Ch2-E Ice Skating In The Winter

Then came the time when the long cucumbers grew on the manure pile. She ate them passionately and greedily. One summer morning she was out for hours riding through the fields, came back in the burning heat of the sun for her noon meal. She was so thirsty her tongue was hanging out of her mouth.

 

She brought her pony to the stable. Jupp and Pittje were there and offered her a beer. It was Old Kleve beer, abominable stuff, but tasted delicious to the girl. She guzzled down three full glasses, then went to the cow’s stall and got a large glass of milk. She took a knife, ran to the vegetable patch, cut up cucumbers, salted them, and ate them with her bread. She ate more and still more until she couldn’t eat any more. Her noon bread had not tasted so delicious for a long time.

 

Unfortunately it didn’t sit well, didn’t sit well at all. The result was very explosive and immensely sudden. Green and pale, she ran to her room much too late. It was very bad.

 

Petronella picked her up, washed her and brought her to bed. Andrea felt very miserable and didn’t want anyone to know what had happened. As she lay in bed she whispered:

 

“Please, don’t tell grandmother!”

 

Petronella nodded, took her clothing and carried the mess out of the room.

 

She turned around in the doorway, called triumphantly, “What should I tell your grandmother? That Kotts did it?”

 

She swung the brown and green clothing like a flag. Grandmother never heard the story but everyone else did. Wherever Andrea went they giggled. When she went back to the stables Jupp, the old coachman, laughed and said just loud enough so she could hear:

 

“That Kotts sure can’t hold his beer can he?”

 

Andrea flushed red-hot and without a word slumped out of the stable. That was the end of Kotts. No spirits can take such gossip, something always held over their head. That’s why he disappeared from Woyland.

 

When Jan came for vacation and asked about Kotts, the answer she gave was so loud you could hear it both downstairs and upstairs.

 

“Kotts? He is too stupid for me. I chased him away!”

 

 

*          *

 

*

 

Andrea was ten years old. She had been able to play chess for a long time, played the grand piano and reed organ very beautifully, had learned how from her grandmother.

 

Grandmother instructed her grand daughter in ice skating as well; it was the time just before Katherine left. The last winter had been a hard one and they skated for hours and entire days. Andrea learned figure skating on the castle moat. Grandmother showed her how it was done, and then she practiced. Sometimes old Jupp played the harmonica and they skated to the music.

 

Once some gypsies came by, three wagons full. The Duchess cleared an empty barn behind the park for them and they stayed there over the winter. They repaired all the frying pans and kettles, made baskets out of reeds and willow twigs.

 

There were two men that played the violin and a young woman that played the viola. Grandmother let them come up to the drawbridge in the afternoons to play. Down below on the frozen moat she skated to the waltz with her grandchild.

 

One evening they burned pitch in the frying pans and placed them on the drawbridge. It was a big festival for the servants, neighboring farmers and farmer’s wives. There was dancing, glowing hot spiked punch, sausage and fancy deserts. Andrea was allowed to stay up until ten o’clock and Katherine was completely drunk when she brought the child to bed.

 

When she skated cross country Andrea needed to wear different skates, Hollander skates made out of wood with a very long thin steel keel that curved up in front like the runners on a sled.

 

They skated together, skated over the canal, brook and moat, then further over the flat ice flooded meadows down to the old branch of the Rhine. They went further, always further. It was as if the frozen world went on forever, willow bushes and alders and far in the distance the forest. There was an occasional windmill and always the thin snowflakes in the air. Hand in hand they skated through the still winter days. At noon they went into a nearby village, rested, sat in a warm guesthouse. Then they skated back and were home by sunset.

 

But St. Blaise’s day of that year, the day after Maria Candlemass came, was a day Andrea would never forget. They skated far out, almost to Kranenburg. They left very early that morning, at noon they rested in a village. This time they stayed longer. The Duchess met some farmers in the pub and spoke with them about some horses she wanted to buy. The heavy workhorses were produced and she examined them very thoroughly. It took a long time and was dusk already when they left.

