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There is a Season
By Laurie Campbell
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2013 Laurie Campbell
All rights reserved.
30 November 1860
Luise raced along the rectangular fenced yard between the back of the manor house and the stables, accompanied by her dog, Franz, a black spaniel with melted-chocolate eyes and ears so long he trod on them by accident.
Kirsten pursued them, calling, "Luise! Wait! Oh, I hate it when you run away from me."
"Hurry then," returned Luise, stopping to let Kirsten catch up. Franz leaped up at Luise to get the meat scraps she had for him, leaving muddy paw prints all over her coat.
"What a mess," Kirsten lamented as she reached them.
"Don't look, then." Luise gave Franz his meat scraps, then spread her fingers out to show him there were no more, and held them out when Franz started to lick them thoroughly.
"Luise, don't do that!" Kirsten scolded, her peaches and cream complexion turning red with vexation.
"He gets my hands clean," Luise grinned. She wiped her fingers on her coat.
"Not on your coat, Luise, you'll make it all mucky," Kirsten protested. She was thirteen, very conscientious about her instructions to be a good influence on Luise. "We make sure there's a kerchief in your pocket every time, why do you never have it?"
Luise, at ten, had perfected the art of ignoring Kirsten's efforts to influence her. She turned her back on Kirsten without comment, and patted a sturdy-looking outdoor bird cage with a shelter in it. "I can't wait for spring when I can have another falcon. What's a good name for the new bird?"
"Why not call it Friedel like the other one?"
Franz stood on his hind legs beside Luise, his front paws on the wire netting. She petted the dome of his head absent-mindedly, as she argued, "I can't give him someone else's name!"
Kirsten shrugged. "Why not? Kings do it all the time. Our King is Friedrich Wilhelm IV."
Luise looked through the wire into the cage, considering. "Friedel II, like he was a King?" she muttered, considering. "I don't know, shouldn't he have his own name?"
"First off, he's a bird and he won't know."
"Don't say that!"
"And second, we always call this, 'Friedel's cage,' and that way we always could."
Luise turned to look at Kirsten. "Do you want to?"
Kirsten crouched down to entice Franz to her. "Ja, I do, really. Every time we pass it going to the stables I look at it and I think about what fun we had that day helping Herr von Goff make the cage for Friedel."
Luise's eyes lit up. "We did, didn't we? I'm glad you remember how nice that day was, because mostly when I remember it, I remember how awful it used to be when Frau Blücher was mad at us."
Kirsten stood back up and reached out to snug Luise's scarf back up around her neck affectionately, saying, "I had a lovely day helping you build the cage. Frau Blücher was only mad at you that day because you moved her glasses while she was saying grace, and when she went to pick them up again, her hand went into the sour cream."
"Well, I only did it because she was such an old dragon."
"It's wicked to say things like that."
"Wicked, wicked, wicked girl!" Luise mocked the way the old nanny used to scold the girls. "Am I glad I've never heard that since Daddy sent her away."
"And no one's boxed my ears since she's been gone."
"And no one's mean to Amalie anymore."
They beamed at one another. Kirsten admitted, "What you did to Frau Blücher was funny, even if it was wicked." They laughed together, delightedly.
Luise's eyes lowered. "Kirsti, you don't think Mummy will bring her back, do you?"
"No. Nein. Herr von Goff won't let her."
"Well, he sent Mutti to visit Frau Blücher, so maybe he thinks there was something good about her. It would be just awful if she came back."
"Cheer up, Ludi, do. Herr von Goff only sent Frau von Goff to visit Frau Blücher because she's at the seaside, and Frau von Goff was so ill. It's for your mother's health. It doesn't mean Frau Blücher'll be allowed back after all the awful things she did."
Luise still looked worried, so Kirsten offered. "Remember the song we made up the day we made Friedel's cage? I know I said I'd never sing it with you again, but maybe we could do it today. It's not icy under the snow, maybe I won't fall."
With the spaniel rushing along beside them, his ears flapping, the girls skipped hand in hand to the stable door, chanting, "Fritz und Franz und Friedel und Fluch!" Luise made a flatfooted jump on 'Fluch', but Kirsten gave a cautious extra skip.
Luise frowned. "Come on, do it properly."
"Nein, I'll fall."
"It spoils the song if you don't jump."
"It doesn't matter, anyhow. We're here."
Luise rolled her eyes to the heavens for patience and reached for the stable door. "You get the oats and I'll get the water."
"I wish we didn't have to go in there."
"What do you mean? Where else would things for horses be but in the stables?"
"Helmuth scares me."
"Boy. I hope I'm not as soppy as you when I'm thirteen."
"Don't be horrid, Luise."
"Don't be prissy, Kirsten."
"Luise Maria, you can be so unladylike."
"Kirsten Marie, you can be so missish."
"I'll tell Amalie."
"I'll put Fluch in your bed."
Kirsten screamed and put her hands over her ears. "Luise! How can you even say something like that? I won't listen to another word from you, you're being too horrid!"
