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65 16 The fresh snow has thawed. Only on the sheltered slopes does it still glisten in the late December moonlight and falling frost. When Maria got out of the train at the lonely station of Blankenheim-Wald, she was freezing. But after the brisk walk, her body has warmed again and the north wind blowing frosty dust along the Ahr road does not bother her. Only a few people got off the train with her and Father; the others went to Blankenheimerdorf and the larger town of Blankenheim. Now, she and Father are walking past the dense fir forests that reach down from the hills to the road at the valley floor. Bare chestnut trees line their way. The waters of the Ahr River glitter like silver. Maria’s few belongings are in a cardboard box, which Father is carrying tied to a strong stick over his shoulder. Father has given her his hand to hold. He has never done that before. It is wonderful to walk holding so tightly to Father’s hand. The moon travels with them. In the vast sky, the stars are also traveling. How many there are! One cannot count them, and beyond the many bright and faintly flickering lights, there are even more twinkling. The longer Maria looks, the more she can sense the infinity of the heavens. How tiny man is in comparison—it is good that Father’s hand is holding her. Maria looks up at him, sees his quiet face and his eyes fixed on the road ahead. Does Father know everything? Does he know why the moon is there and the stars, why the heavens are so vast? Where the road splits at the bare hazel bushes, they leave the Ahr valley behind. Maria is thinking only of home now. The road rises, and ice glistens between frost-hardened ruts. Maria sees two figures approaching, and a dog comes bounding up to Father. Maria does not know the dog, a German shepherd, but Father gives him a pat and talks to him. Klöss and Willi have come to meet them. Maria Stories Main Pgs 1-258.indd 65 4/26/2017 12:17:36 PM 66 Maria Wallisfurth hugs them and notices how they smile with embarrassment because they are not used to such a show of affection.“Whose dog? I don’t know dog!” Maria asks her brother. Klöss points to Father. So they have a new dog. “Where is old dog?”she asks. Klöss turns his mouth toward the moonlight so that Maria can see it.“Dead,” he says. Silently they walk on. Soon Maria sees the whitewashed walls of the mill. When they are crossing the bridge over Grindel Creek, the dog dashes off like an arrow. He runs up the high Stein, a steep hill opposite the pasture where Maria and Christina had tended the cows in the summer. At the top are a number of other fields, and behind them lies their village. Suddenly, Father throws the cardboard box at Maria’s feet and runs off with the stick in his hand. The brothers follow him. She watches in bewilderment as they clamber up the steep slope, until they disappear behind the top of the hill. What does it mean? Where have the three of them gone? Is she meant to walk on alone, through the night, up the road to the village? She decides to wait at the bottom of the rocky hill. The rocks hold many secrets. Once some archaeologists came and searched and poked around, digging on the Stein and they found Roman urns and coins, ancient coffins, bones, and weapons. One of the coins dated from the time of the Roman Emperor Caligula. They also found a Franconian grave with a complete human skeleton. Higher up on the Stein there is a cave. Sometimes, villagers find round light-red bricks that once belonged to the heating system of a Roman villa and Roman floor tiles that the villagers in Freilingen use for their kitchen and hall floors. In later years, when Germans became Christian, innocent women and girls were burned as witches on the Stein. Since then, ghostly, mysterious things have been seen on the Stein and stories have been told about them in the village—stories of dogs with eyes of fire, a headless man, thousands of cats with glowing eyes, and the Midnight Ghost who shoulders a boundary stone, but does not know where to...


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MARC Record
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