Heidi Gains in One Way and Loses in Another
E VERY afternoon during her visit the grandmother went and sat down for a few minutes beside Clara after dinner, when the latter was resting, and Fraülein Rottenmeier, probably for the same reason, had disappeared inside her room; but five minutes sufficed her, and then she was up again, and Heidi was sent for to her room, and there she would talk to the child and employ and amuse her in all sorts of ways. The grandmother had a lot of pretty dolls, and she showed Heidi how to make dresses and pinafores for them, so that Heidi learnt how to sew and to make all sorts of beautiful clothes for the little people out of a wonderful collection of pieces that grandmother had by her of every describable and lovely color. And then grandmother liked to hear her read aloud, and the oftener Heidi read her tales the fonder she grew of them. She entered into the lives of all the people she read about so that they became like dear friends to her, and it delighted her more and more to be with them. But still Heidi never looked really happy, and her bright eyes were no longer to be seen. It was the last week of the grandmother's visit. She called Heidi into her room as usual one day after dinner, and the child came with her book under her arm. The grandmother called her to come close, and then laying the book aside, said, "Now, child, tell me why you are not happy? Have you still the same trouble at heart?"
Heidi nodded in reply.
"Have you told God about it?"
"And do you pray every day that He will make things right and that you may be happy again?"
"No, I have left off praying."
"Do not tell me that, Heidi! Why have you left off praying?"
"It is of no use, God does not listen," Heidi went on in an agitated voice, "and I can understand that when there are so many, many people in Frankfurt praying to Him every evening that He cannot attend to them all, and He certainly has not heard what I said to Him."
"And why are you so sure of that, Heidi?"
"Because I have prayed for the same thing every day for weeks, and yet God has not done what I asked."
"You are wrong, Heidi; you must not think of Him like that. God is a good father to us all, and knows better than we do what is good for us. If we ask Him for something that is not good for us, He does not give it, but something better still, if only we will continue to pray earnestly and do not run away and lose our trust in Him. God did not think what you have been praying for was good for you just now; but be sure He heard you, for He can hear and see every one at the same time, because He is a God and not a human being like you and me. And because He thought it was better for you not to have at once what you wanted, He said to Himself: Yes, Heidi shall have what she asks for, but not until the right time comes, so that she may be quite happy. If I do what she wants now, and then one day she sees that it would have been better for her not to have had her own way, she will cry and say, 'If only God had not given me what I asked for! it is not so good as I expected!' And while God is watching over you, and looking to see if you will trust Him and go on praying to Him every day, and turn to Him for everything you want, you run away and leave off saying your prayers, and forget all about Him. And when God no longer hears the voice of one He knew among those who pray to Him, He lets that person go his own way, that he may learn how foolish he is. And then this one gets into trouble, and cries, 'Save me, God, for there is none other to help me,' and God says, 'Why did you go from Me; I could not help you when you ran away.' And you would not like to grieve God, would you Heidi, when He only wants to be kind to you? So will you not go and ask Him to forgive you, and continue to pray and to trust Him, for you may be sure that He will make everything right and happy for you, and then you will be glad and light-hearted again."
Heidi had perfect confidence in the grandmother, and every word she said sunk into her heart.
"I will go at once and ask God to forgive me, and I will never forget Him again," she replied repentantly.
"That is right, dear child," and anxious to cheer her, added, "Don't be unhappy, for He will do everything you wish in good time."
And Heidi ran away and prayed that she might always remember God, and that He would go on thinking about her.
The day came for grandmother's departure—a sad one for Clara and Heidi. But the grandmother was determined to make it as much like a holiday as possible and not to let them mope, and she kept them so lively and amused that they had no time to think about their sorrow at her going until she really drove away. Then the house seemed so silent and empty that Heidi and Clara did not know what to do with themselves, and sat during the remainder of the day like two lost children.
The next day, when the hour came for Clara and Heidi to be together, the latter walked in with her book and proposed that she should go on reading aloud every afternoon to Clara, if the latter liked it. Clara agreed, and thought anyhow it would be nice for that day, so Heidi began with her usual enthusiasm. But the reading did not last long, for Heidi had hardly begun a tale about a dying grandmother before she cried out, "O! then grandmother is dead!" and burst into tears; for everything she read was so real to her that she quite thought it was the grandmother at home who had died, and she kept on exclaiming as her sobs increased, "She is dead, and I shall never see her again, and she never had one of the white rolls!"
Clara did all she could to explain to Heidi that the story was about quite a different grandmother; but even when at last she had been able to convince Heidi of this, the latter continued to weep inconsolably, for now she had awakened to the thought that perhaps the grandmother, and even the grandfather also, might die while she was so far away, and that if she did not go home for a long time she would find everything there all silent and dead, and there she would be all alone, and would never be able to see the dear ones she loved any more.
Fraülein Rottenmeier had meanwhile come into the room, and Clara explained to her what had happened. As Heidi continued her weeping, the lady, who was evidently getting impatient with her, went up to Heidi and said with decision, "Now, Adelaide, that is enough of all this causeless lamentation. I will tell you once for all, if there are any more scenes like this while you are reading, I shall take the book away from you and shall not let you have it again."
Her words had immediate effect on Heidi, who turned pale with fear. The book was her one great treasure. She quickly dried her tears and swallowed her sobs as best she could, so that no further sound of them should be heard. The threat did its work, for Heidi never cried aloud again whatever she might be reading, but she had often to struggle hard to keep back her tears, so that Clara would look at her and say,
"What faces you are making, Heidi, I never saw anything like it!" But the faces made no noise and did not offend Fraülein Rottenmeier, and Heidi, having overcome her fit of despairing misery, would go quietly on for a while, and no one perceived her sorrow. But she lost all her appetite, and looked so pale and thin that Sebastian was quite unhappy when he looked at her, and could not bear to see her refusing all the nice dishes he handed her. He would whisper to her sometimes, in quite a kind, fatherly manner, "Take a little; you don't know how nice it is! There, a good spoonful, now another." But it was of no use, Heidi hardly ate anything at all, and as soon as she laid her head down at night the picture of home would rise before her eyes, and she would weep, burying her face in the pillow that her crying might not be heard.
And so many weeks passed away. Heidi did not know if it was winter or summer, for the walls and windows she looked out upon showed no change, and she never went beyond the house except on rare occasions when Clara was well enough to drive out, and then they only went a very little way, as Clara could not bear the movement for long. So that on these occasions they generally only saw more fine streets and large houses and crowds of people; they seldom got anywhere beyond them, and grass and flowers, fir trees and mountains, were still far away. Heidi's longing for the old familiar and beautiful things grew daily stronger, so that now only to read a word that recalled them to her remembrance brought her to the verge of tears, which with difficulty she suppressed. So the autumn and winter passed, and again the sun came shining down on the white walls of the opposite houses, and Heidi would think to herself that now the time had come for Peter to go out again with the goats, to where the golden flowers of the cistus were glowing in the sunlight, and all the rocks around turned to fire at sunset. Heidi would go and sit in a corner of her lonely room and put her hands up to her eyes that she might not see the sun shining on the opposite wall; and then she would remain without moving, battling silently with her terrible home-sickness until Clara sent for her again.