Chapter 7: Cocoon

An Excerpt from Gretl's childhood

So here is little Gretl's story, which takes place during the movie. It's short and sweet, much like Gretl herself. :)

"Have at thee!" Kurt took one proud step forward and stabbed at his older brother with the end of a pointed branch. Friedrich tumbled across the grass, feigning extraordinary pain.

Gretl leaned back against a tree and yawned. Her brothers' fake sword fights were rather boring - and they always ended the same way. One of them would roll through the grass and come to a halt at the foot of the victor, making a dramatic scene of their 'death.'

Then they started all over again, no matter how out of breath they were.

Gretl turned her head around at the sweet, lilting sound of Fraulein Maria singing. Her sister Marta was singing with her. Not wanting to be left out of something, Gretl quickly got to her feet and brushed her stubby legs off, running in the direction of her governess.

"Oh, look, here comes Gretl!" Marta pointed to her from the cluster of trees on the other side of the yard.

Fraulein Maria's smile was the most glorious image one could ask for in a greeting. "Gretl! How nice of you to join us!" She exclaimed cheerfully, her friendly eyes the color of robin's eggs under the sunlight.

"What are you doing?" Gretl questioned them.

"We're looking at cocoons." Marta answered importantly. She seemed to be engrossed with studying the trunks of the trees.

Fraulein Maria stood off to the side, shielding her eyes from the sun as she looked over to where the boys were still engaged in one of their 'fights.'

Gretl tugged on the hem of the woman's skirt, a most reliable gesture for earning her attention.

"Yes, Gretl?"

"What's a cocoon?" She asked quietly, not wanting Marta to hear that she didn't know what the word meant.

"Come with me and I'll show you." Something about Fraulein Maria's voice held a signature tone that meant she was about to take action.

Gretl followed her to a tall old tree with reddish bark. It was much cooler under the shade of the trees.

Fraulein Maria pointed to a white speck that appeared to be lodged within the ridges of the bark.

"This," she said plainly, "is a cocoon."

The closer Gretl got to the speck, the more it resembled a small piece of pinkish cotton stuck to the tree. "What's so special about it?" She asked, staring at the foreign capsule with discreet interest.

"There's a caterpillar inside it."

"There is?"

"Mm hm."

"Why don't we help it to get out?"

"No, no," Fraulein Maria said, laughing comfortingly. "It wrapped itself inside on purpose."

Gretl looked up at her governess doubtfully. She wondered why on earth a little caterpillar would want to be trapped in that sticky, cottony substance.

Fraulein Maria smiled and crouched down beside her in the grass. "When a caterpillar goes into a cocoon, it just falls asleep for a very long time. Sort of like hibernation. Then when it comes out, it turns into a lovely butterfly."

Gretl's gaze returned to the cocoon, now deciding it deserved to be looked upon with mild reverence.

It turned into a butterfly? How magical was that!

Fraulein Maria's lofty blue eyes were distant as though she were daydreaming. She continued, "Sometimes people create a cocoon for themselves, too. They may hide away in their cocoon from the rest of the world until one day, when they're ready, they'll be revealed as an entirely different person."

Gretl was slightly confused. Did that mean she could make a cocoon for herself if she wanted? She could be a new person when she unwrapped herself... What would she be like?

Surely she would be taller. And older. And prettier. And smarter.

She smiled.

"Have you ever seen a butterfly come out of the cocoon, Fraulein Maria?" Gretl inquired.

Fraulein Maria's eyes glowed back to life and she grinned. "Yes." She nodded, "It's a very exciting thing, but it's very rare. Not very likely that we will see this one open. We'd be very lucky if we did."

Gretl sighed softly. She had hoped she would have the chance to see this butterfly hatch.

Just then, Marta came running up to them, panting slightly. "Friedrich wants to know if we can ride in the rowboat."

Fraulein Maria gave a smile of approval, then looked down at Gretl. "Are you in the mood for a boat ride, Gretl?"

Friedrich and Kurt thought it was funny to rock the boat every once in a while, which Gretl and Marta didn't like very much. They would cling to each other and shriek when they did it, until Fraulein Maria settled everyone down. Gretl was a little afraid of the water since she couldn't swim very well. She was all right in shallow water, but in the middle of the lake it was very deep. Not to mention, her brothers once said they had seen a sea serpent in the water. Drowning would have been bad enough, but to be swallowed alive by a serpent - that would be even worse.

