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177 42 In the days between Sunday and Sunday, when Maria will see Wilhelm again, Maria is surprised at herself. She flies through her work; it is as if she has not done it at all. She rolls out noodle dough, makes the beds, cleans the shoes in the yard, dusts, sweeps the garden path—all the while, her thoughts are only with Wilhelm. She longs for him. She wants to be with him, close to him, wants to stroke his face, hold his hand, or just be beside him and look at him. It is so wonderful, to no longer feel alone. How is it possible that Wilhelm could have existed for so long without her knowing him? That she knew nothing about him? Where did he come from? Who was he? The whole day long, she thinks about his life, the things he has told her. She imagines him small, with tiny hands wrapped in bandages so he can’t scratch the rash all over his body and face. The rash itches and torments him in his early years. His mother, Alexandrine, is serious and remote. She never laughs;­ Wilhelm couldn’t even imagine her smiling. Every day Wilhelm climbs up the many winding steps of the church bell tower with his father, Josef. In the round room at the top, there are high windows in the thick walls, and dangling through the ceiling are four strong ropes. One of the ropes is split into two ends; two men have to pull it to move the huge Severinus bell. Here, his father has to ring the bells that hang above the tower in a wooden frame. He pulls on the ropes, stretching and then bending his knees again and again. From here, Wilhelm only has to climb up the narrow wooden steps to see how Father moves one of the four bells in the bell tower. The handrail of the steps trembles. The whole tower vibrates. If he hadn’t been used to them already, Wilhelm would have been frightened by these tremors. When Wilhelm watches the bell swinging to and fro, his Stories Main Pgs 1-258.indd 177 4/26/2017 12:17:41 PM 178 Maria Wallisfurth head moves from side to side as well. Not the slightest bit of sound from the booming bells finds its way into his consciousness. Josef Sistermann is slim, and he is shorter than most men. He is friendly, and when he talks to other people, his kind eyes narrow, little wrinkles­ appear at their sides, and his mouth smiles under his moustache. He works hard at the church. He is responsible for ringing the bells, treading the bellows of the organ so that enough air gushes into the pipes, and winding up the huge church clock. He also makes all the coffins for the village, plus the crosses and wooden tablets, and he paints and inscribes them, digs the graves, and drapes and buries the dead. He tends to the paths and squares around the church, as well as the grotto in the churchyard to honor the Virgin Mary, which he built from large stones. Wilhelm is allowed to accompany his father everywhere, even to the gallery on Sundays, which vibrates so pleasantly while Father treads the bellows and the organist plays. From up here, Wilhelm can look down at the people below. Father is never cross with Wilhelm or the other children, he is never strict. The Sistermanns live in a little old house near the church. In the carpentry workshop behind the house, Wilhelm watches his father working and plays with pieces of timber. A few days before Easter, they take a basket and go to the farmers’ houses, some of them far out, others right in the village. Wilhelm’s father is collecting fresh eggs for the pastor; each farmer can give as many as he likes. In the end, the pastor gets quite a few. On the way to the farmers ’ houses, when they are alone, Father takes an egg from the basket, pricks a hole with a pin, and sucks out the yolk. Wilhelm wonders how a whole yolk can slip through such a tiny hole. Father gives him an egg, but­ Wilhelm shudders. He doesn’t want to do the same. Father puts his finger on his mouth. Wilhelm understands: Don’t tell! Is it wrong to suck one of the pastor’s raw eggs? Even if Wilhelm is a small, quiet...


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MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
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