The Boy Scouts in Front of Warsaw
Or In the Wake of War
Boy Scout Series Volume 20
By Colonel George Durston
It was the fifth of August. Warsaw the brilliant, Warsaw the Beautiful, the best beloved of her adoring people, had fallen. Torn by bombs, wrecked by great shells, devastated by hordes of alien invaders, she lay in ruins.
Her people, despairing, seemed for the greater part to have vanished in the two days since the fatal third of August when the city was taken.
Many of the wealthiest of her citizens had taken refuge in the lower part of the city, leaving their magnificent palaces and residences situated in the newer part to the flood of invading soldiers, who went with unerring directness to the parts containing the greatest comfort and luxury.
Warsaw is built in the midst of a beautiful plain mostly on the left bank of the river Vistula. All the main part of the city lies close to the river, and the streets are so twisted and crooked that it is almost impossible to picture them. They wriggle here and there like snakes of streets. The houses, of course, are very old, and with their heavy barred doors and solid shutters, look very strange and inhospitable.
People, in a way, become like their surroundings. Here in these twisted, narrow streets are to be found the narrow, twisted souls of the worst element in Poland; but the worst of them love their country as perhaps no other people do. To the last man and to the frailest woman, they are loyal to Poland. For them, it is Poland first, last and always.
In these low and twisted streets, the devastation was greatest and the people had scurried like rats to cover. A week before they had swarmed the streets and crowded the buildings. Now by some miracle they had gone, utterly disappeared. The houses were deserted, the streets empty. The destruction had been greatest in these crowded places, but many of the beautiful public buildings and state departments in the new part were also in ruins, as well as a number of matchless palaces.
The people from the upper part of the city who had taken refuge in the holes along the river front, were for the most part a strange appearing lot. Some of them carried great bundles which they guarded with jealous care. Others, empty handed, sat and shivered through the summer night-chills that blew from the river. Scores of little children clung to their mother's hands, or wandered trembling and screaming from group to group, seeking their own people.
There was a general gathering of types. Nobles mixed with the poorest, meanest and most criminal classes, and mingled with their common sorrow. For the most part a dumbness, a silence prevailed. The shock of the national disaster had bereft the people of their powers of expression.
Since 1770, Poland had been torn and racked by foes on every hand. Prussia, Austria and Russia envied her wealth, courage, and her fertile plains. Little by little her enemies had pressed across her shrinking borders, wet with the blood of her patriot sons. Little by little she had lost her cherished land until the day of doom August third, 1915.
Sitting, hiding in their desolated city, the people of Poland knew that theirs was a country no longer on the map. Russia, Austria and Prussia at least had met. There was no longer any Poland. For generations there had been no Polish language; it was forbidden by her oppressors. Now the country itself was swallowed up. No longer on the changing map of the world had she any place.
But in the hearts of her people Poland lives. With the most perfect loyalty and love in the world, they say, "We are Poland. We live and die for her."
A gray haze hung over Warsaw. The streets, after the roar of great guns, the bursting of shells, and the cries of thousands of people rushing blindly to safety, seemed silent and deserted. The hated enemy held the town, and the people of Warsaw, most hapless city of all history, cowered beneath the iron hand of the enemy.
As is usual in the fearful lull after such a victory, the town was filled with dangers of the most horrible sort. Murder, crime of every kind, lawlessness in every guise, stalked through the streets or lurked down the narrow, dark and twisted alleys. The unfortunate citizens who had not retreated in time hid, when they could, in all sorts of strange places. They gathered in trembling, whispering groups, into garrets and cellars; even the vaults in the catacombs, the old burial place of the dead, were opened by desperate fugitives, and became hiding places for the living.
The soldiers were in possession of all the uninjured residences in the more modern portion of the city, where they reveled in the comforts of modern baths, lights and heat. But the lower part of the city, lying along the left bank of the river Vistula, was filled with a strange mixture of terrified people. In all the throngs, huddled in streets and alleys, storehouses and ware-rooms, there was perhaps no stranger group than the one gathered in a dark corner of a great building where machinery of some sort had been manufactured.
This had, strangely enough, escaped destruction and stood unharmed in a street where everything bore the scars of shells or bombs.
The engines were stopped; the great wheels motionless; the broad belts sagged hopelessly. Even the machinery seemed to feel the terrible blow and mourned the fallen city.
The persons huddled in the shadow of a vast wheel, however, gave little heed to their strange surroundings. They seemed crushed by a frightful grief more personal even than the taking of Warsaw would cause in the most loyal heart.
In the center of the group a boy of fourteen or fifteen years stood talking excitedly. He was tall, dark as an Italian, and dressed with the greatest richness. Two rings set with great jewels flashed on his hand and while he spoke, he tapped his polished boot with a small cane in the end of which was set a huge, sparkling red stone. He spoke with great rapidity, in the pure Russian of the Court, and addressed himself to an elderly man who sat drooping in an attitude of hopeless sorrow.
Near them sat a plainly dressed woman who buried her stained face in her apron, and wept the hard sobs of those who can scarcely weep more. A young girl clung to her, silent but with beautiful dark eyes wild with terror and loss. On the floor lay a wounded soldier, bearing in perfect silence the frightful pain of a shattered shoulder. His only bandage was a piece of cloth wound tightly around his coat, but not a groan escaped his pale lips. At the window, gazing down into the wrecked street, stood a tall boy of perhaps fifteen years. His face was bloodless; his strong mouth was set in a straight line; the hand resting on the window sill was clenched until the knuckles shone white through the tanned skin. Desperation, horror, and grief struggled equally in his face. His left arm encircled a boy nearly his own size. He, like the woman, sobbed brokenly, and the taller boy patted him as he listened to the rapid words of the boy who was talking.
Suddenly the elderly man spoke.
"You must pardon me, Ivanovich," he said in a trembling voice. "I do not seen to comprehend. Will you kindly repeat your account?"
A flash of anger passed over the face of the young nobleman; then he spoke courteously.
"Certainly, Professor! It was thus. You remember, don't you, that I came to your house as usual, five days ago, for my lessons in English? And you know the sudden bombardment, so close to the city, was so terrible that you would not let me go home? Good! Then you understand all, up to this morning. You know we had watched all night with the doors barricaded, and we decided it was too unsafe to remain longer in the direct path of those brutal soldiers. So we prepared to come here, to one of my father's buildings where there is a chute and an underground storeroom where we could be safe.
"You send me for this cloak and when I returned, what did I find in the room where I had left everyone of the household gathered ready for the flight? The room was empty. I had been upstairs perhaps ten minutes because I could not find my cloak, and there was the room empty. Sir, I was furious at you for leaving me. I am in your charge; I am a Prince; yet you left me —"
The tall boy turned from the window and spoke.
"Never mind that, Ivan," he said. "Just cut that all out and hustle to the part you haven't told." Although he spoke English, while Ivan told his story in Russian, the boys understood each other perfectly for with a frown and quick glance, the boy Ivan nodded and continued.
"I stood for a while and listened but heard nothing. Then I went through the other rooms on the floor, and all were empty. I decided to get to the warehouse alone if I could, and crept to the door. I drew back hastily. A horrible old woman squatted on the step. She was watching over two great sacks full, no doubt, of valuables stolen from your house and others. As I looked, two men came up. Criminals, they looked, and I scarcely breathed. Presently they went away, the men throwing the sacks over their shoulders, and the woman dragging a jeweled Icon in her hand.
"I heard footsteps behind me, and there you were coming down the stairs. You had that package in your hands, and you said, 'Just think, I nearly forgot my book, Ivan; my great book on the history of Warsaw, now so nearly finished.'
"You asked where the others were, and you said they had thought it wise to go in two parties. You said they had told you to be very careful of something; you couldn't very well remember just what, but it made you remember your book in your and you hurried to save it. So we hurried out, and managed to escape the soldiers, and get here and then everyone cried out, 'Where are the children?'"
"When I went to get my book," said the Professor, with a groan, "they were sitting quiet as mice by the stove, holding each other's hands. How could they have gone off?"
The woman looked up. "They could not go," she said. "I myself slid the great latch on the door; they could not lift it. I have seen Elinor try to do so. The little stranger was much too small. The Germans have them, I am sure of it." She bowed her head with fresh sobs.
"There were no Germans about," said Ivan. "No soldiers of any sort; no one at all save the three of whom I spoke and they certainly did not take them away."
"Certainly not!" said Professor Morris, frowning. "They must have gone out and wandered off while I was after my book, although I distinctly told Elinor not to stir from her seat. I have always endeavored to teach my children absolute obedience. I am surprised at Elinor. She understood. She is six years of age, and she said, "Yes, father." This is a terrible thing; but they will be found. I will report at once to the military authorities. I am convinced that they are safe. Someone will take them in just as we took in the strange child whom we found at the door. That child, as you know, is a noble, yet she was lost. These are war times. People are glad to return lost children. They do not want them. Now if I had forgotten my book, it might have been burned; three years of effort in this city wasted and lost forever! I will hide the manuscript in the underground room you told of, Ivan, then we will go to the proper authorities, and get the children."
"Bah!" said the soldier with the broken shoulder suddenly. "Go where thou wilt these days there is no authority save the authority of brute might. Will that help thee?"
"We must find them," said the Professor brokenly. The seriousness of the affair was beginning to dawn on him. "It will certainly be simple. We will advertise."
The girl at his side smiled. "Advertise?" she said. "Why, father, there are no papers left to advertise in."
"Ivan," said the tall boy at the window, "did you hear what the three people at the door were talking about? What did they say? The people you said looked like thieves."
