Rescue Dog of the High Pass — Chapter 5: The Maronnier
Rescue Dog of the High Pass – Chapter 5: The Maronnier
By Jim Kjelgaard
(Read Chapter 4 here.)
No herald robin or budding crocus announced that spring was coming to Dornblatt. Rather, at first for a few minutes just before and just after high noon and then for increasingly longer periods each day, snow that had sat on the roof tops all winter long melted and set a miniature rain to pattering from the eaves. The snow blanket sagged, the ski trails collapsed, and every down-sloping ditch and gulley foamed with snow water.
The chamois — the goat-antelopes of the Alps – climbed from their hidden valleys to their true home among the peaks, birds returned, cattle departed for lofty summer pastures, farmers toiled from dawn to dark — and Father Paul came to visit the Halles.
He arrived while the family was at the evening meal, for during this very busy season there was almost no other time when all members of a family might be together. Franz’s father rose to welcome him.
“Father Paul! Do accept my chair and join us!”
“No, thank you.” Father Paul waved a hand and smiled. “I have already supped and this fine chair of the Alps shall serve me very well.”
Father Paul chose a block of wood from the pile beside the stove, upended it, and seated himself. The elder Halle took back his chair and resumed his interrupted meal.
“I have just returned from Martigny, where I visited Emil Gottschalk,” Father Paul said. “He is greatly improved, and he seems reconciled to the loss of one of his feet.”
“To lose a foot is a bad thing,” the elder Halle said seriously.
“But it might have been much worse,” Father Paul pointed out. “Were it not for Franz and Caesar, Emil would have lost his life, too.”
“I did nothing,” Franz murmured.
He stared hard at his plate, remembering. Both of Emil’s feet were frozen, and there’d been nothing for it except to take him to the hospital at Martigny. He’d been there ever since, and, while Franz was glad that he would live rather than die, any credit for saving him belonged properly to Caesar. Franz had his own vexing problem.
Finding Emil Gottschalk had made him a person of no small importance in Dornblatt. But why be important when not even his own father would trust him with any task except cutting wood, and everybody in Dornblatt had long since had all the wood they could use? Even skiing in the forest while Caesar followed behind or plowed ahead had not occupied all of Franz’s time, and the days had become tedious indeed.
The once-bright dream of becoming a maronnier, or lay worker, at the Hospice of St. Bernard had faded with the passing of time. If the Prior intended to consider him at all, surely he’d have done so before this—and in his own heart Franz did not blame the Prior. Why should the Prior of St. Bernard want anyone whose sole talents consisted of wood cutting and mountain climbing, when his own village did not even want him?
“So you did nothing?” Father Paul asked. “The remark does you compliment, for modesty in the very young is far more becoming than in the old.” He began to tease. “I must say that you are wholly correct. Had you stayed home that night, rather than venture forth with Caesar, Emil would have been rescued anyhow. I haven’t the least doubt that Caesar would have done it all by himself.”
Franz murmured, “I’m sure he would.”
“Oh, Franz, Franz,” Father Paul sighed. “Would that I could teach you!”
“I’ve tried everything I know,” the elder Halle said, a bit gruffly. “There simply is nothing more.”
“You are too harsh,” Father Paul chided him.
“I must be harsh,” Franz’s father said. “The boy will shortly be a man. Can he take his proper place among the householders of Dornblatt if he knows nothing except how to cut wood, run the forests and climb mountains? Do not condemn me, Father Paul. If I did not love the boy, would I care what happens to him? But I repeat, I can think of nothing more.”
Father Paul said, “I can.”
Franz’s father and mother turned quickly toward him. His four sisters leaned eagerly forward in their chairs and even Franz was interested. An unreadable smile played on Father Paul’s lips.
“Tell us,” Franz’s father pleaded.
“Very well,” Father Paul agreed. “Had there been no news of Emil, I’d have had reason to come here, anyway. When I returned from Martigny, there was a message waiting—”
He stopped for a moment, and Franz’s father begged, “Father Paul, please go on!”
Father Paul smiled. “It was a message from the Prior of St. Bernard Hospice. Franz has been chosen as a maronnier, and he is to report as soon as possible.”
“No!” Franz whooped.
His father looked sternly at him. “Please, Franz! Speak quietly or do not speak!”
“Let the boy shout,” Father Paul reproved him. “There have been so many doors to which he could not find the key. At long last, one has swung wide and beckons him in.”
Franz’s puzzled father said, “I do not understand you.”
Father Paul explained. “I mean that, from this time on, Franz may go forward.”
“Caesar, too?” Franz asked breathlessly.
“Caesar, too,” answered Father Paul. “I promised I’d inquire about your dog, and I kept my promise. You should know, however, that Caesar will be expected to pay his way with his work.”
Franz exclaimed happily, “Caesar and I like work!”
“Had I thought otherwise, I never would have recommended you,” said Father Paul. He looked at Franz’s father and mother. “Well?”
“It’s so far,” Franz’s mother said worriedly, “and so strange.”
“It is neither as far nor as strange as you think,” Father Paul reassured her. “It is true that the summer is much shorter, the winters much colder and the snow much deeper than you ever know them to be in Dornblatt. But, like everyone else who serves at the Hospice, Franz has been reared in the mountains. I assure you that he will fit in very well.”
“He may go,” the elder Halle said.
“He — may go,” Franz’s mother quavered. “How — how shall we prepare him for the journey?”
“Supply him with enough food and clothing for the walk,” Father Paul replied. “Since snow may fall in St. Bernard Pass any day of the year, I suggest that he have at least one heavy coat. After he arrives, the Hospice will provide for him.”
Franz’s mother said brokenly, “Thank you, Father Paul.”
(Continue to Chapter 6 here)
In this chapter, Franz learns he must pack for a trip to join the Hospice of St. Bernard. Pick a destination — anywhere in the world, the universe or in fiction — tell us what it is and what you would need to pack to go there. Leave your answer below or email it with contact info (to get your JD Water bottle) to firstname.lastname@example.org
Look up these vocabulary words, define them and use each in a sentence.
- Prior (noun)
CHARACTERS IN THIS BOOK
- The Alps — A mountain range in Europe
- Caesar — An alpine mastiff (usually called a St. Bernard) owned by Franz
- Dornblatt — Not a person, but the town where this chapter takes place
- Erich Erlic — A resident of Dornblatt, known for having a good skill with his saw
- Emil Gottschalk — A rich landowner in Dornblatt
- Father Paul — The priest of Dornblatt
- Franz Halle — A school boy and owner of Caesar
- Grandpa Eissman — An old man in town that Franz helps. Eissman was an expert mountaineer.
- Hermann Gottschalk — The son of Emil and schoolmate to Franz
- Hertha Bittner — One of Franz’ schoolmates
- Jean Geiser — A missing hunter
- Jean Greb — A handicapped man helped by Franz
- Lispeth Halle — The mother of Franz
- Professor Luttman — The school teacher
- Widow Geiser — A woman who runs a farm in Dornblatt
- Willi Resnick — One of Franz’ schoolmates
Get the FREE Gutenberg.org of this book here.
Check out this video showing what mushers pack on their sleds for the Iditarod. http://youtu.be/es2HJPRrT1A