THE BOY SCOUTS IN FRONT OF WARSAW
THE BOY SCOUTS IN FRONT OF WARSAW
COLONEL GEORGE DURSTON
It was the fifth of August. Warsaw the brilliant Warsaw the
Beautiful the best beloved of her adoring people had fallen. Torn by
bombs wrecked by great shells devastated by hordes of alien invaders
she lay in ruins.
Her people despairing seemed for the greater part to have vanished in
the two days since the fatal third of August when the city was taken.
Many of the wealthiest of her citizens had taken refuge in the lower
part of the city leaving their magnificent palaces and residences
situated in the newer part to the flood of invading soldiers who went
with unerring directness to the parts containing the greatest comfort
Warsaw is built in the midst of a beautiful plain mostly on the left
bank of the river Vistula. All the main part of the city lies close to
the river and the streets are so twisted and crooked that it is almost
impossible to picture them. They wriggle here and there like snakes of
streets. The houses of course are very old and with their heavy
barred doors and solid shutters look very strange and inhospitable.
People in a way become like their surroundings. Here in these
twisted narrow streets are to be found the narrow twisted souls of
the worst element in Poland; but the worst of them love their country
as perhaps no other people do. To the last man and to the frailest
woman they are loyal to Poland. For them it is Poland first last
In these low and twisted streets the devastation was greatest and the
people had scurried like rats to cover. A week before they had swarmed
the streets and crowded the buildings. Now by some miracle they had
gone utterly disappeared. The houses were deserted the streets
empty. The destruction had been greatest in these crowded places but
many of the beautiful public buildings and state departments in the new
part were also in ruins as well as a number of matchless palaces.
The people from the upper part of the city who had taken refuge in the
holes along the river front were for the most part a strange appearing
lot. Some of them carried great bundles which they guarded with
jealous care. Others empty handed sat and shivered through the summer
night-chills that blew from the river. Scores of little children clung
to their mother's hands or wandered trembling and screaming from group
to group seeking their own people.
There was a general gathering of types. Nobles mixed with the poorest
meanest and most criminal classes and mingled with their common
sorrow. For the most part a dumbness a silence prevailed. The shock
of the national disaster had bereft the people of their powers of
Since 1770 Poland had been torn and racked by foes on every hand.
Prussia Austria and Russia envied her wealth courage and her fertile
plains. Little by little her enemies had pressed across her shrinking
borders wet with the blood of her patriot sons. Little by little she
had lost her cherished land until the day of doom August third 1915.
Sitting hiding in their desolated city the people of Poland knew that
theirs was a country no longer on the map. Russia Austria and Prussia
at least had met. There was no longer any Poland. For generations
there had been no Polish language; it was forbidden by her oppressors.
Now the country itself was swallowed up. No longer on the changing map
of the world had she any place.
But in the hearts of her people Poland lives. With the most perfect
loyalty and love in the world they say "We are Poland. We live and
die for her."
A gray haze hung over Warsaw. The streets after the roar of great
guns the bursting of shells and the cries of thousands of people
rushing blindly to safety seemed silent and deserted. The hated enemy
held the town and the people of Warsaw most hapless city of all
history cowered beneath the iron hand of the enemy.
As is usual in the fearful lull after such a victory the town was
filled with dangers of the most horrible sort. Murder crime of every
kind lawlessness in every guise stalked through the streets or lurked
down the narrow dark and twisted alleys. The unfortunate citizens who
had not retreated in time hid when they could in all sorts of strange
places. They gathered in trembling whispering groups into garrets
and cellars; even the vaults in the catacombs the old burial place of
the dead were opened by desperate fugitives and became hiding places
for the living.
The soldiers were in possession of all the uninjured residences in the
more modern portion of the city where they reveled in the comforts of
modern baths lights and heat. But the lower part of the city lying
along the left bank of the river Vistula was filled with a strange
mixture of terrified people. In all the throngs huddled in streets
and alleys storehouses and ware-rooms there was perhaps no stranger
group than the one gathered in a dark corner of a great building where
machinery of some sort had been manufactured.
This had strangely enough escaped destruction and stood unharmed in a
street where everything bore the scars of shells or bombs.
The engines were stopped; the great wheels motionless; the broad belts
sagged hopelessly. Even the machinery seemed to feel the terrible blow
and mourned the fallen city.
