Just as the boys were finishing up, a hush fell over the room. Albert and Johann saw the smiling monk and another man with an ornate necklace hanging in front of his robe. “The abbot,” Johann muttered. “He doesn’t usually come to these events.”
The abbot stepped to the front of the hall and looked out over the room. His kind eyes briefly met Albert’s as he surveyed the crowd. He smiled and addressed the group. “Well, this has been some scavenger hunt!” All the boys chuckled or murmured in agreement. The abbot raised his hands for silence.
“I’m sure you’re all eager to know who won this year’s prize,” the abbot said. “But before we get to that, I am curious to know if any of you noticed a woman on the grounds during your hunt.” The question was answered with puzzled looks. Most of the boys shook their heads or murmured no. A self-conscious Albert hesitantly raised his hand.
The abbot looked at Albert. “Young man, could you describe the woman you saw?” Albert felt beads of sweat forming on his forehead. Everyone in the room watched as he stood to respond to the abbot.
“Um, well, she had sort of dark hair. And, uh, she was wearing a red cloak.”
“Anything else?” the abbot asked, stroking his jaw.
“She looked like she spent a lot of time out in the sun.” Albert closed his eyes, remembering the woman. “Oh, and her eyes.”
“What about her eyes, my son?”
“They were... I don’t know.” Albert’s tone became wistful. “They were... beautiful. They were filled with this sort of... something…I don’t know. I felt kind of warm when I looked at them.” The abbot waited as Albert recalled the encounter. “It was really amazing. I almost felt like she was hugging me when I saw her eyes.”
The young boys in the room burst out with laughter. Werner stood up from his chair with his hands on his hips in a wide stance projected his voice over the crowd, “Hey what a sissy.” The abbot said in a loud tone, “Silence.”
Johann was staring at Albert. “Wow, how did I miss that?” he whispered.
The abbot did not seem baffled at all. In fact, happiness radiated from him. “Gentlemen, we have been blessed.” He beckoned to a monk who had just entered the room carrying a package wrapped in cloth. Holding it up for the abbot, the older monk began removing the wrapping. “This is a painting that has been in a storage room in our cellar. I don’t believe anyone has looked at it in many years.”
As the last of the wrapping was removed, Albert gasped and plopped back down in his seat. It was her. It was the woman in red who had led him and Johann to the relics. “This, my friends,” The abbot continued, “is a painting of Mary Magdalene, whose feast day, July 22, we are celebrating today with our scavenger hunt.” Albert’s jaw dropped.
The abbot smiled toward Albert as he continued. “It is rare, but not unheard of, that someone with an extraordinary heart will see Mary Magdalene on the grounds here. I honestly can’t remember the last time it happened, but apparently, we have been honored by her presence today.” Turning to face Albert directly, the abbot continued, “You, young sir, are very fortunate. Seeing her can only bode well for you, and I congratulate you on this very great blessing you have been given.”
Albert closed his mouth and nodded his head sheepishly as the other boys in the hall whispered among themselves. Werner was unusually silent, Albert noticed, watching the boy’s eyes narrow as if he didn’t believe what Albert had said.
The room quieted again, and the abbot spoke, this time with a chuckle in his voice. “While I’m sure you’re all very pleased for young Herr Einstein, I’ll bet you’re just a little bit curious about who won the scavenger hunt.” The room, which had become hushed, now became raucous again, with hoots and hollers and shouts of, “You’re right about that!” and “Yeah, get to it!”
Gesturing for silence, the abbot said, “The team of Werner von Wiesel and Ulli Schmidt were the first to make it back to the dining hall with their map and two correct relics identified.” The room erupted in chatter, and Werner made a big show of strutting around, pumping his arm in a victory salute. Albert’s heart sank, but he forced a smile onto his face in support of the boys’ success. Johann had a more expectant look on his face. Albert gave him a puzzled glance. Johann just held up two fingers. Albert frowned, trying to understand what his friend was telling him.
The abbot held up his hands, and the room quieted. “I commend you young men on your speed and cleverness.” Werner and Ulli nodded smugly.
However, the abbot was not yet finished. “But, as you may recall, speed was only one of the criteria.” Albert was listening intently. “Only one team correctly found and identified all three relics we placed out.” A hush fell over the room as the boys all looked around. Each team knew they had found only two relics.
The abbot turned his gaze to Albert and Johann and smiled. “Apparently Mary Magdalene smiled upon these two young men,” he said, pointing to Albert and Johann. “For discovering and correctly identifying all the relics in this hunt”—the abbot held up a smaller version of the red egg the boys had found in the farmyard—“this replica of Mary Magdalene’s red egg, which was hand-carved and painted by one of our fine artisans here at the monastery, goes to... Johann Thomas and Albert Einstein!”
The room went quiet. Albert gulped, hoping the boys were not angry about not winning. Werner stood and glared at Albert. “How could that scrawny little Jew see Mary Magdalene?” he spat out in a whisper to the boy next to him.
With an angry wave, he summoned the half-dozen boys in his entourage and stormed out of the dining hall amidst stunned silence. As soon as Werner’s posse was clear of the room, the entire hall burst into enthusiastic cheers and applause. The boys gathered around Albert and Johann thumping them on the back and shaking their hands. The two boys stood, shyly accepting all the attention.
As they sat back down, Johann leaned over and whispered, “I think it’s great we won, but I don’t think Werner’s going to be happy about losing, especially to you.”
“I know,” Albert said shrugging off his concerns to enjoy the moment. “But so, what? I mean, what can he do?”
Johann shrugged in agreement. “Yeah, what can he do?”
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