Yes, Indeed Uncle Alm looked strange! His bristling eyebrows and long beard made him look like a wild man. He seldom came down from the mountain, but when he did, the people hurried out of his path. And, what's more, what did he know about raising children? Pity this poor little girl who was being taken up to the old man's hut.
"What? You're crazy! How can you do this?" the village woman asked Detie.
"When my sister died and left this child to me." replied Detie, "I had no idea of caring for her forever. Now I've been offered a god job and I intend to take it. The girl's grandfather will have to do his duty. I'm finished."
"I understand, Detie, but the poor child! Nobody knows what's the matter with that old man. He has no friends. I know he did something terrible.
"Yes, sure enough," said Detie, suddenly realizing the little girl was gone. Glancing across the mountainside, she spotted her playing with a young boy.
"Oh, Heidi's over there with Peter the goatherd. Don't worry. For a five-year-old, she does all right on her own. Besides, Detie, tell me about the old man," continues the woman.
"years ago," began Detie, "Uncle was heir to a wonderful farm. He got into trouble, however, and drank and gambled away the whole property. It ruined his entire family. It was also said that he murdered a man during a fight. Later, when both his wife and son died, the old man moved to Dorfil, settling in a hut at the top of this mountain. He has rarely come down since."
"And you're going to hand Heidi over to such a person? Good luck! said the woman as she walked away shaking her head.
Detie stood watching her go. Just then she realized she had stopped near the wretched wooden hut where Peter lived with his mother and Grannie. The eleven-year-old boy seldom saw other children because every day he tended the goats high on the mountainsides. Now, he ran along Heidi leaping as nimbly as if he were one of the goats.
"Oh, you stupid child," yelled Detie. "Peter, bring her up here at once!"
The three climbed for another hour until they arrived at a high pasture where the old man's hut stood. It was blown by strong winds from all sides, but commanded a glorious view down over the valley. Heidi spotted the old man first as he sat peacefully smoking his pipe.
"Hello, Grandfather," she called.
"Huh? What's that?" he exclaimed gruffly.
"I've brought your granddaughter whom you haven't seen in four years," called Detie.
"In that time I've done everything for her, and now, it's your turn. Do what you like with her."
With that the old man stood up and glared at Detie, "How can I care for her?"
"That's up to you," replied Detie, and off she ran.
Grandfather stared at Heidi. "Well, come inside." Heidi followed him into the one-room hut. There was one table, one chair, and one bed with a stove in the corner over which hung a big cooking pot.
"We'll make you a bed in the hayloft," Grandfather said. Soon he had created thick soft mattress of hat covered with blankets. To Heidi's delight there was a round hole in the wall which she could look out from. Next, Grandfather fixed a delicious meal of bread, goat's cheese and goat's milk.
Suddenly Peter appeared with Grandfather's goats. He'd been tending them, as he did every day, while they grazed in the large pasture. Heidi danced with joy at the sight of the goats.
"We must get up with the sun." said Grandfather, "so, it's off to bed with you."
Heidi quickly climbed the ladder and was soon sound asleep in her cozy bed of hay. During the night the wind blew so fiercely. Grandfather worried that she would be frightened. Climbing the ladder and kneeling by her side, he could see in the moonlight her lovely little face. He stayed gazing at her tenderly until the clouds covered the moon and darkened the room. Then he went to bed.
From that day on, Heidi enjoyed a life filled with sunshine, fresh air, wild flowers and the freedom to be herself. Every morning she went with Peter and the goats to the grazing areas on the mountainsides, and together they played freely with the goats. She grew strong and healthy, and her skin turned a golden brown. On days when the wind blew fiercely, she would stay in the hut and watch Grandfather make goat's milk cheese or do carpentry.
Before Heidi knew it, fall had come. One day it began to snow. It snowed and snowed until the hut was nearly buried. Naturally, Peter stopped his goatherding in such weather. Besides, winter was the time he attended school.
