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The Silver Fleet

From: Screen Romances (US); July 1945
Fictionalized by: Jean Francis Webb

Warning: Contains spoilers

   She sat in the big room, almost motionless, with yellow morning sunlight the color of tulips along the canal pouring in at the tall windows behind her.  The leather-bound book lay open on the desk in front of her, but she was no longer reading it.  She sat in an attitude of listening almost as if intent upon catching the sound of a step on the cobbled walk outside; almost as if the door were already opening - and Jaap walking into the room.

   The secret record he had kept for so long, scrawled in his own handwriting, filled the pages her hand had been turning.  He had told her, once, to look in this desk drawer if a time ever came when she doubted him.  Last night, she had more than doubted; she had hated him.  But no longer.  She understood, now.  A little verse, about a long ago hero whom every Dutch schoolchild learned to revere, was running through her head.  Her lips repeating it softly, curved in a sorrowful smile.

"Piet Hein, Piet Hein,
Your name will always shine,
Your deeds will ever live ...
Piet Hein the brave
Never knew defeat,
He sailed back home
With the Silver Fleet."
   For Jaap, it had started the day he made his first entry in the leather-bound book - the day the Nazi authorities had taken over the town, and the shipyards Great-Grandfather Van Leyden had founded.  He had been perplexed, that day.  He hadn't been able to see ahead very far.  here were these goose-stepping Nazi peacocks who had overrun his beloved country in a black wave, coming so suddenly and without warning.  And in the yards lay the two almost completed submarines.  The Royal Netherlands Navy would not need them now, certainly.

   Yet, when Von Schiffer, the head of their Gestapo, and Captain Muller of their german Navy, had called him in to inform him he was to finish building the ships for a different customer - something deep within Jaap Van Leyden rebelled.  And he knew then what he must do.  Now - but, this time, fraught with danger - another job had to be done.

   It was all there, written carefully into the leather-bound book.  How he had walked back from his first interview with the bestial Von Schiffer, still uncertain what he should do, and had paused at the schoolhouse to collect his boy Willem.  They were singing inside, the children, led by their determined young teacher.  "Piet Hein, Piet Hein, your name will always shine ..."

   "His name was Pieter Pieterzoon Hein," the teacher reminded them, while outside the open window Jaap listened.  "He lived more than three hundred years ago, when Holland was in danger.  Everything seemed lost.  He did something which aroused our people from despair and gave them new hope.  He beat the mighty Spanish Armada and captured the Silver Fleet.

   The children listened.  And so, outside the window, did Jaap.  It was not a new story.  It had been bred into him, since his boyhood in this very classroom.  That captured treasure had enabled Holland to fight on and win her freedom.  Piet Hein had died an Admiral.

   "He was a very little man," the teacher's voice rang on.  "But when our country is in danger, it doesn't matter how big we are.  What counts is to love our country.  No matter what happens, you must never give up.  Piet Hein never gave up.  And in the end he captured the Silver Fleet."

   It was all there, recorded in the book ...

   They were not happy weeks for the town, those weeks which followed.  The men refused to work at the Van Leyden yards, although Jaap himself had reported back to the pompous Von Schiffer that he had decided to keep them open.  Small use to refuse.  Muller had men back in Germany who could take over, in Jaap Van Leyden's stead; men who would complete these two submarines as rapidly as possible for the enemy.  The Germans permitted no waste.

   At first the yards stood idle.  In the streets, black looks were cast after members of the Van Leyden household, and once a rock crashed through a window.  But eventually hunger told on the workers.  They began to trickle back, silent and sullen, to pick up their tools once more.  Joost, the foreman, signed up one name after another.  As old Bastiaan, whose service dated back to Jaap's grandfather's time put it, "Even flaming heroes have to eat!"

   The Nazis were clever.  They had decreed that no family without a work card could fill its market basket.

   Once more the plating of the submarines began to ring to the rhythm of tools.  But now there were new sounds in the yards.  The ring of Prussian boot heels.  The crisp, incessant voices, snapping: "Heil Hitler!"

   n Leyden has special knowledge of these ships," Muller reported to his Admiral.  "He's quite a good man, really.  Almost a genius."