 

As they skated back the Duchess stumbled over a piece of wood that was sticking up in the ice. She fell down, screamed out, and sat there grabbing her foot. Andrea came up to her.

 

“What’s wrong grandmother?” She asked.

 

The Duchess shook her head.

 

“Nothing,” she said.

 

She took her handkerchief, wrapped it tightly around her ankle. Andrea could tell how much it hurt. She helped her grandmother stand back up and slowly they skated further. Time and time again grandmother needed to stop and rest. It became very dark and hard to find their way. Then the old moon came up and they could see a little further. Hours passed and then more hours.

 

Andrea skated up ahead, now they were skating over the gloomy brook, then she came to the high reeds on the large fishpond. She skated back; told her grandmother they were almost home. She would skate ahead and get some help, some field hands and a sleigh.

 

The Duchess nodded and watched her chase off, then scarcely ten steps in front of her the little girl vanished without a sound. She rubbed her hands over her eyes, believed she must be dreaming.

 

“Andrea,” she called. “Andrea!”

 

There was no answer. The Duchess ran over to the spot. There! A fishing hole four meters across was freshly cut into the ice. She, herself, had commanded that fish be caught early that morning before they left. She saw the tracks of the skates, here and there where her grand daughter had skated. Then she saw the tracks where she had fallen through the ice.

 

“Good God!” groaned the Duchess.

 

She didn’t hesitate a moment, threw off her wool jacket onto the ice, unlaced her skates, pulled them off, sprang into the dead cold water and swam. She grabbed onto the edge on the other side, took a deep breath and dived under the ice.

 

When she told about it later, she didn’t really know how it happened, only knew that suddenly she grabbed onto a skate, then a leg that was hanging there in the water. Then she was banging her head against the ice, pulling and tearing at it until she finally found her way out gasping for air in the freezing water.

 

She lifted Andrea onto the ice, tried getting out herself, slid back in, and tried again. She finally pushed the lifeless child out of the way, held onto the ice, used it like a beam, supported herself on it, lifted herself up, brought a knee up on it and threw herself forward.

 

She didn’t stop to breath, undressed her grandchild, rolled the wet clothing together, shoved them under the girl’s back so that her head hung back. Then she knelt down beside her, grasped her forearms and pressed with them against the girl’s chest, then raised the arms quickly back over her head.

 

Again and again and still again, she worked until the sweat was running on her forehead even though the clothing was freezing on her body. She didn’t stop, not for a moment, not until the little one was breathing, until she knew that her grand daughter lived!

 

She rubbed Andrea from head to foot, wrapped her in the dry wool coat, took her in her arms and carried her through the night. Her foot hurt so badly that she believed she would fall any minute but she bit her lip and kept walking, first over the fishpond, up the slope, then cross-country.

 

The moon went down, she got lost in the darkness. There were snowflakes all around, always snow flakes. At times she would call out but no one heard. She sat down to rest on a tree stump in the pasture, groaning with pain and grasping her swollen deformed foot. Then she continued, further, further, through an eternity.

 

She finally came to Woyland, came into the park and screamed for her people. They came with torches and lanterns. Fanny, her lady’s maid, was the first to reach her and took the child. Klaus and Pittje wound their hands together so the Duchess could sit and carried her into the castle.

 

Andrea only needed to stay in bed a few days with some sniffles and a little cough. That was all. St. Blaise worked quickly. No one understood colds better than he did and this was especially right for him since the accident happened on his name day. Old Griet had prayed and explained everything to him.

 

Sadly grandmother was denied any help from St. Blaise and they needed to call in Dr. Peerenboom, the medical doctor from Kleeve. She had severe pneumonia in both lungs. It was weeks before she was out of danger. Then the entire left side of her face and throat swelled up from a tooth infection that abscessed and spread to her eye.

