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125 29 “Have you got an exercise book for me?” Klöss asks his big sister.“I have to write a composition.” With a heavy heart Maria gives him one of her exercise books from the cardboard box; it still has some empty pages in it. Father will not buy a new exercise book, the slate does well enough for the eight years of school in his opinion. “When you finished, please give me exercise book back. I want to keep it to remember my school” she begs Klöss. He promises. But, she still has to be careful that it does not get lost. Sometimes she looks in the boys’ room. It smells of straw, hay, leather, the stable, and rotting wood. The floor is soft and gives way when you walk on it. There are places where it is already rotted through. Bits of straw and hay that have dropped from the boys’ clothes fill mouse holes, gaps, and cracks. Klöss’s schoolbag is sewn from a sack. When Maria finds her exercise book in it, filled up, she takes it to put it back in its old place. What a difference there is between her compositions and her brother’s, who can hear and is now thirteen. As his last sentence for a composition on the emperor’s birthday celebration, he has written, When the lessuns have finisht, we will give thre cheres. Maria does not know whether to laugh or cry. But, she knows how hard her brothers have to work all day. Father does not stand for any nonsense. Willi, who has already finished school, has to work like a grown man. Father gives him no money for it though; no one in the family is paid for work on the farm. The year 1915 passes, and more and more men have to go and fight at the front. Everyone in Freilingen fears for them. Maria always hears about it when one of the men from the village is killed.The women and girls work even harder while the men are away at war. Stories Main Pgs 1-258.indd 125 4/26/2017 12:17:39 PM 126 Maria Wallisfurth Maria longs for Christina to return from Aachen for the autumn holidays . She is glad that each time they see each other, her younger sister has made more progress with her speaking, and Maria tries to ask questions about Aachen. She can hardly contain her curiosity. However, the result is usually too meager for Maria’s liking. “When you go to Aachen for Christina?” Maria asks Father. He shakes his head and tells her,“Christina is coming with visitors. The two Rögert ladies are coming with her.” Maria’s mouth drops open with astonishment. Then, she shouts for joy and asks,“When?” “Soon,” he answers. Maria has to clean and tidy the house plus her work in the fields! She tidies, wipes, and sweats, and is full of excitement. Finally, the day of the visitors’arrival has come. In the heat of the ­ August afternoon, Maria runs to the station, so as not to get there too late. When she reaches the Ahr road, she sees the train crossing the bridge to ­ Ahrdorf. The visitors must already have gotten off! She runs down the last stretch of road and when she gets to the bridge, she sees the two Rögert ladies and Christina coming down the stony path from the station. First Maria flings her arms round tiny Miss Fine, who hugs her for a long time, and then Miss Käthe, who puts up with this jubilation somewhat stiffly. Christina stands there awkwardly, as if Maria were an incomprehensible creature to her. “I’m so glad! I’m so glad! I am very glad you have come!” Maria exclaims. She beams and hugs Miss Fine again. “You have become a big girl. A lovely girl!” “Yes, I am big now. All the dresses from Aachen too small and tight for me. I have made longer and wider.” “You are so brown and healthy!” Miss Fine marvels. Maria says eagerly, “Yes, I always work very, very much in fields. I always in fresh air.” Christina is dressed from top to toe in new clothes, a smart little city miss. Maria tells the ladies so, and they look as proud as if Christina were their own child. Maria takes their bags and small suitcase. She does not want them to have to...

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