The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
decided he’d better not go jumping around this house too often or it might collapse around their ears.
‘I don’t like it here,’ he said for the hundredth time.
‘I know you don’t,’ said Gretel. ‘But there’s nothing we can do about it, is there?’
‘I miss Karl and Daniel and Martin,’ said Bruno.
‘And I miss Hilda and Isobel and Louise,’ said Gretel, and Bruno tried to remember which of those three girls was the monster.
‘I don’t think the other children look at all friendly,’ said Bruno, and Gretel immediately stopped putting one of her more terrifying dolls on a shelf and turned round to stare at him.
‘What did you just say?’ she asked.
‘I said I don’t think the other children look at all friendly,’ he repeated.
‘The other children?’ said Gretel, sounding confused. ‘What other children? I haven’t seen any other children.’
Bruno looked around the room. There was a window here but Gretel’s room was on the opposite side of the hall, facing his, and so looked in a totally different direction. Trying not to appear too obvious, he strolled casually towards it. He placed his hands in the pockets of his short trousers and attempted to whistle a song he knew while not looking at his sister at all.
‘Bruno?’ asked Gretel. ‘What on earth are you doing? Have you gone mad?’
He continued to stroll and whistle and he continued not to look until he reached the window, which, by a stroke of luck, was also low enough for him to be able to see out of. He looked outside and saw the car they had arrived in, as well as three or four others belonging to the soldiers who worked for Father, some of whom were standing around smoking cigarettes and laughing about something while looking nervously up at the house. Beyond that was the driveway and further along a forest which seemed ripe for exploration.
‘Bruno, will you please explain to me what you meant by that last remark?’ asked Gretel.
‘There’s a forest over there,’ said Bruno, ignoring her.
‘Bruno!’ snapped Gretel, marching towards him so quickly that he jumped back from the window and backed up against a wall.
‘What?’ he asked, pretending not to know what she was talking about.
‘The other children,’ said Gretel. ‘You said they don’t look at all friendly.’
‘Well, they don’t,’ said Bruno, not wishing to judge them before he met them but going by appearances, which Mother had told him time and time again not to do.
‘But what other children?’ asked Gretel. ‘Where are they?’
Bruno smiled and walked towards the door, indicating that Gretel should follow him. She gave out a deep sigh as she did so, stopping to put the doll on the bed but then changing her mind and picking it up and holding it close to her chest as she went into her brother’s room, where she was nearly knocked over by Maria storming out of it holding something that closely resembled a dead mouse.
‘They’re out there,’ said Bruno, who had walked over to his own window again and was looking out of it. He didn’t turn back to check that Gretel was in the room; he was too busy watching the children. For a few moments he forgot that she was even there.
Gretel was still a few feet away and desperately wanted to look for herself, but something about the way he had said it and something about the way he was watching made her feel suddenly nervous. Bruno had never been able to trick her before about anything and she was fairly sure that he wasn’t tricking her now, but there was something about the way he stood there that made her feel as if she wasn’t sure she wanted to see these children at all. She swallowed nervously and said a silent prayer that they would indeed be returning to Berlin in the foreseeable future and not in a month as Bruno had suggested.
‘Well?’ he said, turning round now and seeing his sister standing in the doorway, clutching the doll, her golden pigtails perfectly balanced on each shoulder, ripe for the pulling. ‘Don’t you want to see them?’
‘Of course I do,’ she replied and walked hesitantly towards him. ‘Step out of the way then,’ she said, elbowing him aside.
It was a bright, sunny day that first afternoon at Out-With and the sun reappeared from behind a cloud just as Gretel looked through the window, but after a moment her eyes adjusted and the sun disappeared again and she saw exactly what Bruno had been talking about.
What They Saw Through
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