HotFreeBooks.com
The Boy Scouts in Front of Warsaw
by Colonel George Durston
Previous Part     1  2  3
Home - Random Browse

Warren was shaking. "Did you see?" he asked.

"Yes," said Ivan in a low voice. "Elinor and Rika, too! What are we going to do?"

"I don't know," said Warren. "Just do what we have to do when the time comes. Don't risk them another hour. Elinor looks half dead. Keep out of sight and watch for a chance. Don't let the girls see you, any more than the women. They would give it away, sure. Come on!"

He slipped quickly through the crowd, only a boy, and unnoticed. Behind, at his heels, came a thin lad, soiled and ragged. It was Prince Ivan, Prince of one of the greatest houses in Warsaw, but his own father would not have recognized him. Together they slyly watched the two women in front of them who, each with a child, begged pitifully of the travelers. The woman who had Rika held her in her arms, but poor little Elinor, on foot, reached a tiny hand toward the passing throng, and fearfully glanced at her ugly jailer as she did so.

The train remained on the track. It was evidently going to make up a section. The women wandered here and there, and finally approached a big packing case near the station door. Here they stood, evidently consulting. One woman slyly, showed the other a handkerchief full of kopeks. Then while the boys scarcely dared to breathe, they seated the two children on the box, and with a fearful threat which caused the face of Elinor to turn even paler, they hurried into the waiting room, and turned towards the ticket window.

"Now!" said Warren, "and be quick!"

He ran up to the children, and taking his sister in his arms, pressed his hand over her mouth until he had spoken a word in her ear. Then followed by Ivan carrying Rika, he walked steadily round the corner of the platform.

Before him stood the roadster, with the Red Cross flag. Without an instant's hesitation, he slipped into the driver's seat, Elinor still in his arms. He thrust her between his knees, as Ivan took the other seat, and tucked little Rika out of sight in the same manner.

As he did so, they heard a series of hoarse screams, and the two women, beating the air and wringing their hands, came rushing around the corner. Warren started the car full speed, and they started with a jerk that almost threw them out. Looking behind, Ivan saw the women point to the car and to his dismay a soldier on a motorcycle jumped from his machine and ran up to them. As the car sped down the long avenue, Ivan saw a last glimpse of the man returning to his machine. They were followed.

"They are after us!" he said to Warren.

"What with?" asked Warren, his eyes on the road. "There was no other machine."

"A soldier on a motorcycle. Make the first turn you can."

Warren whipped the little racer round one curve and then another. He was thinking deeply.

Elinor commenced to cry.

"Don't let them get me, Warry!" she begged.

"You are all right, dear," he answered. Then to Ivan:

"I have it. Didn't you say you knew that Princess what-is-her-name that owns this car?"

"Yes, a little," said Ivan.

"Well, you could make her recognize whose son you are, couldn't you?"

"Of course!" said Ivan.

"Well," said Warren, "we can't get anywhere with the car, and the only thing for us to do is to go to the hospital as quickly as we can, and you get hold of that Princess, and do some explaining. You see she stands in with both sides because of the hospital. It's her own sister's house, isn't it?"

"Yes," said Ivan, "and that's the only thing to do. This is a Red Cross car now, and there will be a big fuss about it."

"Where are we, anyway?" said Warren, slowing down to regulation speed.

"Turn to your left and ahead for three blocks, then once to the right, and you will see the palace in the distance," said Ivan.

They swept on, reached the marble steps of the building, stopped the car, and Warren leaped to the ground.

He looked at his little sister. He could not speak, but held out his arms, and she sprang into them. She clung to him trembling, and calling his name over and over while he pressed kisses on her pale little cheeks. With Ivan still holding Rika, they hurried up the steps just as the soldier on the motorcycle whirled to the curb.

He leaped from his seat and followed them, talking furiously in German, but the boys were so close to the open door that they slipped inside before the man could lay a hand on them. A nurse came up and a doctor, and the boys commenced, both at once, one in Polish and the other in English, to explain matters. The doctor looked grave. No one would dream that the two thin, pale, ragged little girls were anything but the beggars they looked to be, and the doctor shook his head.

Ivan stamped his foot. "I want the Princess!" he said. "She will straighten this out. Send someone for the Princess!" he demanded.

"I think she is out," said the nurse; "but I will send." She gave a message to an assistant, and they waited in silence while the girl was gone. She returned in a moment.

"The Princess is not here," she said, "but Madame, her sister, is coming." As she spoke, the door opened, and the lovely face of Princess Olga appeared.

"What is the trouble?" she asked of the doctor, and glanced at the group before her.