"Yes, they talked," said Ivan, "but it did not seem to mean much. I didn't get much from it anyway."
"Try to think what they said," said the boy. He passed a hand carefully across the bright fairness of his hair where a dark red streak stained it. "Can't you remember anything they said?"
Ivan stood thinking, the jeweled cane still tapping his boot. "Yes," he said, "when the men came up, they said, 'What have you?' The woman laughed — evilly, and said, 'All the wine we can drink, and all the bread we can eat, and all the fire we burn for years and years.'"
"The man who had spoken said 'Jewels,' and rubbed his hands. 'That is indeed good! Jewels fit for a king!"
"The woman said, "Jewels now, thou fool! Where can one sell jewels these days when one cannot cross the border, and when the world cracks? No one wants jewels!"
"'Then what?' said the man.
"'Oh, stupid!' said the woman. 'Pick up my sacks carefully and be off."
"Then the other man who had already picked up the larger sack, laughed. 'Better than rubies," he said. 'You are always wise, my woman!"
"And then the other man picked up the other sack and he laughed too, and the woman held hand to them and whined, 'Please give me some money for these poor little refugees are starving!'
"At that they all roared, and hurried on."
Ivan paused. "That was all they said," he added. "It doesn't help, does it?"
The girl Evelyn leaned forward. "Say it again, Ivan," she said excitedly. "Say just what the woman said"
Ivan, repeated the words.
Evelyn whispered them after him. Then a wild cry broke from her lips. She turned to her father who sat holding the package containing the fatal manuscript. She seized his arm and shook him. So great was her emotion that she could not say the words she wanted.
"Father, father, don't you see it now!" she cried. "Oh, oh, father! Oh, what shall we do? Oh, my darling little sister!" she gasped, and the tall boy ran forward and seized her hands.
"Control yourself, Evelyn," he cried. "I never saw you act like this. Tell me what it is."
She looked at him quite speechless. The agony of all that she had witnessed, the terror of the past week, the fright of losing her precious little sister scarcely more than a baby, the blindness of her father, all had combined to send her into state scarcely better than insanity. With a desperate effort to control, herself, she looked into her brother's eyes.
"You see, don't you, Warren?" she begged. "You can't seem to be able say it.
Say you see it too, Warren!"
Then as if she had found some way of giving him her message of doom, she drooped against brother's strong shoulder and fainted quietly away. Warren laid her down, and the governess rushed to her.
"Is she dead?" asked Warren.
"Certainly not," said the woman; "she has fainted."
"What did she try to tell you?" cried Ivan. "Was it something I said?"
"Yes, you told her," said Warren, "and she read it right. I know she is right."
"Well, well, what is it?" demanded the Professor. "This is fearfully upsetting, fearfully upsetting!"
Warren bent tenderly above his sister. She was regaining consciousness.
"It is about as bad as it can be," he said hesitatingly. "The remark about refugees told the whole thing. Our little sister was in one of those sacks, gagged or unconscious. They have been stolen to be used and brought up as beggars."
A deep silence followed. The governess covered her eyes. The wounded soldier slowly shook his head. Professor Morris, Ivan and jack stood with bulging eyes staring at Warren, trying to make themselves understand his speech. Ivan, who knew more of the ways of the half barbaric people of Poland and Russia, nodded his head understandingly. Jack stood with open mouth. The Professor rumpled his hair, though deeply, and laughed.
"Now what would they do that for!" he asked sarcastically. "That sort of thing is not done nowadays."
"Not in the best families," said Warren coldly. "But it is done, I'll bet."
"Oh, yes, it's done," said Ivan, "all the time. I know my father talked a lot about it just before the commencement of the war. He was going to try to stamp out a lot of that sort of thing, especially what affected the women and children. Yes, it is done, Professor."
"Not now," said the Professor stubbornly. "There was recorded a case of that sort in 1793, and even later in the early sixties. Later, there are no records at all bearing on the subject. And if no records, surely there are no instances requiring the attention of thinking people.
"It would be most natural to record any instance of the sort, however small and trifling. In my researches I would have run across the facts. There is no mention of it whatever."
"I know it happens anyhow," said Ivan, sticking to his point.
"Ivan, you forget that I am in a position to know," said the Professor. "My researches have led me, thanks to the presentations of your father and many others, into secret records never before opened to outsiders of any race. I regret the stand you take with me. I am unused to contradiction."
"Pardon me," said Ivan wearily. He looked at Warren. In the minds of both boys there was a feeling that the mystery was solved. There was no longer any need to discuss it. A little search around the house would show if the children were there; after that it meant that Evelyn was right.
"Well, Ivan's right," said Warren doggedly. "It doesn't matter what you have found in your researches, father; you have had those dry old records to prove everything to you. I have heard the people tell stories that would make your hair curl. They not only steal children, but sometimes they cripple them, just as they did hundreds of years ago in England. Why do you suppose boys like Ivan here are watched every second? Sometimes they take them for revenge, but when they are gone, they are gone. You can't go out with a wad of bills and stick it under the park fence, and go back and find your child on the front stoop like you can at home."
The Search Begun
"Impossible!" said the Professor. "Impossible, Warren! It surprises me that you should harbor such wild and impracticable ideas."
"It makes sound sense, dad," said Warren sadly. "Europe has been full of beggars from the beginning of time. And soon, after the war is over, there will be thousands of sightseers flooding the continent. What could be more practical from the standpoint of such people as the ones described by Ivan than to secure two beautiful little children like our Elinor and the strange child that wandered to our doors? They would indeed mean 'drink and money and fire.'" He stopped and for a moment looked reproachfully at his father. "Oh, father, father," he cried, "see what your dreadful forgetfulness has done! How will you ever forgive yourself when you think of the misery and suffering you have brought on your darling! I can scarcely forgive you."
Professor Morris sat with bowed head.
"My son," he said brokenly, "I can not forgive myself. I do not know what to do. I confess I did indeed leave the children. I thought of my book. I thought they were safe - and my book - Warren, surely you do not blame me for getting my book?" He spoke tenderly, even lovingly, and clasped the bulky parcel to his breast.
"No, I do not blame you for anything, father, knowing you as well as I do. It is a terrible thing, but we will find her, our precious darling, if we spend our lives hunting." He turned to his sister and brother. "Won't we?" he said.
They did not reply, but gazed at him with looks that were more than promises.
"Well," he continued, "I guess my boyhood is over now. My work is cut out for me. Come on, Ivan, come Jack, let's get going!"
"What do you think you are going to do, Ivanovich?" asked the wounded soldier. Like all his class, generations of submission made him ignore as much as possible all save the one noble. All his attention was given to Ivan, the young Prince.
"Be careful, Ivanovich," he urged. "It is not possible for you to go forth in the clothes you wear. There is danger lurking abroad for the high born."
Ivan shrugged his fearless shoulders. "They would not dare to harm me," he answered.
"He's right. Those clothes won't do," said Warren decidedly. "We don't know where we are going, nor whom we may meet. Where can we find something rough for you to wear?"
"Down below are the workmen's extra blouses," said the soldier. "When I worked here, the room was kept locked, but you might perhaps force the door. There are blouses and rough shoes there. But I tremble; I tremble!" He suddenly lapsed into Polish. "Let these Americans go, Prince," he begged. "Harm never come to them. They go always as though they wore a charm. Poland shall yet rise, my Prince. From these ashes she shall arise more beautiful than ever. She will need you then."
Ivan listened with flashing eyes. "I shall be here," he said simply. "I shall be here, I shall answer when she calls, but in the meantime shall it be said that in Poland, even in her darkest hour, children were stolen for such evil purposes? Never, never!" He turned to Warren. "For a year now," he said, "we have been organizing these Boy Scouts that you have so many of in America. Let us pass the word to them. If little Elinor and the stranger are to be found, surely they will find them. My rank has always hampered me, but even then I know that boys will go where no others can penetrate. What do you think?"
"It's the dandiest idea I ever heard!" exclaimed Warren, his face lighting. "We will have to depend on passing the word to them as we find them here and there, but it's the only thing to do, so let's go to it."
"First the workman's clothes," said Ivan.
"Assuredly!" exclaimed the Professor. "Let us disguise ourselves and go forth. I know that we will find the dear children playing near the corner."
"Father, you must stay here," said Warren, determination in his voice.
"Of course not; of course not!" said the Professor. "Do you expect me to sit idly here while my youngest child needs my protection?"
A smile as sad as tears crossed Evelyn's pale face. "You must stay here, father," she said. "You would certainly get lost, and then we would have to hunt for you. It has happened so before, you know."
"That was very different," said the Professor. "A man uses all his powers of concentration at times, and if it has happened that I have occasionally been so intent on my studies of Warsaw's past history that I have for the time forgotten my surroundings, it is scarcely to be wondered at. The present occasion is different. You will need a man, with a man's wisdom, and a man's ability to act quickly. I must go; I am ready."
Warren, knowing his father's stubbornness, hesitated. Catching his sister's eye, she shook her head slightly. Professor Morris was scrambling to his feet, still clasping his book.
Warren led his father around the narrow aisle that ran between the great machines, until they were alone. Then he spoke.
"Father," he said, "you cannot go. Today has made a man of me. I am sorry, father, but we children are the ones who are always the victims of your forgetfulness, and we have suffered many times before today. This is the worst of all. Perhaps we shall never see our little Elinor again; and I am the one who promised mother when she died that I would always look out for her. It is my fault that she is lost. I should have known better than to have left her with you, but I meant to see the others safely here, and get back before you started.
