"Fraulein, you will stay here, please!"
Maria froze in her tracks. At the very same moment, Baroness Schraeder muttered something about finding Max and walked, quickly, toward the house. Maria felt the baroness' eyes look her up and down as she passed, but she said nothing.
Maria stood, rooted to where she'd stopped, in a brown dress and a beige blouse that now, in their soaking wet condition, clung wickedly to her body. She was already beginning to shiver, the cool breeze making the water feel even colder. She turned to face him, and heard his breath hitch. A look she couldn't define swept across his handsome face, then was gone.
"Now, Fraulein, I want a truthful answer from you." He looked her in the eye, and Maria met his steely gaze with her own.
"Yes, Captain?" her voice was strong, yet oddly quiet.
"Is it possible, or could I have just imagined it... have my children by any chance been climbing trees today?" He set his jaw and steeled his eyes, and Maria knew he was trying to intimidate her.
"Yes, Captain." She met his gaze, her eyes blazing, contrasting with the steadiness in her voice.
"I see." Maria could see him clench his jaw, as he held up the scarf he'd torn from Louisa's head, still dripping with lake water. "And where, may I ask, did they get these, um, these, uh ...?"
"Play clothes." Maria fixed her eyes on him, challenging him. She was so angry at the way he'd yelled at his children instead of greeting them properly, she could barely see straight.
"Oh, is that what you call them?"
"I made them. From the drapes that used to hang in my bedroom." Maria tried as hard as she could to keep her voice steady.
"Drapes!" he exclaimed.
"They still had plenty of wear left. The children have been everywhere in them." She could barely contain a smirk as she saw his eyes narrow.
"Do you mean to tell me that my children have been roaming about Salzburg dressed up in nothing but some old drapes?!" He punctuated his question by throwing the dripping scarf to the ground.
"Mm-hmm. And having a marvelous time!" She smiled at him defiantly. Now she couldn't help but bait him.
"They have uniforms!" He spoke sharply to her, turning away.
"Straitjackets, if you'll forgive me." She nearly spit the words at him, allowing her anger to spill out.
"I will not forgive you for that." Maria could see the Captain was now barely able to control himself. He began pacing, most likely to avoid looking at her. It seemed as if each time he did, he became a bit more unsettled.
"Children cannot do all the things they're supposed to do if they have to worry about spoiling their precious clothes all the ..."
The Captain interrupted to snap at her, "I haven't heard them complain yet."
"Well, they wouldn't dare! They love you too much. They fear you too much." She stood, defiantly, daring him to respond.
He stared at her. "I don't wish you to discuss my children in this manner." He was clearly uncomfortable now, and turned away from her again, pacing.
"Well, you've got to hear from someone. You're never home long enough to know them!" Maria finally let loose her temper over his abandoning his children to her care. She had come to love them so much, and his treatment of them infuriated her. Someone needs to make him see reason, it might as well be me.
"I said I don't want to hear any more from you about my children!"
"I know you don't! But you've got to! Now, take Liesl..."
"You will not say one word about Liesl, Fraulein ..." He waved his hand, sweeping the words away as if he could unhear them by doing so.
"She's not a child anymore! One of these days you're going to wake up and find she's a woman. You won't even know her. And Friedrich. He's a boy but he wants to be a man like you and there's no one to show him how."
"Don't you dare tell me about my son!"
"Brigitta could tell you about him if you'd let her get close to you. She notices everything."
"Fraulein ..." His tone indicated he'd had enough, but Maria was past the point of caring what he thought.
"And Kurt pretends he's tough not to show how hurt he is when you brush him aside..."
"That will do." Georg snapped at her, wishing his own words would stop hers from being said.
" ... the way you do all of them. Louisa I don't know about..."
"I said, that will do!"
" ... but someone has to find out about her and the little ones just want to be loved. Oh, please, Captain, love them, love them all!" Her voice now broke, she had to fight to hold back the tears that threatened to spill from her eyes.
"I don't care to hear anything further from you about my children!" The Captain turned toward the house.
