Shore Street had to deal with the waves of the 100-Mile river every
year. Spring flooding was a phenomenon that the residents knew how to handle. They
used the narrow path between the gardens of the lanes to get to their
destination dry-footed. They had even sandbags at the town hall to stop the
flood at their doorsteps.
Josef Faber's carpentry workshop also received an annual visit from the cold
water. The workshop was on the ground floor. The fact that he didn't know how
to help himself with his self-built wooden wall was almost an offence in his
niece's eyes. It was Martha who stood in the knee-high water every year and
built the wall.
The building consisted of two floors and an attic. The windows had all
been inserted towards the plateau on the other side of the river. The holey
wall guarded them with the loud howl of a monster. Martha would have loved to
examine the tunnels herself. Only the question of how she was to climb there
It was a quiet afternoon the next day in Sehlingen when Martha had
cleared the table and washed up. Josef was already in the workshop when a
"Good day Mr Faber."
"You'll find Martha in her room," he spoke without looking up.
"She might as well make herself useful, tell her that!"
Emma was Martha's best friend. She was the granddaughter of Friedrich
von Preuß and only visited him during the holidays; provided there was enough
money to travel. She lived with her mother since her father´s death.
Emma knew the house like her own. She had an excellent memory for maps. Martha
sat on the floor in her room and thought. She had just finished the Max Reiter
novels for the umpteenth time and felt a germinating emptiness. Should she
start over to escape it or look for something new? She didn't feel like diving
into a new world right away.
The knocking woke her up.
"Yes? Come in."
It had not occurred to her to expect her friend. But on the other hand,
if it had been her uncle, it would also have been unexpected; he usually yelled
instead of coming up.
"Emma!" she cried excitedly. "How are you?"
Beaming with joy, she went to her. The hug came too late, she sat
silently and dejectedly on the pile of books.
"What's wrong?" she asked immediately, worried.
Three days ago, when they had last seen each other, she had not been so
depressed. It had to be something serious, Martha thought to herself. Emma was an
enthusiastic optimist. If something upset her that much, something terrible
must have happened.
With silent gestures, the visitor showed that the floor was a better
place to speak.
"Would you like anything? To drink, to eat?"
"No," said Emma.
She did not speak another sentence. There was an awkward pause. With a
bashful look, she awaited wise words from Martha. She could not read minds and
did not yet suspect what was going on inside her. Desperately she searched for
the right words of encouragement.
"Yesterday our doorbell rang. I didn't know who it was, grandpa wasn't
expecting a visitor. I went downstairs as he was on the phone. I couldn't see
much through the frosted glass and unlocked it. I couldn't understand why he...
he... of all people was at the door."
"Who?" inquired Martha. "Has anyone been bothering
She could hardly imagine that there was someone in the village who
threatened Emma. It all sounded very strange. At the same time, it could be the
beginning of an adventure.
"This young man from the villa."
"You mean de Waarfay?!"
"Yes! Who else would I mean?"
"What did he want? What did you do?"
"I didn't do anything. I stood outside the door and he introduced
himself. He wanted to talk to someone from my family."
She remained silent. The visitor stood up and wandered to the window.
The exits of the wall were silent at the moment.
"Can we please talk about this somewhere else?"
"Sure. Shall we go for a walk along the shore?"
"That's how we get to the cemetery... I don't want to go
there," she replied. "To the park?"
"Let's tell my uncle. Otherwise, he'll call the neighbours again if
I'm not in the room. Every time he thinks I've been kidnapped."
The park was wonderful spot-on earth. It gave a little green to the sad
everyday life. There were not many people around. The two women strolled past
the pavilion and visited the pond. The ducks there were swimming around.
Emma was standing on the bank, a drake just submerged, when she picked
up a leaf from the meadow and slowly crumpled it in her fist.
"You haven't said a word," Martha said nervously.
"Let's sit down somewhere," she replied.
They found a bench, remarkably close to the Rys, where they could see
the façade of the mansion from a distance between the trees.
Emma took a deep breath, looked at her friend with innocent eyes and began
to tell her story.
To the next part: Chapter I.6.