Page images
PDF
EPUB

upon the honor of our country. We keep “We will not be the only ones who will the faith of God and nations. Vive la wish to leave town,” Grandpère warned France!

us, "so if we are to find places on the train, In an instant our anger went from us, we must be prompt." and, lifting our voices, we drowned the Early as it was, there were many already brutal noises of destruction in one brave on the streets, heading in the same direcshout of triumph over the base spirit of tion; but we arrived in time to take our revenge:

stand near the top of the waiting line, and "Vive la Francel"

Grandpère's old and faded uniform, with

the Cross of the Legion pinned upon the CHAPTER XV

tunic, won us favor from the railway

guards. One of these whispered to him ADIEU TO RHEIMS

what we had best do when the hour came, I RETURNED to the house with a heavy and, by following his advice, we managed heart, and found both Papa and Grand to board the only train that left Rheims père about to set out in search of me. They that day. had been very anxious, and I felt myself But first we waited a long, long time, to blame.

No one scolded except Eu and the crowd grew steadily larger as the génie; but her love prevented any con morning passed, until I thought the whole tinuation of her ill-temper, and, when people of the city were clamoring to be she had spoken her mind, the matter was away. dropped.

When, finally, the doors were thrown We all mourned the wreck of the

open, we rushed in with the others and cathedral, and Papa saw in it a beginning found seats in a compartment that in a of the ruin of Rheims itself.

twinkling was filled to overflowing. After “The Boches will destroy the city,” he that, hundreds passed up and down the said positively; "they are angered because platform, looking with frightened faces we drove them back from Paris. There for a space into which they might squeeze fore you must all leave in the morning themselves. and not wait for Monday as we planned." As I said, we were lucky enough to se

This arrangement was quickly made, cure seats; but we had them for a very for Grandpère was impatient to be off. few minutes. A tired mother and a small

I said good-by to Papa that night, be- baby were soon in Grandpère's place; litcause he could not leave his duties on the tle Jacques gave his to an old, old woman; morrow. I still held to my faith that the and a tottering blind man took mine in exBon Dieu would guard him in all the bat change for his blessing. tles, and, although my heart was sore at But even the narrow aisle in which we the parting, I would not let myself con stood, crowded almost to suffocation sider the possibilities of anything happen- though we were, became a reproach to us, ing to him. We were to let him know while the door of the compartment still as soon as we were settled in Paris. He stood open, as we looked out upon the kissed us all good-by, laughed when we terror-stricken throng that passed and reprayed him not to run into unnecessary passed in an endless procession, holding up danger, and then he went out into the white faces while they begged us, by all we night to find his way back to his grim held dear, to make room for them. duties.

Laissez-moi entrer![“Let me come With the morning came a renewal of in!"] the bombardment, but Grandpère, impa A thousand times the words were tient to be away, roused us early; and be- spoken, by trembling women, by crippled fore the sun was an hour high, the last men, by lisping children. good-bys were said and we were hurrying "C'est impossible! C'est absolument toward the railroad station.

impossible!"

That was the only answer, given in pity, "Ah, Jeannette, it seems that we walk from one end of the train to the other. to Paris! What say you, Jacques?"

My own heart ached, and I could see "It would be fine fun, Monsieur," the Grandpère grow more and more uneasy. boy answered bravely. And thus it came

At length a woman, with two little ones about that we three took the road to the clinging to her skirts and a tiny baby in capital. Many times we were tired, but her arms, stopped before the carriage door never dull; for there were a host of sights, and regarded us with eyes of despair. some so sad, a few gay, and all within the

"P'ai trois enfants, messieurs. A yez un shadow of the great war. peu de pitié !" ["I have three children, On that journey, any doubt I might sirs. Have a little pity!"]

have had as to the outcome of the conflict She made her plea hopelessly, in a low, was set at rest. I found in the men and tired voice, expecting but a repetition of women of my country the fortitude to enthe answer she had heard so often.

dure, the brave confidence in victory, the And it came, from an old woman near determination to fight on for la patrie and the entrance.

everlasting peace. The spirit of Jeanne Regardez! On ne peut pas faire plus d'Arc was alive in the soul of France. de place, Madame." ["Look! It is not possible to make room, Madame."]