"I know you, father; you mean to do the right thing by us always, but I certainly don't know what would happen if we did not look out for you as well as ourselves." His voice trembled. "I know this does not sound like proper talk from a boy to his father; but I've got to say it for once. I promise that I'll never speak so to you again, but I'm going to get it out of my system this time. Since I can remember we have been looking out for you. We have had to take care of you and help you remember your meal times, and your rubbers, and your hat, and overcoat and gloves and necktie. We have had to see that you went to bed, and ate and got up and everything else. And all because of books. It makes you sore at me because I hate them. I ought to hate them! Your writing and reading and studying have been the curse of our lives. I tell you, father, it has been just as bad as any other bad habit or appetite. Why, when you are reading up for some article or digging into some musty old work, you are dead to everything else. And we have had to suffer for it. Do you think any other man you know would have left those children a minute in a time like this?"
He paused and once more pressed a hand carefully on the red stain across his fair hair.
"Oh, you must forgive me for talking so, dad, but I'm pretty sore. Little Elinor —" He turned sharply, and hurried away to Ivan. The three boys hurried down the steep stairs and disappeared. Professor Morris for a moment, a long, dazed moment, stood looking blankly at the dark doorway through which his son had disappeared. Then he sank weakly down on a bench.
As a boy and as a man, he had been noted for his ability to memorize remarks.
In college the worst of the lectures, no matter how dry, had been all imprinted on his mind. Now as he sat thinking, he could fairly see his son's accusing words like large print before his eyes.
For once in his life Benjamin Morris had heard the plain truth from the lips of his favorite son. Yet he did not realize the seriousness of his son's charge. He had heard the words, but their real meaning did not seem to pierce his brain, so filled with knowledge that there was no room there for any interest in the living, or any thought that the present, the passing moment in which we make our little life history, is more precious to each of us then the great moments of the past, no matter how filled they may be with heroic figures.
Benjamin Morris had been long years ago an infant Prodigy. Perhaps you fellows who read this have never known one; and if so, you are lucky. An infant Prodigy shows an unnatural amount of intelligence at a very early age. So far it is all right; and if he belongs to a sensible family, he is urged into athletics, and sleeps out of door and manages to grow up so he will pass in a crowd. But sometimes there are proud parents who read too many books on how to train a child, and pay too little attention to the child himself; and there are aunts, perhaps, as well; and they all take the poor little genius and proceed to train him all out of shape. He rattles off all sorts of pieces, Horatio at the Bridge, and Casabianca, and Anthony's Oration Over Caesar, are easy as pancakes and syrup to him. Then he skips whole grades in school and plows through college like a mole under a rose bush, enjoying himself immensely, no doubt, down there in the dark, but missing all the benefit of the light and air and sunshine. So the infant Prodigy gets to be a grown Prodigy, and presently an old Prodigy, never once suspecting that knowledge, hurtfully taken and wrongfully used, can be almost as great a sin as ignorance.
Certainly Professor Morris, whose sins of learning were heavy ones and bore cruelly on those who loved him in spite of his strange ways, would never have believed any of this. At home, as a boy, when Benny studied, the house was kept so still that incautious mice sometimes came out of their holes and nibbled in broad daylight. At college his queerness, forgetfulness and oddity was excused because of his wonderful recitations and amazing marks. You just couldn't rag a fellow who made one hundred right along. When he married, he found a lovely, gentle girl, who believed him the greatest of all men and held his position as Professor of Ancient History in Princeton as the highest of all earthly positions. But when Elinor was a year old, the little wife died, quite worn out from looking after Professor Benjamin Mollingfort Morris, who had proved to be her most helpless and troublesome child.
Mrs. Morris died warning her older children to look out for the father, and so passed her burden on to them. But some way or other, there was different stuff in the children. They did look after their father, and took good care of the old Prodigy, but the task did not wear them out. Young Jack was indeed so bright that it rather worried Evelyn and Warren, who were always on the alert to overcome any symptoms of genius in themselves or the other children; but owing to their caution, he seemed to be developing well. And Professor Morris, blind to it all, forever digging in the dust of ages, knew nothing of the fact that he was the father of four wonderful children who were successfully carrying on the difficult business of growing up, managing a house, taking care of a parent, and looking after money matters as well.
Warren was the soul of honor. He hated school, but went without a skip, because it was right. And that's a hard thing to do. He looked clean, and was clean, and thought clean. And that's hard, too.
Professor Morris, sitting in his study feverishly seeking facts concerning the table manners of Noah's second cousin twice removed, was deaf and dumb and blind. Yet when he occasionally "came up for air" as Warren put it, the children thought him the finest and funniest and kindest of fathers. It was at one of these times that he came home with the news that he had been given a vacation for three years with full pay. This was to make it possible for him to go to Warsaw, and write an account of some parts of the city's history of which rather little was known.
Warren and Evelyn, who had read "Thaddeus of Warsaw" were wild with delight. It was a glorious journey and, on shipboard at least, it was easy to keep track of the Professor, who had found a very learned Englishman who disagreed with him on every known point. The two old men hurried to find each other each morning, and were dragged apart at night; and the children had time to enjoy the voyage and make many friends. In Warsaw, which they reached safely, they took a house near the magnificent Casimr Palace which now houses the University. Professor Morris did find time to secure fine teachers for the children, and reliable servants for the house. Warren, who always boiled with activity, soon made scores of pals, and immediately introduced the Boy Scouts to Poland.
The young Polish and Russian boys took up the work with the greatest enthusiasm, and time slipped happily away, until war swept the continent. Professor Morris refused to believe in its nearness until it was too late to escape, and they were forced to remain until the day when Warsaw fell. Now Warsaw, beautiful and proud, Warsaw the brilliant lay in ruins. Professor Morris, sitting humped over on the rude bench, thought of the wonderful chance that had brought him were history, tragic and important, was being made. He did not worry greatly over the disappearance of Elinor. He remembered several times in Princeton when she had disappeared. Once they found her under a bed. He wondered whether anyone had looked under the beds in the forsaken house. The terrible idea that his baby girl might be actually lost in the terrible disaster of Warsaw's defeat never once occurred to him. He was annoyed a little at the disturbance she had caused, and resolved to speak very severely to her.
He determined also to reprove Warren for his words; but reflecting on the terrors and excitement and peril of the past hours, he decided to treat it as a little boyish impatience, and overlook the whole thing.
As for his going back to find Elinor, he supposed it would really be a waste of time. Warren would be perfectly able to find her; so he pushed the bench against the wall, snapped a pad from his pocket, was soon lost in pages and pages of notes on the events of the week.
But down in the clothes room while Ivan hastily took off his rich garments and fitted himself with rough work clothes from the shelves, Warren Morris walked the floor and groaned.
"Don't' take it like that, Warren," said Ivan, pausing to place a sympathetic hand on his friend's shoulder.
"It is awful!" groaned Warren. "She is so little, and so easily frightened. I believe it will kill her."
"No, it won't," said Ivan. "There is no coward's blood in Elinor. Wherever she is, she will know we will find her sooner or later. She will be looking out for us every minute. And no one will hurt her. You know people don't take the trouble to drag children off just to kill them. If the three I saw took those girls, they will be careful enough of them, you may be sure. I would rather have them there than with soldiers. The only thing I am hoping is that we can trace them before they leave the city. But I don't believe anyone, even with the best credentials, can get away for the next few days."
"If we had anything for a clue," said Warren. "Can't you even remember what they looked like?"
"Not particularly," said Ivan regretfully. "I would know them if I should see them again. One of the men had a very peculiar walk, but I couldn't describe it to you. It wasn't a limp; just a queer way of using his feet. I don't know whether I would know the woman or not. She looked like hundreds of the sort I have seen down in the open markets, some of them looking a little more so and some less."
"How more so?" asked Warren.
"Why, perhaps fatter, or thinner, or dirtier, but all lawless and no account. I tell you, Warren," he said earnestly, "when I get to be a man, if our house is still in power then, I shall spend my time cleaning up the streets and people of Warsaw. Those old holes and rookeries down by the river, and the streets leading to the wharves have got to be cleaned out or wiped out."
"Better not let my father hear you," said Warren. "He would tell you that all that section is historic, and therefore valuable."
"Perhaps it has been," said Ivan. "But we can always refer to your father's great book on Warsaw, and what the world needs now is light and space and air."
"Well," sighed Warren, "perhaps the book will help some college grind, but if he had let the old thing slide, he would never have lost my sister."
"I do think that we ought to look at it a little from your father's standpoint," said Ivan gently. "You know the children were in the house and the door shut. They were playing contentedly, and he thought it would only take a minute to go upstairs and get the parcel. No doubt he was a good deal longer than he thought he would be, but he thought everything was as safe as it could be. I think we would have done the same thing. Be fair, Warren. Don't you think so?"
"I suppose so," said Warren. "Only now it seems as though it was not safe to leave them a second."
"That's how it has come out," said Ivan, buttoning his blouse, "but that's just the sort of thing no one could foresee. One thing seems certain, if we find them near, or in the house, well and good. If they are not around there somewhere, I believe Evelyn has solved the thing. It doesn't seem possible, though, that anyone could have opened the door, and walked in, and dragged the children right in the house, without the least sound of disturbance reaching your father upstairs. Myself, I don't believe the door was close latched, and it may be the children went out themselves. If they did we will find them soon."
"Elinor has been told a million times never to leave the house," said Warren hopefully.
