Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

wood, on a frame of black; the coffin and Dixmude, and now for ten months draped in the tricolor, a squad of twenty have made Nieuport, the extreme end of soldiers following the dead. That is the western battle-line, a great rock. It the funeral of the middle-aged man. is easy, because there is a glory in the eyes There is no time wasted on him in the of boys. But the older man lives with brisk business of war; but his comrades second thoughts, with a subdued philosbury him. One in particular faithful at ophy, a love of security. He is married, funerals I had learned to know-M. Le with a child or two; his garden is pleasant Doze. War itself is so little the respecter

in the afternoon sun. He turns wistfully of persons that this man had found him- to the young, who are so sure, to cheer self of value in paying the last small honor him. With him it is bloodshed, the moanto the obscure dead as they were carried ing of shell-fire, and harsh command. from his Red Cross post to the burial- One afternoon at Coxyde, in the camp ground. One hopes that he will receive of the middle-aged-the territorials-an no hasty trench burial when his own time open-air entertainment was given. Massed comes.

up the side of a sand-dune, row on row, I cannot write of the middle-aged man were the bearded men, two thousand of of the Belgians because he has been killed. them. There were flashes of youth, of That first mixed army, which in thin line course-marines in dark blue, with jaunty opposed its body to an immense machine, round hat with Auffy red centerpiece; was crushed by weight and momentum. Zouaves with dusky Algerian skin, yelLittle is left but a memory. But I shall low-sorrel jacket, and baggy harem trounot forget the red-haired veteran sergeant sers; Belgians in fresh khaki uniform; of the first army, near Lokeren, who kept and Red Cross British Quakers. But the his men under cover while he ran out into mass of the men were middle-aged- territhe middle of the road to see if the Uhlans torials, with the light blue long-coat, good

were coming. The only Belgian army to- for all weathers and the sharp night, and day is an army of boys. Last night we the peaked cap. Over the top of the dune had a letter from André Simont, of the where the soldiers sat an observation bal"Obusiers Lourdes, Belges," and he wrote: loon was suspended in a cloudless blue If you promise me you will come back

sky, like a huge yellow caterpillar. Befor next summer, I won't get pinked. If I

yond the pasteboard stage, high on a westever do, it does n't matter. I have had

ern dune, two sentries stood with their

bayonets touched by sunlight. To the twenty years of very happy life.

south rose a monument to the territorial If he were forty-five, he would say, as dead. To the north an aëroplane Aashed a French officer at Coxyde said to me: along the line at full speed, while gun af"Four months, and I have n't heard

ter gun threw shrapnel after it. from my wife and children. We had a As I looked on the people, suddenly I pleasant home. I was well to do. I miss thought of the Sermon on the Mount, the good wines of my cellar. This beer with the multitude spread about, tier on is sour.

We have done our best, we tier, hungry for more than bread. It was French, our utmost, and it is n't quite a scene of summer beauty, with the glory enough. We have made a supreme effort, of the sky thrown in, and every now and but it has n't cleared the enemy from our then the music of the heart. Half the country. La guerre--c'est triste.

songs of the afternoon were gay, and half He, too, fights on, but that overflow of

were sad with long enduring, and the vitality does not visit him, as it comes to memory of the dear ones distant and of the youngsters of the first line.

the many dead. Not in lightness or ignofor the boys of Brittany to die, those sail- rance were these men making war. When ors with a rifle, the stanch Fusiliers Ma- I saw the multitude and how they hunrins, who, outnumbered, held fast at Melle gered, I wished that Bernhardt could

It is easy

а

come to them in the dunes and express in shell he sang of. His voice was as tense power what is only hinted at by humble and metallic as a taut string, and he voices. I thought how everywhere we snapped out the lilting line in swift stacwait for some supreme one to gather up cato as if he were flaying his audience the hope of the nations and the anguish with a whip. Man after man on the hillof the individual, and make a music that side took up the irresistible rhythm in an will send us forward to the Rhine.

undertone, and "Cracked" with the singer. But a better thing than that took place. In front of me was being created a folkOne of their own came and shaped their song. The bitterness and glory of their suffering into song. And together, he and life were being told to them, and they they, they made a song that is close to the were hearing the singer gladly. Their great experience of war. A Belgian, one leader was lifting the dreary trench night of the boy soldiers, came forward to sing and death itself into a surmounting and to the bearded men. And the

song

that joyous thing he sang was La valse des obus—“The “When you 've made your entrenchDance of the Shells."

ment, then you must go and guard it with"Dear friends, I 'm going to sing you out preliminaries. All right; go ahead. some rhymes on the war at the Yser." But just as you 're moving, you have to

The men to whom he was singing had squat down for a day and a night-yes, been holding the Yser for ten months. for a full twenty-four hours—because

"I want you to know that life in the things are hot. Somebody gives you half trenches, night by night, is n't gay." a drop of coffee. Thirst torments you.

