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that was the way Bill 'Obbs saw it, and his manner softened.
"I didn't mean to hurt yer feelings," he said. "I'm lonely-like yourself, maybe and I only thought-"
He sat at another table. The proprietor came in—an old man with a face furrowed like a walnut shell and stood bent half over in a mild
"What about a glass o' beer?" invited Bill, addressing the girl.
A withering glance relegated him to perdition.
Bill drank his beer, then drank another. An hour went by in silence save for the distant roll of war, the drone of passing aëroplane. "What are yer staring at?" she snapped, suddenly.
Bill coughed. "I was just a-trying to figure you out," he replied and chanced a smile at her. "Now then," he coaxed, "come off yer perch. 'Ave a drink with me. You can 'ave anything yer like. I've got the money." And he slapped his trousers' pocket.
She didn't answer. Another half-hour went by silence. Then he said: "What I can't understand is this. How's it happen that a girl like you is landed in a dump-?"
"None of yer dam' business." Again two smoldering eyes rebuked him. "Look here, Mr. Nosey," she demanded; "who d'yer think you are? A bloomin' officer, or something? Didn't I tell yer I wanted to be left alone?"
Bill snapped his fingers. "Now I got yer," he said. "So that's it, eh? I thought at first you was stranded here, or something, maybe an am
Bill 'Obbs, in the manner of his kind, then summed up his opinion of her. "You're a blinkin' little idiot," he swore. "That's what you are. A blinkin' little idiot."
She glared at him a moment longer, then gave way. Burying her face in her thin arms she sobbed as though her heart would break.
Bill sipped his beer. No use saying any more till she'd finished crying. But he'd got her right, hadn't he? He nodded solemnly. Not that he cared where she came from, nor what she was. Part of the war, of course, but a damn sight less useful than Tommy Watts. A blinkin' shame!
Bill 'Obbs was no moralist. He viewed her as a bit of down, light as gossamer, blown from the daisied cliffs of Merrie England and caught, held, by the brambles on a foreign shore. To Bill, apart from that misfortune, she was as good as the greatest lady in the land, and a hell of a sight more attractive to look at. Later, when she dried her tears and started chatting, she saw in him a kindred spirit; some one who spoke her language, was commonplace and bred of the same bone. Gradually she composed herself to a keen a keen appreciation of all he did and said. At times the strange dancing lights in his eyes riveted her attention. She drank his beer and liked it better than champagne. He said things that were kindly meant but were roughly delivered, came straight from the shoulder. His superiors wouldn't have dared talk to her that way, but with Bill 'Obbs she laughed, and her laughter rang a note of music into her starved and pinched soul.
Both were products of a part of London, a warren into which the warmth of social kindness rarely pierced, a locality where tradition taught its denizens to help one another.
When she told him she didn't know how she had ever strayed, Bill 'Obbs believed her. But when she said she'd give an arm to break away and lead a proper life-he kept silent-because he couldn't believe
"Dunno anything any more 'cept this place, down the road. I hate it. That's why I come here, now and then, to be by meself a bit. I'm fair sick of hearing 'em talk."
"Reserved for officers," he growled. She nodded. "So dam' polite." She twirled an imaginary mustache. "Awfully glad to see you, don't you know.' 'Charmed, charmed.' 'I say! won't you harve a cigarette? Oh, do."" Maisie sniffed. "They don't talk natural, like you do,” she complimented complimented him. "Gawd! the blighters don't even swear, ог nothing."
Bill 'Obbs laughed.
"You say you can quit, any time yer want to?"
"Well, what about it?"
She hesitated. "I ain't got the money.'
"Money for what?"
"To get me back to London." He studied her intently. "Would yer go, to-morrow, if you-?"
"Would I?" she retaliated swiftly. "Give us the chance, that's all."
Bill 'Obbs laid a roll of notes on the table. "Well," he said, "there's yer chance! One hundred francs, almost."