   The Admiral in turn, approved.  "We owe a great deal to your collaboration Herr Van Leyden," he declared at the finish of his first official tour of inspection.  "You won't regret it.  I saw the Protector before I left Amsterdam.  Herr Markgraf asked me to convey to you his personal appreciation." That, to a Nazi, was the supreme accolade.

   But the ghost of Piet Hein was receiving no praise from the goose-stepping newcomers.  Of that Jaap Van Leyden was certain.

   Yes, the old ship-building town was suddenly haunted.  messages appeared upon the goggle lenses of welders: "Do not give up hope.  The hour will come! Piet Hein."

   Notes mysteriously nested among the sturdy sandwiches in many a workman's lunchbox: "We are not defeated yet! Piet Hein."

   It began as a faint, wondering whisper.  With the weeks, it grew to a subdued roar which echoed even in such unlikely places as the drawing room of beautiful Madame Helene Van Leyden herself.  It was a magic name, a name dropped in hope.  Piet Hein has returned!

   "Captain Muller tells me you're sending 107 out on her Sea Trials tomorrow," the Admiral said, one morning, in Jaap's office.

   "Tomorrow?" Jaap looked up with polite interest.  "First I've heard of it.  Do the foremen know about this?"

   "This information is for you only, Herr Van leyden." Muller cut in quickly.  "Herr Admiral, it is the wish of the Gestapo that no one in the yard shall be informed before tomorrow.  Heil Hitler!"

   Yet the shadows were only beginning to lengthen along the canal when Joost, the foreman, was whispering to old Bastiaan.

   "It's come! Pass the word around to everyone.  Those with guns are to dig 'em up and bring 'em to the proper place by nine.  The big day!"

   And the curfew had not yet sounded when dim shapes were slipping into the grocery store of Cornelius, where his shifty-eyed nephew Johannes had already obeyed an order to get the wooden shutters up.  Behind his counter, Cornelius was excited, too.

   "So things begin to move, Joost?"

   Joost nodded grimly.  "Yes.  And so do we.  The boat goes out tomorrow.  I had word from him this morning."

   "Are you sure he's right?" Cornelius asked.

   Bastiaan nodded as Joost had done.  "Stake my life on it.  We all do; we must.  No errors and no arguments.  What Piet Hein says goes.

   "Have you had time to warn the other?"

   "They'll be coming in here to leave their guns with you," Joost answered tensely.  "Seven guns.  And we'll want grub for our twelve.  You'll get the order for that tomorrow, after the instructions for the Trials have been given out.  meanwhile we're not supposed to know."

   "How do you know they'll agree to the men you've chosen?"

   "That's always been the same," said Joost, his eyes agleam.  "Three foremen go from the Yard, and they're allowed to pick their own men.  It's up to you to hide our guns in the food.  Here's mine."

   The men gathered around were so preoccupied with sliding their guns into the barrel of wheat by the counter that no one took notice when young Johannes stepped quietly into the night.

   A few blocks away from the shop, the doorbell of Jaap Van Leyden commenced ringing much too late for the casual caller.  Not that there had been any casual callers at this door of late! Helene, wondering yet dutiful, sat by herself nowadays until young Willem was home from his classes - likely as not with a bloody nose, gained in fighting some bigger lad who had taunted that his father was a Quisling.

   Jaap answered the summons himself.  The boy outside in the dark gave him a sickly grin.  "My name is Schmidt, sir.  I've got some information - important information."

   "Information?" Jaap studied him.

   "About the ship, the 107.  About her going on Trials tomorrow."

   Jaap let him in quickly, then.  Upstairs, in his private den, he sat the pasty-faced lad down in a comfortable chair and circled around him as he questioned.  "Who told you the Trials were tomorrow?"

   "My uncle, sir.  Cornelius Schmidt.  He couldn't keep the secret from me.  I live with him.  Certain parties are conspiring to pinch the 107.  Here are the names."