The persons huddled in the shadow of a vast wheel however gave little
heed to their strange surroundings. They seemed crushed by a frightful
grief more personal even than the taking of Warsaw would cause in the
most loyal heart.
In the center of the group a boy of fourteen or fifteen years stood
talking excitedly. He was tall dark as an Italian and dressed with
the greatest richness. Two rings set with great jewels flashed on his
hand and while he spoke he tapped his polished boot with a small cane
in the end of which was set a huge sparkling red stone. He spoke with
great rapidity in the pure Russian of the Court and addressed himself
to an elderly man who sat drooping in an attitude of hopeless sorrow.
Near them sat a plainly dressed woman who buried her stained face in
her apron and wept the hard sobs of those who can scarcely weep more.
A young girl clung to her silent but with beautiful dark eyes wild
with terror and loss. On the floor lay a wounded soldier bearing in
perfect silence the frightful pain of a shattered shoulder. His only
bandage was a piece of cloth wound tightly around his coat but not a
groan escaped his pale lips. At the window gazing down into the
wrecked street stood a tall boy of perhaps fifteen years. His face
was bloodless; his strong mouth was set in a straight line; the hand
resting on the window sill was clenched until the knuckles shone white
through the tanned skin. Desperation horror and grief struggled
equally in his face. His left arm encircled a boy nearly his own
size. He like the woman sobbed brokenly and the taller boy patted
him as he listened to the rapid words of the boy who was talking.
Suddenly the elderly man spoke.
"You must pardon me Ivanovich" he said in a trembling voice. "I do
not seen to comprehend. Will you kindly repeat your account?"
A flash of anger passed over the face of the young nobleman; then he
"Certainly Professor! It was thus. You remember don't you that I
came to your house as usual five days ago for my lessons in English?
And you know the sudden bombardment so close to the city was so
terrible that you would not let me go home? Good! Then you understand
all up to this morning. You know we had watched all night with the
doors barricaded and we decided it was too unsafe to remain longer in
the direct path of those brutal soldiers. So we prepared to come here
to one of my father's buildings where there is a chute and an
underground storeroom where we could be safe.
"You send me for this cloak and when I returned what did I find in the
room where I had left everyone of the household gathered ready for the
flight? The room was empty. I had been upstairs perhaps ten minutes
because I could not find my cloak and there was the room empty. Sir
I was furious at you for leaving me. I am in your charge; I am a
Prince; yet you left me --"
The tall boy turned from the window and spoke.
"Never mind that Ivan" he said. "Just cut that all out and hustle to
the part you haven't told." Although he spoke English while Ivan told
his story in Russian the boys understood each other perfectly for with
a frown and quick glance the boy Ivan nodded and continued.
"I stood for a while and listened but heard nothing. Then I went
through the other rooms on the floor and all were empty. I decided to
get to the warehouse alone if I could and crept to the door. I drew
back hastily. A horrible old woman squatted on the step. She was
watching over two great sacks full no doubt of valuables stolen from
your house and others. As I looked two men came up. Criminals they
looked and I scarcely breathed. Presently they went away the men
throwing the sacks over their shoulders and the woman dragging a
jeweled Icon in her hand.
"I heard footsteps behind me and there you were coming down the
stairs. You had that package in your hands and you said 'Just think
I nearly forgot my book Ivan; my great book on the history of Warsaw
now so nearly finished.'
"You asked where the others were and you said they had thought it wise
to go in two parties. You said they had told you to be very careful of
something; you couldn't very well remember just what but it made you
remember your book in your and you hurried to save it. So we hurried
out and managed to escape the soldiers and get here and then everyone
cried out 'Where are the children?'"
"When I went to get my book" said the Professor with a groan "they
were sitting quiet as mice by the stove holding each other's hands.
How could they have gone off?"
The woman looked up. "They could not go" she said. "I myself slid
the great latch on the door; they could not lift it. I have seen
Elinor try to do so. The little stranger was much too small. The
Germans have them I am sure of it." She bowed her head with fresh
"There were no Germans about" said Ivan. "No soldiers of any sort; no
one at all save the three of whom I spoke and they certainly did not
take them away."
