The Belgian Twins
Lucy Fitch Perkins
This PG project is dedicated to retired teacher Betty Sheridan,
who generously loaned the book to be produced for PG.
THE BELGIAN TWINS
By Lucy Fitch Perkins
THE DUTCH TWINS PRIMER. Grade I.
THE DUTCH TWINS. Grade III.
THE ESKIMO TWINS. Grade II.
THE FILIPINO TWINS. Grade IV.
THE JAPANESE TWINS. Grade IV.
THE SWISS TWINS. Grade IV.
THE IRISH TWINS. Grade V.
THE ITALIAN TWINS. Grades V and VI.
THE SCOTCH TWINS. Grades V and VI.
THE MEXICAN TWINS. Grade VI.
THE BELGIAN TWINS. Grade VI.
THE FRENCH TWINS. Grade VII.
THE CAVE TWINS. Grade IV.
THE SPARTAN TWINS. Grades V-VI.
THE PURITAN TWINS. Grades VI-VII.
To the friends of Belgian Children --
In this sad hour of the world's history, when so many homes have
been broken up, and so many hearts burdened with heavy sorrows,
it is comforting to think of the many heroic souls who,
throughout the struggle, have gone about their daily tasks with
unfailing courage and cheerfulness, and by so doing have helped
to carry the burdens of the world, and to sustain other hearts as
heavy as their own.
It is comforting, also, to know that there are many instances of
happy reunions after long and unspeakable anxieties, adventures,
This story of two little Belgian refugees is based upon the
actual experience of two Belgian children, and the incident of
the locket is quite true.
The characters of the eel-woman and the mother of the Twins have
also their living originals, from whose courage and devotion the
author has received much inspiration.
I. THE HARVEST-FIELD
II. THE RUMORS
III. THE ALARM
IV. "FOR KING, FOR LAW AND LIBERTY"
V. DOING A MAN'S WORK
VI. AT THE CHURCH
VII. THE TIDAL WAVE OF GERMANS
VIII. GRANNY AND THE EELS
IX. OFF FOR ANTWERP
X. ON THE TOW-PATH
XI. THE ATTACK
XII. THE ZEPPELIN RAID
XIV. THE MOST WONDERFUL PART
THE BELGIAN TWINS
It was late in the afternoon of a long summer's day in Belgium.
Father Van Hove was still at work in the harvest-field, though
the sun hung so low in the west that his shadow, stretching far
across the level, green plain, reached almost to the little red-
roofed house on the edge of the village which was its home.
Another shadow, not so long, and quite a little broader,
stretched itself beside his, for Mother Van Hove was also in the
field, helping her husband to load the golden sheaves upon an old
blue farm-cart which stood near by.
Them were also two short, fat shadows which bobbed briskly about
over the green meadow as their owners danced among the wheat-
sheaves or carried handfuls of fresh grass to Pier, the, patient
white farm-horse, hitched to the cart. These gay shadows belonged
to Jan and Marie, sometimes called by their parents Janke and
Mie, for short. Jan and Marie were the twin son and daughter of
Father and Mother Van Hove, and though they were but eight years
old, they were already quite used to helping their father and
mother with the work of their little farm.
They knew how to feed the chickens and hunt the eggs and lead
Pier to water and pull weeds in the garden. In the spring they
had even helped sow the wheat and barley, and now in the late
summer they were helping to harvest the grain.
The children had been in the field since sunrise, but not all of
the long bright day had been given to labor. Early in the morning
their father's pitchfork had uncovered a nest of field mice, and
the Twins had made another nest, as much like the first as
possible, to put the homeless field babies in, hoping that their
mother would find them again and resume her interrupted
Then they had played for a long time in the tiny canal which
separated the wheat-field from the meadow, where Bel, their
black and white cow, was pastured. There was also Fidel, the dog,
their faithful companion and friend. The children had followed
him on many an excursion among the willows along the river-bank,
for Fidel might at any moment come upon the rabbit or water rat
which he was always seeking, and what a pity it would be for Jan
and Marie to miss a sight like that!
When the sun was high overhead, the whole family, and Fidel also,
had rested under a tree by the little river, and Jan and Marie
had shared with their father and mother the bread and cheese
which had been brought from home for their noon meal. Then they
had taken a nap in the shade, for it is a long day that begins
and ends with the midsummer sun. The bees hummed so drowsily in
the clover that Mother Van Hove also took forty winks, while
Father Van Hove led Pier to the river for a drink; and tied him
where he could enjoy the rich meadow grass for a while.
And now the long day was nearly over. The last level rays of the
disappearing sun glistened on the red roofs of the village, and
the windows of the little houses gave back an answering flash of
light. On the steeple of the tiny church the gilded cross shone
like fire against the gray of the eastern sky.
The village clock struck seven and was answered faintly by the
sound of distant chimes from the Cathedral of Malines, miles away
across the plain.
For some time Father Van Hove had been standing on top of the
load, catching the sheaves which Mother Van Hove tossed up to
him, and stowing them away in the farm-wagon, which was already
heaped high with the golden grain. As the clock struck, he paused
in his labor, took off his hat, and wiped his brow. He listened
for a moment to the music of the bells, glanced at the western
sky, already rosy with promise of the sunset, and at the weather-
cock above the cross on the church-steeple. Then he looked down
at the sheaves of wheat, still standing like tiny tents across
"It's no use, Mother," he said at last; "we cannot put it all in
to-night, but the sky gives promise of a fair day to-morrow, and
the weather-cock, also, points east. We can finish in one more
load; let us go home now."
"The clock struck seven," cried Jan. "I counted the strokes."
"What a scholar is our Janke!" laughed his mother, as she lifted
the last sheaf of wheat on her fork and tossed it at Father Van
Hove's feet. "He can count seven when it is supper-time! As for
me, I do not need a clock; I can tell the time of day by the ache
in my bones; and, besides that, there is Bel at the pasture bars
waiting to be milked and bellowing to call me."
"I don't need a clock either," chimed in Marie, patting her apron
tenderly; "I can tell time by my stomach. It's a hundred years
since we ate our lunch; I know it is."
"Come, then, my starvelings," said Mother Van Hove, pinching
Marie's fat cheek, "and you shall save your strength by riding
home on the load! Here, Ma mie, up you go!"
She swung Marie into the air as she spoke. Father Van Hove
reached down from his perch on top of the load, caught her in his
arms, and enthroned her upon the fragrant grain.
"And now it is your turn, my Janke!" cried Mother Van Hove, "and
you shall ride on the back of old Pier like a soldier going to
the wars!" She lifted Jan to the horse's back, while Father Van
Hove climbed down to earth once more and took up the reins.
Fidel came back dripping wet from the river, shook himself, and
fell in behind the wagon. "U - U!" cried Father Van Hove to old
Pier, and the little procession moved slowly up the cart-path
toward the shining windows of their red-roofed house.
The home of the Van Hoves lay on the very outskirts of the little
hamlet of Meer. Beside it ran a yellow ribbon of road which
stretched across the green plain clear to the city of Malines. As
they turned from the cart-path into the road, the old blue cart
became part of a little profession of similar wagons, for the
other men of Meer were also late in coming home to the village
from their outlying farms.
"Good-evening, neighbor," cried Father Van Hove to Father Maes,
whose home lay beyond his in the village. "How are your crops
"Never better," answered Father Maes; "I have more wheat to the
acre than ever before."
"So have I, thanks be to the good God;" answered Father Van Hove.
"The winter will find our barns full this year."
"Yes," replied Father Maes a little sadly; "that is, if we have
no bad luck, but Jules Verhulst was in the city yesterday and
heard rumors of a German army on our borders. It is very likely
only an idle tale to frighten the women and children, but Jules
says there are men also who believe it."
"I shall believe nothing of the sort," said Father Van Hove
stoutly. "Are we not safe under the protection of our treaty? No,
no, neighbor, there's nothing to fear! Belgium is neutral
"I hope you may be right," answered Father Maes, cracking his
whip, and the cart moved on.
Mother Van Hove, meanwhile, had hastened ahead of the cart to
stir up the kitchen fire and put the kettle on before the others
should reach home, and when Father Van Hove at last drove into
the farmyard, she was already on the way to the pasture bars with
her milk-pail on her arm. "Set the table for supper, ma Mie," she
called back, "and do not let the pot boil over! Jan, you may shut
up the fowls; they have already gone to roost."
"And what shall I do, Mother?" laughed Father Van Hove.
"You," she called back, "you may unharness Pier and turn him out
in the pasture for the night! And I'll wager I shall be back with
a full milk-pail before you've even so much as fed the pig, let
alone the other chores--men are so slow!" She waved her hand
gayly and disappeared behind the pasture bars, as she spoke.
"Hurry, now, my man," said Father Van Hove to Jan. "We must not
let Mother beat us! We will let the cart stand right there near
the barn, and to-morrow we can store the grain away to make room
for a new load. I will let you lead Pier to the pasture, while I
feed the pig myself; by her squeals she is hungry enough to eat
you up in one mouthful."
When Mother Van Hove returned from the pasture, fifteen minutes
later, her orders had all been carried out. Pier was in the
pasture, the hens were shut up for the night, and the pig, which
had been squealing with hunger, was row grunting with
satisfaction over her evening meal; Fidel was gnawing a bone, and
Father Van Hove was already washing his hands at the pump, beside
the kitchen door.
"You are all good children," said the mother as she set down her
brimming pail and took her turn at the wash-basin and the soap.
"Jan and Marie, have you washed your hands?"
"I have," called Marie from the kitchen, and supper is ready and
the table set."
"I washed my hands in the canal this morning," pleaded Jan.
"Won't that do?"
"You ate your lunch this noon, too," answered his mother
promptly. "Won't that do? Why do you need to eat again when you
have already eaten twice today?"
"Because I am hungry again," answered Jan.
"Well, you are also dirty again," said his mother, as she put the
soap in his hands and wiped her own on the clean towel which
Marie handed her from the door. She cleaned her wooden shoes on
the bundle of straw which lay for the purpose beside the kitchen
door; then she went inside and took her place opposite Father Van
Hove at the little round oaken table by the window.
Marie was already in her chair, and in a moment Jan joined them
with a beaming smile and a face which, though clean in the
middle, showed a gray border from ear to ear.
"If you don't believe I'm clean, look at the towel!" he said,
holding it up.
"Oh, my heart!" cried his mother, throwing up her hands. "I
declare there's but one creature in all God's world that cares
nothing for cleanliness! Even a pig has some manners if given
half a chance, but boys!" She seized the grimy towel and held it
up despairingly for Father Van Hove to see. "He's just wet his
face and wiped all the dirt off on the towel. The Devil himself
is not more afraid of holy water than Jan Van Hove is of water of
any kind!" she cried.
"Go and wash yourself properly, Janke," said his father sternly,
and Jan disappeared through the kitchen door. Sounds of vigorous
pumping and splashing without were heard in the kitchen, and when
Jan appeared once more, he was allowed to take his place at the
supper-table with the family.
Father Van Hove bowed his head, and the Twins and their mother
made the sign of the cross with him, as he began their grace
before meat. "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the
Holy Ghost, Amen," prayed Father Van Hove. "Hail, Mary, full of
Grace." Then, as the prayer continued, the mother and children
with folded hands and bowed heads joined in the petition: "Holy
Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and in the hour of
our death, Amen." A clatter of spoons followed the grace, and
Mother Van Hove's good buttermilk pap was not long in
disappearing down their four hungry throats.
The long day in the open air had made the children so sleepy they
could scarcely keep their eyes open through the meal. "Come, my
children," said their mother briskly, as she rose from the table,
"pop into bed, both of you, as fast as you can go. You are
already half asleep! Father, you help them with their buttons,
and hear them say their prayers, while I wash up these dishes and
take care of the milk." She took a candle from the chimney-piece
as she spoke, and started down cellar with the skimmer. When she
came back into the kitchen once more, the children were safely
tucked in bed, and her husband was seated by the kitchen door
with his chair tipped back against the wall, smoking his evening
pipe. Mother Van Hove cleared the table, washed the dishes, and
brushed the crumbs from the tiled floor. Then she spread the
white sand once more under the table and in a wide border around
the edge of the room, and hung the brush outside the kitchen
Father Van Hove smoked in silence as she moved about the room. At
last he said to her, "Leonie, did you hear what our neighbor Maes
said to-night as we were talking in the road?"
"No," said his wife, "I was hurrying home to get supper."
"Maes said there are rumors of a German army on our frontier,"
said Father Van Hove.
His wife paused in front of him with her hands on her hips. "Who
brought that story to town?" she demanded.
"Jules Verhulst," answered her husband.
"Jules Verhulst!" sniffed Mother Van Hove with disdain. "He knows
more things that aren't so than any man in this village. I
wouldn't believe anything on his say-so! Besides, the whole world
knows that all the Powers have agreed that Belgium shall be
neutral ground, and have bound themselves solemnly to protect
that neutrality. I learned that in school, and so did you."
"Yes," sighed Father Van Hove. "I learned it too, and surely no
nation can have anything against us! We have given no one cause
for complaint that I know of."
