The shouting had lasted far into the night. Then the noises started, doors slamming, walls being kicked, sobbing and screaming. The boys’ father hadn’t bothered to close the curtains, so the police could easily see what was going on within. All they needed was proof. Meli had requested backup and they burst into the house as soon as he raised his hand against his wife. Once the drunk was handcuffed and taken away, his wife burst into tears and the boys, who saw Ludwig and Gary come in after the policemen, ran to the goat to hug him.
During the next village meeting, the mayor cheerfully announced that the presents had been found, but wouldn’t say who was responsible, only that the culprit was very apologetic and had learned his lesson. But that’s not how it works in small villages. The gossip started to spread and when people found out that the village drunk was arrested and charged with assault, they all concluded that he stole the presents in a drunken stupor and now he was charged and locked up, he was no longer a threat to anyone.
Meli, Ludwig and the mayor knew the truth, but they preferred the version the villagers had made up for themselves. They were quite happy to let the people believe that the violent alcoholic was to blame, as did his family. As punishment, the boys would have to work hard on the preparations for the Christmas fete, hang up decorations and so on. Even after that, they were to help out at Ludwig’s farm as a means of keeping them out of trouble, about which they were more excited than feeling punished.
As they left the village hall, Madeleine came up to Ludwig.
“You found the presents, didn’t you?” she smiled.
“Actually, it was my goat, Gary,” he said.
“More and more curious,” the teacher linked arms with the farmer and walked back to the farm with him.
They ended up talking late into the night, with the goat sleeping at their feet.
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