   Jaap's glance ran quickly down the proffered list.  Joost, Bastiaan.  Yes, they all were here.  He looked up again, carefully.

   "This is nonsense, lad.  There are seventy German sailors aboard this submarine.  What can twelve unarmed men do against them?"

   "But they won't be unarmed." Johannes smirked.  "Uncle's supposed to smuggle the arms aboard in the food boxes.  Then they're going to fake an accident in the torpedo room, call all the and lock them in there.  That's the whole plot."

   "Who's the leader of this gang?"

   "Joost Meertens.  But it isn't him behind it all.  Nobody knows who.  But Joost gets orders from somebody who signs himself P.H.  and P.H.  means Piet Hein."

   Jaap watched him, "Have you told anybody else about this?"

   "Oh, no sir! I brought it straight to you." His shifty eyes shone.  "They're all at the shop now.  If you move fast, you can round 'em up."

   Jaap had circled back on the young traitor once more.  "Your uncle is going to get into trouble isn't he? Pity about his shop.  It's a prosperous shop.  Or - were you interested in the inheritance? Yes, I'll make a note of that.  Now, my lad, I want you to go back."

   "Back to the shop?" Johannes sounded nervous.  "But aren't you - ?"

   "No tonight.  We must catch them in the act." Jaap was smiling now, and to Johannes it seemed a smile of reassurance.  "The important thing is that they mustn't suspect anything.  And they will if you don't return.  You must return, Johannes.  Your uncle's worked thirty years for that shop.  You can work one night for it, eh?"

   It was all there, in the leather-bound journal, recorded in Jaap's fearless handwriting, when Helene came to read it later.  And after the detailed account of the interview, he had made another brief entry.  For, when young Johannes Schmidt returned to the meeting place, it seemed, someone had written in chalk on the back of his jacket - a great "Q" for Quisling, and under this the smaller initials P.H.  It was a fact that Johannes Schmidt was never seen again until the Germans fished his body out of the canal.  There was a bullet in it ...

   So the day of the 107's Sea Trials dawned bright, as the sleek new submarine slid away from her pier.  The workmen were halted at the gate by Nazi guards.  They were searched, but not a single illegal weapon was uncovered.  Everything was peaceful.  In Jaap's office, Von Schiffer was grinning happily by the time the three foremen who were to tend the submarine's run had been summoned there.

   Jaap spoke to the three: Joost Meertens, Dirk Van Houten, Joop Sluys, "I expect you've realised the Diving Trials are taking place today.  You'll be in charge of the shipyards party, Meertens."

   Joost looked back at his employer stolidly, "Very good, sir."

   "Have you decided which men you're taking?"

   Oh, he was most meticulous about assembling the list of names for Von Schiffer's examination.  But as Von schiffer explained condescendingly, it was now much too late for any sort of check on the chosen ones; in addition to which, such a precaution would have been the height of needless folly.

   "They go on board immediately, do they not? The precaution I prefer is that the time of the Trials has not been made known until the last minute.  After all, what can twelve miserable Dutchmen do against a German crew of seventy?"

   So Jaap saw them off; twelve men and their lunchboxes, peacefully stowed aboard.  If, at the very last minute, he winked secretly at Joost Meertens - well, only Joost saw that, and recovered his startled stare with a dawning smile of realization.

   All that day - so he wrote in his secret journal - Jaap kept hearing the plan inside his head.  And it was spoken in the voice of cringing Johannes Schmidt, it was a voice already silenced forever.  "They're going to fake an accident in the torpedo room, call all the officers and lock them in there."

   It was such a peaceful day.  The tools of the workmen racing the second submarine towards completion rang out briskly in the sunlight.  Muller and Von Schiffer smiled happily as they waited for reports on the 107.  And Jaap Van Leyden had never been more co-operative.

   How strange, then, that the radio should have broken in upon the quiet late afternoon with its incredible news flash beamed from London.  "We are proud to announce the arrival at a port in England of a submarine which only twelve hours ago was in the hands of the German Navy.  But for the courage of a few brave men, this beautiful new ship, designed and built by Dutchmen, would have been used by our enemies against us.  We now bring you the voices of some of the men who brought her here."

