
Quietness reigned again in the study, and lessons began once
more; Fraulein Rottenmeier now took up her station in the study
in order by her presence to prevent any further dreadful
But soon another knock came to the door, and Sebastian again
stepped in, this time to say that some one had brought a large
basket with orders that it was to be given at once to Miss Clara.
"For me?" said Clara in astonishment, her curiosity very much
excited, "bring it in at once that I may see what it is like."
Sebastian carried in a large covered basket and retired.
"I think the lessons had better be finished first before the
basket is unpacked," said Fraulein Rottenmeier.
Clara could not conceive what was in it, and cast longing glances
towards it. In the middle of one of her declensions she suddenly
broke off and said to the tutor, "Mayn't I just give one peep
inside to see what is in it before I go on?"
"On some considerations I am for it, on others against it," he
began in answer; "for it, on the ground that if your whole
attention is directed to the basket--" but the speech remained
unfinished. The cover of the basket was loose, and at this moment
one, two, three, and then two more, and again more kittens came
suddenly tumbling on to the floor and racing about the room in
every direction, and with such indescribable rapidity that it
seemed as if the whole room was full of them. They jumped over
the tutor's boots, bit at his trousers, climbed up Fraulein
Rottenmeier's dress, rolled about her feet, sprang up on to
Clara's couch, scratching, scrambling, and mewing: it was a sad
scene of confusion. Clara, meanwhile, pleased with their gambols,
kept on exclaiming, "Oh, the dear little things! how pretty they
are! Look, Heidi, at this one; look, look, at that one over
there!" And Heidi in her delight kept running after them first
into one corner and then into the other. The tutor stood up by
the table not knowing what to do, lifting first his right foot
and then his left to get it away from the scrambling, scratching
kittens. Fraulein Rottenmeier was unable at first to speak at
all, so overcome was she with horror, and she did not dare rise
from her chair for fear that all the dreadful little animals
should jump upon her at once. At last she found voice to call
loudly, Tinette! Tinette! Sebastian! Sebastian!"
They came in answer to her summons and gathered up the kittens,
by degrees they got them all inside the basket again and then
carried them off to put with the other two.
To-day again there had been no opportunity for gaping. Late that
evening, when Fraulein Rottenmeier had somewhat recovered from
the excitement of the morning, she sent for the two servants, and
examined their closely concerning the events of the morning. And
then it came out that Heidi was at the bottom of them, everything
being the result of her excursion of the day before. Fraulein
Rottenmeier sat pale with indignation and did not know at first
how to express her anger. Then she made a sign to Tinette and
Sebastian to withdraw, and turning to Heidi, who was standing by
Clara's couch, quite unable to understand of what sin she had
been guilty, began in a severe voice,--
"Adelaide, I know of only one punishment which will perhaps make
you alive to your ill conduct, for you are an utter little
barbarian, but we will see if we cannot tame you so that you
shall not be guilty of such deeds again, by putting you in a dark
cellar with the rats and black beetles."
Heidi listened in silence and surprise to her sentence, for she
had never seen a cellar such as was now described; the place
known at her grandfather's as the cellar, where the fresh made
cheeses and the new milk were kept, was a pleasant and inviting
place; neither did she know at all what rats and black beetles
But now Clara interrupted in great distress. "No, no, Fraulein
Rottenmeier, you must wait till papa comes; he has written to say
that he will soon be home, and then I will tell him everything,
and he will say what is to be done with Heidi."
Fraulein Rottenmeier could not do anything against this superior
authority, especially as the father was really expected very
shortly. She rose and said with some displeasure, "As you will,
Clara, but I too shall have something to say to Herr Sesemann."
And with that she left the room.
