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A Treat For Heinke
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A Treat For Heinke
A girl finds hope during wartime
[1,028 words]
Liilia Morrison
Writer and artist living in South Florida
[August 2016]
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A Treat For Heinke
Liilia Morrison

"Heinke is an old sow," the children sang when they saw Heinke come out of the wooden doorway.

It was Sunday morning. The courtyard of Masur, the feudal estate in Bohma, was empty, except for five or six peasant children at play.

"Stop it," the girl cried.

"She washes the hens with cacao," they continued. This was a song they liked to sing, substituting the name of whatever child they didn't like on that particular day.

Heinke knew enough not to object. She had heard this ditty before, but she had never sung it herself. Besides, it was much worse when they heckled her with "Heinke loves Eric." Eric was the son of the night watchman at the manor and Heinke did like him, but didn't understand how the other children knew. Eric probably didn't know this. Heinke had never talked to him, except in a group of other children.

The courtyard, a large circular earthen court with a well in the middle, was the only outdoor area in this walled estate. Men would take oxen out in the morning and plow the surrounding fields. Peasant women would walk to the bakery to sell salt bricks or raps oil. Other than that, most tenants stayed within the walls of Masur. The old people never left its protective barrier.

Peasants would come to the well in the morning and draw buckets of water for cooking and for their animals. Buckets would be lowered with a crank handle and hoisted up when full. The floor of the courtyard was dirt, and when it rained, it was mud. The peasants wore wooden shoes without backs. That way, they could easily slip them off when they entered their hovels. The shoes were slow to wear out and they could be whittled from wood, which was readily available from the nearby forest.

Deciding to go off and play by herself, Heinke noticed the lady of the manor appear from the finely paneled entrance of the owner's quarters. The peasant children quickly scampered behind a stone wall where they would not be seen.

"Heinke," the lady of the manor called. Her voice was soft and musical, not like the peasant women's who spoke in harsh, loud tones, if at all.

Heinke ran to the elaborate door, unsure why she was called, but knowing full well one had to obey the owners.

Standing in front of the lady of the manor, Heinke was too scared to say anything. The lady, noticing the girl's discomfort, patted her on the head.

"Did your mother get the milk pitcher on your doorstep this morning?" she inquired. Heinke hadn't seen milk in quite a while.

"I don't think so," the girl responded, confused.

"Well, I have another one for you," she said and disappeared into a hallway with dark, carved furniture and curtains. She had never seen carved furniture or curtains before, nor had she ever been inside the owners' quarters. Heinke didn't want to seem nosy, so she kept her eyes down, looking at the stone steps.

The lady reappeared with a large tin pitcher, narrower by the neck and fluting into a larger shape below. The girl's eyes opened wide as she saw the foaming, creamy yellow surface of the liquid. That meant the pitcher was full. She could smell the fragrant, delicate flavor of fresh milk mixed with rich cream. Was she dreaming?

The lady smiled at the girl's surprise. "Do you think you can carry it by yourself?" she asked.

"Oh, yes," Heinke lied. She had no idea how heavy it was.

"Here, I'll let Claus help you with it." The lady apparently understood the girl's predicament. A young man whom Heinke had seen around the courtyard appeared in an instant.

"Claus, please take this to Heinke's mother," she said to the servant. Heinke had not heard any of the peasants say the word please, or speak gently.

Claus easily carried the pitcher to the second floor. Heinke's mother was sitting by a wooden table covered with a thin white cloth. She stood up, surprised at her daughter walking in with Claus and a large pitcher, the kind used only for milk.

"From the lady of the manor," Claus explained as he put the pitcher on the table and left as quickly as he had come.

The mother took two tin cups from a shelf and dipped each one into the thick, frothy liquid. The cream on top was golden yellow. Some of the white liquid dripped onto the tablecloth but neither the mother nor the girl noticed. Heinke dipped her fingers into the top layer of cream and licked them. She had never tasted anything so delicious before.

"Have your fun, my dear child," the mother chided, "but in the future, we must mind our manners and drink from the cups." Heinke smiled, her lips and cheeks covered with milk.

The mother then wiped the tablecloth with an apron that she usually wore around her waist.

"I don't know what we did to deserve this," said the mother, "but I am not asking any questions. This certainly is a nice change from weak kummel tea and chicory water." Heinke had not seen a twinkle in her mother's tired eyes since last Christmas Eve, but she saw it now.

"Maybe we will have roasted deer meat tomorrow," the mother said, with a big smile.

Heinke began to giggle. At first it was a shy, gentle sound. Soon she was laughing, laughing from deep inside. She had not seen her mother so happy in a long time. Heinke put her little arms around her mother's neck and hugged her rough cheeks. The peasant children's taunts were a faint memory now.

"I love you, Mudi," said Heinke. She had called her mother Mudi since she was a toddler. But she had never told her she loved her before.

The mother, suddenly looking much younger and quite beautiful, responded with

"You are my angel. I love you too."

They sat around the table, watching bright sunlight playing on the tablecloth. The room was warm now and the milk and cream in their stomachs felt good, very good.


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© 2007 Liilia Morrison
May 2007

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