Part 6 out of 6
"You do not even pretend," cried the little poilu. "well, I too
am a soldier. I am a soldier of France. It is nothing to me that
I day to-day or to-morrow, or that my country knows when or how.
Take me out and shoot me," he shouted, facing the commander. "I
am but one poor soldier. I am one of millions. What is my little
life worth to you?"
"Nothing," said the commander. "Ten such as you would not represent
the worth of one German soldier."
"We say not so over there," said Fran�ois boldly, jerking his thumb
in the direction of Pont-a-mousson.
And now for the first time the Prussians about him smiled.
"What is it, pray, that you do say over there?" inquired the general
"That the worst of the Frenchmen is worth five of your best," said
Fran�ois, unafraid. Why should he be afraid to speak the truth?
He was going to die.
"And one of your frog-eating generals is the equal of five of me,
I suppose?" The commander's grim face relaxed into a smile. "That
is good! Ha-ha! That is good!"
"So we say, excellency," said Fran�ois simply. "Our Papa Joffre--ah,
he is greater than all of you put in one."
The Prussian flushed. His piggish eyes glittered.
"Your Papa Joffre!" he scoffed.
"He is greater than the Kaiser,--though I die for saying it," cried
the little poilu recklessly.
The commander turned his eyes from the white, impassioned face
of Fran�ois and looked upon the quivering, ghastly visage of the
brother who stood beside him. The fire that glowed in the eyes of
Fran�ois was missing in those of Louis.
The grizzled Prussian smiled, but imperceptibly. What he saw
pleased him. Louis, the big one, the older of the two, trembled.
It was only by the supremest effort that he maintained a pitiable
show of defiance. His face was haggard and blanched with fear;
there was a hunted, shifty look in his narrowed eyes. The general's
smile developed. It proffered comfort, consolation, encouragement.
"And you," he said, almost gently, "have not you profited by the
reflections of your three days of grace? Are you as stubborn as
this mule of a brother, this foolish lad who spouts even poorer
French than I address to you?"
Fran�ois shot a quick, appealing glance at his big brother's face.
There were tiny rivulets of slaver at the corners of Louis's mouth.
"Louis!" he cried out sharply.
Louis lifted his sagging shoulders. "I have nothing to say," he
said thickly, and with the set of his jaws Fran�ois breathed deeply
"So!" said the general, shrugging his shoulders. "I am sorry. You
are young to die, you two. To die on the field of battle,--ah,
that is noble! To die with one's back to a wall, blindfolded, and
to be covered with earth so loosely that starving dogs may scratch
away to feast--But, no more. You have decided. You have had many
hours in which to consider the alternative. You will be shot at
The slight figure of Fran�ois straightened, his chin went up. His
thin, dirt-covered hands were tightly clenched.
"For France!" he murmured, lifting his eyes above the head of the
A vast shudder swept over the figure of Louis, a hoarse gasp broke
through his lips. The commander leaned forward, fixing him with
"For France!" cried Fran�ois again, and once more Louis lifted his
head to quaver:
"Take them away," said the commander. "But stay! How old are
you?" He addressed Fran�ois.
"I am nineteen."
Louis's lips moved but no sound issued.
"My brother is twenty-one," said Fran�ois, staring hard at Louis.
"He has a sweetheart who will grieve bitterly if he does not
return for her caresses, eh? I thought so. Oh, you French! But
she will soon recover. She will find another,--like that! So!"
He snapped his fingers. "She will not wait long, my good Louis.
Take them away!"
Louis's face was livid. His chin trembled, his lips fell apart
slackly; he lowered his eyes after an instant's contact with the
staunch gaze of his brother.
"You have until sunrise to change your minds," said the Prussian,
turning on his heel.
"Sunrise," muttered Louis, his head twitching.
They were led from the walled-in garden and across the cobblestones
of the little street that terminated in a cul de sac just above.
Over the way stood the shattered remnants of a building that once
had been pointed to with pride by the simple villagers as the finest
shop in town. The day was hot. Worn-out German troopers sprawled
in the shade of the walls, sound asleep, their mouths ajar,--beardless
boys, most of them.
"Poor devils," said Fran�ois, as he passed among them. He too was
They were shoved through the wrecked doorway into the mortar-strewn
ruin, and, stumbling over masses of d�bris, came to the stone steps
that led to the cellar below. Louis drew back with a groan. He
had spent centuries in that foul pit.
"Not there--again!" he moaned. He was whimpering feebly as he
picked himself up at the bottom of the steps a moment later.
"Dogs!" cried Fran�ois, glaring upward and shaking his fist at the
heads projecting into the turquoise aperture above. Far on high,
where the roof had been, gleamed the brilliant sky. "Our general
will make you pay one of these days,--our GREAT general!"
Then he threw his arms about his brother's shoulders and--cried a
little too,--no in fear but in sympathy.
The trap door dropped into place, a heavy object fell upon it with
a thud, and they were in inky darkness. There was no sound save
the sobs of the two boys, and later the steady tread of a man who
paced the floor overhead,--a man who carried a gun.
They had not seen, but they knew that a dead man lay over in the
corner near a window chocked by a hundred tons of brick and mortar.
He had died some time during the second century of their joint
occupance of the black and must hole. On the 28th he had come in
with them, wounded. It was now the 31st, and he was dead, having
lived to the age of nine score years and ten! When they spoke to
their guards at the beginning of the third century, saying that
their companion was dead and should be carried away, the Germans
"There is time enough for that," and laughed,--for the Germans
could count the time by hours out there in the sunshine. But that
is not why they laughed.