One low cry she gave; one spring, and little Rika was folded to her breast. The baby arms were close around her neck, the little face hidden while the Princess murmured loving names and strained the little form close to her heart.

Warren was the first to speak. He turned to Ivan.

"Well, what do you know about that?" he said solemnly in English.

The doctor turned to Ivan and plied him with questions.

Presently the Princess looked up.

"Who are you?" she asked, noting the pale child at his side.

"My name is Morris, Warren Morris," said Warren. He would have explained farther, but the Princess, rising, lifted her head and looking reverently up, said simply, "God is good! Come with me!" Imperiously she led the way down the great hall, now full of cots, and to a narrow door. She opened this and pushed Warren through ahead of her.

And Evelyn, poor heart-broken Evelyn, saw him as he came. Then she had him in her arms; and for once Warren could not kiss her enough or hug her hard enough. But he had to be shared with Elinor who commenced to look happy once more.

"Where is father?" asked Warren doubtfully, when Evelyn seemed assured that he was real, and that she actually had Elinor back again.

"Out with the Princess," said Evelyn. Then for the first time she noticed that the Princess was gone, and the door shut, and they were alone.

"Warren, you must be very good to father," said Evelyn gently. "He has suffered more than I ever knew anyone could. He takes all the blame for everything."

"Well, —" said Warren stubbornly, "a lot of it has been his fault."

"That doesn't matter now," said Evelyn. "Father is not to blame for the forgetfulness and selfishness in his work that we find so hard to bear. His parents are the ones to blame. They thought because he was such a bright child that everything should be made secondary to his needs. And then our dear mother went right on spoiling him. So now we, who are his children, can't expect to make him over. We have just got to remember that he is a truly great man — in his own line, and we are very proud of him. We are older now, and things won't be so hard for us."

"You bet we are older!" said Warren. "I don't expect to feel any older when I am ninety than I do now. But you are right about father. I have felt pretty sore, sis, I confess, and when I thought you were dead, and Elinor lost for good, it didn't seem as though I could forgive him. You are right about his people. Folks have no right to let a kid run the whole place like that, even if it is to develop his brain. I'll tell you one thing, if ever I have any kids of my own, I'm going to bring them up after a plan of my own."

Evelyn smiled. "I hope it will work, Warry," she said.

Warren looked savage. "It will, you can bet," he said. "I will make them go to school, of course, but they will begin to qualify for the Boy Scouts when they are about three years old; and they will learn to shoot, and know first aid when they are about four, and a lot of other things when they are five or so."

Evelyn groaned. "I'm sorry for those children, Warren," she laughed.

"Well, perhaps I will give them a little more time, but they have got to understand that efficiency is as necessary when they are sixteen as when they are sixty. Do you remember those chaps we saw in Switzerland? They were way up in their studies. You know I went to school with a fellow one day, but when school was out they were doing things worth while. And the fellow I knew had the dandiest rifle I ever saw. He said it was a prize from the government for target shooting. And he knew how to handle that gun, too. He said there was a fine for carelessness with firearms.

"Then these Germans. I've seen dozens of fellows no older than I am. They are hard as nails and fit every minute. Say, what's father going to do?" he demanded. "Are we going to spend our lives here, or are we going home?"

"Father does not know yet that you are here, you know," Evelyn reminded him. "He ought to be here soon now."

"Let's get him to go home as soon as we can," said Warren.

"I've seen about all I can stand of these horrors." He put his arm around Evelyn's shoulders and embraced both dear sisters.

"Evelyn, we will never be the same children again," he said sadly. "Oh, I'm homesick for America! I want to go home to Princeton. I want to have it come Fourth of July and hear the crackers go off and see the flag hanging out of store windows, and upside down and wrong side to on people's lawns the way they most always hang it. I want to hooray for 'Mericky.' I am dead, dead sick of this, sissy. I want to go where I belong."

"Poor old Warren!" said Evelyn. "I know how you feel. I want to go, too. But you can't shake the dust of Europe off like that, you know. We have made friends, good friends here, and you will have to keep in touch with the Polish Boy Scouts. You can't shirk that, you know."

"No, of course not," agreed Warren. "I just want to go home and soak up on America for awhile. I've got a lot of things to tell those fellows, too!" he said solemnly.

"Well, we could go right away if father is willing, and if we could get passports and transportation," said Evelyn. "Only I've got to go back and get the baby."

"The WHAT!" shouted Warren.

"Why, the baby," said Evelyn. "The baby you brought me; the one you brought me from its dead mother."

"Sure enough!" said Warren. "Well, where is it, anyway?"

