Page images
PDF
EPUB

Month and ohin are nearly no formal choice or expressed hidden under the luxuriant suffrage. Duces ex virtute growth of hair. He speaks as sumunt: and that by tacit one who sums up the unspoken agreement. He guides, and opinions of others, quietly, in- they follow; and no voice is oisively, knowing that none raised to question his right, will dispute his right to be whatever the smouldering spokesman and interpreter for jealousies below the surface. all, with a good - humoured Under the inflaence of strong dignity such as & man may feeling sections break sway use who is father as well as now and then, and defy his inohief. A clerk squatting on fluence, as headstrong children the floor records the decision might defy & father. But dewith a reed-pen on the paper spite these rare reminders that held on his knee, adds his own his task is not so easy as it idea of the reasons for it, to be seems, the peace is not often signed later on, and another broken. oase is oalled.

The cause list cleared and Oar King Solomon, head of the court risen, the dask is a great sept, is the son of its aglow with the blaze of many late obief. But neither father fires at which roast the car. nor son held by hereditary cases of many fat-tailed sheep. right, and the father was not The system rests upon a prodescended from his immediate fuse hospitality and the feeding predecessors in the chiefship. of the children by their patri. Both of them held and hold as archs. The children are being being by oommon consent the fed, and great is their appetite. fittest of all the chiefs' kin. Does not the proverb declare The kinsman who would be that a hundred of them will ohief by the striot law of eat a hundred sheep ? Aye, primogeniture accepts the and dance after, though the domination of the fittest. meal were such as would put a And yet there was no election. degenerate son of civilisation It is a tenure, as it were, by to bed for a week. acolamation of the tribesmen So there is dancing and clap. and acknowledgment by the ping of hands about the fires Government. What would till the full moon is well up, have happened if there had and the prisoners of the poli. been & dissentient minority tical lock-up are brought out sufficiently vooa) to express its to share in the feast and the will, we will not speoulate. fun, and not a man of them

Again, one sept has no right thinks to take advantage of to pre-eminence among other the opportunity of escape for septs, each of which has its whither should be run from own ohiefs. The chiefs of all his own chiefs? Then the the septs are present: but one greater folk, with half a dozen 8ways the assembly by the English guests of honour, take aniversal recognition that he their seats in the moonlight, is wisest and strongest, by with the crowd squatting about and behind them. A rush of Will it last? When King horsemen is heard. Up gallops Solomon is gathered to his a mimio raiding party, and in fathers, and Rehoboam perhaps a few moments returns, driving rules in his stead, will the dykes a flook of soared oamels. More hold which still maintain obiefolattering of hoofs from behind, ship and the willing subjection and with shout and impreoa- of inferiors against the rising tion the rescuers are upon flood of equality before the them. The horses on both sides law? Across those waters, al. are driven together, and stand ready strewn with the wreckuntethered, awaiting the end of age of all institutions which the fight. To it with swords had their foundations in the and bucklers — thrust, parry, primitive community, tribe, and olatter! The moon looks village, family, now looms the down on the pioture of a good shadow of a new portent, old - fashioned combat. “I fashioned after & Western must stop it now,” says King image, but destined to suffer Solomon, with a twinkle in his a sea obange: the figure of wise eyes. “The blood begins Demogorgon, distant, but apto grow too warm.”

proaching

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

“Eh bien, m's'r— à ce soir sapper blew an ear-splitting ...." The broad-shouldered, blast on a small born by way heavily - built lieutenant of of warning to all men and French Railway Sappers sal. stray beasts that they were uted with precision, and turned about to start, and with a jerk to where his small motor-trolley and a rattle away they went. panted and snorted on the per- Spinning gaily down the grassmanent way.

grown track, they finally With a word and a pat for dwindled to a speck in the his pet dog pranoing about on distance, vanishing at last the front seat, he olimbed on round a sharp ourve—a faint board, signed to the driver, defiant toot of the horn floatthen turning saluted once more. ing back on the evening With a flourish an attendant breeze,

A sultry afternoon in the had to be packed away in the late summer, 1914. The plat. van at the end of the little form of the little wayside sta train. People had been a little tion was deserted, with the more prone to talk and loiter exception of a large cat which than usual, all gossiping on the sat on a baggage truck and one great subject, the war; all blinked in the sun. Every- standing, gestioulating, and thing utterly peaceful and babbling till the very last silent-and hot. Inside, in the moment, then making a wild little room labelled “Bureau du scramble for carriage doors. Chef de Gare," the stout little However, they had been safely “ Chef” himself - low be it despatched at last, and the spokon dozed in his chair. little Chef had turned to his