A hidden French battery in the wooded, rocky hills off to the
west had for days kept up a deadly, unerring fire upon the German
positions. Shift as he would, the commander could not escape the
shells from those unseen, undiscovered guns. They followed him
with uncanny precision. His own batteries had searched in vain,
with thousands of shrieking shells, for the gadfly gunners. They
could find him, but he could not find them. For every shell he
wasted, they returned one that counted.
Three French scouts fell into his hands on the night of the 28th.
Two of them were still alive. He had them up before him at once.
"On one condition will I spare your lives," said he. And that
condition had been pounded into their ears with unceasing violence,
day and night, by officers high and low, since the hour of their
capture. It was a very simple condition, declared the Germans.
Only a stubborn fool would fail to take advantage of the opportunity
offered. The exact position of that mysterious battery,--that
was all the general demanded in return for his goodness in sparing
their lives. He asked no more of them than a few, truthful words.
They had steadfastly refused to betray their countrymen.
Fran�ois could not see his brother, but now and then he put out a
timid hand to touch the shaking figure. He could not understand.
Why was it not the other way about? Who was he to offer consolation
to the big and strong?
"Courage," he would say, and then stare hard ahead into the blackness.
"You are great and strong," he would add. "It is I who am weak
and little, Louis. I am the little brother."
"You have not so much to live for as I," Louis would mutter, over
and over again.
Their hour drew near. "Eat this," persuaded Fran�ois, pressing
upon Louis the hunk of bread their captors had tossed down to them.
"Eat? God! How can I eat?"
"Then drink. It is not cold, but--"
"Let me alone! Keep away from me! God in heaven, why do they
leave that Jean Picard down here with us--"
"You have seen hundreds of dead men, Louis. All of them were
heroes. All of them were brave. It was glorious to die as they
died. Why should we be afraid of death?"
"But they died like men, not like rats. They died smiling. They
had no time to think."
And then he fell to moaning. His teeth rattled. He turned upon
his face and for many minutes beat upon the stone steps with his
clenched hands, choking out appeals to his Maker.
Fran�ois stood. His hot, unblinking eyes tried to pierce the darkness.
Tears of shame and pity for this big brother burnt their way out
and ran down his cheeks. He was wondering. He was striving to
put away the horrid doubt that was searing his soul: the doubt of
The dreary age wore on. Louis slept! The little brother sat with
his chin in his hands, his heart cold, his eyes closed. He prayed.
Then came the sound of the heavy object being dragged away from
the door at the top of the steps. They both sprang to their feet.
An oblong patch of drab, gray light appeared overhead. Sunrise!
"Come! It is time," called down a hoarse voice. Three guns hung
over the edge of the opening. They were taking no chances.
"Louis!" cried Fran�ois sharply.
Louis straightened his gaunt figure. The light from above fell
upon his face. It was white,--deathly white,--but transfigured.
A great light flamed in his eyes.
"Have no fear, little brother," he said gently, caressingly. He
clasped his brother's hand. "We die together. I have dreamed.
A vision came to me,--came down from heaven. My dream was of our
mother. She came to me and spoke. So! I shall die without fear.
Come! Courage, little Fran�ois. We are her soldier boys. She
gave us to France. She spoke to me. I am not afraid."
Glorified, rejoicing, almost unbelieving, Fran�ois followed his
brother up the steps, there was comfort in the grip of Louis's
"This general of yours," began Louis, facing the guard, a sneer on
his colorless lips, his teeth showing, "he is a dog! I shall say
as much to him when the guns are pointed at my breast."
The Germans stared.
"What has come over this one?" growled one of them. "Last night
he was breaking."
"There is still a way to break him," said another, grinning. "Hell
will be a relief to him after this hour."
"Canail�s!" snarled Louis, and Fran�ois laughed aloud in sheer joy!
"My good,--my strong brother!" he cried out.
"This Papa Joffre of yours," said the burliest German,--"he is
worse than a dog. He is a toad." He shoved the captives through
the opening in the wall. "Get on!"
"The smallest sergeant in Germany is greater than your Papa Joffre,"
said another. "What is it you have said, baby Frenchman? One
frog-eater is worth five Germans? Ho-ho! You shall see."
"I--I myself," cried Fran�ois hotly,--"I am nobler, braver, greater
than this beast you call master."
"Hold your tongue," said a third German, in a kindlier tone than
the others had employed. "It can do you no good to talk like this.
Give in, my brave lads. Tell everything. I know what is before
you if you refuse to-day,--and I tremble. He will surely break
They were crossing the narrow road.
"He is your master,--not ours," said Fran�ois calmly.
Louis walked ahead, erect, his jaw set. The blood leaped in
Fran�ois' veins. Ah, what a brave, strong fellow his brother was!
"He is the greatest commander in all the German armies," boasted
the burly sergeant. "And, young frog-eater, he commands the finest
troops in the world. Do you know that there are ten thousand iron
crosses in this God-appointed corps! Have a care how you speak
of our general. He is the Emperor's right hand. He is the chosen
man of the Emperor."
"And of God," added another.
"Bah!" cried Fran�ois, snapping his fingers scornfully. "His is
worth no more than that to me!"
Fran�ois was going to his death. His chest swelled.
"You fool. He is to the Emperor worth more than an entire army
corps,--yes, two of them. The Emperor would sooner lose a hundred
thousand men than this single general."
"A hundred thousand men?" cried Fran�ois, incredulously. "That is
a great many men,--even Germans."
"Pigs," said Louis, between his teeth.
They now entered the little garden. The Prussian commander was
eating his breakfast in the shelter of a tent. The day was young,
yet the sun was hot. Papers and maps were strewn over the top of
the long table at which he sat, gorging himself. The guard and
the two prisoners halted a few paces away. The general's breakfast
was not to be interrupted by anything so trivial as the affairs of
Louis and Fran�ois.
