CHAPTER XII. A GHOST IN THE HOUSE
For some days past Fraulein Rottenmeier had gone about rather
silently and as if lost in thought. As twilight fell, and she
passed from room to room, or along the long corridors, she was
seen to look cautiously behind her, and into the dark corners, as
if she thought some one was coming silently behind her and might
unexpectedly give her dress a pull. Nor would she now go alone
into some parts of the house. If she visited the upper floor
where the grand guest-chambers were, or had to go down into the
large mysterious council-chamber, where every footstep echoed,
and the old senators with their big white collars looked down so
solemnly and immovably from their frames, she regularly called
Tinette to accompany her, in case, as she said, there might be
something to carry up or down. Tinette on her side did exactly
the same; if she had business upstairs or down, she called
Sebastian to accompany her, and there was always something he
must help her with which she could not carry alone. More curious
still, Sebastian, also, if sent into one of the more distant
rooms, always called John to go with him in case he should want
his assistance in bringing what was required. And John readily
obeyed, although there was never anything to carry, and either
might well have gone alone; but he did not know how soon he might
want to ask Sebastian to do the same service for him. And while
these things were going on upstairs, the cook, who had been in
the house for years, would stand shaking her head over her pots
and kettles, and sighing, "That ever I should live to know such a
For something very strange and mysterious was going on in Herr
Sesemann's house. Every morning, when the servants went
downstairs, they found the front door wide open, although nobody
could be seen far or near to account for it. During the first few
days that this happened every room and corner was searched in
great alarm, to see if anything had been stolen, for the general
idea was that a thief had been hiding in the house and had gone
off in the night with the stolen goods; but not a thing in the
house had been touched, everything was safe in its place. The
door was doubly locked at night, and for further security the
wooden bar was fastened across it; but it was no good--next
morning the door again stood open. The servants in their fear and
excitement got up extra early, but not so early but what the door
had been opened before they got downstairs, although everything
and everybody around were still wrapped in slumber, and the doors
and windows of the adjoining houses all fast shut. At last, after
a great deal of persuasion from Fraulein Rottenmeier, Sebastian
and John plucked up courage and agreed to sit up one night in the
room next to the large council-chamber and to watch and see what
would happen. Fraulein Rottenmeier looked up several weapons
belonging to the master, and gave these and a bottle of spirits
to Sebastian, so that their courage might not faint if it came to
On the appointed night the two sat down and began at once to take
some of the strengthening cordial, which at first made them very
talkative and then very sleepy, so that they leant back in their
seats and became silent. As midnight struck, Sebastian roused
himself and called to his companion, who, however, was not easy
to wake, and kept rolling his head first to one side and then the
other and continuing to sleep. Sebastian began to listen more
attentively, for he was wide awake now. Everything was still as a
mouse, all sound had died away from the streets even. He did not
feel inclined to go to sleep again, for the stillness was ghostly
to him, and he was afraid now to raise his voice to rouse John,
so he shook him gently to make him stir. At last, as one struck,
John work up, and came back to the consciousness of why he was
sitting in a chair instead of lying in his bed. He now got up
with a great show of courage and said, "Come, Sebastian, we must
go outside and see what is going on; you need not be afraid, just
Whereupon he opened the door wide and stepped into the hall. Just
as he did so a sudden gust of air blew through the open front
door and put out the light which John held in his hand. He
started back, almost overturning Sebastian, whom he clutched and
pulled back into the room, and then shutting the door quickly he
turned the key as far as he could make it go. Then he pulled out
his matches and lighted his candle again. Sebastian, in the
suddenness of the affair, did not know exactly what had happened,
for he had not seen the open door or felt the breeze behind
John's broad figure. But now, as he saw the latter in the light,
he gave a cry of alarm, for John was trembling all over and as
white as a ghost. "What's the matter? What did you see, outside?
asked Sebastian sympathetically.