"Certainly not!" said Professor Morris frowning. "They must have gone
out and wandered off while I was after my book although I distinctly
told Elinor not to stir from her seat. I have always endeavored to
teach my children absolute obedience. I am surprised at Elinor. She
understood. She is six years of age and she said "Yes father."
This is a terrible thing; but they will be found. I will report at
once to the military authorities. I am convinced that they are safe.
Someone will take them in just as we took in the strange child whom we
found at the door. That child as you know is a noble yet she was
lost. These are war times. People are glad to return lost children.
They do not want them. Now if I had forgotten my book it might have
been burned; three years of effort in this city wasted and lost
forever! I will hide the manuscript in the underground room you told
of Ivan then we will go to the proper authorities and get the
"Bah!" said the soldier with the broken shoulder suddenly. "Go where
thou wilt these days there is no authority save the authority of brute
might. Will that help thee?"
"We must find them" said the Professor brokenly. The seriousness of
the affair was beginning to dawn on him. "It will certainly be
simple. We will advertise."
The girl at his side smiled. "Advertise?" she said. "Why father
there are no papers left to advertise in."
"Ivan" said the tall boy at the window "did you hear what the three
people at the door were talking about? What did they say? The people
you said looked like thieves."
"Yes they talked" said Ivan "but it did not seem to mean much. I
didn't get much from it anyway."
"Try to think what they said" said the boy. He passed a hand
carefully across the bright fairness of his hair where a dark red
streak stained it. "Can't you remember anything they said?"
Ivan stood thinking the jeweled cane still tapping his boot. "Yes"
he said "when the men came up they said 'What have you?' The woman
laughed -- evilly and said 'All the wine we can drink and all the
bread we can eat and all the fire we burn for years and years.'"
"The man who had spoken said 'Jewels' and rubbed his hands. 'That is
indeed good! Jewels fit for a king!"
"The woman said "Jewels now thou fool! Where can one sell jewels
these days when one cannot cross the border and when the world
cracks? No one wants jewels!"
"'Then what?' said the man.
"'Oh stupid!' said the woman. 'Pick up my sacks carefully and be
"Then the other man who had already picked up the larger sack
laughed. 'Better than rubies" he said. 'You are always wise my
"And then the other man picked up the other sack and he laughed too
and the woman held hand to them and whined 'Please give me some money
for these poor little refugees are starving!'
"At that they all roared and hurried on."
Ivan paused. "That was all they said" he added. "It doesn't help
The girl Evelyn leaned forward. "Say it again Ivan" she said
excitedly. "Say just what the woman said"
Ivan repeated the words.
Evelyn whispered them after him. Then a wild cry broke from her lips.
She turned to her father who sat holding the package containing the
fatal manuscript. She seized his arm and shook him. So great was her
emotion that she could not say the words she wanted.
"Father father don't you see it now!" she cried. "Oh oh father!
Oh what shall we do? Oh my darling little sister!" she gasped and
the tall boy ran forward and seized her hands.
"Control yourself Evelyn" he cried. "I never saw you act like this.
Tell me what it is."
She looked at him quite speechless. The agony of all that she had
witnessed the terror of the past week the fright of losing her
precious little sister scarcely more than a baby the blindness of her
father all had combined to send her into state scarcely better than
insanity. With a desperate effort to control herself she looked into
her brother's eyes.
"You see don't you Warren?" she begged. "You can't seem to be able
Say you see it too Warren!"
Then as if she had found some way of giving him her message of doom
she drooped against brother's strong shoulder and fainted quietly
away. Warren laid her down and the governess rushed to her.
"Is she dead?" asked Warren.
"Certainly not" said the woman; "she has fainted."
"What did she try to tell you?" cried Ivan. "Was it something I said?"
"Yes you told her" said Warren "and she read it right. I know she
"Well well what is it?" demanded the Professor. "This is fearfully
upsetting fearfully upsetting!"
Warren bent tenderly above his sister. She was regaining
"It is about as bad as it can be" he said hesitatingly. "The remark
about refugees told the whole thing. Our little sister was in one of
those sacks gagged or unconscious. They have been stolen to be used
and brought up as beggars."
A deep silence followed. The governess covered her eyes. The wounded
soldier slowly shook his head. Professor Morris Ivan and jack stood
with bulging eyes staring at Warren trying to make themselves
understand his speech. Ivan who knew more of the ways of the half
barbaric people of Poland and Russia nodded his head understandingly.