"And that ugly glutton is worth more than a hundred thousand men,"
mused Fran�ois, eyeing him in wonder. "God, how cheap these boches
Staff officers stood outside the tent, awaiting and receiving
gruff orders from their superior. Between gulps he gave out almost
unintelligible sounds, and one by one these officers, interpreting
them as commands, saluted and withdrew.
Fran�ois gazed as one fascinated. He WAS a great general, after
all. Only a very great and powerful general could enjoy such
respect, such servile obedience as he was receiving from these
hulking brutes of men.
Directions were punctuated,--or rather indicated,--by the huge
carving-knife with which the general slashed his meat. He pointed
suddenly with the knife, and, as he did so, the officer at whom
it was leveled, sprang into action, to do as he was bidden, as if
the shining blade had touched his quivering flesh.
Suddenly the great general pushed his bench back from the table,
slammed the knife and fork down among the platters, and barked:
His eyes were fastened upon the prisoners. The guards shoved them
"Have you decided? What is it to be,--life or death?"
He was in an evil humor. That battery in the hills had found its
mark again when the sun was on the rise.
"Vive la France!" shouted Louis, raising his eye to heaven.
"vive la France!" almost screamed Fran�ois.
"So be it!" roared the commander. His gaze was fixed on Louis.
There was the one who would weaken. Not that little devil of a
boy beside him. He uttered a short, sharp command to an aide.
The torturing of Louis began....
"End it!" commanded the Prussian general after a while. "The fool
will not speak!"
And the little of life that was left to the shuddering, sightless
Louis went out with a sigh--slipped out with the bayonet as it was
withdrawn from his loyal breast.
Turning to Fran�ois, who had been forced to witness the mutilation
of his brother,--whose arms had been held and whose eyelids were
drawn up by the cruel fingers of a soldier who stood behind him,--he
"Now YOU! You have seen what happened to him! It is your turn
now. I was mistaken. I thought that he was the coward. Are you
prepared to go through even more than--Ah! Good! I thought so!
The little fire-eater weakens!"
Fran�ois, shaken and near to dying of the horror he had witnessed,
sagged to his knees. They dragged him forward,--and one of them
"I will tell! I will tell!" he screamed. "Let me alone! Keep
your hands off of me! I will tell, God help me, general!"
He staggered, white-faced and pitiful, to the edge of the table,
which he grasped with trembling, straining hands.
"Be quick about it," snarled the general, leaning forward eagerly.
Like a cat, Fran�ois sprang. He had gauged the distance well. He
had figured it all out as he stood by and watched his brother die.
His fingers clutched the knife.
"I will!" he cried out in an ecstasy of joy.
To the hasp sank the long blade into the heart of the Prussian
Whirling, the French boy threw his arms on high and screamed into
the faces of the stupefied soldiers:
"Vive la France! One hundred thousand men! There they lie! Ha-ha!
I--I, Fran�ois Dupr�,--I have sent them all to hell! Wait for me,
Louis! I am coming!"
The first words of the "Marseillaise" were bursting from his lips
when his uplifted face was blasted--
He crumpled up and fell.
[signed] George Barr McCutcheon
Thou art not lovelier than lilacs,--no,
Nor honeysuckle,--thou art not more fair
Than small white single poppies,--I can bear
Thy beauty; though I bend before thee, though
From left to right, not knowing where to go,
I turn my troubled eyes, nor here nor there
Find any refuge from thee, yet I swear
So has it been with mist,--with moonlight so.
Like him who day by day unto his draught
Of delicate poison adds him one drop more
Till he may drink unharmed the death of ten,
Even so, inured to beauty, who have quaffed
Each hour more deeply than the hour before,
I drink,--and live--what has destroyed some men.
[signed] Edna St. Vincent Millay
The change was not affected without whispering. The spirit both
of the troops who were going back of the lines to rest and of those
who had zigzagged up through two miles of communication trenches
to take their places was excellent.
"What is the name of this country?" asked one of the new comers.
"If it had a name, that is all that remains. We are somewhere in
Picardy. The English are off there not very far. Their cannon
have different voices from ours. Good Luck!"
His gray, faded uniform seemed to melt into the night. The New
Comer stepped on to the firing platform and poked his head over
the parapet. A comrade pulled at his trousers leg.
"Come down, Idiot," he said, "Fritz is only twelve yards away."
The Idiot came down, sniffing the night air luxuriously.
"We are somewhere in Picardy," he said. "I know without being
told. It is like going home."
A sergeant approached, his body twisted sideways because the trench
was too narrow for his shoulders.
"Have you a watch?"
The Idiot had.
Under his coat, so that the enemy should not perceive the glow,
the sergeant flashed his electric torch and compared the watches.
"Yours leads by a minute," he said. "The advance will be at four
o'clock. there will be hot coffee at three. Good luck."
He passed on, and the comrades drew a little closer together. The
sergeant's words had made the Idiot very happy.
"In less than two hours!" he said.
"I thought there was something in the wind," said Paul Guitry.
"If we advanced only three kilometers," said the Idiot, "the village
in which I was born would be French again. But there will be great
"You were born at Champ-de-Fer?"
"It is directly opposite us."
"You cannot know that."
"I feel it," said the Idiot. "Wherever I have been stationed I have
felt it. Sometimes I have asked an officer to look for Champ-de-Fer
on his field map, and when he has done so, I have pointed, and said
'Is it in that direction?' and always I have been right."
"Did your family remain in the village?"
"I don't know. But I think so, for from the hour of the mobilization
until now, I have not heard from them."
"Since the hour of the mobilization," said Paul Guitry, "much water
has flowed under the bridges. I had just been married. My wife
is in Paris. I have a little son now. I saw them when I had my
eight days' leave. And it seems that again I am to be a father.