Two thousand men, unshaved and tou- The powder-fumes choke you." sled, with pain in their joints from those Here and there in the crowd, listening trench nights, were listening.

intently, men were stirring. The lad was “As soon as you get there, you must set speaking to the exact intimate detail of to work. It does n't matter whether it 's a their experience. This was the life they black night or a full moon; without mak- knew. What would he make of it? ing a sound, close to the enemy, you must “Despite our sufferings, we cherish fill the sand-bags for the fortifications." the hope some day of our returning and

Every man on the hill had been doing finding our parents, our wives, and our litjust that thing for a year.

tle ones. Yes, that is my hope, my joyous Then came his chorus:

hope. But to come to that day, so like a “Every time we are in the trenches, dream, we must be of good cheer. It is Crack! There breaks the shell.”

only by enduring patience, full of confiBut his French has a verve that no lit- dence, that we shall force back our operal translation will give. Let us take it pressors. To chase away those cursed sang it:

Prussians-Crack! We need the obus. Crack! Il tombe des obus,” sang the My captain calling, Crack! More, still slight young Belgian, leaning out toward more of those obus!' Giving them the the two thousand men of many colors, bayonet in the bowels, we shall chase them many nations; and soon the sky in the clean beyond the Rhine. And our victory north was spotted with white clouds of will be won to the waltz of the obus." shrapnel-smoke.

It was a song out of the heart of an “There we are, all of us, crouching unconquerable boy. It climbed the hillock with bent back-Crack! Once more an to the top.

The response was the answer obus. The shrapnel, which try to stop us of men moved. His song told them why at our job, drive us out; but the things they fought on.

they fought on. There is a Belgium, not that bore us still more-Crack!—are just under an alien rule, which the shells have those obus.”

not shattered, and that dear kingdom is With each “Crack! Il tombe des still uninvaded. The mother would rather obus," the big bass-drum boomed like the lose her husband and her son than lose the

[ocr errors]

as he

II

France that made them. Their earthly

Ir Et IIe REFRAIN presence is less precious than the spirit Chaqu’ fois que nous sommes aux tranchées, that passed into them out of France. That

Crack! Il tombe des obus. is why these weary men continue their

Nous sommes tous là, le dos courbé fight. The issue will rest in something

Crack! Encore un obus. more than a matter of mathematics. It is

Les shrapnels pour nous divertir, the last stand of the human spirit.

Au travail, nous font déguerpir. What is this idea of country, so passion

Mais, et qui nous ennuie le plus, ately held, that the women walk to the

Crack! se sont les obus. city gates with son and husband and send them out to die? It is the aspect of nature shared in by folk of one blood, an

L'abri terminé, arrangement of hill and pasture which

'l Faut aller l'occuper, grew dear from early years, sounds and

Sans façons. echoes of sound that come from remem

Allez-donc. bered places. It is the look of a land that

Pas moyen d' se bouger is your land, the light that Aickers in an

Donc, on doit y rester English lane, the bells that used to ring

Accroupi, in Bruges.

Jour et nuit,

Pendant la chaleur,
Pour passer vingt-quatr' heures.
On nous donn'une d’mi gourde de café.

La soif nous tourmente,

Et la poudre asphyxiante, Nous étouffe au dessus du marché.

[graphic]

III

Malgré nos souffrances,
Nous gardons l'espérance

D' voir le jour,

De notr' retour
De r'trouver nos parents,
Nos femmes et nos enfants.

Plein de joie,

Qui ma foi,
Mais pour arriver,

A ce jour tant rêvé,
Nous devons tous y mettre du ceur,

C'est avec patience,

Et plein de confiance,
Que nous repouss'rons les oppresseurs.

LA VALSE DES OBUS

I

REFRAIN

Chers amis, je vais
Vous chanter des couplets,

Sur la guerre,

A l'Yser.
Pour vous faire savoir,
Que la vie, tous les soirs,

Aux tranchées,
N'est pas gaie.

A peine arrivé,

'l Faut aller travailler.
Qu'il fasse noir' ou qu'il y ait clair de lune,

Et sans fair' du bruit,
Nous allons près de l'ennemi,
Remplir des sacs pour fair' des abris.

