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Chapter XV

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 May 2022

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Summary

Once past the last train station, where the Branhardts had stayed overnight, the landscape became as desolate as the sea. All the changes of time and man receded before the reign of what forever resists them. As before, scrubby flatlands stretched out on all sides, covered with sedge, so that the narrow canals set in dead-straight lines were lost to sight and only a few deep-blue gentians, growing here and there on their edges, imparted a touch of beauty. Little brown goats, also scrubby as ever, were grazing. They looked wooden in outline, as though carved by a clumsy hand, and even their jumping and bleating were so automaton- like that they scarcely seemed separate from the landscape itself.

Farther still, over the dune ridges, green shimmered, narrow strips of beach grass, planted year after year and stalk by stalk into the rippling ground in the hope their tiny blades would hold back the still tinier grains of drifting sand. And, at last, beyond the lifeboat station, whose foghorn, now as ever, blared out its warning over the deceptively gentle shoreline — beyond which terraced reefs lay in wait for ships, the Branhardts arrived at the farthest point of land, the last barrier that stands between the North Sea and the Baltic. That spectacle seemed to have lost some of its grandeur, much as, in the eyes of adults, childhood scenes appear smaller. For back in those stormy days of early spring, the two seas had thundered together with far greater force than now in high summer. It had been breathtaking to stand before them — clothes fluttering in the wind, and holding fast to each other's hands, as if they might fly off into infinity. It roared into their blood, and it roared through their days and nights, until their two lives embraced each other and flowed into each another as never before, freed of all human barriers.

They encountered a second change where they had stayed — in this case the opposite: a giant hotel, no less, was under construction where their small cottage had been, with a restaurant already set up next door.

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Anneliese's House , pp. 147 - 156
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2021

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