   By now, the shipyard offices were in an uproar.  A seething Von Schiffer had ordered the voices recorded.  He and Muller and the others - including Jaap, of course - were crowded over the loudspeaker.

   "Not much I can say," came the anonymous, happy voice of one of the twelve across the miles.  "Except we all knew Piet Hein had fixed everything for us.  We could never have pulled it off without him."

   A second voice broke in , excitedly, "And who do you think he turned out to be? Nobody else but - "

   "Shut up, you fool!" somebody else had muffled the man deftly.

   Over and over, at Von Schiffer's frenzied insistence, that last portion of the transcribed broadcast was played.  But it did no good.  There was not the slightest hint in the record of the word about to have been spoken.  Piet Hein remained a ghost, elusive and mocking; a ghost free to strike again.

   He did strike again.  And not in the shipyards alone.  As if success had emboldened him, his brief orders began to appear in the least likely corners of the town.  And whatever Piet Hein wanted was done.  Railroad cars were overturned and looted.  Snipers made lonely night patrol a terror to the booted sentries of the occupation forces.  Men whom the Nazis sought vanished.

   A new Captain had arrived to replace Muller at the Navy Base.  It had not amused Herr Markgraf in Amsterdam, that broadcast.  In the Gestapo offices, Von Schiffer flaunted a proclamation which was his answer to the defiance of the community.

   "I regret that Captain Schneider's arrival here should by marred by such incidents.  But the people have been warned.  If they disregard, we shall sign this document and put it into effect immediately."

   Ruyter, the local Chief of Police, was sweating unhappily.  "Y-you mean I sign it," he mouthed, as if discussing his own execution.

   "Naturally," snapped Von Schiffer.  "It is a matter for the Dutch authorities.  We are always legal, Herr Ruyter.  Throughout his great work for humanity, our Fuehrer has not committed one single illegal act.  You would do well to remember that, Herr Ruyter."

   "But half the hostages are shipyard men!"

   "What do you expect? Is it not a shipyard town?" Von Schiffer smiled placidly.  "But remember, I am not without experience in these matters.  This is still only a threat.  Our warning was posted at noon.  For nine hours, not one single act of violence has been reported.  I -"

   The sound which broke in upon him was a thousandfold louder that Ruyter's miserable voice.  It was an explosion which knocked the pictures from the walls, which cracked the windows.  The town had a big gas works.  Before Von Schiffer could get to the telephone, the flames were piling up against the sky in a livid column.

   "Piet Hein is at the bottom of this," the Nazi shrieked.

   Jaap, who had been in on the consultation, although silent, nodded quickly now, "In Holland, there'll always be a Piet Hein."

   "If I could get my hands on him - "

   "You'll make a martyr of him.  Just as you would do with these hostages of yours.  My friend, they'll laugh at you." It was not unreasonable to anticipate that Von Schiffer would avoid being laughed at.  Laughter was the weapon no Nazi understood ...


   In the handsome old Van leyden house on its peaceful street, Madame Helene waited later and later for her husband's return from work, these evenings.  "Why this everlasting work?" her rich, soft voice chided at last.  "For whom? And for what?"

   "They're pressing us to finish the job," Jaap explained.  It was not much of an answer.  Her lovely eyes were unhappy as she sent him upstairs to reassure young Willem once more.

   Willem had been having trouble with the boys at school again.  They were celebrating the delivery of the 107 to the British, but they hadn't let the son of Jaap Van Leyden join in.  Quislings and collaborators need not apply.  They made that terribly clear.

   Jaap was a long time upstairs with Willem, drinking a toast in milk to the daring Piet Hein who had stolen the submarine.

   "Let him steal the second submarine, too!" Willem had prayed.  But Jaap had explained that this would be impossible because the Germans were guarding her day and night.  When he returned to Helene's room, she sat before her mirror combing out the silky hair his fingers loved to touch.

