Parting To Meet Again
The day before her visit the grandmama had sent a letter to announce her coming. Peter brought it up with him next morning. The grandfather was already before the hut with the children and his merry goats. His face looked proud, as he contemplated the rosy faces of the girls and the shining hair of his two goats.
Peter, approaching, neared the uncle slowly. As soon as he had delivered the letter, he sprang back shyly, looking about him as if he was afraid. Then with a leap he started off.
“I should like to know why Peter behaves like the Big Turk when he is afraid of the rod,” said Heidi, watching his strange behavior.
“Maybe Peter fears a rod that he deserves,” said the old man.
All the way Peter was tormented with fear. He could not help thinking of the policeman who was coming from Frankfurt to fetch him to prison.
It was a busy morning for Heidi, who put the hut in order for the expected visitor. The time went by quickly, and soon everything was ready to welcome the good grandmama.
The grandfather also returned from a walk, on which he had gathered a glorious bunch of deep-blue gentians. The children, who were sitting on the bench, exclaimed for joy when they saw the glowing flowers.
Heidi, getting up from time to time to spy down the path, suddenly discovered grandmama, sitting on a white horse and accompanied by two men. One of them carried plenty of wraps, for without those the lady did not dare to pay such a visit.
The party came nearer and nearer, and soon reached the top.
“What do I see? Clara, what is this? Why are you not sitting in your chair? How is this possible?” cried the grandmama in alarm, dismounting hastily. Before she had quite reached the children she threw her arms up in great excitement:
“Clara, is that really you? You have red, round cheeks, my child! I hardly know you any more!” Grandmama was going to rush at her grandchild, when Heidi slipped from the bench, and Clara, taking her arm, they quietly took a little walk. The grandmama was rooted to the spot from fear. What was this? Upright and firm, Clara walked beside her friend. When they came back their rosy faces beamed. Rushing toward the children, the grandmother hugged them over and over again.
Looking over to the bench, she beheld the uncle, who sat there smiling. Taking Clara’s arm in hers, she walked over to him, continually venting her delight. When she reached the old man, she took both his hands in hers and said:
“My dear, dear uncle! What have we to thank you for! This is your work, your care and nursing—”
“But our Lord’s sunshine and mountain air,” interrupted the uncle, smiling.
Then Clara called, “Yes, and also Schwänli’s good, delicious milk. Grandmama, you ought to see how much goat-milk I can drink now; oh, it is so good!”
“Indeed I can see that from your cheeks,” said the grandmama, smiling. “No, I hardly recognize you any more. You have become broad and round! I never dreamt that you could get so stout and tall! Oh, Clara, is it really true? I cannot look at you enough. But now I must telegraph your father to come. I shan’t tell him anything about you, for it will be the greatest joy of all his life. My dear uncle, how are we going to manage it? Have you sent the men away?”
“I have, but I can easily send the goatherd.”
So they decided that Peter should take the message. The uncle immediately whistled so loud that it resounded from all sides. Soon Peter arrived, white with fear, for he thought his doom had come. But he only received a paper that was to be carried to the post-office of the village.
Relieved for the moment, Peter set out. Now all the happy friends sat down round the table, and grandmama was told how the miracle had happened. Often the talk was interrupted by exclamations of surprise from grandmama, who still believed it was all a dream. How could this be her pale, weak little Clara? The children were in a constant state of joy, to see how their surprise had worked.
Meanwhile Mr. Sesemann, having finished his business in Paris, was also preparing a surprise. Without writing his mother he traveled to Ragatz on a sunny summer morning. He had arrived on this very day, some hours after his mother’s departure, and now, taking a carriage, he drove to Mayenfeld.
The long ascent to the Alp from there seemed very weary and far to the traveller. When would he reach the goat-herd’s hut? There were many little roads branching off in several directions, and sometimes Mr. Sesemann doubted if he had taken the right path. But not a soul was near, and no sound could be heard except the rustling of the wind and the hum of little insects. A merry little bird was singing on a larch-tree, but nothing more.
Standing still and cooling his brow, he saw a boy running down the hill at topmost speed. Mr. Sesemann called to him, but with no success, for the boy kept at a shy distance.
“Now, my boy, can’t you tell me if I am on the right path to the hut where Heidi lives and the people from Frankfurt are staying?”
A dull sound of terror was the only reply. Peter shot off and rushed head over heels down the mountain-side, turning wild somersaults on his perilous way. His course resembled the course his enemy had taken some days ago.
“What a funny, bashful mountaineer!” Mr. Sesemann remarked to himself, thinking that the appearance of a stranger had upset this simple son of the Alps. After watching the downward course of the boy a little while, he soon proceeded on his way.
In spite of the greatest effort, Peter could not stop himself, and kept rolling on. But his fright and terror were still more terrible than his bumps and blows. This stranger was the policeman, that was a certain fact! At last, being thrown against a bush, he clutched it wildly.
“Good, here’s another one!” a voice near Peter said. “I wonder who is going to be pushed down tomorrow, looking like a half-open potato-bag?” The village baker was making fun of him. For a little rest after his weary work, he had quietly watched the boy.