It is very wonderful."
"I was going to be married," said the Idiot simply.
There was a short silence.
"If I had known," said Paul Guitry, "I would not have boasted of
my own happiness."
"I am not the only French soldier who has not heard from his
sweetheart since the mobilization," said the Idiot. "It has been
hard," he said, "but by thinking of all the others, I have been
able to endure."
"She remained there at Champ-de-Fer?"
"She must have, or else she would have written to me."
Paul Guitry could not find anything to say.
"Soon," said the Idiot, "we shall be in Champ-de-Fer, and they will
tell me what has become of her."
"She will tell you herself," said Paul Guitry with a heartiness
which he did not feel. The Idiot shrugged his shoulders.
"We have loved each other," he said, "even since we were little
children. Do you know why I am called the Idiot? It is because
I do not go with women, when I have the chance. But I don't mind.
They cannot say that I am not a real man, for I have the military
medal and I have been mentioned twice in the orders of the day."
To Paul Guitry, a confirmed sinner as opportunity offered, the
Idiot's statement contained much psychic meat.
"It must be," he said, "that purity tempts some men, just as impurity
"It is even simpler," said the Idiot; but he did not explain. And
there was a long silence.
Now and then Paul Guitry glanced at his companion's profile, for
the night was no longer inky black. It was a simple direct young
face, not handsome, but full of dignity and kindness; the line of
the jaw had a certain sternness, and the wide and delicately molded
nostril indicated courage and daring.
Paul Guitry thought of his wife and of his little son, of his eight
days' leave, and of its consequences. He tried to imagine how he
would feel, if for two years his wife had been in the hands of the
Germans. Without meaning to, he spoke his thought aloud:
"Long since," he said, "I should have gone mad."
The Idiot nodded.
"They say," he said, "that in fifty years all this will be forgotten;
and that we French will feel friendly toward the Germans."
He laughed softly, a laugh so cold, that Paul Guitry felt as if
ice water had suddenly been spilled on his spine.
"Hell," he went on, "has no tortures which French men, and women,
and little children have not suffered. You say that if you had
been in my boots you must long since have gone mad? well, it is
because I have been able to think of all the others who are in my
boots that I have kept my sanity. It has not been easy. It is
not as if my imagination alone had been tortured. Just as I have
the sense that my village is there--" he pointed with his sensitive
hand, "so I have the sense of what has happened there. I KNOW that
she is alive," he concluded, "and that she would rather be dead."
There was another silence. The Idiot's nostrils dilated and he
sniffed once or twice.
"The coffee is coming," he said. "Listen. If I am killed in the
advance, find her, will you--Jeanne Berg�re? And say what you can
to comfort her. It doesn't matter what has happened, her love for
me is like the North Star--fixed. When she knows that I am dead
she will wish to kill herself. You must prevent that. You must
show her how she can help France. Aha!--The cannon!"
From several miles in the rear there rose suddenly a thudding percussive
cataract of sound. The earth trembled like some frightened animal
that has been driven into a corner.
The Idiot leaped to his feet, his eyes joyously alight.
"It is the voice of God," he cried.
If indeed it was the voice of God, that other great voice which is
of Hell, made no answer. The German guns were unaccountably silent.
On the stroke of four, the earth still trembling with the incessant
concussions of the guns, the French scrambled out of their trenches
and went forward. But no sudden blast of lead and iron challenged
their temerity. A few shells, but all from field pieces, fired
perfunctorily as it were, fell near them and occasionally among
them. It looked as if Fritz wasn't going to fight.
The wire guarding the first line of German trenches had been so
torn and disrupted by the French cannon, that only here and there
an ugly strand remained to be cut. The trench was empty.
"The Boche," said Paul Guitry, "has left nothing but his smell."
Rumor spread swiftly through the lines. "We are not to be opposed.
Fritz has been withdrawn in the night. His lines are too long.
He is straightening out his salients. It is the beginning of the
There was good humor and elation. There was also a feeling of
admiration for the way in which Fritz had managed to retreat without
The country over which the troops advanced was a rolling desert,
blasted, twisted, swept clear of all vegetation. What the Germans
could not destroy they had carried away with them. There remained
only frazzled stumps of trees, dead bodies and ruined engines of
Paul Guitry and the Idiot came at last to the summit of a little
hill. Beyond and below at the end of a long sweep of tortured and
ruined fields could be seen picturesquely grouped a few walls of
houses and one bold arch of an ancient bridge.
The Idiot blinked stupidly. Then he laughed a short, ugly laugh.
"I had counted on seeing the church steeple. But of course they
would have destroyed that."
"Is it Champ-de-Fer?" asked Guitry.
At that moment a dark and sudden smoke, as from ignited chemicals
began to pour upward from the ruined village.
"It was," said the Idiot, and once more the word was passed to go
They did not know what was going on in the world. They had been
ordered into the cellars of the village, and told to remain there
for twenty-four hours. They had no thought but to obey.
Into the same cellar with Jeanne Berg�re had been herded four old
women, two old men, and a little boy whom a German surgeon (the day
the champagne had been discovered buried in the Notary's garden)
had strapped to a board and--vivisected.
Twenty-three of the twenty-four hours had passed (one of the old
men had a Waterbury watch) but only the little boy complained of
hunger and thirst. He wanted to drink from the well in the corner
of the cellar; but they would not let him. The well had supplied
good drinking water since the days of Julius Caesar, but shortly
after entering the cellar one of the old women had drunk from it,
and shortly afterward had died in great torment. The little boy
"But maybe it wasn't the water which killed Madame Pigeon. Only
let me try it and then we shall know for sure."
But they would not let him drink.
"It is not agreeable to live," said one of the old men, "but it
is necessary. We are of those who will be called upon to testify.