They practiced singing for a while - seriously at first, then it soon turned to the usual fooling around. Fraulein Maria would wave her hands and pretend like she was conducting a prestigious symphony. Her antics always made Gretl laugh.

"That will bring us back to Do - oh- oh -oh!"

Liesl had been the first to spot Father, standing at the gate, staring out at their display with a stern but seemingly disinterested look about him. Or maybe it was Brigitta who first became aware of his presence. It had happened so fast.

"Look, it's your father!" Fraulein Maria told Gretl excitedly. She wondered for a moment why Fraulein Maria would be so enthusiastic about their father's return. After all, he would not approve of their going out every day to play and sing.

In a moment, they were all standing and waving to their father...and the beautiful blonde woman behind him. Gretl guessed she was the Baroness.

Among the incomprehensible cries of the children, Fraulein Maria clasped her hands together in a dramatic expression of what seemed to be ironic relief and exclaimed, "Oh, Captain! You're home!"

That was when it happened. The boat tipped with the erratic shifting of their combined weights and suddenly gave way. Gretl was tossed forward off the boat and into the murky water with the rest of her shouting siblings.

She felt the cold water force her clothes to stick to her body in a most unpleasant way. Under the water, she heard nothing but the muffled noises of her sisters laughing and her father yelling. In a fleeting moment of desperation she reached out on all sides, frantically searching for someone to hold onto. Then a pair of hands grabbed surely onto arms and Louisa lifted her above the surface of the water.

Gretl took one gasp of air and wiped her eyes with relief. She was okay. She had survived a fall into the water.

She put a smile on her face as though nothing had went wrong and clumsily followed the rest of her brothers and sisters out of the lake. She pranced past her father, listening to the squishing sounds of her water-logged shoes on the stone. For a few seconds she forgot about how much she disliked being cold and wet.

Then the sudden, shrill sound of her father's boatswain whistle made her ears ring. Her ingrained response took over, as did in the rest of her siblings, and they sloshed rather rustily back to their ordered positions in line. It had been a while since Father had made them line up like that.

He paced past them, performing his usual inspection. As he passed Louisa, he yanked the cloth bandana from her hair with an unforgiving snap. Gretl wondered if Father recognized that their clothing was made from Fraulein Maria's drapes.

Gretl glanced discreetly at her governess as she stood, dripping wet like the rest of them at the side of the gate. She looked a bit worried, but maybe even a little angry.

Gretl pouted to herself as she realized that their fun would probably be put to an end now that her father had returned. They would have to be on their best behavior - no fooling around or singing or running in the house, especially with the Baroness visiting. Gretl tried to smile at her father as he looked dismissively at her, but all she could do was wince weakly. She felt cold all over. That was just the way Father made her feel sometimes.

All was silent except for the birds singing for a brief pause as Father returned to the woman on his left. "This is Baroness Schraeder..." He began in a mildly warning tone. "And these -" His eyes fell lazily on their imperfect line and he finished unceremoniously, "- are my children."

The woman bit her lip as though she were trying to refrain from laughing at the scene. She composed herself quickly with a look that lingered briefly on Father and shifted back to the children. "How do you do?" Was her sophisticated greeting. Her voice was airy and elegant.

Not one of the children dared to utter a response.

It would not have been possible in any case, for Father's strict orders to run inside and dry off had prohibited them from furthering their acquaintance.

No one moved.

"Immediately!" Her father's voice was so forceful, Gretl could feel it echo inside of her chest.

And they rushed for the door.

"Fraulein, you will stay here, please -" Gretl caught her father's distant request and turned curiously back in the threshold to watch Fraulein Maria obediently turn to face him.

The Baroness murmured an excuse and began walking towards the door.

Suddenly intimidated by the nearing presence of their strange guest, Gretl hurried back inside before she could be seen. She climbed the stairs after the rest of her siblings, peeking over the edge of the railing to watch the Baroness disappear into the parlor.

"Where is Fraulein Maria's guitar?" Liesl asked the group in a hushed voice.

"I think she left it downstairs." Friedrich answered.

"Do we really have to sing for that woman?" Louisa complained with a look of furrowed distress.

"Yes. Fraulein Maria wants us to." Kurt nobly stated.

Louisa sighed heavily and slammed the door to her and Brigitta's room. Marta tugged Gretl's arm into their own room to change as quickly as they could into their dry uniforms.