Pour chasser ces maudits All’mands

Crack! Il faut des obus.
En plein dedans mon commandant,

Crack! Encore des obus.
Et la baionnett' dans les reins,
Nous les chass'rons au delà du Rhin.
La victoire des Alliés s'ra due

A la valse des obus.

[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

"

“H

EIGH, you! Bring that boat in The boat continued to make headway hyer !”

against the sluggish current, a fan of black The young man in the flat-bottom skiff ripples spreading from the bow. The sun, rested on his oars. On both sides the directly overhead, made hot the motionriver was shut in by dense swamp growth. less air between the river-banks. Tall cane, standing thicker than planted “Pull in hyer, I say; an' be durn quick wheat-stalks, grew to the very edge of about it!" the under-washed banks, the upper part Amid the foliage, Ned Emmet caught of its slender stems a brilliant green

above now the flash of something blue, the slenthe level brown line that marked the riv- der barrel of a squirrel rifle; its aim moved er's last high water.

Here and there a steadily up-stream with the boat. He saw, live-oak or cypress stood above the cane. too, half hidden behind the trunk of a On the high ground, beyond the cane- cypress, a kneeling man. brake, Southern pines grew in taller splen- "Ef you don't git that boat to this hyer dor, the needles of their spreading tops bank afore I counts ten, I 'll shoot.” varnished in the sunlight. He could see Emmet had been long enough in the no figure on the bank.

flat lands of southern Alabama to know

a

that the harsh voice meant all it said. strained his worn clothing. The jean After half a dozen strokes of the oars, the trousers and hickory shirt, all that covboat ran deep into the mud at the bank. ered him, were frayed and thickly plas"Now stand up afore

you turns round.” tered with dried swamp mud. Tow-colEmmet rose. He wore no coat over his ored hair fell tangled from his hatless flannel shirt. Facing the river, he stood head to his bony shoulders. A straggling waiting. The boy was no coward, though yellow beard failed to hide his long, sharp the flesh between his shoulder-blades chin. But for glowing black eyes beneath twitched.

his brows, the man would have been piti"What 's that in your hip-pocket?" ful, want and desperate need had so

? the voice called.

marked him. A long thin nose, humped “Tobacco."

high at the bridge, cheek-bones that “Ain't got no gun, hev you?”

pushed to break through the taut yellow "No.'

skin, added to the squatting man's look of “Well, tie up, an' git outer your boat." desperation.

Underneath the man's drawl Emmet Emnet seated himself, and wiped the felt a lurking desperation. As he made sweat from his forehead. The intense the boat fast, the aiming muzzle never heat of the place had no apparent effect wavered from his head.

upon the ragged man across the circle ; "Now come on up the bank, an' ef you his jaundiced face was dust-dry. tries to break an' run, I 'll git you afore "Throw that tobaccy of yourn over you kin take three jumps.”

hyer," he said abruptly. "I'm not going to run.” Emmet

“May I have a pipeful first?" Emmet climbed the slippery bank, and pushed asked coolly. into the thick growth of cane.

The squatting man assented. "Jes keep straight ahead as you air Emmet filled his pipe. From another

. a-goin', an' no monkey-shines, neither," pocket he drew out a box. the voice warned.

"Matches, by God!" The man's voice The man kept the tree trunk between was strained. He rose, reaching out an them as Emmet picked his way over the eager hand, then realizing that the game soggy earth. Beyond the tree, he followed

was now all on his side, he settled back. out into a well-worn path, walking far Emmet lighted his pipe, and tossed the enough behind for an easy shot in case of tobacco across to the man, who crammed a sudden wheel and attack.

a greedy handful into his mouth. Relief The path ended a hundred feet from from a long-denied craving spread over the stream. Here the cane had been trod- the drawn face. den down, leaving a cleared circle twenty "Give me them matches, too," he said feet in diameter. A small fire smoldered sharply. in the center; the ring of baked mud For some moments he chewed the toabout the ashes told that it had been alive bacco in silence. for many days. Beneath the branches of "Young feller, what day is this?" a tree lay a heap of cut cane, enough dried "Sunday, July the sixth." and crushed stalks to hold a sleeping The man looked away. His faded man's body some inches above the slimy brows drew to a doubting frown. earth.

"Air you sure it ain't August?" There “Go over thar an' set down." The was a listless note in the question. He man nodded toward a fallen log, and side- was silent long. stepped to the bed of cane. Here he “How much money is you got with squatted back on bare heels, the rifle across his bent knees. Even this crouched pose

"Eighty dollars."

Emmet cursed his could not conceal his unusual height. At luck. every angle the bones of his big frame The man raised the rifle an inch or two

a

you?"

« AnkstesnisTęsti »