The terms of peace will be written by soft-hearted statesmen; we
who have suffered must be on hand. We must be on hand to see that
the Boche gets his deserts."
Jeanne Berg�re spoke in a low unimpassioned voice:
"What would you do to them, father," she asked, "if you were God?"
"I do not know," said the old man. "For I have experience only
of those things which give them pleasure. Those who delight in
peculiar pleasures are perhaps immune to ordinary pains...."
"Surely," interrupted the little boy, "it was not the water that
killed Madame Pigeon."
"How peaceful she looks," said the old man. "You would say the
stone face of a saint from the fa�ade of a cathedral."
"It may be," said Jeanne Berg�re, "that already God has opened His
mind to her, and that she knows of that vengeance, which we with
our small minds are not able to invent."
"I can only think of what they have done to us," said the old man.
"It does not seem as if there was anything left for us to do to
them. Vengeance which does not give the Avenger pleasure is a poor
sort of vengeance. Madame Simon..."
The old woman in question turned a pair of sheeny eyes towards the
"Would it give you any particular pleasure to cut the breasts off
an old German woman?"
With a trembling hand Madame Simon flattened the bosom of her dress
to show that there was nothing beneath.
"It would give me no pleasure," she said, "but I shall show my
scars to the President."
"An eye for an eye--a tooth for a tooth," said the old man. "That
is the ancient law. But it does not work. There is no justice in
exchanging a German eye and a French. French eyes see beauty in
everything. To the German eye the sense of beauty has been denied.
You cannot compare a beast and a man. In the old days, when there
were wolves, it was the custom of the naive people of those days
to torture a wolf if they caught one. They put him to death with
the same refinements which were requisitioned for human criminals.
This meant nothing to the wolf. The mere fact that he had been
caught was what tortured him. And so I think it will be with the
Germans when they find that they have failed. They have built
up their power on the absurd hypothesis that they are men. Their
punishment will be in discovering that they never were anything
but low animals and never could be."
"That is too deep for me," said the other man. "They tied my
daughter to her bed, and afterward they set fire to her mattress."
"I wish," said Jeanne Berg�re, "that they had set fire to my
A violent concussion shook the cellar to its foundations. Even
the face of the thirsty little boy brightened.
"It is one of ours," he said.
"To eradicate the lice which feed upon the Germans and the foul
smells which emanate from their bodies there is nothing so effective
as high explosives," said the old man. He looked at his watch and
"We have half an hour more."
At the end of that time, he climbed the cellar stair, pushed open
the door, and looked out. Partly in the bright sunlight and partly
in the deep shadows, he resembled a painting by Rembrandt.
"I see no one," he said. "There is a lot of smoke."
His eyes became suddenly wide open, fixed, round with a kind of
celestial astonishment. This his old French heart stopped beating,
and he fell to the foot of the stair. His companions thought that
he must have been shot. They dared not move.
But it was no bullet or fragment of far-blown shell that had laid
the old man low. He had seen in the smoke that whirled down the
village street, a little soldier in the uniform of France. Pure
unadulterated joy had struck him dead.
Five minutes passed, and no one had moved except the little boy.
With furtive glances and trembling hands he had crept to the old
well in the corner and drunk a cup of the poisoned water. Then he
crept back to his place.
The second old man now rose, drew a deep breath and climbed
the cellar stair. For a time he stood blinking, and mouthing his
scattered teeth. He was trying to speak and could not.
"What is it?" they called up to him. "What has happened?"
He did not answer. He made inarticulate sounds, and suddenly with
incredible speed, darted forward into the smoke and the sunlight.
A little hand cold and wet crept into Jeanne Berg�re's. She was
vexed. She wished to go out of the cellar with the others; but the
little hand clung to her so tightly that she could not free herself.
Except for the old woman who had drunk from the well, and the old
man, all in a heap at the foot of the cellar stair, they were alone.
She and the little boy.
"It is true," said the little boy, "at least I think it is true
about the water...when...nobody was looking.... Please, please
stay with me, Jeanne Berg�re."
"You drank when it was forbidden? That was very naughty, Charlie....
Good God, what am I saying--you poor baby--you poor baby." She
snatched him into her arms, and held him with a kind of tigerish
"It hurts," said Charlie. "It hurts. It hurts me all over. It
hurts worse all the time."
"I will go for help," she said. "Wait."
"Please do not go away."
"You want to die?"
The child nodded.
"If I grow up, I should not be a man," he said. "You know what
the doctor did to me?"
"I know," she said briefly, "but you shan't die if I can help it."
She could not help it. A few minutes after she had gone, his back
strongly arched became rigid. His jaws locked and he died in the
attitude of a wrestler making a bridge.
The village street was full of smoke and Frenchmen. These were
methodically fighting the fires and hunting the ruins for Germans.
Jeanne Berg�re seized one of the little soldiers by the elbow.
"Come quickly," she said, "there is a child poisoned!"
The Idiot turned, and she would have fallen if he had not caught
her. She tore herself loose from his arms with a kind of ferocity.
"Come! Come!" she cried, and she ran like a frightened animal back
to the cellar door, the Idiot close behind her.
The Idiot knelt by the dead child, and after feeling in vain for
any pulsation, straightened up and said:
"He is dead."
"He drank from the well," said Jeanne. "We told him that it was
poisoned. But he was so thirsty."
They tried to straighten the little boy, but could not. The Idiot
rose to his feet, and looked at her for the first time. He must
have made some motion with his hands, for she cried suddenly:
"Don't! You mustn't touch me!"
"We have always loved each other," he said simply.
"You don't understand."
"What have you been through? I understand. Kiss me."
She held him at arm's length.
