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THE TWINS TALES - CONTENTS




XIV

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
unclasp it.

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
time!"

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
beds.

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
her.

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

LEONIE.

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
joy.

"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
give you."

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
very day.

THE END

 


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