Annemarie turned again as the path divided once more. The left fork would take her directly to the village; it was the way they had come from the train, and the way Mama had walked to school as a girl. But Annemarie turned to the right, heading now toward the harborside, where the fishing boats lay at anchor. She had often come this way before, too, sometimes at the end of the afternoon, to pick out the Ingeborg, Uncle Henrik's boat, from the many returning, and to watch him and his helpers unload the day's catch of slippery, shimmering herring still flopping in their containers.
Even now, with the boats in the harbor ahead empty of fish, preparing to leave for the day's fishing, she could smell the oily, salty scent of herring, which always remained in the air here.
It wasn't far now, and it was getting lighter. She ran almost as fast as she had run at school, in the Friday footraces. Almost as fast as she had run down the Copenhagen sidewalk on the day that the soldier had stopped her with his call of "Halte!"
Annemarie continued the story in her head. "Suddenly, as Little Red Riding-Hood walked through the woods, she heard a noise. She heard a rustling in the bushes."
"A wolf," Kirsti would always say, shivering with fearful delight. "I know it's going to be the wolf!"
Annemarie always tried to prolong this part, to build up the suspense and tantalize her sister. "She didn't know what it was. She stopped on the path and listened. Something was following her, in the bushes. Little Red Riding-Hood was very, very, very frightened."
She would stop, would stay silent for a moment, and beside her in the bed she could feel Kirsti holding her breath.
"Then," Annemarie would go on, in a low, dread-filled voice, "she heard a grow!."
Annemarie stopped, suddenly, and stood still on the path. There was a turn immediately ahead. Beyond it, she knew, as soon as she rounded the turn, she would see the landscape open to the sea. The woods would be behind her there, and ahead of her would be the harbor, the docks, and the countless fishing boats. Very soon it would be noisy there, with engines starting, fishermen calling to one another, and gulls crying.
But she had heard something else. She heard bushes rustling ahead. She heard footsteps. And—she was certain it was not her imagination—she heard a low growl.
Cautiously, she took a step forward. And another. She approached the turn in the path, and the noises continued.
Then they were there, in front of her. Four armed soldiers. With them, straining at taut leashes, were two large dogs, their eyes glittering, their lips curled.
15. My Dogs Smell Meat!
Annemarie's mind raced. She remembered what her mother had said. "If anyone stops you, you must pretend to be nothing more than a silly little girt."
She stared at the soldiers. She remembered how she had stared at the others, frightened, when they had stopped her on the street.
Kirsti hadn't been frightened. Kirsti had been—well, nothing more than a silly little girl, angered because the soldier had touched her hair that afternoon. She had known nothing of danger, and the soldier had been amused by her.
Annemarie willed herself, with all her being, to behave as Kirsti would.
"Good morning," she said carefully to the soldiers.
They looked her up and down in silence. Both dogs were tense and alert, The two soldiers who held the leashes wore thick gloves.
"What are you doing here?" one of them asked.
Annemarie held out her basket, with the thick loaf of bread visible. "My Uncle Henrik forgot his lunch, and I'm taking it to him. He's a fisherman."
The soldiers were looking around; their eyes glanced behind her, and scanned the bushes on either side.
"Are you alone?" one asked.
Annemarie nodded. "Yes," she said. One of the dogs growled. But she noticed that both dogs were looking at the lunch basket.
One soldier stepped forward. The other, and the two holding the dogs, remained where they were.
"You came out before daybreak just to bring a lunch? Why doesn't your uncle eat fish?"
What would Kirsti reply? Annemarie tried to giggle, the way her sister might. "Uncle Henrik doesn't even like fish," she said, laughing. "He says he sees too much of it, and smells too much of it. Anyway, he wouldn't eat it raw!" She made a face. "Well, I suppose he would if he were starving. But Uncle Henrik always has bread and cheese for lunch."
Keep chattering, she told herself, as Kirsti would. A silly little girl. "I like fish," she went on. "I like it the way my mother cooks it. Sometimes she rolls it in bread crumbs, and—"
The soldier reached forward and grabbed the crisp loaf of bread from the basket. He examined it carefully. Then he broke it in half, pulling the two halves apart with his fists.
That would enrage Kirsti, she knew. "Don't!" she said angrily. "That's Uncle Henrik's bread! My mother baked it!"
The soldier ignored her. He tossed the two halves of the loaf to the ground, one half in front of each dog. They consumed it, each snapping at the bread and gulping it so that it was gone in an instant.
"Have you seen anyone in the woods?" The soldier barked the question at her.
"No. Only you." Annemarie stared at him. "What are you doing in the woods, anyway? You're making me late. Uncle Henrik's boat will leave before I get there with his lunch. Or what's left of his lunch."
The soldier picked up the wedge of cheese. He turned it over in his hand. He turned to the three behind him and asked them something in their own language.
One of them answered "Nein," in an bored tone. Annemarie recognized the word; the man had replied "No." He had probably been asked, Annemarie thought, "Do you want this?" or perhaps, "Should I give this to the dogs?"
