Something Unexpected Happens
The next day dawned cloudless and fair. The grandfather was still with the children, when Peter came climbing up; his goats kept at a good distance from him, to evade the rod, which was striking right and left. The truth was that the boy was terribly embittered and angry by the changes that had come. When he passed the hut in the morning, Heidi was always busy with the strange child, and in the evening it was the same. All summer long Heidi had not been up with him a single time; it was too much! And to-day she was coming at last, but again in company with this hateful stranger.
It was then that Peter noticed the rolling-chair standing near the hut. After carefully glancing about him, he rushed at the hated object and pushed it down the incline. The chair fairly flew away and had soon disappeared.
Peter’s conscience smote him now, and he raced up the Alp, not daring to pause till he had reached a blackberry bush. There he could hide, when the uncle might appear. Looking down, he watched his fallen enemy tumbling downwards, downwards.
Sometimes it was thrown high up into the air, to crash down again the next moment harder than ever. Pieces were falling from it right and left, and were blown about. Now the stranger would have to travel home and Heidi would be his again! But Peter had forgotten that a bad deed always brings a punishment.
Heidi just now came out of the hut. The grandfather, with Clara, followed. Heidi at first stood still, and then, running right and left, she returned to the old man.
“What does this mean? Have you rolled the chair away Heidi?” he asked.
“I am just looking for it everywhere, grandfather. You said it was beside the shop door,” said the child, still hunting for the missing object. A strong wind was blowing, which at this moment violently closed the shop-door.
“Grandfather, the wind has done it,” exclaimed Heidi eagerly. “Oh dear! if it has rolled all the way down to the village, it will be too late to go to-day. It will take us a long time to fetch it.”
“If it has rolled down there, we shall never get it any more, for it will be smashed to pieces,” said the old man, looking down and measuring the distance from the corner of the hut.
“I don’t see how it happened,” he remarked.
“What a shame! now I’ll never be able to go up to the pasture,” lamented Clara. “I am afraid I’ll have to go home now. What a pity, what a pity!”
“You can find a way for her to stay, grandfather, can’t you?”
“We’ll go up to the pasture to-day, as we have planned. Then we shall see what further happens.”
The children were delighted, and the grandfather lost no time in getting ready. First he fetched a pile of covers, and seating Clara on a sunny spot on the dry ground, he got their breakfast.
“I wonder why Peter is so late to-day,” he said, leading his goats out of the shed. Then, lifting Clara up on one strong arm, he carried the covers on the other.
“Now, march!” he cried. “The goats come with us.”
That suited Heidi, and with one arm round Schwänli and the other round Bärli, she wandered up. Her little companions were so pleased at having her with them again that they nearly crushed her with affection.
What was their astonishment when, arriving on top, they saw Peter already lying on the ground, with his peaceful flock about him.
“What did you mean by going by us like that? I’ll teach you!” called the uncle to him.
Peter was frightened, for he knew the voice.
“Nobody was up yet,” the boy retorted.
“Have you seen the chair?” asked the uncle again.
“Which?” Peter growled.
The uncle said no more. Unfolding the covers, he put Clara down on the dry grass. Then, when he had been assured of Clara’s comfort, he got ready to go home. The three were to stay there till his return in the evening. When dinner time had come, Heidi was to prepare the meal and see that Clara got Schwänli’s milk.
The sky was a deep blue, and the snow on the peaks was glistening. The eagle was floating above the rocky crags. The children felt wonderfully happy. Now and then one of the goats would come and lie down near them. Tender little Snowhopper came oftener than any and would rub her head against their shoulders.
They had been sitting quietly for a few hours, drinking in the beauty about them, when Heidi suddenly began to long for the spot where so many flowers grew. In the evening it would be too late to see them, for they always shut their little eyes by then.
“Oh, Clara,” she said hesitatingly, “would you be angry if I went away from you a minute and left you alone? I want to see the flowers; But wait!—” Jumping away, she brought Clara some bunches of fragrant herbs and put them in her lap. Soon after she returned with little Snowhopper.
“So, now you don’t need to be alone,” said Heidi. When Clara had assured her that it would give her pleasure to be left alone with the goats, Heidi started on her walk. Clara slowly handed one leaf after another to the little creature; it became more and more confiding, and cuddling close to the child, ate the herbs out of her hand. It was easy to see how happy it was to be away from the boisterous big goats, which often annoyed it. Clara felt a sensation of contentment such as she had never before experienced. She loved to sit there on the mountain-side with the confiding little goat by her. A great desire rose in her heart that hour. She longed to be her own master and be able to help others instead of being helped by them. Many other thoughts and ideas rushed through her mind. How would it be to live up here in continual sunshine? The world seemed so joyous and wonderful all of a sudden. Premonitions of future undreamt-of happiness made her heart beat. Suddenly she threw both arms about the little goat and said: “Oh, little Snowhopper how beautiful it is up here! If I could always stay with you!”
Heidi in the meantime had reached the spot, where, as she had expected, the whole ground was covered with yellow rock-roses. Near together in patches the bluebells were nodding gently in the breeze. But all the perfume that filled the air came from the modest little brown flowers that hid their heads between the golden flower-cups. Heidi stood enraptured, drawing in the perfumed air.
Suddenly she turned and ran back to Clara, shouting to her from far: “Oh, you must come, Clara, it is so lovely there. In the evening it won’t be so fine any more. Don’t you think I could carry you?”
“But Heidi,” Clara said, “of course you can’t; you are much smaller than I am. Oh, I wish I could walk!”
Heidi meditated a little. Peter was still lying on the ground. He had been staring down for hours, unable to believe what he saw before him. He had destroyed the chair to get rid of the stranger, and there she was again, sitting right beside his playmate.
Heidi now called to him to come down, but as reply he only grumbled: “Shan’t come.”
“But you must; come quickly, for I want you to help me. Quickly!” urged the child.
“Don’t want to,” sounded the reply.