   "You've always stood for right, Jaap," she said quietly; her eyes fixed on the mirror.  "Is it right that we should help the Germans build more of these terrible machines?"

   "What happened when the men refused to work?" Jaap countered.  "They starved; then they gave in.  It took seven weeks to build the 107.  Well, where is the 107?"

   "But this other ship? You say yourself no one can harm it."

   "No, I didn't say that.  I only said it's guarded day and night, and no Dutchman is allowed to go to sea with her.  Not even a Quisling."

   "But if somebody - a time bomb - " She turned toward him desperately.  "Jaap, we could be happy still.  But you're hiding something.  Darling, why don't you trust me?"

   He pointed slowly, to a spot on the wall; a spot less faded than the area surrounding it.  "We used to have a picture there.  Would we have been wise to have kept the Queen's portrait hanging?"

   Her beautiful eyes clouded.  "I - I suppose not."

   "We still have the picture, only we've put it away.  And one day we'll hang it there again.  Just now, we can't." he paused.  "By the way, was it you who looked in the drawer in my study?"

   Helene nodded.  "I wanted to see if you'd kept the picture.  I thought, if you had - you couldn't be a real Quisling."

   "Look in the drawer every day and see if it's still there." Jaap bent over her and kissed her hair.  "And trust me, my darling."


   It was the next day that he stalked aboard the nearly completed submarine, with blueprints in his hand and an order to the chief electrician on his lips.  It was a simple order.  Nothing at all unusual about it.  For a certain connection in the complex rigging of pipes and wires, he wanted four-core cable strung there in place of two-core.  Except for the electrician, there was no reason why anyone should notice it.

   No, the real sensation of the day came after sunset.  Jaap returned to the yards after his dinner, and found a sentry on duty to bar admission even to himself.  It seemed that someone had broken into the warehouse and had gotten away with half a case of T.N.T.  Von Schiffer, sensing what was to come, was a snarling frenzy.

   Jaap got himself in the Gestapo chief's offices, quickly enough.  Von Schiffer hurled himself forward, his face livid.  "Perhaps you can help us Van Leyden.  Our sentry caught a glimpse of someone he knew, before they knifed him.  We're trying to find out who it was.  You understand these Dutch names.  See if you can make out what he says."

   No, he had not heard it.  He had heard nothing.  He gestured as though in defeat as he came erect once more and turned back toward Von Schiffer...

   Back in his wife's room once more, his eyes were glowing.

   "No doubt about it! I was the only one to catch the name."

   "Bastiaan?" whispered Helene.  "But how could he be so crazy?"

   "People don't steal stuff like that for nothing.  It's the crazy work he'll do with it that'll cause the trouble.  We must find out what they've done with it, try to get it back.  You'll have to help me."

   Wide-eyed, she nodded.  "Of course.  But how?"

   "Every moment's precious.  I want you to go at once to Janni Peters.  There's a chance she may know something.  And she trusts you." He read the horrified question dawning in her eyes.  "No, I wouldn't turn him in - these people are our own blood! Do you think I want to see them put against a wall? Help me Helene!"

   And so, because she trusted him so blindly, and because little Janni Peters still trusted Madame Helene, he was able to telephone Von Schiffer's office within the hour.  He was able to say a swift, "Quick as you can! The shipyards! I'll show you the way!"

   The words sent the Gestapo chief's chair over backward and the siren of the Gestapo chief's car to wailing through the night on its frantic course to the yards.

   They found the T.N.T., all right.  Jaap Van Leyden found it, and jerked loose its timing apparatus mere minutes before the instant set for the explosion.  That it would have blown the place into heaps of rubble, there was no question.  Sweat glistened on Von Schiffer's jowls.

   "You would have made a thundering good German, Van Leyden!"

   It was intended for a compliment.  Jaap said nothing, but his bow of acknowledgement was the soul of modest discretion.

   "If those caissons had gone up," Von Schiffer continued, "We'd have been standing in the debris of several highly promising careers.  You've saved not only an explosion in the shipyards but fireworks in Amsterdam.  If the Herr Markgraf had heard of this - "

   "Don't harrow us with grisly possibilities!" said Jaap.  "And may I suggest that we don't harrow the protector with them either."

