Maria had dropped herself from the tree. The violent storm of last night was gone and the sun shone brightly on the mountain top. Maria stood in its rays for a little while, hoping it would dry her clothes. Soon the sun disappeared as the rain clouds once again closed in on the mountain. Maria crossed the stream. She paused and with her hand had a few sips of water.
She retrieved her carpet bag, guitar and hat from the locomotive shack. Her clothes were still damp and the cool air chilled her even more. Maria started her slow long walk down the mountain. She was becoming colder by the moment; even walking faster had not helped. Maria was growing weary; she had had little sleep and last nights dinner was a long time ago.
She trudged along still terribly confused about her path in life. She continued to wonder. "What's God's plan for me. Where can I go?"
Maria stayed in the back alleys. What she didn't know, they were the favorite hangout for young boys training to be in Hitler's Youth Army. She saw a group of six. They recognized her. One of them remembered seeing her when Rolf had spoken to Liesl when Maria and the children had been in town one afternoon.
Maria heard them talking. "There's that failed postulant; I bet she's easy to scare." They started to hurry behind Maria.
"Look everyone, its working. Let's walk a little faster."
They were getting closer. Maria began to run; her hat flew off but she managed to hang on to her guitar and carpet bag. The young men were laughing.
"This is so much fun, look at her run."
Maria knew she was only a block away from the Abbey. As soon as the graveyard was in sight she dropped her things and ran even faster to the stairs by the graveyard.
The boys stopped before they got to the graveyard. They were as superstitious as their leader Herr Zeller. Maria heard them. "I'm not going in there." Another spoke, "me neither, come on let's go." The mob left.
Maria was out of breath and extremely weak. Maria's knees bent and she crumbled helplessly to the ground. She landed on the rocky road. Her head hit it hard; knocking her unconscious. There she lay, out cold and lying in a puddle.
Maria lay there for several hours until Sam, the caretaker, returned. Sam almost didn't see her; her dark dress blended with the black dirt. He stopped the car just in time.
He knelt down beside the body and tried to arouse the woman. He looked at her face. Sam's face became almost as grey as her dress. "Maria, Maria can you hear me?" He touched her; she was as cold as ice. He knew he had to get help.
He ran inside and yelled to the first sister he saw. "Find the Reverend Mother."
"What's wrong Sam?"
"Maria is lying in the alley. She's as cold as ice."
The sister ignored silent time and gave out orders. "Find Reverend Mother, I need a blanket; someone prepare a bed."
Sister Berthe grabbed the blanket and went with Sam. Still in disbelief, she screamed out "Maria!" She noticed Maria was barely breathing; she too felt her and covered her icy cold wet body with the blanket.
The Reverend Mother took one look and hurried back to her office. "Operator, St. Anthony's hospital please."
She didn't wait for the normal greeting. "This is Nonnberg Abbey I need an ambulance and a doctor to the alley by the graveyard, quick."
Word spread throughout the Abbey, the other sisters went to the chapel to pray. The ambulance arrived. The doctor knew immediately what needed to be done. "We need to get her out of these wet clothes. Let's get her inside." Together the driver, the doctor and his assistant were able to carry Maria into the Abbey.
It was a struggle but they soon had Maria in a dry night gown and wrapped with several blankets. "Reverend Mother, she's extremely cold and her breathing is very shallow. She needs care. I'm taking her to the hospital. Let's get her loaded into the ambulance."
"Reverend Mother, may I go with her. She needs someone she knows."
"Yes of course, Sister Margarita."
The doctor assured the Reverend Mother that he would be in constant contact with her. She left as the ambulance pulled away to make another phone call.
"Captain von Trapp speaking."
"Reverend Mother Captain, I have some news; it's not pleasant. Maria was found unconscious by the graveyard. She's on her way to St. Anthony's hospital." There was a long pause. "Captain, are you still there?"
Georg stammered out a response. "I'll go there."
Max and Isabel had heard the telephone ring; they waited outside Georg's study.
"They found Maria lying in the alley beside the Abbey graveyard. She was unconscious. I'm going to the hospital."
The two women gasped in shock as they watched Georg hurry out the backdoor to his car. They both tried to hide their serious expressions, neither wanted to worry the children. The children watched as their Father left.
"Frau Schmidt, where is Father going?" Isabel thought for a minute before answering. She didn't want to worry the children.
"Brigitta, the Reverend Mother called from the Abbey. She asked your Father to come see her." The perceptive Brigitta really didn't believe her but she knew better than to ask any more questions.
Georg saw her as they pulled her from the back of the ambulance. Maria was covered except for her face. Georg was forced to turn away. For only the third time in his life he was having difficulty containing his emotions. Tears had begun to well up in his eyes. The first time had been when his Mother died and next when Agathe passed. Maria's face was ashen; it frightened the heroic Captain. He prayed, "Please dear God, not again."
