When the three friends stopped in a corner of the library, Claire spoke up. She had wanted to say it for those eternally long minutes.
Freiberg. Erlenbrunnen. Erlenbrunnen at Freiberg. Since Kapellengarten she knew the name, since Pfalzburg the appearance. The magical, attractive image on the window mosaic of Pfalzburg's main station.
With few words, she tried to sum herself up, huffed at the beginning because of the big show, was able to tone down when Emma made her sit down and saw her wound.
Claire ignored the worries of both and continued with her description. The little she knew helped them a lot.
"Who would have thought this picture would be so important?" concluded Emma afterwards, "You already had a sense of our adventure back then!"
Claire smiled sheepishly.
"Now we have to hurry home, this wound looks bad," Martha said motherly.
In the end, Claire could not defend herself. Only Emma's complaint about the walk irritated Martha a little. She had no eyes for her friend and pulled Claire's hand in front of her. This care did not sit well with her. Claire didn't want to be so pampered, didn't want to be the centre of attention, nevertheless she liked it and tried to show the wound in small sections visibly unconsciously to Emma.
Yet Claire was hardly indulged. The injuries she inflicted on herself in childhood had all disappeared when her aunt stroked them with her hand. There was no bandage or plaster. And Martha hardly knew Claire and yet she acted as if they had been friends for a long time.
Her skills as a nurse proved their worth. Martha cleaned the wound in the kitchen and put a new bandage on it. Her uncle appreciated this talent when he hurt himself.
Claire felt the comforting warmth with which Martha had cared for her. Ashamedly, she suspected that a simple thank you could not have been enough to her deed. With a shy whisper, Claire thanked her several times.
In Martha´s room, they made up several theories that Léonard could be living in the Melaten castle. They could only reach correct conclusions when it was bedtime.
Emma crept into Claire's room. She knew Claire was not asleep.
"How is your hand?" she asked into the penumbra.
"It feels better."
"How did this even happen?"
"I cut myself on a piece of glass. At the villa," she replied.
"I hope it heals quickly. Can you write?"
"To a certain extent. It hurts a bit. And I probably won't play the violin for a while either," Claire murmured.
"That's a shame."
"I don't have it with me anyway," she pouted.
"I've been thinking."
"Again?" Claire remarked.
"Yes. That Melaten thing. I'm absolutely sure that Léonard lives there. The note confirms it! You know, when his ancestor came to Sehlingen, the inhabitants tried to find out where he came from and they found out nothing about him. That might have something to do with Mrs Wildt telling us that this house or castle is in a dense forest."
"But why hasn't it been found? We live in a time where everything is discovered."
"I know. I think it's somewhere in the Northern Tree Line. Grandfather says it's very dense and wide when you travel towards Berlyne-"
Emma broke off when she realised that Claire was suddenly sitting next to her. The sombre eyes reminded her of a cat.
"Would you like to travel there? But how? The librarian said Erlenbrunnen is a closed city. We can't get in there easily."
"Listen, we don't have to go into town! We just have to get as far as nearby and eventually look for Melaten."
"Isn't that the problem? Looking for a house in a dense forest with no clues? Do you think we'll ever find it? Besides, we don't know for sure if Léonard lives there. Whether he'll be home when we get there, whether he'll want to see us. Maybe he wanted to get rid of us when we rode out of Kapellen Castle."
"You're so pessimistic. Be a little more undaunted!" Emma encouraged her friend, "The tale says that all children find it."
"You forget it's a fairy tale."
Silence was in the room. A dog barked outside.
"We'll manage! He wanted to leave quickly with the book, he knew that nothing would happen to us! And it did. “
"Emma, Léonard is not looking for the book," Claire confessed to her.
"What, how do you know?"
"He had told me on the phone in Regenschloss when I asked him. But I don't know what he's looking for..." she replied, "I forgot to tell you."
Emma was silent for a while.
"That makes it even more exciting, don't you think? What is he looking for? What does he want to protect from the abbey?"
"I don't think he'll give that away so easily," Claire said.
"Think positive!" Emma cheered up her friend, "Think of all we've already done! We have travelled alone!"
