Code Name Verity
I AM A COWARD.
I wanted to be heroic and I pretended I was. I have always been good at pretending. I spent the first twelve years of my life playing at the Battle of Stirling Bridge with my five big brothersand even though I am a girl, they let me be William Wallace, who is supposed to be one of our ancestors, because I did the most rousing battle speeches. God, I tried hard last week. My God, I tried. But now I know I am a coward. After the ridiculous deal I made with SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden, I know I am a coward. And I'm going to give you anything you ask, everything I can remember. Absolutely Every Last Detail.
Here is the deal we made. I'm putting it down to keep it straight in my own mind. "Let's try this," the Hauptsturm-führer said to me. "How could you be bribed?" And I said I wanted my clothes back.
It seems petty, now. I am sure he was expecting my answer to be something defiant"Give me Freedom" or "Victory"or something generous, like "Stop toying with that wretched French Resistance laddie and give him a dignified and merciful death." Or at least something more directly connected to my present circumstance, like "Please let me go to sleep" or "Feed me" or "Get rid of this sodding iron rail you have kept tied against my spine for the past three days." But I was prepared to go sleepless and starving and upright for a good while yet if only I didn't have to do it in my underwearrather foul and damp at times, and SO EMBARRASSING.
The warmth and dignity of my flannel skirt and woolly sweater are worth far more to me now than patriotism or integrity.
So von Linden sold my clothes back to me piece by piece. Except my scarf and stockings, of course, which were taken away early on to prevent me strangling myself with them (I did try). The pullover cost me four sets of wireless codethe full lot of encoding poems, passwords, and frequencies. Von Linden let me have the pullover back on credit right away. It was waiting for me in my cell when they finally untied me at the end of that dreadful three days, though I was incapable of getting the damned thing on at first; but even just dragged over top of me like a shawl it was comforting. Now that I've managed to get into it at last, I don't think I shall ever take it off again. The skirt and blouse cost rather less than the pullover, and it was only one code set apiece for my shoes.
There are eleven sets in all. The last one was supposed to buy my slip. Notice how he's worked it that I get the clothes from the outside in, so I have to go through the torment of undressing in front of everybody every time another item is given back to me. He's the only one who doesn't watchhe threatened to take it all away from me again when I suggested he was missing a fabulous show. It was the first time the accumulated damage has really been on display, and I wish he would have looked at his masterpieceat my arms particularlyalso the first time I have been able to stand in a while, which I wanted to show off to him. Anyway, I have decided to do without my slip, which also saves me the trouble of stripping again to put it on, and in exchange for the last code set I have bought myself a supply of ink and paperand some time.
Von Linden has said I have two weeks and that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I'm going to. Von Linden resembles Captain Hook in that he is rather an upright sort of gentleman in spite of his being a brute, and I am quite Pan-like in my naïve confidence that he will play by the rules and keep his word. So far, he has. To start off my confession, he gave me this lovely creamy embossed stationery from the Château de Bordeaux, the Bordeaux Castle Hotel, which is what this building used to be. (I would not have believed a French hotel could become so forbiddingly bleak if I had not seen the barred shutters and padlocked doors with my own eyes. But you have also managed to make the whole beautiful city of Ormaie look bleak.)
Excerpted from Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. Copyright © 2012 by Elizabeth Wein. Excerpted by permission of Hyperion Books for Children. 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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