Sister Margareta noticed the Captain's reaction; she wanted to console him. "Captain, Maria is in good hands. I'm staying with her, she will not be alone. I'm sure the children need you at home. The Reverend Mother will be here after prayers. She'll be in contact with you."
Reluctantly Georg returned to the villa. He was immediately greeted by Isabel and Katia. "How is she?"
"Don't know ladies. We'll need to wait for the Reverend Mother to call. One of the sisters is staying with her."
Max had tried to keep the children busy. They were out on the veranda and had heard the car door shut. "Father's home, let's go find him."
Liesl took Marta and Gretl's hands and led them inside; Max followed along behind. He too was very worried. They found their father in his study.
"Any news Father?"
Georg knew he had to be truthful with his children. "Children, Fräulein Maria is in the hospital." The children gasped just as the ladies had done. Marta and Gretl clung to Liesl's hand. Question and comments from the older children came at Georg fast and furiously.
"Oh no, is she all right?
"Did something bad happen to her?"
"What's wrong with her?"
"I'm not sure children." He was purposely evasive; he diverted their attention. "They'll take good care of her and help her get well. Why don't you make her some cards with pretty pictures?"
The older children were quite astute. They knew their Father was being vague; they didn't press him with anymore questions. Liesl responded to his suggestion immediately.
"That's a good idea Father. Come on everyone let's go to the school room."
Georg was grateful the children took his suggestion. It was only a matter of minutes before the telephone rang. "Hello, Captain von Trapp speaking."
He heard. "Captain, she was terribly cold from being out in that storm. They have several hot water containers in bed with her. The doctor warned me about the danger of pneumonia. I'm sure her will do what he can to prevent it. She's still unconscious. The doctor found a small lump near her temple. I'll keep you informed." After appropriate salutations Georg replaced the phone on its cradle.
Georg found Isabel and Max. He discussed his conversation with the Reverend Mother. "Georg, Katia and I will take turns visiting. We will take plates of food to the sister."
"That's kind of the both of you. I want to visit, but not yet."
Georg recognized the feelings he had for Maria. It had all begun the evening he sang Edelweiss. But he definitely knew when they danced the Laendler together. His heart was heavy because he didn't know what Maria felt in her heart. "Did she still want to take her vows?" That was a question which would remain unanswered for now.
The next morning Isabel took the plate of food and all the cards the children had made to the hospital with her. Although Maria was still unconscious the nurse had told her. "Unconscious patient most likely can still hear." Isabel read each card and described all the pictures to Maria before putting them up all around the room.
When Isabel returned she had some good news. "Maria has warmed and her temperature is almost normal. But she is still unconscious."
Maria was very fortunate. She had a very progressive doctor taking care of her. His name was Dr. Martin Keller. He had only recently returned from the University of Vienna where he had learned the latest advances in medicine; including how to care for the unconscious patient.
With his patient now warm, Dr. Keller turned his attention to preventing pneumonia as well as becoming dehydrated and malnourished. He asked Sister Margareta to assist the nurses.
"Sister, every two hours I want you to roll her from side to side; place a rolled up blanket behind her back. Before you roll her on the opposite side, I want you to raise her arms ten times each over her head and then bend her legs and straighten them ten times. Now let's do it together." Sister Margareta was able to follow his instruction perfectly.
Later that evening when the doctor made his evening visit, he brought with him a young assistant. They threaded a small tube down Maria's throat to her stomach. Every two hours a nurse would slowly pour fluids down the tube. It was either dilute fruit juice or milk. To be on the safe side the doctor ordered an oxygen tent for Maria.
Everyday he would listen to Maria's lungs with his monaural stethoscope. The nurse made a record of his comments. Shallow breaths, no abnormal sounds. On the third day she recorded. Shallow breaths, rattlling is heard. "Not a good sign nurse and I see her temperature is now 100 degrees. Do you know about chest physiotherapy?
"Yes, it's a treatment to loosen her secretions. I cup my hands and clapped against her back every three or four hours."
"Exactly right, I need you to do perform it every three hours. Maybe you can teach the good sister to help you."
"Yes sir, I'm sure I can, I know she will help me."
For the next three days neither Katia nor Isabel had very good news. Max tried to keep the children occupied, at least for part of the day. He took them on a bike ride, a proper rowboat ride and even into town to see a puppet show. They were always home before the ladies returned from the hospital. Everyone eagerly awaited their report.
"I wish I could tell you something new, but she's about the same. We must continue to pray." Isabel noticed the two youngest girls lagged behind the others. She caught up to them and noticed tears in their eyes.
"What's the matter girls?"
It was Marta who spoke. "Is Fräulein Maria going to go away like our Mama did?" Isabel sat on a chair in the hall and drew them to her. "No, no girls, your Fräulein needs time to heal; the doctor told me that himself. Why don't you both draw an extra pretty picture and I'll take it with me tomorrow." She kissed them both before they ran off.
Georg had been listening near-by. "I had hoped they wouldn't have entertained that thought. Thank you Isabel, I don't think I would have known what to say."
