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- The Boy Scouts in Front of Warsaw - 20/23 -
"Please, we are starving." It seemed more than her independent spirit could bear even with the fear of the stick on her heart. She added, "Some day I shall ran away."
"That settles it!" cried Martha. "We will settle this now!"
She threw the helpless child on the ground and began beating her with the stick. For a long while Elinor endured it, then unable to keep silent under the pain, she burst into screams and sobs. The woman continued her blows until Elinor's voice held a thin note of agony, and she lifted her and flung the quivering little body on a pile of rags, and sat herself down by the table.
"That ought to break her spirit," she said.
She waited until the sobs and cries subsided, and then called the child. The terrified little girl slipped from the bed and ran to her tormentor. Martha looked at her critically.
"That did you good," she said. "Now we will get out of here, and go to work."
"Have you any money at all?" asked her sister, turning to Michael.
"A little," he grudgingly admitted.
"Well, let us have enough to go to the market while it is open. I go late each morning, and buy the spoiled vegetables that are left over."
"A good plan," said Martha.
When they had finished with the market, the women walked slowly down through the city, begging wherever they could. They were able to recognize foreigners wherever they met them, although they were not many. Always, however, they gave, and gave generously. The store of coins in Martha's sack grew and grew.
"We will have to exchange this stuff for a few larger coins somewhere," she said. "I think we can do so safely at the railroad station. Let us go there."
The day had been a time of torture for the two children. Elinor was so tired that she thought that she would fall at each step, but the relentless hand held her up and pulled her on.
Rika, in the other woman's arms, had fallen asleep several times.
They did not mind that; her tear-stained little face with its long, curling lashes looked very pitiful, and as long as she slept they told a sad story, about her being lame. But Elinor had to walk; and she was sure that when she fell from exhaustion, Martha would probably kill her.
There was a great crowd at the station, and dozens of other beggars; but Martha noted with satisfaction that none had such beautiful children to beg for. There were many more coins in the sack before long, and just as Elinor's knees bent, under her, and she thought that now at last she would fall, the women set the children on a big box, and with the most horrible threats if they, stirred or spoke to anyone, walked off to the ticket office to change the small coins into something safer to handle.
THE RED CROSS CAR
When Warren was dismissed from the hospital, he found himself being stared at by Ivan in a very perplexing manner. Finally he demanded the reason. Ivan laughed.
"You look so clean," he said. "Your face does not go with the rest of you, those ragged clothes and all that. Besides, I have not seen what your natural face looked like for a few days. I had forgotten just what you did look like."
"Just the same, it did seem good to clean up little," he said. "However, just to oblige you I'll put on a few frills." He stooped and rubbed his hands in some plaster dust, and transferred it to his face. Ivan studied the change.
"That's better," he said. "As long as we have to wear these clothes, I think we had better look the part. There is one thing certain though. We are dressed exactly as we were in Warsaw, when we were visiting our friends, the thieves. I wish we could get some other clothes."
"I hadn't thought of that," said Warren. "I wish we could change, but how can we?"
"I don't know," said Ivan. "Certainly we can't risk having those people see us. We will have to be cautious."
"Where shall we go, I wonder?" mused Warren.
"I don't suppose it matters now," said Ivan. "It is so late in the afternoon. Tomorrow morning we will have to watch the market. They will be sure to come for more provisions."
"True enough," said Warren. "Let's go down to the central station and see if the trains are running again."
The boys sauntered down through the streets without being molested by the sharp- eyed soldiers who patrolled the way. They found the station a busy place. The trains were once more running, on broken schedules of course, but everything was so nearly adjusted to the usual order that there was transportation for the hundreds who were eagerly seeking passage. There were a great many foreigners carefully clutching their transports and hurrying out of the country. At the back of the station stood an automobile, a low, racing roadster.
"We had a ride in her last night," said Warren, as he approached and recognized the machine. "And it was some ride, wasn't it, Ivan?"
"It certainly was," said Ivan, smiling. "What's the red cross flag on it I wonder?"
"The Princess has given it over to the hospital, I suppose," said Warren. "No one will stop it now. Wonder who drives it? I'm sorry for anyone who rides with the crazy guy who tried to run it last night. "
"Here is the chauffeur now," said Ivan, stepping back as a dark, burly man approached the machine and took a package from the tool-box.
"He is a new one," said Warren.
They wandered around the corner of the building and mingled with the throngs waiting for the train. It came puffing in, and as the crowd pressed forward, Warren heard a familiar, coarse, whining voice behind him. He looked; and as he did so, he was conscious of Ivan who, with the quickness of a bird, slipped between two people, and was out of sight. Instantly Warren followed him. They met behind a truck loaded with boxes.
Warren was shaking. "Did you see?" he asked.
"Yes," said Ivan in a low voice. "Elinor and Rika, too! What are we going to do?"
"I don't know," said Warren. "Just do what we have to do when the time comes. Don't risk them another hour. Elinor looks half dead. Keep out of sight and watch for a chance. Don't let the girls see you, any more than the women. They would give it away, sure. Come on!"
He slipped quickly through the crowd, only a boy, and unnoticed. Behind, at his heels, came a thin lad, soiled and ragged. It was Prince Ivan, Prince of one of the greatest houses in Warsaw, but his own father would not have recognized him. Together they slyly watched the two women in front of them who, each with a child, begged pitifully of the travelers. The woman who had Rika held her in her arms, but poor little Elinor, on foot, reached a tiny hand toward the passing throng, and fearfully glanced at her ugly jailer as she did so.
The train remained on the track. It was evidently going to make up a section. The women wandered here and there, and finally approached a big packing case near the station door. Here they stood, evidently consulting. One woman slyly, showed the other a handkerchief full of kopeks. Then while the boys scarcely dared to breathe, they seated the two children on the box, and with a fearful threat which caused the face of Elinor to turn even paler, they hurried into the waiting room, and turned towards the ticket window.
"Now!" said Warren, "and be quick!"
He ran up to the children, and taking his sister in his arms, pressed his hand over her mouth until he had spoken a word in her ear. Then followed by Ivan carrying Rika, he walked steadily round the corner of the platform.
Before him stood the roadster, with the Red Cross flag. Without an instant's hesitation, he slipped into the driver's seat, Elinor still in his arms. He thrust her between his knees, as Ivan took the other seat, and tucked little Rika out of sight in the same manner.
As he did so, they heard a series of hoarse screams, and the two women, beating the air and wringing their hands, came rushing around the corner. Warren started the car full speed, and they started with a jerk that almost threw them out. Looking behind, Ivan saw the women point to the car and to his dismay a soldier on a motorcycle jumped from his machine and ran up to them. As the car sped down the long avenue, Ivan saw a last glimpse of the man returning to his machine. They were followed.
"They are after us!" he said to Warren.
"What with?" asked Warren, his eyes on the road. "There was no other machine."
"A soldier on a motorcycle. Make the first turn you can."
Warren whipped the little racer round one curve and then another. He was thinking deeply.
Elinor commenced to cry.
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