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One of the most charming tales in children’s literature, Heidi is the story of a five-year-old orphan who goes to live with her grandfather in the mountains. She soon wins his heart and befriends the young goatherd, Peter. Her happiness ends, however, when her aunt takes her to the city to help take care of a sickly child, Clara. Finally, Heidi brings Clara back to her Alpine home, where a miracle of healing occurs.
The little old town of Mayenfeld is charmingly situated. From it a footpath leads through green, well–wooded stretches to the foot of the heights which look down imposingly upon the valley. Where the footpath begins to go steeply and abruptly up the Alps, the heath, with its short grass and pungent herbage, at once sends out its soft perfume to meet the wayfarer.
One bright sunny morning in June, a tall, vigorous maiden of the mountain region climbed up the narrow path, leading a little girl by the hand. The youngster’s cheeks were in such a glow that it showed even through her sun–browned skin. Small wonder though! for in spite of the heat, the little one, who was scarcely five years old, was bundled up as if she had to brave a bitter frost. Her shape was difficult to distinguish, for she wore two dresses, if not three, and around her shoulders a large red cotton shawl. With her feet encased in heavy hob–nailed boots, this hot and shapeless little person toiled up the mountain.
The pair had been climbing for about an hour when they reached a hamlet half–way up the great mountain named the Alm. This hamlet was called “Im Dörfli” or “The Little Village.” It was the elder girl’s home town, and therefore she was greeted from nearly every house; people called to her from windows and doors, and very often from the road. But, answering questions and calls as she went by, the girl did not loiter on her way and only stood still when she reached the end of the hamlet. There a few cottages lay scattered about, from the furthest of which a voice called out to her through an open door: “Deta, please wait one moment! I am coming with you, if you are going further up.”