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.
OFF THEY STARTED AT SUCH A PACE THAT HEIDI SHOUTED FOR JOYToList
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."
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 you 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.