"The door partly open," gasped John, "and a white figure standing
at the top of the steps--there it stood, and then all in a minute
Sebastian felt his blood run cold. The two sat down close to one
another and did not dare move again till the morning broke and
the streets began to be alive again. Then they left the room
together, shut the front door, and went upstairs to tell Fraulein
Rottenmeier of their experience. She was quite ready to receive
them, for she had not been able to sleep at all in the anxiety of
waiting to hear their report. They had no sooner given her
details of the night's experience than she sat down and wrote
straight off to Herr Sesemann, who had never received such a
letter before in his life. She could hardly write, she told him,
for her fingers were stiff with fear, and Herr Sesemann must
please arrange to come back at once, for dreadful and
unaccountable things were taking place at home. Then she entered
into particulars of all that had happened, of how the door was
found standing open every morning, and how nobody in the house
now felt sure of their life in this unprotected state of things,
and how it was impossible to tell what terrible results might
follow on these mysterious doings.
Herr Sesemann answered that it was quite impossible for him to
arrange to leave his business and return home at once. He was
very much astonished at this ghost tale, but hoped by this time
the ghost had disappeared. If, however, it still continued to
disturb the household, would Fraulein Rottenmeier write to the
grandmother and ask her if she could come and do something; she,
he was sure, would soon find out a way to deal with the ghost so
that it would not venture again to haunt his house. Fraulein
Rottenmeier was not pleased with the tone of this letter; she did
not think the matter was treated seriously enough. She wrote off
without delay to Frau Sesemann, but got no more satisfactory
reply from that quarter, and some remarks in the letter she
considered were quite offensive. Frau Sesemann wrote that she did
not feel inclined to take the journey again from Holstein to
Frankfurt because Rottenmeier fancied she saw ghosts. There had
never been a ghost in the house since she bad known it, and if
there was one now it must be a live one, with which Rottenmeier
ought to be able to deal; if not she had better send for the
watchman to help her.
Fraulein Rottenmeier, however, was determined not to pass any
more days in a state of fear, and she knew the right course to
pursue. She had as yet said nothing to the children of the
ghostly apparitions, for she knew if she did that the children
would not remain alone for a single moment, and that might entail
discomfort for herself. But now she walked straight off into the
study, and there in a low mysterious voice told the two children
everything that had taken place. Clara immediately screamed out
that she could not remain another minute alone, her father must
come home, and Fraulein Rottenmeier must sleep in her room at
night, and Heidi too must not be left by herself, for the ghost
might do something to her. She insisted that they should all
sleep together in one room and keep a light burning all night,
and Tinette had better be in the next room, and Sebastian and
John come upstairs and spend the night in the hall, so that they
might call out and frighten the ghost the instant they saw it
appear on the steps. Clara, in short, grew very excited, and
Fraulein Rottenmeier had great difficulty in quieting her. She
promised to write at once to her father, and to have her bed put
in her room and not to be left alone for a moment. They could not
all sleep in the same room, but if Heidi was frightened, why
Tinette must go into her room. But Heidi was far more frightened
of Tinette than of ghosts, of which the child had never before
heard, so she assured the others she did not mind the ghost, and
would rather be alone at night.
Fraulein Rottenmeier now sat down to write another letter to Herr
Sesemann, stating that these unaccountable things that were going
on in the house had so affected his daughter's delicate
constitution that the worst consequences might be expected.
Epileptic fits and St. Vitus's dance often came on suddenly in
cases like this, and Clara was liable to be attacked by either if
the cause of the general alarm was not removed.
The letter was successful, and two days later Herr Sesemann stood
at his front door and rang the bell in such a manner that
everybody came rushing from all parts of the house and stood
looking affrighted at everybody else, convinced that the ghost
was impudently beginning its evil tricks in daylight. Sebastian
peeped cautiously through a half-closed shutter; as he did so
there came another violent ring at the bell, which it was
impossible to mistake for anything but a very hard pull from a
non-ghostly hand. And Sebastian recognised whose hand it was, and
rushing pell-mell out of the room, fell heels over head
downstairs, but picked himself up at the bottom and flung open
the street door. Herr Sesemann greeted him abruptly and went up
without a moment's delay into his daughter's room. Clara greeted
him with a cry of joy, and seeing her so lively and apparently as
well as ever, his face cleared, and the frown of anxiety passed
gradually away from it as he heard from his daughter's own lips
that she had nothing the matter with her, and moreover was so
delighted to see him that she was quite glad about the ghost, as
it was the cause of bringing him home again.
"And how is the ghost getting on?" he asked, turning to Fraulein
Rottenmeier, with a twinkle of amusement in his eye.
"It is no joke, I assure you," replied that lady. You will not
laugh yourself to-morrow morning, Herr Sesemann; what is going on
in the house points to some terrible thing that has taken place
in the past and been concealed."