"You're making me tired," Luise said with exaggerated weariness. She heaved a sigh as one heavily burdened, said, "Don't come in, then. You don't have to. You can walk around the outside with Franz and wait by the side door and I'll get everything myself. That way you won't even see Helmuth." She let herself into the stables muttering as the door swung shut behind her, "Waste of time getting water in this weather, anyhow. It just freezes."
In the cold outside Kirsten stood looking at the door for a moment. She fully intended to follow Luise in, and knew that's what Luise expected. Then a rebellious feeling reared up, and she told the closed door, "It would serve you right if I did just that." She looked down at Franz, wagging hopefully beside her, "I'm a lady's maid," she told him. "Whoever heard of a lady's maid hauling oats to horses? I shouldn't have to do this sort of thing. I should be taking silver trays to a pretty little lady, not trudging across the snow with a boyish, headstrong creature who threatens to put her parrot in my bed."
She turned to face the trek around to the side door. There was no path dug through the snow in the direction she wanted to take because normally no one walked along the side of the stable. It would be easier to go inside. Kirsten hesitated until Franz whined at her, puzzled about the change in routine. "Oh, Franzi," she sighed, bending down to fondle his comforting, doggy head. "Come with me and keep me company."
Off she set with Franz beside her. No matter how Luise tried her, Kirsten couldn't imagine being anyone else's maid. She knew she wouldn't be treated with as much kindness anywhere else. It was almost as if she were a poor relation instead of a maid.
When she'd lived in the orphanage, Kirsten had seen other girls when they returned to visit their friends on their half-days. She'd seen the black eyes, heard the stories of girls raped by their masters; the life of an orphaned serving girl was rarely as comfortable as Kirsten's and well she knew it. As she made her way through the snow, Kirsten pictured how disappointed Luise would feel that Kirsten wasn't there to help her, and that next time she'd have more care in what she said.
* * *
However, Luise hadn't given it another thought after she'd shut the stable door behind her. When Kirsten hadn't immediately reopened the door, Luise assumed that Kirsten had gone around the outside with the dog, so she continued on between the horse stalls, unconcerned. She quickened her pace she saw a little pony boy come towards her. "Hey, Quappe!" she called, though softly so as not to startle the horses. "Help me get water and fodder for Fritz und Jagwida."
"Ja, Fräulein," he answered, bobbing his head. "I be ordered to do that." He looked around, puzzled, and asked, "Where's Fräulein Kirsten?"
"She's too lady-like to come in here. Helmuth scares her." Luise put on a falsetto voice and acted the part of an offended lady, sending Quappe into peals of smothered giggles.
They glanced around, nervously, to see where her father, the lord of the manor, and Helmuth, the head stableman, were. The men were way over on the other side of the stables, having their perpetual arguments about the horses.
Luise pulled Quappe out of sight before they were noticed. Despite the fact that Luise was the heiress and Quappe was the lowliest of the stable hands, the two children were fast friends, and with a number of things in common. They were both small for their ages, loved horses more than anything else on earth, and had mothers who were ill. Between them they carried straw and oats to the side door and piled them there, then returned to the mash room and set about heaving on the pump handle to fill a bucket with water. "How is your mother today?" Luise asked. "Is it true your father's gone away again?"
"That doctor what wouldn't come and see she on account we couldn't pay him all of a sudden came back and saw her. Answer to prayer. But Frau Mutter still be poorly. Doctor say she won't get no better if'n she don't get more medicine, but Vati don't got no money for no more medicine, and won't take it as a charity, so he gone to the river try to get work. Him wants to be the ice warden on the Oder. I think the Lord, He takes meine Mutter."
"Nein, Quappe, don't talk like that. Don't give up."
"Folks say die Frau don't get no better. You still got hope?"
Luise didn't say anything for a while, then she said, "Meine Mutter's been better and worse ever since I can remember, so she'll probably be better again when she comes back from the seaside. Amalie and I are going to the village this afternoon because Herr Schwartz hurt himself in the smithy and we have to visit him, so if your father's away I can take your greetings to your family if you want."
"Danke, Fräulein. Tell meine Mutter I hug her."
"Frau Müller made a restorative tea for your Mutter and we've got warm things for the little ones, and some nice stew left from the servant's dinner for them all to eat."
"Herr Vater don't hold with taking no charity."
"I know, that's why I can only take help to your Mutter when your Vater is not home. Mein Vater explained it to me, but I still don't understand how can he leave the family without to save his pride. How can he bear it? What if he's not ice warden, then how will he make money to get medicine?"
"Herr Vater will look for something else where no man will be his master. He don't call no man 'master', nor his father before him, nor his before him. That's why he disowned me for coming here. No Ritter ever called a Schmidt 'master' before now. I shamed the family name, and him never wants to set eyes on me again. I take all my wage to my sister and sometimes I can take apples and so to the little ones. I just make sure mein Vati don't see me or he'd beat me for sure."
"For the love of God, why won't your father work for my father? It's honest work at a good wage. We need help to build a skating rink in the grotto."
"Then der Herr would be his master and he'll die before he lets that happen."
"But working on the grotto is not like being part of the household or stables. He'd be hired for the work. What about your mother, and the little children? Why should they go hungry and have no medicine because your Vater won't work for mein Vater? Your Vater works on the villagers' cottages, doesn't he? What's the difference between that and working in the grotto?"
