This is a much longer story for more advanced readers. There are no vocabulary words, but there are some questions for review at the end.
Photo – sydney-traveltips.com
An elderly man wandered in the gardens not far away. Mrs Macquarie’s Point was popular with visitors. He was not in a hurry, and eventually went and sat on Mrs Macquarie’s Chair. It was just past lunch time and the picnic crowds were packing up. From time to time he would get up and gaze at the harbour. He even came and sat under a huge oak tree close by for a few minutes, but always with his eye on the people around. He didn’t linger though, he soon went back to sit on the large stone ledge that had been carved over 150 years ago for Governor Lachlan Macquarie’s wife, Elizabeth, as she was known to visit the area and sit enjoying the panoramic views of the harbour.
After a while an elderly woman walked very slowly forward, leaning on her stick. She stopped and looked around very carefully. There were many visitors here on this beautiful spring day, a perfect day to visit the gardens.
The woman’s eyes rested on the gentleman sitting on the rock ledge. He likewise was carefully looking at all the visitors, some climbing on the rock ledges, others posing for photos, some young children running up and down the stone steps next to the ‘chair’.
She walked a little closer, studying the gentleman intently.
‘2.45. Maybe I am early. Maybe I am late. Maybe it will never happen.’ She sighed deeply.
Trying not to hobble too much, she walked into the gentleman’s sight.
‘So hard to know! So long!’
The gentleman saw her. He partly rose then sank down again. He looked intently, trying not to be too intrusive. Their eyes met as she hesitantly walked closer. She stood, unsure.
‘Hannelore?’ he repeated.
She stood, unable to speak or move. For almost a minute she stood, mute, like a statue, as their eyes met and realisation came to them both. Suddenly he stood and covered the few paces to her, taking her hands in his.
‘Hannelore! It’s you? It’s you?’
Incredulity slid over his face. ‘I can’t believe it! How can it be you? After so long, after waiting so long, oh! . . .it is you?’
‘Yes, it is me. It has been a long long time. You have changed, I didn’t recognise you.’
‘Come and sit. Oh! come and sit. You’ve got back problems? Legs? You need a stick?’
‘I am on old woman now Klaus’, she chuckled. ‘My hair is grey, and your hair is grey, well almost silver really.’ She moved over to the stone ledge and they sat together drinking in the unbelievable sight of each other.
He took both her hands, holding them gently, gazing into her eyes like a teenage lover. She steadily gazed back, her heart that had long held this unquenchable candle of love warming her through to spread to a delicate blush in her cheeks.
‘It is you? Truly? I am not dreaming?’ She laughed, poking him in the ribs carefully, making sure he was not an apparition. ‘It is wonderful, no?’
‘How long have you been here?’
‘Today? Since noon.’
‘Today? You have come other times?’
‘Yes, as agreed, every birthday since I came to Australia. 1958.’
‘1958! Every birthday?’
‘Every single year. I knew if you could come, you would. I’ve looked for you, so many times, I’ve tried to find you,’ the words started tumbling out, ‘I went back to Germany twice, I advertised in newspapers, I found your old neighbours, but you’d just disappeared. I have long thought you dead, but just in case, every birthday I come here and wait. And today!’ he took her face in his hands, ‘today, I have found you. It’s a miracle. A miracle!’
They sat for many minutes, oblivious of all others around them, holding hands, patting each other to make sure it was true, just taking in the fact that after all these years, they had met again
‘We need to find somewhere to sit and talk. We have so much to talk about. Where have you come from?’ Klaus asked.
‘I have come from a hotel in town. I arrived this morning. A taxi dropped me off just at the corner.’
‘Yes, from Germany. I have been in Germany all this time.’
‘No! Where? Oh never mind. You’ll be very tired. We need to find somewhere. I have a home here, overlooking the harbour, or we could go to your hotel. What would you like to do?’
‘You live here? In Sydney?’
‘Yes, I do, have since 1958.’
She looked at him in amazement. ‘You got away then? You escaped?’