Heidi decided that if she could not play with the goats, then she should spend her time with Grannie. Peter's family was terribly poor, and the wind and snow blew right through the large cracks in their wretched cabin. Saddest of all, though, was Grannie. She was blind. Everyday she huddled in her darkness in a cold corner. What great happiness it brought her when Heidi visited!
Grandfather would wrap Heidi in a thick blanket, put her on his lap, and together sled down the mountain to Grannie's He never went inside, shying away from an contact with anyone, but rather busied himself, at Heidi's request, repairing the outside of the cabin. He filled the holes and cracks, thus cheating the icy wind out of places to hide.
Winter passed and another summer arrived. Heidi was now seven. Grandfather had taught her many useful things. That didn't seem to be enough, however. Twice during the winter, Peter had brought messages from the schoolmaster in Dorfli requesting that Heidi be enrolled in school. Both times Grandfather declined. Grandfather firmly decided that Heidi would not attend school, and that was final!
The very next day Detie arrived. She had come to take Heidi away! Detie had contacted a family in Frankfurt which was looking for a companion for their young invalid daughter. She thought it would be a wonderful chance for Heidi to live in a rich home surrounded by luxuries.
"Nonsense," grumbled Grandfather. "She has everything she needs here. This comment only had made Detie angry. She stomped about the hut throwing Heidi's worn clothes in a bundle and pulling her out the door, leaving a surprised and saddened Grandfather behind.
The house in Frankfurt was owned by wealthy Mr. Sesemann. His wife had died years before and in her place a very disagreeable housekeeper, Miss Rottenmeier, was in charge. His only child was Clara, a twelve-year-old invalid, who spent every day either in bed or in a wheelchair. She was a kind, patient child although very weak and pale.
Mr. Sesemann was away on business when Heidi and Detie arrived. They were shown into a large beautiful room. Heidi, in her shabby clothes and tangled black curls did not make a good first impression.
"What's your name?" demanded Miss Rottenmeier, staring hard at Heidi.
Heidi politely replied, "Heidi."
"That can't be your proper name, child! I will call you Adelheid! Furthermore, I asked for a twelve year-old-girl. Adelheid is much too young," she continued.
"What books can you read?"
"None," Heidi answered honestly.
A long angry silence followed.
"Really, Detie. I don't know why you brought this unsuitable creature to us. She won't do at all!"
"Just give her a chance. I'll return later and see how things are going," replied Detie as she quickly ran out the door. Heidi stood frozen in one spot. Gently Clara called to her, "Shall I call you Heidi or Adelheid?"
"My name is Heidi," the little girl answered.
"Are you glad you came?" continued Clara.
"No," said Heidi, "but it doesn't matter because I'll be leaving soon."
"You're a funny child, Heidi. Don't you know you will stay here and be my companion? We'll take school lessons together. My teacher, Mr. Usher, is such a bore, and it will help to have two of us in the class."
Just then a flustered Miss Rottenmeier returned. Angrily she yelled at the servants, "Don't stand there! Prepare the child's room, and then serve dinner!"
That evening it was clear that Heidi was not going to fit into this strict household. After she made numerous mistakes at the dinner table, Miss Rottenmeier began to lecture Heidi on how she should behave. Just as she came to the part on how Heidi should open and close doors, the child fell asleep.
As for Clara, she could not remember ever having spent a more entertaining dinner!
In the next few days, Heidi's mistakes grew. Not only were her manners not acceptable, but Mr. Usher found her extremely difficult to teach. She couldn't remember any of the alphabet. Heidi was very concerned with the strangeness all about her, but what bothered her most was being indoors every day. Why, couldn't even look out her bedroom window which was covered and locked up tightly. Frankfurt was a gray city which the sun seemed to have forgotten. How she longed for Grandfather, Peter, the goats and her beautiful mountain!
One afternoon when Heidi could not stand the confining walls a moment longer, she ran outdoors. How disappointed she was to find not one blade of grass! Rather than a lovely green pasture, she found only streets of stone.
