The Lady and Her Servant

Three German sisters are caught up behind the advancing Russian forces at the start of World War One. Will they survive? And are the Russian officers honourable men?

Sample

Johanna had understood. She quickly seized the stair banister and tossed out hastily, “An encounter taking place here in the vicinity then, isn’t it? Is Prince Fergussov there?” T

he Russian nodded animatedly and contentedly.

“Already over,” he gleaned arduously. “Germans all gone” — he struck the stock of his weapon on the ground, shut his eyes, and stretched his tongue out — “peaked caps much too few — much too few.”

The estate owner let her grip shift, and straightened up. Now she knew what the busy bees at daybreak had hummed before her window. A small troop of German men who had attempted to drive off the wrongful invaders, they had succumbed to the superior numbers, the stupid masses. And Prince Dimitri, the elegant favourite of the Petersburg salons, the bearer of the latest and most refined culture, had certainly not disdained from dipping his sword in the blood of the half defenceless. How self-satisfied and swelled by self-admiration he might now be riding surely out there over the trampled wheat fields under whose stalks the silenced countrymen had crept for their last sleep.

A vehement feeling of repugnance passed through the meditating woman. And with a decisive movement, she turned to the door as if she intended pushing aside without further ado the infantryman whose representational skill her tormenting thirst for knowledge had so much to thank for. Meanwhile the Russian again moved his hulking head regretfully, bent over, and stretched in his crouching position his weapon diagonally before the entrance.

“What does that mean?”, Johanna responded indignantly, “don’t you see that I want to go out into my yard?”

But the sentry shook his head still more strongly. “None,” he tried to explain, “nobody out.”

Then a fiery redness rose in the usually pale cheeks of the estate owner, and turning away contemptuously, she strode without any further word of response to the door of the small salon which she had opened the previous evening for the wounded man, and knocked loudly on the dark wood. To her great astonishment, Marianne’s steady and calm voice called, “Come in.”

What was that?

The tall blonde instinctively listened as if she wished to catch the vanishing sound once more. That was not possible though?! How could the impulsive creature dare to seek out the wounded soldier in his room without the permission of the eldest, and indeed at a time at which the usually ever weary and phlegmatic woman was accustomed to be tending to her rest for a long time yet? Almighty God, had then everything which had until then been unbreakable law had an end put to it with the invasion of the foreigners? Was there nothing more which was definite and unchangeable on a German farm, nothing that was solid and certain to which you willingly bowed and subjected yourself, except the stupid indiscriminate power of those blown in?

With a firm swing, Johanna opened the door, and so great was the force of her arm that the wood falling back caused a cutting gust of air before which the wounded man on the sofa twisted his bearded face with annoyance. But how strangely the features of the robust Cavalry Captain had been transformed. The gleaming curve of his cheeks darkened, hollow and shrunken; under his torn open uniform, the bared chest rose with difficulty and rattling, and the arm hanging slackly down showed the inner fatigue more distinctly than all else. Only the large blue eyes sparkled still just as wildly and constantly as on the evening before.

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