Why doesn't Dete keep Heidi with her?

Dete doesn't keep Heidi with her because, as she tells Heidi's grandfather, she has done her duty for four years and feels it is now time for him to do his. Dete has also been offered a job as a maid and won't be able to take care of the little girl.

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Heidi's Aunt Dete has been taking care of the little girl for four years. But now, she feels she's done her duty and that it's about time that Heidi's grandfather did his. When Dete tells him this, we can gather that she didn't take care of Heidi out of the goodness of her heart but out of a sense of family duty.

In any case, Dete has come to drop Heidi off at Grandfather's house in the Alpine village of Dörfli. She's about to start a job as a maid in a big city, so it would be impossible for her to continue caring for the little girl.

Grandfather's none too pleased at being lumbered with Heidi. He asks Dete what he's supposed to do when Heidi starts to whine and fret after her. Dete's response is dismissive, to say the least. That's his affair, she says, and if he can't arrange to keep her, then he can do whatever he likes with her. But he will be answerable for any harm that comes to the little girl.

Having washed her hands of Heidi, Dete leaves her behind with her grandfather, but not before the old man has sent her packing with a flea in her ear:

Be off with you this instant, and get back as quickly as you can to the place whence you came, and do not let me see your face again in a hurry.

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