Maisie Taylor didn't move. She glanced at the money, then slowly lifted her eyes. "What's the game?" she asked suspiciously.
"It's yours. If yer mean all yer say."
"If I mean what?"
"You don't need to lose an arm. Keep it, to grab that.”
She remained very quiet. Then, all at once, she threw back her head and laughed hysterically, "Well, if
you ain't the funny one," she cried. "Giving me all that money, just for that. Want me to reform, do yer?" Her laughter ceased. She leaned forward aggressively. "Yes," she demanded, "and what else d'yer want?"
that sort. She could see it in his eyes. They'd have been happy, too; happier, anyway, than she was at present.
"Lots of jobs you could take," he was advising. "How about a job in a tea-room or something like that? Yer'd look all right in one of them
For a full minute and more they little caps and aprons." stared at each other.
"Yes," she managed. "If-if
"What's the idea?" she almost youwhispered.
Bill 'Obbs laughed. "Just that I want to do some one a good turn," he said, "afore I go back up the line." Taka-taka-taka-taka-taka-taka-taka- he boomed, "how about it?"
"If you'll write to me-andwhen you come on leave—”
"You see, we're going back into Vimy to-morrow," he said, still looking at her. "A good turn. That's all it means. You're young and, to me, a bit o' England." Again he laughed. "Maybe the last bit I'll see. Yer never know. And I'd give me life for England, any old time she wants it." Bill 'Obbs's voice had risen thrillingly. "She's done nothing for me, as yet. Never will, I s'pose. But just the same she's me bloomin' country, and dam' it, I can't 'elp loving her."
The blood left his head and he flicked the money with his fingers. "That's nothing. And I've no use for it. Take it," he said.
Her throat was paining. "To— to go back to London?"
An expression of infinite tenderness There was something about this man that found her out, rode roughshod over all her pretenses, stirred what little selfrespect she had to a boiling-point. Had he materialized, even less than a year ago, Maisie Taylor knew they would have been married. He was
had stolen over her face.
"Oh, never mind all that. Well,"
Her eyes were frank. "I'll go to-morrow," she said.
He gazed at her and felt she would keep her word. Possibly, too, she meant something more. Bill 'Obbs didn't dwell on that. But, on a sudden, it elated him, lifted him to heights he'd never known. Something in this salvation thing after all! Then her quiet and simple promise. Nothing better girded him for the task he would face up at Vimy in the intense dark of to-morrow night. Making the blighters pay for Tommy Watts. That's what he wanted. Not to escape a court-martial. To hell with that!
Taka-taka-taka-taka-taka-taka-taka"Good Lord!" he said, rising. "It's eleven o'clock. I've got to go." Again he looked her. "That's a promise, is it?" "Gawd's truth." "How'll yer go?"
"Army truck to Calais."
He considered it for a moment. "Where'll I write to?" he asked.
She bit her fingers, nervously.
"Miss Maisie Taylor," she said. "Care of Mile End Road post-office, London, E."
He grinned. "Didn't I tell yer? I knew you came from somewhere round there. All right, Maisie. They say a dead man can't write, but you'll hear from me, if the government don't fall asleep."
She ran after him. Putting a thin transparent hand on the sleeve of his greatcoat, she looked up into his eyes. "I don't want nothing to happen to you," she said fiercely. "I'd like for to see you again, some day. When you get yer leave. I'll be looking better, then. We could go for a walk. Hyde Park or 'Ampstead 'Eath."
Bill had to laugh. "Gawd!" he said. "You're the first one as ever wanted to see me again. Come off yer perch. You wouldn't walk out with a mug like me, would yer?"
"Yes," said Maisie Taylor. "Anywhere."
Bill reddened. "Um," he doubted. "You'll come?"
"You never know yer luck." He opened the door. "Staying here?" he asked.
He nodded his approval. "That's the gel. Well, s'long, and get yerself a job."
"I will." "Mean it?"
"Gawd's truth," said Maisie.