It had seemed like such a long time since Gretl had to wear that uniform. She hated having to wear knee socks in the summer. Marta didn't seem to be complaining, however, and that was enough to make Gretl comply.

"Don't forget your flowers." Marta reminded her as she handed her the modest bouquet of edelweiss Fraulein Maria had suggested as a gift for the Baroness. It was quite an odd thing that even Fraulein Maria seemed to be very willing that they should impress the Baroness. Father's intensity on the matter was one thing, but Gretl was confused as to why this woman's visit was such an ordeal.

She clutched the tiny white blossoms in her hand and inhaled their summery fragrance. The scent reminded her distinctly of her governess. She hoped Fraulein Maria was not in trouble with Father...

Brigitta poked her head into their room. "Are you ready?"

The girls nodded and filed out their door. Gretl tried her best to ignore how uncomfortable it was having soaking wet socks and water still dripping from her hair. She would have to 'put on a good face' for Baroness Schraeder as Fraulein Maria liked to say.

"Do you think you will forget the words?" Marta asked Gretl softly as they made their way down the stairs.

"Hmmm...No." Gretl whispered honestly. "Fraulein Maria practiced it with us so many times. I don't think I'll ever forget the words to her song."

Marta looked slightly relieved. "Me neither."

They smiled at each other.

Liesl entered the parlor first, hesitantly picking up the guitar from the corner of the room before she approached Uncle Max. The Baroness, who looked as though she had been about to light a cigarette, turned to regard the Captain's eldest daughter with polite interest.

"Why, Liesl, I didn't know you could play the guitar!" Uncle Max remarked, noticing the instrument in her hands, "Have you been taking lessons?"

"Sort of..." Liesl replied shyly, looking back at her brothers and sisters as they casually arranged themselves in an isolated cluster on the opposite side of the room. Gretl clasped the edelweiss within her trembling hands behind her back. The ticking of the clock on the other end of the room seemed strongly magnified to her suddenly sensitive ears.

"Won't you play something for us?" Uncle Max requested, gesturing toward the Baroness.

"Actually," Liesl spoke in a timid voice, "Our governess has taught us all a song. We're supposed to perform it -" She faced the Baroness pointedly, "for you, Baroness Schraeder."

The woman's thin eyebrows raised slightly as she looked between Liesl and Max, and she gave a pristine smile. "My, my. How charming." Her voice was drawling and delicate, "I would very much love to hear it. Your father never mentioned that his children were... musically inclined." She assumed a ladylike position on the chaise. "But you will have to forgive me, I'm not quite familiar with many of your names."

Uncle Max quickly took the liberty of introducing them each by name. It was as if he knew how awkward they were all feeling. Uncle Max was always helpful in awkward situations - at least in Gretl's opinion.

"I am very anxious to hear you children sing, myself." Uncle Max confessed cheerfully as he leaned against the clock across the room. "What is the name of the song?"

Liesl replied as she moved to stand behind Gretl. "...The Sound of Music."

"Promising title." Max remarked with a chuckle. "Whenever you're ready, then."

Gretl turned her eyes down to stare at her feet. Her wet, soggy socks were drooping about her ankles in a depressing way. She swallowed, suddenly nervous. She had never sung before for any adults other than Fraulein Maria. It was a little scary to have to sing in front of this strange woman and even for Uncle Max. But Liesl did not look that nervous as she expertly strummed their starting chord, and Gretl's trained ears retrieved the note she was meant to sing.

The song flowed easily and freely; she did not even have to think to remember the lyrics, or the notes. Fraulein Maria had been right - it was fun to perform. The nerves seemed to just melt away once her voice was raised in harmony with those of her brothers and sisters.

Friedrich and Kurt were actually quite good at their parts when they were not joking around. And Liesl was brilliant on the guitar - Fraulein Maria had taught her well... had taught them all well.

When they had first started the song, it had been difficult to force a smile. Now Gretl found it almost impossible to suppress a smile. She loved singing.

She loved singing alone.

She loved singing with Fraulein Maria.

She loved singing with her brothers and sisters.

She loved singing with...


It was something out of a dream. A cruel, deceptive, but beautiful dream. Her father was singing.

He was singing the same lyrics, and the same melody that they had been taught by Fraulein Maria. Gretl briefly entertained the ridiculous notion that her governess had taught Father to sing as well.

Liesl slowly lowered the guitar as they all exchanged incredulous glances of amazed shock.

