Authors: Johanna Spyri
"Heidi" is a delightful story for children of life in the Alps,
one of many tales written by the Swiss authoress, Johanna Spyri,
who died in her home at Zurich in 1891. She had been well known
to the younger readers of her own country since 1880, when she
published her story, Heimathlos, which ran into three or more
editions, and which, like her other books, as she states on the
title page, was written for those who love children, as well as
for the youngsters themselves. Her own sympathy with the
instincts and longings of the child's heart is shown in her
picture of Heidi. The record of the early life of this Swiss
child amid the beauties of her passionately loved mountain-home
and during her exile in the great town has been for many years a
favorite book of younger readers in Germany and America.
Madame Spyri, like Hans Andersen, had by temperament a peculiar
skill in writing the simple histories of an innocent world. In
all her stories she shows an underlying desire to preserve
children alike from misunderstanding and the mistaken kindness
that frequently hinder the happiness and natural development of
their lives and characters. The authoress, as we feel in reading
her tales, lived among the scenes and people she describes, and
the setting of her stories has the charm of the mountain scenery
amid which she places her small actors.
Her chief works, besides Heidi, were:— Am Sonntag; Arthur und
Squirrel; Aus dem Leben; Aus den Schweizer Bergen; Aus Nah und
Fern; Aus unserem, Lande; Cornelli wird erzogen; Einer vom Hause
Lesa; 10 Geschichten fur Yung und Alt; Kurze Geschichten, 2
vols.; Gritli's Kinder, 2 vols.; Heimathlos; Im Tilonethal; In
Leuchtensa; Keiner zu Klein Helfer zu sein; Onkel Titus; Schloss
Wildenstein; Sina; Ein Goldener Spruch; Die Hauffer Muhle;
Verschollen, nicht vergessen; Was soll deim aus ihr werden; Was
aus ihr Geworden ist. M.E.
From the old and pleasantly situated village of Mayenfeld, a
footpath winds through green and shady meadows to the foot of
the mountains, which on this side look down from their stern and
lofty heights upon the valley below. The land grows gradually
wilder as the path ascends, and the climber has not gone far
before he begins to inhale the fragrance of the short grass and
sturdy mountain-plants, for the way is steep and leads directly
up to the summits above.
On a clear sunny morning in June two figures might be seen
climbing the narrow mountain path; one, a tall strong-looking
girl, the other a child whom she was leading by the hand, and
whose little checks were so aglow with heat that the crimson
color could be seen even through the dark, sunburnt skin. And
this was hardly to be wondered at, for in spite of the hot June
sun the child was clothed as if to keep off the bitterest frost.
She did not look more than five years old, if as much, but what
her natural figure was like, it would have been hard to say, for
she had apparently two, if not three dresses, one above the
other, and over these a thick red woollen shawl wound round
about her, so that the little body presented a shapeless
appearance, as, with its small feet shod in thick, nailed
mountain-shoes, it slowly and laboriously plodded its way up in
the heat. The two must have left the valley a good hour's walk
behind them, when they came to the hamlet known as Dorfli, which
is situated half-way up the mountain. Here the wayfarers met with
greetings from all sides, some calling to them from windows, some
from open doors, others from outside, for the elder girl was now
in her old home. She did not, however, pause in her walk to
respond to her friends' welcoming cries and questions, but passed
on without stopping for a moment until she reached the last of
the scattered houses of the hamlet. Here a voice called to her
from the door: "Wait a moment, Dete; if you are going up higher,
I will come with you."
The girl thus addressed stood still, and the child immediately
let go her hand and seated herself on the ground.
"Are you tired, Heidi?" asked her companion.
"No, I am hot," answered the child.
"We shall soon get to the top now. You must walk bravely on a
little longer, and take good long steps, and in another hour we
shall be there," said Dete in an encouraging voice.
They were now joined by a stout, good-natured-looking woman, who
walked on ahead with her old acquaintance, the two breaking
forth at once into lively conversation about everybody and
everything in Dorfli and its surroundings, while the child
wandered behind them.
"And where are you off to with the child?" asked the one who had
just joined the party. "I suppose it is the child your sister
"Yes," answered Dete. "I am taking her up to Uncle, where she
"The child stay up there with Alm-Uncle! You must be out of your
senses, Dete! How can you think of such a thing! The old man,
however, will soon send you and your proposal packing off home
"He cannot very well do that, seeing that he is her grandfather.
