After supper, Annemarie goes out to the meadow alone. She visits Uncle Henrik in the barn, where he is milking Blossom, and asks him why he and Mama are both lying to her. She says she knows that there is no Great-aunt Birte. Uncle Henrik sighs and finishes milking Blossom before turning to Annemarie and asking her how brave she is. Annemarie, startled by the question, says she’s “not very” brave at all. Uncle Henrik, though, says he believes Annemarie is very brave—but he also knows that it is “much easier to be brave if you do not know everything.”
Annemarie is hungry for the truth. She does not like being left out. When Henrik calls her bravery into question, Annemarie is forced to confront how brave she really is—and how much of what little bravery she feels she has is owed to all that she doesn’t know about the truth of what’s going on in her family and in her country more largely.
Uncle Henrik asks Annemarie if she understands what he’s saying, but Annemarie isn’t sure that she does. At the same time, as she reflects on the last several days—the Rosens’ flight, the Nazis’ searching of the Johansen apartment—she does concede that not knowing what was coming next did allow her to be brave, to think quickly on her feet, and to pretend that Ellen really was her sister.
Annemarie thinks a lot about what has happened to her and her family over the last several days, and wonders what role ignorance and naivete has played not just in her own capacity to be brave, but in Ellen’s and Kirsti’s, too.
Uncle Henrik reveals that there is no Great-aunt Brite—he and Mama have lied to Annemarie, Kirsti, and Ellen to “help [them] to be brave.” He tells Annemarie that for this reason, he’s not going to tell her anything else. Annemarie nods, understanding, and then the two of them head back up to the house together to begin the “night of mourning.”
Uncle Henrik is constructing a fantasy—or a fib—meant to shield not just Annemarie, Ellen, and Kirsti from the truth, but to shield their entire family from something deeply sinister.
Two solemn-faced men driving a hearse bring a large, gleaming casket into the house and set it in the middle of the living room. Kirsti is asleep upstairs, but Ellen and Annemarie sit up in the living room with Mama and Uncle Henrik. Ellen doesn’t know the truth of what’s going on, and tells Annemarie and the others that she’s sorry for their loss. Annemarie doesn’t tell her the truth, now understanding that sometimes not knowing helps make someone braver. As the night grows darker, many people from the village come through the house to pay their respects, but Mama’s knowing glances at Annemarie let Annemarie know that it is all a farce.
Annemarie has resisted Uncle Henrik’s belief that staying in the dark makes one braver—but at the same time, she acknowledges that there is perhaps something real in it. She chooses not to tell Ellen what’s really going on, thus aligning herself with Henrik’s philosophy even as she herself stews in the knowledge that things are being kept from her, too.
Uncle Henrik soon announces that it is getting late, and he needs to get to the boat—he plans on sleeping on it. He blows out the candles in the house so that the place is totally dark and opens the front door. He whispers for Ellen to come with him, and Mama urges Ellen to follow Henrik’s lead. The two go out into the dark, and soon Annemarie can hear the sound of voices on the lawn. After a moment, Henrik returns—with Peter Neilsen at his side. Peter greets Annemarie and Mama happily but anxiously, and a few moments later, Ellen is carried into the house—in the arms of her joyous mother and father.
At last, part of the truth emerges—the wake for “Great-aunt Birte” is a clever ruse meant to make a large gathering seem inconspicuous, thus allowing for the Rosens—and several other Jews disguised as mourners—to make their way safely to Henrik’s house.