"It's nonsense," said his wife with decision. "Belgium is safe
enough so far as that goes, but one certainly has to work hard
here just to make ends meet and get food for all the hungry
mouths! They say it is different in America; there you work less
and get more, and are farther away from meddlesome neighboring
countries besides. I sometimes wish we had gone there with my
sister. She and her husband started with no more than we have,
and now they are rich--at least they were when I last heard from
them; but that was a long time ago," she finished.
"Well," said Father Van Hove, as he stood up and knocked the
ashes from his pipe, "it may be that they have more money and
less work, but I've lived here in this spot ever since I was
born, and my father before me. Somehow I feel I could never take
root in any other soil. I'm content with things as they are."
"So am I, for the matter of that," said Mother Van Hove
cheerfully, as she put Fidel outside and shut the door for the
night. Then, taking the candle from the chimney-piece once more,
she led the way to the inner room, where the twins were already
For some time the little village of Meer slept quietly in the
moonlight. There was not a sound to break the stillness, except
once when Mother Van Hove's old rooster caught a glimpse of the
waning moon through the window of the chicken-house, and crowed
lustily, thinking it was the sun. The other roosters of the
village, wiser than he, made no response to his call, and in a
moment he, too, returned to his interrupted slumbers. But though
there was as yet no sound to tell of their approach, the moon
looked down upon three horsemen galloping over the yellow ribbon
of road from Malines toward the little village. Soon the sound of
the horses' hoofs beating upon the hardened earth throbbed
through the village itself, and Fidel sat up on the kitchen
doorstep, pricked up his ears, and listened. He heard the hoof-
beats and awakened the echoes with a sharp bark.
Mother Van Hove sat up in bed and listened; another dog barked,
and another, and now she, too, heard the hoof-beats. Nearer they
came, and nearer, and now she could hear a voice shouting. She
shook her husband. "Wake up!" she whispered in his ear,
"something is wrong! Fidel barks, and I hear strange noises
about. Wake up!"
"Fidel is crazy," said Father Van Hove sleepily. "He thinks some
weasel is after the chickens very likely. Fidel will attend to
it. Go to sleep."
He sank back again upon his pillows, but his wife seized his arm
and pulled him up.
"Listen!" she said. "Oh, listen! Weasels do not ride on
horseback! There are hoof-beats on the road!"
"Some neighbor returning late from Malines," said Father Van
Hove, yawning. "It does not concern us."
But his wife was already out of bed, and at the window. The
horsemen were now plainly visible, riding like the wind, and as
they whirled by the houses their shout thrilled through the quiet
streets of the village: "Burghers, awake! Awake! Awake!"
Wide awake at last, Father Van Hove sprang out of bed and hastily
began putting down his clothes. His wife was already nearly
dressed, and had lighted a candle. Other lights sparkled from the
windows of other houses. Suddenly the bell in the church-steeple
began to ring wildly, as though it, too, were shaken with a
sudden terror. "It must be a fire," said Father Van Hove.
Still fastening her clothing, his wife ran out of the door and
looked about in every direction. "I see no fire," she said, "but
the village street is full of people running to the square!
Hurry! Hurry! We must take the children with us; they must not be
left here alone."
She ran to wake the children, as she spoke, and, helped by her
trembling fingers, they, too, were soon dressed, and the four ran
together up the road toward the village church. The bell still
clanged madly from the steeple, and the vibrations seemed to
shake the very flesh of the trembling children as they clung to
their mother's hands and tried to keep up with their father's
They found all the village gathered in front of the little town-
hall. On its steps stood the Burgomeister and the village priest,
and near them, still sitting astride his foam-flecked steed, was
one of the soldiers who had brought the alarm. His two companions
were already far beyond Meer, flying over the road to arouse the
villages which lay farther to the east. The church-bell suddenly
ceased its metallic clatter, and while its deep tones still
throbbed through the night air, the wondering and frightened
people crowded about the steps in breathless suspense.
The Burgomeister raised his hand. Even in the moonlight it could
be seen that he was pale. He spoke quickly. "Neighbors," he said,
"there is bad news! the German army is on our borders! It is
necessary for every man of military age and training to join the
colors at once in case the army is needed for defense. There is
not a moment to lose. This messenger is from headquarters. He
will tell you what you are to do."
The soldier now spoke for the first time. "Men of Belgium," he
cried, "your services are needed for your country and your King!
The men of Meer are to report at once to the army headquarters at
Malines. Do not stop even to change your clothing! We are not yet
at war, and our good King Albert still hopes to avert it by an
armed peace, but the neutrality of Belgium is at stake, and we
must be ready to protect it at any cost, and at an instant's
notice. Go at once to the Brussels gate of Malines. An officer
will meet you there and tell you what to do. I must ride on to
carry the alarm to Putte." He wheeled his horse as he spoke, and,
turning in his saddle, lifted his sword and cried, "Vive le Roi!"
"Vive le Roi! Vive la Belgique!" came in an answering shout from
the people of Meer, and he was gone.
There was a moment of stunned silence as he rode away; then a
sound of women weeping. The Burgomeister came down from the steps
of the town-hall, said farewell to his wife and children, and
took his place at the head of the little group of men which was
already beginning form in marching order. The priest moved about
among his people with words of comfort.
Father Van Hove turned to his wife, and to Jan and Marie, who
were clinging to her skirts. "It is only a bad dream, my little
ones," he said, patting their heads tenderly; "we shall wake up
some day. And you, my wife, do not despair! I shall soon return,
no doubt! Our good King will yet save us from war. You must
finish the harvest alone--but--" "Fall in!" cried the voice of
the Burgomeister, and Father Van Hove kissed his wife and
children and stepped forward.
Mother Van Hove bravely checked her rising sobs. "We shall go
with you to Malines, at any rate," she said firmly. And as the
little group of men started forward along the yellow road, she
and many more women and children of the village marched, away
with them in the gray twilight which precedes the coming of the
dawn. The priest went with his people, praying for them as he
walked, in a voice that shook with feeling.
The sky was red in the east and the larks were already singing
over the quiet fields when the men of Meer, followed by their
wives and children, presented themselves at the Brussels gate of
"FOR KING, FOR LAW AND LIBERTY"
"FOR KING, FOR LAW AND LIBERTY"
At the gate they were met by an officer, who at once took command
of the company. There was only a moment for hasty good-byes
before the order to march was given, and the women and children
watched the little column stride bravely away up the street
toward the armory, where the uniforms and arms were kept. They
followed at a little distance and took up their station across
the street from the great doors through which the men had
disappeared. There was little talking among them. Only the voice
of the priest could be heard now and then, as he said a few words
to one and another of the waiting women. It was still so early in
the morning that the streets of the city were not yet filled with
people going to work. Only those, like themselves, concerned with
the sad business of war were abroad.
To Jan and Marie the long wait seemed endless, but at last the
doors of the armory sprang open; there was a burst of martial
music, and a band playing the national hymn appeared. "For King,
for law and liberty!" thrilled the bugles, and amidst the waving
of flags, and the cheers of the people, who had now begun to fill
the streets, a regiment of soldiers marched away toward the
north. Jan and Marie stood with their mother on the edge of the
sidewalk, eagerly scanning every face as the soldiers passed, and
at last Jan shouted, "I see Father! I see Father!"
Mother Van Hove lifted her two children high in her arms for him
to see, but Father Van Hove could only smile a brave good-bye as
he marched swiftly past.
"No tears, my children!" cried the priest; "let them see no
tears! Send them away with a smile!" And, standing on the edge of
the sidewalk, he made the sign of the cross and raised his hand
in blessing, as the troops went by.
For a time Mother Van Hove and the children ran along the
sidewalk, trying to keep pace with the soldiers, but their quick
strides were too much for the Twins, and it was not long before
Marie said, breathlessly, "My legs are too short! I can't
run so fast!"
"I can't too!" gasped Jan. Mother Van Hove stopped short at
once, and the three stood still, hand in hand, and watched the
soldiers until they turned a corner and disappeared from sight
through the Antwerp gate of the city.
They were quite alone, for the other women and children had gone
no farther than the armory, and were already on their homeward
way to Meer. Now for the first time Mother Van Hove gave way to
grief, and Jan and Marie wept with her; but it was only for a
moment. Then she wiped her eyes, and the Twins' too, on her
apron, and said firmly: "Come, my lambs! Tears will not bring him
back! We must go home now as fast as we can. There is need there
for all that we can do! You must be the man of the house now, my
Janke, and help me take your father's place on the farm; and
Marie must be our little house-mother. We must be as brave as
soldiers, even though we cannot fight."
"I think I could be braver if I had some breakfast," sobbed
Mother Van Hove struck her hands together in dismay. "I never
once thought of food!" she cried, "and I haven't a red cent with
me! We cannot buy a breakfast! We must just go hungry until we
get home! But soldiers must often go hungry, my little ones. We
must be as brave as they. Come, now. I will be the captain!
Jan and Marie stiffened their little backs, as she gave the word
of command, and, shoulder to shoulder, they marched down the
street toward the city gate to the martial refrain, "Le Roi, la
loi, la liberte," which Mother Van Hove hummed for them under her
It was a long way back to the little farm-house, and when at last
the three weary pilgrims reached it, they were met by an
indignant chorus of protests from all the creatures which had
been left behind. Bel was lowing at the pasture bars, the pig was
squealing angrily in her pen, the rooster had crowed himself
hoarse, and Fidel, patient Fidel, was sitting on guard at the
Mother Van Hove flew into the kitchen the moment she reached the
house, and in two minutes Jan and Marie were seated before a
breakfast of bread and milk. Then she fed the pig, let out the
hens, and gave Fidel a bone which she had saved for him from the
soup. Last of all, she milked the cow, and when this was done,
and she had had a cup of coffee herself, the clock in the steeple
Even Mother Van Hove's strength was not equal to work in the
harvest-field that day, but she stowed the load of wheat which
had been brought home the night before in the barn, and, after
the chores were done at night, she and the Twins went straight to
bed and slept as only the very weary can, until the sun streamed
into their windows in the morning.
DOING A MAN'S WORK
DOING A MAN'S WORK
When Jan and Marie awoke, their mother's bed was empty. "She's
gone to milk the cow," cried Marie. "Come, Jan, we will surprise
her! When she comes back from the pasture, we will have breakfast
"You can," said Jan, as he struggled into his clothes, and
twisted himself nearly in two trying to do up the buttons in the
back; "you can, but I must do a man's work! I will go out and
feed the pig and catch old Pier and hitch him to the cart," he
said importantly. "I must finish the wheat harvest to-day."
"Ho!" said Marie. "You will spill the pig-feed all over yourself!
You are such a messy boy!"
"I guess I can do it just as well as you can make coffee," said
Jan with spirit. "You've never made coffee in your life!"
"I've watched Mother do it lots of times," said Marie. "I'm sure
I can do it just the same way."
"All right, let's see you do it, then," said Jan. And he strode
out of the room with his hands in his pockets, taking as long
steps as his short legs would permit.
When she was dressed and washed, Marie ran to the pump and filled
the kettle. Then she stirred the embers of the fire in the
kitchen and put on fresh coal. She set the kettle on to boil and
only slopped a little water on her apron in doing so. Then she
put the dishes on the table.
Meanwhile she heard no sound from Jan. She went to the kitchen
door and looked out. Jan had already let out the fowls, and was
just in the act of feeding the pig. He had climbed up on the
fence around the pig-pen, and by dint of great effort had
succeeded in lifting the heavy pail of feed to the top of it. He
was now trying to let it down on the other side and pour the
contents into the trough, but the pig was greedy, and the moment
the pail came within reach, she stuck her nose and her fore feet
into it. This added weight was too much for poor Jan; down went
the pail with a crash into the trough, and Jan himself tumbled
suddenly forward, his feet flew out behind, and he was left
hanging head down, like a jack knife, over the fence!
It was just at this moment that Marie came to the door, and when
she saw Jan balancing on the fence and kicking out wildly with
his feet, she screamed with laughter.
Jan was screaming, too, but with pain and indignation. "Come here
and pick me off this fence!" he roared. "it's cutting me in two!
Oh, Mother! Mother!"
Marie ran to the pigpen as fast as, she could go. She snatched an
old box by the stable as she ran, and, placing it against the
fence, seized one of Jan's feet, which were still waving wildly
in the air, and planted it firmly on the box.
"Oh! Oh!" laughed Marie, as Jan reached the ground once more. "If
you could only have seen yourself, Jan! You would have laughed,
too! Instead of pouring the pig-feed on to yourself, you poured
yourself on to the pig-feed!"
"I don't see anything to laugh at," said Jan with dignity; "it
might have happened to any man."
"Anyway, you'll have to get the pail again," said Marie, wiping
her eyes. "That greedy pig will bang it all to pieces, if you
leave it in the pen."
"I can't reach it," said Jan.
"Yes, you can," said Marie. "I'll hold your legs so you won't
fall in, and you can fish for it with a stick." She ran for a
stick to poke with, while Jan bravely mounted the box again, and,
firmly anchored by Marie's grasp upon his legs, he soon succeeded
in rescuing the pail.
