In Grandmother’s Hut continued…
“But grandmother, does it not get light in the summer, when the sun shines down on the mountains to say good-night, setting them all aflame?”
“No, child, I can never see the fiery mountains any more. I have to live in darkness, always.”
Heidi burst out crying now and sobbed aloud. “Can nobody make it light for you? Is there nobody who can do it, grandmother? Nobody?”
The grandmother tried all possible means to comfort the child; it wrung her heart to see her terrible distress. It was awfully hard for Heidi to stop crying when she had once begun, for she cried so seldom. The grandmother said: “Heidi, let me tell you something. People who cannot see love to listen to friendly words. Sit down beside me and tell me all about yourself. Talk to me about your grandfather, for it has been long since I have heard anything about him. I used to know him very well.”
Heidi suddenly wiped away her tears, for she had had a cheering thought. “Grandmother, I shall tell grandfather about it, and I am sure he can make it light for you. He can mend your little house and stop the rattling.”
The old woman remained silent, and Heidi, with the greatest vivacity, began to describe her life with the grandfather. Listening attentively, the two women would say to each other sometimes: “Do you hear what she says about the uncle? Did you listen?”
Heidi’s tale was interrupted suddenly by a great thumping on the door; and who should come in but Peter. No sooner had he seen Heidi, than he smiled, opening his round eyes as wide as possible. Heidi called, “Good-evening, Peter!”
“Is it really time for him to come home!” exclaimed Peter’s grandmother. “How quickly the time has flown. Good-evening, little Peter; how is your reading going?”
“Just the same,” the boy replied.
“Oh, dear, I was hoping for a change at last. You are nearly twelve years old, my boy.”
“Why should there be a change?” inquired Heidi with greatest interest.
“I am afraid he’ll never learn it after all. On the shelf over there is an old prayer-book with beautiful songs. I have forgotten them all, for I do not hear them any more. I longed that Peter should read them to me some day, but he will never be able to!”
Peter’s mother got up from her work now, saying, “I must make a light. The afternoon has passed and now it’s getting dark.”
When Heidi heard those words, she started, and holding out her hand to all, she said: “Good-night. I have to go, for it is getting dark.” But the anxious grandmother called out: “Wait, child, don’t go up alone! Go with her, Peter, and take care that she does not fall. Don’t let her get cold, do you hear? Has Heidi a shawl?”
“I haven’t, but I won’t be cold,” Heidi called back, for she had already escaped through the door. She ran so fast that Peter could hardly follow her. The old woman frettingly called out: “Brigida, run after her. Get a warm shawl, she’ll freeze in this cold night. Hurry up!” Brigida obeyed. The children had hardly climbed any distance, when they saw the old man coming and with a few vigorous steps he stood beside them.
“I am glad you kept your word, Heidi,” he said; and packing her into her cover, he started up the hill, carrying the child in his arms. Brigida had come in time to see it, and told the grandmother what she had witnessed.
“Thank God, thank God!” the old woman said. “I hope she’ll come again; she has done me so much good! What a soft heart she has, the darling, and how nicely she can talk.” All evening the grandmother said to herself, “If only he lets her come again! I have something to look forward to in this world now, thank God!”
Heidi could hardly wait before they reached the cottage. She had tried to talk on the way, but no sound could be heard through the heavy cover. As soon as they were inside the hut she began: “Grandfather, we must take some nails and a hammer down tomorrow; a shutter is loose in grandmother’s house and many other places shake. Everything rattles in her house.”
“Is that so? Who says we must?”
“Nobody told me, but I know,” Heidi replied. “Everything is loose in the house, and poor grandmother told me she was afraid that the house might tumble down. And grandfather, she cannot see the light. Can you help her and make it light for her? How terrible it must be to be afraid in the dark and nobody there to help you! Oh, please, grandfather, do something to help her! I know you can.”
Heidi had been clinging to her grandfather and looking up to him with trusting eyes. At last he said, glancing down: “All right, child, we’ll see that it won’t rattle any more. We can do it tomorrow.”
Heidi was so overjoyed at these words that she danced around the room shouting: “We’ll do it tomorrow! We can do it tomorrow!”
The grandfather, keeping his word, took Heidi down the following day with the same instructions as before. After Heidi had disappeared, he went around the house inspecting it.
The grandmother, in her joy at seeing the child again, had stopped the wheel and called: “Here is the child again! She has come again!” Heidi, grasping her outstretched hands, sat herself on a low stool at the old woman’s feet and began to chat. Suddenly violent blows were heard outside; the grandmother in her fright nearly upset the spinning-wheel and screamed: “Oh, God, it has come at last. The hut is tumbling down!”
“Grandmother, don’t be frightened,” said the child, while she put her arms around her. “Grandfather is just fastening the shutter and fixing everything for you.”
“Is it possible? Has God not forgotten us after all? Brigida, have you heard it? Surely that is a hammer. Ask him to come in a moment, if it is he, for I must thank him.”
When Brigida went out, she found the old man busy with putting a new beam along the wall. Approaching him, she said: “Mother and I wish you a good-afternoon. We are very much obliged to you for doing us such a service, and mother would like to see you. There are few that would have done it, uncle, and how can we thank you?”
“That will do,” he interrupted. “I know what your opinion about me is. Go in, for I can find what needs mending myself.”
Brigida obeyed, for the uncle had a way that nobody could oppose. All afternoon the uncle hammered around; he even climbed up on the roof, where much was missing. At last he had to stop, for the last nail was gone from his pocket. The darkness had come in the meantime, and Heidi was ready to go up with him, packed warmly in his arms.
Thus the winter passed. Sunshine had come again into the blind woman’s life, and made her days less dark and dreary. Early every morning she would begin to listen for Heidi’s footsteps, and when the door was opened and the child ran in, the grandmother exclaimed every time more joyfully: “Thank God, she has come again!”
Heidi would talk about her life, and make the grandmother smile and laugh, and in that way the hours flew by. In former times the old woman had always sighed: “Brigida, is the day not over yet?” but now she always exclaimed after Heidi’s departure: “How quickly the afternoon has gone by. Don’t you think so, too, Brigida?” Her daughter had to assent, for Heidi had long ago won her heart. “If only God will spare us the child!” the grandmother would often say. “I hope the uncle will always be kind, as he is now.”—”Does Heidi look well, Brigida?” was a frequent question, which always got a reassuring answer.
Heidi also became very fond of the old grandmother, and when the weather was fair, she visited her every day that winter. Whenever the child remembered that the grandmother was blind, she would get very sad; her only comfort was that her coming brought such happiness. The grandfather soon had mended the cottage; often he would take down big loads of timber, which he used to good purpose. The grandmother vowed that no rattling could be heard any more, and that, thanks to the uncle’s kindness, she slept better that winter than she had done for many a year.