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- The Boy Scouts in Front of Warsaw - 6/23 -
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."
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