"Anyway, I guess I've fed the pig just as well as you have made
the coffee," he said, as he handed it over to Marie.
"Oh, my sakes!" cried Marie; "I forgot all about the coffee!" And
she ran back to the kitchen, to find that the kettle had boiled
over and put the fire out.
Jan stuck hid head in the door, just as she got the bellows to
start the fire again. "What did I tell you!" he shouted, running
out his tongue derisively.
"Scat!" said Marie, shaking the bellows at him, and Jan sauntered
away toward the pasture with Pier's halter over his arm.
Pier had been eating grass for two nights and a day without doing
any work, and it took Jan some time to catch him and put the
halter over his head. When at last he returned from the pasture,
red and tired, but triumphant, leading Pier, Marie and her mother
had already finished their breakfast.
"Look what a man we have!" cried Mother Van Hove as Jan appeared.
"He has caught Pier all by himself."
"He lifted me clear off my feet when I put his halter on," said
Jan proudly, "but I hung on and he had to come!"
"Marie," cried her mother, "our Jan has earned a good breakfast!
Cook an egg for him, while I hitch Pier to the cart. Then, while
he and I work in the field, you can put the house in order. There
is only one more load to bring in, and we can do that by
By noon the last of the wheat had been garnered, and this time
Jan drove Pier home, while his mother sat on the load. In the
afternoon the three unloaded the wagon and stowed the grain away
in the barn to be threshed; and when the long day's work was
over, and they had eaten their simple supper of bread and milk,
Mother Van Hove and the children went together down the village
street to see their neighbors and hear the news, if there should
There were no daily papers in Meer, and now there were no young
men to go to the city and bring back the gossip of the day, as
there had used to be. The women, with their babies on their arms,
stood about in the street, talking quietly and sadly among
themselves. On the doorsteps a few old men lingered together over
their pipes. Already the bigger boys were playing soldier, with
paper caps on their heads, and sticks for guns. The smaller
children were shouting and chasing each other through the little
street of the village. Jan and Marie joined in a game of
blindman's buff, while Mother Van Hove stopped with the group of
"If we only knew what to expect!" sighed the Burgomeister's wife,
as she shifted her baby from one arm to the other. "It seems as
if we should know better what to do. In a day or two I shall send
my big boy Leon to the city for a paper. It is hard to wait
quietly and know nothing."
"Our good King and Queen doubtless know everything," said the
wife of Boer Maes. "They will do better for us than we could do
for ourselves, even if we knew all that they do."
"And there are our own brave men, besides," added Mother Van
Hove. "We must not forget them! We are not yet at war. I pray God
we may not be, and that we shall soon see them come marching home
again to tell us that the trouble, whatever it is, is over, and
that we may go on living in peace as we did before."
"It seems a year since yesterday," said the Burgomeister's wife.
"Work makes the time pass quickly," said Mother Van Hove
cheerfully. "Jan and I got in the last of our wheat to-day. He
helped me like a man."
"Who will thresh it for you?" asked the wife of Boer Maes.
"I will thresh it myself, if need be," said Mother Van Hove with
spirit. "My good man shall not come home and find the farm- work
behind if I can help it." And with these brave words she said
good-night to the other women, called Jan and Marie, and turned
once more down the street toward the little house on the edge of
the village. Far across the peaceful twilight fields came the
sound of distant bells. "Hark!" said Mother Van Hove to the Twins-
-"the cathedral bells of Malines! And they are playing 'The Lion
(three lines of music)
sang the bells, and, standing upon the threshold of her little
home, with head held proudly erect, Mother Van Hove lifted her
voice and joined the words to the melody. "They will never
conquer him, the old Lion of Flanders, so long as he has claws!"
she sang, and the Twins, looking up into her brave and inspired
face, sang too.
AT THE CHURCH
AT THE CHURCH
Several days passed quietly by in the little village of Meer. The
sun shone, and the wind blew, and the rains fell upon the
peaceful fields, just as if nothing whatever had happened. Each
day was filled to the brim with hard work. With the help of the
Twins, Mother Van Hove kept the garden free of weeds and took
care of the stock. She even threshed the wheat herself with her
husband's flail, and stored the grain away in sacks ready for the
mill. Each evening, when the work was done, the three went down
the village street together. One evening, just at dusk, they
found nearly the whole village gathered in front of the priest's
house next to the church. Leon, the Burgomeister's oldest boy,
had been to Malines that day and had brought back a paper.
The priest was reading from it to the anxious group gathered
about him. "Oh, my children," he was saying, as Mother Van Hove
and the Twins joined the group, "there is, no doubt, need for
courage, but where is there a Belgian lacking in that? Even
Julius Caesar, two thousand years ago, found that out! The
bravest of all are the Belgians, he said then, and it is none the
less true to-day! The Germans have crossed our eastern frontier.
It is reported that they are already burning towns and killing
the inhabitants if they resist. God knows what may be before us.
Our good King Albert has asked Parliament to refuse the demands
of the Germans. In spite of their solemn treaty with us, they
demand that we permit them to cross Belgium to attack France. To
this our brave King and Parliament will never consent; no true
Belgian would wish them to. There is, then, this choice either
to submit absolutely to the invasion of our country, or to defend
it! The army is already in the field."
There was a moment of heavy silence as he finished speaking. Then
the voice of the Burgomeister's wife was heard in the stillness.
"Oh, Mynheer Pastoor," she said to the priest, "what shall we do?
There is no place to go to we have no refuge!"
"God is our refuge and strength, my children," said the priest,
lifting his eyes to heaven. "We have no other! You must stay
here, and if the terrible Germans come, hide yourselves away as
best you can, until they have passed by. Do not anger them by
resisting. Bow your heads to the storm and have faith in God that
it may soon pass over." He turned and led the way toward the
little church as he spoke. "Come," he said, "let us pray before
God's holy altar, and if the enemy comes, seek refuge in the
church itself. Surely even the Germans will respect the
Solemnly the people filed into the little church, lighted only by
the candles on the altar, and knelt upon the hard floor. The
priest left them there, praying silently, while he went to put on
the robes of his offices. Then once more he appeared before the
altar, and led the kneeling congregation in the litany.
"From war and pestilence and sudden death, Good Lord, deliver
us," he prayed at last, and all the people responded with a
That night, when she put her children to bed, Mother Van Hove
fastened a chain with a locket upon it about Marie's neck.
"Listen, ma Mie," she said, "and you, too, my little Jan. God
only knows what may be before us. This locket contains my
picture. You must wear it always about your neck, and remember
that your mother's name is Leonie Van Hove, and your father's
name is Georges Van Hove. If by any chance--which God forbid--we
should become separated from one another, keep the locket on your
neck, and our names in your memory until we meet again; for if
such a thing should happen, do not doubt that I should find you,
though I had to swim the sea to do it! For you, my Jan, I have no
locket, but you are a man, a brave man, now! You must take care
of yourself and your sister, too, if need should arise, and above
all, remember this--only the brave are safe. Whatever happens,
you must remember that you are Belgians, and be brave!"
The children clung to her, weeping, as she finished. "There,
there," she said soothingly: "I had to tell you this so you would
be ready to do your best and not despair, whatever might happen,
but be sure, my lambs, nothing shall harm you if I can help it,
and nothing shall separate us from one another if God so wills.
Now, go to sleep!"
She kissed them tenderly, and, quite comforted, they nestled down
in their beds and soon were asleep. She herself slept but little
that night. Long after the children were quiet, she sat alone on
the kitchen step in the darkness with Fidel by her side, and
listened to the faint sounds of distant guns, and watched the red
light in the sky, which told her of the burning of Louvain.
THE TIDAL WAVE OF
THE TIDAL WAVE OF
The next morning dawned bright and clear, and Mother Van Hove and
the Twins went about their work as usual. The sunshine was so
bright, and the whole countryside looked so peaceful and fair, it
was impossible to believe that the terrors of the night could be
"To-day we must begin to gather the potatoes," said Mother Van
Hove after breakfast. "Jan, you get the fork and hoe and put them
in the wagon, while I milk the cow and Marie puts up some bread
and cheese for us to take to the field." She started across the
road to the pasture, with Fidel at her heels, as she spoke. In an
instant she was back again, her eyes wide with horror. "Look!
Look!" she cried.
The dazed children looked toward the east as she pointed. There
in the distance, advancing like a great tidal wave, was a long
gray line of soldiers on horseback. Already they could hear the
sound of music and the throb of drums; already the sun glistened
upon the shining helmets and the cruel points of bayonets. The
host stretched away across the plain as far as the eye could
reach, and behind them the sky was thick with the smoke of fires.
"The church! the church!" cried Mother Van Hove. "No, there is
not time. Hide in here, my darlings. Quickly! Quickly!"
She tore open the door of the earth-covered vegetable cellar as
she spoke, and thrust Jan and Marie inside. Fidel bolted in after
them. "Do not move or make a sound until all is quiet again," she
cried as she closed the door.
There was not room for her too, in the cellar, and if there had
been, Mother Van Hove would not have taken it, for it was
necessary to close the door from the outside. This she did,
hastily, throwing some straw before it. Then she rushed into the
house and, snatching up her shining milk-pans, flung them upon
the straw, as if they were placed there to be sweetened by the
sun. No one would think to look under a pile of pans for hidden
Belgians, she felt sure.
Nearer and nearer came the hosts, and now she could hear the
sound of singing as from ten thousand brazen throats,
"Deutschland, Deutschland uber Alles," roared the mighty chorus,
and in another moment the little village of Meer was submerged in
the terrible gray flood.
At last, after what seemed to the imprisoned children like a year
of darkness and dread, and of strange, terrifying noises of all
kinds, the sound of horses' hoofs and marching feet died away in
the distance, and Jan ventured to push open the door of the
cavern a crack, just intending to peep out. Immediately there was
a crash of falling tinware. Jan quickly drew back again into the
safe darkness and waited. As nothing further happened, he peeped
out again. This time Fidel, springing forward, flung the doors
wide open, and dashed out into the sunshine with a joyous bark.
In a moment more Jan and Marie also crawled out of their hiding-
place after him. For an instant, as they came out into the
daylight, it seemed to the children as if they had awakened from
a dreadful dream. There stood the farmhouse just as before, with
the kitchen door wide open and the sun streaming in upon the
sanded floor. There were only the marks of many feet in the soft
earth of the farmyard, an empty pigpen, and a few chicken
feathers blowing about the hen house, to show where the invaders
had been and what they had carried away with them. Jan and Marie,
followed by Fidel, ran through the house. From the front door,
which opened on the road; they could see the long gray line
sweeping across the fields toward Malines.
"The storm has passed, cried Marie, sobbing with grief, "just as
Mynheer Pastoor said it would! Mother! Mother, where are you?"
They ran from kitchen to bedroom and back again, their terror
increasing at every step, as no voice answered their call. They
searched the cellar and the loft; they looked in the stable and
barn, and even in the dog-house. Their mother was nowhere to be
"I know where she must be," cried Jan, at last. "You know Mynheer
Pastoor said, if anything happened, we should hide in the
church." Led by this hope, the two children sped, hand in hand,
toward the village. "Bel is gone!" gasped Jan, as they passed the
pasture bars. " Pier, too," sobbed Marie. Down the whole length
of the deserted village street they flew, with Fidel following
close at their heels. When they came to the little church, they
burst open the door and looked in. The cheerful sun streamed
through the windows, falling in brilliant patches of light upon
the floor, but the church was silent and empty. It was some time
before they could realize that there was not a human being but
themselves in the entire village; all the others had been driven
away like sheep, before the invading army. When at last the
terrible truth dawned upon them, the two frightened children sat
down upon the church steps in the silence, and clung, weeping, to
each other. Fidel whined and licked their hands, as though he,
too, understood and felt their loneliness.
"What shall we do? What shall we do?" moaned Marie.
"There's nobody to tell us what to do," sobbed Jan. "We must just
do the best we can by ourselves."
"We can't stay here alone!" said Marie.
"But where can we go?" cried Jan. There's no place for us to go
For a few minutes the two children wept their hearts out in utter
despair, but hope always comes when it is most needed, and soon
Marie raised her head and wiped her eyes.
"Don't you remember what Mother said when she put the locket on
my neck, Jan?" she asked. "She said that she would find us, even
if she had to swim the sea! She said no matter what happened we
should never despair, and here we are despairing as hard as ever
Jan threw up his chin, and straightened his back. "Yes," he said,
swallowing his sobs, "and she said I was now a man and must take
care of myself and you."
"What shall we do, then?" asked Marie.
Jan thought hard for a moment. Then he said: "Eat! It must be
late, and we have not had a mouthful to-day."
Marie stood up. "Yes," said she; "we must eat. Let us go back
The clock in the steeple struck eleven as the two children ran
once more through the deserted street and began a search for food
in their empty house.