He hesitated for a moment, ‘I escaped. But I didn’t know what happened to you, and I couldn’t find out anything about you at all. It was like you’d just disappeared, as if a space ship came and took you away.’
She laughed, poking him again, just to make sure he was real. ‘It is really you,’ she said sighing deeply. ‘I need a cup of coffee, or maybe something stronger. Let’s go to my hotel, it is close by.’
He took her hand in his, and slid it into the crook of his arm. They walked slowly along the path making their way to the street. In a taxi, as they drew up at the Menzies Hotel Klaus commented, ‘Oh, nice hotel this one. What floor are you on?’
‘Tenth. I have a nice room, quite spacious. Let’s go up and we can order room service. I don’t feel like I want to talk with others around. We have so much to say.’
They walked into her room, and Klaus went over to the phone. ‘Good afternoon, could I please talk to Hans Smith. Hans! Klaus. I need a favour please. Can we have your best champagne and a nice plate of canapés sent to room 1006.’ He listened for a moment then replied, ‘Yes, yes I’m here, I’m with an old friend. Perhaps we could meet for dinner? I’d like you to meet her, someone from the old times. I’ll call you later. Oh and can you send up some hot coffee too please. Talk later.’
‘You know people here?’
‘Do you remember my brother Helmut? Hans is his nephew. We have quite a close knit German community here, it has grown over the years, and we’ve invested our money wisely. I have a comfortable life style.’ He stopped, and smiled broadly, ‘and now my old friend, Hannelore is here and I still can’t believe it.’
Hannelore sat, putting her stick to the side. ‘I don’t know what to say. I really don’t know. After all this time it is hard to believe I am seeing you again. Where shall we start?’
‘At the beginning? On the day I last saw you?’
‘I don’t know, so much has happened. Maybe we should work backwards. You’re English is very good, do you still speak German?’
‘Of course! Frequently, and when our families get together, we always speak German. It is part of us, but I am Australian now, I consider it my homeland, and it has been good to me.’
‘You said you went back to Germany to find me. When?’
‘Eight years ago, in 1994. My wife had died, I’d retired, and I thought I’d try once more to find you.’
‘Yes. An Australian girl, Alison. We have three children. I have six grandchildren too!’ he proudly announced. He looked at Hannelore’s face. ‘I loved my wife, we were happy. But I always loved you more,’ he said softly.
Hannelore smiled gently. ‘It’s no matter. I also married, but, . . .’ she hesitated, ‘things were very difficult for many years. My husband died three months ago. I couldn’t come before that. It was not possible. But he left me a little money, and I have come, just this once, to see if you would be here.’
‘You were not happy?’
‘He was a very hard man, but like us all, he had come through the war and he never could put the past behind him. He was very bitter. I have one child, well I had two children, but my daughter died when she was a baby. Things were not so easy for me.’ She smiled widely, ‘but I am very happy today. I am very, very happy!’
There was a knock at the door. Klaus walked over to let in the waiter with food, coffee and champagne in an ice bucket.
‘Thank you. Please put it over by the window. Come Hannelore, some coffee and cake, and then some champagne to celebrate this very special day.’
He poured the coffee, helping her to a chair near the window, conscious that she was a little frail, his whole demeanour one of care. She was fully aware of this, and somehow felt totally insulated from worry, as the same feelings of trust from long ago returned, trusting this older man just as she had trusted him in his youth, and whose love had kept her going through the darkest times. They sat drinking their coffee, both aware of the other, both conscious of the togetherness that had survived all this time, as if it was just yesterday they had said goodbye.
‘Hannelore’, he said gently, ‘tell me about your life. If we work backwards, tell me about, say, your life over the past ten years. We’re in 2002 now. How’ve things been for you over the past ten years?’
‘My husband was very sick. He never got over the war. He had terrible guilt and shame, I will explain about that soon, but he was mentally frail. He had a small watchmaking shop, he was a very clever watch maker but he was so bad tempered that he lost many of his clients. We had enough money to live, but not much to spare’. She laughed a little. ‘He was a very grumpy man in his old age. He lived to 88 years all the same, and I cared for him every day. He had a heart attack in the end and went quickly.’
