Puslapio vaizdai

meet Colonel X-, who was coming in from Alsace by the Belfort train. He telegraphed that he had some photographs for me, and that I would have to come to take them at the station, as he was going right through to Marseilles.

The large space inside the iron gate in front of the "entrée aux militaires" at the Gare de l'Est experiences every evening the whole gamut of human emotions. Here the soldiers on permission, coming from death, greet their loved ones. Here, a few days later, they say good-by as they go back to death. Here mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, wives, children, sweethearts, marraines serious and otherwise, gather to laugh or cry.

As I was waiting for my colonel, an engine tooted insistently, and the big bell rang a warning. Gendarmes called out gruffly. The returning permissionnaires submitted to the last farewells, and hurried through the entrance. A richly, but too strikingly, clad young woman was kissing a tall, yellow-haired poilu. I recognized Jean-Marie-and Jean-Marie's other marraine.

August 8, 1916.

I have just returned from a flying trip to America, and find among the letters on my desk the following:


[ocr errors]

Vichy, July 20.

Have you forgotten your poilu from Valenciennes? It is a long time that I have not had your news. How are Madame Gibbons and you? Give my kisses to my first little marraine, Christine, if you please. I was wounded in the left knee on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. It was bad luck, was it not? To think that I was fighting in the direction of my own country, and that this river, full of blood, came from my country! Two years ago I plowed the fields on its banks and brought my horses down to drink from it. But that is so far away, and yet it is no farther away than the very month you took me from that crowd on the Boulevard St. Michel. I feel so grownup now, and, Monsieur, I shall never again

not be sad. For in June I had the first news of my family. A letter came, through our regional committee, from a woman of my village who had been sent out by way of Switzerland in a convoy by the Germans. She said that my father and mother were dead and that my little sister had been taken away by the Germans. So you see I wanted to fight in this battle as I had not wanted to fight before. But on the first day I was taken out, and now I am here, where they put knees in ovens to cure them. Monsieur, Mademoiselle Félicie wrote me that she was married, and I have not had a marraine for long. It is true, as Mademoiselle Félicie must have told you, that I stopped writing after my permission last year. There was some trouble. Like many of my copains, I had another marraine, who said she was a grande dame. But she was gentille only when I was in Paris. I got her from an advertisement in the 'Vie Parisienne,' and did n't want another that way, and being ashamed about what you might think, I did not write. Now please, Monsieur, forgive me. Do not wish me of it, please! The marraines are difficult now, and you never know if you have a right one or not. I think an Américaine living in Paris might be good to me, one who would send me things I need, and write nicely to cheer me. I may get a leave to Paris, when I get better, even if it is with crutches. Could you find me a marraine among your Américaines who has an automobile? For, you see, with crutches one walks difficultly.

Accept my deepest respects and homages; also Madame Gibbons, and not forgetting my first marraine, Christine.

En convalescence,
Hôpital Auxiliaire No.

There was "what to laugh and cry," as the French say, in Jean-Marie's letter. I wrote to him immediately, inclosing some money for cigarettes. And I told him that I would send his letter to an American woman in Paris who, if she could not take him herself, would find a marraine américaine, with the automobile. However, I pointed out to Jean-Marie that

the marraine able and willing to minister to his needs might not be as young or as complacent as Félicie. Did he want romance or comforts?

October 24.

Jean-Marie appeared at the rue Campagne-Première this afternoon. He looks much older and he has suffered. He is on crutches, but tells me that next week he expects to be able to walk with a cane. Thanking me for his American marraine, he declared:

"Yes, you were right. What I need now is a mother, and Mrs. Blank treats me as if I were her own son. Why, I am living at her apartment with three other filleuls, and we don't have to be jealous of each other. She has fifty, and employs a secretary to write to them. I have seen that secretary slipping along the corridor, but she does n't come in to talk to us. Mrs. Blank sends us out to see everything around Paris (most of us had already seen everything in the town), and young girls, French and American, go with us, but never the same girls twice. The automobile is down-stairs now. Mrs. Blank said I ought to-I mean to say, I was very anxious to come to see you. I must be going now, for the fountains are playing at Versailles, and we want to take them in before dinner. Will you give my respectful greetings to Mrs. Gibbons and to my first marraine, that dear little Christine? May I come one day to greet them at your apartment?"

Jean-Marie has become quite a man of the world. He talks without hesitation, and gives you a hand-shake imitated from Mrs. Blank.

November II.

A letter from Mrs. Blank this morning tells us that Jean-Marie failed to pass the conseil de revision. The doctors declared him cured, and he has had to report at his dépôt. On the way to the Gare de Lyon they stopped to see us, both at the apartment and the studio, but found we were out. Jean-Marie left his adieus. He will probably not be returned to the

front, Mrs. Blank thinks, but he will be useful in the auxiliary.


