What happened in Chapter 17 of The Devil's Arithmetic?

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dymatsuoka | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Gitl tells Chaya that there is a plan to escape. Yitzchak and Shmuel are a part of it, as will Chaya be, because she is their "only flesh and blood." Gitl makes Chaya promise that if something happens to her and the others, she will remember. Gitl will not give Chaya any more information at this time, for her own safety. Gitl does confirm that Yitzchak is taking this risk because his children are gone, and he has nothing left to lose. As for herself and Shmuel, Gitl says, "If not us, who? If not now, when?" These words are part of the Seder ceremony celebrated by the Jews on the Sabbath.

A few nights later, when Chaya least expects it, Gitl tells her, "Chaya, it is now." Gitl hands her a pair of shoes and the two creep silently through the women's barracks to the door. Chaya asks, "what about Fayge," to which Gitl responds that despite her love for Shmuel, Fayge "has come to love her next bowl of soup more." When Gitl and Chaya get outside, they hear a shout, some shots, and the horrible screaming of a man. Realizing that the plan has been unsuccessful, she quickly drags Chaya back into the barracks. When the blokova sleepily asks what is going on, Gitl tells her she went to get her bowl to relieve herself, but dropped it when she heard shots outside. The blokova believes her story, and lets the matter drop after a short reprimand.

Back on their sleeping shelf, Chaya can feel Gitl sobbing. An awful thought comes to herĀ - she has left the shoes Gitl had handed her outside. When she tells Gitl, however, the older woman is unworried. The shoes belonged to the blokova; when they are discovered, it is the blokova who will be in trouble, not themĀ (Chapter 17).

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