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- The Boy Scouts in Front of Warsaw - 4/23 -
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.
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