After they'd finished breakfast, Maria led the children back up to the large room that served as their schoolroom. She'd asked Frau Schmidt if the was a sewing machine available, and indeed there was; it was now positioned in front of one of the windows, where the natural light would help her in the biggest task of the day.
"Now, children, I'd like you all to get started right away on the lessons your father has left. Over the next several days, I'll begin preparing your lessons, but for now I need to start making the clothes. Liesl, I'll need some help taking everyone's measurements, do you think you could wait to start on your books?" Maria looked hopefully at the teen, who nodded enthusiastically.
"I'd love to help, Fraulein. What would you like me to do first?" Liesl began looking through the drawers of the sewing machine table for a measuring tape.
"Let's start with the boys, then we'll do the girls." Maria got paper and a pencil, and wrote down which measurements she needed Liesl to take. The governess made sure the rest of the children knew exactly which lessons to complete, and she set up Marta and Gretl with a matching game, to help Gretl learn her numbers and letters.
Her charges taken care of, she started with one of the fabrics the Captain had had sent from town for her own dresses. She was impressed with the quality of them, they would absolutely be the nicest clothes she'd ever had. Liesl and Maria now took turns measuring one another, then Liesl started working on her French lesson while her new friend got to work.
A very experienced seamstress, Maria soon had made a simple pattern with her own measurements, chose a lovely light brown floral cotton, and by lunchtime had nearly completed the first garment. The children had all finished their lessons by now, and all the girls but Louisa were standing near Maria, watching as she magically turned the pieces of fabric into something pretty to wear. Kurt and Friedrich sat at another table playing chess, but Louisa sat by herself, just looking out the window. Maria made a mental note to talk to Louisa later on, and finished sewing in the zipper as Frau Schmidt came into the room.
The genial housekeeper carried with her the neatly folded drapes, that until this morning had hung in the room that was now Maria's. "Freshly laundered, and ready for whatever it is you've planned for them, Fraulein," she said. "Lunch is ready for you in the dining room, you're a few minutes late so I thought I'd come and remind you."
"Oh, thank you! I'm so sorry I've lost track of the time. Children, let's all go wash up for lunch. Then afterward we can spend some time outside." The children, eager to see what the governess had planned for the afternoon, did exactly as they were told.
Maria turned toward the housekeeper, and asked what sort of things the children had to occupy them outdoors. "Well, as I've already told you, the von Trapp children don't play, they march. Some days, he'd have them go all the way around the lake." She frowned, then continued. "I've been here with the von Trapps since just before Liesl was born, Fraulein Maria. It just breaks my heart to see what has happened since the children's mother passed away."
"I'm sure it affected them all quite terribly. If you don't mind my asking, how long has it been since the Baroness died?" Maria didn't want to pry, but felt she needed to know how fresh the children's grief was.
"Oh, it was a little over three years ago. Just after Liesl's thirteenth birthday. Poor Gretl was not quite two. It was a terrible, terrible time. And the Captain just swept everything that reminded him of her away. It's all in the attic."
Maria was about to respond when the children started arriving back in the room, clamoring for her attention, or in Kurt's case, clamoring for his lunch. By now the children all were quite hungry, so the two women agreed with a look to continue their conversation later, and led the children down the where lunch had been served.
Once the eight of them had finished their lunch and were happily munching a light dessert of cookies and fruit, the questioning of Maria began in earnest. "What are we going to do this afternoon?" "Are you going to make us march, like the other governesses?" "Are we really going to do something fun?" "What games are you going to teach us?" Maria began to laugh as they talked over one another.
"Children, we will start out by going to see what sorts of things we can find to help us with our games. Do you have any balls? Jump ropes? Bicycles?"
Liesl and Friedrich shared a look, each wanting to be the first to reply. Friedrich went ahead. "Well, Fraulein Maria, we do have bicycles to use, except for Gretl. Though I'm sure they're covered with dust and would need some work for us to ride them again. Marta and Gretl don't know how, and Brigitta may have forgotten as well."
"If she knew, it will come back to her quickly. Once you know how to ride, you'll always know how. Friedrich, do you know where the bicycles are?" He nodded. "They're in a far corner of the tool house, just past the greenhouse. I'm sure Gus, the gardener, will be able to help us get them out."
"Good, that will be your first assignment. Perhaps you and Kurt could clean them up? If you do one of the littler ones, you can teach Marta to ride, and perhaps Gretl as well. If it has been so long since you've used them, you've all grown a great deal and we'll need to see which one fits each of you properly." Friedrich and Kurt looked excited at the prospect of being responsible for such a job, and both smiled broadly and the governess.
"Come along, let's go see what else we can find." Marta and Gretl each took one of her hands, and the rest followed along behind Maria, chattering with excitement. Except for Louisa, Maria noticed. She lagged behind a bit, with a look of either intense concentration or of skepticism. Maria couldn't tell which, but noticed it was a look that was quite like the ones the captain had given her several times in the first hours after she'd arrived.
Friedrich ran a bit ahead, and led the rest of the group to the greenhouse. They found Gus there, cleaning some of the tools he'd used that morning. "Well, goodness, what have we here? You children haven't been out this was in quite a long time."
"We have another new governess, sir," Friedrich replied.
"Ah, and I guess she doesn't know you're suppposed to be marching around the grounds?" Gus raised an eyebrow, and looked toward Maria. He held out a hand in greeting. "Pleasure to meet you, Fraulien. What can I do for you? I don't usually see the children, or the governesses."
"Sir, the children told me they have-or rather, had-bicycles that have been stored away, and I was hoping you might help us get them out, so that we could go on some outings."
Gus looked surprised. "You sure this is okay with the Captain? He's pretty strict about what goes on around here."
"He's left me in command, so I'm sure that as long as the children have completed their studies each day it will be fine." Maria wasn't nearly as sure as she tried to sound, but she simply couldn't make these children do nothing but march around the grounds, breathing deeply no less. Just like that silly whistle business.
"Well, I suppose if he left you in command..." Gus scratched his head, then beckoned to the boys. "Come on, boys, let's get them out of the tool house. Then I can see what sort of things I can find for you to work on them." The boys followed Gus, and Maria saw Louisa start to follow, then stop.
"Louisa? Would you like to go with the boys? You can, if you want to." Louisa looked briefly at Maria, and the scowl left her face as she hurried after her brothers.
Slowly, seven bicycles, including one with a child's seat on the back of it, emerged from the darkest corner of the tool house. They were all covered with dust, and some of the chains were loose, but mostly they looked as if a little bit of care and attention would bring them back. Just like these sweet children, thought Maria. And perhaps their father, as well.