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147 34 Late summer is drawing to an end. The swallows have flown away and gossamer glistens in the golden September sun. In the evening, long shadows cast the Giefers’ house across the yard and into the street. Maria goes to fetch water from the well. Suddenly, she sees horses and carts full of­ German soldiers streaming into the village, then more of them, and still more. The soldiers are haggard and weary. The horses look even more wretched. Their ribs stand out in a curve under their thin hides. The soldiers stop when they get to the chapel. Their boots are worn out, their baggy uniforms dusty. The men are unshaven, bone thin, and they stare out of big eye sockets. Just when Maria returns to the farm with her pails of slopping water, Setta arrives home from the pastures with the flock of sheep and the dog. Setta often has to tend to the flock on her own. The bleating sheep try to push through the blocked street to the stable. The girls see the soldiers just as they are sitting down on the Giefers’ stone steps and on the bench in front of the house. In the front room and hallway, too, they crouch on steps, on chairs, on the floor. Some of them have a kind word for Maria, she can see it in their faces. But she is a bit shy and cannot answer them, even though she is afraid they might think she is an unfriendly girl. Father sends Maria and Setta to get straw from the barn and spread it out in the front room. The soldiers lie down on it, close together, and immediately fall asleep. All over the village, people take in soldiers for the night. They sleep in barns and stables as well as inside the houses. The next morning, Father examines the wretched horses. The leg of one is badly injured and walking causes him great pain. Father and a neighbor slaughter the horse in the yard. Mother makes soup from the horsemeat and roasts a great deal of it. At midday, the whole family and all the soldiers who were given shelter at the Giefers’ can eat their fill. Maria sees Father bargaining with Stories Main Pgs 1-258.indd 147 4/26/2017 12:17:40 PM 148 Maria Wallisfurth the soldiers for the other horses. He leads four of the skinny animals into the stable and gives the soldiers money for them. Maria thinks the horses belong to the emperor, but she doesn’t ask.After the slaughtering, cooking, roasting, and eating, it takes Maria several hours to clean up. The soldiers stay the whole day, rest, wash themselves, and talk to the people in the village . In the evening, when Maria is going to bed, she sees the soldiers from her window, still crossing the yard and the street. Storm lanterns shine on their carts. Sometimes, she sees a sudden flare when someone lights a pipe. The next morning everything has disappeared.The mess of straw and cart tracks are the only signs of the nightmare of war. Maria asks Grandmother,“Where the soldiers come from? What about war?” Grandmother replies,“All the soldiers want to go home. Germany will lose the war. German soldiers are coming back from France. The war is very bad, soldiers said.” October 1918 is cold. Gone is the mild autumn. Rain sets in, and wind. Ragged clouds drift low across the Eifel hills. Maria is cold. The cold cuts to the marrow of her bones. She sneezes and coughs. She would just like to sleep. She steals away to her room and crawls into her straw bed, but she doesn’t feel any warmer. Her teeth chatter and she shivers. It is not long before Father is standing at her bed. He orders:“Get up!” “I ill. I not well,” Maria says. But Father is cross. “Go to pasture! Go to pasture! No time to be ill. Take Josef.” Maria and Josef drive the cows through the village, past the mill, and up a hill. Up there it is bare, except for a little copse where raspberries and blackberries grow. From here they can look beyond the Ahr valley out to the hills covered with dark fir trees. The ruins of a round tower that looks like a warning finger built on a soaring rock, point to the sky: They are the remains of Dollendorf Castle. Maria and her...


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MARC Record
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