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THE TWINS TALES - CONTENTS



XII

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
finished.

"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
wake.

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
Zeppelin raid.

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
England.

 


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