A little sob escaped her. Pathetically, she tried to hold him back. "Don't yer-don't yer want nothing?" she begged, a catch in her voice.
Bill 'Obbs changed his mind. Lifting her up as he would a child, he
laughed. "Yus," he roared. "Give us a bloomin' kiss. There you are, bit o' England. Gawd love yer!"
Releasing her, he yanked the door wide open, swung through it, slammed it behind him, and set off down the dark deserted road in the direction of the town.
A sleeting rain drove from the north. Under it a battalion, in marching order, stood paraded in the
It was past eight in the morning and the colonel, his officers and N. C. O.'s were frantic with suspense. Pale and tense of face the men waited leaning on their rifles, the rain dripping from their steel helmets and rubber capes; waited for the word that would set them in motion; waited for the extra tot of rum they hoped to get before starting.
Prior to lining up with them Bill 'Obbs had stuck his head in at the orderly office window.
"Hey, corporal," he bellowed; "file that there for me."
"What is it?"
"What is it? Why, me blinkin' pension. That's what it is."
"What's the hurry, matey? Getting ready for the burial party?" "You never know yer luck, do you?" sang Bill.
"Hey, wait a minute." The corporal scrutinized the bit of paper. "What's the name on this? Who's this going to benefit, when you're safe in heaven?"
"Can't you read?"
"Miss Togler, Miss Jogler-?" "Taylor," roared Bill. "Mile End Road post-office, London." "Ho, ho! Who's the lady? Your sweetheart?"
Bill 'Obbs had a flash of a white little face and a pair of smoky eyes that blazed.
In it, seated on a pile of empty mailbags, was a young and pallid little thing who appeared either starved or
"None of yer dam' business," he consumptive. grinned.
The battalion got their rum and cheered the colonel for it. Then, in a voice that seemed to come from the leaden sky and had behind it the weight of awful judgment, the command was given.
She was neither. The bit of down that had blown from grace was going back to the garden to take root and try again.
And a month afterward, in an officer's training camp in Sussex, she was wearing the neat uniform of
"Batt-al-ion! Right turn! For- the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps.
"O! Mademoiselle from Armentières, Par-lee-voo;
Mademoiselle from Armen-"
Once more they were marching down the Arras-Doullens road, with its smashed and broken gun-wheels, its dead horses; going back into the line, to Vimy and a Maxim that spat defiance against all the world. Taka-taka-taka-taka-taka-taka-takaMoving down the road in the January rain. Men. A battalion Men. A battalion of 'em. A full complement now, for they had been reinforced up to strength. Men with love and hate in their hearts, with thoughts of sweetheart, fame and fortune-even as you and I. Moving up to Vimy.
With them went Bill 'Obbs. Not four paces in the rear of the last file; but up ahead, in A company, in the front rank, right behind his colonel. "O-o-o-o! Mademoiselle from Ar
Mademoiselle from Armentières-"
And an hour later-just as the 14th, winding east, was clear of Beaumetz-an army truck went west from Avesnes-le-Comte; west toward the channel, toward England.
That is, she was a Waac. Gone was the fog from her eyes. Gone was her pallor. Indeed she was beginning to bloom, as a flower should, and the corporal in charge of the mess had saved much from his pay to court and compliment her.
Her duties as were those of thousands like her-consisted of waiting on table, removing the dishes and washing and drying them in the kitchen.
She had just completed her breakfast work and now came out of the hut to catch the morning sun. A fellow Waac was seated on the kitchen steps reading a day old newspaper. It was a tabloid sheet. Covering the whole of the front page was the enlarged reproduction of a photograph of a soldier.
With a savage gesture of possession Maisie Taylor snatched the paper from the girl's hands.
"My Gawd!" she gasped. "It's him."
Under the photograph was a caption. "Private Hobbs, 14th Battalion, Royal Surrey Regiment. Awarded Posthumous V. C. for conspicuous gallantry in action." "D'you know him?"
"Know him?" him?" was the proud reply. "I should say I do."