The soldier continued to hold the cheese. He tossed it back and forth between his hands.
Annemarie gave an exasperated sigh. "Could I go now, please?" she asked impatiently.
The soldier reached for the apple. He noted its brown spots, and made a face of disgust.
"No meat?" he asked, glancing at the basket and the napkin that lay in its bottom.
Annemarie gave him a withering look. "You know we have no meat," she said insolently. "Your army eats all of Denmark's meat."
Please, please, she implored in her mind. Don't lift the napkin.
The soldier laughed. He dropped the bruised apple on the ground. One of the dogs leaned forward, pulling at his leash, sniffed the apple, and stepped back. But both dogs still looked intently at the basket, their ears alert, their mouths open. Saliva glistened on their smooth pink gums.
"My dogs smell meat," the soldier said.
"They smell squirrels in the woods," Annemarie responded. "You should take them hunting."
The soldier reached forward with the cheese in one hand, as if he were going to return it to the basket. But he didn't. Instead, he pulled out the flowered cotton napkin.
"Your uncle has a pretty little lunch," the soldier said scornfully, crumpling the napkin around the cheese in his hand. "Like a woman," he added, with contempt.
Then his eyes locked on the basket. He handed the cheese and napkin to the soldier beside him. "What's that? There, in the bottom?" he asked in a different, tenser voice.
What would Kirsti do? Annemarie stamped her foot. Suddenly, to her own surprise, she begin to cry. "I don't know!" she said, her voice choked. "My mother's going to be angry that you stopped me and made me late. And you've completely ruined Uncle Henrik's lunch, so now he'll be mad at me, too!"
The dogs whined and struggled against the leashes, nosing forward to the basket. One of the other soldiers muttered something in German.
The soldier took out the packet. "Why was this so carefully hidden?" he snapped.
Annemarie wiped her eyes on the sleeve of her sweater. "It wasn't hidden, any more than the napkin was. I don't know what it is." That, she realized, was true. She had no idea what was in the packet.
The soldier tore the paper open while below him, on the ground, the dogs strained and snarled, pulling against their leashes. Their muscles were visible beneath the sleek, short-haired flesh.
He looked inside, then glared at Annemarie. "Stop crying, you idiot girl," he said harshly. "Your stupid mother has sent your uncle a handkerchief. In Germany the women have better things to do. They don't stay at home hemming handkerchiefs for their men."
He gestured with the folded white cloth and gave a short, caustic laugh. "At least she didn't stitch flowers on it."
He flung it to the ground, still half wrapped in the paper, beside the apple. The dogs lunged, sniffed at it eagerly, then subsided, disappointed again.
"Go on," the soldier said. He dropped the cheese and the napkin back into her basket. "Go on to your uncle and tell him the German dogs enjoyed his bread."
All of the soldiers pushed past her. One of them laughed, and they spoke to each other in their own language. In a moment they had disappeared down the path, in the direction from which Annemarie had just come.
Quickly she picked up the apple and the opened packet with the white handkerchief inside. She put them into the basket and ran around the bend toward the harbor, where the morning sky was now bright with early sun and some of the boat engines were starting their strident din.
The Ingeborg was still there, by the dock, and Uncle Henrik was there, his light hair windblown and bright as he knelt by the nets. Annemarie called to him and he came to the side, his face worried when he recognized her on the dock.
She handed the basket across. "Mama sent your lunch," she said, her voice quavering. "But soldiers stopped me, and they took your bread." She didn't dare to tell him more.
Henrik glanced quickly into the basket. She could see the look of relief on his face, and knew that it was because he saw that the packet was there, even though it was torn open.
"Thank you," he said, and the relief was evident in his voice.
Annemarie looked quickly around the familiar small boat. She could see down the passageway into the empty cabin. There was no sign of the Rosens or the others. Uncle Henrik followed her eyes and her puzzled look.
"All is well," he said softly. "Don't worry. Everything is all right.
"I wasn't sure," he said. "But now"—he eyed the basket in his hands—"because of you, Annemarie, everything is all right.
"You run home now, and tell your mama not to worry. I will see you this evening."
He grinned at her suddenly. "They took my bread, eh?" he said. "I hope they choke on it."
16. I Will Tell You Just a Little
"Poor Blossom!" Uncle Henrik said, laughing, after dinner that evening. "It was bad enough that your mother was going to milk her, after all these years of city life. But Annemarie! To do it for the very first time! I'm surprised Blossom didn't kick you!"
Mama laughed, too. She sat in a comfortable chair that Uncle Henrik had moved from the living room and placed in a corner of the kitchen. Her leg, in a clean white cast to the knee, was on a footstool.
Annemarie didn't mind their laughing. It had been funny. When she had arrived back at the farmhouse—she had run along the road to avoid the soldiers who might still be in the woods; now, carrying nothing, she was in no danger—Mama and Kirsti were gone. There was a note, hastily written, from Mama, that the doctor was taking her in his car to the local hospital, that they would be back soon.
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