"And you know she minds," said Ivan. "I think we will find them all right, and Evelyn just imagines things. The woman probably meant just what she said. She doubtless had candles from some church, and clothes and food in the bags. She had enough to last some time, judging from the size and weight."
"I hope so, anyway," said Warren. "Are you nearly ready? If we could only run for it!"
"We can't," said Ivan. "The moment they see you run, you are in danger of being shot down. It won't take long, even if we do have to go slowly."
"Well, let's make a start, if you are ready," said Warren restlessly.
They opened the door and found Evelyn waiting for them. She looked pale and weak, but greeted them quietly.
"Don't be any longer than you can, will you, boys?" she begged. "If she is hurt one of you stay with her, and the other come for me. Don't try to bring her here."
"They won't be hurt," said Warren courageously. "But we won't bring them here at all. We will stay with them, one of us, and come back to tell you. You know they will be together."
"How wicked I am!" said Evelyn. "I forgot little Rika. She has been with us so short a time. I am so thankful she is with Elinor. They will not be so badly frightened."
"Of course not," said Warren. "You go to father, Evvy. We will come soon."
In Warsaw's By-ways
On the day of Warsaw's downfall, a little girl, perhaps three years of age, wandered to the door of the comfortable old house where the Morrises lived. She was dressed with the greatest richness. She was unable to tell her name, or indeed give the slightest clue to her home or family. Ivan and the servants declared her a child of the nobility, but were unable to gain any information from her broken baby talk. She played contentedly with Elinor all day, and at night when she was prepared for bed, they found secreted under her dress jewels fit for a king. Chains of diamonds and rubies encircled her baby neck, and rings of the greatest value were sewed to her garments, while great brooches were pinned in rows on her little skirts. Professor Morris, after pronouncing the collection worth a couple of hundred thousand dollars, stuffed the lot in a couple of his coat pockets with the remark that he had better put them away!
Evelyn, however, took the jewels, and sewing them securely in a belt, fastened it around her own waist for safekeeping. No one doubted that the pretty child would soon be claimed. They soon discovered that her name was Rika, but more than that she could not tell them. She did not seem to feel very lonely or frightened, although she fretted at bed time, calling over and over some name they could not catch.
Elinor was as delighted with her as though she had been given a beautiful new doll; and now Evelyn felt sure that they would remain together unless parted by force - or death. The last thought struck to her heart like a chill, but she would not admit even the possibility of such a thing. The certainty that the children had been drugged and carried off in the two sacks battled constantly with the hope that the boys would find them playing around the corner, or hidden in some unfrequented spot. So it was with a cheerful trust that she said good- bye to the two young workingmen who presently issued from the door of the great store building, and went rapidly up the desert and torn up street.
They did not dare run. Rather, they slunk along from building to building as though fearful of being seen. When they passed a wrecked chimney, fallen across the street, Warren rubbed some of the soot and grime on his face and clothes, and told Ivan to do the same. He thought very wisely that they looked too clean and neat for the parts they were endeavoring to enact. In addition to the soot, they were soon soiled and torn from scrambling over wreckage and even Evelyn would not have recognized them.
Soon reaching the residence portion of the city, they began an immediate search for Boy Scouts. Out of the hundred or so in their section, they were fortunate enough to find ten. Several of these were searching frantically for relatives and friends. Not one but had lost someone dear to him. They scattered with a will when Warren and Ivan told them about the two children, but the boys who had been nearest the Professor's house, all said that they had not seen the little girls at all. There were no troops moving about that part while the boys were talking and planning, and they were not molested in any way when they scattered and began to search every foot of the neighborhood. Noon found Warren, Ivan, Jack and a couple of others near a wrecked and deserted bakeshop. There was no one to ask and none to object when they scrambled over the heaps of stone and plaster and wood, and tried the doors of the great ovens. Sure enough, there they found, well cooked and safe, a supply of bread and meant and sweets. Warren and Jack were broken-hearted at the absence of the slightest clue to Elinor, but they made a manly effort and managed to eat a good and nourishing meal, because they knew that they must keep up every bit of strength they had.
At three o'clock by agreement they all met at the Professor's house. Not one had secured a single clue. They had searched every empty and ruined building and had asked every person that they had seen. No one had been able to tell them anything that sounded at all helpful. Warren had thought that the fact that the strange child wore a scarlet dress would be the means of tracing them immediately; but according to the people they questioned, half the children in Warsaw had worn scarlet dresses or coats. Warren was sick with despair. After a short talk, the boys scattered again, working out from the Professor's house like the spokes of a wheel for about half a mile. As Warren decided that he had about reached the limit agreed upon, he stood thinking, when the shrill Scout whistle sounded at his right. It was the signal to gather, and Warren's heart leaped with delight as he thought, "Elinor is found."
He crossed the space like a whirlwind, leaping over fallen walls and dashing around buildings in his mad race.
He found the Scout who had whistled standing at the sagging door of what had once been a comfortable home.
"Where is she?" cried Warren as he reached the doorway.
The boy shook his head. He was deathly pale, and trembled.
"It is not your sister; you may be glad of that; but we must do something. Go in!"
Four other Scouts came panting up, all flushed with the hope that Elinor had been found. They followed the boy who had pushed Warren through the hall and through another door. Warren stopped appalled.
Half the wall was gone. A bomb had evidently struck the house. On the bed a young woman lay. She was quite dead. Her ashy face told it without the evidence of the blood in which she was bathed. By her side lay a tiny girl. She, too, was still and cold in the last sleep of death, but by a strange mischance of war, a baby lay unharmed in the young mother's arms.
Unattended, uncomforted and cold, it had lain there for hours; yet it lived, and as the boys entered sent up a feeble wail. Shaken to the heart, Warren walked to the bed and picked up the infant. Its cries had dwindled to a feeble whining, and it shivered. Warren hastily unfastened his blouse, and pressed the little being to the warmth of his body. He could feel it press against him, or so it seemed to him, as he stood there in that chamber of death. His course, however, seemed clear. The living child in his arms must be cared for, and at once. He could only think of Evelyn. The hospitals were either shattered or filled with too many wounded soldiers. There was no room in any place of that sort now for a little baby . Life was cheap in Warsaw that day. He would take it to Evelyn and she would take care of it somehow. His own little Elinor he dared not think of.
It was with an almost breaking heart that he and the other boys rapidly retraced their steps and finally gained the warehouse. As he went up the long stairs, Professor Morris left his corner, and stood ready to greet them. He was smiling.
"Well, well, where is Elinor?" be asked testily.
"We did not find her," answered Warren curtly. He was so tired that he staggered as be walked. He gained the top of the steps and, crossing unsteadily to Evelyn, laid the baby in her arms. Its little pinched face, and bloodstained dress prepared her for Warren's story.
"It is nearly starved," she said. "What shall we give it?"
"I know," said Ivan. "Babies all drink milk, don't they? There is a court down below, and when we went out I saw a couple of goats in it."
It was true, and the poor creatures were glad enough to be milked. The baby, finally fed and warmed, slept exhausted in Evelyn's arms.
In all the cruel war whose dark shadow obscured Europe a great deal of suffering fell to the share of the poor little babies and the small children. To older children war could be explained. It was a vast and terrible something that swept away homes and food and comfort. It was a monster that devoured fathers and brothers, and left families without support, and homeless. But there was a reason that could be told, and which they could understand more or less.
But the tiny ones, alas! What could be told them when their little world tumbled, when they were carried out from warmth and safety, when food was denied; when the bosoms that had warmed them grew cold and unresponsive, what could they do but suffer and die the slow, torturing death of hunger and cold?
Their little cries arose to heaven, there were no ears to hear them when the thunder of guns drowned all else. Poor, poor babies! Born, many of them, to enlighten the world with new discoveries, to cure the afflicted, to bring joy, they have perished as surely or a cause which they could not understand as have the soldiers in the trenches.
When great nations are falling, and men are being mowed down like grass, in numbers beyond the counting, the lives of little babies can only be held precious by mothers who guard them with their every breath.
The poor little bit of humanity found by the boys would soon have closed its little eyes in the death which bad so suddenly overtaken the mother and sister. But it proved a sturdy little scrap, and after drinking all the milk they dared give it, cried for more.
It was a pretty child, well dressed and well cared for, and Evelyn studied it with tender interest as it lay contentedly in her arms. As she hushed and soothed it into sleep, she talked with her brothers. Professor Morris had gone to the other end of the long room, and they could hear him groan as he walked the floor.
"Don't you think that it would be safe now for us to go back home?" said Evelyn. "We can always prove that we are Americans, and I think there will be no more lawlessness. What do you think?"
Warren remembered the soldier with the wounded shoulder.
"We can't leave Peter here," he said.
"Why no, but he managed to get up here with help, and I think we can get him home with us. I don't know what else to do, unless Anna is willing to stay with him until morning."
"That's the thing to do," said Warren, "but Anna is such a scare cat."
"She ought to be willing to stay with her own brother!" declared Evelyn. "That shoulder will kill him unless cold water is kept on it all the time, until we can get hold of a doctor or get him to a hospital."
"The hospitals are so full that you can't get inside the doors," said Warren.
"I found that out today."
"Well, we will ask Anna, anyway," she said. She called to the governess, who approached at once. Telling her the plan, Evelyn waited for the woman to speak.
"Surely that is a wise plan indeed," she said, to their great relief. "Peter could not be moved tonight. He is full of fever. And someone will find our little Elinor, and take her home. Then what could they do if the house was deserted?"
"I never thought of that," said Evelyn in a grief-stricken tone. "Let us hurry and get back before it is dark."