‘So who did you marry? Was it someone I knew?’
‘No, someone I met later, you didn’t know him, Gustav Baum. My options were very limited. Things were not easy for many years. What about you? In the last ten years?’
‘I’ve been a widower for many years. I was happy with Alison, and our family grew and we were accepted in Sydney society. I’ve got a nice home which I’ll show you, maybe tomorrow, but these last years have been in retirement. Oh, and in searching for you. I mustn’t forget that. I went back to Germany in 1994 and before that in 1983. But I could find nothing.’
She smiled widely. ‘I feel very special that you took so much care trying to find me. I just didn’t know where to start to look for you. I only knew you might come to Australia. That is all. I have read many books about Australia, I know some of its history, but nowhere did I find your name.’
‘Oh I’m not important enough to be in any books, unless of course you read about companies, I have my own company still, but my sons care for that now. They have been good sons. What about the 1980’s for you?’
‘Well, my life didn’t have many big things in it. Mostly I cared for Gustav. In fact, really I have not had many exciting things happen. I have just been a good German wife, caring for my home and family. My son has been a comfort to me, his name is Erick. He was born in 1951. He has a lovely family, and they live quite close to me. In fact it was he who gave me the money for this trip.’
‘Is he a bit grumpy like your husband was?’
Hannelore laughed. ‘No, he is very good and he has many clients. He took over the business in 1974. He also went to Dresden University. Studied music. He plays the flute beautifully and the watchmaking gave him money to travel and play in different small orchestras. He settled down when he was ready. I have a little pension, I get by. And you?’
‘Alison died in 1989. She had cancer. She was a good wife. I was very lucky really, and the children are all doing well. Andrew is divorced, but the others have good Australian wives. They look after me. Hannelore, tell me about what happened to you, I really want to know.’
‘You mean on Kristallnacht?’ She stopped, bowing her head for a moment before looking at Klaus again.
‘Yes, can you bear to talk about it? It’s part of our lives, I don’t think of it every day now, but it’s always there, a little shadow, always ready to move across my day.’
‘Like you, those years have faded but they never go away. But that day is very clear.’ She looked at him with great tenderness. ‘We have a history Klaus, a strong history, a tie that binds us no matter what has happened since. Do you feel like this?’
‘Absolutely. That is why I was at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair every birthday, every year, on your birthday, today, 14th September, and on my birthday 8th January, every year since I came here.’ He laughed. ‘You know, one year I had terrible flu and my wife was so angry that I insisted on coming, maybe it was about 1970 or so. I got very sick and had to go to hospital. I recovered, I was fine, but I could never miss a birthday coming here. She never knew why it was so important.’
‘No. You probably couldn’t tell your wife you were hoping to meet your old love!’
‘So tell me what happened. Kristallnacht, November 9, 1938.’
She settled back in her chair, folding her hands in her lap. A fine shade of sadness swept over her face. ‘Well, we came from different backgrounds you and I. Your family had money. I was quite poor and a Jew. It was not a good combination. Your family would not allow us to contemplate marriage.’
‘No, I spoke to my father, but he said it wasn’t possible. I must marry a Catholic girl that would fit into our society, from a wealthy family. But on that night, money didn’t matter very much. You were taken from your home?’
‘It was well known we were Jews. The Police came, battered down our doors, broke all the windows in the house, we were terrified. During the next few days we tried to escape to Poland, but they didn’t’ want us either, thousands of us were on the border, but there was no food, it was winter. No houses. We tried to get back to our home, but the police took us, and we ended up in Dachau.’
‘Oh, Hannelore. I didn’t know this! I knew it was possible, I knew all the Jews in our town were at risk, but I hoped so much that somehow you escaped it.’
‘No. I didn’t escape it. My brother was put to hard labour, but he was so badly hurt on Kristallnacht that he died a few weeks later. My mother and father slowly wasted away. They worked at first, but got so weak, they couldn’t work. They said goodbye to me on the morning of February 10th, 1940, as they were moved somewhere else. We never got told anything. I learned later they were taken away to a gas chamber.’
