The relentless pounding on the door stopped their evening meal before it had really begun. Emilie’s heart took flight as her mind imagined any number of undesirable characters that could be waiting on the other side of the door. Fear struck her heart and panic overtook common sense as she urgently rushed the children into Karl’s bedroom and closed the door firmly behind her, effectively locking the children out of harm’s way.
The heavy pounding continued persistently as she wiped her hands across the front of her apron, and nervously approached the door. The minute she released the lock, the door flew open, accompanied by a giant of a man dressed like a grizzly bear.
“What took you so long?” A booming voice sounded from somewhere within the massive fur coat.
“Well . . . I . . .” Emilie began, only to be cut off mid-sentence.
“Where are the children then?” The mass of fur stepped into the room and swung from side to side as the man inside the coat moved around the room apparently searching for the two small children.
Emilie’s heart beat so fast she could scarcely breathe. Her first instinct was to protect the children, but she knew she would not be able to defend them or herself against a man this size!
“Bitte . . .Please . . .leave . . .” Emilie’s voice came out weak and frightened, “We have nothing!” She informed the massive man, as she fought the wave of dizzying fear that was overtaking her emotions.
The fur stopped moving and a massive arm swung forward. Emilie shrunk away from the blow that she was sure would connect with her face, but the arm continued upwards to the man’s head, and stopped as it reached and removed the hood attached to neck of the coat.
A pair of green eyes, now shadowed with genuine concern, gazed at Emilie for a moment before clearing in apparent understanding.
“Oh dear . . .you thought I was here to do you and the children harm!” the man whom Emilie now saw was much older than she had originally thought exclaimed incredibly. “I’m sorry I scared you …I’m Frederich, Annie’s husband, and I have come to do Karl’s chores for the night.”
Emilie’s knees threatened to buckle, so great was her relief that she and the children were not in any immediate danger, but her anger built quickly and erupted almost immediately.
“Did you not stop to think that I would be frightened for myself and the children?” She hollered at the older man at the top of her lungs, her broken English becoming more pronounced the angrier she became. “How dare you barge your way in here and not tell me who you are! Don’t you ever do anything like that, ever again! Do you hear me?” She approached him, her fury evident in her crimson cheeks and the protruding finger being jabbed into his cement-like chest.
“Yes Mamm,” Frederich mumbled in response. Wow - his little Annie was a firecracker, but this young woman could teach his Annie a thing or two about temper, he admitted with a chuckle.
“What is so funny” Emilie demanded, when she heard him laugh softly.
“Oh nothing, I can assure you,” he answered with a bright smile spreading across his face, which he did not even attempt to hide. “Let’s start over again, shall we,” he suggested as he shrugged out of his heavy winter garb. He threw the coat across a kitchen chair and then turned back to face her.
“Where are the children, anyhow?” He frowned and looked around the empty room.
“Oh, die Kinder!” Emilie rushed to the door of Karl’s room and released the latch. Almost immediately, two sets of arms and legs, spilled out of the room and into Frederich’s outstretched arms.
“Uncle Fred!” Raymond rejoiced, his smile a duplicate of his sister’s, as they both tried to snuggle into the big man's arms at once.
“There you two are,” Frederich smiled as he scooped both children up into a massive hug. I was wondering where you had gotten too.”
“Emilie put us in Dada’s room, because she was scared there was someone bad at the door,” Raymond informed him seriously.
Frederich glanced at Emilie, “Yes, I see that now. I am very sorry that I scared you all.”
Emilie relaxed at the sight of the big man so obviously enjoying the children in his arms. The children too were delighted to see their old friend and Emilie began to feel many kinds of fool for her misguided fear. She knew that she should probably apologize to Annie’s husband, but she was now so embarrassed that she had no idea how to go about it.
“I came in to find out what you want me to do with the milk from tonight’s milking?” Frederich asked as he lowered the squirming children to the floor.
“You can bring it in and I will let it sit for a few hours to get the cream, then I will add the cream to the crock in the downstairs cellar. Karl told me to do that while he is gone and then when he gets back, he will show me how to make butter.”
“You don’t know how to make butter?” Frederich asked incredulously, his tone implying that every woman should know how to make butter.
Emilie smiled sadly, “Nein . . .butter making is something I have not done before. I hope it is not too difficult. I don’t need to make anymore mistakes before Karl will get fed up and send me back to his sister, Martha.”
Frederich chuckled at her words; he couldn’t imagine Karl doing any such thing. Not only was this young woman very pretty to look at she also seemed very content to be mothering someone else’s children.
“Oh, I don’t think you’ll have to worry about that. Karl needs you here much to much to ever think of sending you back.”
“Karl doesn’t need me - any woman would do for him; especially if she were better at dealing with farm life than I am,” Emilie said sadly, her insecurities coming to the surface with the realization that her words were more than true.
“You will learn about farm life just like we all had too, Emilie,” Frederich said softly. He might look big and hard and sometimes meaner than a rabid dog, but his heart was soft, especially when it came to the gentler sex. He had been raised in a home with six sisters, and he couldn’t help the protective feeling that most females released in him.
Emilie smiled, “Danke, Frederich.” She tilted her head so she could better see his face, “When you finish your chores, please come in and warm yourself before you leave for home. I will put on some tea and cakes for you before you go.”
Never one to pass up the opportunity for some warming food, Frederich nodded his head and reached for his heavy fur coat. “I’ll take you up on that offer of something warm to drink and especially the cake. You can ask my Annie how I like my cakes!”
He tickled both children under their chins, settled the massive coat on his large frame, tucked his balding head into a woolen cap and pulled the heavy hood up in place over the cap. With a backward wave, he made his way to the door, and disappeared out into the cold winter night.