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- The Boy Scouts in Front of Warsaw - 8/23 -
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."
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