Even though Heidi tried her best, she could do nothing to please Miss Rottenmeier. "Adelheid," the old housekeeper warned, "a little savage like you should be punished by staying in the dark cellar with the bats and rats. Perhaps that will tame you into behaving!"
Clara, however, protested loudly
"Just wait until Papa comes home next week. I'll tell him what you said!"
Miss Rottenmeier quickly stopped her warnings, for she knew she must never make Clara angry. Clara and Heidi became close friends. Heidi would tell about her life in Grandfather's hut and all the things she loved there. She would often cry, however, for her stories brought on a deep homesickness. Clara feared this because she truly cared for Heidi. Heidi was, after all, the first and only friend she had ever had.
"Wait until Papa returns," she would say to Heidi. "Things will be better then."
There was great excitement a few days later when Mr. Sesemann returned. He found the girls in the study. He found the girls in the study. After kissing Clara warmly, he turned to Heidi. "So this is our little swiss girl. Tell me, are you two good friends?"
"Oh, Father, Heidi is wonderful!" cried Clara. "We're great friends!"
The reports on Heidi from Miss Rottenmeier and Mr, Usher were however, not so great. "Why, her conduct has been almost unbelievable," said the stern housekeeper.
In the end, nevertheless, Mr. Sesemann decided Heidi would stay, for after all, Clara loved her. Besides, Grandmama would soon be coming and she could help manage Heidi. Two weeks later, Father returned to Paris, and the old Mrs. Sesemann arrived. Heidi was warned by Miss Rottenmeier that she was to call Grandmama 'Gracious Madam.'
Heidi did as she was told and upon their first introduction nervously whispered, "Good evening, Madam Gracious."
"Oh...ho..ho..ho..ho! What was that?" laughed the old woman. "Please call me 'Grandmama.' And what is your name?"
"My real name's Heidi, but Miss Rottenmeier calls me Adelheid," replied Heidi.
"Well, then I shall call you Heidi," said Grandmama kindly.
"I've brought you some books to read."
"But I can't read," said Heidi hopelessly. "Peter told me reading is too difficult."
"Come, come, my dear. We shall study every day. Soon you'll see how easy it is."
As the days went by, Heidi's loneliness became obvious to Grandmama. Lovingly the woman comforted her. Together they talked about how God answers prayers and that Heidi's prayers would someday also be answered. Grandmama as well, taught Heidi to read, bring them both sincere satisfaction.
The day Granamama left was a sad day. How quiet the house was without her! Heidi began to think of the possibility of Grannie and Grandfather dying before she could see them again. She couldn't bear to think of it. Her prayers became more and more frequent. She wanted to go home! In her sadness, Heidi lost all interest in food. Soon she became very thin and pale. At night she cried herself to sleep.
When Clara's kindly doctor came to check on her, he also checked on Heidi. He noticed the drastic change in her and notified Mr. Sesemann. "I think you should know, sir," said Dr. Classen, "that something must be done about Heidi. Her homesickness is affecting her health seriously. I recommend she return to her Grandfather immediately."
"Of course, I'll do as you say, Doctor," replied Mr. Sesemann. The very next day he told Heidi. She was overjoyed at the wonderful news! Clara, however, was most upset at the thought of Heidi leaving. She tried to change Father's mind, but he refused.
Sebastian, the servant, was ordered to take Heidi to Dorfli. Together they left with a trunk full of gifts for Heidi, Grandfather and Grannie.
"Thank you for everything," said Heidi. "I will never forget you, Clara, Mr. Sesemann, Grandmama, and Dr. Classen. You must promise to come to Dorfli as soon as possible."
Heidi's heart was pounding! As she climbed the mountain path to Grandfather's hut, Peter's cabin came into view. "Will Grannie still be here?" she thought. She opened the door and found Grannie sitting in the same dark, cold corner. Throwing herself onto the old woman's lap, she cried, "Grannie, dear, I'm home and I'll never leave you again!"
"Oh, dear child," cried Grannie "God has answered my prayers."