They found that the invaders had been as thorough within the
house as without. Not only had they carried away the grain which
their mother had worked so hard to thresh, but they had cleaned
the cupboard as well. The hungry children found nothing but a few
crusts of bread, a bit of cheese, and some milk in the cellar,
but with these and two eggs, which Jan knew where to look for in
the straw in the barn, they made an excellent breakfast. They
gave Fidel the last of the milk, and then, much refreshed, made
ready to start upon a strange and lonely journey the end of which
they did not know. They tied their best clothes in a bundle,
which Jan hung upon a stick over his shoulder, and were just
about to leave the house, when Marie cried out, "Suppose Mother
should come back and find us gone!"
"We must leave word where we have gone, so she will know where to
look for us, of course," Jan answered capably.
"Yes, but how?" persisted Marie. "There's no one to leave word
This was a hard puzzle, but Jan soon found a way out. "We must
write a note and pin it up where she would be sure to find it,"
"The very thing," said Marie.
They found a bit of charcoal and a piece of wrapping-paper, and
Jan was all ready to write when a new difficulty presented
itself. "What shall I say?" he said to Marie. "We don't know
where we are going!"
"We don't know the way to any place but Malines," said Marie; "so
we'll have to go there, I suppose."
"How do you spell Malines?" asked Jan, charcoal in hand.
"Oh, you stupid boy!" cried Marie. "M-a-l-i-n-e-s, of course!"
Jan put the paper down on the kitchen floor and got down before
it on his hands and knees. He had not yet learned to write, but
he managed to print upon it in great staggering letters:--
WE HAVE GONE TO MALINES TO FIND YOU.
JAN AND MARIE."
This note they pinned upon the inside of the kitchen door.
"Now we are ready to start," said Jan; and, calling Fidel, the
two children set forth. They took a short cut from the house
across the pasture to the potato-field. Here they dug a few
potatoes, which they put in their bundle, and then, avoiding the
road, slipped down to the river, and, following the stream, made
their way toward Malines.
It was fortunate for them that, screened by the bushes and trees
which fringed the bank of the river, they saw but little of the
ruin and devastation left in the wake of the German hosts. There
were farmers who had tried to defend their families and homes
from the invaders. Burning houses and barns marked the places
where they had lived and died. But the children, thinking only
of their lost mother, and of keeping themselves as much out of
sight as possible in their search for her, were spared most of
these horrors. Their progress was slow, for the bundle was heavy,
and the river path less direct than the road, and it was
nightfall before the two little waifs, with Fidel at their heels,
reached the well-remembered Brussels gate.
Their hearts almost stopped beating when they found it guarded by
a German soldier. "Who goes there?" demanded the guard gruffly,
as he caught sight of the little figures.
"If you please, sir, it's Jan and Marie," said Jan, shaking in
"And Fidel, too," said Marie.
The soldier bent down and looked closely at the two tear-stained
little faces. It may be that some remembrance of other little
faces stirred within him, for he only said stiffly, "Pass, Jan
and Marie, and you, too, Fidel." And the two children and the dog
hurried through the gate and up the first street they came to,
their bundle bumping along behind them as they ran.
The city seemed strangely silent and deserted, except for the
gray-clad soldiers, and armed guards blocked the way at
intervals. Taught by fear, Jan and Marie soon learned to slip
quietly along under cover of the gathering darkness, and to dodge
into a doorway or round a corner, when they came too near one of
the stiff, helmeted figures.
At last, after an hour of aimless wandering, they found
themselves in a large, open square, looking up at the tall
cathedral spires. A German soldier came suddenly out of the
shadows, and the frightened children, scarcely knowing what they
did, ran up the cathedral steps and flung themselves against the
door. When the soldier had passed by, they reached cautiously up,
and by dint of pulling with their united strength succeeded at
last in getting the door open. They thrust their bundle inside,
pushed Fidel in after it, and then slipped through themselves.
The great door closed behind them on silent hinges and they were
alone in the vast stillness of the cathedral. Timidly they crept
toward the lights of the altar, and, utterly exhausted, slept
that night on the floor near the statue of the Madonna, with
their heads pillowed on Fidel's shaggy side.
GRANNY AND THE EELS
GRANNY AND THE EELS
When the cathedral bells rang the next morning for early mass,
the children were still sleeping the sleep of utter exhaustion.
It was not until the bells had ceased to ring, and the door,
opening from the sacristy near their resting place, creaked upon
its hinges, that even Fidel was aroused. True to his watchdog
instincts, he started to his feet with a low growl, letting the
heads of Jan and Marie down upon the floor with a sudden bump.
For an instant the awakened children could not remember where
they were or what had happened to them. They sat up and rubbed
their heads, but the habit of fear was already so strong upon
them that they made no sound and instantly quieted Fidel. Again
the door creaked, and through it there appeared a tall figure
dressed in priestly robes. The children were so near that had
they thrust their hands through the railing of the communion bank
behind which they were concealed, they might have touched him as
he passed before the altar of the Virgin and presented himself in
front of the high altar to conduct the mass. His head, as he
passed them, was bowed. His face was pale and thin, and marked
with lines of deep sorrow.
"Oh," whispered Marie to Jan, "it must be the Cardinal himself.
Mother told me about him."
The whisper made such a loud sound in the silence of the great
cathedral aisles that Jan was afraid to reply. For answer he only
laid his finger upon his lips and crept still farther back into
the shadow. Fidel seemed to know that dogs were not allowed in
church and that it was necessary for him to be quiet, too, for he
crawled back with the children into the sheltering darkness.
There were only a few persons in the cathedral, and those few
were near the door; so no one saw the children as they knelt with
folded hands and bowed heads in their corner, reverently
following the service as the Cardinal ate the sacred wafer and
drank the communion wine before the altar. Later they were to
know his face as the bravest and best beloved in all Belgium next
to those of the King and Queen themselves.
When again he passed the kneeling little figures on his return to
the sacristy, their lonely hearts so ached for care and
protection, and his face looked so kind and pitiful, that they
almost dared to make their presence known and to ask for the help
they sorely needed. Marie, bolder than Jan, half rose as he
passed, but Jan pulled her back, and in another instant the door
had closed behind him and he was gone.
"Oh," sobbed Marie under her breath, "he looked so kind! He might
have helped us. Why did you pull me back?"
"How could we let him see Fidel, and tell him that our dog had
slept all night before the altar?" answered Jan. "I shouldn't
dare! He is a great Prince of the Church!"
The sound of scraping chairs told them that the little
congregation had risen from its knees and was passing out of the
church. They waited until every one had disappeared through the
great door, and then made a swift flight down the echoing aisle
and out into the sunlight. For a moment they stood hand in hand
upon the cathedral steps, clasping their bundle and waiting for
the next turn of fortune's wheel.
The bright sunlight of the summer day, shining on the open
square, almost blinded them, and what they saw in the square,
when their eyes had become used to it, did not comfort them.
Everywhere there were German soldiers with their terrible
bayonets and pointed helmets and their terrible songs. Everywhere
there were pale and desperate Belgians fleeing before the
arrogant German invader.
"Oh, Jan," whispered Marie clinging to him, "there are so many
people! How shall we ever find Mother? I didn't know there were
so many people in the whole world."
"It isn't likely that we'll find her by just standing here,
anyway," answered Jan. "We've got to keep going till we get
He slung the bundle on his shoulder and whistled to Fidel, who
had gone down the steps to bark at a homeless cat.
"Come along," he said to Marie. And once more the little pilgrims
took up their journey. At the first corner they paused, not
knowing whether to go to the right or to the left.
"Which way?" said Marie.
Jan stood still and looked first in one direction and then in the
"Here, gutter-snipes, what are you standing here for? Make way
for your betters!" said a gruff voice behind them, and, turning,
the children found themselves face to face with a German officer
dressed in a resplendent uniform and accompanied by a group of
swaggering young soldiers. Too frightened to move, the children
only looked up at him and did not stir.
"Get out of the way, I tell you!" roared the officer, turning
purple with rage; "Orderly!" One of the young men sprang
forward. He seized Jan by the arm and deftly kicked him into the
gutter. Another at the same moment laid his hands on Marie. But
he reckoned without Fidel, faithful Fidel, who knew no difference
between German and Belgian, but knew only that no cruel hand
should touch his beloved Marie, while he was there to defend her.
With a fierce growl he sprang at the young orderly and buried his
teeth in his leg. Howling with pain, the orderly dropped Marie,
while another soldier drew his sword with an oath and made a
thrust at Fidel. Fortunately Fidel was too quick for him. He let
go his hold upon the leg of the orderly, tearing a large hole in
his uniform as he did so, and flung himself directly between the
legs of the other soldier who was lunging at him with the sword.
The next instant the surprised German found himself sprawling
upon the sidewalk, and saw Fidel, who had escaped without a
scratch, dashing wildly up the street after Jan and Marie. Beside
himself with rage, the soldier drew a revolver and fired a shot,
which barely missed Fidel, and buried itself in the doorstep of
the house past which he was running.
If Jan and Marie had not turned a corner just at that moment, and
if Fidel had not followed them, there is no telling what might
have happened next, for the young soldier was very angry indeed.
Perhaps he considered it beneath his dignity to run after them,
and perhaps he saw that Jan and Marie could both run like the
wind and he would not be likely to catch them if he did. At any
rate, he did not follow. He picked himself up and dusted his
clothes, using very bad language as he did so, and followed the
officer and his companions up the street.
Meanwhile the tired children ran on and on, fear lending speed to
their weary legs. Round behind the great cathedral they sped,
hoping to find some way of escape from the terrors of the town,
but their way was blocked by the smoking ruins of a section of
the city which the Germans had burned in the night, and there was
no way to get out in that direction. Terrified and faint with
hunger, they turned once more, and, not knowing where they were
going, stumbled at last upon the street which led to the Antwerp
"I remember this place;" cried Jan, with something like joy in
his voice. "Don't you remember, Marie? It's where we stood to
watch the soldiers, and Mother sang for us to march, because we
were so tired and hungry."
"I'm tired and hungry now, too," said poor Marie.
"Let's march again," said Jan.
"Where to?" said Marie.
"That's the way Father went when he marched away with the
soldiers," said Jan, pointing to the Antwerp gate. "Anything is
better than staying here. Let's go that way." He started bravely
forward once more, Marie and Fidel following.
They found themselves only two wretched atoms in one of the
saddest processions in history, for there were many other people,
as unhappy as themselves, who were also trying to escape from the
city. Some had lived in the section which was now burning; others
had been turned out of their homes by the Germans; and all were
hastening along, carrying babies and bundles, and followed by
groups of older children.
Jan and Marie were swept along with the hurrying crowd, through
the city gate and beyond, along the river road which led to
Antwerp. No one spoke to them. Doubtless they were supposed to
belong to some one of the fleeing families, and it was at least
comforting to the children to be near people of whom they were
not afraid. But Jan and Marie could not keep pace with the swift-
moving crowd of refugees. They trudged along the highway at their
best speed, only to find themselves straggling farther and
They were half a mile or more beyond the city gate when they
overtook a queer little old woman who was plodding steadily along
wheeling a wheelbarrow, in front of her. She evidently did not
belong among the refugees, for she was making no effort to keep up
with them. She had bright, twinkling black eyes, and snow-white
hair tucked under a snow-white cap. Her face was as brown as a
nut and full of wrinkles, but it shone with such kindness and
good-will that, when Jan and Marie had taken one look at her,
they could not help walking along by her side.
"Maybe she has seen Mother," whispered Marie to Jan. "Let's ask
The little old woman smiled down at them as they joined her.
"You'll have to hurry, my dears, or you won't keep up with your
folks," she said kindly.
"They aren't our folks," said Jan.
"They aren't?" said the little old woman, stopping short. "Then
where are your folks?"
"We haven't any, not just now," said Jan. "You see our father is
a soldier, and our mother, oh, have you seen our mother? She's
The little old woman gave them a quick, pitying glance. "Lost, is
she?" she said. "Well, now, I can't just be sure whether I've
seen her or not, not knowing what she looks like, but I wouldn't
say I haven't. Lots of folks have passed this way. How did she
get lost?" She sat down on the edge of the barrow and drew the
children to her side. "Come, now," she said, "tell Granny all
about it! I've seen more trouble than any one you ever saw in all
your life before, and I'm not a mite afraid of it either."
Comforted already, the children poured forth their story.
"You poor little lambs!" she cried, when they had finished, "and
you haven't had a bite to eat since yesterday! Mercy on us! You
can never find your mother on an empty stomach!" She rose from
the wheelbarrow, as she spoke, and trundled it swiftly from the
road to the bank of the river, a short distance away. Here, in a
sheltered nook, hidden from the highway by a group of willows,
she stopped. "We'll camp right here, and I'll get you a dinner
fit for a king or a duke, at the very least," she said cheerily.
"Look what I have in my wheelbarrow!" She took a basket from the
top of it as she spoke.
Fidel was already looking in, with his tail standing straight out
behind, his ears pointed forward, and the hairs bristling on the
back of his neck. There, on some clean white sand in the bottom
of the wheelbarrow, wriggled a fine fat eel!
"Now I know why I didn't sell that eel," cried Granny. "There's
always a reason for everything, you see, my darlings."
She seized the eel with a firm, well-sanded hand as she spoke,
and before could spell your name backwards, she had skinned and
dressed it, and had given the remnants to poor hungry Fidel.
