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Town Crier Toon den Broeke sang out the news: Queen Wilhelmina, their venerable Landsmoeder ("Mother of the Land") was coming home to Holland. After her five long years of exile, the villagers of little Eede would be the first to welcome her. Even now her Majesty was driving up the highway from Belgium. The news sent Eede's villagers scurrying to their battle-scarred homes; nothing but the best wooden shoes, starched collars and embroidered waistcoats would do for such an occasion.

A few minutes after noon an Allied staff car, driven by Corporal Steve Fisher of Montana, rolled up to the white chalk line that separates Eede from Belgium. Out stepped the Queen, stout and grandmotherly in her low-heeled oxfords, hip-long woolen jacket, redfox scarf and plain black hat. For a moment she paused, then slowly walked across the chalk line, savoring each step of the good Dutch earth she has ruled for nearly 47 years.

Orange Bows & Tea. For nine days Wilhelmina traveled up & down the liberated third of The Netherlands. Everywhere her ordinarily staid subjects showed their loyal excitement. They decked themselves with royal orange bows and rosettes. Their wooden sabots clacked in joyous folk dances. They climbed the gables above ancient market squares to get a glimpse of her.

Everywhere the Queen, with the shrewdness that has made her throne one of the Continent's sturdiest, received the new aristocracy of Holland—the men & women of the resistance. She sipped tea and munched sandwiches with them, listened to their stories, promised them food and clothes. Once a column of Stoottroepen (men of the resistance) marched past in review, smartly saluted. She responded with handclapping, motioned her generals to do likewise.

Plain Dutchmen loved her homely gestures. They said: "She means many things to all of us. . . . She has been Queen longer than most of us can remember. She means there will be justice and peace in the land with a fair chance for everyone. She is our past, and our hope for the future. . . ."

Flooded Polders & Prayer. It was not all joy. The royal tears welled up again & again.

Aboard an Allied "duck," Wilhelmina toured flooded Walcheren Island. Through the bomb-breached dikes the grey sea had poured across the fertile polders, stricken them with briny death. What said the old proverb? "God created the world, but the Dutch made Holland." Generations of Dutchmen had toiled to wrest this land from the sea. Now generations must toil again. The Queen muffled a sob in her scarf.

The royal procession churned past villages half-submerged. Housewives cheered the Queen from upper stories and rowboats, sang Wij leven vrij, wij leven blij ("We live in freedom, we live in happiness"). On a seaside dune, where carcasses of livestock killed by German mines still rotted, the Queen chatted with villagers living in dugouts left by the Germans. Where the seawall was cleft, she watched workers of the ancient guild of dike-menders weaving willow chains to turn back the waters again.

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