The Nightingale

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Book: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kristin Hannah
be something she could do. Even here, even now.
    Hide the valuables.
    It was all that came to her. The Germans would loot the houses in town; of that she had no doubt, and when they did they would take everything of value. Her own government—cowards that they were—had known that. It was why they had emptied much of the Louvre and put fake paintings on the museum walls.
    â€œNot much of a plan,” she muttered. But it was better than nothing.
    The next day, as soon as Vianne and Sophie left for school, Isabelle began. She ignored Vianne’s request that she go to town for food. She couldn’t stand to see the Nazis, and one day without meat would hardly matter. Instead, she searched the house, opening closets and rummaging through drawers and looking under the beds. She took every item of value and set it on the trestle table in the dining room. There were lots of valuable heirlooms. Lacework tatted by her great-grandmother, a set of sterling silver salt and pepper shakers, a gilt-edged Limoges platter that had been their aunt’s, several small impressionist paintings, a tablecloth made of fine ivory Alençon lace, several photograph albums, a silver-framed photograph of Vianne and Antoine and baby Sophie, her mother’s pearls, Vianne’s wedding dress and more. Isabelle boxed up everything that would fit in a wooden-trimmed leather trunk, which she dragged through the trampled grass, wincing every time it scraped on a stone or thudded into something. By the time she reached the barn, she was breathing hard and sweating.
    The barn was smaller than she remembered. The hayloft—once the only place in the world where she was happy—was really just a small tier on the second floor, a bit of floor perched at the top of a rickety ladder and beneath the roof, through which slats of sky could be seen. How many hours had she spent up there alone with her picture books, pretending that someone cared enough to come looking for her? Waiting for her sister, who was always out with Rachel or Antoine.
    She pushed that memory aside.
    The center of the barn was no more than thirty feet wide. It had been built by her great-grandfather to hold buggies—back when the family had money. Now there was only an old Renault parked in the center. The stalls were filled with tractor parts and web-draped wooden ladders and rusted farm implements.
    She closed the barn door and went to the automobile. The driver’s side door opened with a squeaking, clattering reluctance. She climbed in, started the engine, drove forward about eight feet, and then parked.
    The trapdoor was revealed now. About five feet long and four feet wide and made of planks connected by leather straps, the cellar door was nearly impossible to see, especially as it was now, covered in dust and old hay. She pulled the trapdoor open, letting it rest against the automobile’s dinged-up bumper, and peered down into the musty darkness.
    Holding the trunk by its strap, she turned on her torchlight and clamped it under her other armpit and climbed down the ladder slowly, clanking the trunk down, rung by rung, until she was at the bottom. The trunk clattered onto the dirt floor beside her.
    Like the loft, this hidey-hole had seemed bigger to her as a child. It was about eight feet wide and ten feet long, with shelving along one side and an old mattress on the floor. The shelves used to hold barrels for winemaking, but a lantern was the only thing left on the shelves.
    She tucked the trunk into the back corner and then went back to the house, where she gathered up some preserved food, blankets, some medical supplies, her father’s hunting shotgun, and a bottle of wine, all of which she put out on the shelves.
    When she climbed back up the ladder, she found Vianne in the barn.
    â€œWhat in the world are you doing out here?”
    Isabelle wiped her dusty hands on the worn cotton of her skirt. “Hiding your valuables and putting

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