   Relieved, Von Schiffer mopped his brow.  "Very generous of you! Do you know, Van Leyden, recently we've had doubts about you.  So many things have happened - theft, piracy, sabotage.  One begins to trust no one."

   Jaap was a picture of injured innocence.  "But about me - !"

   "It must sound absurd, now," the German admitted, with a reassuring slap on his Quisling's shoulder.  "Tell me, Van Leyden, what would you say if we asked you to come out on the Trials with us?"

   "I'd say it was a common sense suggestion," Jaap answered, not too eagerly.  "Precautions are all very well, but obviously somebody who understands the ship must be aboard.  I'd have mentioned it before but I could hear you wondering, 'Why is this Van Leyden so keen on the Trials?' "

   "On the contrary." Ever a man to relish a joke, Von Schiffer laughed.  "There's no better way to guarantee the ship's safety!"

   So the second of the yard's masterpieces lay ready to put to sea.  The last detail of her preparations had been written into Jaap's private journal.  Everything was in readiness, down to the gay little dinner given at the Van Leyden home the night before the Trials.

   Setting out her place cards, Helene had never looked more lovely.  As she came up to him, Jaap knew that his heart was in his eyes.  He had loved her for a great many years, now.  Yet tonight those years seemed to him as if they had been only moments.  It was strange - the way time became foreshortened when the word tomorrow lost its meaning.

   She paused beside him, troubled.  "Darling, why must we invite them to our house? People we used to know are starving, and we're giving a dinner party.  How much further must we humiliate ourselves?

   "But the food's requisitioned," he reminded her quietly.  "If it wasn't here, it would be at an Admiral's or else at Von Schiffer's."

   "And I would prefer it," Helene answered.  "Wouldn't you?"

   Jaap shook his head.  "Not tonight.  Tomorrow the 108 sails."

   "All the more reason you should have a good night's rest!"

   "I'll rest," said Jaap, "when the Trials are over."

   Helene turned away.  She did not see the desolate look in his dark eyes...

   It was a brilliant dinner.  The uniformed guests and their painted simpering ladies found the food delightful, the wine of the best and the wit of their host most entertaining.  If Madame Helene sat in somewhat remote silence most of the time, at least she was lovely to look at.  They all thought so.  Even the Markgraf, the great protector of Holland himself, whom Von Schiffer had brought to dinner as a crowning honour to the house of Van Leyden.

   Yes, it was an evening of many interesting developments.  Jaap, for instance, was able to persuade the Markgraf that it would be sheerest folly for His Excellency to return to Amsterdam without first accompanying the new 108 on her Trials.  It would be an experience, a real experience; that the smiling and respectful builder of the ship could swear.

   And close upon the Markgraf's intrigued acceptance came a second excitement.  The thief, the man who had stolen the T.N.T.  had been named by the dying sentry! It was the laborer Bastiaan! Already the town was being combed for the criminal, and justice would be swift.

   Helene managed to waylay her husband in the corridor, soon after the news had come.  "Jaap!" she breathed, staring up at him.  This is my fault - our fault.  You said it would help Bastiaan if I went to Jaani."

   "I'm sorry, darling," Jaap answered quickly.

   "Is that all you can say? What does it matter to Bastiaan Peters and his children whether you're sorry or not."

   "They haven't caught him yet," Jaap soothed.  "As soon as these people have gone, I'll do something to help him.  Trust me, Helene, trust me!"

   He went on up the stairs, in the direction he'd been headed when she stopped him.  He was after a special cigar to seal his new friendship with the Markgraf.  He closed the door of his den behind him and he was half across the room before he heard the soft chuckling laugh behind him.

   "Bastiaan!" he turned and saw the man.  "Thank God you're here!"

   "Why?" breathed Bastiaan Peters.  As he walked softly forward, the pistol in his hand glittered with purpose.  "They'll get me anyhow.  Just as surely as I'll get you.  I'm a dead man already."