"Back in Warsaw," said Evelyn. "I left it with the woman who lived in the corner house. When the soldiers took us away, she came out to see what the disturbance was, and she offered to keep the baby."

"A baby!" said Warren. "So you are going to take it home! Well, that does seem almost the last straw! You don't suppose your friend in Warsaw would like to keep it?"

"No, I don't," said Evelyn firmly. "That woman has six, and her husband was killed, and she is ruined. She will have hard enough work feeding her own. She is an angel to keep it so, long. We have dozens of relatives over home, and they are all going to have the privilege of helping to care for our little war baby. I shall name her for the Princess."

"All right," said Warren. He went to the window and looked out. "I wish father would come," he said. "Is Jack with him? Suppose I go and look for them?"

"You will stay right here," said Evelyn. "I don't want one of you out of my sight from now on. Jack is with father. They went out to go to the market. Father has been helping a lot here. He has given the hospital all sorts of things that were badly needed. The Princess will send him in as soon as she comes. Isn't it like a fairy tale to think that we had little Rika all the time?"

"I wish you would begin at the beginning and tell me all that happened after you were arrested," said Warren. "I have had such a lot of scraps."

"All right," said Evelyn. She looked down at the little sister in her arms. "See," she said, "she has gone to sleep. The darling is exhausted."

Warren looked grave. "She has had the worst experience of all," he said. "We won't know for a good while just what she has undergone. I would not want to question her. It will have to come out in bits. And I think the baby will be a good thing after all. It will help occupy Elinor's attention and make her forget. Yes, we have got to get out of here as soon as we can on her account. Now go on."

Evelyn cuddled the sleeping child more closely, and commencing at the moment when the soldiers broke down the door, she told her brother the thrilling and almost unbelievable story of their adventure. Finally she reached the end. Warren had made no comments, but the stern and anxious expression of his face betrayed his feelings. Evelyn paused.

"And to think that I was right on the other side of that door when you were crying yesterday! Poor little sister, I hope you will never, never have to cry for me again."

There was a sound of rapid steps at the door. It was flung open and Jack rushed in, closely followed by the Professor.

Trouble and danger and separation change our viewpoint. There had been a time not long past when Warren regarded any demonstration of affection as unmanly, but now he found himself in his father's arms and only too glad to be there.



CHAPTER XII

OVER THE SEA

Evelyn had told the truth. Professor Morris was a changed man. For the first time in all his orderly humdrum student existence, he had had to face war and death and murder, and all the crimes that stalk through a land at such times.

It had accomplished what all the arguments, all the lecturing, all the entreaties in the world would never have accomplished. Professor Morris had been shaken out of himself. There had been sleepless nights when his life had looked very poor and thin and useless. What was his book, a dry thing of many pages, when he compared it to the needs of the dear children who had been so loyal and so true to him? It came to him that culture may be made as selfish and as harmful as any vice there is.

But Benjamin Morris was, after all, a man; and late as it was, it was not too late for him to humbly resolve to be a better father, and a more valuable citizen. And he kept his word.

Presently Ivan returned. The boy had purposely kept away until the reunited family had had time to talk everything all over. When he entered, Professor Morris sat looking at him, with his eyes narrowed and a puzzled look on his face. Evelyn knew that look, and wondered what was passing in her father's mind. He sat quite silent, and after a little left the room. When he returned, he brought the Princess Olga, who was leading the little Rika as though she dared not leave her out of her sight.

"We have been talking things over," said Princess Olga. "Of course the only reasonable thing for Professor Morris to do is to return to America without delay. He has no right to remain here and possibly endanger the lives of so many young people, and there is nothing that he can do for us. Some day we will want help, and then we know that yon will all come to our aid. Ivan, we have been talking it all over with my husband, the Prince, and we have decided that the best thing for you to do is to go also. Wait," she said as Ivan shook his head. "My boy, our country is in ruins. Your father is at the front, we know not where. You can not serve him by remaining here where you are, every moment in danger of being arrested and held as a prisoner or worse. Your estates are in ruins; but not withstanding, you are, after your father, the head of your house. You owe to Poland the one thing you can now do for her. You must preserve and safeguard your life. And you must go to the University where Professor Morris is such an eminent instructor. You must learn statesmanship. Some day, Ivan, Poland will need you. What chance have you here now in this stricken land?

"I want you to go, Ivan. We will take the responsibility. And I want you to take these jewels, and use them for your expenses and education!" She held out a glittering handful of priceless gems.

"No," said Professor Morris firmly. "Princess, you will need all you have. It happens that I have plenty of money, and we live very simply, so there is enough and to spare for the two children we hope to take with us."

"Two?" said the Princess.