Their voices harmonized naturally with the intrusion of the tentative, but passionate male tenor - it was as if it had been made to be that way. He was singing with them.

"My heart will be blessed with the sound of music,

And I'll sing once more..."

The silence that followed was sacred. A thousand words were spoken with only the eyes... and perhaps the hearts.

That discreet, abrupt motion of her father's arm may as well have been God's welcoming arm to heaven.

And he was her father once more.

He held them as if he was not afraid to hold them. He looked into their eyes without that cloudy haze of distance.

He smiled at them. Not in any manner that was sarcastic or ironic, and not out of strict amusement. He was genuinely happy that they were his children.

Perhaps he had loved them all along.

The past did not matter, now. All was forgiven.

Gretl was eternally grateful for her father's inviting embrace. It was as if she finally knew what being a daughter meant. She knew what it was like to have a real father. Now all she needed was a real mother.

Over Father's sleeve, Gretl caught sight of a still soaking Fraulein Maria in the hallway. She smiled broadly at her governess, expecting her to share the joy of what their song had brought.

But Fraulein Maria still appeared distant and slightly sad. She gave a weak smile and motioned toward the Baroness with a nod.

Gretl quickly remembered her flowers. Reluctantly leaving her father's arms, she shyly made her way over to the Baroness and presented the edelweiss as she had practiced.

"Edelweiss." The Baroness professed in her low, breathy voice. Gretl carefully lowered herself in a silent curtsy and submitted herself to the Baroness's limp embrace, inhaling the foreign fragrance of the woman's rich perfume. "You never told me how enchanting your children are."

Father turned to gaze idly at her from where he stood, still surrounded by his children's attentive stares.

Gretl looked back at Fraulein Maria, who appeared suddenly rather flustered and swiftly walked away from the doorway as though she had no care for what was going on inside the room. Gretl pouted. Why didn't Fraulein Maria come inside? She hadn't even had the chance to see them singing her song. Maybe they should sing it again for her...

"Don't go away." Father suddenly whispered as he pried himself from Brigitta's grip on his waist and hurried out into the hall.

Gretl assumed he was going to invite Fraulein Maria inside. But when he returned not a minute later, he was alone.

She hoped Fraulein Maria was all right.

Gretl knocked softly on the governess's bedroom door later that evening.

"Come in." Fraulein Maria's muffled voice welcomed her inside.

She was sitting on her bed, with the Bible in her lap. She closed the thick book as she saw Gretl in the threshold.

"Oh, Gretl, darling. I - I wasn't expecting you." She said tiredly, but patted the space on the mattress beside her, and Gretl instantly filled it. "Is everything all right?"

Gretl didn't know how to answer that question. On one hand, she was relieved and happy that her father loved her again - but on the other, she was concerned for her governess and puzzled by her mysterious behavior.

"Yes...but..." She fiddled with her fingers, "I just wanted to be sure that you're still staying with us... You aren't going back to the abbey yet, are you?"

Fraulein Maria didn't answer right away, but when she did, it was in a sure and confident voice. "No, of course not. I'm staying here for now." She smiled down at her, but a part of her still looked tired.

"Fraulein Maria?"


"I think we changed Father's mind about singing." Gretl remarked innocently.

Fraulein Maria laughed in a rather relieved way. "Yes, I think you did a very good job of that."

Gretl pondered her father's strange change of character for a minute. "Do you think Father was stuck inside of a cocoon?"

Fraulein Maria's eyes got wide for a second, then a slight smile came to her lips. "If he was, he has broken his way out of it now, hasn't he?"

Gretl grinned. So human cocoons were real! If Father could change himself through a cocoon, then maybe she could try it herself.

Early the next morning, Gretl gathered up all of the sheets from her bed and laid them flat on the carpet of her room. It was a surprisingly difficult task to perform all on her own, but Marta was still asleep, and Gretl wanted to surprise her sister when she woke up.

Gretl neatly folded the corners of the blanket and layered each of her sheets one at a time on top of the blanket. She looked up at the sound of Marta stirring slightly in her bed and noticed that she was being watched by two dark, bleary eyes. So much for the surprise.

Marta yawned and sat up straight in her bed. "Why are all of your blankets down there?"

"Because I put them there." Gretl responded cryptically. It was something one of her older sisters would say, and she liked the way she sounded saying it. It made her seem grown up.

"Are you going to sleep on the floor?" Marta guessed with a giggle.

