Mary’s side of the story:
Vienna. January 5th, 1955
Yesterday’s sermon was on the good Samaritan. After I had said my evening prayers last night and rested my head on the cushions, the thought of it prevented me from entering the world of dreams, so I was left awake and contemplating. To me the thought of someone just passing by a fellow human being who had just been robbed of all his posessions and whose face showed traces of physical injury was simply unbearable. I was wondering what people’s motivation to ignore the pain of others might be. Were they simply heartless and self-centered individuals whose sole concern was their own well-being or were they in denial? Was it possible not to be aware of someone’s misery and was this therefore the reason to deny them one’s help? Either way, it didn’t make sense to me and I had a hard time choosing which one of the two options was worse. All I knew was that I’d never end up a person like that. I would try and keep my eyes open and rush if someone was in need, relieving their suffering and aiding them in the best way possible, as a good Samaritan would. I fell asleep with a satisfied smile on my face.
At school today I found myself to be somewhat distracted. I am usually good at paying attention and eagerly providing topic-related comments but today my thoughts kept drifting off to that sermon. Which is why I acknowledged it with a mixture between guilt and fear when the voice of the teacher calling my name brought me instantly back to reality. I sincerely wished that she wasn’t going to ask me anything that would reveal my absent-mindedness during the lesson. “Mary”, Mrs. Smith said, “the principle wants to see you in his office.”
I was shell-shocked. In my head I quickly scanned through all the options and made a list of what I could have done wrong to deserve to get sent to the principle’s office, but failed to come up with anything. The way to the principle’s office reminded me of a slow-motion scene in a movie in which the convicted felon, chained up and accompanied by an army of police officers, would walk along the aisle leading from his jail cell to the hot seat. When I finally knocked on the principle’s door, a harsh voice that sent shivers down my spine, told me to enter and in that same manner demanded me to take a seat.
I must have been trembling terribly, for the principle looked at me with an odd grimace (that was most likely intended to be a smile but gave the impression of someone who was in great pain) and said “Calm down, Mary. I know you’re probably wondering why I sent for you. It might comfort you to find that I haven’t heard any complaints about you ever since you have started at this school four years ago. Quite at the contrary.” A short pause ensued in which the principle, a large, stout man in his fifties with a proud mustache, got up from his chair and started wandering up and down his little office.
This left me somewhat nervous so I embarked on pondering what the purpose of my being here might be. After all, I wasn’t aware of any wrong-doing on my part and his disarming of all of my fears had reassured me of this. “Mary”, the principle’s voice echoed through my thoughts and recalled me of his presence in the room. “I have heard nothing but good things about you. You’re an ambitious scholar and an excellent one as well, I daresay. I’ve witnessed the passion with which you dedicate yourself to the subject matters and the concerns of your fellow students alike. Hearsay tells me you always have an open ear for everyone and never fail to come up with some handy advice. I am sure that all of this praise must surprise you, but Mary, you do have a character of gold. Which is why I think you should receive some reward in exchange…