"The baby, " said the Professor. "I confess the needs of an infant seem too complex and difficult for me to cope with, but my daughter entertains no fears, and insists upon taking the little fellow with us."

"It's a girl, father," corrected Evelyn.

"Ah, yes," said the Professor, bowing. "I believe you did say that he is a girl."

"I have told him at least a dozen times," said Evelyn in a whisper to Warren.

"I suppose we have got to take her along, no matter what he is," Warren whispered back.

"However," said the Professor, glancing reprovingly at the children, "there is plenty of money, in reason, and if Ivan prefers, we will keep an account of his educational expenses, and at some future date he can repay what I shall deem necessary to expend for him."

"That is better," said the Princess. She turned to Ivan

"You will go, Ivan."

"Yes," said Ivan. Then sadly, "But I wish I could see my father."

"It is indeed hard," said the Princess. "We feel that he must be unhurt however, and I know that he will be so relieved, and glad to know that you are in a place of safety. So that is settled." She smiled.

"Now there is one more thing to be done. I have here a permit from the General in charge of the city. It gives us safe conduct on the roads to Warsaw and return, to get the baby. I have arranged for one of the nurses to go with the new chauffeur and Warren. I will take part of her duties, and Evelyn may assist me. She will get the baby and bring it here to us. They can go tonight, and return tomorrow. All will then be ready for your departure, if in the meantime Professor Morris can arrange to get your passports and your sailing privileges."

"It sounds easy," said Warren to Evelyn. "When do you suppose we will start?"

"As soon as the car is ready," said the Princess. "Get wraps for yourself, Warren. The nurse is ready, and she has everything needful for the baby."

"Oh, Warren, be careful, begged Evelyn. I declare I have half a mind to go with you!"

Warren laughed. "I have a whole mind that you will not!" he said, patting her shoulder. "You stay right here and don't go out of the place, and keep father and Ivan and Elinor where you can see them all the time. And if we are not back by noon tomorrow, don't begin to worry. Just lay our delay to a puncture or something of that sort. We won't be molested. The paper from the General is as good as a regiment of men. You had better believe that no one would dare hurt us, or even detain us while I have that to show them."

"Well, be careful just the same," begged Evelyn.

"I surely will," promised Warren.

Everything went as smoothly as Warren had anticipated. The trip to Warsaw was without a hitch. Again and again they were stopped by soldiers, and each time the paper from the Commanding General acted like magic. Indeed, they were more than once assisted on their way, or directed to short cuts. In Warsaw it was the same. Warren, however, avoided that part of the city where he thought he might come in contact with Captain Handel, and driving by another route, approached the house of the neighbor who had so kindly taken care of the homeless little waif. The child was safe and well, having suffered less than they had feared from its terrible experience. With a thousand thanks and promises to write, Warren left the good, motherly woman and started on the return trip.

They slept at an obscure little village that night in peace. The town had been overlooked in the tempest of war, and was untouched.

At the inn they found good food and plenty of it. In the morning, when they started, they found every available part of the car crammed with offerings for the wounded soldiers. The chauffeur had spent a busy evening talking to the horrified villagers and it is to be believed that the terrors he had witnessed in Lodz and elsewhere did not lose in the telling. So there were all sorts of offerings for the wounded; bread and dried fish and cheese; and money, sometimes gold, sometimes a single kopek wrapped in scraps of paper, written over with heartfelt prayers of pity. There was scarcely room for the passengers to crowd in the car.

Warren took the wheel, and the chauffeur, still the hero of the occasion, stood on the running board and waved his cap and called his farewells as long as they were in sight.

The baby slept most of the time. It was a good baby, and Warren began to regard it with less distrust. They reached Lodz without accident and as they drew up at the palace, now only a hospital, Warren's watch stood at twelve. It had been a wonderful trip.

Everything was going well. The Prince was stronger, and his wife, the beautiful Princess, was smiling happily.

All that day and the next the Professor and the three boys went from office to office and back again to the army headquarters, getting the necessary papers.

It was a difficult matter to get everything adjusted, but finally it was done, and there was no longer any reason for them to remain.

They said good-bye to the Princess and her children, and at last started on the journey home.

It was a time to be remembered as long as they lived. All of Europe was plunged in gloom. Even the neutral countries they touched or crossed in their roundabout way were oppressed by such sorrow that it was almost as bad as war.

Reaching a seaport at last, they secured passage on a slow American boat, and it was not until they watched the shore receding from their view that they actually believed that they were on the way home.

"Just the things we have seen coming over from Lodz would fill a book," said Warren to the group at the rail.

"I wouldn't want to read it," said Jack, shuddering.

