"He's not a bad fellow," one of the novices comments, "for a Nazi."
"Suora!" Don Osvaldo cries.
Dimples disappearing, the white-veiled sister scrubs virtuously at the mosaics, but Leoni's laughter fills the basilica. Disarmed, Don Osvaldo scoops his half of the cigarettes out of the case. Leoni offers a light.
"American," Osvaldo notes with some surprise, examining the fine white tissue paper. "I wonder where he"
"Smoking in a church!" Suora Marta grumbles, trundling down the aisle. Already annoyed, she smells vomit, and her mouth twists. "Swine!" she snaps at the insensible German.
"Judge not, Suora!" Leoni reminds her piously. "I'm inclined to respect a soldier who has to get that drunk before confession. He must have an admirable conscience to be so ashamed."
She holds out a hand. "Give me the rest."
Leoni's brows shoot upward. "Santo cielo! Do you smoke, Suora?"
"Don't waste my time, Leoni. Tobacco's better than gold on the black market. We've got orphans to feed."
Excerpted from A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell, pages 9-16. Copyright © 2005 by Mary Doria Russell. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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