Read Whisper on the Wind Online

Authors: Maureen Lang

Tags: #Fiction, #Christian, #Romance, #Historical, #General

Whisper on the Wind (6 page)

BOOK: Whisper on the Wind
4.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

“You might as well give up, Edward,” Isa told him. “She’s not giving in. And neither am I. If you stay, we all stay.”

He touched his fingertips to his temples and rubbed as if to erase pain. “This is outrageous. I can’t . . . Listen, Mother.” He put his hands on her shoulders. “Jonah is nearly twelve years old. Who knows how much longer this war will last? Before long we’ll have to spirit him away to keep him out of the work camps, unless he finds a way out himself and joins the Allies on his own. I’ve heard some soldiers are getting so young they’re barely old enough to shave. If you take him to safety now, you can spare him all of that.”

“Yes, that’s all true. And a good reason for you to let us all go by leaving with us.”

His lips tensed.

“You dress yourself like an old man to escape notice of the soldiers, but I know that’s not the only reason. I know
, Edward. I know how you were before the war, how you wanted to join, how you argued with your father about it. Except for his good judgment delaying you until it was too late, I’d have lost you by now. Somehow, though, someone else reached you. I may not know what you’re involved in, but I know you’re fighting this war with every breath you take. Not in a uniform, not with bullets, but you’re fighting every time you disappear from me. And that’s why you won’t go.”

“It doesn’t matter why, Mother. All that does matter is that Isa has come with a way out. For you and for Jonah. Take it;
take it.”

Genny closed her eyes. Isa put an arm around her shoulders, effectively brushing Edward’s hands aside. “Can’t you see she wants to go, Edward? But you must come too!”

He started to run his fingers through his hair, then pulled back, as if remembering the dye that colored various strands gray. That same hand started toward, then pulled back from his neck, too. When he looked at Isa, the fatigue in his eyes almost matched the worn look of the false wrinkles on his skin. “If I tell you it would be safer for me if all of you were gone, would you listen then?”

“I don’t understand,” Isa said. “Surely you trust your own family?”

“It isn’t a matter of trust,” he said. “It’s a matter of leverage. If I’m caught, they won’t stop at punishing just me. They’ll use whomever they please against me.”

Genny sat on the nearest chair. She leaned back and closed her eyes for a long moment. When she opened them, she spoke softly. “Did you listen to what Isa said before about having come back because this is her home, about belonging here? Do you realize what it meant? She didn’t mean Belgium or her fancy home here in Brussels. She meant
. You, Jonah, me. We’re home to her, Edward. If we’re here in Brussels, then we’re home. If we go to Holland, then that is home, too. Home is wherever we all are—together. So if you choose to stay, then we’ll call Brussels home for a while longer.”

Edward looked from his mother to Isa, and she saw his silent plea for help. But she couldn’t help him. Not this time.

“Edward,” Isa whispered, “I know you think we don’t understand all you’ve said about the danger, but it’s you who doesn’t understand. I know what it would be like for your mother if she left you behind, not knowing what will become of you. If this is hell, then that is too, of a different kind. Don’t you see? A single day here is better than a thousand days over the border. A single day, if that’s all we have. At least we’re together. The way God put us.”

Those were words she’d once written in her diary to him, words she’d only dreamed of saying to him aloud. She knew he thought it was only to keep their quasi-family together, but it didn’t matter.

Edward turned away. Then he went out the door without saying anything more.


Let us respect the rules they impose upon us so long as they touch neither the liberty of our Christian consciences nor our patriotic dignity.

From a banned letter written by Cardinal Mercier to pastors throughout Belgium, quoted on the pages of La Libre Belgique

Isa stood in the American Legation parlor, having used her brightest smile, her wittiest wit, and her father’s name to request Brand Whitlock’s help in regaining ownership of her home. How many times had he and her father dined or played golf together? But so far nothing had penetrated Mr. Whitlock’s obvious disapproval of her unexpected arrival back in Belgium.

“Well then, please instruct me as to how I shall go about getting the soldiers out of my home by my own effort. Shall I simply walk into my old vestibule, announce my ownership?”

“Isa, don’t be ridiculous. You’re purposely egging me on, aren’t you?”