"Yes," said Warren, "we could not make it at all in the dark. The lights are all gone, and the streets are nearly impassable in lots of places. Get dad, and come on. Don't forget the book," he added, smiling bitterly.
They hastily brought blouses and overalls from the clothes room below and made as comfortable a bed for Peter as they could. There was plenty of goat's milk to drink, and bread from the bake shop, with which Warren had thoughtfully had the boys fill their pockets.
Then, as the dusk gathered, they hurried out, Professor Morris clasping the bulky manuscript, Evelyn carrying the sleeping baby, while Warren and Ivan supported her on either side, and Jack went ahead to pick out the safest path.
They reached the house after a hard walk, and were soon feeling some sense of bodily comfort after all the hardships of the day. They decided to act as nearly as possible as though they were but little disturbed by the past events, and to assume the position of foreigners who felt themselves under the protection of their own government.
Naturally, all their thoughts were of Elinor, but night had fallen black and stormy, and in all the confusion and lawlessness there was nothing to be done but wait as best they could for morning.
In spite of his anxiety, Warren slept heavily and did not awaken until his sister shook him, and he opened his eyes to find that it was seven, 7 o'clock.
"No news, Warren dear," said Evelyn. "Only that that poor little baby is certainly better. Oh, Warren, it is so cunning! I do hope it will be all right. I want to keep it if we do not find its father. All the rest of its family must be dead." She sat down on the edge of Warren's bed. "Do you know," she said, "I feel as though everyone besides ourselves is hurt or lost or dead or kidnapped? I have been thinking what I would do if anyone kidnapped me. I would try so hard to leave some sort of a message. I think if I had my diamond ring on, I would try to scratch something on a window pane."
Warren smiled. "Try some other plan, Evvy," he said. "They wouldn't be apt to wait while you found a window and scratched a letter on it."
"You never can tell," said the girl. "Anyhow, that is what I would try to do. Get up now, Warren, I have a nice hot breakfast for you. Ivan is dressed and has been out getting things to eat."
Warren hurried down and enjoyed the nice breakfast his sister had prepared. Jack, who had had his meal earlier, was awkwardly holding the baby, and seemed quite overcome by the task.
Breakfast over, Warren went with Ivan to the door, and stood for a moment looking down the street. A couple of men, very evil looking and dark browed, approached slowly, and passed on in the direction of the open market. Ivan glanced carelessly at the pair, then stifled an exclamation of surprise. As they reached a safe distance, lie clutched Warren by the arm.
"Look, look!" he cried. "Those are the two men who were with the woman with the sacks."
"What!" cried Warren tensely. "Come!" He started out, and together they followed the two men.
"What are you going to do?" asked Ivan.
"Shadow them until I find where they stay. That woman is no doubt there, wherever that is."
"I follow," said Ivan briefly.
Warren paused. "You can't come," he said regretfully. "Someone has got to look after dad, and as this is a dangerous job, it is my right, as the older, to do it. I wish you could come, but you see how it is, don't you?"
"I suppose so," said Ivan mournfully, "but get back so soon as you can. And if you find Elinor, and need help about getting her away, come back or send, and I will bring all the Scouts down."
The boys shook hands and parted, Ivan hurrying back to the house with the news, while the soiled work boy slouched along after the two skulking villains ahead.
At the open market a few hucksters, braver than most, were selling meat and vegetables to as many as dared come and buy. The men ahead bought freely as though money was plenty. Laden down with supplies, they finally turned and, walking rapidly, plunged down toward the river where the narrow, twisted streets invited criminals of every kind.
Warren, following them as far off as possible, had to act and think quickly at times in order to keep track of them. Finally they turned into a street or alley leading directly to the river, and as Warren hurried after them they disappeared as suddenly as though they had sunk into the earth. Warren darted forward.
It was a row of dismal, crowded houses, and Warren was too far away to know just where the men had turned in. They had disappeared within one of the doors, and Warren walked openly and boldly along, studying each house. It was a rash and reckless thing to do.
Warren forgot the teachings of his order, for there is nothing more persistently urged on a Boy Scout than caution. If Warren had not been so intensely excited, he would have remembered this. But of course his excitement was an excuse for forgetting. It is when we are in dangerous and exciting situations that we must train ourselves to have every faculty at our command.
It is the commonest thing in the world to hear people tell what they might have done, and unfold plans conceived after the necessity for them was past. Such plans make good reading, but poor history.
Warren, of course, tramping hastily down a deserted street, lay open to disaster, and the defeat of his purpose. If he had reconnoitered as carefully as he had followed his game, he would have been able to locate them without the least suspicion on their part that they had been shadowed. It then would have been simple to have watched for some unguarded moment, when the boys could easily have gained entrance to their quarters and secured the children.
There is no great deed accomplished in this world where caution does not play a great part. In war, in business, in sports, the man who looms the biggest after the game is done and people have the time to study things, is the man who had never once failed to exercise a proper amount of caution. In a fairy story this warning is given: "Be bold; be bold — but not too bold."
You see caution does not question or hesitate or delay too long. Caution keeps right on, but slowly and with a careful regard to safe footing. Caution keeps you from rocking the boat, and pointing the loaded gun, and skating near the thin ice. It keeps you from the heels of the kicking horse. It makes the good general save his men.
Warren forgot. After blocks and blocks of trailing, he bolted down the street, examining each house with anxious excitement.
Finally he discovered footmarks leading toward a dark, heavy door, and he stood looking the place over. It was a tall, narrow place which had, centuries past, been used as a dwelling. What it was at present Warren could not guess, unless it had fallen to the level of the damp, rat infested hovel where crime and disease are bred daily in old towns like Warsaw. Strange carvings of dragons and monsters upheld the eaves and formed the heavy water spouts. The tiny, windows were bare and curtainless. They swung open in the wind that blew from the Vistula.
Warren stood looking. He was all alone in the street
HOT ON THE TRAIL
The men had disappeared, and there seemed no further need for caution. As Warren approached nearer, he noted the dark, tumbledown building, which looked as though it had been a ruin for centuries, dismal and uninhabited. Only one thing was noteworthy. The door, a stout one heavily barred with ornamental straps of ancient and rusty iron, was fitted with strong, modern hinges, and had been closely fitted in anew frame. Warren's keen eye quickly grasped these details as he sauntered past, and stopped before 'the building, but what he did not see, and could not guess, was the tiny auger hole bored close to one of the iron frets. Behind that hole stood a man in whose cunning brain suspicion lurked; and Warren did not know that after that close scrutiny the trained eye of one of the basest murderers and criminals in Poland would now recognize him, no matter where they met.
Warren knew that he must gain access to the den, but how?
Thinking rapidly, he resolved to wait until the men again left the place, when he would rap at the door, and try to get in on whatever excuse he might need to invent when the moment arrived. He crossed the street, and entered an abandoned building. For two hours he waited in. biding, never suspecting the anxious scrutiny he himself was undergoing.
His wrist watch told him that noon was past. There was no sign of life in the street. Remembering the loads of provisions that the men had carried, he decided that they did not intend to come out of their hiding place until nightfall. That would give him time to return, report to the anxious watchers at home, and consult with Ivan and the other Boy Scouts.
With Warren, to decide was to act. He hurried through the shattered streets, wondering what the careful Evelyn had kept for him to eat.
As he turned the corner he saw before the house a group of people who seemed to be regarding it curiously. Warren hastened his steps. Pushing through the group, he entered. The door, torn from its hinges, swung against the wall. In the hall a heavy chest of drawers was overturned and the drawers piled together on the floor. The contents were scattered everywhere. Calling the names of the family, Warren dashed through the rooms, vainly hoping to find some trace of his people, or some explanation of the new disaster. Returning to the door, he appealed to the bystanders. What had happened? They told him that they had come down the street just in time to see the soldiers leading off a group of people. More than that they did not know. They supposed that they were now dead. It was what happened in war.
Warren returned to the house, his head whirling. This seemed the last and most crushing blow. To have such a thing happen just as he was about to rescue his little sister and reunite the family! He could not imagine why this thing should have been done. Why should any soldiers molest American citizens?
Utterly overcome, he sank down in a chair by the window and leaned his head on the sill. All gone! He did not know what to do. His quick and clever brain for the moment refused to act. He raised his head and looked dully out into the street where the group of curious people was slowly moving away. For a long time he stared, then his eyes suddenly set themselves on something nearer. Dumfounded, unbelieving, he glared. It seemed that he could hear Evelyn's voice, Evelyn's own words.
"If anyone kidnapped me," she had said, "I think if I had my diamond on I would try to scratch a message on the window pane."
Indeed, her mother's ring had served her well. Before Warren's eyes, on the glass, Evelyn had left her message:
"Arrested as spies. Ac't dad's book. Taken to camp. Find Ivan. Tell Consul. Help."
Clutching the arms of his chair, Warren sat staring at the message on the window pane. He read it over and over. A curious feeling that his eyes were tricking him possessed him. He reached out and rubbed the message slowly, fully expecting it to disappear. The letters felt rough under his fingers. It was really written there with Evelyn's diamond. Still unbelief possessed him. How had it happened that she had foreseen this dreadful mischance clearly enough, in some mysterious way, to plan the delivery of the saving message?
As Warren looked, the events of the last few crowded days seemed to rise up and bear him down under their horror and immensity. He sat clutching the arms of his chair, and with unseeing eyes stared and stared at the letters. All at once he felt very young, very helpless, very lonely.
