They ate their meal by the fire. A little black cat came mewing and pawing for fish. "How many lives has a cat?" Dym asked, tickling her gently under her furry chin.
Tony would not answer.
"Nine," said Dym. "So have you. I mean that if you run away as often as nine times you won't get into trouble when you get caught. But the tenth time you are caught running away there will be a row, a really serious row. Understand?"
"You've lost three of your lives already. That leaves six, doesn't it?"
There were disadvantages, Tony found, in a vow of eternal silence. For example, one had no power to protest violently against such a flagrant injustice as this. He turned eyes glowing with indignation on Dym.
"You think that's not square, eh?"
But Tony was wrathfully silent. Dym's grave young face broke suddenly into a smile. Though Tony would not have owned it for the world, he liked to see his captor smile.
"Not going to be tricked into speaking to me, are you, Max? I'm afraid I did it on purpose—I wanted to see if I could make you speak. Very good, then; we'll start from tonight. You have nine lives and no more. Is that a fair warning?"
Tony did not answer in words. In his heart he thought it fair enough.
Thus is a private war formally declared between Tony and the inhabitants of the White Priory. British airman Dym Ingleford is convinced that young Max Eckermann is his brother, Anthony, who was kidnapped years before. Raised in the Nazi ideology, Tony has by chance tumbled into British hands. Dym has brought him back, at least temporarily, to the family he neither remembers nor will acknowledge as his own. As Tony uses his nine attempts to escape, his stubborn anger is whittled away by the patient kindness he finds at the White Priory. Then, just as he is resigning himself to the English family, a new chance suddenly opens for him to return home—to Germany!
Written early in WWII before the U.S. joined the Allied forces, this story of faith in the face of uncertainty gives the reader an inside view of the confusion war brings and the triumph of the human spirit in the midst of it.
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