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- The Boy Scouts in Front of Warsaw - 3/23 -
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
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