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129 30 Klöss has obviously been up to something. Maria comes into the front room and sees him getting a beating from Father, who is enraged. Father has unbuckled his belt, taken hold of the boy by the scruff of his neck, and is lashing him with the belt on the seat of Klöss’s pants. The younger children are sitting nervously on the bench and in the corners, watching. Maria shrinks back. She can see that Klöss is yelling. His face is contorted. He is kicking his legs about. But, Father, who is infuriated, holds him firmly. He shakes him back and forth a few more times and then lets him go. Klöss stoops quickly to retrieve his hat that has fallen on the floor and runs out of the door. Maria goes after him and sees him crying and rubbing his bottom and then disappears into the barn. Poor Nikolaus! Maria thinks. She stays out of Father’s way for the rest of the day. That evening the petroleum lamp on the wall is lit, and the family are all seated at the supper table. Potatoes are steaming in the bowl.Then, the door opens, letting in a cold draught, and Klöss stands in the doorway. Mother and the children look at him in surprise. Finally, Father raises his head, too, and he looks grimly at the culprit in the doorway. Klöss’s face is still smeared with tears, but they all notice his shining, triumphant eyes. Straddle-legged, defiantly, he stands there. Using both hands, he holds out his shabby hat handed down to him from Father. The brim is wide, soiled, and floppy, and it is far too big for him. But, heaped up perilously in its depth there are brown and white eggs. Everybody looks at Klöss in silence. Maria goes to him, brings him in gently, and closes the door behind him. Doing so, she glances quickly at Father from the corners of her eye. Christmas is not far away. The hens tend to lay badly at this time of year, and eggs are money! Stories Main Pgs 1-258.indd 129 4/26/2017 12:17:39 PM 130 Maria Wallisfurth Father stands up very slowly. Klöss without moving, looks at him­ proudly. Father asks him something and Klöss replies. Mother carefully takes the hat with all the eggs from him. Father raises his hand and drops it on his son’s shoulder, making him buckle a little. Then, Father slaps himself on the knee and starts to laugh; he bangs his fist on the table with such gusto that the plates bounce, and he laughs and laughs. The tension in the family is released. They all become cheerful. Klöss sits down at his place at the table, grinning. Maria fetches a stoneware bowl and places the eggs into it, one by one.There are over forty eggs! “Where have you found?” she asks Klöss in amazement. But he is busy with his boiled potatoes with cream and just tilts his chin toward the barn. Grandmother has to tell her the story. In his shame and pain, Klöss had hidden in a dark corner of the barn behind a stack of beanpoles. He didn’t want anyone to find him. After he had sniffled and moaned quietly for a while, his eyes grew used to the dimness. He suddenly became alert. He could see a hole in the wall. Hay was hanging out of it and something white was gleaming inside. He sniffed hard, wiped his eyes with his hand, and stood on tiptoe. Slowly and carefully his hand slid into the hole and groped for the white thing. Then he felt the many, many eggs. They lay in the dark, right up to the back of the hole. He took his hat, filled it, put it down on the floor of the barn, and waited, delighted and sure of victory, for the evening, when they would all be gathered around the table. With relish he anticipated his great entrance, his enjoyment, twice as great after the humiliation of Father’s beating. Maria looks at Klöss affectionately. There he sits, stuffing himself with potatoes. Stories Main Pgs 1-258.indd 130 4/26/2017 12:17:39 PM ...


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MARC Record
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