America, his own dear country, with its safety and its careless, unthinking haphazard hospitality for every living person who seeks her shores; America seemed suddenly to be set farther than the farthest star.
Like most American boys, Warren was clever, shrewd and ingenious. Life with Professor Morris had trained him in ingenuity and efficiency. Since his earliest remembrance it had fallen to his lot to act as the head of his family, making decisions that usually are the sole right of fathers and guardians. But now, under conditions of horror and tragedy, he realized that he was after all only a boy; and the thought came to him that he and his, dear and infinitely precious as they were to each other, counted not at all in the great tragedy of war.
Who was there to help? The American Consul was powerless for the time, if he could be found. Warren knew that the portion of the city where he had lived was a shapeless ruin.
The boy continued to sit motionless in his chair, desperately, desperately puzzling the dark mystery.
Gradually in Warren's dazed mind the whole affair took definite shape. They were gone; arrested on suspicion. For the moment at least he felt sure they were safe, even in the hands of an enemy who had shown themselves utterly cruel and heartless. He felt sure that if they were suspected of being spies every effort would be made to make them confess before they were executed, if it did indeed come near that question.
But "Find Ivan." What did that mean? Evidently Ivan was not with them. As though in answer to his thought, Warren heard or thought he heard a faint shout. He listened. It was repeated, with a sound of pounding and banging. Once more Warren searched the house, beginning with the old dusty, rambling attic set close under the great beams of the old house. Down he hurried, from room to room, looking in presses, under beds, and listening in each room.
As he reached the kitchen, the sound seemed clearer. It was Ivan's voice. He opened the cellar stairs and went down. Once, years, even generations past, the house had been the residence of a noble. The cellar was not the one or two rooms of the modern house. It was vast and vaulted and contained a dozen dark, unlighted apartments, all with heavy, iron-barred, oaken doors.
Professor Morris said that two of the rooms had been used as dungeons and it was in one of these that Warren found Ivan. He stumbled over him as be opened the door. The boy was bound, but lying on his back, so had been able to hammer on the door with his feet. The sound of pounding had carried even better than his shouts.
Warren hastily untied the cords that secured him and helped him up the stairs. He was stiff and sore from the cramped position, but once in the upper rooms, he took a deep breath, and proceeded to tell Warren the events of the morning.
Once more Professor Morris was the cause of the disaster. The Professor was, fortunately, of uncommon type. He was a modest man — so modest that it even ceased to be a virtue, and became an annoying and irritating trait. He never stood up for himself, nor for his family in any way.
The saying, "Generous to a fault" likewise applied to him. He was a spendthrift in kindness, giving not only money needed for himself and the children, but bestowing his time when he needed it himself. His learning he gave recklessly, too, writing long, learned articles for little or no pay, and without a thought that the material given away was just so much capital.
But of one thing he was jealous, careful and touchy. His book, his almost completed work on Warsaw. It was to be a book of books, so clear, so accurate, so full of new f acts that it would be a treasure among the literary treasures of his time. Professor Morris believed in the book with the conviction that comes to writers when they have done something really good. He knew it was fine. It was more than a history of the beautiful and fated city. It was written in such golden, flowing English that the hardest and driest facts in its pages were polished and placed like jewels of great price in their descriptive setting. And they were jewels. He had mined them out of strange places in that ancient town. He had taken his time and in digging for his beloved facts, he had found many an unexpected wonder.
Knowing his father as he did, Warren could see the story told by Ivan as plainly as though he had been present. One thing made him smile as he recalled it. His father would not use a typewriter, and anything written in his strange, cramped hand would look suspicions at once. And he knew, too, that his father would resent even the touch of strangers on the beloved pages. He smiled a little bitterly.
"Go on, Ivan," he said. "Let's hear it all."
"A detachment of soldiers came down the street," said Ivan, rubbing his lame muscles, "and as they came they looked through every house. I suppose they were on the lookout for troops of our soldiers. When they reached this place, your father met them at door and talked a moment with the officer in charge. Of course Evelyn and I did not know what they said, but the officer grew angry and your father just stood there and smiled and shook his head. Then Evelyn went to your father and as soon as the officer saw her he bowed very low, and in English said, 'Prettee, prettee.' Evelyn came back to us and took the baby from Jack.
"Then the door slammed, and we heard the big bolt fall, and your father dragged that big chest across it and came in as pleased as could be. He said, 'There, I have settled that! Such impertinence! They wanted to search my house!'
"But at that, blows fell on the door and presently it fell and the soldiers rushed in. Your father had his book and was trying to hide it in the lining of a chair. Of course they at once thought it must be plans or something of the sort, and Professor would not tell them a thing and we couldn't because we could not make them understand that it was just a book about the history of Warsaw.
When they took it from your father, of course he resisted, and that settled the matter. We had to go to the headquarters. Of course, your father would have followed his book wherever that went. As we started, the officer took Evelyn by the arm, and I think I hit him pretty hard for it. Anyway he gave a command, and a dozen big fellows took me and tied me up and carried me down here. It is a good thing you came, Warren." He shuddered as he thought of the possible ending that his adventure might have had.
Warren was deep in thought. One event pressed so closely on another that things lost their significance and importance.
"We have got to get a hustle on now," he said.
"Your American hustle-on; that means act quickly, does it not?" said Ivan. "We must indeed hustle on. Let us find where they are, and then apply to your Consul."
"That's all right," said Warren, "but I don't think they are in any immediate danger and I think the first thing to do is to got hold of Elinor."
"Get hold of her," said Ivan. "Do you know where she is?"
"Yes, I think I have found her," said Warren and commencing at the moment when the boys parted on the street, be gave Ivan an account of his morning's discoveries.
"Good! Good!" said Ivan. "We will go together this time, and together we will rescue our pretty little Elinor. Have you made any plans?"
"No, I haven't," confessed Warren. "I don't know what ails me; I seem to be perfectly brainless today. It looks like I am losing everybody that belongs to me."
Ivan shrugged his shoulders. "Look at me," he said. "My mother long dead, my father somewhere on the field of battle, or lying dead in the trenches. I do not know; but I must not think. What I want to do is to save Professor Morris, my second father, and Evelyn and Jack and Elinor, who are as sisters and brother to me. Let us start and plan as we go."
"Have you any money?" asked Warren. "I have not a single copper."
"Nor I, " said Ivan.
"We ought to have some," said Warren. "We might have to bribe those people."
Ivan laughed, and felt down his blouse. "This might help," he said. "I hate to give the small one up. It has been in the family, always worn by the eldest son, for more generations than I know; but if we have to give it, it will come back. It always has." He offered Warren two rings, magnificent jewels.
Warren shook his head. "I hope we won't have to use them," he said.
"What of that?" said Ivan. "Jewels, even family jewels, do not count for much beside the dear ones. Ah, Warren," said Ivan, "it is hard for boys to talk, even here in Poland, where it is easier to say what is in one's heart than it seems to be with you Americans. But let me tell you now all that I think. We do not know what we may get into today, what peril — maybe death. I feel danger approaching; I cannot say how. All the people of my house have been able to foresee disaster. What it is I know not. So I will say that so long as I do live, I will never cease to love you and yours. I want you to take this ring that we have held so long and if we are parted, wear it for the sake of Prince Ivan of Poland."
Warren swallowed hastily. "Same here!" he said. "You know darned well I'm strong for you, Old Ivy Scout." He felt hastily in all his pockets. "Haven't a thing to swap," be continued, "not a —" He drew out his hand with something in it. "Guess this will have to do," he said. "It's a buffalo nickel, but I brought it from home. You can have it."
"Thank you so much. I will always keep it," said Ivan. It was so. Years after, if Warren could have looked into the future, he would have seen a magnificent figure at court, one decoration on his jeweled breast being a coin around which sparkled a double row of priceless diamonds. The coin was only, a nickel but that mattered not to Prince Ivan.
As the boys approached the street where Warren had located the house of the thieves, they decided to hide for a little in the ruins across the street, and watch for awhile in the hope that the door might open, or the two men come out.
They made the approach one at a time, and settled down for a long wait. An hour or more went by, and all at once Warren stuck out a long leg and noiselessly kicked Ivan. The oaken door across the street was ajar. Just a crack, and for a long time it remained so, while the boys scarcely breathed.
It opened slowly, and the two men came cautiously out. They did not glance across the street, but looking carefully up and down the crooked alley, closed the door carelessly, and went off at a brisk gait without a glance behind.
The boys looked at each other.
"Now!" said Ivan.
"Wait!" answered Warren. "Give them time. No doubt they will be gone most of the night."
There was a long silence, then glancing at his watch, Warren said, "Come! Do you see that door? They did not latch it. I don't believe there is a soul over there but the woman. There is just one thing to do. Go over and look in; and if she is alone we will rush her, tie her up and get off with the children. We can do it."
"That's the only thing to do," said Ivan. "Let's go."
The street was deserted as they crossed it and stepped close to the oaken door. It was ajar, and they could see the interior of the dark, prison-like room. The woman was there bending over a pot that swung on a crane in the fireplace. A heap of filthy rags was in a corner near by, and lying there was little Elinor and the strange child Rika. A sob rose in Warren's throat as he saw his sister, so pale and thin and terrified she looked. He heard Ivan's breath come sharply.
"Let's rush!" he said.
"You can't!" answered Ivan. "Don't you see the chain on the inside of the door?"
"It's light, we can break that," answered Warren. "Get yourself together. When I say three, throw your whole weight. Grab the woman as quickly as you can."
"All right," said Ivan.
Warren stepped back a space and held himself for a spring.