"Now, my boy," she said gayly to Jan as she worked, "you get
together some twigs and dead leaves, and you, Big Eyes," she
added to Marie, "find some stones by the river, and we'll soon
have such a stove as you never saw before, and a fire in it, and
a bit of fried eel, to fill your hungry stomachs."
Immensely cheered, the children flew on these errands. Then Marie
had a bright thought. "We have some potatoes in our bundle," she
"Well, now," cried the little old woman, "wouldn't you think they
had just followed up that eel on purpose? We'll put them to roast
in the ashes. I always carry a pan and a bit of fat and some
matches about with me when I take my eels to market," she
explained as she whisked these things out of the basket, "and it
often happens that I cook myself a bite to eat on my way home,
especially if I'm late. You see, I live a long way from here,
just across the river from Boom, and I'm getting lazy in my old
age. Early every morning I walk to Malines with my barrow full of
fine eels, and sell them to the people of the town. That's how I
happen to be so rich!"
"Are you rich?" asked Marie wonderingly.
She had brought the stones from the river, and now she untied her
bundle and took out the potatoes. Jan had already heaped a little
mound of sticks and twigs near by, and soon the potatoes were
cooking in the ashes, and a most appetizing smell of frying eel
filled the air.
"Am I rich?" repeated the old woman. She looked surprised that
any one could ask such a question. "Of course I'm rich. Haven't I
got two eyes in my head, and a tongue, too, and it's lucky,
indeed, that it's that way about, for if I had but one eye and
two tongues, you see for yourself how much less handy that would
be! And I've two legs as good as any one's, and two hands to help
myself with! The Kaiser himself has no more legs and arms than I,
and I doubt if he can use them half as well. Neither has he a
stomach the more! And as for his heart" she looked cautiously
around as she spoke "his heart, I'll be bound, is not half so
good as mine! If it were, he cold not find it in it to do all the
cruel things he's doing here. I 'm sure of that."
For a moment the cheerfulness of her face clouded over; but she
saw the shadow reflected in the faces of Jan and Marie, and at
once spoke more gayly. "Bless you, yes, I'm rich," she went on;
"and so are you! You've got all the things that I have and more,
too, for you legs and arms are young, and you have a mother to
look for. Not every one has that, you may depend! And one of
these days you'll find her. Make no doubt of that."
"If we don't, she'll surely find us, anyway," said Jan. "She said
"Indeed and she will," said the old woman. "Even the Germans
couldn't stop her; so what matter is it, if you both have to look
a bit first? It will only make it the better when you find each
When the potatoes were done, the little old woman raked them out
of the ashes with a stick, broke them open, sprinkled a bit of
salt on them from the wonderful basket, and then handed one to
each of the children, wrapped in a plantain leaf, so they should
not burn their fingers. A piece of the eel was served to them in
the same way, and Granny beamed with satisfaction as she watched
her famished guests.
"Aren't you going to eat, too?" asked Marie with her mouth full.
"Bless you, yes," said Granny. "Every chance I get. You just
watch me!" She made a great show of taking a piece of the eel as
she spoke, but if any one had been watching carefully, they would
have her slyly put it back again into the pan, and the children
never knew that they ate her share and their own, too.
When they had eaten every scrap of the eel, and Fidel had
finished the bones, the little old woman rose briskly from the
bank, washed her pan in the river, packed it in her basket again,
and led the way up the path to the highway once more. Although
they found the road still filled with the flying refugees, the
world had grown suddenly brighter to Jan and Marie. They had
found a friend and they were fed.
"Now, you come along home with your Granny," said the little old
woman as they reached the Antwerp road and turned northward, "for
I live in a little house by the river right on the way to
wherever you want to go!"
OFF FOR ANTWERP
OFF FOR ANTWERP
For several days the children stayed with the little old woman in
her tiny cottage on the edge of the river. Each morning they
crossed the bridge and stationed themselves by the Antwerp road
to watch the swarm of sad-faced Belgians as they hurried through
Boom on their way to the frontier and to safety in Holland. Each
day they hoped that before the sun went down they should see
their mother among the hurrying multitudes, but each day brought
a fresh disappointment, and each night the little old woman
comforted them with fresh hope for the morrow.
"You see, my darlings," said she, "it may take a long time and
you may have to go a long way first, but I feel in my bones that
you will find her at last. And of course, if you do, every step
you take is a step toward her, no matter how far round you go."
Jan and Marie believed every word that Granny said. How could
they help it when she had been so good to them! Her courage and
faith seemed to make an isle of safety about her where the
children rested in perfect trust. They saw that neither guns nor
Germans nor any other terror could frighten Granny. In the midst
of a thousand alarms she calmly went her accustomed way, and
every one who met her was the better for a glimpse of the brave
little brown face under its snowy cap. Early each morning she
rose with the larks, covered the bottom of her barrow with clean
white sand, and placed in it the live eels which had been caught
for her and brought to the door by small boys who lived in the
neighborhood. Then, when she had wakened the Twins, and the three
had had their breakfast together, away she would trudge over the
long, dusty road to Malines, wheeling the barrow. with its
squirming freight in front of her.
Jan and Marie helped her all they could. They washed the dishes
and swept the floor of the tiny cottage and made everything tidy
and clean before they went to take up their stand beside the
Antwerp road. When the shadows grew long in the afternoon, how
glad they were to see the sturdy little figure come trudging home
again! Then they would run to meet her, and Jan would take the
wheelbarrow from her tired hands and wheel it for her over the
bridge to the little cottage under the willow trees on the other
side of the river.
Then Marie's work was to clean the barrow, while Jan pulled weeds
in the tiny garden back of the house, and Granny got supper
ready. Supper-time was the best of all, for every pleasant
evening they ate at a little table out of doors under the willow
One evening, when supper had been cleared away, they sat there
together, with Fidel beside them, while Granny told a wonderful
tale about the King of the Eels who lived in a crystal palace at
the bottom of the river.
"You can't quite see the palace," she said, "because, when you
look right down into it, the water seems muddy. But sometimes,
when it is still, you can see the Upside-Down Country where the
King of the Eels lives. There the trees all grow with their heads
down and the sky is 'way, 'way below the trees. You see the sky
might as well be down as up for the eels. They aren't like us,
just obliged to crawl around on the ground without ever being
able to go up or down at all. The up-above sky belongs to the
birds and the down-below sky belongs to the fishes and eels. And
I am not sure but one is just as nice as the other."
Marie and Jan went to the river, and, getting down on their hands
and knees, looked into the water.
"We can't see a thing!" they cried to Granny.
"You aren't looking the right way," she answered. "Look across it
toward the sunset."
"Oh! Oh!" cried Marie, clasping her hands; "I see it! I see the
down-below sky, and it is all red and gold!"
"I told you so," replied Granny triumphantly. "Lots of folks
can't see a thing in the river but the mud, when, if you look at
it the right way, there is a whole lovely world in it. Now, the
palace of the King of the Eels is right over in that direction
where the color is the reddest. He is very fond of red, is the
King of the Eels. His throne is all made of rubies, and he makes
the Queen tie red bows on the tails of all the little eels."
Jan and Marie were still looking with all their eyes across the
still water toward the sunset and trying to see the crystal
palace of the eels, when suddenly from behind them there came a
loud "Hee-haw, hee-haw." They jumped, and Granny jumped, too, and
they all looked around to see where the sound came from. There,
coming slowly toward them along the tow-path on the river-bank,
was an old brown mule. She was pulling a low, green river-boat by
a towline, and a small boy, not much bigger than Jan, was driving
her. On the deck of the boat there was a little cabin with white
curtains in the tiny windows and two red geraniums in pots
standing on the sills. From a clothesline hitched to the rigging
there fluttered a row of little shirts, and seated on a box near
by there was a fat, friendly looking woman with two small
children playing by her side. The father of the family was busy
with the tiller.
"There come the De Smets, as sure as you live!" cried Granny,
rising from the wheelbarrow, where she had been sitting. "I
certainly am glad to see them." And she started at once down the
river to meet the boat, with Jan and Marie and Fidel all
"Ship ahoy!" she cried gayly as the boat drew near. The boy who
was driving the mule grinned shyly. The woman on deck lifted her
eyes from her sewing, smiled, and waved her hand at Granny, while
the two little children ran to the edge of the boat; and held out
their arms to her.
"Here we are again, war or no war!" cried Mother De Smet, as the
boat came alongside. Father De Smet left the tiller and threw a
rope ashore. "Whoa!" cried the boy driving the mule. The mule
stopped with the greatest willingness, the boy caught the rope
and lifted the great loop over a strong post on the river-bank,
and the "Old Woman" for that was the name of the boat was in
Soon a gangplank was slipped from the boat to the little wooden
steps on the bank, and Mother De Smet, with a squirming baby
under each arm, came ashore. "I do like to get out on dry land
and shake my legs a bit now and then," she said cheerfully as she
greeted Granny. "On the boat I just sit still and grow fat!"
"I shake my legs for a matter of ten miles every day," laughed
Granny. "That's how I keep my figure!"
Mother De Smet set the babies down on the grass, where they
immediately began to tumble about like a pair of puppies, and she
and Granny talked together, while the Twins went to watch the
work of Father De Smet and the boy, whose name was Joseph.
"I don't know whatever the country is coming to," said Mother De
Smet to Granny. "The Germans are everywhere, and they are taking
everything that they can lay their hands on. I doubt if we ever
get our cargo safe to Antwerp this time. We've come for a load of
potatoes, but I am very much afraid it is going to be our last
trip for some time. The country looks quiet enough as you see it
from the boat, but the things that are happening in it would
chill your blood."
"Yes," sighed Granny; "if I would let it, my old heart would
break over the sights that I see every day on my way to Malines.
But a broken heart won't get you anywhere. Maybe a stout heart
"Who are the children you have with you?" asked Mother De Smet.
Then Granny told her how she had found Jan and Marie, and all the
rest of the sad story. Mother De Smet wiped her eyes and blew her
nose very hard as she listened.
"I wouldn't let them wait any longer by the Antwerp road,
anyway," she said when Granny had finished. "There is no use in
the world in looking for their mother to come that way. She was
probably driven over the border long ago. You just leave them
with me to-morrow while you go to town. 'Twill cheer them up a
bit to play with Joseph and the babies."
"Well, now," said Granny, "if that isn't just like your good
And that is how it happened that, when she trudged off with her
barrow the next morning, the Twins ran down to the boat and spent
the day rolling on the grass with the babies, and helping Father
De Smet and Joseph to load the boat with bags of potatoes which
had been brought to the dock in the night by neighboring farmers.
When Granny came trundling her barrow home in the late afternoon,
she found the children and their new friends already on the best
of terms; and that night, after the Twins were in bed, she went
aboard the "Old Woman" and talked for a long time with Father and
Mother De Smet. No one will ever know just what they said to each
other, but it must be that they talked about the Twins, for when
the children awoke the next morning, they found Granny standing
beside their bed with their clothes all nicely washed and ironed
in her hands.
"I'm not going to town this morning with my eels," she said as
she popped them out of bed. "I'm going to stay at home and see
you off on your journey!" She did not tell them that things had
grown so terrible in Malines that even she felt it wise to stay
"Our journey!" cried the Twins in astonishment. "What journey?"
"To Antwerp," cried Granny. "Now, you never thought a chance like
that would come to you, I'm sure, but some people are born lucky!
You see the De Smets start back today, and they are willing to
take you along with them!"
"But we don't want to leave you, dear, dear Granny!" cried the
Twins, throwing their arms about her neck.
"And I don't want you to go, either, my lambs," said Granny;
"but, you see, there are lots of things to think of. In the first
place, of course you want to go on hunting for your mother. It
may be she has gone over the border; for the Germans are already
in trenches near Antwerp, and our army is nearer still to Antwerp
and in trenches, too. There they stay, Father De Smet says, for
all the world, like two tigers, lying ready to spring at each
other's throats. He says Antwerp is so strongly fortified that
the Germans can never take it, and so it is a better place to be
in than here. The De Smets will see that you are left in safe
hands, and I'm sure your mother would want you to go." The
children considered this for a moment in silence.
At last Jan said, "Do you think Father De Smet would let me help
drive the mule?"
"I haven't a doubt of it," said Granny.
"But what about Fidel, our dear Fidel?" cried Marie.
"I tell you what I'll do;" said Granny. "I'll take care of Fidel
for you! You shall leave him here with me until you come back
again! You see, I really need good company, and since I can't
have you, I know you would be glad to have Fidel stay here to
protect me. Then you'll always know just where he is."
She hurried the children into their clothes as she talked, gave
them a good breakfast, and before they had time to think much
about what was happening to them, they had said good-bye to
Fidel, who had to be shut in the cottage to keep him from
following the boat, and were safely aboard the "Old Woman" and
slowly moving away down the river. They stood in the stern of the
boat, listening to Fidel's wild barks, and waving their hands,
until Granny's kind face was a mere round speck in the distance.