“Why, no. I’m just asking for advice. I thought you were here to protect the interests of Americans. If you can’t help me, I’ll have to do it myself. Who is in charge of the army in this city? Shall I go to see him?”

“Oh, I can just see the German general’s face if you were to go to him. That would be a sight!”

“Then I shall go, and you can come along to see that face. What is his name?”

“Military Governor General Freiherr Moritz Ferdinand von Bissing. What do you intend to do? March right over to the Kommandantur and demand to see him?”

Isa frowned. “Have your fun. If you think I’m a fool, why don’t you just say so?” She suddenly wanted to abandon all her bravado and have a good cry. So far nothing had gone the way she’d planned. Not even this, and she’d thought the ambassador would be on her side once he realized she’d returned in spite of his protest.

Whitlock stood to walk around his desk and sit on the edge closest to her. He even leaned down to take her hands in his. “Now, don’t pout.” Then, despite his hand patting, he glared. “You’ve put me in quite the spot, though. The Germans will smell a rat over your sudden appearance, no doubt about it.”

“You’ll do it, then? Get my home back for me?”

“No promises. I’ll have to let them think you’ve been here all along, staying elsewhere. They’ll wonder why you can’t just stay wherever it is you’ve been staying, and I don’t have a ready answer.”

“It’s my home, Mr. Whitlock! Isn’t that reason enough?”

He uttered a humorless laugh. “I suggest you stay out of trouble, young lady, although it’s trouble you’re in already just by being here. Why don’t you see Nell? She’s at l’Orangerie in Ravenstein for the time being.”

“No, no, I won’t trouble your wife. I do have a place to stay, but not for long. I don’t have a telephone, though, so I’ll have to call on you for updates. Is that all right?”

“It’ll have to be, won’t it?”

She turned to leave, but before she’d reached the doorway, he called her back. “Isa, you do have your passport? papers?”

She raised her brows, hesitant to tell him about the papers she possessed that were so nearly legal. “I do have my passport—my own. And I have papers, too. . . .”

“Let me see them.”

She pulled the identity form from her pocket but kept it too close for him to see the name Anna Feldson. “It’s been scrutinized already. I’m fine in this regard. I keep my passport well hidden, always separated from this.”

He held out his hand.

Slowly, she placed the paper in his open palm. He unfolded it, his brows lifting. “This is well done.” Then he frowned anew. “I’ll see about legitimate papers for you, too. Hopefully by tomorrow, but you must see my clerk for a photograph before you go. Now run along. I have a lot of work to do.”

She walked once more toward the door, only to be called back again.

“Who is accompanying you?”

“No one.”

He shook his head. “No escort, no gloves, no hat. What would your father say?”

“He might have said plenty, but he lost that right when he left Brussels, didn’t he?”

Then she left his office, refusing to think of her parents. They were likely too busy to have noticed she’d even left home. She caught back the thought; it was too late to try convincing herself her parents deserved whatever worry she’d caused.

Anyway, the false pass in her hand had survived Whitlock’s scrutiny and that filled her with confidence.

Isa headed to the heart of the city she loved. German uniforms abounded. Once-pristine parks were shut off to the public but used by German officers
their mounts—something never before allowed. Once-manicured trees, hedges, and lawns now grew untamed. Once-perfect gardens now sported weeds.

Armed military police patrolled the streets; guards stood at train stations. The only passengers on trams were soldiers. Few motorcars used the streets, and there was not a bicycle to be found.

Though her beloved city lay untouched by the cannonballs that had destroyed so many Belgian villages, Brussels was desecrated nonetheless.

Isa hid her disgust from the soldiers roaming the streets, but when she caught a glimpse of a civilian eyeing
with a scowl, she hurried on her way. Passive resistance must extend to refusing to read the German placards posted everywhere. She should have guessed as much. There were only so many ways to resist.

She found her way to Lower Town, where there were fewer placards and fewer soldiers. Fewer people were outside, and those who were ignored her, until a short shadow jumped into her path. “There you are!”

“Jonah!” She hugged him close.

At nearly twelve, he’d grown in the two years since she’d seen him. He had wavy dark hair like his older brother’s and the merry green eyes of his mother. But his nose and mouth were his father’s, and even as she welcomed that smile, the memory of Genny’s husband reminded Isa of the hole his absence had left in her heart.