   Jaap eyed the pistol.  "Bastiaan, listen - "

   "We've listened to you long enough, Herr Van Leyden.  If my Jaani hadn't listened to your wife, we wouldn't be in this mess.  Here it comes."

   There was death in his eyes.  Glittering death, like a light reflection from the pistol's cold barrel.

   "Bastiaan! You fool! Think, man, think! Who sent you the the message on the glasses telling you not to despair? Who sent you Johannes, the traitor, marked with a Q on his back? Who told you how to hide guns in the food?"

   "Piet Hein!" Bastiaan was staring at him.  "But - it was you who tipped off the Nazis we wanted to blow the caissons to hell."

   "What good? They'd repair it again.  The 108 would still sail.  No, it must be done at the right time - and at the right depth.  I'm after the 108, Bastiaan, as Piet Hein was after the Silver Fleet.  I've told no one about this.  No one in the world - not even my wife."

   Suddenly they heard a noise downstairs.  Someone was pounding on the Van Leyden door.  Jaap spun to the window; back again.

   "They've traced you here! I'll get you out of this!"

   "It's no use." Bastiaan whispered.  "I'm finished.  And you've got to think of the job sir.  Think of the 108." He paused - the space of a heartbeat.  Then, quietly, steadily: "I've always wanted to do something for Piet Hein!"

   Before Jaap could move, the pistol had lifted; the explosion had sounded.  Old Bastiaan Peters crumpled slowly, eyes glazing, his own bullet through his head.

   Feet were pounding the stairs outside even before Jaap spread the lifeless fingers from around the pistol.  He opened the door and went out to meet them.  He was holding the weapon out for them to see.  "He's in there," he said.  "I've shot him."

   Somewhere in the group, Helene turned away as if from a sight she could no longer endure to face...

   His house grew quiet, after the Germans left.  He waited for the sound of them to drain from the street outside; then he knocked at Helene's door.  He knew she was behind it, with the bolt drawn to shut him out, but there was no sound - no sound at all.  Only silence - cold and grim and forbidding.

   "Helene - " It was a prayer, soft and urgent.  "If you love me - "

   But she did not answer.  He could see her, almost, seated before her mirror, with the soft shine of hair spilling down over her shoulders; with horror wide in her eyes as she heard him knocking.  He turned away at last and went back to his den and sat down at the desk there.  So much must be written on the last pages of his journal before the sun came up.  At dawn the 108 would be sailing.  And the 108 was not coming back again.  Four-core cable meant a pipe big enough to hold a stick of T.N.T.  and the explosive was ready.  Waiting only for a hand to explode it.


   Yellow morning sunlight the color of tulips along the canal pouring in at the tall windows behind her, as Madame Helene finished reading.  Her beautiful eyes stole for a moment from the words of Jaap's journal to the object which had lain in his desk drawer beside it.  That was the thing she had come seeking - the picture of their Queen.

   She sat in an attitude of listening, almost as if intent upon catching the first sound of a step on the cobbled walk outside - or perhaps the slap of secret waves against a hulk forever sunken from sight.  A hulk within which men lay dying, even now, at this moment...

   The step would never sound again.  The door would never open.

   Yet here, on the last page, he had written an even greater truth for her to read.  I shall be with you, darling, in this house, because I love you and you love me.  As long as Dutchmen live in Holland, I shall be here - because I was one of the seeds from which Freedom grew again.  I shall not die.  Does a seed die when it is buried in the earth? Has the wind died when it ceases to blow? Are the waves dead when the sea is calm? The truth is that a nation will only live as long as it has people ready to die...

   In a moment, she must close the leather covers.  She must put away this precious book, and the picture of the Queen beside it, somewhere so safe that even when the Nazis came searching they could not find it.  Its hiding place must be secure, for what lay there would belong - one day - to Willem, his son.  And to Willem's son, after him.

   In a moment. But meanwhile, she sat motionless - as if listening for a door to open.  On her dark hair, the sunlight fell, as gentle as the touch of a caressing hand.


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