A short time later, Heidi was back on the path to Grandfather's hut. The sight of the mountains filled her with joy. As she neared the top, she saw him. "Grandfather! Grandfather!" The old man was so surprised he couldn't speak. for the first time in a long, long time, his eyes became wet with tears.
"So, my Heidi has returned," he said, holding her. "But, child, you don't look well. Did they send you away?"
"No, no, they were kind to me, but I was very homesick." Just them a tinkle of bells came over hill, and soon Peter and the goats surrounded them. Such happiness it was to all be together again. God had indeed answered Heidi's prayers.
Heidi went as often as she could to visit Grannie. Now that she could read, she always read pages from Grannie's old hymn book to her.
"It makes my heart rejoice having you here and having you read my old beloved hymns to me," said Grannie. And it was true. No one had seen the old woman's face so full of pleasure in a long time. Heidi also read to Grandfather from the lovely books that Grandmama had given her. The stories were about God and how he forgave people for their sins. Grandfather could not help but think about his life and the mistakes he had made.
The next Sunday he exclaimed, "Heidi, put on your best dress. We're going to church1"
The Dorfli congregation couldn't believe their eyes when the two entered the church. "What a change has come over him!" they agreed. "Grandfather is a new man. Once more he is one of us."
After church, Grandfather insisted on visiting Grannie. This time he went inside to see his old friend whom he had avoided for so many years.
Months passed and Clara was becoming more and more anxious to visit Heidi. Dr. Classen would not hear of it, however, as she simply was not strong enough. Mr. Sesemann looked at the kindly widower. "Doctor, I'm not only worried about Clara, but I'm worried about you, as well. You need a change. Why don't you visit Heidi?"
This surprised the doctor. It was true he wasn't well, for recently his only child-a daughter-had died. Without her, he had little will to live.
"Oh, yes, doctor," pleaded Clara, "please go to see Heidi for me. Then you can come back and tell me all about Grandfather, the mountain, the goats, everything!"
so it was decided that Dr. Classen should leave at once. There wasn't even time to notify Heidi. How excited she was when she saw her friend climbing up the mountain path!
"Doctor, doctor! How happy I am to see you! But, wh...where is Clara?"
"I'm afraid I'm going to disappoint you, Heidi," answered Dr. Classen. "Clara is too ill to travel now. As soon as the warm spring weather arrives, she'll come." Heidi saw the lonely look in the doctor's eyes and knew something was terribly wrong. She decided to wait, however, before asking any more questions. Instead she took her good friend to meet grandfather. The two old gentlemen became friends immediately. Together they sat outdoor on the porch watching the sun set on the peaceful mountainside.
"This certainly is the place for Clara to come. She'll be healthy in no time here," said the doctor.
The next day Heidi took him to the pasture where the goats grazed. As they lay on the soft grass, Dr. Classen began to tell Heidi of his daughter's death and his deep sadness.
"Do you think my heart can ever forget such sorrow?" he asked Heidi.
"I think you must wait," she replied, "and keep believing that God will make something good come out ot the bad.
"Thank you, Heidi, for reminding me to have faith," smiled the doctor.
For one month the two roamed the mountain studying the flowers, the animals, and each other. Then
It was suddenly time for Dr. Classen to leave. It was a different man who departed Dorfli, however, for the doctor had regained his health and spirits. "Thank you, Heidi, for everything, he said.
"Dr. Classen," cried Heidi, "I love you nearly as much as Grandfather. Please come back and bring Clara. Goodbye."
That winter the snow was so heavy Grandfather decided they should move down to the village. Besides, Heidi needed to attend school. There she studied hard and continued to visit Grannie whenever possible. She read Grannie's beloved hymns and helped her get through her cold, sightless winter.
One happy day the following spring, a letter arrived saying Clara would soon come. Sure enough, one day, up the mountains path, came a procession of men carrying trunks, blankets, and a wheelchair with Clara in it, followed by Grandmama riding a horse. "My dear uncle," Grandmama exclaimed. "What a magnificent place! A king would envy you. And Heidi looks like a fresh June rose."
