Heidi/Chapter 9

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Heidi by Johanna Spyri
Chapter IX: Herr Sesemann Hears of Things Which Are New to Him

A few days after these events there was great commotion and much running up and down stairs in Herr Sesemann's house. The master had just returned, and Sebastian and Tinette were busy carrying up one package after another from the carriage, for Herr Sesemann always brought back a lot of pretty things for his home. He himself had not waited to do anything before going in to see his daughter. Heidi was sitting beside her, for it was late afternoon, when the two were always together. Father and daughter greeted each other with warm affection, for they were deeply attached to one another. Then he held out his hand to Heidi, who had stolen away into the corner, and said kindly to her, "And this is our little Swiss girl; come and shake hands with me! That's right! Now, tell me, are Clara and you good friends with one another, or do you get angry and quarrel, and then cry and make it up, and then start quarreling again on the next occasion?"

"No, Clara is always kind to me," answered Heidi.

"And Heidi," put in Clara quickly, "has not once tried to quarrel."

"That's all right, I am glad to hear it," said her father, as he rose from his chair. "But you must excuse me, Clara, for I want my dinner; I have had nothing to eat all day. Afterwards I will show you all the things I have brought home with me."

He found Fraulein Rottenmeier in the dining-room superintending the preparation for his meal, and when he had taken his place she sat down opposite to him, looking the every embodiment of bad news, so that he turned to her and said, "What am I to expect, Fraulein Rottenmeier? You greet me with an expression of countenance that quite frightens me. What is the matter? Clara seems cheerful enough."

"Herr Sesemann," began the lady in a solemn voice, "it is a matter which concerns Clara; we have been frightfully imposed upon."

"Indeed, in what way?" asked Herr Sesemann as he went on calmly drinking his wine.

"We had decided, as you remember, to get a companion for Clara, and as I knew how anxious you were to have only those who were well-behaved and nicely brought up about her, I thought I would look for a little Swiss girl, as I hoped to find such a one as I have often read about, who, born as it were of the mountain air, lives and moves without touching the earth."

"Still I think even a Swiss child would have to touch the earth if she wanted to go anywhere," remarked Herr Sesemann, "otherwise they would have been given wings instead of feet."

"Ah, Herr Sesemann, you know what I mean," continued Fraulein Rottenmeier. "I mean one so at home among the living creatures of the high, pure mountain regions, that she would be like some idealistic being from another world among us."

"And what could Clara do with such an idealistic being as you describe, Fraulein Rottenmeier."

"I am not joking, Herr Sesemann, the matter is a more serious one than you think; I have been shockingly, disgracefully imposed upon."

"But how? what is there shocking and disgraceful? I see nothing shocking in the child," remarked Herr Sesemann quietly.

"If you only knew of one thing she has done, if you only knew of the kind of people and animals she has brought into the house during your absence! The tutor can tell you more about that."

"Animals? what am I to understand by animals, Fraulein Rottenmeier?"

"It is past understanding; the whole behavior of the child would be past understanding, if it were not that at times she is evidently not in her right mind."

Herr Sesemann had attached very little importance to what was told him up till now--but not in her right mind! that was more serious and might be prejudicial to his own child. Herr Sesemann looked very narrowly at the lady opposite to assure himself that the mental aberration was not on her side. At that moment the door opened and the tutor was announced.

"Ah! here is some one," exclaimed Herr Sesemann, "who will help to clear up matters for me. Take a seat," he continued, as he held out his hand to the tutor. "You will drink a cup of coffee with me--no ceremony, I pray! And now tell me, what is the matter with this child that has come to be a companion to my daughter? What is this strange thing I hear about her bringing animals into the house, and is she in her right senses?"

The tutor felt he must begin with expressing his pleasure at Herr Sesemann's return, and with explaining that he had come in on purpose to give him welcome, but Herr Sesemann begged him to explain without delay the meaning of all he had heard about Heidi. The tutor started in his usual style. "If I must give my opinion about this little girl, I should like first to state that, if on one side, there is a lack of development which has been caused by the more or less careless way in which she has been brought up, or rather, by the neglect of her education, when young, and by the solitary life she has led on the mountain, which is not wholly to be condemned; on the contrary, such a life has undoubtedly some advantages in it, if not allowed to overstep a certain limit of time--"

"My good friend," interrupted Herr Sesemann, "you are giving yourself more trouble than you need. I only want to know if the child has caused you alarm by any animals she has brought into the house, and what your opinion is altogether as to her being a fit companion or not for my daughter?"

