Yesterday, Léonard came for a visit. Friedrich was in the middle of a
phone call when the bell rang, and Emma immediately ran downstairs. She thought
it was Martha.
She did not recognise him immediately. The appearance and his clothes
seemed familiar as she remembered seeing him at the cemetery and in the church.
"Good afternoon," Léonard greeted her.
"Hello," she returned shyly, "What can I do for
"You´ve already helped me by opening the door. Is this the house of
the von Preuß family?”
Emma didn't understand what he wanted at first.
He didn't introduce himself, she thought.
Uneasily, she held on to the handle. He must have noticed when she took a
"Excuse me. I haven't introduced myself yet. My name is Léonard,
and I am new in Sehlingen. I was told that a certain von Preuß family lived here."
A feeling of warmth floated into her ears as she perceived his raspy voice.
"Is there anyone from your family at home?"
"Grandpa. He's on the phone. What do you want?" she added
She felt uncomfortable attacking him.
"I want to talk to you."
"What for? I don't know you at all."
Léonard smiled gently.
"We met at the cemetery."
Emma looked at her shoes.
"Yes," she admitted meekly, "you were at the Schäfer
He was silent.
"Are you related to them?"
He answered the question in the negative.
"I looked around a bit," he said. "That's when I noticed
you. Were you following me?"
Just then Friedrich asked from above who was standing at the door.
"Martha!" cried Emma, running hastily upstairs.
Léonard stared into the cold hallway.
He waited for what was to come. A few seconds later, after sprinting up
the steps, she was standing in front of him. With an unsuspecting push, she pressed
him away from the door.
"You moved into the villa, didn't you?"
Léonard turned away from her.
"Why did you lie?"
Emma looked down the street. As a spy, she looked in all directions and
hoped that no nosy washerwoman was watching out of a window. She gave him no
answer. She seemed to calm down when she took him downstairs to the river. Only
Michael, the lone fisherman, was present, dozing on the bank, not noticing,
that a fish was at his rod. Further on, Emma did not utter a word. She dragged
him as far as the cemetery before her tension eased.
The 100-Mile river became wider and lonelier. It is a very idyllic place
to go for a walk. It was precisely this seclusion that Emma had chosen to talk
to him. Far away from the Sehlingers, Emma could talk about anything without a
"That's far enough," she murmured wearily.
They could no longer perceive anything of the village. Léonard sat down
on a fallen tree trunk.
He lit a cigarette.
"You're from the villa," she repeated, a little out of breath.
He took a puff and did not answer immediately.
"Why did you lie?"
He had noticed her change in attitude. She was more open.
"I don't know."
"It's true. I live in the mansion. It's my grandfather's house."
"You're a de Waarfay?" asked Emma, gobsmacked.
She sat down on the wood away from him. Careful not to soil her dress,
they could gaze at the wall and the plateau.
"I thought you knew. Everyone in the village should know. “
"I know you live in the villa," she explained, "Half the
village has already warned us about you."
"And yet you bring me to this forsaken place?"
"The residents' warnings are unfounded," she spoke with doubt.
The stump of the cigarette landed in the river.
"I am a de Waarfay. But I don't intend to harm anyone, rather I want
to bring the truth to light."
"I'm petty, I bet you think that now," he laughed. "I
want to prove that my grandfather had nothing to do with the murder of the
policeman and his wife."
"That was so many years ago! Those were my great-grandparents! “
"It won't be easy. However, I already have proof. He was framed for
the murder. The suicide was also a cleverly staged murder. “
"Is your grandpa still alive?"
Léonard ignored the question.
"Although this murder happened over fifty years ago, it seems like
it was only yesterday in this village."
"Not much happens here. We are mostly dismissive to new people.
This has come to a head one more time since the occupation and the war.”
"I see. Well, I came across your name in my research, Emma von
Preuß. I figure the victim's family can tell me the most about what happened."
"Emma will do perfectly," she grinned. "I'm not a
princess... my surname is Malven.“
A second cigarette brought out the scratchy smell.
"You think your grandpa is innocent? And you have proof?"