"No," Gretl sighed as she laid herself in the middle of the sheets. "I'm going to make a cocoon."

"A cocoon?" Marta repeated confusedly. "You mean like a butterfly cocoon?"

"Sort of. Only mine is a human cocoon."

"That's so silly, Gretl. Humans don't make cocoons."

"Fraulein Maria said they could."


"Yes. And even Father made one."

"When did he ever do that?"

"Just yesterday, probably. That's why he changed so much."

Marta stared down at her doubtfully.

Gretl grabbed the corner of the blanket and pulled it toward her chest. "Help me wrap myself up in these sheets and I'll show you how it works."

Marta giggled as she rolled her little sister into the sheets. "Is it comfortable in there?" She asked.

Gretl's response was significantly muffled. "Not really."

It was stuffy and hard to breathe inside her cocoon. She was getting a little too warm, but she didn't want to start complaining now. Hatching from a cocoon took time, but it would be worth it when she was done.

"How long are you going to lay there, Gretl?"

"I don't really know. I guess I will just have to wait until I feel myself changing."

"That will take forever!" Marta declared in exasperation. Gretl heard the springs of her mattress squeak as her sister tossed herself onto the bed.

"You don't have to wait for me."

"That's true. I'm hungry, anyway." Marta said. Her footsteps pranced to the door. "I'm going to eat breakfast."

Gretl had forgotten about breakfast. Her stomache rumbled slightly at the thought of food. She probably should have eaten before she went into her cocoon. She was pretty hungry, herself.

She opened her mouth to ask Marta to bring something up for her, but her sister had already left.

It was so lonely inside a cocoon. Gretl wondered how the butterflies did it.

She waited patiently for something to happen, but she just seemed to be getting warmer and warmer, and she had to breathe through a tiny hole above her head.

It was awfully quiet without anyone to keep her company.

The sound of quick steps outside her door penetrated the silence and the door swung open. "Gretl, where are you?" Brigitta's voice asked.

"I'm in here!" Gretl shouted from inside her cocoon.

"Fraulein Maria! I found her!" Brigitta knelt down beside Gretl's buried body and began to tug at the covers.

"No, don't!" Gretl chirped. "You'll ruin my cocoon!"

More footsteps echoed from the hall and Fraulein Maria entered the bedroom. "Oh, dear! Why are you all tied up in your sheets, Gretl?"

Gretl was slightly upset that her governess hadn't guessed what she was doing. "It's my cocoon!"

Brigitta laughed.

Fraulein Maria's soft voice was closer to her when she spoke again. "Your cocoon? Oh, how silly. What would a sweet little girl like you need a cocoon for?"

Gretl almost protested when Fraulein Maria pulled the covers apart to reveal her face, but seeing her smile made her regret that she had made a cocoon in the first place.

"I just wanted to see how it would change me."

Fraulein Maria sighed. "Gretl, when I said people could make cocoons, that was just a metaphor. They aren't really trapping themselves into cocoons. Besides, it's the heart that changes, not the appearance."

Brigitta smiled in understanding. "Oh, I see... a metaphorical cocoon... that's brilliant!"

Gretl gave a reluctant smile as well. It was amazing how Fraulein Maria could explain anything to her and it seemed to make perfect sense - even if the vocabulary was sometimes confusing. "What is a metaphor?"

Brigitta opened her mouth to answer, but Fraulein Maria replied before she could say anything. "Never mind that." She laughed gently, "Don't ever try to change yourself, Gretl. We love you just the way you are. And your father does, too."

Gretl wondered why Fraulein Maria kept mentioning Father. She grinned at her governess and let Brigitta unravel the blankets from around her.

"Let's go down to breakfast, now." Brigitta suggested, taking Gretl's hand.

"Where are Uncle Max and Baroness Schraeder?" Louisa asked her father at breakfast.

"Probably so appalled at the noise you children are making that they're terrified to come downstairs." Father answered seriously.

Louisa pursed her lips and the rest of her siblings quieted slightly at the implication - but it didn't last for long.

Frau Schmidt placed a lovely white and orange cake in the center of the table.

"What sort of cake is that, Frau Schmidt?" Gretl asked curiously, lifting her bottom off of her seat to get a better look.

"Cook says it's a new recipe - carrot cake."

"Carrot cake?" Louisa asked skeptically. "Why on earth would anyone make a cake out of carrots?"