It had been a week since Maria's accident. The next day, Katia finally had some positive news. "Good news everyone, her temperature is back to normal and the doctor told me her lungs are clear again."
"What does that mean Katia?"
"Gretl, it means she is getting better. All your prayers and pretty pictures are helping her." For the first time in a week everyone had small smiles on their faces.
Georg thought about Maria constantly. How was it that she came into this house and turned it upside down? And now I find that she is filling that empty hole in my heart. The Captain knew there was only one person who could shed some light on his thoughts. Georg made a visit to the Abbey.
Georg rang the bell. He was surprised to be greeted as he was.
"Hello Captain von Trapp, I'm Sister Berthe. Come in. What can I do for you?"
"May I speak to the reverend Mother?"
"Yes, of course, wait here. I'll find her."
The Reverend Mother approached him. "Captain, this is a surprise."
"May I have a few minutes of your time?"
"Come with me Captain, there's a room in the guest house where we can talk." Georg followed her into a house that was attached to the convent; usually used by parents and their daughter seeking admission to the convent.
"Now, what's on your mind Captain? You seem troubled."
"A better word may be bewildered."
The Reverend Mother's face appeared puzzled. "Has Maria bewildered you?"
"Yes, how did you know?"
"Let me tell you about the day I first met Maria. I was summoned to the entrance. Normally the sister who answered the bell would have escorted the family and a potential postulant to this very room. Sister Margareta, the mistress of Postulants would have received her and then asked for my presence. But Sister Catherine was bewildered, to use your word.
"I recall her words. 'Reverend Mother I need you to meet this young girl; no one is with her. She has no papers either.'
"I went to the place in the front where I met you Captain. No young woman was insight. All I saw was a carpet bag and a guitar case leaning against the bench." She looked at Georg. "You chuckle Captain."
"Yes, but please go on."
"I found her checking out my convent. After I introduced myself, she simply put out her hand, 'pleased to meet you.' She knew nothing about the church or its rituals. I did not admit her immediately; she lived here in the guest house until I could make a decision.
"Sister Margareta worked with her everyday; she was given a shawl to use as a head covering and attended daily Mass and prayers. In a few weeks I decided to let her become a postulant. Maria tried but her bubbling personality constantly lead her astray.
"The other sisters would talk among themselves; one called her a flibbertigibbet. Others described her as being as flighty as a feather; could never stay in one place and listen to you and then you would become confused and out of focus and bemused. They even thought she had the ability to throw a whirling dervish out of whirl. And to compound her transgressions, she was always singing or whistling in the Abbey.
"I've learned over time that her mother died when she was very young and her father when she was eight or nine. Her home life after that was non-existent. She has so much love to give; God gave it to her. But he didn't tell her how to spend this love. Has she affected your family in some way?"
"Very much Reverend Mother, I too saw a carpet bag and a guitar at the base of the stairs; and no governess. I found her curtsying to a pretend dance partner in my ballroom. I saw her dripping wet after having fallen out of a rowboat with all my children. I sent the children off to change but demanded that Maria stay behind. I was angry Reverend Mother but some how she got the upper hand in our highly heated conversation."
"I take it she talked to you in a way a counselor would tell his patient all the things his friends would never say."
"How did you know?"
"That's Maria; she says everything and anything she thinks or feels. She does it in such a way that you are baffled; not able to stop her."
"Yes, exactly, she told me I needed to love my children. That very afternoon I was provided a way to reconnect with my children. My heart is full of gratefulness. But I worry that Maria may not feel the same."
"Something tells me that you needn't worry; the right moment will come Captain. Now I have a question for you. Awhile back there was quite a lot of talk outside the dress shop; something about a party that was planned – possibly an engagement announcement to a Baroness."
"Yes, there was a party. The party was entirely the Baroness's idea. She wanted to meet all my friends.
"I found Maria and my youngest son in the courtyard outside the ballroom trying to dance the Laendler. I decided to show my children how it was really done. Our eyes caught Reverend Mother. I knew right then I had strong feelings for Maria. She seemed scared and backed away; pretending not to remember any more."
"Maybe that was more like a reaction to feelings Maria had never experienced."
"Perhaps Reverend Mother, after my children sang a song to the guests, Maria left to change for dinner. The Baroness had seen us dancing in the courtyard. She was vivid with jealousy. Elsa followed Maria to her room. I can only assume she made Maria believe her feelings were wrong. And I'm sure she had harsh words for Maria that frightened her."
"Yes, that is very possible. Have you been to see her?"
"No, Reverend Mother; I was afraid my voice might frighten her and cause more harm."
"That was wise Captain. There will be the right time for you both to sort out your feelings. Maria has a lot of love to give."
"Yes, I know; she loves my children as they do her."
"Have patience my friend, God has a plan for both of you."
Georg left the guest house through the front door. But that would not be the last time he would come to the guest house.