"You mean the train ride to Pfalzburg? We were picked up there and knew our destination. Now you are literally roaming through the night to convince me to march to Erlenbrunnen. How are you going to travel all the way there anyway? “
"On foot," Emma smiled, "Wait before you say anything! I was looking at a map earlier! If we walk along the river from here, we'll get to Eldingen eventually."
Claire realised her thoughts.
"Didn't you once claim that this river goes straight for a hundred miles and there's nothing there?"
"Do you know what a hundred miles is? We can't walk that easily!"
"But it's not a hundred miles to there! We are somewhere in between. If we pull ourselves together, we can do it! I reckoned it would take us two days."
Emma felt the unconvinced eyes.
"Three days," she admitted briefly.
"Emma, it's time you go to sleep. You're not thinking straight," Claire said in a commanding voice.
Emma knew she had lost. When Claire changed her monotone voice, she had to think about everything herself.
"Wishing you a pleasant night's sleep,” Claire answered.
As the door closed, Claire's mind began to spin.
Emma thinks too much in black and white. Doesn't she worry about later?
No, why should she? Worrying about something you don't know is wrong.
How are we going to explain it to her grandfather?
You didn't tell your father when you left Regenschloss.
How are we going to get there on foot? Where should we spend the night?
In the open air, where else?
What if Léonard really isn't there?
He is here.
What is it about this closed city? If we get captured, it's all over. Or we get lost in the forest. The weather can't always play along.
Isn't that what you call an adventure? The uncertain, the great, the unknown something?
The longer she raised arguments against the trip, the more pessimistic she became. The voice in her head, on the other hand, developed from a small rut into a full-blown fire. The allure of the unknown lay behind it. Wasn't that what she wanted to achieve? Didn't she want to be free by travelling somewhere where there was hardly anyone? With her only friend?
Claire had slumbered badly.
She dreamt of a ghost wandering around her room and asking her to leave. Awakened from the nightmare, she retreated under the blankets and was only able to nod off when the sun's rays began to rise.
She didn't realise how long it had been since she had slept in her own bed and agreed with everyone who said that the best place to sleep was at home.
It was excellent summer weather. It was almost too humid. The residents avoided the shadeless places.
The mayor was enjoying a walk through the park with his eldest daughter. She was licking a popsicle, he in a monologue about his future marriage to the son of some landowner.
The three met at the pond, wanted to feed the ducks. But they had no bread with them. Martha had started her first day at the library today and came rushing to Emma right after she finished work after she was waiting in front of Emma´s home and getting the info from grandpa von Preuß.
There, she first examined Claire's wound and had brought new bandages. The cut looked better; the healing progressed quickly. During this time, Martha talked a little about her job and named so many authors that in the end she no longer knew which hand Claire had injured.
Emma then spoke of her coming adventure, forgetting to ask Claire for her opinion.
Did she change her mind last night or did she go straight to sleep?
"You can ride a boat on the river," Martha joked, "You'll get faster to Eldingen."
Emma saw it as a witty suggestion to use a fishing boat and lit up.
"This way we can save our legs!"
"Can you row?" Claire interrupted the conversation.
"No," Emma drooled, "Why do you have to break everything? “
"I haven't at all. You think far too hastily and forget the essentials!"
"Maybe so! But at least I'm thinking positive!"
"That has nothing to do with it! You are running away from your duties! What do you really want? Do you have any idea what you're going to do once you find him!? What good will it do us?"
"I want to live with him!" Emma cried.
Claire squinted at her.
Emma said nothing. Martha stood between the two of them and kept them apart. The brief growing anger at Emma's blindness drove Claire to despair. Why was she getting so upset so quickly? Was it the lack of sleep?
"Emma... I'm sorry..."
Emma smiled self-consciously.
"Maybe I do act rashly sometimes. Sorry."
It took a while for them to find each other. Claire spoke a little, saying that she would agree to travel with them to the Melaten estate, then go to Berlyne. Emma agreed to this pact. At the same time, Claire had to admit to herself that this would be a farewell for a long time. Emma´s wish was indeed to stay with Léonard.
Emma had no idea that he already had a fiancée...
END OF CHAPTER X