Klaus moved over and took her hands in his. ‘I don’t know what to say. I can only say I’m sorry.’
‘It’s not your fault. You couldn’t do anything. We were all at the mercy of the government. Some of the students tried to get through to Palestine through the Jewish Agency for Palestine, but I don’t know if they made it. I have not heard from many of our school friends.’
She sat in pensive thought for a moment, Klaus sitting down again opposite her, allowing time to get her thoughts in order. She looked back up at him. ‘And you? What happened to you that night? I always had the feeling that you knew something bad was going to happen, you tried to say something a day or two before.’
‘I’d overheard my father and mother talking. It was different for us. Father was a well-known man, high in the Church, a business man with several factories that were necessary for the war. But he was also a man of principle. He hated what was going on, but he was very careful. Looking back I think his main thought was to protect us.
I remember a day or two before Kristallnacht I took you aside and said I thought there would be big trouble,’ Klaus continued. ‘Father knew enough to realise things were very bad. It seems Kristallnacht was not really planned in advance, but that night, after the violence was well under way my parents took Helmut and I into their bedroom. They had a set of clothes for each of us. An old pair of my trousers and a coat was laid out on the bed, and Helmut had old clothes too’.
‘You must have found that hard, you always had the finest clothes, your mother was a beautiful seamstress.’
‘Yes. But this time we did not want to stand out as wealthy. They made us put them on. They made us swear that we would never take them off until we got into another country. We could not take a bath or a shower, we should not swim, only to save our lives, and we should only take our clothes off if our lives were truly in danger. We thought it most unusual. Cleanliness was so important to our mother, but she was the one making us swear.’
‘And? What happened next?’
‘My father had been very wise. Over the previous few months he’d saved money and jewellery. He gave us all some. Helmut was only two years younger and I was eighteen, so we were given instructions that if for some reason we were separated, we must make our way to Holland, and meet at the American Embassy there. We were to use the money and jewellery as bribes. On a map father showed us the forested area on the border of Germany and Holland and where we must go. He had it all planned in advance.’
‘I heard that many tried to get into Holland, but there were so many Jews trying to escape. Holland just couldn’t cope.’
‘That’s true. But we had money. We took a train close to the border, and walked for several days, hiding in barns and walking at night. We were not Jews, so things were much easier for us, and father had our official papers, they were all in order. We got lost in the forest for several days, and I remember being so so hungry. But there were young children there too, Jewish children. Some of the people nearby rescued them, some wealthy women came and took some, but there were too many. We managed to keep together as a family. I don’t know how we did it, I only know father protected us with his life. I’m always grateful for that.’
‘You stayed in Holland?’
‘We got to the American Embassy. There were so many refugees there! Young children alone, old women! So many! It was too much for them. They said that we should try and get to France, to the embassy there, and maybe we could get to America.’
‘You went to America?
‘Not at first. We lived in Holland for a while, with a very kind German family who had gone there some years ago. Remember, my father’s family was well known. This family knew my grandparents. They kept us safe and father worked for them. We grew vegetables so there was enough food, but it was very hard work, our poor hands got very rough.’
‘So? What then?’
‘We finally got a boat in 1943, and ended up in Texas. We were safe but it was a difficult time. I had learned English in school, my father spoke English, you will remember that, he needed it for his factory orders, but my mother spoke almost no English. Then she got very sick and died in 1946. My father was so strong during those times. At that time I didn’t know how, but father still had some money. Many Germans went to America, and we made friends, and settled down. My father’s engineering skills were useful. He got work and we slowly made a life. My English was good enough. I went to university where I studied economics. I got a good job after graduation.’
‘So you had a good life then? In America?’
‘I think perhaps it has been much better than yours. We got a great deal of news through our German friends, and we learned about the concentration camps. I knew being a Jew in those times was like have a death penalty over your head. I cried for you so many times. I could not look at a girl without seeing your beautiful face. Many many nights I cried for you, a grown man I was, but a child in my heart.’
