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THE TWINS TALES - CONTENTS




XIII

REFUGEES

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
found her!"

"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
house.

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
much.

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
eyes.

"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
course!"

"She said she would surely find us even if she had to swim the
sea," added Jan.

 


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