The kind doctor who had sent Heidi home to her beloved mountains was approaching the Sesemann residence on a sunny day in September. Everything about him was bright and cheerful, but the doctor did not even raise his eyes from the pavement to the blue sky above. His face was sad and his hair had turned very gray since spring. A few months ago the doctor had lost his only daughter, who had lived with him since his wife’s early death. The blooming girl had been his only joy, and since she had gone from him the ever-cheerful doctor was bowed down with grief.
When Sebastian opened the door to the physician he bowed very low, for the doctor made friends wherever he went.
“I am glad you have come doctor,” Mr. Sesemann called to his friend as he entered. “Please let us talk over this trip to Switzerland again. Do you still give the same advice, now that Clara is so much better?”
“What must I think of you, Sesemann?” replied the doctor, sitting down. “I wish your mother was here. Everything is clear to her and things go smoothly then. This is the third time to-day that you have called me, and always for the same thing!”
“It is true, it must make you impatient,” said Mr. Sesemann. Laying his hand on his friend’s shoulder, he continued: “I cannot say how hard it is for me to refuse Clara this trip. Haven’t I promised it to her and hasn’t she looked forward to it for months? She has borne all her suffering so patiently, just because she had hoped to be able to visit her little friend on the Alp. I hate to rob her of this pleasure. The poor child has so many trials and so little change.”
“But, Sesemann, you must do it,” was the doctor’s answer. When his friend remained silent, he continued: “Just think what a hard summer Clara has had! She never was more ill and we could not attempt this journey without risking the worst consequences. Remember, we are in September now, and though the weather may still be fine on the Alp, it is sure to be very cool. The days are getting short, and she could only spend a few hours up there, if she had to return for the night. It would take several hours to have her carried up from Ragatz. You see yourself how impossible it is! I shall come in with you, though, to talk to Clara, and you’ll find her sensible. I’ll tell you of my plan for next May. First she can go to Ragatz to take the baths. When it gets warm on the mountain, she can be carried up from time to time. She’ll be stronger then and much more able to enjoy those excursions than she is now. If we hope for an improvement in her condition, we must be extremely cautious and careful, remember that!”
Mr. Sesemann, who had been listening with the utmost submission, now said anxiously: “Doctor, please tell me honestly if you still have hope left for any change?”
With shrugging shoulders the doctor replied: “Not very much. But think of me, Sesemann! Have you not a child, who loves you and always welcomes you? You don’t have to come back to a lonely house and sit down alone at your table. Your child is well taken care of, and if she has many privations, she also has many advantages. Sesemann, you do not need to be pitied! Just think of my lonely home!”
Mr. Sesemann had gotten up and was walking round the room, as he always did when something occupied his thoughts. Suddenly he stood before his friend and said: “Doctor, I have an idea. I cannot see you sad any longer. You must get away. You shall undertake this trip and visit Heidi in our stead.”
The doctor had been surprised by this proposal, and tried to object. But Mr. Sesemann was so full of his new project that he pulled his friend with him into his daughter’s room, not leaving him time for any remonstrances. Clara loved the doctor, who had always tried to cheer her up on his visits by bright and funny tales. She was sorry for the change that had come over him and would have given much to see him happy again. When he had shaken hands with her, both men pulled up their chairs to Clara’s bedside. Mr. Sesemann began to speak of their journey and how sorry he was to give it up. Then he quickly began to talk of his new plan.
Clara’s eyes had filled with tears. But she knew that her father did not like to see her cry, and besides she was sure that her papa would only forbid her this pleasure because it was absolutely necessary to do so.
So she bravely fought her tears, and caressing the doctor’s hand, said:
“Oh please, doctor, do go to Heidi; then you can tell me all about her, and can describe her grandfather to me, and Peter, with his goats,—I seem to know them all so well. Then you can take all the things to her that I had planned to take myself. Oh, please doctor, go, and then I’ll be good and take as much cod-liver oil as ever you want me to.”
Who can tell if this promise decided the doctor? At any rate he answered with a smile: “Then I surely must go, Clara, for you will get fat and strong, as we both want to see you. Have you settled yet when I must go?”
“Oh, you had better go tomorrow morning, doctor,” Clara urged.
“She is right,” the father assented; “the sun is shining and you must not lose any more glorious days on the Alp.”
The doctor had to laugh. “Why don’t you chide me for being here still? I shall go as quickly as I can, Sesemann.”
Clara gave many messages to him for Heidi. She also told him to be sure to observe everything closely, so that he would be able to tell her all about it when he came back. The things for Heidi were to be sent to him later, for Miss Rottenmeier, who had to pack them, was out on one of her lengthy wanderings about town.
The doctor promised to comply with all Clara’s wishes and to start the following day.
Clara rang for the maid and said to her, when she arrived: “Please, Tinette, pack a lot of fresh, soft coffee-cake in this box.” A box had been ready for this purpose many days. When the maid was leaving the room she murmured: “That’s a silly bother!”
Sebastian, who had happened to overhear some remarks, asked the physician when he was leaving to take his regards to the little Miss, as he called Heidi.
With a promise to deliver this message the doctor was just hastening out, when he encountered an obstacle. Miss Rottenmeier, who had been obliged to return from her walk on account of the strong wind, was just coming in. She wore a large cape, which the wind was blowing about her like two full sails. Both had retreated politely to give way to each other. Suddenly the wind seemed to carry the housekeeper straight towards the doctor, who had barely time to avoid her. This little incident, which had ruffled Miss Rottenmeier’s temper very much, gave the doctor occasion to soothe her, as she liked to be soothed by this man, whom she respected more than anybody in the world. Telling her of his intended visit, he entreated her to pack the things for Heidi as only she knew how.
Clara had expected some resistance from Miss Rottenmeier about the packing of her presents. What was her surprise when this lady showed herself most obliging, and immediately, on being told, brought together all the articles! First came a heavy coat for Heidi, with a hood, which Clara meant her to use on visits to the grandmother in the winter. Then came a thick warm shawl and a large box with coffee-cake for the grandmother. An enormous sausage for Peter’s mother followed, and a little sack of tobacco for the grandfather. At last a lot of mysterious little parcels and boxes were packed, things that Clara had gathered together for Heidi. When the tidy pack lay ready on the ground, Clara’s heart filled with pleasure at the thought of her little friend’s delight.
Sebastian now entered, and putting the pack on his shoulder, carried it to the doctor’s house without delay.