Hannelore got out of her seat and walked over to Klaus. She took his face in her hands, bent and kissed his forehead. She looked deeply into his eyes. ‘Thank you. Thank you for saying that. I also cried for you, for many years, perhaps until today. But I don’t need to cry again.’
Klaus got his handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his eyes. ‘You’re making me cry again!’ he said playfully. ‘I want to know what happened to you, but first let’s have dinner. Do you want to meet my nephew?’
She hesitated. ‘No. I really just want to have time with you. Can we eat and then come back here? Is that alright with you?’
‘Yes of course, whatever you want.’
‘I am curious about something though. You seem to have come out of this with some money. Did your father make a lot of money in America? We always heard the streets were paved with gold. Is it really true?’
Klaus laughed out loud. ‘I have my parents to thank for that. Remember those clothes we were given? The old trousers and coats? We were not allowed to take them off? Do you know what they did?’
‘I can’t imagine! Was there money in the pockets?’
‘No! But you remembered that my mother was a great seamstress. She’d lined all our clothes with a fine lining. All four of us! And in between the cloth and the lining she’d sewn money, lots and lots of money. And Helmut and I had no idea. They didn’t tell us in case we accidently told someone. And that was where father was getting his money from for several years to come. The highest Deutsche Mark was 1,000. We had many many of them in our clothes. And in the seams of her dress, and even in her brassiere she had sewn some diamond earrings, and some other jewellery. Holland is well known for its diamonds, and father sold several there. Mother showed me this after we left Holland. That money took us to America, and paid for my university studies.’
Hannelore’s face was a picture of surprise and admiration. ‘How clever! How very clever of them. Oh, that is a wonderful story!’
‘I still have one diamond left. I have kept it all these years. It is only very small, but it is for the most beautiful girl in the world, if I ever met her again.’
Hannelore was almost speechless. ‘Really? You have kept one?’ She gazed at him for a minute or so, just drinking in his presence. ‘Tomorrow we talk of these things. But tell me, when did you come to Australia?’
‘After working for some years, I was still restless. I saved as much money as I could, and told my father I wanted to travel. I had an American Passport by then. I went back to Holland. Oh and I forgot, I went back to your home just for one day, but there was no trace of you. I travelled through many countries, came to Australia and just loved the wide blue skies. It was also a place of peace. I got work, and this is a country where if you work hard you get rewards. I have done well.’
‘Klaus, I am very hungry I need some dinner. What do you suggest?’
‘The restaurants here are very good. I know the Head Chef, he’ll make us something special. How about some Australian lobster? It’s delicious. Perhaps Hans could just come and meet you. I will introduce you but he won’t stay. We haven’t had our champagne yet, we’ll have that after dinner?’
She smiled. ‘It sounds lovely. I am very hungry, although being older now I don’t eat so much. If you are agreeable, you can decide where to go and what to eat.’
In the elevator to the third floor, he tucked her hand in the crook of his arm again, and smiled gently at her. She poked him once more. ‘Are you sure this is real? It is truly you?’
‘It certainly is. I’m no ghost. Ghosts don’t eat, and I’m going to eat a very large dinner,’ he laughed.
Klaus took charge of the meal, and as promised the lobster was tender and sweet. Hans came for five minutes and met Hannelore, and they chatted for a minute in German, then knowing he was not welcome to stay he took his leave. After coffee, they walked for a while in Wynyard Park opposite the hotel.
‘This is a very central spot. The underground railway is just over there, and many city attractions are close by. If your legs get tired we can go back. Hannelore, how long are you staying?’
‘I have one week.’
‘One week! After all these years we only have one week?’
‘My son is paying for this. I didn’t even know if I would find you, in fact I have, for many years, thought you were dead. This was a once in a lifetime trip, a last chance.’
‘Do you need to go back for anything? Can’t you stay longer? If it’s money, please don’t go on that account. I’ve got more money than I need. Oh please, don’t let’s part now, not when we’ve just found one another again!’
She smiled gently, and patted his arm. ‘Let’s see what the next day or two holds shall we? Maybe after a few days we will not like each other so much.’