"I should not like in any way to prejudice you against her," began the tutor once more; "for if on the one hand there is a certain inexperience of the ways of society, owing to the uncivilised life she led up to the time of her removal to Frankfurt, on the other hand she is endowed with certain good qualities, and, taken on the whole--"

"Excuse me, my dear sir, do not disturb yourself, but I must--I think my daughter will be wanting me," and with that Herr Sesemann quickly left the room and took care not to return. He sat himself down beside his daughter in the study, and then turning to Heidi, who had risen, "Little one, will you fetch me," he began, and then paused, for he could not think what to ask for, but he wanted to get the child out of the room for a little while, "fetch me a glass of water."

"Fresh water?" asked Heidi.

"Yes--Yes--as fresh as you can get it," he answered. Heidi disappeared on the spot.

"And now, my dear little Clara," he said, drawing his chair nearer and laying her hand in his, "answer my questions clearly and intelligibly: what kind of animals has your little companion brought into the house, and why does Fraulein Rottenmeier think that she is not always in her right mind?"

Clara had no difficulty in answering. The alarmed lady had spoken to her also about Heidi's wild manner of talking, but Clara had not been able to put a meaning to it. She told her father everything about the tortoise and the kittens, and explained to him what Heidi had said the day Fraulein Rottenmeier had been put in such a fright. Herr Sesemann laughed heartily at her recital. "So you do not want me to send the child home again," he asked, "you are not tired of having her here?"

"Oh, no, no," Clara exclaimed, "please do not send her away. Time has passed much more quickly since Heidi was here, for something fresh happens every day, and it used to be so dull, and she has always so much to tell me."

"That's all right then--and here comes your little friend. Have you brought me some nice fresh water?" he asked as Heidi handed him a glass.

"Yes, fresh from the pump," answered Heidi.

"You did not go yourself to the pump?" said Clara.

"Yes I did; it is quite fresh. I had to go a long way, for there were such a lot of people at the first pump; so I went further down the street, but there were just as many at the second pump, but I was able to get some water at the one in the next street, and the gentleman with the white hair asked me to give his kind regards to Herr Sesemann."

"You have had quite a successful expedition," said Herr Sesemann laughing, "and who was the gentleman?"

"He was passing, and when he saw me he stood still and said, 'As you have a glass will you give me a drink; to whom are you taking the water?' and when I said, 'To Herr Sesemann,' he laughed very much, and then he gave me that message for you, and also said he hoped you would enjoy the water."

"Oh, and who was it, I wonder, who sent me such good wishes-- tell me what he was like," said Herr Sesemann.

"He was kind and laughed, and he had a thick gold chain and a gold thing hanging from it with a large red stone, and a horse's head at the top of his stick."

"It's the doctor--my old friend the doctor," exclaimed Clara and her father at the same moment, and Herr Sesemann smiled to himself at the thought of what his friend's opinion must have been of this new way of satisfying his thirst for water.

That evening when Herr Sesemann and Fraulein Rottenmeier were alone, settling the household affairs, he informed her that he intended to keep Heidi; he found the child in a perfectly right state of mind, and his daughter liked her as a companion. "I desire, therefore," he continued, laying stress upon his words, "that the child shall be in every way kindly treated, and that her peculiarities shall not be looked upon as crimes. If you find her too much for you alone, I can hold out a prospect of help, for I am shortly expecting my mother here on a long visit, and she, as you know, can get on with anybody, whatever they may be like."

"O yes, I know," replied Fraulein Rottenmeier, but there was no tone of relief in her voice as she thought of the coming help.

Herr Sesemann was only home for a short time; he left for Paris again before the fortnight was over, comforting Clara, who could not bear that he should go from her again so soon, with the prospect of her grandmother's arrival, which was to take place in a few days' time. Herr Sesemann had indeed only just gone when a letter came from Frau Sesemann, announcing her arrival on the following day, and stating the hour when she might be expected, in order that a carriage should be sent to meet her at the station. Clara was overjoyed, and talked so much about her grandmother that evening, that Heidi began also to call her "grandmamma," which brought down on her a look of displeasure from Fraulein Rottenmeier; this, however, had no particular effect on Heidi, for she was accustomed now to being continually in that lady's black books. But as she was going to her room that night, Fraulein Rottenmeier waylaid her, and drawing her into her own, gave her strict injunctions as to how she was to address Frau Sesemann when she arrived; on no account was she to call her "grandmamma," but always to say "madam" to her. "Do you understand?" said the lady, as she saw a perplexed expression on Heidi's face. The latter had not understood, but seeing the severe expression of the lady's face she did not ask for more explanation.