Jack stood with open mouth. The Professor rumpled his hair though
deeply and laughed.
"Now what would they do that for!" he asked sarcastically. "That sort
of thing is not done nowadays."
"Not in the best families" said Warren coldly. "But it is done I'll
"Oh yes it's done" said Ivan "all the time. I know my father
talked a lot about it just before the commencement of the war. He was
going to try to stamp out a lot of that sort of thing especially what
affected the women and children. Yes it is done Professor."
"Not now" said the Professor stubbornly. "There was recorded a case
of that sort in 1793 and even later in the early sixties. Later
there are no records at all bearing on the subject. And if no records
surely there are no instances requiring the attention of thinking
"It would be most natural to record any instance of the sort however
small and trifling. In my researches I would have run across the
facts. There is no mention of it whatever."
"I know it happens anyhow" said Ivan sticking to his point.
"Ivan you forget that I am in a position to know" said the
Professor. "My researches have led me thanks to the presentations of
your father and many others into secret records never before opened to
outsiders of any race. I regret the stand you take with me. I am
unused to contradiction."
"Pardon me" said Ivan wearily. He looked at Warren. In the minds of
both boys there was a feeling that the mystery was solved. There was
no longer any need to discuss it. A little search around the house
would show if the children were there; after that it meant that Evelyn
"Well Ivan's right" said Warren doggedly. "It doesn't matter what
you have found in your researches father; you have had those dry old
records to prove everything to you. I have heard the people tell
stories that would make your hair curl. They not only steal children
but sometimes they cripple them just as they did hundreds of years ago
in England. Why do you suppose boys like Ivan here are watched every
second? Sometimes they take them for revenge but when they are gone
they are gone. You can't go out with a wad of bills and stick it
under the park fence and go back and find your child on the front
stoop like you can at home."
The Search Begun
"Impossible!" said the Professor. "Impossible Warren! It surprises
me that you should harbor such wild and impracticable ideas."
"It makes sound sense dad" said Warren sadly. "Europe has been full
of beggars from the beginning of time. And soon after the war is
over there will be thousands of sightseers flooding the continent.
What could be more practical from the standpoint of such people as the
ones described by Ivan than to secure two beautiful little children
like our Elinor and the strange child that wandered to our doors? They
would indeed mean 'drink and money and fire.'" He stopped and for a
moment looked reproachfully at his father. "Oh father father" he
cried "see what your dreadful forgetfulness has done! How will you
ever forgive yourself when you think of the misery and suffering you
have brought on your darling! I can scarcely forgive you."
Professor Morris sat with bowed head.
"My son" he said brokenly "I can not forgive myself. I do not know
what to do. I confess I did indeed leave the children. I thought of
my book. I thought they were safe - and my book - Warren surely you
do not blame me for getting my book?" He spoke tenderly even
lovingly and clasped the bulky parcel to his breast.
"No I do not blame you for anything father knowing you as well as I
do. It is a terrible thing but we will find her our precious
darling if we spend our lives hunting." He turned to his sister and
brother. "Won't we?" he said.
They did not reply but gazed at him with looks that were more than
"Well" he continued "I guess my boyhood is over now. My work is cut
out for me. Come on Ivan come Jack let's get going!"
"What do you think you are going to do Ivanovich?" asked the wounded
soldier. Like all his class generations of submission made him ignore
as much as possible all save the one noble. All his attention was
given to Ivan the young Prince.
"Be careful Ivanovich" he urged. "It is not possible for you to go
forth in the clothes you wear. There is danger lurking abroad for the
Ivan shrugged his fearless shoulders. "They would not dare to harm
me" he answered.
"He's right. Those clothes won't do" said Warren decidedly. "We
don't know where we are going nor whom we may meet. Where can we find
something rough for you to wear?"
"Down below are the workmen's extra blouses" said the soldier. "When
I worked here the room was kept locked but you might perhaps force
the door. There are blouses and rough shoes there. But I tremble; I
tremble!" He suddenly lapsed into Polish. "Let these Americans go
Prince" he begged. "Harm never come to them. They go always as
though they wore a charm. Poland shall yet rise my Prince. From