Quappe was only eight years old. He didn't have answers to such complicated questions. His real name was Ulf Ritter, but when he'd arrived at the stables looking for work, Helmuth's son, Kurt, had nicknamed him, 'Kaulquappe,' tadpole. That had become shortened to, 'Quappe,' by the stable-hands.
Most of the stable work was too heavy for him, so he was assigned jobs like running errands and helping Luise care for her pets. The stableman's son, Kurt Schmidt, had helped Luise when she was small, but now that he was promoted to Carriage-Groom, and Luise was getting bigger and stronger, Quappe and Kirsten gave her almost all the help she needed.
Since Quappe Ritter could not go home at night the way the villagers who worked in the stables did, he slept in the hay and ate in the stable kitchen with the stableman, Helmuth Schmidt, and his family, sitting with the strappers and pony-boys at meal times. He wore the handed down clothes of the bigger boys, and worked to earn himself a blanket and his keep. When he was given coins he always made sure they went to his mother. Kurt had adopted the child as his strapper. Helmuth let the grooms and coachmen know that Quappe was not to be bullied, but other than that he acted as if the child didn't exist, grumbling that Kurt should concentrate on his work and not get involved with the likes of the Ritters.
Carrying the bucket of water for Luise's ponies was just about at the limits of Quappe's strength. He and Luise carried the bucket between them, pacing sideways and leaning back against the weight of the water.
"Kirsten better be there outside this door," Luise panted. "We'll never get all this to the pasture, just the two of us."
Luise's pet pony, Fritz, had been brought home for her by her father, Otto von Goff. He'd caught the new-born colt in the forests of Byelorussia when Luise was only three years old. Fritz had never adjusted to being stabled, any more than he had ever been broken to the saddle, so he lived outdoors no matter what the weather. His companion was his foster mother, Jagwida, one of the sturdy Polish Konik ponies which could also withstand all weathers.
While Luise and Quappe worked to get the fodder and water for Fritz und Jagwida, and Kirsten plodded through the snow, the head stableman, Helmuth Schmidt, completed his morning ritual of going from stall to stall in the stables arguing with Otto.
* * *
Short, stumpy Helmuth was unswervingly pessimistic. Never had he expected life to do him any good turns and for the most part life fulfilled his expectations. Born and raised in the stables he now ran, cuffed and cursed by a harsh father, he hadn't been at all surprised to have his life made miserable by the oppressive serf-liege atmosphere maintained by the previous master, Herr von Puttkamer.
By the time Herr von Puttkamer had died in 1846, leaving his young son-in-law, Otto as the new master of Schönwald, Helmuth was already middle aged, sour and set in his ways. He trusted no man, nor the fates.
He had no kind words for any human alive and precious little good to say about those who had gone before him. Only with his horses was he gentle and kind. He fought with his wife, argued with his master and bullied his children.
The epidemic of 1846 which had freed him from Friedrich von Puttkamer, had also deprived him of his first wife, the bride of his youth, and their daughters, leaving him with three motherless sons. Desperate to have the boys cared for, he had married within months. His second wife, Otto's cook, Emma, had raised his sons and had provided him with two daughters to replace the ones he'd lost.
Every one of his children was huge and ungainly. They baffled him. Not one of them gave him pride and joy, but all exasperated and embarrassed him.
His second wife, Emma, was the head cook at Schönwald. When the epidemic of 1846 had hit Prussia she had been the pastry cook for Otto's eldest sister in Vienna.
* * *
Emma would never have been willing to travel so far up north had she known how many years the staff at Schönwald would torment her for being a foreigner. Had she not married the stableman so soon after her arrival, she wouldn't have stayed.
It wasn't until Frau von Puttkamer died in the new year of 1860 that Otto had rid himself of the von Puttkamer servants who had made Emma's life miserable, but then Otto had insisted that the housekeeper, Minna, hire an assistant for Emma, Heinrich Hintzpeter.
Emma and Heinrich had been at odds ever since he had arrived. That morning they were squabbling over the dishes to be prepared for the Christmas season as they sat either side of the big table in the main room of the kitchen complex. Emma was constructing an advent calendar for Luise, while Heinrich was moulding fruit shapes from marzipan he had made.
"We need nice, fat carp for Christmas," Heinrich insisted.
"Well, we don't got none. We do got geese, der Herr can always bag hare, and we can get the swine-herder to keep us a nice fat pig," Emma stated, pragmatically.
"It just won't do!" Heinrich cried out, emotionally. "Other great houses have carp ponds, why doesn't this one?"
"Well, I doesn't know, does I? Der Herr never complained about it, so we does what we always done."
"I can't bear it! I just can't bear it! There's no sense of propriety in this house! I'll have to talk to der Herr myself!"
Emma had been already middle aged when she'd arrived in Prussia from Vienna in 1846, so by 1860 her thick brown Hungarian hair was thinning and greying, her brown eyes weren't as sharp as they'd once been, and her feet ached when she was on them for too long.
Excerpted from There is a Season by Laurie Campbell. Copyright © 2013 Laurie Campbell. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
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