~ 11 May 1870, 0930, Munich, Bavaria
Adamina heard her name and turned around. She saw the anger in her mom’s face exploding in the hand that struck her left cheek. Adamina dropped to her knees with a loud cry and then a whimper.
“How could you.” Tikva yelled. “Your father died a few days ago, and now, you are cavorting with this, this…cretin.” Her eyes snapped over to Fester who stood behind the counter in shock with his eyes fixed on Adamina.
“I don’t think he’s a cretin. He looks pretty handsome to me,” said a voice coming from behind Tikva.
Tikva turned around and her sister Angelika came walking towards her. “Angelika, you’re here?”
“Yes, and I’m quite distressed to hear about Dawud,” she said as she placed her arm around Tikva’s back. “But I’m even more distressed at this.” Angelika passed by Tikva and bent down to help Adamina stand up.”
Adamina cried. Her face was red, but her left cheek bled crimson where her mom’s fingernail had scrapped her cheek.
“It’s okay darling.” Angelika looked over at Fester. “Could you please get me some water, a towel, and a bandage?” Fester nodded and immediately departed.
A few moments passed before Fester brought the items and returned to his duties. Adamina sat at a table between her aunt and her mom. She had stopped crying and her aunt was gently stroking a damp cloth along her cheek.
Tikva looked shocked at what she had done. “I’m so sorry, Adamina.”
Adamina leaned over to her mom who embraced her tightly.
“I’m sorry. Adamina, I’m so sorry.”
Fester felt terrible, again. It’s like he can’t do anything right around this girl. He hoped she was okay. He explained to the hotel manager what happened and was told that it wasn’t his fault. His job was to engage with the guests. He continued his work, and every now and then, he believed that Adamina stole a glance of him, that is, whenever he stole a glance of her. After a while he had some water brought to them.
Tikva looked down at herself. “All the rage. The rage of being forced out of Romania, of losing Dawud, being in this strange land.” She looked over at Adamina. Her tears flowed again and Tikva gently stroked her hair behind her ears. “I’m so sorry.”
Angelika had her arm around Adamina but looked kindly towards Tikva. “Dear, you lost the best husband one could ever have. Rage is normal, but it doesn’t excuse what you did.”
“I know. I know.” Tikva cried, hoping to believe her sister’s kinds words. Tikva hugged her daughter and kissed her cheek.
“Mom, I do understand. I understand the rage and anger. Please see what I wrote in my journal.”
Tikva and Angelika read the journal’s most recent entries. They both looked at Adamina with horror at seeing how a young girl could realize such truth. They all sat there in silence together. None of them knew what to say, for nothing needed saying. They just sat together, like a family.
After a short while Angelika spoke. “Don’t worry you two. We’ll soon be on the train going back to Hamburg tomorrow. You’re safe here in Germany. No more conflict. No more war or heartbreak.” Even as she believed this, Angelika sensed the unease of lying.
~ 12 May 1870, 1400, Returning to Segeberg
Theodor guided his horse drawn wagon north along the road back home to Wahlstedt. Over the next hill was the border to his home district of Segeberg and he couldn’t wait to return home and see his family’s joy at all the trade goods he acquired. He enjoyed his time in Hamburg and the bartering where he successfully acquired almost half again more of what he initially planned. It was a good day for traders. Ships had arrived in the port from all over Europe and the Americas. Nestled among the grains, seeds, and dry goods were clothes hand-stitched from London, farm implements from America, and a porcelain doll from Venice for his sister who was expecting a baby.
Theodor navigated his wagon across the final switchback up the hill. The grass grew strong with wildflowers in full bloom along the ditches and across the fields. A few houses spattered the countryside with men and women out tending the fields and animals. Birds fluttered and sang. He was happy with a wonderful feeling. There was plenty of sunshine on this beautiful day. He crested the hill and began the trip down the gentle slope, no sharp switchbacks down to the border, just a long gentle slope. However, down on the flat lands along the border stood a regiment of Prussian soldiers. Perhaps they were on drills. He was proud of the Prussian military and its stance against Denmark and Austria. They must be on some maneuvers or drills.
