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3 2 Hubert and Elisabeth Giefer work from early in the morning until late at night. They till the fields and care for the animals. How fortunate that Grandmother is there to care for the children. When little Maria has not seen her for a while, she goes on a search. Maria knows every corner of the house. It is divided down the middle; the part with the front door ­ facing west belongs to Aunt Barbara, Hubert’s sister who, together with her husband Ernst, does a little farming and runs the only grocery and post office in Freilingen. Hubert and Elisabeth’s entrance faces east. A small passage leads past the living room door and then widens out to the large kitchen, with its range with a chimney hood, the baking oven in the wall, and the door to the vaulted cellar. Maria climbs up the wooden stairs to the bedroom facing the village street. Her little sister Gertrud is lying asleep in their parents’ bed. The room next door is unoccupied, filled with sacks of grain and flour standing between old bits of furniture and junk. Grandmother is not to be found in there, nor in the bedroom at the back looking out onto the meadow with its apple and plum trees. Maria goes to the stables and the feedstore, but Grandmother is not there either. Next, she goes in the dim henhouse, with its tiny window veiled by cobwebs. Nothing moves. The barn is joined to the house at a right angle. A smaller door is set into the huge barn door, and Maria has to step up high to climb through it. She still cannot find Grandmother. Maria would rather sit on the stone steps in front of the open house door. She pulls up her straight frock that reaches down to her laced-up shoes and with her heels, taps on the wide strip of flagstones in front of the house.Then, she sits in the shade, protected from the blazing heat and glare of midsummer.The sheepdog is stretched out sleepily in front of the pigsty. Swallows swoop across the yard with a manure heap in the middle. Stories Main Pgs 1-258.indd 3 4/26/2017 12:17:32 PM 4 Maria Wallisfurth In the open shed, hens perch on the wagon shaft and the plow and harrow or scratch around on the hard-trodden ground.All is peaceful.The people from the village are out harvesting. Nobody passes by on the village street that curves around the Giefers’ farm. Finally, Grandmother comes.The dog wags its tail and blinks.The hens leisurely get out of the way. Maria stands up quickly and runs ­ toward Grandmother, arms opened wide. Her hair hangs tousled around her­ happy face. Her eyes are bright. Her face and hands are dirty. As she thrusts her head into Grandmother’s apron, heavy muffled sounds come out of her throat. Grandmother is here again! Grandmother is something soft, something warm, something good, like fresh, fragrant bread, like sweet milk straight from the bucket, like the soft fur of the big dog and the secureness of the stables when the animals are at home, like the delicious smell in the kitchen when you are hungry. Grandmother is comfort, the nest, the home. At first, Grandmother, Hubert and Elisabeth, the neighbors, and the children who play with Maria were puzzled, surprised; then they became concerned.They worried, they watched the child. Now, the people of Frei­ lingen have begun to talk—“What misfortune! Hubert Giefer’s firstborn cannot hear or speak. She is deaf and dumb!” Terrible suspicions have been confirmed.The nearest doctor lives in Blankenheim. He costs money. Nobody has time to take Maria to the doctor, and she is not actually ill. One just has to accept things as they are. Little Maria is quite unaware of her misfortune. In the mornings she lies in the big bed. Grandmother smiles at her, lifts her out, and gets her dressed. Downstairs in the living room there is bread, sometimes with cream, curd, or even butter, and a cup of milk. While Grandmother peels potatoes, Maria sits beside her on the bench in front of the house in the morning sun, handing her brown potatoes from the basket, dropping the peeled ones to soak in a bucket of water. When Grandmother moves her mouth, Maria looks around. She sees people who also move their lips. They often do it...

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