"One, two," he counted slowly. "Three" was never uttered. He heard a strange cry from Ivan; and as he did so, a frightful blow from some heavy, blunt instrument struck him squarely. He crumpled down unconscious.
Ivan, behind him, evaded the blow aimed at his head by the second ruffian, and quick as a panther stood back to the wall, gazing at his assailant.
"Hands down," said the man, grinning evilly. "Hands down before I brain you!"
"What do you want with us?" demanded Ivan.
The man laughed.
"What would we want of eavesdroppers and spies? This is our house, poor as it is. We will guard it when young thieves like you come peering in the cracks.
What did you think to steal of honest men as poor as yourselves? Your friend here deserves his broken head. Must I give you one, or will you come with me peaceably?"
"I'll come if you will tell me what you are going to do with us," said Ivan.
Again the man laughed, and with his foot shoved the body of Warren lying motionless on the ground.
"Come on," said the other man. "Why waste words? Get hold of him and bring him along!"
"Let me have my way," said the man standing over Ivan. "This amuses me. Come, come, young one, what will you - obedience or a broken head?"
Ivan was silent, then he spoke. "I won't fight," he said. "You are too big, but I won't go in that door with you."
"So!" said the man. "Then we do it in this fashion." He made a rush at Ivan and seizing him in his arms, held him until the other man lifted Warren and so, half carrying and half dragging Ivan, he followed through the dungeon-like doorway into the gloom and chill of the great room beyond.
IN THE ENEMY'S HANDS
Ivan's first impression was of a dead, heavy chill which the fire burning in the great fireplace at the other end of the vast room was powerless to lighten. The place was half underground, and what light entered was filtered through dusty and cobwebbed panes of leaded glass set high under the vaulted roof. The windows partially lighted the heavy oak beams which supported the ceiling, but the lower parts of the room lay in deep shadow. Emblems and rude pictures were scratched and chalked on the walls, but Ivan could not make them out in the dim light.
Running the width of the room before the fireplace was a massive table, and on either side of it were benches built where they stood. From the size and strength of them, they might have been intended for the use of a race of giants or exceedingly fat men! Their carved bases spread heavily apart, and huge dragon claw feet braced them on the floor which, beneath and around the table, was carefully paved with stone.
At one side of the fireplace a great pile of wood was placed, broken and splintered pieces picked up from the buildings which had been shelled by the great guns of the enemy. Bits of oaken beams, pieces of rare, highly polished furniture, and scraps of priceless carvings made the pile which soon would go in flames to cook the wretched supper even then in course of preparation.
A woman stood by the table, scraping scales from a fish. A heavy knife was in her hand, and as she raised her dark and scowling face Ivan recognized her and shuddered.
As she stood watching the entrance of the group at the door, scowling and peering through the gloom, she looked to Ivan's eyes like one of the furies of the French Revolution. All the history he had read of that dreadful period was made clear and real to him. Ivan, closely watched, and closely guarded from harm, had up to the time of the bombardment of Warsaw, never come in contact with anyone out of his own noble class with the exception of the Morris family. His father, knowing the educational standing of Professor Morris in America, and judging the whole family by his mild, inoffensive manner, had decided to allow Ivan, his son, to learn English from The Professor. It had not occurred to him, a man of many affairs, to suspect the presence of an ingenious lively, mischievous whirlwind in the person of the Professor's elder son.
When Ivan told his father with enthusiasm of the Professor's family, the Prince imagined them of course to be exactly like the Professor, and rejoiced that Ivan could be among such studious and book loving, quiet people. So he told Ivan that he might spend what time he liked with the Morris family, and then forgot the whole thing in the fearful question of War which soon arose. When he left for the Russian front he left orders that in case of any peril or disaster Ivan was to go to the Morris house and there remain for greater safety.
Before the happenings of the last chapter, however, Ivan had been almost constantly with Warren for a year, and had so imbibed his democratic ideas and had studied so hard to make good as a Scout that Prince Ivan the Magnificent, had he returned, would have had difficulty in recognizing his only and dearly loved son.
But as a matter of fact, Ivan the Magnificent did not return. Instead, blood stained, mud stained and distorted, he slept in a far away trench past which had swept the invaders' line, grim and terrible.
He had fought well and desperately for the honor of Poland until at last, under a leaden rain, Ivan the Prince had gone to meet the fate of Ivan the Man. And not one word of this did Ivan the boy suspect.
It had never seemed that harm could touch his wonderful father. He must be safe; and Ivan moved through his many adventurous days with only the thought that he would have so much more to tell his father on one of the rare and precious evenings when Prince Ivan's duties at court and with his regiment would allow him to spend a few happy hours with his son.
So it was with a keen and appraising eye that Ivan viewed that dark and dungeon- like interior, thinking to tell his father all about it.
The woman beside the table scowled darkly as she saw the group.
"What now?" she demanded. "Are those the spies? They are nothing but boys! Why do you bother with them, Michael Paovla, why did you bring them here? Crack them on the head! The river runs swift enough down the street there."
She brandished her knife as she spoke.
"I will not give them one single meal, do, you hear that?"
"Peace, Martha! Do not jest," said the large man with a wry smile.
He looked at Ivan as he spoke.
"Who are you?" he asked. Clothed as the boy was in mean and soiled garments, there was still something distinguished about him.
He stood proudly erect. Perhaps his name would help out.
"Ivan Ivanovich, of the House of Sabriski," he said, looking the man in the face.
The three shouted with laughter. "Isn't he clever?" cried the woman. "Ask him something else!"
"No," said the man. "I want to think that over. Come, it is cold here!"
He picked Warren up from the floor where he had thrown him, and, carrying him down the long room, made his way around the great table and dropped him roughly on the pile of rags where, Elinor and Rika were crouched.
Poor little Elinor, huddled on her pile of rags, did not recognize the limp burden carried in by the larger of the two men, whom she had learned to dread with unspeakable terror. When he threw it down in the middle of the room, the pale face was turned toward the child, and she recognized, Warren. She commenced to scream. Shriek after shriek left her pale lips, and the man started over to her side, when a short, sharp word silenced her. She looked to see who had spoken, calling her so familiarly by name.
"Stop, Elly, stop," said the voice in English, and her cries were stilled as by magic, although she still gazed with longing and terror at the pale face down which a tiny line of blood trickled.
The second man clasped a second boy, dirty and torn, and meanly dressed in a workman's blouse. She stared at him, never recognizing Ivan, whom she bad always seen so gorgeously clothed in furs and fine broadcloth and exquisite linen. It was not until he spoke again that she recognized him.
"Be quiet, Elinor," he said. "We will save you. Warren is not hurt, he is just dizzy. He will be all right soon."
Ivan spoke hopefully, but as he looked down at the boy lying before him, he wondered in his heart if there was really a spark of life left in that still, pale, bleeding body. As for Elinor, after the first outburst, she sat dumbly trembling.
The past day and night bad been so crowded with horrors that the tender children were fast passing into a state where they neither realized nor felt the hardships and abuse they were subjected to.
The time when they sat playing in Professor Morris's quiet house seemed too far away to remember.
They bad been playing happily, the two children, when the family decided to go away for a few hours, but so happily were they with their dolls and each other, that they paid no attention to the stir and unrest about them. Even Elinor, who was almost six years old, had not concerned herself with the sound of the big guns.
She did not notice when her father left the room. If he told her, as he thought be had, to "sit quietly" and await his return, she failed to hear him. So she took Rika by the hand and. "went, visiting." They sat down on the top step, and looked into the empty street, and watched occasional groups of fleeing Poles hurry past to the safety of the plains. A rough looking woman came past, noticed them, and returned, looking as she did so at the house, and peering into the hall through the open door.
Then she approached the children and in a, voice she tried in vain to make soft, she asked what they were doing, and who they were.
Little Rika, who could say but few words, sat and stared at her with a frown.
Elinor answered politely. The woman studied them carefully. Elinor was a child whose beauty was always remarked wherever she went, and the little Rika was equally lovely. They had been used to kindness and attention from everyone, so when the woman took out a queer little box, and offered them each a funny little black candy, they accepted them quite as a matter of course. Then she drew back, and the children turned to their dolls again. But only for a moment. Then the head of golden curls and the long, black ringlets drooped and the drugged children were asleep. The woman shook two big sacks out from beneath her dress, and as coolly and as cruelly as though she was filling them with straw, she shoved a child in either bag, crossed to the curb with her heavy burden, and sat down to wait.
When her two accomplices joined her, they went rapidly to the hovel where Warren had tracked them hater, and releasing the half smothered and unconscious children, they laid them down on a pile of rags, and sat looking at them, while they ate their evening portion of black bread and cold fish.
There was a great discussion. The larger man, Michael, was in favor of offering the children for a ransom. The others would not consider it at all.
"Remember," said Martha, the woman, "there is much danger in collecting such fees. Rather will I prepare these little ladies for the trade of beggars. So beautiful are they that I can go through every capital in Europe, if so Europe still stands."
"Have it your own way," said the smaller man, Patro by name.
"I always do," she said simply. Then she studied the sleeping forms again.
"I think it will be well, some time soon, to twist the legs of the small one," she said. "She would make a sweet cripple."
" No!" said Michael. "You may not do so. I will not have it."
The woman laughed. "Said I not that I have my own way?" she asked.
"All right, Martha, you do," said Patro, "but believe me, it is better to take the greatest care of those little ones. Think what dancers they may make some day. There is a fortune in those little feet, I'll be bound. Be careful of them, watch them, and perhaps some day they may be prancing on the opera stage at St. Petersburg, or even here in Warsaw."