Once Theodor reached Segeberg, a tall officer wearing a Prussian uniform of a blue shirt and gray pants under a spiked pickelhaube met him with his Zündnadelgewehr, a breechloading needle gun, in one hand. Its muzzle and bayonet pointing straight up. The officer called out with kind authority, “halt. What is your name, son?”
“Theodor. Theodor Schaffer.”
“Korporal, check the list for Theodor Schaffer.”
The korporal stood next to the officer with folds of paper. His disinterested look bothered Theodor. The folds of paper were well worn, and the korporal knew exactly what page he needed. “Sir, we need to verify his parent’s names.”
“Mr. Schaffer, who are your parents?”
This was beginning to bother Theodor. He was aware of the rumors of war with France and twitched nervously in his seat. He thought of making a run for it, but he knew that with a full wagon he could never outrun the Prussian military. He hoped it was just a check to ensure he was Theodor Schaffer and not some French imposter bent on something nefarious. But it could also be something else, and that worried Theodor immensely. The horses sensed his discomfort; he heard a few neighs and saw some stutter steps with their tails clamped down.
The officer grasped his rifle now with both hands slightly angling it towards Theodor. “Mr. Schaffer.”
“Sorry sir, my parent’s names are Koenraad and Mili Schaffer from Wahlstedt.”
The officer looked over at the korporal. But kept the gun at ready.
“Yes, sir that is correct.”
“Private Schaffer. Under the authority of Otto von Bismarck, you have been conscripted into the Prussian Army. Please dismount and join the recruits”
The worse had happened. Theodor didn’t know what to do. If he ran, he would now be shot. As concerned as he was about his own life, it was his family that consumed his worries. “Sir, I am a trader and these goods must be delivered to my family.” Theodor’s nervous voice didn’t seem to mean much to the officer, but still he hoped, for something.
The flap on the closest tent opened and out came the regiment commander for the Segeberg district. Theodor knew him. His name was Erich. He was originally from Wahlstedt, a friend of his father, and a former comrade of their neighbor Ailbe.
“I’m sorry Theodor, I cannot waive your conscription. But I can assign two Korporals to join you so that you can deliver your goods to your father. Afterwards, they will escort you to the Wahlstedt regiment.” Erich looked over at the officer. “Captain, do you have any objections to my orders?”
“Then do it.”
~ 13 May 1870, 1700, Wahlstedt, Segeberg.
Ailbe was covered in dirt. He spent the entire day working the farm with his twin boys. They have had a few days to absorb their immigration to America, but they were still furious. Ailbe understood their desire to fight for their homeland. After all, he once fought for Schleswig-Holstein, and he still suffers.
He walked in the door. “Get out of here, you dirt monster. I’m fixing dinner,” yelled his wife Emmeline.
He stopped mid-step and backed up in reverse. “Yes, Ma’am,” he said with a huge smile. Shutting the door after backing out, he saw Harimann and Hansi walking towards him, equally dirty. He warned them, “you better get cleaned up first. Your mother doesn’t tolerate dirt.”
Hansi replied, “then shouldn’t we be able to fight for our land? If not, isn’t that tolerating the French?”
Ailbe sighed. This has been nonstop the last six days. He understood their frustration, but he was getting tired of it. He had sent a telegram down to Hamburg to get schedules of ships departing for America and hoped to receive the reply soon. The sooner they left, the safer they would be. But for now, he just tolerated their intolerance. “Just get cleaned up, boys.”
Sitting around the table, Ailbe, Emmeline, Hansi, Harimann, and Elsie ate their dinner. Afterwards, the boys helped their mother clean up then asked if they could go outside.
Elsie asked, “I want to go outside too?”
Thankful to be alone with his wife, Ailbe said, “all of you go outside and play.”
“But don’t get dirty.” Their mother warned with a smile. She waited for them to all leave then picked up a paper and handed it to Ailbe. “Your reply arrived.”
Ailbe looked it over. “There is a ship leaving next week for America. We need to get them on it.”
Emmeline nodded but then looked at the door. Someone was fiercely knocking. She opened it and her neighbor and friend Mili stood outside. Her face wet with tears. “My boy, they took my boy. He is gone.”