Stabsrichter Luther Sizemore kept an eye on the dining hall door. When the new commandant entered, Luther stood to attention and made note of his staff who were slow to do so. He had read Von Kruppstieg’s dossier. He was old school, trained and molded between the wars.
“At ease,” the Oberst allowed.
Luther was at his side immediately; deferential without being subservient. Karl had met with him earlier and liked the young man. Karl wasn’t in the habit of liking men under his command.
Together, they walked toward the group of civilians.
“Herr Oberst, this is Headmaster Thomas Appleton.”
Of the four men in front of him, Karl was surprised to discover this man of at least sixty years was married to Brucke’s much younger friend. He was twice her age. He bore intelligent features, bushy eyebrows, an aquiline nose, and fleshy lips – not unkind, but somehow unwholesome. Appleton was tall and broad shouldered, but soft in an academic’s fashion. The sweater vest over his shirt was frayed at the buttons, but the professorial cloak was shiny clean.
The headmaster did not offer his hand, nor did the oberst. Karl felt an immediate dislike for Thomas, much the same way two dogs in a dockyard raise their hackles on sight.
Thomas introduced him to the three other islanders in quick and efficient, if bloodless, fashion. “Beckert – professor of Math and Science. Stuart – history and geography. Lanz – languages.”
Rather than allow Thomas his coup, Karl smiled charmingly at Lanz, “Which ones?”
The young man paled, looked desperately at Appleton for guidance, and then answered, “German, English, French, Latin. The students speak the various Norman dialects, so I have learned those as well – Auregniais, Dgernesiais, Jerriais, and Sercquiais. And of course, the children from Heleirhou speak Heliersiais. It depends on which island the students were born, don’t you see. Auregniais is almost – well – it is almost lost. They have all abandoned that island since this occupation – only six people are left on Auberney. Six islanders, that is. There’s no one to speak it.” His voice fell to a whisper, “Don’t you see.”
Lanz was younger than the other professors, about the same age as Luther. But where Luther was tall and handsome with an easy smile and healthy teeth, Lanz was stoop-shouldered on his left side and had the clammy grey skin of an addict. It was easy to understand why he was left behind when his peers went off to war.
“You have no female professors?”
The math professor scoffed. “They eat in the kitchen. Well, the servants’ hall. Same thing.”
The history professor peered out of thick glasses, “Better for the men, so they may relax without the attention to decorum required when there are ladies present.”
Appleton smirked, “Better for your officers.”
Karl stared without comment at the patch of oily skin between Appleton’s eyebrows, ignoring the implied insult.
“Here is Reverend Somersby,” Appleton sounded relieved as a man in black trousers, white shirt and cleric’s collar strode directly to Karl and stuck out a hand. “Colonel, welcome to Helierhou.”
“It’s,” Lanz interrupted nervously. “It’s Oberst. Not Colonel.”
“Yes, thank you, Geoffrey.” Without taking a breath, Somersby continued. “Sorry I’m late. Young Pettigrew needed a thrashing – insolent pup. Well, shall we pray?”
The officers and academics bowed their heads as the Reverend’s voice boomed, “Grant us Thy bounty. Forgive us our sins. Create in us clean hearts and strong hands. Let us never forget thy loving kindness and mercy in the face of eternal damnation. Amen.”
Soldiers from the culinary corps served a buffet line loaded with fish, potatoes, green vegetables and Kaiser rolls. The men waited. Karl walked to the buffet and found Appleton at his side. The Reverend was next, followed by Luther. The remaining faculty and staff officers fell in line according to rank.
Appleton and his faculty sat at the far end of the table in an isolated clump. Luther waited for Karl and then sat beside him.
“I would like to tour the island tomorrow, but I have discovered my chauffer has only just arrived himself.”
Luther offered, “Mrs. Appleton knows the island better than anyone born here. After dinner, we can stop by the kitchens and ask her.”
“Who else has to eat in the kitchen?”
“Most of the students go home at the end of classes, but nine children live here – some are orphans, others are boarded here and didn’t get sent off the island to England before we arrived. The headmaster’s maiden sister teaches the younger children basic reading and writing. Matron Wellington – she’s the nurse – teaches recreation and health. There are two cooks, Mr. and Mrs. Leloir. She’s a good cook unless she’s angry. He doesn’t say much, but he takes good care of the children. The four of them sleep in two suites next to the children’s dorm. Mr. Leloir’s brother was the gardener, but he died at Michaelmas.”
“Not practicing. I’m German. It takes all my faith to remain so.”
Karl played with his food but eventually surrendered his knife and fork.
“Are you well?”
Karl grimaced and looked away. “A long journey. A slight headache.” He sipped from his water goblet. “And the rest of the villagers and farmers – how do they fare after almost four years under our wings?”
“Better than the other islands. Much better. The Old Man billeted soldiers – three to a farm – and they work the land and keep the livestock. Other soldiers go out in fishing boats, so we are good with fish and vegetables with an occasional pig or sheep.”
“The Old Man?” he put a slightly cold twinge to the words as a warning.
“Generlmajor Brucke. No offense, sir.”
“Generlmajor Brucke. No offense, sir.”
Karl nodded. “He sounds like a wise squire.”
“Eventually,” Luther sounded hesitant.
Karl waited, expecting an explanation.
“It took some convincing, but Mrs. Appleton finally got the Old – Herr Generalmajor to see the benefit in keeping soldiers busy and the island well-kept and productive.”
“The headmaster’s wife?”
The Island Remains
© Evelyn Rainey
Whiskey Creek Publishing
ISBN tba June 2014