The woman sat thinking for a little. "Perhaps you are right," she said. "People are dance-mad these times. They are pretty enough to climb to any heights."
"Why laugh?" said Martha angrily.
"Nothing, nothing, dear Martha, only that it is funny to think you are taking these children down from the heights where they belong so that they may climb back for your pleasure."
The woman's brow grew black. She reached out a heavy foot, and pushed Elinor away from her.
"Not for thy pleasure," she said sneeringly.
"No, Patro, no! They are to pay me over and over for my life. Drop for drop, pain for pain, I will take from them all I have myself suffered. They shall sleep cold, because so I slept all my childhood. They shall hunger because I did so. They shall beg in the streets while I listen. Ah!" she shook her fists above her head, "I have hated all the world, and now these shall pay me!"
Patro shrugged his shoulders. "As you will," he said. "They are coming to life again, however. I would advise you to feed them enough to keep beauty in their faces and grace in their limbs, if you indeed wish to use them for food and light and fire."
"That is sound sense, Patro," she answered, and when the children came dizzily to consciousness again, she treated them with almost a rough kindness. But when they cried, she beat them, taking pains to let the blows fall where they would not leave visible scars or bruises.
So passed the dragging hours, until Warren, unconscious and bleeding, was flung down at Elinor's side.
"There!" said Michael. "You will spy, will you? Well, we have you now. And when next you walk the streets, if so you do, you will have cause to remember Michael Paovla and his friends."
Patro frowned. "You are too handy with names," he said. "Trust only a dead dog."
"Leave that to me," said Michael with a dark frown. "You," he said to Ivan, "you see this gun? We'll not bind you, but if you stir toward the door, or make a move to free yourself, you are lost. I will shoot you down."
"We only want the children," said Ivan boldly. "Give them to us, and we will go away, and you will not be harmed."
The three set up a shout of laughter. "Thanks, thanks!" said Michael when he could speak, but Martha said angrily, "What! Give up my fire and light and food? Not much!"
"Suppose I pay you," said Ivan, "I will reward you well."
Again a shout went up.
"A million thanks," said the woman. "What will you give — a dozen dried fishes?"
"You don't know me," scowled Ivan proudly. "I am the son of your Prince, Ivan the Brilliant. Beware how you treat me and these friends of mine."
"The boy will kill me!" cried the woman, leaning back and wiping the tears of mirth from her leathery cheeks. "Go on, go on, my prince. And will you not ask us to the palace some day soon? We would like to see you at your own home."
'Give us the children and set us free, and you may come," said Ivan after a pause.
"No; you are too amusing," said the woman. "Rather we will take you with us, or else leave you safely locked here where no one shall disturb you."
Ivan looked at the worn and haggard children and the form of Warren now stirring slightly, then he handed the great ruby to Michael.
"Take, this and let us go," he pleaded.
The man looked wonderingly at the flashing stone. "So you too help yourself in these war times?" he said sneeringly. "What else do you carry, little rat?"
He ran a practiced, light fingered hand over Ivan, searching for more jewels, but of course found none.
Night seemed to come all at once in the dark and partly underground room. Warren, untended, came slowly back to consciousness, and lay where he had fallen in a sort of doze. Little Elinor crept to him and, laying her head on his shoulder, went to sleep. Presently Martha began to yawn, and the men nodded where they sprawled on the benches. The woman drew out an armful of rags, and prepared for the night by wrapping another shawl around her shoulders.
The men rose after a whispered consultation, and taking Ivan to the furthest and darkest corner, tied him securely to a ring in the wall. His bonds were loose enough to permit him to lie down on the hard earth and stone floor, but he sat with his back against the wall, wide awake, every nerve tense and quivering.
Twice Michael came and looked at him in the light of a torch from the fire, and retreated muttering. Ivan decided to pretend sleep. The third time Michael gave a grunt of satisfaction.
He went back to the fire and beckoned the others from their pallets.
"He is dead asleep," he said in a low whisper. "We must make our plans."
"Good!" said the woman. "What do you want to do about it?"
She too whispered in a low tone and it struck Ivan that for some strange reason he was listening to a conversation spoken in tones that ordinarily could not be heard three feet away from the speakers. He listened intently. Every syllable was clear and distinct. Owing to some peculiar formation of the vaulted ceiling, the sounds were brought to him, forty feet from the speakers, as accurately as though spoken into a telephone. Ivan's courage rose once more.
He heard the man Michael light his pipe.
"I don't know," he said.
"Of course not!" sneered the woman. "You never do! I suppose you don't want to kill them?"
"What's the use?" asked the man. "Why blacken our souls further than we must?"
"I'll tell you why," said Martha suddenly. Her whisper cut like a knife. "I'll tell you. Because I fear them. Boys as they are, I fear them! There is a spirit in the eyes of the one who calls himself Ivan that will never die until death blinds them. The little rat! The smart little rat! Calling himself a prince! My, I wish I had had the training of him. Well, whoever he is, he is a Pole, and he will hurt us yet. I feel it. I can feel it, anyway, that harm will come to us through those boys. I warn you, Michael. Patro, I warn you.
Once, twice, thrice! You know I never fail."
There was a silence, and Ivan heard Patro catch his breath sharply.
"Well, what would you?" he said finally.
There was a note of triumph in the woman's voice when she spoke.
"Tomorrow night," she said, "we will leave them here, tied to the table. I will leave food on the table for them, just enough for one meal. I have still my little friends in the pill box on the chimney ledge. They are as strong as ever. We will not stay to see whether they eat or not. But I think they will, because I will see to it that they do not taste much food tomorrow. We will lock the door. I will go down to Prague. They say it is but little harmed, and I have a sister there. I will give the smaller child to her. I have a fancy for the light one myself, and they are too unlike to pass off for sisters."
There was a long pause. Then, "Have it as you like," said Michael. "Of course, the boys will bother a good deal, if they go free."
"Certainly they would," said Martha. "We would never know where they would crop up, especially that Ivan one."
"Suppose they do not eat?" asked Patro.
"Eat, eat!" cried Martha. "Well, know you nothing of boys! And they will suspect nothing. You are brutes, brutes, remember, and I so kind and so sorry," she laughed. "They will believe all I say," she added.
Michael nodded. "Then it is settled," he said.
In the United States, every possible precaution is taken to protect children from harm. Laws are made especially for their safety; societies exist in every town and city to look after them. They go unharmed through the streets. Noble men and women give their lives to visiting the poorest districts and making easier the lot of the unfortunate ones they find there. Special cases are frequently written up in the papers, and help found for them in that way. In factories, shops, stores, asylums, in the streets, in the slums, every possible, effort is made to make the lot of children an easier and happier one.
In a great number of the European countries, the case is different. There are no laws, for instance, governing the age at which a child shall be put to work. In fact, in order to keep body and soul together, children labor from the time they are babies. They do the work of farm animals when their little hands can scarcely grasp the implements of toil. There are many, oh, so many of them; and they are held cheaply. Poorly clothed, poorly fed, they take kindly to theft, as a means of getting the necessities of their bare, miserable little lives.
Once upon a time, there was a dark and dreadful age when making cripples and dwarfs was a regular trade. Children were taken (nearly always stolen ones) and their limbs twisted, or their faces distorted, in order to gain sympathy from the passersby, of whom they were taught to beg. That frightful time is long past; but the trades of begging and thieving are still taught.
And to criminals like those in whose hands the children had fallen, life, and child life especially, was too cheap and of too little account to matter much. They did not in the least mind the contemplation of a crime as horrible as the one they had just decided on. They were afraid of the bright, alert Scouts who had fallen into their clutches, and to them there was but one way to treat the matter — the shackles and the poisoned food.
TO THE RESCUE
After this there was silence. The men slept with snores and grunts an they moved uneasily on their hard beds, and Ivan slept only at intervals. He was anxious to know whether the conversation had been heard by Warren, but did not dare to communicate with him in any way, although he could hear an occasional sigh as though his friend was suffering pain. Warren was indeed feeling badly from the blow that had nearly broken his skull. Fortunately the weapon, a piece of iron shod wood, had glanced and so saved his life. But his head ached worse than he had thought a head could ache; and when he finally came out of the, daze of the blow, he slept only in a sort of stupor. He had not heard the conversation that had been listened to so eagerly by Ivan, and so was at least saved that anxiety.
Day came, and to Ivan, who was prepared, there were signs of departure. Warren, who still lay silent on his pallet of rags, did not seem to see anything. He did not eat, but accepted a cup of' water from the woman's hand.
Elinor clung to him, and the woman did not object.
Ivan was afraid to speak to any of them. The day dragged away, and finally (it seemed years) the room grew so dark that Ivan knew that night must be approaching. Soon he would know their fate. It was uncertain, because he knew that at any time in the day they might have decided not to leave their death to the poisoned food, but to shoot them to death before leaving the place.
However, Martha commenced the preparation of the meal that was meant for supper, and Ivan noticed that she had made more than usual.
A crust of dry bread and a cup of water was given to Warren, and the same fare thrown on the floor beside Ivan, who did not eat it and watched anxiously to see if Warren would taste his. But the boy shook his head.
"Never mind," said the woman, slyly looking over to the door where the men were bundling some ragged garments in a big square of cloth.
"Never mind. I am sorry for you, my poor boy. Soon those brutes will take us away, but I will leave one good meal for you. I promise you that if they beat me for it you shall be decently fed for once. And I am a good cook; you shall see!"