CHAPTER XVI Mais c'est le dernier train, et j'ai peur

ON THE ROAD TO PARIS pour les petits.![“But this is the last train, and I fear for the little ones“”] We went back to the house for a few min

"C'est trop! C'est trop!" ["It is too utes to tell Eugénie of the change in our much! It is too much!"] I heard Grand- plans, so that she might let Papa know; père murmur under his breath ; and the then we set out hopefully and with a good mother, catching the note of compassion in courage. his voice, addressed him directly.

My diary is very full of the happenings "Monsieur le Colonel," she said, "the of that journey, from day to day, and I father of my children has been killed. I might fill a large book with recounting have no money.

I have nothing! We them. On the start we were crowded by would go to Paris to the house of my hundreds of others, who were driven out father and be saved from starvation. Can of Rheims by the German shells, and I no one make room for the children of a had a taste of the experience that little man who died for France ?"

Jacques had been through. But this time Grandpère, I knew, had held back this we took good care not to lose each other. long only on account of little Jacques and After a time the throng grew thinner, for me. At this last appeal all three of us many sought the roads leading to the pushed our way out of the compartment, larger towns, like Épernay, hoping there not waiting to exchange even a glance. to find trains upon which they could ride. We bundled the woman and her children Grandpère was as anxious as any to reach into our places, amid her heartfelt bless- Paris, but he decided we should make betings, and then stepped back out of the ter speed afoot upon the direct road. way of the still clamoring crowd.

"There will be mothers and babies In spite of our early start we were no wherever we go,” he said, “and I cannot better off than thousands who had waited compete with them for places. So let us till the last moment. The humor of the march, mes enfants!" situation overcame all other feelings. I And march we did, laughing at dislooked up at Grandpère and laughed out.' comforts. right.

I think it was Grandpère's faded uniHis face, made stern by the demands form and his Cross of the Legion that upon his pity, relaxed in a moment and he, won us such kind treatment wherever we too, laughed heartily.

went. Old peasants touched their caps,

[graphic]

(BENSONOK NIPEN "WE TRAVELED THE ROAD RUNNING NEAR THE RIVER MARNE” (See next page)

our own men.

and the many soldiers we met saluted in they lay all about us, and Grandpère and brisk, military fashion. Once we came little Jacques lifted their caps in reverence upon a regiment of English resting by the whenever we came close to these hallowed way, and they were no less courteous than places. The peasants returning, one after

another, to what was left of their old It was the first time that I had seen any homes would pause a moment and, with of our allies from across the channel. We bared heads bowed, murmur prayers for heard them afar off, singing "Tipperary,” the eternal rest of those who were gone. their marching song, which soon became "My children," said Grandpère, as we famous in France. I talked English to walked along, "do not let us forget for so them, and they seemed glad to find a long as we live that those who died here French girl who knew their language. have won the greatest glory. All the They were all very merry, as if upon a badges of honor,—the Médaille coloniale, holiday, men and officers alike, quick to the Médaille militaire, the Legion of laugh at things in which I saw nothing to Honor,—what are these compared with laugh at, but always polite and pleasant. the humble wooden crosses? They are This was one of the few bright spots upon the supreme decoration of heroes who have our way.

given everything. For the living, silk ribWe traveled the road running near the bons and stamped gold are well enough; river Marne, crossing it first at Ville-en but they are as nothing to the glory of the Tardenois and again at Dormans, as it Croix de la Mort, the wooden cross. What wound this way and that through the living hero can claim an equal glory with country where France had won her great that of those who fell, those heroes of est victory. On every side were marks of eternity ?" that great battle. There was ruin every “But what of those who sent them to where,-huts and châteaux burned and their death, Grandpère ?" I asked. pillaged, whole villages leveled to the "They shall be remembered," he anground; bridges, roadways, and trees, swered sternly. “The children of those everything one looked at was scarred and who died will not forget who killed their broken.

fathers. Jacques, my boy,” he went on But there were still sadder evidences of earnestly, “when you are a man see to it this great battle of the Marne. Ah, the that

you do not trust the Boche. In the poor little mounds of earth, each with its

years to come he will pretend that he has forlorn wooden cross to mark the resting- changed; that he is peaceful, that he is not place of a brave Frenchman. They were covetous, and that he is kind. It will be everywhere! Among the ripened, uncut another lie, such as the Germans have told grain, in the woods, on the hillsides, and these last forty years.

