I, as Eloise and Hans began three months of meeting at the meadow, innocence on my part, did not allow me to see the danger.
Hans, I think did; understand that aside from an occasional peck on the cheek he merely talked and talked of his hopes and dreams of the future and ultimately he slowly let me know that he was promised to another in a nearby village.
I was at first disbelieving that this could be so, after all he and I seemed perfect for each other.
But slowly I realized that he was trying to tell me that his family would never allow a marriage between us given my lack of a family background and did not in fact have much to offer in the way of a dowry.
These two facts made the idea of marriage impossible. I, at first, resolved to make him change his mind and talked around the subject in my young girl way, suggesting that if he really didn't want to marry Marta (that was the girls name I think,) he could maybe talk to his father about it.
But it was not to be. Hans did not want to do it. He did not want to go against his father's wishes. His family would disown him if he did anything like that.
There began a slow let-down for me from seeing Hans as my future husband to understanding he only wanted to be friends.
The disappointment was keen, so keen that at one point I thought I would tell him that I didn't want to meet any more.
But before I got around to doing that my adoptive father called me into his backroom shop one day when no one was around.
The rector and he sat impervious staring at me as I came in and sat down.
"Eloise" my father began “I have a disturbing report form the rector here, most disturbing indeed.”
“Now I am going to ask you a few questions and I want you to promise me that you will tell the truth and only the truth. This is very important. Do you understand?”
I guessed what his questions were going to be about, the terror mounting in my mind.
"The rector here says that you have been keeping company with Hans Reicher and that you two have been, have been, "my father paused "going off alone in the woods."
"Is this true ?" he asked. “Tell me Eloise is this true ?”
I hesitated, afraid at that point and finally said "Yes, it is father."
He drew in a sudden huge gulp of air and the rector exhaled with an "I told you so air; silence here for long moments until my father spoke again.
"Now this next question is very important Eloise,” my father said at long last, “tell me the truth, did Hans touch you, in any way, in any way at all?"
I hesitated confused, but blurted out in my innocence, "Yes, he kissed me."
I saw the shock on my father's face and knew there was something very wrong with my innocent answer.
"Shocking.” the rector said, “absolutely shocking. We will have to bring this up with the Church elders and Hans will have to be dealt with."
He looked at me and murmured to my father "Bad blood runs in a family. Poor thing never understood how inappropriate this all was and Hans took advantage of her."
To my horror, my father nodded and agreed with him.
"Let's deal with the Reicher boy first and then with Eloise here. But something must be done, you argee?”
Silently my father nodded sadness in his eyes.
"And," the rector, continued "she will have to be examined."