fire die down. It was a wood fire, but even wood was getting precious now.’
There had been a great stack of wood when they first arrived at the house. Sergeant Amchell was supposed to chop wood for them, but he had been helping with the ploughing over at the farm. It was more important than chopping wood, Fräulein Gelber agreed.
Suddenly there was a rumble in the distance. Not a plane sort of rumble; not even the faint echo of an air raid far away.
‘That is a motorbike,’ said Fräulein Gelber sharply. She went to the door as the motorbike pulled up outside and she opened it before anyone could knock.
Heidi strained her ears to hear. It would have been bad manners for her to go to the door as well. Anyway this might be one of those times when she wasn’t supposed to be noticed, as though she didn’t exist, had never existed.
Fräulein Gelber closed the door. Her eyes were shining.
‘We are to go to meet the Führer,’ she whispered, as though spies might be listening at the window or round the door. ‘Quickly! Into your best dress, and your coat, and your good shoes. Hurry!’
A car arrived just as she came down the steps. Like the motorbike, its lights were shaded, so it could not be seen by a plane flying above.
Fräulein Gelber had changed her clothes too. She wore her best hat with the tiny feather. Her hand was trembling as she ushered Heidi through the door and into the car.
She should be excited, Heidi thought, as the car turned slowly through the gates and began to creepdown the lane. It had been, oh, how long had it been since she had seen her father? Over a year, perhaps.
Once she had hoped that he might write her a letter. She had studied hard so she could read it by herself when it came. But no letter had ever come.
Long ago, sometimes there had been phone calls. But there was no phone at the house where they lived now.
She should be excited. But somehow she just felt flat and scared.
The car drove through the village and Heidi looked at it curiously—it was only the second time she had seen it. Frau Leib talked about it so often it was almost as though she knew it. She hoped she might catch a glimpse of the children Frau Leib spoke of. But everyone was indoors.
Past the village, past the church. There was another car pulled up at the side of the road, in the even darker shelter of a tree.
Heidi’s car stopped. The driver stepped out and opened their door. Heidi scrambled out first. Fräulein Gelber started to follow her, but the driver shook his head. ‘Only the child,’ he said.
It seemed a long way from their car to the other. Heidi’s white socks shone in the moonlight (a tiny moon, a cheese rind of a moon). Her shoes shone back tiny moons too.
The back door of the other car opened. Heidi slid onto the seat.
There was no driver. He must have been told to keep his distance. There was no one to see or hear.
‘Well, Heidi,’ said the Führer, ‘have you been a good girl?’
‘Yes, Duffi,’ whispered Heidi.
The Führer bent to kiss her on the cheek. His lips were very cold.
‘You have been good?’ he asked again. It was as though he was thinking of something else, not even hearing when she said ‘Yes’ again.
‘Fräulein Gelber has been good to you?’
‘Yes, Duffi.’ It was as if that was all she knew to say. She’d thought of so many things she would say to him—let me come to Berlin, let me help you, look after you, work for you. The words were still in her head. But somehow there was no reason to say any of them now.
‘She is also a good girl,’ said the Führer slowly. ‘She can be trusted. So few people can be trusted. They are all betraying me. Do you know that, Heidi? All of them! All of them!’ His voice rose in the confines of the car.
Heidi shook her head. What should she say? What did he want her to say? ‘I am still on your side,Father,’ that’s what she ought to say. ‘You can always trust me.’
Heidi was silent.
The Führer looked at