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Authors: Maureen Lang

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Whisper on the Wind

BOOK: Whisper on the Wind
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Whisper on the Wind

Copyright © 2010 by Maureen Lang. All rights reserved.

Cover photo of Belgian street copyright © Ilia Shalamaev/Photolibrary. All rights reserved.

Cover photo of woman by Stephen Vosloo, copyright © by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.

Author photo copyright © 2005 by Jennifer Girard. All rights reserved.

Designed by Beth Sparkman

Edited by Sarah Mason

Published in association with the literary agency of WordServe Literary Group, Ltd., 10152 S. Knoll Circle, Highlands Ranch, CO 80130.

Scripture quotations are taken from the
Holy Bible
, King James Version.

This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of either the author or the publisher.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Lang, Maureen.

Whisper on the wind / Maureen Lang.

p. cm. — (The Great War series ; 2)

ISBN 978-1-4143-2436-4 (pbk.)

1. World War, 1914-1918—Belgium—Fiction. 2. Belgium—History—German occupation, 1914-1918—Fiction. I. Title.

PS3612.A554W47 2010

813'.6—dc22 2009045567

16 15 14 13 12 11 10

7 6 5 4 3 2 1

To my husband,
, whose wit and wisdom have inspired me and whose integrity is the model on which so many of my noblest characters are based. To my daughter, Torie, who never tires of “talking writing.” And to my two boys, who allow me to write, even during the day.

Finally, of course, to the memory of those many real-life heroes of Belgium who bravely produced
La Libre Belgique
during the German occupation of World War I.

nce there was a young man
who came of age just as war erupted, a war reaching farther than the world had ever known. His country, his home, his parents, his very future—all were threatened by an enemy whose power stretched wide. He shared only one belief with his oppressors: that the written word is the immortality of speech. Because of the oppression, he could not roar as they did, but found a way to join a whisper so incessant that even his enemies stopped to listen. . . .


August 1914

Louvain, Belgium

Edward Kirkland kicked through the ashes, staring at the black dust as if seeing what it had been just yesterday: his home. All that was left was a pile of charred ruins amid the shell of the hotel his father had managed. And there, not far in the distance, was the university. He could see the vestiges of the library from here, with nothing but rubble in between. Compliments of the German Imperial Army. There wasn’t a thing Edward or all of Belgium could have done to stop it. Not that they hadn’t tried, but a mouse couldn’t fight an eagle.

Edward turned to leave. He shouldn’t be out anyway, with German soldiers still roaming the streets, keeping the peace they’d broken with their arrival. He needed to return to his mother and brother in hiding at the church.

Something on the ground glimmered in the faint afternoon light. Though he stopped to investigate, scraping away fragments with the tip of his shoe, Edward knew nothing of value was left. Before they set the fire, the Germans had carried anything of worth out to a waiting cart to be shipped to Germany as spoils of war.

Then he saw the rose and a flash of silver light. With a lump in his throat, Edward bent and picked up the picture frame. He saw that the glass was broken and most of the photo burned away . . . except for the middle, where a shard held it intact. And there, smiling as if the world were a happy place, was Isa Lassone’s face.

Isa, his mother’s young charge, who’d fled with her parents before the invasion. She was safely ensconced in peaceful, prosperous America. She had both her parents, both her silly, selfish parents, while his father lay dead and the remains of their home smoldered.

The picture might have fallen without the glass holding it down. Bracing the photo in one hand, with the other he brushed away the broken pieces. He should let it go, let it join the wreckage of his home.

But Edward’s thumb pressed it back into place, firmly within his grip.

Slipping the frame into the pocket of his coat, he made his way through the brightening streets. The ground was strewn with debris—bricks, glass, even a stinking dead horse here and there, the carcass oozing under the early August sun. Half the city was gone, along with Edward’s father. Shooting and looting had lasted all night, but he’d had to see the hotel and university himself before he’d believe that they, too, had succumbed to the fires.

Something inside told Edward he should pray, reach out to God to help him face this day. That was what his father would have done, what he would have wanted his son to do.

Edward turned up the collar of his coat against an ash-laden breeze and walked away, trying not to think at all.


Edward did so because to refuse a soldier’s orders was to be shot. He’d seen it done.

“You will come with me,” came the awkward command, followed by a firmer,
“Es ist ein Befehl!”

Edward raised his hands, sorry for only one thing: his death would multiply his mother’s grief.

Part One

September 1916


Scope of War Broadens

Rumania joins Allied Powers with hopes of shortening the war

Germany has declared war in response, claiming Rumania disgracefully broke treaties with Austria-Hungary and Germany. The Allied Powers, at the forefront including France, Britain, and Russia, welcome additional men and arms. They remind the world which country was the first to break a treaty when Germany marched into Belgium in direct defiance of an agreement to respect Belgium’s neutrality should international strife begin.

Fifteen nations are now at war.

La Libre Belgique

“Oh, God,” Isa Lassone whispered, “You’ve seen me this far; don’t let me start doubting now.”