Two days now went by without further disturbance. Fraulein
Rottenmeier, however, could not recover her equanimity; she was
perpetually reminded by Heidi's presence of the deception that
had been played upon her, and it seemed to her that ever since
the child had come into the house everything had been
topsy-turvy, and she could not bring things into proper order
again. Clara had grown much more cheerful; she no longer found
time hang heavy during the lesson hours, for Heidi was
continually making a diversion of some kind or other. She jumbled
all her letters up together and seemed quite unable to learn
them, and when the tutor tried to draw her attention to their
different shapes, and to help her by showing her that this was
like a little horn, or that like a bird's bill, she would
suddenly exclaim in a joyful voice, "That is a goat!" "That is a
bird of prey!" For the tutor's descriptions suggested all kinds
of pictures to her mind, but left her still incapable of the
alphabet. In the later afternoons Heidi always sat with Clara,
and then she would give the latter many and long descriptions of
the mountain and of her life upon it, and the burning longing to
return would become so overpowering that she always finished with
the words, "Now I must go home! to-morrow I must really go!" But
Clara would try to quiet her, and tell Heidi that she must wait
till her father returned, and then they would see what was to be
done. And if Heidi gave in each time and seemed quickly to regain
her good spirits, it was because of a secret delight she had in
the thought that every day added two more white rolls to the
number she was collecting for grandmother; for she always
pocketed the roll placed beside her plate at dinner and supper,
feeling that she could not bear to eat them, knowing that
grandmother had no white bread and could hardly eat the black
bread which was so hard. After dinner Heidi had to sit alone in
her room for a couple of hours, for she understood now that she
might not run about outside at Frankfurt as she did on the
mountain, and so she did not attempt it. Any conversation with
Sebastian in the dining-room was also forbidden her, and as to
Tinette, she kept out of her way, and never thought of speaking
to her, for Heidi was quite aware that the maid looked scornfully
at her and always spoke to her in a mocking voice. So Heidi had
plenty of time from day to day to sit and picture how everything
at home was now turning green, and how the yellow flowers were
shining in the sun, and how all around lay bright in the warm
sunshine, the snow and the rocks, and the whole wide valley, and
Heidi at times could hardly contain herself for the longing to be
back home again. And Dete had told her that she could go home
whenever she liked. So it came about one day that Heidi felt she
could not bear it any longer, and in haste she tied all the rolls
up in her red shawl, put on her straw hat, and went downstairs.
But just as she reached the hall-door she met Fraulein
Rottenmeier herself, just returning from a walk, which put a stop
to Heidi's journey.
Fraulein Rottenmeier stood still a moment, looking at her from
top to toe in blank astonishment, her eye resting particularly on
the red bundle. Then she broke out,--
"What have you dressed yourself like that for? What do you mean
by this? Have I not strictly forbidden you to go running about in
the streets? And here you are ready to start off again, and going
out looking like a beggar."
"I was not going to run about, I was going home," said Heidi,
"What are you talking about! Going home! You want to go home?"
exclaimed Fraulein Rottenmeier, her anger rising. "To run away
like that! What would Herr Sesemann say if he knew! Take care
that he never hears of this! And what is the matter with his
house, I should like to know! Have you not been better treated
than you deserved? Have you wanted for a thing? Have you ever in
your life before had such a house to live in, such a table, or so
many to wait upon you? Have you?
"No," replied Heidi.
"I should think not indeed!" continued the exasperated lady. "You
have everything you can possibly want here, and you are an
ungrateful little thing; it's because you are too well off and
comfortable that you have nothing to do but think what naughty
thing you can do next!"
Then Heidi's feelings got the better of her, and she poured forth
her trouble. "Indeed I only want to go home, for if I stay so
long away Snowflake will begin crying again, and grandmother is
waiting for me, and Greenfinch will get beaten, because I am not
there to give Peter any cheese, and I can never see how the sun
says good-night to the mountains; and if the great bird were to
fly over Frankfurt he would croak louder than ever about people
huddling all together and teaching each other bad things, and not
going to live up on the rocks, where it is so much better."
"Heaven have mercy on us, the child is out of her mind!" cried
Fraulein Rottenmeier, and she turned in terror and went quickly
up the steps, running violently against Sebastian in her hurry.
"Go and bring that unhappy little creature in at once," she
ordered him, putting her hand to her forehead which she had
bumped against his.
Sebastian did as he was told, rubbing his own head as he went,
for he had received a still harder blow.
Heidi had not moved, she stood with her eyes aflame and trembling
all over with inward agitation.
"What, got into trouble again?" said Sebastian in a cheerful
voice; but when he looked more closely at Heidi and saw that she
did not move, he put his hand kindly on her shoulder, and said,
trying to comfort her, "There, there, don't take it to heart so
much; keep up your spirits, that is the great thing! She has
nearly made a hole in my head, but don't you let her bully you."
Then seeing that Heidi still did not stir, "We must go; she
ordered me to take you in."
Heidi now began mounting the stairs, but with a slow, crawling
step, very unlike her usual manner. Sebastian felt quite sad as
he watched her, and as he followed her up he kept trying to
encourage her. "Don't you give in! don't let her make you
unhappy! You keep up your courage! Why we've got such a sensible
little miss that she has never cried once since she was here;
many at that age cry a good dozen times a day. The kittens are
enjoying themselves very much up in their home; they jump about
all over the place and behave as if they were little mad things.
Later we will go up and see them, when Fraulein is out of the
way, shall we?"