"Well, I know nothing about that," said the master of the house,
"but I must beg you not to bring suspicion on my worthy
ancestors. And now will you kindly call Sebastian into the
dining-room, as I wish to speak to him alone."
Herr Sesemann had been quite aware that Sebastian and Fraulein
Rottenmeier were not on the best of terms, and he had his ideas
about this scare.
"Come here, lad," he said as Sebastian appeared, "and tell me
frankly--have you been playing at ghosts to amuse yourself at
Fraulein Rottenmeier's expense?"
"No, on my honor, sir; pray, do not think it; I am very
uncomfortable about the matter myself," answered Sebastian with
"Well, if that is so, I will show you and John to-morrow morning
how ghosts look in the daylight. You ought to be ashamed of
yourself, Sebastian, a great strong lad like you, to run away
from a ghost! But now go and take a message to my old friend the
doctor; give him my kind regards, and ask him if he will come to
me to-night at nine o'clock without fail; I have come by express
from Paris to consult him. I shall want him to spend the night
here, so bad a case is it; so he will arrange accordingly. You
"Yes, sir," replied Sebastian, "I will see to the matter as you
wish." Then Herr Sesemann returned to Clara, and begged her to
have no more fear, as he would soon find out all about the ghost
and put an end to it.
Punctually at nine o'clock, after the children had gone to bed
and Fraulein Rottenmeier had retired, the doctor arrived. He was
a grey-haired man with a fresh face, and two bright, kindly eyes.
He looked anxious as he walked in, but, on catching sight of his
patient, burst out laughing and clapped him on the shoulder.
"Well," he said, "you look pretty bad for a person that I am to
sit up with all night."
"Patience, friend," answered Herr Sesemann, "the one you have to
sit up for will look a good deal worse when we have once caught
"So there is a sick person in the house, and one that has first
to be caught?"
"Much worse than that, doctor! a ghost in the house! My house is
The doctor laughed aloud.
"That's a nice way of showing sympathy, doctor!" continued Herr,
Sesemann. "It's a pity my friend Rottenmeier cannot hear you. She
is firmly convinced that some old member of the family is
wandering about the house doing penance for some awful crime he
"How did she become acquainted with him?" asked the doctor, still
very much amused.
So Herr Sesemann recounted to him how the front door was nightly
opened by somebody, according to the testimony of the combined
household, and he had therefore provided two loaded revolvers, so
as to be prepared for anything that happened; for either the
whole thing was a joke got up by some friend of the servants,
just to alarm the household while he was away--and in that case a
pistol fired into the air would procure him a wholesome
fright--or else it was a thief, who, by leading everybody at
first to think there was a ghost, made it safe for himself when
he came later to steal, as no one would venture to run out if
they heard him, and in that case too a good weapon would not be
The two took up their quarters for the night in the same room in
which Sebastian and John had kept watch. A bottle of wine was
placed on the table, for a little refreshment would be welcome
from time to time if the night was to be passed sitting up.
Beside it lay the two revolvers, and two good-sized candles had
also been lighted, for Herr Sesemann was determined not to wait
for ghosts in any half light.
The door was shut close to prevent the light being seen in the
hall outside, which might frighten away the ghost. And now the
two gentlemen sat comfortably back in the arm-chairs and began
talking of all sorts of things, now and then pausing to take a
good draught of wine, and so twelve o'clock struck before they
"The ghost has got scent of us and is keeping away to-night,"
said the doctor.
"Wait a bit, it does not generally appear before one o'clock,"
answered his friend.
They started talking again. One o'clock struck. There was not a
sound about the house, nor in the street outside. Suddenly the
doctor lifted his finger.
"Hush! Sesemann, don't you hear something?"
They both listened, and they distinctly heard the bar softly
pushed aside and then the key turned in the lock and the door
opened. Herr Sesemann put out his hand for his revolver.
"You are not afraid, are you?" said the doctor as he stood up.
"It is better to take precautions," whispered Herr Sesemann, and
seizing one of the lights in his other hand, he followed the
doctor, who, armed in like manner with a light and a revolver,
went softly on in front. They stepped into the hall. The
moonlight was shining in through the open door and fell on a
white figure standing motionless in the doorway.
"Who is there?" thundered the doctor in a voice that echoed
through the hall, as the two men advanced with lights and weapons
towards the figure.