‘I think I shall like you forever, I have loved you for a very long time. Let’s not talk about money just now, but I’ll tell you this plainly. I don’t want you to leave if it’s because of money. I don’t want you to feel bad about this, but I also think we should be sensible. Look at me, I am 82 years old and so are you! We don’t have many years left. If it is possible, let’s take a little happiness. Yes?’
She smiled, feeling quite shy. ‘Again I say thank you. If things are still good in a couple of days, if it seems right, I will not leave at once. Is that good enough for now?’
‘Wonderful. Wonderful! Shall we go back to your room? I want to know what happened to you. I think it will be a sad story for me to listen to.’
She hesitated. ‘It will not make you happy. It will upset you. It may be better untold.’
‘No, I’ve wondered for so long. Even the saddest story will not be too sad. You are here with me now. It’ll be alright.’
They settled back into her room, and opened the champagne. ‘Just one toast, shall we Hannelore? The bad times are past. To the future, whatever it holds.’
They sipped their drinks, smiling, comfortable with each other. ‘Now Hannelore, tell me what you can. I’m sure there’ll be many details, but tell me enough so I can understand your life. Why couldn’t I find you when I went back to your home? Where’d you gone?’
‘I went with Gustav to a small city close to Munich.’
‘Oh! So far from Dresden.’
‘Yes a long long way. But that was just as the war ended. I was in Dachau for two years.’
‘You survived so long? You must have been very strong to work and stay alive?’
‘No, it wasn’t quite like that.’ She hung her head. She felt the shame again, these terrible feelings she had hidden for so many years, buried deep within her soul, pretending that they weren’t there. Klaus could tell she was struggling. She lifted her head and said tonelessly, ‘I was young, pretty and a virgin.’
‘A what? Virgin? What has that. . . ?’ His mouth fell open. ‘Do you mean. . .?’
‘Yes. I do. It most certainly was not from choice,’ she said spiritedly. ‘There were many of us taken like that, taken to some very large beautiful houses round about the camps. We could be sent back to the camp at any time. Many were.’ She drew in her breath suddenly, and sighed sadly. ‘We had no choice. Some of the girls refused. We never saw them again. If we satisfied the men, we ate. If we didn’t, we went hungry. I went to bed hungry many many nights. And then I met Gustav.’
‘Your husband? In this house? He was a German soldier?’
‘He was a General. He called for me every night. But after the first few weeks, he did not force himself on me, he made allowances for me. He brought me extra food that I was able to share with the other girls. My life improved after that.’
‘How long were you there?’
‘About two years.’
‘You didn’t get pregnant?’
‘Yes. Just as the war ended. In line with the German thinking of the time it was a good match. An intelligent General, and a beautiful young German girl. I tried to give myself an abortion before they found out, but it was not successful. What was I to do with a new baby and no husband?’
Hans sat back, his face mirroring the pity in his heart. ‘How terrible for you. I can’t even begin to imagine your life. And at this time I was safe in Holland.’
‘I am so pleased to know that now Klaus. I am so pleased you did not suffer so much. Even though Gustav was a General, he suffered. Not all the German soldiers were heartless. Many of them also were forced into their positions. It was obey or die. For the rest of his life he regretted many things. He felt guilty. He knew he was responsible for the death of many men. He never got over it.’
‘So, what happened after that?’
‘Once it became obvious Hitler had lost the war, everything changed. Gustav asked me to go with him and marry him. He said he loved me. He knew about the baby by then. He had been very kind! He had cared for me! What else could I do? I had no family, I had no money, I had not finished university so I had no real qualifications! I had no one to turn to,’ she said with finality.
‘So you went with him?’
‘Yes, but first I asked that I have one visit to my home, to see if anything was left. I really wanted to find you. He allowed that. I had two days there. My home was destroyed, nothing left. I went to your neighbours. They knew nothing about you. They thought you had gone to another country, but no one had any real facts. I asked everywhere. I went back to the university. All the teachers were different, none of the students from our classes were there, parts of the university had been bombed. Much of the city was in ruins. It was hopeless. After two days I met Gustav and went with him, married him and my life was dedicated to caring for him and my son. I had my little daughter 4 months after we married. But she was very sickly. She only lived a short time.’