ON THE TOW-PATH
ON THE TOW-PATH
When they could no longer see Granny, nor hear Fidel, the
children sat down on a coil of rope behind the cabin and felt
very miserable indeed. Marie was just turning up the corner of
her apron to wipe her eyes, and Jan was looking at nothing at all
and winking very hard, when good Mother De Smet, came by with a
baby waddling along on each side of her. She gave the two dismal
little faces a quick glance and then said kindly:
"Jan, you run and see if you can't help Father with the tiller,
and, Marie, would you mind playing with the babies while I put on
the soup-kettle and fix the greens for dinner? They are beginning
to climb everywhere now, and I am afraid they will fall overboard
if somebody doesn't watch them every minute!"
Jan clattered at once across the deck to Father De Smet, and
Marie gladly followed his wife to the open space in front of the
cabin where the babies had room to roll about. Half an hour
later, when Mother De Smet went back to get some potatoes for the
soup, she found Jan proudly steering the boat by himself.
"Oh, my soul!" she cried in astonishment. "What a clever boy you
must be to learn so quickly to handle the tiller. Where is Father
"Here!" boomed a loud voice behind her, and Father De Smet's head
appeared above a barrel on the other side of the deck. "I'm
trying to make the 'Old Woman' look as if she had no cargo
aboard. If the Germans see these potatoes, they'll never let us
get them to Antwerp," he shouted.
"Sh-h-h! You mustn't talk so loud," whispered Mother De Smet.
"You roar like a foghorn on a dark night. The Germans won't have
any trouble in finding out about the potatoes if you shout the
news all over the landscape."
Father De Smet looked out over the quiet Belgian fields.
"There's nobody about that I can see," he said, "but I'll roar
more gently next time."
There was a bend in the river just at this point, and Jan,
looking fearfully about to see if he could see any Germans, for
an instant forgot all about the tiller. There was a jerk on the
tow-rope and a bump as the nose of the "Old Woman " ran into the
river-bank. Netteke, the mule, came to a sudden stop, and Mother
De Smet sat down equally suddenly on a coil of rope. Her potatoes
spilled over the deck, while a wail from the front of the boat
announced that one of the babies had bumped, too. Mother De Smet
picked herself up and ran to see what was the matter with the
baby, while Father De Smet seized a long pole and hurried
forward. Joseph left the mule to browse upon the grass beside the
tow-path and ran back to the boat. His father threw him a pole
which was kept for such emergencies, and they both pushed. Joseph
pushed on the boat and his father pushed against the river-bank.
Meanwhile poor Jan stood wretchedly by the tiller knowing that
his carelessness had caused the trouble, yet not knowing what to
do to help.
"Never mind, son," said Mother De Smet kindly, when she came back
for her potatoes and saw his downcast face. "It isn't the first
time the 'Old Woman' has stuck her nose in the mud, and with
older people than you at the tiller, too! We'll soon have her off
again and no harm done."
The boat gave a little lurch toward the middle of the stream.
"Look alive there, Mate!" sang out Father De Smet. "Hard aport
with the tiller! Head her out into the stream!"
Joseph flung his pole to his father and rushed back to Netteke,
pulled her patient nose out of a delicious bunch of thistles and
started her up the tow-path. Jan sprang to the tiller, and soon
the "Old Woman" was once more gliding smoothly over the quiet
water toward Antwerp.
When Father De Smet came back to the stern of the boat, Jan
expected a scolding, but perhaps it seemed to the good-natured
skipper that Jan had troubles enough already, for he only said
mildly, "Stick to your job, son, whatever it is," and went on
covering his potatoes with empty boxes and pieces of sailcloth.
Jan paid such strict attention to the tiller after that that he
did not even forget when Father De Smet pointed out a burning
farmhouse a mile or so from the river and said grimly, "The
Germans are amusing themselves again."
For the most part, however, the countryside seemed so quiet and
peaceful that it was hard to believe that such dreadful things
were going on all about them. While Father De Smet's eyes, under
their bushy brows, kept close watch in every direction, he said
little about his fears and went on his way exactly as he had done
before the invasion.
It was quite early in the morning when they left Boom, and by ten
o'clock Joseph was tired of trudging along beside Netteke. He
hailed his father.
"May I come aboard now?" he shouted.
Father De Smet looked at Jan.
"Would you like to drive the mule awhile?" he asked.
"Oh, wouldn't I!" cried Jan.
"Have you ever driven a mule before?" Father De Smet asked again.
"Not a mule, exactly," Jail replied, "but I drove old Pier up
from the field with a load of wheat all by myself. Mother sat on
"Come along!" shouted Father De Smet to Joseph, and in a moment
the gangplank was out and Jan and Joseph had changed places.
"May I go, too?" asked Marie timidly of Father De Smet as he was
about to draw in the plank. "The babies are both asleep and I
have nothing to do."
Father De Smet took a careful look in every direction. It was
level, open country all about them, dotted here and there with
farmhouses, and in the distance the spire of a village church
rose above the clustering houses and pointed to the sky.
"Yes, yes, child. Go ahead," said Father De Smet. "Only don't get
too near Netteke's hind legs. She doesn't know you very well and
sometimes she forgets her manners."
Marie skipped over the gangplank and ran along the tow-path to
Jan, who already had taken up Netteke's reins and was waiting for
the signal to start. Joseph took his place at the tiller, and
again the "Old Woman" moved slowly down the stream.
For some time Jan and Marie plodded along with Netteke. At first
they thought it good fun, but by and by, as the sun grew hot,
driving a mule on a tow-path did not seem quite so pleasant a
task as they had thought it would be.
"I'm tired of this," said Jan at last to Marie. "That mule is so
slow that I have to sight her by something to be sure that she is
moving at all! I've been measuring by that farmhouse across the
river for a long time, and she hasn't crawled up to it yet! I
shouldn't wonder if she'd go to sleep some day and fall into the
river and never wake up! Why, I am almost asleep myself."
"She'll wake up fast enough when it's time to eat, and so will
you," said Marie, with profound wisdom.
"Let 's see if we can't make her go a little faster, anyway,"
said Jan, ignoring Marie's remark. "I know what I'll do," he went
on, chuckling; "I'll get some burrs and stick them in her tail,
and then every time she slaps the flies off she'll make herself
Marie seized Jan's arm.
"You'll do nothing of the kind!" she cried. "Father De Smet told
me especially to keep away from Netteke's hind legs."
"Pooh!" said Jan; "he didn't tell me that. I'm not afraid of any
mule alive. I guess if I can harness a horse and drive home a
load of grain from the field, there isn't much I can't do with a
mule!" To prove his words he shouted "U - U" at Netteke and slapped
her flank with a long branch of willow.
Now, Netteke was a proud mule and she wasn't used to being
slapped. Father De Smet knew her ways, and knew also that her
steady, even, slow pace was better in the long run than to
attempt to force a livelier gait, and Netteke was well aware of
what was expected of her. She resented being interfered with.
Instead of going forward at greater speed, she put her four feet
together, laid back her ears, gave a loud "hee-haw!" and stopped
"U - U!" shouted Jan. In vain! Netteke would not move. Marie held a
handful of fresh grass just out of reach of her mouth. But
Netteke was really offended. She made no effort to get it. She
simply stayed where she was. Father De Smet stuck his head over
the side of the boat.
"What is the matter?" he shouted.
"Oh, dear!" said Jan to Marie. "I hoped he wouldn't notice that
the boat wasn't moving."
"Netteke has stopped. She won't go at all. I think she's run
down!" Marie called back.
"Try coaxing her," cried the skipper. "Give her something to eat.
Hold it in front of her nose."
"I have," answered Marie, "but she won't even look at it."
"Then it's no use," said Father De Smet mournfully. "She's balked
and that is all there is to it. We'll just have to wait until she
is ready to go again. When she has made up her mind she is as
difficult to persuade as a setting hen."
Mother De Smet's head appeared beside her husband's over the boat-
"Oh, dear!" said she; "I hoped we should get to the other side of
the line before dark, but if Netteke's set, she's set, and we
must just make the best of it. It's lucky it's dinner-time. We'll
eat, and maybe by the time we are through she'll be willing to
start." Father De Smet tossed a bucket on to the grass.
"Give her a good drink," he said, "and come aboard yourselves."
Jan filled the bucket from the river and set it down before
Netteke, but she was in no mood for blandishments. She kept her
ears back and would not touch the water.
"All right, then, Crosspatch," said Jan. Leaving the pail in
front of her, he went back to the boat. The gangplank was put
out, and he and Marie went on board. They found dinner ready in
the tiny cabin, and because it was so small and stuffy, and there
were too many of them, anyway, to get into it comfortably, they
each took a bowl of soup as Mother De Smet handed it to them and
sat down on the deck in front of the cabin to eat it. It was not
until the middle of the afternoon that Netteke forgot her
injuries, consented to eat and drink, and indicated her
willingness to move on toward Antwerp.
Joseph and his father were both on the tow-path when at last
Netteke decided to move. As she set her ears forward and took the
first step, Father De Smet heaved a sigh of relief.
"Now, why couldn't you have done that long ago, you addlepated
old fool," he said mildly to Netteke. "You have made no end of
trouble for us, and gained nothing for yourself! Now I am afraid
we shan't get beyond the German lines before dark. We may even
have to spend the night in dangerous territory, and all because
you're just as mulish as, as a mule," he finished helplessly.
Joseph laughed. "Can't you think of anything mulisher than a
mule?" he said.
"There isn't a thing," answered his father.
"Well," answered Joseph, "there are a whole lot of other things
beside balky mules in this world that I wish had never been made.
There are spiders, and rats, and Germans. They are all pests. I
don't see why they were ever born."
Father De Smet became serious at once.
"Son," he said sternly, "don't ever let me hear you say such a
thing again. There are spiders, and rats, and balky mules, and
Germans, and it doesn't do a bit of good to waste words fussing
because they are here. The thing to do is to deal with them!"
Father De Smet was so much in earnest that he boomed these words
out in quite a loud voice. Joseph seized his hand.
"Hush!" he whispered.
Father De Smet looked up. There, standing right in front of them
in the tow-path, was a German soldier!
"Halt!" shouted the soldier.
But Netteke was now just as much bent upon going as she had been
before upon standing still. She paid no attention whatever to the
command, but walked stolidly along the tow-path directly toward
"Halt!" cried the soldier again.
But Netteke had had no military training, and she simply kept on.
In one more step she would have come down upon the soldier's
toes, if he had not moved aside just in time. He was very angry.
"Why didn't you stop your miserable old mule when I told you to?"
he said to Father De Smet.
"It's a balky mule," replied Father De Smet mildly, "and very
"Indeed!" sneered the soldier; "then, I suppose you have named
him Albert after your pig-headed King!"
"No," answered Father De Smet, "I think too much of my King to
name my mule after him."
"Oh, ho!" said the German; "then perhaps you have named him for
Netteke had marched steadily along during this conversation, and
they were now past the soldier.
"No," Father De Smet called back, "I didn't name her after the
Kaiser. I think too much of my mule!"
The soldier shook his fist after them. "I'll make you pay well
for your impudence!" he shouted. "You and I will meet again!"
"Very likely," muttered Father De Smet under his breath. He was
now more than ever anxious to get beyond the German lines before
dark, but as the afternoon passed it became certain that they
would not be able to do it. The shadows grew longer and longer as
Netteke plodded slowly along, and at last Mother De Smet called
to her husband over the boatside.
"I think we shall have to stop soon and feed the mule or she will
be too tired to get us across the line at all. I believe we
should save time by stopping for supper. Besides, I want to send
over there," she pointed to a farmhouse not a great distance
from the river, "and get some milk and eggs."
"Very well," said her husband; "we'll stop under that bunch of
The bunch of willows beside the river which he pointed out proved
to be a pleasant, sheltered spot, with grassy banks sloping down
to the water. A turn in the river enabled them to draw the "Old
Woman" up into their shadows, and because the trees were green
and the boat was green, the reflections in the water were also
green, and for this reason the boat seemed very well hidden from
"I don't believe we shall be noticed here," said Father De Smet.
"It's hot on the boat. It would be nice to take the babies ashore
while we eat," said Mother De Smet, running out the gangplank. "I
believe we'll have supper on the grass. You hurry along and get
the milk and eggs, and I'll cook some onions while you are gone."
Jan and Marie ran over the plank at once, and Mother De Smet soon
followed with the babies. Then, while Marie watched them, she and
Jan brought out the onions and a pan, and soon the air was heavy
with the smell of frying onions. Joseph and Jan slipped the
bridle over Netteke's collar and allowed her to eat the rich
green grass at the river's edge. When Father De Smet returned,
supper was nearly ready. He sniffed appreciatively as he appeared
under the trees.
"Smells good," he said as he held out the milk and eggs toward
"Sie haben recht!" (You are right!), said a loud voice right
Father De Smet was so startled that he dropped the eggs. He
whirled about, and there stood the German soldier who had told
Netteke to halt. With him were six other men.
"Ha! I told you we should meet again!" shouted the soldier to
Father De Smet. "And it was certainly thoughtful of you to
provide for our entertainment. Comrades, fall to!"