"I don't know anyone in my family except for mother, grandma and
grandpa," she confessed, "We don't talk about it. But we get asked
about it all the time in the village. The villa, de Waarfay, murder and stuff. “
"Very penetrating inhabitants..." grumbled Léonard. "So
you can't even live in peace without the past catching up with you?"
"That doesn't bother me. How can I despise a person if I don't know
them? Besides, they are merely doing it because they are concerned about me. “
"Many old people could take a leaf out of your book. That you
brought me here shows your open heart."
"Forgive me for not being able to help you."
"You lied to your grandfather. Something would interest me."
"Why here? You trust a strange adult despite everything."
"You don't look like a good-for-nothing."
Léonard choked. The cough ended in a superstitious fit of laughter.
"I've had a lot of things thrown at me. But the fact that I don't
look like a good-for-nothing is new to me. What does a real good-for-nothing
Emma went to the river.
"I don't know. But you are not bad. I saw you when you went to the
cemetery. I followed you right from the church because I was curious. Of
course, I knew you had something to do with the villa and my family. We don't
see many new faces in Sehlingen. “
"That's where you saw me?"
She turned to face him. The wind blew a gust towards her. The leaves trembled;
the waves grew stronger. A trout snatched up a water strider. Ants gathered
around a patch of earth without grass.
"I thought something exciting was about to start."
She giggled and followed the trout as it continued to look for unwary
insects. Many little fish were hiding under the stones on the shore. Emma
watched them anxiously.
Another wind blew brought her curled, bright, chocolate-brown hair to
life. It waved around her face. She showed him an embarrassed smile. The childlike, umber eyes looked naive. Her roundish head was dominated by cuddly cheeks. A long pearl necklace hid under her clay brown dress.
Emma was taller than Martha, a
little wide at the hips with plump limbs. You didn't notice it because she wore
her dress every day, however, her athletic quality also showed when she had to
run after someone. Léonard noticed her dirty and uneven fingernails. Puncture
wounds were visible. He didn´t know that Emma helped out either peeling
vegetables or sewing but was rather mediocre at both as soon as she thought she
had to do the job in a hurry. She was embarrassed and reserved, seeing herself
as nothing unique, she nevertheless struggled to get where she wanted to go.
This was especially evident in her stubbornness. He could only guess that.
He kept a low profile and kept an eye on Emma. She was a child. A
guileless girl without much experience about real life. Now she was thinking of
the great adventure. Léonard laughed inside. He was the same at her age.
Seeking adventure and escaping the world.
"It doesn't get exciting. I'm taking care of old family business,”
he said, hoping she would start to argue with him.
"I want to help you. Please! For example, I can guide you through
the village! I can explain to the villagers what you're doing. That you are not
"Please don't do that. Making it clear to the inhabitants what I am
up to, makes them reach for the pitchfork faster. I don't want you to end up at
the stake as a witch. “
"Please! I want to help you! After all, it's about my family
He stood on his feet.
"Let's go back. Your grandfather must be worried already."
She said nothing in reply. Somewhat offended by the refusal, she
followed him. Léonard smiled.
"Great-grandfather is not buried in the cemetery," she
Léonard looked up.
"Only Johanna. They buried him in the field behind without much
fuss. If you go past gravedigger Kaspar's house, you'll be in the Stolz
family's pasture. There's a fenced-in birch tree. He lies there."
"Really? That's interesting news," he said kindly.
"You won't find anything in our village. The documents are probably
in Speckern or Lödingen," Emma said euphorically. "I'm sure they'll
help you there.
"Just like in the town hall..."
"Another time... Tell me, can you ride a bike?"
"What a pity. It must be nice to ride along the river until you're
far away from the history of the world."
Past the 100-Mile river, the only way led back to Sehlingen. There the
two parted ways. Emma told him stories from the village and tried to link them
to her family in order to be of some help to him. She was possibly waiting for
Léonard's answer, which he denied her that day. Hungry for adventure, she
almost followed him to the mansion, but they parted ways at the cemetery.
Léonard was pleased.
END OF CHAPTER I
To Chapter II