Heidi gave a little nod of assent, but in such a joyless manner
that it went to Sebastian's heart, and he followed her with
sympathetic eyes as she crept away to her room.
At supper that evening Fraulein Rottenmeier did not speak, but
she cast watchful looks towards Heidi as if expecting her at any
minute to break out in some extraordinary way; but Heidi sat
without moving or eating; all that she did was to hastily hide
her roll in her pocket.
When the tutor arrived next morning, Fraulein Rottenmeier drew
him privately aside, and confided her fear to him that the change
of air and the new mode of life and unaccustomed surroundings had
turned Heidi's head; then she told him of the incident of the day
before, and of Heidi's strange speech. But the tutor assured her
she need not be in alarm; he had already become aware that the
child was somewhat eccentric, but otherwise quite right in her
mind, and he was sure that, with careful treatment and education,
the right balance would be restored, and it was this he was
striving after. He was the more convinced of this by what he now
heard, and by the fact that he had so far failed to teach her the
alphabet, Heidi seeming unable to understand the letters.
Fraulein Rottenmeier was considerably relieved by his words, and
released the tutor to his work. In the course of the afternoon
the remembrance of Heidi's appearance the day before, as she was
starting out on her travels, suddenly returned to the lady, and
she made up her mind that she would supplement the child's
clothing with various garments from Clara's wardrobe, so as to
give her a decent appearance when Herr Sesemann returned. She
confided her intention to Clara, who was quite willing to make
over any number of dresses and hats to Heidi; so the lady went
upstairs to overhaul the child's belongings and see what was to
be kept and what thrown away. She returned, however, in the
course of a few minutes with an expression of horror upon her
"What is this, Adelaide, that I find in your wardrobe!" she
exclaimed. "I never heard of any one doing such a thing before!
In a cupboard meant for clothes, Adelaide, what do I see at the
bottom but a heap of rolls! Will you believe it, Clara, bread in
a wardrobe! a whole pile of bread! Tinette," she called to that
young woman, who was in the dining-room," go upstairs and take
away all those rolls out of Adelaide's cupboard and the old straw
hat on the table."
"No! no!" screamed Heidi. "I must keep the hat, and the rolls are
for grandmother," and she was rushing to stop Tinette when
Fraulein Rottenmeier took hold of her. "You will stop here, and
all that bread and rubbish shall be taken to the place they
belong to," she said in a determined tone as she kept her hand on
the child to prevent her running forward.
Then Heidi in despair flung herself down on Clara's couch and
broke into a wild fit of weeping, her crying becoming louder and
more full of distress, every minute, while she kept on sobbing
out at intervals, "Now grandmother's' bread is all gone! They
were all for grandmother, and now they are taken away, and
grandmother won't have one," and she wept as if her heart would
break. Fraulein Rottenmeier ran out of the room. Clara was
distressed and alarmed at the child's crying. "Heidi, Heidi," she
said imploringly, "pray do not cry so! listen to me; don't be so
unhappy; look now, I promise you that you shall have just as many
rolls, or more, all fresh and new to take to grandmother when you
go home; yours would have been hard and stale by then. Come,
Heidi, do not cry any more!"
Heidi could not get over her sobs for a long time; she would
never have been able to leave off crying at all if it had not
been for Clara's promise, which comforted her. But to make sure
that she could depend upon it she kept on saying to Clara, her
voice broken with her gradually subsiding sobs, "Will you give me
as many, quite as many, as I had, for grandmother?" And Clara
assured her each time that she would give her as many, "or more,"
she added, "only be happy again."
Heidi appeared at supper with her eyes red with weeping, and when
she saw her roll she could not suppress a sob. But she made an
effort to control herself, for she knew she must sit quietly at
table. Whenever Sebastian could catch her eye this evening he
made all sorts of strange signs, pointing to his own head and
then to hers, and giving little nods as much as to say, "Don't
you be unhappy! I have got it all safe for you."
When Heidi was going to get into bed that night she found her old
straw hat lying under the counterpane. She snatched it up with
delight, made it more out of shape still in her joy, and then,
after wrapping a handkerchief round it, she stuck it in a corner
of the cupboard as far back as she could.
It was Sebastian who had hidden it there for her; he had been in
the dining-room when Tinette was called, and had heard all that
went on with the child and the latter's loud weeping. So he
followed Tinette, and when she came out of Heidi's room carrying
the rolls and the hat, he caught up the hat and said, "I will see
to this old thing." He was genuinely glad to have been able to
save it for Heidi, and that was the meaning of his encouraging
signs to her at supper.