The Christmas Tree Essay

1969 words - 8 pages

When Swain entered his cottage, he felt a wave of relief. While the water heated up in the teapot, he started a small fire and then pulled the thick blackout curtains. A knock at the door surprised him. He heard Mrs. Ford, his neighbor, outside the door. “Mr. Swain!”
Swain quickly hid his rucksack and opened the door. “Please come in, Mrs. Ford.” She entered and set a tray of hot food down on the table. He asked, “How are you today?”
“This rainy weather is flaring up my bloody awful arthritis.”
Swain collected the washed dishes by the sink and handed them to her. “Thank you so much for dinner.”
“It’s always my pleasure.”
Mrs. Ford let herself out as the teapot began to whistle. Meat pot pie of tinned meat with vegetables was on the menu. Two fresh baked scones were wrapped in a cloth with a container of gooseberry jam and another of butter. He put one scone away for breakfast.
Swain gave Mrs. Ford his food coupons. In return, she waited in the long queues at the shops and cooked food for herself, her grown son, and Swain. Every week, Swain gave her money for staples that you had to buy. He enjoyed a slathering of butter on her delicious homemade brown bread. Mrs. Ford had known all the shop owners for years and would wheel and deal in her own black market way for food and commodities. Regular or point ration coupons were unimportant to Swain. Mrs. Ford raised pigs in her backyard as part of a community pig program; he didn’t know or care about the details of the program. Food scraps were tossed over her fence to feed the pigs, chickens, and rabbits. Her extensive garden produced delicious vegetables that Swain savored—in season or canned for the winter. She washed his clothes and did light cleaning for him. It was a perfect setup. Swain smiled when he saw the lemon wedge on the edge of his plate. Last Christmas Swain gave Mrs. Ford a heavy metal soup pot and a small saucepan. You’d think she received the crown jewels. Mrs. Ford was doing well since her husband was killed by a stray bomb, and Swain was happy to oblige her newfound success.
After Swain added a teaspoon of tea to his cup, he opened a tin and dropped a couple of hibiscus petals into the mix. The petals were an excellent source of vitamin C. Rickets were not a problem in Africa, because the sun offered Vitamin D, but scurvy, the lack of Vitamin C, was a problem when out in the field too long. Swain had become accustomed to the flavor of hibiscus. Where Mrs. Ford obtained hibiscus, he didn’t know. He allowed the tea to steep as he dug into the pot pie. After he washed the dishes, he started reading through the file and reviewing the maps, as he sipped more tea.
The key to the code was: A=1, B=2, C=3, D=4, E=5, F=6, G=7, H=8, I=9, J=10, K=11, L=12, M=13, N=14, O=15, P=16, Q=17, R=18, S=19, T=20, U=21, V=22, W=23, X=24, Y=25, and Z=26.
Swain thought this preposterous. The Ultra, Bombe, Colossus and other code breaking machines could break any code in the business. Why was this code so...

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