"Listen," she said. "The old people would not leave the village,--your
father and mother...so I stayed. At that time it was still supposed
that the Germans were human beings..."
"And my father and mother?" asked the Idiot.
"Some of the people went into the street to see the Germans enter
the village. But we watched from a window in your father's house....
They were Uhlans, who came first. They were so drunk that they
could hardly sit on their horses. Their lieutenant took a sudden
fancy to Marie Lebrun, but when he tried to kiss her, she slapped
his face.... That seemed to sober him.... Old man Lebrun had
leapt forward to protect his daughter.
"'Are you her father?'" asked the Lieutenant.
"'Yes,'" said the old man.
"'Bind him,'" said the lieutenant, and then he gave an order and
some men went into the house and came out dragging a mattress....
They dragged it into the middle of the street.... They held old
man Lebrun so that he had to see everything...for some hours, as
many as wanted to.... Then the lieutenant stepped forward and shot
her through the head, and then he shot her father.... Your father
and mother hid me in the cellar of their house, as well as they
could.... But from the Germans nothing remains long hidden....
Your father and mother tried to defend me...tied them to their
bed...and...set fire to the house."
The Idiot's granite-gray face showed no new emotion.
She shook her head violently.
"What you cannot imagine," she said. "I have forgotten.... There
have been so many.... No street-walker has ever been through what
I have been through.... There's nothing more to say...I wanted to
live...to bear witness against them.... For you and me everything
"Almost," said the Idiot. "You talk as if you no longer loved me."
The granite-gray of his face had softened into the ruddy, sun-burned
coloring of a healthy young soldier, long in the field, and she
could not resist the strong arms that he opened to her.
"They have not touched your soul," said the Idiot.
[signed] Gouverneur Morris
Memories of Whitman and Lincoln
"When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd" --W. W.
Lilacs shall bloom for Walt Whitman
And lilacs for Abraham Lincoln.
Spring hangs in the dew of the dooryards
These memories--these memories--
They hang in the dew for the bard who fetched
A sprig of them once for his brother
When he lay cold and dead....
And forever now when America leans in the dooryard
And over the hills Spring dances,
Smell of lilacs and sight of lilacs shall bring to her heart these brothers....
Lilacs shall bloom for Walt Whitman
And lilacs for Abraham Lincoln.
Who are the shadow-forms crowding the night?
What shadows of men?
The stilled star-night is high with these brooding spirits--
Their shoulders rise on the Earth-rim, and they are great presences in heaven--
They move through the stars like outlined winds in young-leaved maples.
Lilacs bloom for Walt Whitman
And lilacs for Abraham Lincoln.
Deeply the nation throbs with a world's anguish--
But it sleeps, and I on the housetops
Commune with souls long dead who guard our land at midnight,
A strength in each hushed heart--
I seem to hear the Atlantic moaning on our shores with the plaint of the dying
And rolling on our shores with the rumble of battle....
I seem to see my country growing golden toward California,
And, as fields of daisies, a people, with slumbering up-turned faces
Leaned over by Two Brothers,
And the greatness that is gone.
Lilacs bloom for Walt Whitman
And lilacs for Abraham Lincoln.
Spring runs over the land,
A young girl, light-footed, eager...
For I hear a song that is faint and sweet with first love,
Out of the West, fresh with the grass and the timber,
But dreamily soothing the sleepers...
I listen: I drink it deep.
Softly the Spring sings,
Softly and clearly:
"I open lilacs for the beloved,
Lilacs for the lost, the dead.
And, see, for the living, I bring sweet strawberry blossoms,
And I bring buttercups, and I bring to the woods anemones and blue bells...
I open lilacs for the beloved,
And when my fluttering garment drifts through dusty cities,
And blows on hills, and brushes the inland sea,
Over you, sleepers, over you, tired sleepers,
A fragrant memory falls...
I open love in the shut heart,
I open lilacs for the beloved."
Lilacs bloom for Walt Whitman
And lilacs for Abraham Lincoln.
Was that the Spring that sang, opening locked hearts,
And is remembrance mine?
For I know these two great shadows in the spacious night,
Shadows folding America close between them,
Close to the heart...
And I know how my own lost youth grew up blessedly in their spirit,
And how the morning song of the might bard
Sent me out from my dreams to the living America,
To the chanting seas, to the piney hills, down the railroad vistas,
Out into the streets of Manhattan when the whistles blew at seven,
Down to the mills of Pittsburgh and the rude faces of labor...
And I know how the grave great music of that other,
Music in which lost armies sang requiems,
And the vision of that gaunt, that great and solemn figure,
And the graven face, the deep eyes, the mouth,
O human-hearted brother,
Dedicated anew my undevoted heart
to America, my land.
Lilacs bloom for Walt Whitman
And lilacs for Abraham Lincoln.
Now in this hour I was suppliant for these two brothers,
And I said: Your land has need:
Half-awakened and blindly we grope in the great world....
What strength may we take from our Past, What promise hold for our future?
And the one brother leaned and whispered:
"I put my strength in a book,
And in that book my love...
This, with my love, I give to America..."
And the other brother leaned and murmured:
"I put my strength in a life,
And in that life my love,
This, with my love, I give to America."
Lilacs bloom for Walt Whitman
And lilacs for Abraham Lincoln.
Then my heart sang out: This strength shall be our strength:
Yea, when the great hour comes, and the sleepers wake and are hurled back,
And creep down into themselves
There shall they find Walt Whitman
And there, Abraham Lincoln.
O Spring, go over this land with much singing
And open the lilacs everywhere,
Open them out with the old-time fragrance
Making a people remember that something has been forgotten,
Something is hidden deep--strange memories--strange memories--
Of him that brought a sprig of the purple cluster
To him that was mourned of all...
And so they are linked together
While yet America lives...