It turned and gave a low cry. There in her little white nightgown
stood Heidi, with bare feet, staring with wild eyes at the lights
and the revolvers, and trembling from head to foot like a leaf in
the wind. The two men looked as one another in surprise.
"Why, I believe it is your little water-carrier, Sesemann," said
"Child, what does this mean?" said Herr Sesemann. "What did you
want? why did you come down here?"
White with terror, and hardly able to make her voice heard, Heidi
answered, "I don't know."
But now the doctor stepped forward. "This is a matter for me to
see to, Sesemann; go back to your chair. I must take the child
upstairs to her bed."
And with that he put down his revolver and gently taking the
child by the hand led her upstairs. "Don't be frightened," he
said as they went up side by side, "it's nothing to be frightened
about; it's all right, only just go quietly."
On reaching Heidi's room the doctor put the candle down on the
table, and taking Heidi up in his arms laid her on the bed and
carefully covered her over. Then he sat down beside her and
waited until Heidi had grown quieter and no longer trembled so
violently. He took her hand and said in a kind, soothing voice,
"There, now you feel better, and now tell me where you were
wanting to go to?"
"I did not want to go anywhere," said Heidi. "I did not know I
went downstairs, but all at once I was there."
"I see, and had you been dreaming, so that you seemed to see and
hear something very distinctly?"
"Yes, I dream every night, and always about the same things. I
think I am back with the grandfather and I hear the sound in the
fir trees outside, and I see the stars shining so brightly, and
then I open the door quickly and run out, and it is all so
beautiful! But when I wake I am still in Frankfurt." And Heidi
struggled as she spoke to keep back the sobs which seemed to
"And have you no pain anywhere? no pain in your head or back?"
"No, only a feeling as if there were a great stone weighing on me
"As if you had eaten something that would not go down."
"No, not like that; something heavy as if I wanted to cry very
"I see, and then do you have a good cry?"
"Oh, no, I mustn't; Fraulein Rottenmeier forbade me to cry."
"So you swallow it all down, I suppose? Are you happy here in
"Yes," was the low answer; but it sounded more like "No."
"And where did you live with your grandfather?"
"Up on the mountain."
"That wasn't very amusing; rather dull at times, eh?"
"No, no, it was beautiful, beautiful!" Heidi could go no further;
the remembrance of the past, the excitement she had just gone
through, the long suppressed weeping, were too much for the
child's strength; the tears began to fall fast, and she broke
into violent weeping.
The doctor stood up and laid her head kindly down on the pillow.
"There, there, go on crying, it will do you good, and then go to
sleep; it will be all right to-morrow."
Then he left the room and went downstairs to Herr Sesemann; when
he was once more sitting in the armchair opposite his friend,
"Sesemann," he said, "let me first tell you that your little
charge is a sleep-walker; she is the ghost who has nightly opened
the front door and put your household into this fever of alarm.
Secondly, the child is consumed with homesickness, to such an
extent that she is nearly a skeleton already, and soon will be
quite one; something must be done at once. For the first trouble,
due to her over-excited nerves, there is but one remedy, to send
her back to her native mountain air; and for the second trouble
there is also but one cure, and that the same. So to-morrow the
child must start for home; there you have my prescription."
Herr Sesemann had arisen and now paced up and down the room in
the greatest state of concern.
"What!" he exclaimed, "the child a sleep-walker and ill!
Home-sick, and grown emaciated in my house! All this has taken
place in my house and no one seen or known anything about it! And
you mean, doctor, that the child who came here happy and healthy,
I am to send back to her grandfather a miserable little skeleton?
I can't do it; you cannot dream of my doing such a thing! Take
the child in hand, do with her what you will, and make her whole
and sound, and then she shall go home; but you must do something
"Sesemann," replied the doctor, "consider what you are doing!
This illness of the child's is not one to be cured with pills and
powders. The child has not a tough constitution, but if you send
her back at once she may recover in the mountain air, if not
--you would rather she went back ill than not at all?"
Herr Sesemann stood still; the doctor's words were a shock to
"If you put it so, doctor, there is assuredly only one way--and
the thing must be seen to at once." And then he and the doctor
walked up and down for a while arranging what to do, after which
the doctor said good-bye, for some time had passed since they
first sat down together, and as the master himself opened the
hall door this time the morning light shone down through it into