The onions were still cooking over a little blaze of twigs aid
dry leaves, but Mother De Smet was no longer tending them. The
instant she heard the gruff voice she had dropped her spoon, and,
seizing a baby under each arm, had fled up the gangplank on to
the boat. Marie followed at top speed. Father De Smet faced the
"What do you want here?" he said.
"Some supper first," said the soldier gayly, helping himself to
some onions and passing the pan to his friends. "Then, perhaps, a
few supplies for our brave army. There is no hurry. After supper
will do; but first we'll drink a health to the Kaiser, and since
you are host here, you shall propose it!"
He pointed to the pail of milk which Father De Smet still held.
"Now," he shouted, "lift your stein and say, 'Hoch der Kaiser.'"
Father De Smet looked them in the face and said not a word.
Meanwhile Jan and Joseph, to Mother De Smet's great alarm, had
not followed her, on to the boat. Instead they had flown to
Netteke, who was partly hidden from the group by a bunch of young
willows near the water's edge, and with great speed and presence
of mind had slipped her bridle over her head and gently started
her up the tow-path.
"Oh," murmured Joseph, "suppose she should balk!" But Netteke had
done her balking for the day, and, having been refreshed by her
luncheon of green grass, she was ready to move on. The. river had
now quite a current, which helped them, and while the soldiers
were still having their joke with Father De Smet the boat moved
quietly out of sight. As she felt it move, Mother De Smet lifted
her head over the boat's rail behind which she and the children
were hiding, and raised the end of the gangplank so that it would
make no noise by scraping along the ground. She was beside
herself with anxiety. If she screamed or said anything to the
boys, the attention of the soldiers would immediately be directed
toward them. Yet if they should by any miracle succeed in getting
away, there was her husband left alone to face seven enemies. She
wrung her hands.
"Maybe they will stop to eat the onions," she groaned to herself.
She held to the gangplank and murmured prayers to all the saints
she knew, while Jan and Joseph trotted briskly along the tow-
path, and Netteke, assisted by the current, made better speed
than she had at any time during the day.
Meanwhile his captors were busy with Father De Smet. "Come! Drink
to the Kaiser!" shouted the first soldier, "or we'll feed you to
the fishes! We want our supper, and you delay us." Still Father
De Smet said nothing. "We'll give you just until I count ten,"
said the soldier, pointing his gun at him, "and if by that time
you have not found your tongue"
But he did not finish the sentence. From an unexpected quarter a
shot rang out. It struck the pail of milk and dashed it over the
German and over Father De Smet too. Another shot followed, and
the right arm of the soldier fell helpless to his side. One of
his companions gave a howl and fell to the ground. Still no one
appeared at whom the Germans could direct their fire. "Snipers!"
shouted the soldiers, instantly lowering their guns, but before
they could even fire in the direction of the unseen enemy, there
was such a patter of bullets about them that they turned and
Father De Smet fled, too. He leaped over the frying-pan and tore
down the river-bank after the boat. As he overtook it, Mother De
Smet ran out the gang. plank. "Boys!" shouted Father De Smet.
"Get aboard! Get aboard!" Joseph and Jan instantly stopped the
mule and, dropping the reins, raced up the gangplank, almost
before the end of it rested safely on the ground. Father De Smet
snatched up the reins. On went the boat at Netteke's best speed,
which seemed no better than a snail's pace to the fleeing family.
Sounds of the skirmish continued to reach their ears, even when
they had gone some distance down the river, and it was not until
twilight had deepened into dusk, and they were hidden in its
shadows, that they dared hope the danger was passed. It was after
ten o'clock at night when the "Old Woman" at last approached the
twinkling lights of Antwerp, and they knew that, for the time
being at least, they were safe.
They wore now beyond the German lines in country still held by
the Belgians. Here, in a suburb of the city, Father De Smet
decided to dock for the night. A distant clock struck eleven as
the hungry but thankful family gathered upon the deck of the "Old
Woman" to eat a meager supper of bread and cheese with only the
moon to light their repast. Not until they had finished did
Father De Smet tell them all that had happened to him during the
few terrible moments when he was in the hands of the enemy.
"They overreached themselves," he said. "They meant to amuse
themselves by prolonging my misery, and they lingered just a bit
too long." He turned to Jan and Joseph. "You were brave boys! If
you had not started the boat when you did, it is quite likely
they might have got me, after all, and the potatoes too. I am
proud of you."
"But, Father," cried Joseph, "who could have fired those shots?
We didn't see a soul."
"Neither did I," answered his father; "and neither did the
Germans for that matter. There was no one in sight."
"Oh," cried Mother De Smet, "it was as if the good God himself
intervened to save you!"
"As I figure it out," said Father De Smet, "we must have stopped
very near the trenches, and our own men must have seen the
Germans attack us. My German friend had evidently been following
us up, meaning to get everything we had and me too. But the smell
of the onions was too much for him! If he hadn't been greedy, he
might have carried out his plan, but he wanted our potatoes and
our supper too; and so he got neither!" he chuckled. "And neither
did the Kaiser get a toast from me! Instead, he got a salute from
the Belgians." He crossed himself reverently. "Thank God for our
soldiers," he said, and Mother De Smet, weeping softly, murmured
a devout "Amen."
Little did Jan and Marie dream as they listened, that this
blessing rested upon their own father, and that he had been one
of the Belgian soldiers, who, firing from the trenches, had
delivered them from the hands of their enemies. Their father,
hidden away, in the earth like a fox, as little dreamed that he
had helped to save his own children from a terrible fate.
THE ZEPPELIN RAID
THE ZEPPELIN RAID
When the Twins awoke, early the next morning, they found that
Father and Mother De Smet had been stirring much earlier still,
and that the "Old Woman" was already slipping quietly along among
the docks of Antwerp. To their immense surprise they were being
towed, not by Netteke, but by a very small and puffy steam tug.
They were further astonished to find that Netteke herself was on
board the "Old Woman."
"How in the world did you get the mule on to the boat! " gasped
Jan, when he saw her.
"Led her right up the gangplank just like folks," answered Father
De Smet. "I couldn't leave her behind and I wanted to get to the
Antwerp docks as soon as possible. This was the quickest way. You
see," he went on, "I don't know where I shall be going next, but
I know it won't be up the Dyle, so I am going to keep Netteke
right where I can use her any minute."
There was no time for further questions, for Father De Smet had
to devote his attention to the tiller. Soon they were safely in
dock and Father De Smet was unloading his potatoes and selling
them to the market-men, who swarmed about the boats to buy the
produce which had been brought in from the country.
"There!" he said with a sigh of relief as he delivered the last
of his cargo to a purchaser late in the afternoon; "that load is
safe from the Germans, anyway."
"How did you find things up the Dyle?" asked the merchant who had
bought the potatoes.
Father De Smet shook his head.
"Couldn't well be worse," he said. "I'm not going to risk another
trip. The Germans are taking everything they can lay their hands
on, and are destroying what they can't seize. I nearly lost this
load, and my life into the bargain. If it hadn't been that,
without knowing it, we stopped so near the Belgian line of
trenches that they could fire on the German foragers who tried to
take our cargo, I shouldn't have been here to tell this tale."
"God only knows what will become of Belgium if this state of
things continues," groaned the merchant. "Food must come from
somewhere or the people will starve."
"True enough," answered Father De Smet. "I believe I'll try a
trip north through the back channels of the Scheldt and see what
I can pick up."
"Don't give up, anyway," urged the merchant. "If you fellows go
back on us, I don't know what we shall do. We depend on you to
bring supplies from somewhere, and if you can't get them in
Belgium, you'll have to go up into Holland."
Mother De Smet leaned over the boatrail and spoke to the two men
who were standing on the dock.
"You'd better believe we'll not give up," she said. "We don't
knbw the meaning of the word."
"Well," said the merchant sadly, "maybe you don't, but there are
others who do. It takes a stout heart to have faith that God
hasn't forgotten Belgium these days."
"It's easy enough to have faith when things are going right,"
said Mother De Smet, "but to have faith when things are going
wrong isn't so easy." Then she remembered Granny. "But a sick
heart won't get you anywhere, and maybe a stout one will," she
"That's a good word," said the merchant.
"It was said by as good a woman as treads shoe-leather," answered
Mother De Smet.
"You are safe while you stay in Antwerp, anyway," said the
merchant as he turned to say good-bye. "Our forts are the
strongest in the world and the Germans will never be able to take
them. There's comfort in that for us." Then he spoke to his
horses and turned away with his load.
"Let us stay right here to-night," said Mother De Smet to her
husband as he came on board the boat. "We are all in need of rest
after yesterday, and in Antwerp we can get a good night's sleep.
Besides, it is so late in the day that we couldn't get out of
town before dark if we tried."
Following this plan, the whole family went to bed at dusk, but
they were not destined to enjoy the quiet sleep they longed for.
The night was warm, and the cabin small, so Father De Smet and
Joseph, as well as the Twins, spread bedding on the deck and went
to sleep looking up at the stars.
They had slept for some hours when they were suddenly aroused by
the sound of a terrific explosion. Instantly they sprang to their
feet, wide awake, and Mother De Smet came rushing from the cabin
with the babies screaming in her arms.
"What is it now? What is it?" she cried.
"Look! Look!" cried Jan.
He pointed to the sky. There, blazing with light, like a great
misshapen moon, was a giant airship moving swiftly over the city.
As it sailed along, streams of fire fell from it, and immediately
there followed the terrible thunder of bursting bombs. When it
passed out of sight, it seemed as if the voice of the city itself
must rise in anguish at the terrible destruction left in its
Just what that destruction was, Father De Smet did not wish to
see. "This is a good place to get away from," he said to the
frightened group cowering on the deck of the "Old Woman" after
the bright terror had disappeared. When morning came he lost no
time in making the best speed he could away from the doomed city
of Antwerp which they had thought so safe.
When they had left the city behind them and the boat was slowly
making its way through the quiet back channels of the Scheldt the
world once more seemed really peaceful to the wandering children.
Their way lay over still waters and beside green pastures, and as
they had no communication with the stricken regions of Belgium,
they had no news of the progress of the war, until, some days
later, the boat docked at Rotterdam, and it became necessary to
decide what should be done next. There they learned that they had
barely escaped the siege of Antwerp, which had begun with the
Father De Smet was now obliged to confront the problem of what to
do with his own family, for, since Antwerp was now in the hands
of the enemy, he could no longer earn his living in the old way.
Under these changed conditions he could not take care of Jan and
Marie, so one sad day they said good-bye to good Mother De Smet,
to Joseph and the babies, and went with Father De Smet into the
city of Rotterdam.
They found that these streets were also full of Belgian refugees,
and here, too, they watched for their mother. In order to keep up
her courage, Marie had often to feel of the locket and to say to
herself: "She will find us. She will find us." And Jan, Jan had
many times to say to himself, "I am now a man and must be brave,"
or he would have cried in despair.
But help was nearer than they supposed. Already England had begun
to organize for the relief of the Belgian refugees, and it was in
the office of the British Consul at Rotterdam that Father De Smet
finally took leave of Jan and Marie. The Consul took them that
night to his own home, and, after a careful record had been made
of their names and their parents' names and all the facts about
them, they were next day placed upon a ship, in company with many
other homeless Belgians, and sent across the North Sea to
If I were to tell you all the strange new sights that Jan and
Marie saw, and all the things they did in England, it would make
this book so big you could not hold it up to read it, so I must
skip all about the great house in the southern part of England
where they next found themselves. This house was the great
country place of a very rich man, and when the war broke out he
had given it to be used as a shelter for homeless Belgians. There
were the most wonderful woods and parks on the estate, and miles
of beautiful drives. There were great gardens and stables and
hothouses; and the house was much bigger and finer than any Jan
and Marie had ever seen in all their lives. It seemed to them as
if they had suddenly been changed into a prince and princess by
some fairy wand. They were not alone in all this splendor; other
lost little Belgian children were there, and there were lost
parents, too, and it seemed such a pity that the lost parents and
the lost children should not be the very ones that belonged
together, so that every one could be happy once more. However,
bad as it was, it was so much better than anything they had known
since the dreadful first night of the alarm that Jan and Marie
became almost happy again.
At night they and the other homeless children slept in little
white cots set all in a row in a great picture gallery. They were
given new clothes, for by this time even their best ones were
quite worn out, and every day they had plenty of good plain food
to eat. Every day more Belgians came, and still more, until not
only the big house, but the stable and outbuildings were all
running-over full of homeless people. One day, after they had
been in this place for two or three weeks, Jan and Marie were
called into the room where sat the sweet-faced lady whose home
they were in. It was like an office, and there were several other
persons there with her.
The sweet-faced lady spoke to them. "Jan and Marie," she said,
"how would you like to go to live with a dear lady in America who
would love you, and take care of you, so you need never be lonely
and sad again?"
"But our mother!" gasped Marie, bursting into tears. "We have not
"You will not lose her any more by going to America," said the
lady, "for, you see, we shall know all about you here, and if
your mother comes, we shall be able to tell her just where to
find you. Meanwhile you will be safe and well cared for, far away
from all the dreadful things that are happening here."
"It is so far away!" sobbed Marie.
Jan said nothing; he was busy swallowing lumps in his own throat.