While yet America lives, my heart,
Lilacs shall bloom for Walt Whitman
And lilacs for Abraham Lincoln.
[signed] James Oppenheim
Bred to the Sea
Ye who are bred to the sea, sons of the sons of seamen,
In what faith do ye sail? By what creed do ye hold?
Little we know of faiths, and we leave the creeds to the parsons.
But we 'bide by the law of the sea which our father made of old.
Where is that sea law writ for mariners and for captains,
That they may know the law by which they sail the sea?
We never saw it writ for sailormen or for masters;
But 'tis laid with the keel of the ship. What would you have?
Ye who went down tot he sea in ships and perished aforetime,
In what faith did ye sail? In what creed did ye die?
What is that law to which your lives were forfeit?
What do ye teach your sons that they may not deny?
We kept the faith of our breed. We died in the creed of seamen,
As our sons, too, shall die: the sea will have its way.
The law which bade us sail with death in smack and whaler,
In tall ship and in open boat, is the seaman's law to-day.
The master shall rule his crew. The crew shall obey the master.
Ye shall work your ship while she fleets and ye can stand.
Though ye starve, and freeze, and drown, shipmate shall stand
Ye shall 'bide by this law of seafaring folk, though ye never
come to land.
Ye shall hold your lives in trust for those who need your succor:
A flash of fire by night, a loom of smoke by day,
A rag to an oar shall be to you the symbol
Of your faith, of your creed, of the law which sailormen obey.
Ye shall not count the odds, ye shall not weigh the danger,
When life is to be saved from storm, from fire, from thirst.
Ye shall not leave your foe adrift and helpless;
And when the boats go overside, 't is, "Women and children
We kept this faith of our breed. We died in this creed of seamen.
We sealed our creed with our lives. It shall endure alway.
The law which bade us sail with death in smack and whaler,
In tall ship and in open boat, is the seaman's law to-day.
[signed] James W. Pryor.
Across the fields of waving wheat
And leagues of golden corn
The fragrance of the wild-rose bloom
And elder-flower is borne;
But earth's appealing loveliness
We do but half surmise,
For oh, the blur of battle-fields
Is ever in our eyes.
The robin-red-breast and the wren,
We cannot harken these
For dreadful thunder of the guns
That echoes overseas;
And evermore our vision turns
To those who follow far
The bright white light of Liberty
Through the red fires of war.
Our thoughts are with the hero souls
And hero hearts of gold
Who keep Old Glory's hallowed stars
Untarnished as of old;
Who join their hands with hero hands
In hero lands to save
The fearless forehead of the free
The shameful brand of slave.
And through these days of strife and death,
We know they shall not fail,
That Freedom shall not pass from earth
Nor tyranny prevail;
Yea, those that now in anguish bow,
We know that soon or late
They shall be lifted from beneath
The iron heel of hate.
O brave defenders of the free,
For you our tears of pride!
Lo, every drop of blood you shed
Our hearts have sanctified!
And through these days of strife and death,
These weary night-times through,
Our spirits watch with yours, our love
It hovers over you.
[signed] Evaleen Stein
"You are late. Billy's been howling the house down."
"All babies cry, big or little, now and then. The nurse is with
Billy. I--" Nellie Cameron paused to smooth a quiver out of her
voice--"I am not late."
"You are not?" Joseph Cameron, bewildered, laid his paper upon his
knees and squinted up at his wife.
"No, Joe, I am not." As if it absorbed her, and no one could
have said that it did not, for she kept house beautifully, Nellie
straightened an etching; the quietly she walked out of the room.
She went into their bedroom and closed the door. After a while
Cameron, watching warily, saw her come into the hall again in a
peach-colored dress that he particularly liked her in; saw her go
down the hall, away from him--and she had a very good back--to the
nursery door, the warm, cheerful firelight falling full upon her
face, her hands, her softly glowing dress. Billy, their only son,
just learning to walk, toddled to meet her. Cameron saw the chubby
hands rumple her skirts, saw Nellie stoop and swing him high with
her firm arms, the drop him to his place upon her breast. The
door close, the hall was shadowy again, the apartment as still as
a place marked "To Let."
The dinner was on time and excellent; Nellie, decorative and
chatty, was promptly in her place. Dinner over, they went to the
sitting-room for their coffee. The apartment was very high up, the
windows looking over the tree-tops of the Drive, across the Hudson
tot he Jersey shore. It was March, and the shore lights wavered
in gusts of rain that threatened to turn to snow. The room was
warm; Cameron was suffocating; Nellie was serenely unaware. She
had eaten well, from her soup through her cheese. There are times
when, to a man, a woman's appetite is the last straw. She was
tired, she said, but at her ease, and never prettier.
"Going out to-night, Joey?"
"Yes. Bridge hand around at Gordon's. Want a talk with Gordon
about a matter of business."
"I like to have things to do in the afternoon, but when night
comes"--Nellie smothered a contented yawn--"I love getting into
something comfy, and just buzzing round our own lamp."
"I must own that I have never found afternoon diversions to be
diverting." To save him he could not keep his voice good-natured.
He had had a grind of a day, and was dog-tired; it seemed to him
she ought to know it and talk about it.
"Yes?" Nellie mused. "It was amusing at the club to-day--the
Non-descripts." She laughed softly. "It wasn't 'nondescript'
"Some old maid telling you to bring your children up on the country,
and throw your husbands out of their jobs?"
"What, Joey?" Nellie seemed to bring her thoughts back from a long
way off. "Old maid? I should say not! We had a man. We nearly
always do. Then everybody comes, and there's more glow. He was an
English socialist--I guess he was a socialist. Burne-Jones hair,
and a homespun jacket,--loose, and all that,--and a heavy ribbon
on his glasses. He talked about the new man."