Do not believe. in the valleys. We came upon them at And when they talk of honor and faith, every turn of the road-nestling under remember the wooden crosses of France." clumps of trees, in the corners of fields which still bore, in the soft ground, the To Grandpère, the soldiers we met footprints of the hundreds who had strug were of much interest. It was not for the gled there. When we looked down into stories of battle they had to tell, but to the low-lying lands we could see, scattered learn of their spirit, that he was prompted here and there amid the autumn yellow, to stop and talk whenever we encountered bare grayish patches, barred by rank upon them upon the road. And if there had rank of tiny crosses.

been any doubt in his mind about the enOh, the myriad graves of France! They durance of our armies, it was soon set at are the records of her glory and her tri rest. But we found that the poilus were umph! She sent her sons to die for the not so confident of quick victory over the freedom of the world, and by the thou Boches as we who were behind the lines. sands they have given up their lives. Here "We shall beat them, Monsieur," said

one, "that is certain; but it will take time, morrow; for although Grandpère had a and many will fall. They are brave, these slight hope that a train to Paris might be Boches; it would be folly to deny that. available, we did not count upon it. But in the end they must fail. Otherwise, And this was just as well, for the next Monsieur, we should all be happier in our morning we found that the railway was graves."

given over entirely to the transfer of the One great bearded soldier we met, quite wounded from the battle-front to the vaalone, sitting upon a bridge over a tiny rious hospitals throughout the country. stream. He was gazing out across a val No trains for civilians were running, and ley of cultivated fields, and there was a we prepared to take up our journey afoot. look of longing in his eyes. He saluted Just as we were about to start, a large Grandpere, and we stopped for the usual military automobile drove up to the door chat.

of the little hotel. The soldier-chauffeur, "I am upon a furlough, Monsieur,” he who jumped out to inquire his way to explained.

Paris, was plainly English, and knew so “And is your home near here?” asked little French that he could not underGrandpère.

stand the rather stupid concierge. "Oh, no," he answered, pointing to the "Perhaps I can help you,” I suggested, north. “I have a small farm not far from in English. Péronne on the river Somme. The Boches He turned to me with a broad grin of are still there, and so I came out into the relief on his red face. country to rest and to see the fields. It “I 'm needin' it, miss,” he said. “What is not pleasant to think what is happening with blown-up bridges and crooked roads, to my own little home-mais c'est la I don't know 'alf the time whether I 'm guerre," and he shrugged his huge shoul 'eadin' north or south. As for talkin' this ders.

French-maybe you 'eard me?" "They will be driven out!” Grandpère It soon developed that he was in haste spoke positively.

to reach Paris; and learning that we were "That is certain, Monsieur," the poilu headed in the same direction, he offered to replied gravely. "We shall return when take us to the city, glad to have an interthe word is given. They pushed us back, preter with him.

-no denying that,—and a Frenchman I explained the invitation to Grandpère, does not like to go back. But we never who readily accepted, and the good-nalost heart. That I know, for I was in tured soldier-chauffeur bundled us into the the thick of it, Monsieur. Always we big car. said to one another: 'There is Papa Jof Some two hours or so later found us in fre. He knows what he is about. The the outskirts of Paris, where our EnglishBoches will not fool him. And if he says man was familiar with the roads. “retreat”-good! We go back and wait “Whereabouts in town can I drop you, till he says "advance." Our time will miss ?” he asked. come.' And you see it did come, Mon "At the Place de la Concorde," I resieur; and it will come again. It is not plied, after consulting Grandpère, and for the poilu to think. Papa Joffre will soon we were standing in the center of do that. We fight, Monsieur. That is . Paris, with our bundles about us on the our only business, and we are ready." pavement.

Although we had not expected it, our “We are very much obliged,” I said, long tramp ended in the town of Château as the chauffeur prepared to start off again. Thierry. We entered it after dark and "Je merci voo a 'ole lot, miss,” he refound a hotel which had survived the plied with a laugh. "I'll be talkin' fighting, of which there remained many French all right in a week or two; but if evidences on every hand. We went early it 'ad n't been for you, I 've a notion there to bed, planning a prompt start on the would 'a been a general in the British

« PreviousContinue »