 

Old Griet solemnly promised that she would make the pilgrimage back to Kevelaer to honor the Virgin Mary if the Duchess would soon get better. She prayed five times a day to St. Blaise for the throat, to St. Apollonia for the tooth and to St.Odulia for the eye of her Duchess.

 

It was bewitched; it would not get better. The Duchess lay for months. Almost a year passed before her foot was completely well and that was only because Griet prayed to St. Judas Thaddeus. Was there anyone better for foot problems? She asked Jupp about it. The old coachman slowly shook his head.

 

“You can’t beat St. Judas and his walking stick,” he said.

 

*          *

 

*

 

 

Andrea thought nothing was more fun than swimming in the Rhine. They rode over the rich meadows away from the castle. Andrea was on her pony; Jan on a powerful Irish jumper and behind him came Pittje. They descended down to the Rhine, undressed.

 

The red and yellow polka dot swimsuit was long gone, had scarcely lasted a week when it finally fit. Katherine should have known that you couldn’t make a good swimsuit out of an old blouse! Andrea now had a real swimsuit, blue with a white belt, exactly like her cousin’s. Only his had a little money pouch so they could take his money with. They would need money on this swim journey.

 

First they played awhile on the sandy beach between Krippen and Buhnen, rode the horses into the water. Then they left their horses and clothes under Pittje’s care, swam together into the current. They needed to be careful of the steamers pulling long barges; the passing wake rose high over their heads and washed over them. But Andrea had not been afraid of the water for a long time, felt very safe with her cousin. When she got tired she swam up to him, laid her left hand on his shoulder, hung on and let him tow her.

 

They floated down the Rhine in the July sun until they saw the towers of Emmerrich, then they crossed to the other side where there was a little beach and waited. It was a place where the steamers and barges passed close to the shore. They wanted to climb on to a barge and catch a ride back up the river. Jan would go first and climb into the barge, get a rope and throw it to Andrea and then pull her up into the barge as well. She would be waiting a few meters away for the rope. It needed exact timing and kept going wrong. They needed to wait for a second, then a third steamer and try it again. Each time they got better at it.

 

The last time they made it and easily without effort climbed into the barge. Then they called the pilot and he pulled the barge closer so they could climb onto the steamer. The trip back upstream went slowly enough, they came to the spot where Pittje was waiting with the horses, waved to him and continued up a bit before diving head first into the river and swimming back to the shore.

 

The most beautiful part of the journey was when they sat close together on the deck of the steamer in the sun. Jan pulled his money out and paid their fare. The pilot brought them great slabs of white bread smothered in butter and topped with thick slices of glorious Holland cheese. Nothing in the world ever tasted more delicious than that food in the middle of the Rhine.

 

The sun laughed at them and everything was so young, so young!

 

They sat hand in hand, deeply quiet and contented staring out at the yellow-green waves and silver white combs or else they looked up at the light clouds in the blue sky circling around them.

 

Everything was so still. She heard her heart beating.

 

“Jan,” said Andrea.

 

“What?” He asked.

 

She said, “When I grow up I want to marry you.”

 

The youth laughed, “That could be a long wait Fundvogel! I don’t want to get married. The girls all seem so dumb to me.”

 

“Even me?” She asked.

 

“You,” he considered. “You are still much to young.”

 

She persisted, “But I will grow bigger. When I am grown up, then I will inherit all of Woyland. Grandmother told me. Then I will marry you and give it all to you. Do you hear me Jan?”

 

The youth gazed dreamily at the swiftly moving clouds.

 

“No,” he said lightly. “I don’t want Woyland. It is only good for the Holidays. I , I want to go out into the world.”

 

The little girl sighed, yet her hand continued to hold tightly onto his.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This entry was posted in anarchist world, Fundvogel, German Authors, glb, Hanns Heinz Ewers, Joe Bandel, sexuality, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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