‘Oh! Such sad times for you.’ He sighed. ‘I have been back to the university too. It is rebuilt now, but it must have looked desolate after the war. It was such a beautiful place, old stone buildings, wonderful old trees.’
‘I went to the Social Sciences wing, to the classroom we used to go to. There on the wall was the old map of the world. Do you remember that old map?’
‘Yes I remember. It was still there when I went back in 1983, but it’d gone in 1994.’
‘I also went to ‘our special place’ under the stone bridge. Do you remember that place?’ she asked softly. ‘I went and sat there remembering our last conversation when class finished on the day that was to become Kristallnacht.’
Klaus moved his chair next to Hannelore. He took her hand, turned up her palm, lifted it gently to his lips and kissed it. ‘I remember. We’d learned about Sydney and about Mrs Macquarie’s Chair. We’d thought it the most romantic place in the world.’
‘It was to me. You remember what we said?’
‘Of course I do! Why was I waiting for you today? I said to you, Hannelore, things are not good. Things are very difficult here in Germany. There may be huge problems. We may be separated. We should make a plan. We are only eighteen, and I have never kissed you, but I want you to know that I love you with all my heart. I want you to know that I will never forget you.’
Hannelore joined in with his words as they softly repeated, ‘We will meet after the war. We will meet in Australia if it is possible. Every year on my birthday at 3 pm I will be at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair. And every year on your birthday at 3pm I will be there. We will swear this to each other. We will meet again.’
‘And then for the first time I kissed you properly. Under that beautiful old stone bridge I kissed the most beautiful girl in the world. And then I never saw you again. Until today.’
Klaus stood up, and motioned for Hannelore to stand too. ‘Are you too tired now? Do you need to have some rest?
‘You forget Klaus, I am on German time, it is early morning there. Yes I am tired, but I could not sleep yet.’
‘Then come with me, just for a few minutes. Get your coat, you might be a bit cold.’
He led her downstairs again, asking the concierge to get them a taxi. ‘Mrs Macquarie’s Chair please,’ he ordered the driver.
Hannelore looked at him in surprise. ‘We are going back there now? It is night time.’
‘Just for a few minutes.’
They slowly walked along the well-lit path, arm in arm, the woman using her stick lightly, as they walked to the front of the ‘chair’. They stood for a while as the ferries sailed past, seeing the traffic moving over the Harbour Bridge, watching the world go by.
‘I don’t know how to put this.’ He hesitated. ‘Please don’t be upset with me. We’re 82 years old. We’ve had our separate lives, and now we’ve met again. I feel like it was yesterday we left each other. I feel like that eighteen year old again, shy and unsure. Can an 82 year old man kiss an 82 year old woman? Would it be proper do you think?’
‘I think it would be very proper’, she whispered. ‘This is why we met. Yes?’
‘Yes. This is why we met.’
He gently took her face in his hands, and tenderly kissed her on the lips. No great passionate kiss, no Casanova in disguise, just a gentle touch of love that told her, that to him, she was still the most beautiful girl in the world.
Questions for review.
1. Do you think this is a happy story or a sad story?
2. What countries did Klaus live in?
3. What was Kristallnacht?
4. What does it mean when Hannelore says she was a Jew?
5. Why were the Jews treated so badly?
6. How often did Klaus go to Mrs Macquaire’s Chair?
7. Describe the area where Mrs Macquarie’s Chair is. What does it look like? What city is it in? Can you find a map that shows this place?
8. How would you feel if you were Klaus or Hannelore? Would you have stayed longer than one week?
9. How would you feel if this was your grandmother or grandfather? It is good for young people to be in love, how would you feel if your grandparents met like this? Would it be different?
10. Describe how they escaped with so much money. Do you think that was a clever thing to do?
11. Is there anything in this story you would change? What would you change?
Lana Kerr www.englishstoriesforfun.com