Chapters 16–20

Set during World War II, this novel tells the story of a pilot who attempts to find his way home after his plane is shot down.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. dank
    unpleasantly cool and humid
    Within a few moments the world became completely black and dank. Henry could hear water dripping.
  2. reconnaissance
    the act of scouting, especially to gain information
    It had probably been a reconnaissance plane, searching for maquis camps so that a Nazi squadron could come back and finish them off.
  3. contempt
    lack of respect accompanied by a feeling of intense dislike
    The teenager looked at Henry with contempt and spat, “Je devrais te tuer maintenant.”
  4. convoy
    a procession of land vehicles traveling together
    He guessed they could see for thirty miles east, back toward where the world climbed into the Alps; thirty miles west, forward to a sloping sea of green pastures and fields of yellow. Any German convoy, any ox cart, for that matter, could be seen long before it became a threat.
  5. conspicuous
    obvious to the eye or mind
    Sitting idle was a large wireless radio, conspicuously marked MADE IN BRITAIN.
  6. corroborate
    support with evidence or authority or make more certain
    Henry prepared himself to be slugged again to corroborate his nationality.
  7. immaculate
    completely neat and clean
    His dark, wavy hair, before always immaculately combed, fell over his forehead in tangles.
  8. hone
    refine or make more perfect or effective
    Henry gathered his French for a moment to further identify himself and Billy. The month with Pierre had really helped Henry hone his skills. His accent might still be a dead giveaway that he was American, but at least his vocabulary had improved enough for the French to understand him.
  9. uppity
    arrogant or self-important
    The pilot was probably from Boston or some other northern city, with more uppity manners.
  10. banter
    converse in a playful or teasing way
    “Didn’t they teach you any French at that fancy prep school of yours?” asked Henry. “What was its highfalutin name?”
    “Choke?” Henry bantered. He couldn’t help it. It was the way he’d always survived conversations with Billy.
  11. flapper
    an unconventional young woman in the 1920s
    Mother has been partying ever since, wearing her flapper dresses because she can’t afford to buy anything new.
  12. unperturbed
    free from emotional agitation or nervous tension
    But no one else in the camp seemed bothered. Henry looked around for his guide. He spotted him, sitting unperturbed among other French teenagers, eating.
  13. laden
    filled with a great quantity
    Wagons pulled by plow horses lumbered in, led by farmers. They were laden with four long gray canisters, tubes about the size and shape of torpedoes.
  14. whorl
    a round shape formed by a series of concentric circles
    Most of the snails were to be found on rocks or under bushes. Henry couldn’t help but marvel at them, their delicate shells with a whorl of red-brown stripes.
  15. till
    work land as by ploughing to make it ready for cultivation
    Planting season was the toughest, though, because we had all that work added on to taking care of the chickens. We tilled about thirty acres and planted watermelons, cantaloupe, strawberries, corn, and green beans.
  16. mull
    reflect deeply on a subject
    They started back to camp and Henry mulled over Billy’s comment. He went a ways before adding thoughts that his time spent walking alone, scared, had brought him about Clayton.
  17. wary
    marked by keen caution and watchful prudence
    Henry had also begun to understand how difficult it might be to shed a tough attitude or a wary distrust of people once the bad times were over.
  18. offhand
    casually thoughtless or inconsiderate
    His thoughts made him uneasy, and Henry shut off the topic of Clayton with an offhand statement. “Anyway, boot camp was easy after growing up under the hand of Clayton Forester. Let’s get these slugs back to camp.”
  19. escargot
    edible snails
    That night they ate escargots. Grilled over the fires, the snails had a nutty flavor that surprised Henry.
  20. aide-de-camp
    an officer who acts as an assistant to a more senior officer
    The aide-de-camp turned on him. “You ask too many questions. I told the chief that you were a risk, too curious, that if you ever got caught, you would betray us. But the chief has decided to trust you. Do not disappoint him. Forget you have been here.”
  21. coerce
    cause to do through pressure or necessity
    Maybe the fact she had already been deported kept her son safer somehow. If the Milice no longer needed him to coerce her, surely they wouldn’t bother to hunt down a small boy.
  22. stoicism
    an indifference to pleasure or pain
    He had obviously known some hard times, but they hadn’t strengthened him much. Would Billy have the stoicism to walk over the Pyrenees? Or would he whine and drag his feet?
  23. liability
    something that holds you back
    If he and Billy found themselves in a situation that called for a split-second, life-or-death decision, could Billy stay calm and think fast? If the answer to all those questions was no, he’d be a real liability.
  24. azure
    of a deep somewhat purplish blue color
    He could see the mountains they’d just left shooting up in the azure sky far away.
  25. wiry
    lean but strong
    He was small, wiry, with a craggy face and few teeth inside his grin.
  26. gale
    a strong wind moving 34–40 knots
    The next night winds attacked them. Blasting down the slopes, gales scraped their faces and pushed them over.
  27. straggle
    go, come, or spread in a rambling or irregular way
    Their line straggled now. The Russians went first, the Brits following at a considerable distance. Even farther back, Henry waited for Billy.
  28. invigorate
    give life or energy to
    The two of them shimmied across the ground, fast as lizards, terror finally invigorating Billy. They scooted under one tree then another then another.
  29. chateau
    an impressive country house (or castle) in France
    Henry was now back deep inside German-occupied France, near Toulouse, in a chateau converted to a prison.
  30. subterranean
    being or operating under the surface of the earth
    He’d been left for a day, in an unlit, subterranean chamber, most likely a root cellar when the mansion had been a home, now fittingly like a tomb.
  31. ornery
    having a difficult and contrary disposition
    Still, there hadn’t been an animal around the farm— ornery mule, stupid cow, or fusspot rooster—that Henry hadn’t been able to tame by talking to it right.
  32. jowl
    a looseness of the flesh of the lower cheek and jaw
    The dog curled its jowls back over his teeth, so they all showed, gleaming, sharp, and lethal.
  33. croon
    sing softly
    “Okay, fella, okay. Easy. Easy, now. That’s a nice boy, handsome boy,” Henry kept crooning at the dog, his voice soft and soothing.
  34. elude
    avoid or try to avoid fulfilling, answering, or performing
    So far, despite all his efforts, she has eluded his questions.
  35. squeamish
    easily disturbed or disgusted by unpleasant things
    Many French terrorists are there. But we have eradicated them—the SS—not regular army, they are such idiots, very squeamish.
  36. cur
    a cowardly and despicable person
    That should stop these French curs from thinking they can resist the Reich.
  37. leer
    look suggestively or obliquely
    The Nazi leered triumphantly.
  38. purge
    rid of impurities
    “We will have the world, Lieutenant. Including your precious United States of America. Then we will purge it, as we are purging Europe. It is only a matter of time.”
  39. careen
    move sideways or in an unsteady way
    The horn blasted as the car careened into a ditch and finally stopped.
  40. manacle
    shackle that can be locked around the wrist
    Then he fumbled in the officer’s pockets, found the keys, and undid his manacles.
Created on February 18, 2020 (updated February 21, 2020)

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