He had had a busy morning: telephone. Even his cheery it was a Monday and market mind had become disturbed as day in the neighbouring town, news and rumours came in of consequently the morning train fresh German advances to the had been more than usually west and south. So he talked orowded; chattering country by telephone to an old friend, folk and their baskets bad to “chef de gare" at another but be shepherded oarefully; more more important station to the than the usual colleotion of eastward, and the news he bundles, hampers, and boxes gathered was far from reassur

ing. Taleh cavalry, motosuring the Worland meditated called full of enemy and away bebinof hardships . As the barge

soouring owner's Wed West whena vading ring mengehind the owner hinter the white

ing. Tales of wandering bands being towed westward by the of German cavalry, motor-oars owner's daughter, the while full of enemy officers scouring the owner himself smoked at the country, and away behind the tiller and meditated on the these the growing menace of hardships mankind is called an invading army. So that upon to bear. As the barge when he rang off, Alphonse passed slowly beneath the large was more disturbed than ever steel bridge which the village

-“Sarely something must boasted, urebins happy and happen soon to stop this head- dirty threw stones upon the long rush?” Practically all deck, grinning broadly in reply the village lads had been called to the lurid remarks of papa to the colours, and the remain- bargee. der were preparing to go; Farther on, from the bargethings were indeed looking builder's yard, oame the sound serious. Still, Alphonse was of voices and hammers—in his hopeful; “ wait till the lads in little garden close by his wife their gay uniforms came along, was hanging out her washing they would soon show these to dry in the sun. invading brutes that France In the village street, children had not been wasting time and dogs played happily tosince 1870. They would set gether in the hot afternoon. these fat marauders sourrying So the quiet day drifted on, back to their lairs over the and Alphonse, his cap well over Rhine, and march in triumph his eyes, and his hands olasped to reclaim the fair lands of over his déjeuner, dozed in his Alsace and Lorraine.” It was chair. à rosy picture that Alphonse But the stillness was sud. painted in his neat little office. denly broken by the whistle But from this reverie he was of an engine olose to the staroused by a shrill voice oalling tion, and Alphonse jumping him from a back room: it was up, realised the arrival of the Marie inviting him imperiously afternoon goods train. To-day to déjeuner. Heaving a sigh, the freight was a heavy and be rose, glanoed out on the valuable one, destined for the sunny platform, up and down factories olose by-truoks piled the glistening lines, and then with copper turnings, trucks turned in to Marie and déjeuner. weighed down with many tons

Marie was generous, in spite of steel and lead. Some were of her shrill voice, and a good great tanks of benzine got oook. So that, despite the away from Essen before war growing menace, Alphonse broke out. Truoks, and towns, dozed in his chair.

and faotories of Germany, and . . . . . . half Belgium and France, were

Across the railway, on the represented. But the factory sluggish green water of the sidings were full, and orders canal, a heavily laden barge, were that this train should be having safely negotiated the left to the care of Alphonse wonderful new eleotrio loek, was till it was required.

Alphonse and the guard a million francs, but at last chatted together while the even this was completed, and shunting was being carried the guard, with a cheery partout, and the train at length ing word or two, mounted the settled into its long siding. engine and steamed away. This done, they entered the Alphonse, after watobing the offioe and spent an exciting engine puff away down the quarter of an hour filling in line, turned into bis office once and signing the vast forms more—the valuable train was deemed necessary by the disposed of, and a day's work authorities. Special oare bad was nearing an end. He to be taken over this consign- heaved a sigh and rolled a ment of metals valued at nearly cigarette. ...

III.

Two days later Uhlan patrols village, and olattered in the seized the factories and the station-yard.

IV.

An autumn ovening, 1916. in the “Halle” to-day. There The platform is deserted with is no sign of life anywhere, the exception of a large brown till a leisurely footstep calls rat, which sourries over the attention to a tall khaki figure, grass - grown remains of the pack on back, stopping now to baggage truck, and disappears light a cigarette before trudgin a shell-hole. The air is ing on his way. warm and olear, and all is for Aoross the railway, the oanal the moment silent. The shat- - now nearly dry, the remaintered ruins of the station and ing water stagnant and foul, the office of the Chef de Gare choked with the broken ruins are empty husks. No Al- of the electrio look and the phonse and no easy - chair proud steel bridge-is empty remain. The roof oaves in- of barges. The boat-builder's ward, and the window is a yard is silent, his home & jagged hole. The floor is piled soattered heap of dust. No with broken bricks and urobins play in the desolate plaster. ... On & splintered streets of the village, for war shelf, amid a litter of rubbish, has been, and is here. There lie the forms our Alphonse is a shrill whine-& splash of filled in and signed more than brick-dust olose by—and again two years ago. On the wall silence. A deafening roar as a still hangs the mouldering big gun, ounningly hidden in advertisement of the Monday the ruins near by, sends over obeap market tiokets, but no a message to the Huns from orowd of country folk ohatter the "contemptible” little army.

« PreviousContinue »