The girls kissed warmly, and Grandfather tenderly lifted Clara to a chair. Tucking the blankets gently around her, he looked like a kind nurse. Heidi ran about gathering flowers for her sickly guest.
"Grandmama, do you think I could ever run about like Heidi?" asked Clara longingly.
That evening, Clara eagerly finished her milk, bread and cheese, and then to Grandmama's delight, asked for more. It was apparent to Grandmama that Clara would be well cared for, and therefore, she decided to allow Clara to stay in the hut while she went to a hotel.
Perhaps the loveliest moment of the wonderful day came when Grandfather carefully laid Clara down beside Heidi on the bed of hay. Looking at the sky through the hole in the wall, Clara thought for sure she was sleeping in heaven. Smiling, the two little girls fell into a peaceful sleep.
The girls spent every day outdoors together. There were goats to watch, cool mountain air to breathe, evergreen trees to smell, and warm sunshine to feel. And always there was Grandfather with his delicious mugs of fresh goat's milk and golden cheese. He carried Clara about in his strong arms and even began encouraging her to try standing on her own.
"Won't you try to stand, Little One, even for a moment?" he would gently say. Clara, wanting to please him, would try, but stopped quickly when it hurt. Everyone wasn't happy, however. Peter missed Heidi and was jealous of the time she spent with Clara. One day in a burst of anger, when no one was looking, he gave Clara's wheelchair a strong shove. Off it went crashing down the mountainside.
"Now," he thought, "without her chair she'll have to return home."
No one understood the mysterious disappearance of Clara's chair and thought perhaps a strong gust of wind had blown it away. "Huh...huh... huh... now I won't be able to go to the pasture," cried Clara.
"We'll go anyway," replied Grandfather as he picked up some blankets and Clara. Finding a sunny place, he carefully put her down, covered her warmly and left. The two girls sat happily side by side feeding the grass to the goats. "Heidi, please play, if you like. I'll be content here with the goats," said Clara.
"But, I want you to see the flowers with me, Clara," answered Heidi. "If only you could walk!"
Suddenly Heidi had an idea. "
"Peter, come here. I need your help." It took some time to coax the guilty boy to come. Finally together they propped Clara up, but she couldn't stand. "Put your arms around our necks and we'll help you," encouraged Heidi. "Try putting one foot firmly down in front of the other." To her amazement, Clara discovered she could do it. After several steps, she cried, "Heidi, Heidi, look at me. I'm walking!!"
"Now, you'll never need a wheelchair again," exclaimed Heidi. "Everyday we'll practice until you're strong again." The days that followed were the happiest Clara had ever known. Each day she walked a bit farther and became a bit healthier.
At the end of the month, Grandmama and Mr. Sesemann were due to arrive. As the two visitors approached the hut on horseback, they saw Clara. "Clara, where is your chair? What has happened?" They cried out in alarm. Then, Clara stood up! Slowly she walked towards them. Half laughing , half crying, the three embraced. "Heidi! Uncle! How can we ever thank you? It's your care and your love that has brought about this miracle."
Mr.Sesemann looked at his daughter, his eyes filling with tears. He didn't know if he were awake or dreaming. Turning to Grandfather he said, "Dear Friend, for years I haven't known real happiness. Even all my money couldn't make my little daughter well. Now, with God's help, you have healed her. What gift can I give you in return?"
"Clara's recovery is my reward," replied Grandfather. "Thank you for your offer, but as long as I live,
there will enough for Heidi and me. There is only one thing I wish for. I am old. I can't expect to live much longer. When I die, there is nothing to leave my child. She has no one but me. If you could promise to care for her, I shall die a happy man."
"You don't need to ask, dear Uncle. Heidi is already one of us." replied Mr. Sesemann. "We will always care for her. And Dr. Classen will do so as well. We love Heidi as if she were our own.
Grandfather looked deeply into Mr. Sesemann's eyes, and then nodded and smiled as he watched the two laughing girls walking together hand in hand.