February 5, 1917. Eight pages from Jean-Marie. knee got quite all right, and he is back in his old regiment; but he declares that the damp, rainy weather gives him rheumatic pains. He started to learn English with Mrs. Blank, and has been getting English letters from her. He thinks she must have an English secretary, too. JeanMarie hears that the United States is going into the war. After two sheets of congratulating me upon my "noble country" and of eulogy of President Wilson, he comes to the point. When America enters the war, he will know English well, and he wants to be an interpreter. He will feel it an honor and a compensation. for all his sufferings if only he can be with the Americans.

April 17.

Three letters in the last two weeks from Jean-Marie, all in English. I read them yesterday on the train to Nice. Mrs. Blank, whom I met this morning on the Promenade des Anglais, told me that her filleuls had become too much for her. When they wrote of permissions, her secretary had a standing order to tell each. poilu that arrangements had been made for him to go to a hotel on the rue de Bassano, where he would find his room and board paid and an envelop with fifty francs for seeing Paris. "Your protegé, Simonet," she said, "is working for a month's leave for hydrotherapic treatment at the Grand Palais. He is splendid and refreshing, that youngster, but I think he is becoming spoiled. He knows he is good-looking, and the girls I have to help me made too much fuss over him. I wonder how many of them have beco.ne his marraines, too."

April 19.

Motoring through Cannes this morning, Helen and I had a surprise. There was no mistaking the tall soldier with yellow hair who walked arm in arm along

the digue with a girl known to all the world as the coming young American prima donna of the Opéra Comique. We had shot by quickly, and, as we were lunching at St. Raphael, there was no time. to turn back.

But in the afternoon we ran across Jean-Marie again on the golf-course at La Napoule.

"Now, Mr. Simonet," his teacher was saying in English, "remember to get your legs into it. Steady on the left, and let the right bend as you make the stroke."

"Yes, steady on the left, Jean-Marie," I broke in; "that 's what this furlough was for, was it not? I suppose golf on the Riviera is preliminary to hydrotherapics at the Grand Palais."

Jean-Marie was not embarrassed. Far from it. The club, raised for the stroke, was dropped, and the golfer turned to make the presentations. But Miss A— had long been inclined to be gracious to me because of what she hoped I might write, and she greeted us like old friends.

"Where did you steal this blessé?" I asked. “Did Mrs. Blank, his marraine, detail him to your care? We saw Mrs. Blank at Nice only two days ago."

The star of the Opéra Comique denied the imputation of disloyalty to Mrs. Blank. No, she had not met Jean-Marie at the hospitable home for filleuls on the Avenue du Bois de Boulogne. Yesterday morning something happened to the wheels. of her wagon-lit. It had to be left at Avignon. Miss A traveled the rest

of the way to Cannes in a day-coach. Jean-Marie was in her compartment, also bound for Cannes, and he wanted to speak English.

Then Jean-Marie told us how he had gone to the hotel on the rue de Bassano, according to the instructions of Mrs. Blank's secretary. He had not been able to secure the leave for a month at the Grand Palais. The médecin-major of his regiment had no sympathy with bad knees; but he did get eight days' permission. After that there was going to be a big offensive.

July 15.

I saw Jean-Marie in the great parade. yesterday. His company did wonderful work on the Chemin des Dames last month, and won the honor of taking part in the celebration of the Quatorze. JeanMarie has become a corporal. He looked fine in his new uniform, wearing the croix de guerre, the fourragère, and his stripe. "Bravo, Jean-Marie!" I cried.

He waved to me.

I was not disappointed this morning. Jean-Marie came into the studio.

"We have to go back in twenty-four hours," he said, "and the non-commissioned officers of my company are being given a luncheon to-day by the Duchesse de- -at her hôtel in the rue de Chaillot. But I did want to see you just a moment, to ask how you are enjoying the summer, and for the news of Madame Gibbons and dear little Christine, my first marraine. I want also to talk to you about my interpretership and about a new marraine. You see, Madame Blank is not in Paris any more, and her secretary treats us-all the filleuls-like a business. Miss A promised to be a nice marraine, but she has forgotten me since Cannes. Not one letter. I must have an Américaine, for if I do not practise my English, the interpretership will suffer. This war is very long. You know I don't mind the danger, but it is very long. If only I knew some one; that is, some one youngknew her well!"

I played with my letter-opener, turning it over and over on my desk, a habit of mine when I am thinking back and thinking ahead. I was doing both. I thought back to Jean-Marie as he was in August, 1914, fresh from the farm, unawakened in every way, frightened of waitress and table-cloth at Boulant's. I thought ahead to Jean-Marie after the war, building on the present symptoms. A farmer-boy was spoiled. What would be the compensation? And there are hundreds of thousands of Jean-Maries to-day in France. and in every other country at war. My country, too, is making Jean-Maries,

[merged small][merged small][merged small][graphic][merged small][merged small]
[graphic][merged small][graphic][graphic][merged small][merged small]
« AnkstesnisTęsti »