"Is it actually sweet?" Kurt questioned, though he looked slightly more interested.

Brigitta was next to comment. "I never was one for the sweets, myself." The precocious brunette claimed thoughtfully, while unraveling a cinnamon roll with her fingers.

Father scoffed lightly as he watched her, but with slight amusement in his expression. "Really..." he said, without so much grace as to punctuate it with a question mark.

"Well, I don't think they're half bad." Kurt said between mouthfuls of oatmeal. The Captain grimaced at his son's lack of table manners. Noticing the warning glance, Kurt slumped down in his chair and clamped his mouth shut.

"Well, I'm going to try a piece if no one else is." Friedrich said bravely as he balanced a small slice on his plate.

"Look, there's a little carrot on top of it!" Marta pointed out.

"It's not a real carrot, is it?" Gretl asked incredulously.

"No, silly, it's a frosting carrot." Brigitta said in an obvious tone, spilling some orange juice as she clumsily poured it into her glass. "And by the way, cake is not a healthy food to eat."

Friedrich was still looking at the cake with fair uncertainty, as though reconsidering his choice to try it. "It seems like a cake made of carrots would be healthy."

"It's probably only five percent actual carrot." Brigitta countered in a superior tone as she attempted to swipe away the spilled juice by her plate with her napkin.

Father sighed as he inclined his head and began to massage his temples.

"Are you going to take even one bite of that cake, or not?" Louisa asked Friedrich in exasperation. "Because if you don't try it, Kurt certainly will."

Kurt protested vehemently, "I hate carrots."

"Then how come you always pick the carrots out of your pot pie so you can eat them last?" She challenged.

"I never ate them! I took them out so because I didn't want them ruining the rest of my food!" He swung his fork through the air to emphasize his words.

"Shh shh shh." Fraulein Maria hushed them briskly, not wanting to make Father angry.

"I like carrot cake." Friedrich said unaffectedly, half the cake already gone from his plate. "It doesn't taste like carrots at all, though." He mused.

"I wonder if any other vegetables are made into cakes.." Brigitta thought out loud.

"I think I've heard of a tomato cake - or maybe it was a certain kind of bread..." Louisa said, eager to share her knowledge on the subject even if it wasn't fully correct.

"I think it would be funny if there was a mushroom cake!" Gretl exclaimed, happy to add to a conversation that was simple enough for a five-year-old to claim involvement.

Her siblings giggled at the thought. "What about a celery cake? Or a cauliflower cake?" Kurt raised his spoon in the air, making invisible illustrations of what they would look like.

"There are potato pancakes." Marta remarked softly.

"What if there were artichoke pancakes?" Friedrich suggested mystically, getting closer to Marta's face.

She crinkled her button nose and murmured, "Yucky!"

"No, no!" Kurt interrupted, very much into the conversation now, "Corn on the cob pancakes!"

Gretl cackled at this invention. She could hear Fraulein Maria's muffled laughter next to her.

"There's already cornbread." Louisa purposefully dampened.

Kurt shot her a glare and continued throwing out more outrageous suggestions.

For a while they went across the table, each shouting out a different ridiculous concoction involving a vegetable and a dessert, and then they would erupt in laughter.

Liesl bit her lip at an attempt to keep a calm façade as her siblings began to get progressively hyper, specifically after Friedrich's mention of a 'bok choy soufflé.'

Trying not to encourage the uproar, Fraulein Maria sucked in her cheeks and glanced nervously at the Captain, who was doing his best to ignore the immaturity around him; though it was easy to tell that he was struggling with laughing as well.

When he finished eating, he stood up from his chair and told the children that they had a few minutes to stop fooling around and finish their food.

Kurt promptly began shoveling in the last contents of his plate.

"And, Fraulein," Father added, staring intently at Fraulein Maria from across the table, "I will be out today with my guests, so if you wouldn't mind keeping the children...on a somewhat mild level for the rest of the day?"

Friedrich and Kurt exchanged glances, but Fraulein Maria smiled complacently, "Of course, Captain."

Father smiled distantly at her for a brief moment, then left the room.

As soon as he was gone, Kurt asked eagerly, "Can we go to the mountain again?"

Fraulein Maria never said no to that question. That was just one of the reasons Gretl loved her so dearly. She didn't refuse anything fun. She was almost like another member of the family.

Gretl hoped Fraulein Maria never made a metaphorical cocoon - she was so perfect just the way she was.