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THE TWINS TALES - CONTENTS



IV

"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
Janke.

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!
Forward march!"

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
breath.

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
back door.

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
struck twelve.

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.

 


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