"Nor I!" said Evelyn. "Oh, boys, you don't know how funny you look in the clothes you have on!"

"What's the matter with my clothes?" said Warren, looking down at the very short trousers and very long coat he was wearing. "I don't see but what I am all right, but doesn't Jack look cuty-cute? Kind of Lord Fauntleroy effect!"

Everyone stared at Jack, who looked himself over in surprise. "It is all they had at that store we went to that would fit me. I try to turn those pants up, but they keep coming down." Everyone laughed as Jack stooped and once more tried to turn up the loose trousers which enveloped his slim legs. Left to themselves, they reached half way to his ankles, so Jack, who was used to knickerbockers, had carefully rolled them to his knee. The result was that most of the time one leg or the other hung dismally down its full length. His jacket was a short roundabout, something like an Eton jacket, and his shirt was soft and frilled.

"I don't see why we didn't just wear the things we had on," he complained.

"I guess not!" said Warren. "Those work clothes? Why, Jack, see how dressy we are now! We look like somebody; a bunch of 'em! We have got sample clothes from half the countries in Europe. See how neutral that makes us! Take yourself, Jack. Your feet are Polish, and your pants are German, and the top of you looks Dutch. Is it?"

"My cap came from home," said Jack furiously, "and so did my face! The minute we get out here a way, I am going to yell Hurrah for America as loud as ever I can."

"Wow!" said Warren. "Excuse me, Jack, old fellow, I didn't mean to be disrespectful. We are all in the same fix as far as clothes go. Even Evelyn looks a little queer. 'All the world is a little queer,' he quoted, 'and thee is a little queer.'"

Safe on board ship, our party found that they were utterly tired out. They slept hour after hour; they were furiously hungry. The days went swiftly, without accident. Professor Morris, true to his new resolutions, spent a great part of each day with his children, and they found him a most delightful and amusing companion. He developed an alarming fondness for the baby, which he persisted in calling "him." He was fond of holding the quiet little creature, but after one of his lapses into the forgetfulness of the past, he happened to think of something he wanted to do so he laid his newspaper in Evelyn's lap, and before she could stop him placed the baby firmly in a waste paper box head down.

After that Evelyn watched him. They had brought a young refugee with them as nurse for the baby, so Evelyn was not burdened with too much care.

The boys played games and made plans and wrote letters. Ivan commenced a diary. He said he would never be able to remember every single thing that was happening, and going to happen, and he didn't want to forget it. Warren planned to have an evening with the home Scouts and tell them all that had occurred.

"And you will be Exhibit A," he declared, clapping Ivan on the shoulder.

The voyage drew to an end, as all fortunate voyages will. The last night came clear and fine. There was a stir of joyful anticipation on the great ship. Everybody packed up what trifles they had been able to bring away with them. Everybody talked and exchanged addresses and said good-bye. The day of landing is always too, full and confused for anything of that sort. Once more the Professor's manuscript seemed to him to be a thing of value. He picked it up and put it down a thousand times. It was a relief to everyone when the hour grew so late that even the most restless turned in, and went to sleep or at least tried to.

At gray dawn Ivan was aroused by Warren shaking him.

"Get up, Ivan, get up!" he cried. "I can see it!" The boy was shaking violently, and his teeth chattered.

"What ails you?" said Ivan, speaking in Polish. "See what?"

Warren answered in English. "America. Home, the little old United States!" A dry sob choked him. "Oh!" he said, "I didn't know I felt like this! Hurry up, old Scout! Dress and let's get out!"

Voices sounded through the ship; people stirred and hurried with their dressing. It was as though a shock of electricity had stirred them. Certainly there had been no spoken call.

As the boys hurried to the deck, the risen sun, a ball of gold, blazed like a celestial blessing, a flood of glory on the marvelous shore line ahead. Warren rushed forward.

But Ivan, without a look, turned and made his solitary way to the stern of the ship, and there, all alone, looked away over the empty sea.

For long he gazed. His eyes were filled with tears.

"Good-bye, my father," he said. "Good-bye, my country. I will come back to you." He flung his hand out in a passionate gesture of farewell. Then with a last look, Prince Ivan, homeless, countryless, and fatherless, slowly turned, and, the boy Ivan went soberly to join Warren, who, crazy with joy, hung yelling over the rail at the prow.

Before them, like the vision of an enchanted land, rose the wonderful shore line of the harbor; and before them, nearer and nearer, clearer and clearer, the Statue of Liberty, wise, strong, majestic, with the only true majesty of earth on her beautiful brow, the majesty of Freedom and of Truth.

They had reached America.

THE END

Previous Part     1  2  3
Home - Random Browse