"I am sorry, sir," said Peter.
"I am quite certain that you are," said Vilna Lutz. "You are also dismissed." He picked up his battle plans. He held them up to the light of the candle and muttered to himself, "So, and it must be so, and then . . . so." Later that night, when the candle was quenched and the room was in darkness and the old soldier was snoring in his bed, Peter Augustus Duchene lay on his pallet on the floor and looked up at the ceiling and thought, He lies; she lies; he lies; she lies.
Someone lies, but I do not know who.
If she lies, with her ridiculous talk of elephants, then I am, as Vilna Lutz said, a fool - a fool who believes that an elephant will appear and lead me to a sister who is dead.
But if he lies, then my sister is alive.
His heart thumped.
If he lies, then Adele lives.
"I hope that he lies," said Peter aloud to the darkness.
And his heart, startled at such treachery, astonished at the voicing aloud of such an unsoldierly sentiment, thumped again, much harder this time.
Not far from the Apartments Polonaise, across the rooftops and through the darkness of the winter night, stood the Bliffendorf Opera House, and that evening upon its stage, a magician of advanced years and failing reputation performed the most astonishing magic of his career.
He intended to conjure a bouquet of lilies, but instead, the magician brought forth an elephant.
The elephant came crashing through the ceiling of the opera house amid a shower of plaster dust and roofing shingles and landed in the lap of a noblewoman, a certain Madam Bettine LaVaughn, to whom the magician had intended to present the bouquet.
Madam LaVaughns legs were crushed.
She was thereafter confined to a wheelchair and given to exclaiming often, and in a voice of wonder, in the midst of some conversation that had nothing at all to do with elephants or roofs, "But perhaps you do not understand, I was crippled by an elephant! Crippled by an elephant that came through the roof!"
As for the magician, he was immediately, at the behest of Madam LaVaughn, imprisoned.
The elephant was imprisoned, too.
She was locked in a horse stable. A chain was wrapped around her left ankle. The chain was attached to an iron rod planted firmly in the earth.
At first, the elephant felt one thing and one thing only: dizzy. If she turned her head too quickly to the right or the left, she was aware of the world spinning in a truly alarming manner. So she did not turn her head. She closed her eyes and kept them closed.
There was, all about her, a great hubbub and roar. The elephant ignored it. She wanted nothing more than for the world to hold itself still.
After a few hours, the dizziness passed. The elephant opened her eyes and looked around her and realized that she did not know where she was.
She knew only one thing to be true.
Where she was, was not where she belonged.
Excerpted from The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo Copyright © 2009 by Kate DiCamillo. Excerpted by permission of Candlewick Press. 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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