He must do something for her. I have had the charge of the child
till now, and I can tell you, Barbel, I am not going to give up
the chance which has just fallen to me of getting a good place,
for her sake. It is for the grandfather now to do his duty by
"That would be all very well if he were like other people,"
asseverated stout Barbel warmly, "but you know what he is. And
what can he do with a child, especially with one so young! The
child cannot possibly live with him. But where are you thinking
of going yourself?"
"To Frankfurt, where an extra good place awaits me," answered
Dete. "The people I am going to were down at the Baths last
summer, and it was part of my duty to attend upon their rooms.
They would have liked then to take me away with them, but I
could not leave. Now they are there again and have repeated their
offer, and I intend to go with them, you may make up your mind
"I am glad I am not the child!" exclaimed Barbel, with a gesture
of horrified pity. "Not a creature knows anything about the old
man up there! He will have nothing to do with anybody, and never
sets his foot inside a church from one year's end to another.
When he does come down once in a while, everybody clears out of
the way of him and his big stick. The mere sight of him, with
his bushy grey eyebrows and his immense beard, is alarming
enough. He looks like any old heathen or Indian, and few would
care to meet him alone."
"Well, and what of that?" said Dete, in a defiant voice, "he is
the grandfather all the same, and must look after the child. He
is not likely to do her any harm, and if he does, he will be
answerable for it, not I."
"I should very much like to know," continued Barbel, in an
inquiring tone of voice, "what the old man has on his conscience
that he looks as he does, and lives up there on the mountain
like a hermit, hardly ever allowing himself to be seen. All kinds
of things are said about him. You, Dete, however, must certainly
have learnt a good deal concerning him from your sister—am I
"You are right, I did, but I am not going to repeat what I
heard; if it should come to his ears I should get into trouble
Now Barbel had for long past been most anxious to ascertain
particulars about Alm-Uncle, as she could not understand why he
seemed to feel such hatred towards his fellow-creatures, and
insisted on living all alone, or why people spoke about him half
in whispers, as if afraid to say anything against him, and yet
unwilling to take his Part. Moreover, Barbel was in ignorance as
to why all the people in Dorfli called him Alm-Uncle, for he
could not possibly be uncle to everybody living there. As,
however, it was the custom, she did like the rest and called the
old man Uncle. Barbel had only lived in Dorfli since her
marriage, which had taken place not long before. Previous to
that her home had been below in Prattigau, so that she was not
well acquainted with all the events that had ever taken place,
and with all the people who had ever lived in Dorfli and its
neighborhood. Dete, on the contrary, had been born in Dorfli,
and had lived there with her mother until the death of the latter
the year before, and had then gone over to the Baths at Ragatz
and taken service in the large hotel there as chambermaid. On the
morning of this day she had come all the way from Ragatz with
the child, a friend having given them a lift in a hay-cart as far
as Mayenfeld. Barbel was therefore determined not to lose this
good opportunity of satisfying her curiosity. She put her arm
through Dete's in a confidential sort of way, and said: "I know I
can find out the real truth from you, and the meaning of all
these tales that are afloat about him. I believe you know the
whole story. Now do just tell me what is wrong with the old man,
and if he was always shunned as he is now, and was always such a
"How can I possibly tell you whether he was always the same,
seeing I am only six-and-twenty and he at least seventy years of
age; so you can hardly expect me to know much about his youth.
If I was sure, however, that what I tell you would not go the
whole round of Prattigau, I could relate all kinds of things
about him; my mother came from Domleschg, and so did he."
"Nonsense, Dete, what do you mean?" replied Barbel, somewhat
offended, "gossip has not reached such a dreadful pitch in
Prattigau as all that, and I am also quite capable of holding my
tongue when it is necessary."
"Very well then, I will tell you—but just wait a moment," said
Dete in a warning voice, and she looked back to make sure that
the child was not near enough to hear all she was going to
relate; but the child was nowhere to be seen, and must have
turned aside from following her companions some time before,
while these were too eagerly occupied with their conversation to
notice it. Dete stood still and looked around her in all
directions. The footpath wound a little here and there, but
could nevertheless be seen along its whole length nearly to
Dorfli; no one, however, was visible upon it at this moment.