“Mother told me you came back during the night. I wish you’d have awakened me. I would’ve liked to see you first thing.”

“Well, here I am, just a few hours later.”

“But where did you go? Mother’s not home; she went to wait in the lines to bring back bread with Miss Viole. I don’t know where Albert is. And Edward’s still gone. Mother said he’d be angry you left without him.”

“But I’m back, safe and sound, so he has no reason, has he? And why aren’t you in school?”

“No electricity today, so they sent us home. That’s fine, if you ask me. None of my real teachers are there anymore anyway, and I don’t like the German ones.”

“But you must go to school, no matter what. Even the Germans value education.”

“Well, I don’t value what they have to teach, none of it.”

She put an arm around his thin shoulders as they neared the door to Viole’s home. “What if I told you there’s a chance we might move to my old home in Upper Town? And you could go to school in that neighborhood? Perhaps they have Belgian teachers there.”

“That would be fine . . . only . . .”

“Only what?”

“I’ve been by your old house, Isa. I don’t think it’s yours anymore.”

She sighed. “Yes, I know about the soldiers. Hopefully they’ll be moving soon.”

“Out of Brussels?”

“Well, out of my house, anyway. And then we’ll go and live there. You and your mother and Edward and me.”

“Edward too?”

“Does that surprise you?”

By now they’d let themselves inside the modest home, which was dark even on an uncommonly sunny day due to so few small windows.

“It’s only that he hasn’t lived with us since he came back, so I’m wondering why he would now.”

“Since he came back from where?”

Jonah’s brows lifted. “Don’t you know? The Germans took him, way back when they first came to Belgium.”

“What do you mean, took him?”

He took her hand in his and led her to the table, directing her to sit as if she would need a steady chair beneath her. “They took him that day when they burned the hotel and the church and the university. Mother doesn’t like me to talk about it—she said we should forget because God gave Edward back.”

“But where did they take him? What happened?”

“We were hiding in the church and Edward went outside. He never returned. We didn’t know what happened until the Germans brought all of us to the Rue de la Station . . . not so far from where our hotel used to be. We were made to stand, all huddled, and they added to our numbers all day long. They gathered people they found outside and made others leave their homes. We were tied with a rope all around us and couldn’t sit—not for the whole day. I was too afraid even to be hungry. Do you know, sometimes the soldiers shot people just because they wanted to? And then they took men Edward’s age and put them in a cart and sent them off. Mother kept telling me Edward hadn’t been killed, that he’d only been taken. But we didn’t know for sure—not until he came back, nearly dead, after working in Germany.”

Isa’s heart twisted at the horrors even little Jonah must have seen. Horrors Edward had lived. “But why didn’t he stay with you after that?”

“Because Mother let the Germans think he died, just like the others who were sent home on that cart. Mr. Gourard brought Mother a death certificate and told us to say Edward was buried in a fresh grave by the church. It wasn’t long after that Mr. Gourard went away. He was helping people like that. Against the Germans.”

So Edward had more reasons than just smuggling people in and out of Belgium to flee German punishment.

“That’s why Edward is someone else now,” Jonah continued, “until the Germans leave. A man my father’s age, so the Germans won’t make him report every day like the others who are younger.”

“Where does Edward live?”

“Here and there,” Jonah said, without looking at her.

“What do you mean?”

“Only things we’re not supposed to know.”

“But things you know anyway?”

He fidgeted, standing near the table and twirling a fingertip on the smooth wood surface.

“Tell me, Jonah. You know I won’t do anything to get Edward into trouble.”

“I’m not worried about that. I’m worried about the trouble
be in if I tell you.”

She laughed. “I won’t say a word; I promise.”

“Mother always says
is a special word and I shouldn’t go about using it—”

“Unless you really mean it,” she finished. “I know. She told me the same thing. Covenants and promises. Like God made with us when He said He’d be with us always.”

BOOK: Whisper on the Wind
4.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

JJ08 - Blood Money by Michael Lister
The Promise of Palm Grove by Shelley Shepard Gray
The Brides of Solomon by Geoffrey Household
Never Forget Me by Marguerite Kaye
Borderlines by Archer Mayor
Bendigo Shafter (1979) by L'amour, Louis