In Grandmother’s Hut
Next morning Peter came again with his goats, and Heidi went up to the pasture with them. This happened day after day, and in this healthy life Heidi grew stronger, and more sunburnt every day. Soon the autumn came and when the wind was blowing across the mountainside, the grandfather would say: “You must stay home to-day, Heidi; for the wind can blow such a little thing as you down into the valley with a single gust.”
It always made Peter unhappy when Heidi did not come along, for he saw nothing but misfortunes ahead of him; he hardly knew how to pass his time, and besides, he was deprived of his abundant dinner. The goats were so accustomed to Heidi by this time, that they did not follow Peter when she was not with him.
Heidi herself did not mind staying at home, for she loved nothing better than to watch her grandfather with his saw and hammer. Sometimes the grandfather would make small round cheeses on those days, and there was no greater pleasure for Heidi than to see him stir the butter with his bare arms. When the wind would howl through the fir-trees on those stormy days, Heidi would run out to the grove, thrilled and happy by the wondrous roaring in the branches. The sun had lost its vigor, and the child had to put on her shoes and stockings and her little dress.
The weather got colder and colder, and when Peter came up in the morning, he would blow into his hands, he was so frozen. At last even Peter could not come any more, for a deep snow had fallen over night. Heidi stood at the window, watching the snow falling down. It kept on snowing till it reached the windows; still it did not stop, and soon the windows could not be opened, and they were all shut in. When it had lasted for several days, Heidi thought that it would soon cover up the cottage. It finally stopped, and the grandfather went out to shovel the snow away from the door and windows, piling it up high here and there. In the afternoon the two were sitting near the fire when noisy steps were heard outside and the door was pushed open. It was Peter, who had come up to see Heidi. Muttering, “Good-evening,” he went up to the fire. His face was beaming, and Heidi had to laugh when she saw little waterfalls trickling down from his person, for all the ice and snow had melted in the great heat.
The grandfather now asked Peter how he got along in school. Heidi was so interested that she asked him a hundred questions. Poor Peter, who was not an easy talker, found himself in great difficulty answering the little girl’s inquiries, but at least it gave him leisure to dry his clothes.
During this conversation the grandfather’s eyes had been twinkling, and at last he said to the boy: “Now that you have been under fire, general, you need some strengthening. Come and join us at supper.”
With that the old man prepared a meal which amply satisfied Peter’s appetite. It had begun to get dark, and Peter knew that it was time to go. He had said good-bye and thank you, when turning to Heidi he remarked:
“I’ll come next Sunday, if I may. By the way, Heidi, grandmother asked me to tell you that she would love to see you.”
Heidi immediately approved of this idea, and her first word next morning was: “Grandfather, I must go down to grandmother. She is expecting me.”
Four days later the sun was shining and the tight-packed frozen snow was crackling under every step. Heidi was sitting at the dinner-table, imploring the old man to let her make the visit then, when he got up, and fetching down her heavy cover, told her to follow him. They went out into the glistening snow; no sound was heard and the snow-laden fir-trees shone and glittered in the sun. Heidi in her transport was running to and fro: “Grandfather, come out! Oh, look at the trees! They are all covered with silver and gold,” she called to the grandfather, who had just come out of his workshop with a wide sled. Wrapping the child up in her cover, he put her on the sled, holding her fast. Off they started at such a pace that Heidi shouted for joy, for she seemed to be flying like a bird. The sled had stopped in front of Peter’s hut, and grandfather said: “Go in. When it gets dark, start on your way home.” When he had unwrapped her, he turned homewards with his sled.
Opening the door, Heidi found herself in a tiny, dark kitchen, and going through another door, she entered a narrow chamber. Near a table a woman was seated, busy with mending Peter’s coat, which Heidi had recognized immediately. A bent old woman was sitting in a corner, and Heidi, approaching her at once, said: “How do you do, grandmother? I have come now, and I hope I haven’t kept you waiting too long!”
Lifting her head, the grandmother sought for Heidi’s hand. Feeling it thoughtfully, she said: “Are you the little girl who lives up with the uncle? Is your name Heidi?”
“Yes,” Heidi replied. “The grandfather just brought me down in the sled.”
“How is it possible? Your hands are as warm as toast! Brigida, did the uncle really come down with the child?”
Brigida, Peter’s mother, had gotten up to look at the child. She said: “I don’t know if he did, but I don’t think so. She probably doesn’t know.”
Heidi, looking up, said quite decidedly: “I know that grandfather wrapped me up in a cover when we coasted down together.”
“Peter was right after all,” said the grandmother. “We never thought the child would live more than three weeks with him. Brigida, tell me what she looks like.”
“She has Adelheid’s fine limbs and black eyes, and curly hair like Tobias and the old man. I think she looks like both of them.”
While the women were talking, Heidi had been taking in everything. Then she said: “Grandmother, look at the shutter over there. It is hanging loose. If grandfather were here, he would fasten it. It will break the window-pane! Just look at it.”
“What a sweet child you are,” said the grandmother tenderly. “I can hear it, but I cannot see it, child. This cottage rattles and creaks, and when the wind blows, it comes in through every chink. Some day the whole house will break to pieces and fall on top of us. If only Peter knew how to mend it! We have no one else.”
“Why, grandmother, can’t you see the shutter?” asked Heidi.
“Child, I cannot see anything,” lamented the old woman.
“Can you see it when I open the shutter to let in the light?”
“No, no, not even then. Nobody can ever show me the light again.”
“But you can see when you go out into the snow, where everything is bright. Come with me, grandmother, I’ll show you!” and Heidi, taking the old woman by the hand, tried to lead her out. Heidi was frightened and got more anxious all the time.
“Just let me stay here, child. Everything is dark for me, and my poor eyes can neither see the snow nor the light.”
“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.”