"You see, dears," the lady said gently, "you can be together
there, for this woman has no children of her own, and is willing
to take both of you. That does not often happen, and, besides,
she is a Belgian; I know you will find a good home with her."
"You're sure we could be together?" asked Jan.
"Yes," said the lady.
"Because," said Jan, "Mother said I must take care of Marie."
"And she said she'd find us again if she had to swim the sea,"
said Marie, feeling of her locket and smiling through her tears.
"She won't have to swim," said the lady. "We will see to that! If
she comes here, she shall go for you in a fine big ship, and so
that's all settled." She kissed their woebegone little faces.
"You are going to start to-morrow," she said. "The good captain
of the ship has promised to take care of you, so you will not be
afraid, and I know you will be good children."
It seemed like a month to Jan and Marie, but it was really only
seven days later that they stood on the deck of the good ship
Caspian, as it steamed proudly into the wonderful harbor of New
York. It was dusk, and already the lights of the city sparkled
like a sky full of stars dropped down to earth. High above the
other stars shone the great torch of "Liberty enlightening the
World." "Oh," gasped Marie, as she gazed, "New York must be as
big as heaven. Do you suppose that is an angel holding a candle
to light us in?"
Just then the captain came to find them, and a few minutes later
they walked with him down the gangplank, right into a pair of
outstretched arms. The arms belonged to Madame Dujardin, their
new mother. "I should have known them the moment I looked at
them, even if they hadn't been with the captain," she cried to
her husband, who stood smiling by her side. "Poor darlings, your
troubles are all over now! Just as soon as Captain Nichols says
you may, you shall come with us, and oh, I have so many things to
show you in your new home!"
She drew them with her to a quieter part of the dock, while her
husband talked with the captain, and then, when they had bidden
him good-bye, they were bundled into a waiting motor car and
whirled away through miles of brilliantly lighted streets and
over a wonderful bridge, and on and on, until they came to green
lawns, and houses set among trees and shrubs, and it seemed to
the children as if they must have reached the very end of the
world. At last the car stopped before a house standing some
distance back from the street in a large yard, and the children
followed their new friends through the bright doorway of their
Madame Dujardin helped them take off their things in the pleasant
hallway, where an open fire was burning, and later, when they
were washed and ready, she led the way to a cheerful dining room,
where there was a pretty table set for four. There were flowers
on the table, and they had chicken for supper, and, after that,
ice cream! Jan and Marie had never tasted ice cream before in
their whole lives! They thought they should like America very
After supper their new mother took them upstairs and showed them
two little rooms with a bathroom between. One room was all pink
and white with a dear little white bed in it, and she said to
Marie, "This is your room, my dear." The other room was all in
blue and white with another dear little white bed in it, and she
said to Jan, "This is your room, my dear." And there were clean
white night-gowns on the beds, and little wrappers with gay
flowered slippers, just waiting for Jan and Marie to put them on.
"Oh, I believe it is heaven!" cried Marie, as she looked about
the pretty room. Then she touched Madame Dujardin's sleeve
timidly. "Is it all true?" she said. "Shan't we wake up and have
to go somewhere else pretty soon?"
"No, dear," said Madame Dujardin gently. "You are going to stay
right here now and be happy."
"It will be a very nice place for Mother to find us in," said
Jan. "She will come pretty soon now, I should think."
"I hope she may," said Madame Dujardid, tears twinkling in her
"I'm sure she will," said Marie. "You see everybody is looking
for her. There's Granny, and Mother and Father De Smet, and
Joseph, and the people in Rotterdam, and the people in England,
too; and then, besides, Mother is looking for herself, of
"She said she would surely find us even if she had to swim the
sea," added Jan.
THE MOST WONDERFUL PART
THE MOST WONDERFUL PART
And now comes the most wonderful part of the story!
Madame Dujardin prepared a bath and said to Marie: "You may have
the first turn in the tub because you're a girl. In America the
girls have the best of everything", she laughed at Jan, as she
spoke. "I will help you undress. Jan, you may get ready and wait
for your turn in your own room." She unbuttoned Marie's dress,
slipped off her clothes, and held up the gay little wrapper for
her to put her arms into, and just then she noticed the locket on
her neck. "We'll take this off, too," she said, beginning to
But Marie clung to it with both hands. "No, no," she cried.
"Mother said I was never, never to take it off. It has her
picture in it."
"May I see it, dear?" asked Madame Dujardin. "I should like to
know what your mother looks like." Marie nestled close to her,
and Madame Dujardin opened the locket.
For a moment she gazed at the picture in complete silence, her
eyes staring at it like two blue lights. Then she burst into a
wild fit of weeping, and cried out, "Leonie! Leonie! It is not
possible! My own sister's children!" She clasped the bewildered
Marie in her arms and kissed her over and over again. She ran to
the door and brought in Jan and kissed him; and then she called
her husband. When he came in and saw her with her arms around
both children at once, holding the locket in her hands, and
laughing and crying both together, he, too, was bewildered.
"What in the world is the matter, Julie?" he cried.
For answer, she pointed to the face in the locket. "Leonie!
Leonie!" she cried. "They are my own sister's children! Surely
the hand of God is in this!"
Her husband looked at the locket. "So it is! So it is!" he said
in astonishment. "I thought at first you had gone crazy,"
"See!" cried his wife. "It's her wedding-gown, and afterward she
gave me those very beads she has around her neck! I have them
yet!" She rushed from the room and returned in a moment with the
beads in her hand.
Meanwhile Jan and Marie had stood still, too astonished to do
more than stare from one amazed and excited face to the other, as
their new father and mother gazed, first at them, and then at the
locket, and last at the beads, scarcely daring to believe the
testimony of their own eyes. "To think," cried Madame Dujardin at
last, "that I should not have known! But there are many Van Hoves
in Belgium, and it never occurred to me that they could be my own
flesh and blood. It is years since I have heard from Leonie. In
fact, I hardly knew she had any children, our lives have been so
different. Oh, it is all my fault," she cried, weeping again.
"But if I have neglected her, I will make it up to her children!
It may be, oh, it is just possible that she is still alive, and
that she may yet write to me after all these years! Sorrow
sometimes bridges wide streams!"
Then she turned more quietly to the children.
"You see, dears," she said, "I left Belgium many years ago, and
came with your uncle to this country. We were poor when we came,
but your uncle has prospered as one can in America. At first
Leonie and I wrote regularly to each other. Then she grew more
and more busy, and we seemed to have no ties in common, so that
at last we lost sight of each other altogether." She opened her
arms to Marie and Jan as she spoke, and held them for some time
in a close embrace.
Finally she lifted her head and laughed. "This will never do!"
she exclaimed. "You must have your baths, even if you are my own
dear niece and nephew. The water must be perfectly cold by this
She went into the bathroom, turned on more hot water, and popped
Marie into the tub. In half an hour both children had said their
prayers and were tucked away for the night in their clean white
Wonderful days followed for Jan and Marie. They began to go to
school; they had pretty clothes and many toys, and began to make
friends among the little American children of the neighborhood.
But in the midst of these new joys they did not forget their
mother, still looking for them, or their father, now fighting, as
they supposed, in the cruel trenches of Belgium. But at last
there came a day when Aunt Julie received a letter with a foreign
postmark. She opened it, with trembling fingers, and when she saw
that it began, "My dear Sister Julie," she wept so for joy that
she could not see to read it, and her husband had to read it for
This was the letter:
You will perhaps wonder at hearing from me after the long
years of silence that have passed, but I have never
doubted the goodness of your heart, my Julie, nor your
love for your poor Leonie, even though our paths in life
have led such different ways. And now I must tell you of
the sorrows which have broken my heart. Georges was
obliged to go into the army at a moment's notice when the
war broke out. A few days later the Germans swept through
Meer, driving the people before them like chaff before
the wind. As our house was on the edge of the village, I
was the first to see them coming. I hid the children in
the vegetable cellar, but before I could get to a hiding-
place for myself, they swept over the town, driving every
man, woman, and child before them. To turn back then was
impossible, and it was only after weeks of hardship and
danger that I at last succeeded in struggling through the
territory occu pied by Germans to the empty city of
Malines, and the deserted village where we had been so
happy! On the kitchen door of our home I found a paper
pinned. On it was printed, "Dear Mother - We have gone to
Malines to find you - Jan and Marie." Since then I have
searched every place where there seemed any possibility
of my finding my dear children, but no trace of them can
I find. Then, through friends in Antwerp, I learned that
Georges had been wounded and was in a hospital there and
I went at once to find him. He had lost an arm in the
fighting before Antwerp and was removed to Holland after
the siege began. Here we have remained since, still
hoping God would hear our prayers and give us news of our
dear children. It would even be a comfort to know surely
of their death, and if I could know that they were alive
and well, I think I should die of joy. Georges can fight
no more; our home is lost; we are beggars until this war
is over and our country once more restored to us. I am
now at work in a factory, earning what keeps body and
soul together. Georges must soon leave the hospital,
then, God knows what may befall us. How I wish we had
been wise like you, my Julie, and your Paul, and that we
had gone, with you to America years ago! I might then
have my children with me in comfort. If you get this
letter, write to your heart-broken
It was not a letter that went back that very day; it was a
cablegram, and it said:
Jan and Marie are safe with me. Am sending money with
this to the Bank of Holland, for your passage to America.
Come at once. JULIE.
People do not die of joy, or I am sure that Father and Mother Van
Hove would never have survived the reading of that message.
Instead it put such new strength and energy into their weary
souls and bodies that two days later they were on their way to
England, and a week later still they stood on the deck of the
Arabia as it steamed into New York Harbor. Jan and Marie with
Uncle Paul and Aunt Julie met them at the dock, and there are
very few meetings, this side of heaven, like the reunion of those
six persons on that day.
The story of that first evening together can hardly be told.
First. Father and Mother Van Hove listened to Jan and Marie as
they told of their wanderings with Fidel, of the little old eel
woman, of Father and Mother De Smet, of the attack by Germans and
of the friends they found in Holland and in England; and when
everybody had cried a good deal about that, Father Van Hove told
what had happened to him; then Mother Van Hove told of her long
and perilous search for her children; and there were more tears
of thankfulness and joy, until it seemed as if their hearts were
filled to the brim and running over. But when, last of all, Uncle
Paul told of the plans which he and Aunt Julie had made for the
family, they found there was room in their hearts for still more
"I have a farm in the country," said Uncle Paul. "It is not very
far from New York. There is a good house on it; it is already
stocked. I need a farmer to take care of the place for me, and
trustworthy help is hard to get here. If you will manage it for
me, Brother Georges, I shall have no further anxiety about it,
and shall expect to enjoy the fruits of it as I have never yet
been able to do. Leonie shall make some of her good butter for
our city table, and the children" here he pinched Marie's cheek,
now round and rosy once more "the children shall pick berries
and help on the farm all summer. In winter they can come back to
Uncle Paul and Aunt Julie and go to school here, for they are our
children now, as well as yours."
Father Van Hove rose, stretched out his one hand, and, grasping
Uncle Paul's, tried to thank him, but his voice failed.
"Don't say a word, old man," said Uncle Paul, clasping Father Van
Hove's hand with both of his. "All the world owes a debt to
Belgium which it can never pay. Her courage and devotion have
saved the rest of us from the miseries she has borne so bravely.
If you got your just deserts, you'd get much more than I can ever
In the end it all came about just as Uncle Paul had said, and the
Van Hoves are living in comfort and happiness on that farm this
SUGGESTIONS TO TEACHERS
American children who have been giving their pennies to help take
care of little Belgian children will find this new "Twins" book
one of the most appealing that Mrs. Perkins has ever written. The
author's Preface states the sources of her inspiration. As usual,
her story will be found sympathetic in spirit and accurate as to
At the present day books are constantly issuing from the press
which will assist teachers in planning their own preparation for
the class reading of this book; for example, Griffis's: "Belgium:
The Land of Art" and Gibson's: "A Journal from our Legation in
Belgium". Books issued in past years which tell other stories of
exile or emigration, or which deal with European countries
neighboring Belgium, also have their place in the teacher's
reading. We may suggest Griffis's: "The Pilgrims in Their Three
Homes" and "Brave Little Holland", and Davis's "History of
Medieval and Modern Europe" (sections 238, 266, and the account
of the present war). A file of the National Geographic Magazine,
accessible in most public libraries, will be found to contain
many articles and illustrations which will be invaluable in this
connection. Picture postcards, also, will supply a wealth of
appropriate subjects. Children should be encouraged to bring
material of this sort to school.
Once the historical and geographical background has been
sketched, the teacher may safely trust the children to get the
most out of the story. Fifth grade pupils can read it without
preparation. Pupils in the fourth grade should first read it in a
study period in order to work out the pronunciation of the more
The possibilities for dramatization will be immediately apparent.
In this, the author's illustrations will, as in all the "Twins"
books, furnish hints as to scenes and action. They may likewise
be used as the subjects of both oral and written compositions--
each pupil selecting the picture most interesting to him, and
retelling its story in his own words.
The illustrations may be used, also, as models for the pupils'
sketching; their simple style renders them especially suitable
for this use.
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