A few cool raindrops fell on her upturned face, blending with the warm tears on her cheeks. Where
her new guide? The one she’d left on the Holland side of the border had said she needed only to crawl through a culvert, then worm her way ten feet to the right, and there he would be.

Crickets chirped, and from behind her she heard water trickle from the foul-smelling culvert through which she’d just crept. Some of the smell clung to her shoes and the bottom of her peasant’s skirt, but it was Belgian dirt, so she wouldn’t complain. The prayer and the contents of her satchel reminded her why she was here, in this Belgian frontier the occupying German army strove to keep empty. For almost two years Isa had plotted, saved, worked, and defied everyone she knew—all to get to this very spot.

Then she heard it—the chirrup she’d been taught to listen for. Her guide had whistled it until Isa could pick out the cadence from any other.

She edged upward to see better, still hidden in the tall grass of the meadow. The scant mist cooled her cheeks, joining the oil and ash she’d been given to camouflage the whiteness of her skin. She must have grown used to its unpleasant odor, coupled with the scent she had picked up in the culvert, because now she could smell only grass. Twigs and dirt clung to her hands and clothes, but she didn’t care. She, Isabelle Lassone, who’d once bedecked the cover of the
Ladies’ Home Journal
with a group of other young American socialites, now crawled like a snake across a remote, soggy Belgian field. She must reach that sound.

Uneven ground and the things she’d hidden under her cloak and skirt slowed her crawl. Her wrist twisted inside a hole—no doubt the entrance to some creature’s home—and she nearly fell flat before scuttling onward again. Nothing would stop her now, not after all she’d been through to get this far, not after everything she’d given up.

Then her frantic belly dash ended. The tall grass hid everything but the path she left behind, and suddenly she hit something—or rather, someone.

“Say nothing.” She barely heard the words from the broad-shouldered figure. He was dressed as she was, in simple, dark clothing, to escape notice of the few guards left to enforce the job their wire fencing now did along the border. Isa could not see his face. His hair was covered by a cap, and his skin, like hers, had been smeared with ash.

Keeping low, the guide scurried ahead, and Isa had all she could do to follow. Sweat seeped from pores suffocated beneath her clothes. She ignored rocks that poked her hands and knees, spiky grass slapping her face, dirt kicked up into her eyes by the toe of her guide’s boot.

He stopped without warning and her face nearly hit his sole.

In the darkness she could not see far ahead, but she realized they’d come to a fence of barbed wire. A moment ago she had been sweating, but now she shivered. The electric fences she’d been warned about . . . where bodies were sometimes trapped, left for the vultures and as a grim warning to those like her.

Her guide raised a hand to silence whatever words she might have uttered. Then he reached for something—a canvas—hidden in the grass, pulling it away from what lay beneath. Isa could barely make out the round shape of a motor tire. He took a cloth from under his shirt and slipped it beneath the fence where the ground dipped. With deft quickness, he hoisted the wire up with the tire, only rubber touching the fencing. Then he motioned for her to go through.

Isa hesitated. Not long ago she would have thought anyone crazy for telling tales of the things she’d found herself doing lately, things she’d nearly convinced her brother, Charles, she was capable of handling despite his urgent warnings.

She took the precious satchel from her back and tossed it through the opening, then followed with ease, even padded as she was with more secret goods beneath her rough clothing. Her guide’s touch startled her. Looking back, she saw him hold the bottom of her soiled cotton skirt so it would touch nothing but rubber. Then he passed through too. He strapped the tire and its canvas to his back while she slipped her satchel in place.

Clouds that had barely sprinkled earlier suddenly released a steady rainfall. Isa’s heart soared heavenward even as countless droplets fell to earth. She’d made it! Surely it would’ve been impossible to pass those electrified wires in this sort of rain, but God had held it off. It was just one more blessing, one more confirmation that she’d done the right thing, no matter what Charles and everyone else thought.

Soon her guide stopped again and pulled the tire from his back, stuffing it deep within the cover of a bush. Then he continued, still pulling himself along like a frog with two broken legs. Isa followed even as the journey went on farther and took longer than she’d expected.

She hadn’t realized she would have to crawl through half of Belgium to get to the nearest village. Tension and fatigue soon stiffened her limbs, adding weight to the packets she carried.

She heard no sound other than her own uneven breathing. She should welcome the silence—surely it was better than the sound of marching, booted feet or a motorcar rumbling over the terrain. Despite the triumph she’d felt just moments ago, her fear returned. They hid with good reason. Somewhere out there German soldiers carried guns they wouldn’t hesitate to use against two people caught on the border, where citizens were

“Let me have your satchel,” her guide whispered over his shoulder.

Isa pulled it from her back, keeping her eye on it all the while. He flipped it open. She knew what he would find: a single change of clothes, a purse with exactly fifty francs inside, a small loaf of bread—dark bread, the kind she was told they made on this side of the blockades—plus her small New Testament and a diary. And her flute. Most especially, her flute.

BOOK: Whisper on the Wind
9.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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