"I am not finished yet, Captain!" Maria's fury was now at full bore.
"Oh, yes, you are, Captain!" Maria looked at him, her blue eyes wide in surprise. He then realized what he'd said, and quickly corrected himself.
"Fraulein." As he said it, he closed his eyes. She'd gotten the better of him, and they both knew it. Maria suddenly felt remorseful. All she'd wanted was to open his eyes, and now she feared she'd gone too far.
"Now, you will pack your things this minute and return to the abbey..." he stopped, and turned toward the soft sound of voices in the distance.
"What's that?" He appeared puzzled by what he heard.
"It's singing." Maria answered simply.
"Yes, I realize it's singing, but who is singing?"
"The children?" His demeanor changed abruptly, his voice soft, evidence of his fury gone from his face and replaced with a longing and tenderness Maria never imagined she'd see.
"I taught them something to sing for the Baroness."
Captain von Trapp said nothing, and Maria wasn't even sure he'd heard her reply, as he walked quickly toward the house. She took a deep breath, and followed slowly behind.
Maria watched as he hurried inside, leaving the doors wide open as he did. She lost sight of him then, and braced herself for what was to come. She had no idea what to expect from him, after what she'd done outside. She followed the sweet voices to the salon, where she stopped and looked at the scene playing before her. The children were grouped by height, Leisl behind them playing softly on a guitar, the smallest girls in front.
... with the sound of music
My heart wants to sing every song it hears
My heart wants to beat like the wings of the birds
that rise from the lake to the trees (to the trees)
My heart wants to sigh like a chime that flies
from a church on a breeze
To laugh like a brook when it trips and falls over
stones on its way (on it's way)
In her wildest dreams, Maria never imagined seeing what she witnessed next. As if pulled by an unseen force, the Captain moved into the room as he began to sing with his seven children. Maria could see now that he loved them dearly, as he raised his voice with theirs.
To sing through the night like a lark who is learning to pray
I go to the hills when my heart is lonely
I know I will hear what I've heard before
My heart will be blessed with the sound of music
And I'll sing once more
Maria watched from the shadow of the doorway as the he took a few hesitant steps toward his children. Immediately, Brigitta ran to him, hugging him tightly, as if to never let him go. The rest of the children surrounded him, eager for his attention and his touch. Georg hugged the little ones, touched Liesl's cheek, ruffled Kurt's hair. They all started to laugh.
Gretl looked around until she saw Maria, and the young governess fought to hold back the tears as she motioned to her. The youngest daughter then walked over toward the Baroness, who was seated on the divan. She handed the Baroness a nosegay of edelweiss, and then curtsied.
"Edelweiss!" The Captain turned to see the Baroness hug Gretl. "You never told me how enchanting your children are."
Maria couldn't bear to watch anymore. As much as she had wanted to reunite father and children, she was devastated at having been dismissed. She stepped back into the shadows, and headed for her room to change her wet clothing and pack her bags to return to the abbey.
As she started up the staircase, she heard footsteps in the hall.
"Fraulein..." She hesitated, then stopped before turning to face him. "I ... behaved badly. I apologize." His obvious discomfort stirred something deep within her.
Maria looked at him kindly. "No, I'm, I'm far too outspoken. It's one of my worst faults."
"You were right. I don't know my children." She felt a tug in her heart, he looked so lost, so vulnerable, so remorseful. Maria had to fight the impulse to go to him, to hug him, to comfort him.
"There's still time, Captain. They want so much to be close to you." Maria told him honestly.
"And you've brought ... music back into the house. I'd forgotten..."
Maria again started up the stairs. However, the Captain was not yet ready to let her go.
Maria stopped and turned to look at him once more.
"I want you to stay."
She stared at him. The captain smiled, chastened. "I, uh, ask you to stay."
"If I can be of any help, Captain." Her eyes locked with his, and she saw the pain of the past and the hope for the future in his eyes.
"You have already. More than you know."
She watched as he turned to go back to his children, smiled broadly, and ran up the stairs to her room.