"The new man." Nellie opened her eyes wide, as if her husband
Nellie broke into sudden mirth.
"You were, Joey dear; that is just what you were. You were damned
all the way there and back again."
"Have I the honor to typify the--new creature?"
"You're the very image of him, Joey dear." And she smiled upon
him as if he were some new moth, in at their window, to buzz round
Nellie became eagerly communicative.
"I do wonder if I can make you see him? Tall and dark, and with
good-looking, thinnish hands and almost amusing way of playing
with his eye-glasses. You know, Joey: the sort of distinguished
talk-it-all-out sort of man that just makes men rage. Of course,"
she went on, largely wise, "he's the sort of socialist to make a
real socialist rage, but he's just the thing for clubs."
"You often have them?"
"Of course," she laughed. "You see, we don't see much of men at
home any more. It keeps us from forgetting how you look, and how
amusing you may be."
Cameron gazed before him into a chaos without words.
Nellie was oblivious.
"He finished off with a perfect bomb, Joey. It was funny! Of
course the new man's a city product, and he drew him to the life:
rushed and tortured by ambition, tired out at the end of the day,
too tired to be possibly amusing, his nerves excited till anything
quieter than lower Broadway hurts his ears, all passion and
brilliance spent on business, dinners here and there, with people
who all have their ax to grind, too, and are keyed up to it by
rows and rows of cocktails. He drew him without mercy, and he had
every wife there either wincing or laughing, with the truth of what
he said. He was quite eloquent." She paused, she laughed softly,
she turned her eyes upon him. "Then, Joey, guess--just guess!--what
"Far be it from me!"
"He said that any intelligent modern woman would require at
least one husband and three lovers to arrive at the standards and
companionship of one wholesome old-fashioned man!"
Cameron got to his feet and held to the top shelf of the bookcase.
"Do you mean to tell me that respectable women sit and listen to
"But, Joey dear, you see so little of us respectable women now,
you don't really know us--"
"It's not decent--"
Nelly was all patience.
"But, you know, Joey dear, I think maybe it is true. Don't you
Cameron swallowed two or three retorts; then with a laugh that seemed
to break to pieces in the air, he went into he hall, got into his
hat and coat, and left the house.
Nellie listened gravely.
"Poor dear old land-lubber!" she sighed. "But it had to come sooner
or later!" Then she went to the telephone.
"57900 Bryant, please. May I speak to Mr. Crane?"
When Cameron came in at midnight he found his wife and his old
friend Willoughby Crane playing chess in the dining room.
"Hello, Joe, old man," murmured Crane. "That you?"
"Why, yes, I believe it is I," said Cameron.
"Almost forgot what you looked like," Crane rambled pleasantly.
"Dropped in for a reminder."
"I'm sorry to have missed you," muttered Cameron.
"Well, you haven't altogether missed me, you know: so cheer up,
old man. If Nell's good for a rubber, you may have the joy of my
presence for an hour or two longer. You're lucky, having a wife
who can play chess!"
"Get yourself a drink, Joey," suggested Nellie. "The whisky's in
the sideboard, down on he left."
"Don't you suppose I know where the whisky is?" demanded Cameron.
"Maybe there's not much left." Nellie looked on, all solicitude.
Cameron, his thought babbling over the good old days of the
ducking-stool, poured himself carefully a highball that was brown.
Silence reigned. The light fell upon the head and shoulders of
Crane and his long, quick-fingered hands.
"After a man has slaved his soul out," Cameron moaned, "these are
the things a woman cares about!"
Crane won the rubber, and spent considerable gallantry upon Nellie
in compensation. Cameron had yawned all through, but no one had
noticed. Crane lighted a cigarette and perched upon the corner of
"I say, Joe, got anything on to-morrow night?"
"I have," said Cameron.
"Something you can't chuck?"
"Scarcely. A director's dinner."
Crane grew thoughtful.
"You certainly are a victim of the power-passion," he sighed,
considering Cameron. "I don't know how you stand it. I'd have
more money, no doubt, if I weren't so apathetic, but, by Jinks, it
doesn't look worth it to me!"
"A question of taste," said Cameron briefly.
"Taste? If that were all!" He smoked, looking at Nellie through
the haze. "I say, Nell, I've got tickets for Kreisler to-morrow
night. Come with me, there's a good girl! Lend me your wife, will
"Lend?" echoed Nellie. "I like that! Anybody'd take me for goods
and chattels. Of course I'll come. I'd love to."
"You know, Joey," Crane went on simply, "Nellie's the only woman I
know that it's real joy to hear music with. She knows what she's
listening to. A fellow can sort of forget that he's got her
along, an still be glad he has. As for you, you old money-hunting
blunderbuss, the way you squirm in the presence of music ought to
be a penitentiary offense. I'm almost glad you can't go." He gave
a laugh that was dangerously genuine, and bolted for the hall to
get his coat and hat.
"Poor old Joe is almost asleep," said Nellie, sweetly.
Joe did not look it, but Willoughby got out solicitously, and he
sat upon a damp bench opposite Cameron's glowing windows, and he
laughed and laughed till a policeman sternly ordered him to move
"Isn't Willoughby a dear!" Nellie commented as she moved about,
putting things in their places for the night. Cameron yawned
obviously. Nellie hummed a snatch of a tune.
All that long night Cameron lay stretched upon the edge of their
bed, staring into the lumpy darkness. Nellie slept like a baby.
But once, soon after the lights were turned off, Cameron's blood
froze by inches from his head to his feet. It seemed to him that
Nellie was laughing, was fairly biting her pillow to keep from
laughing aloud! Gravely, of the darkness, he asked how all this had
come about. He asked it of the familiar, shadowy heap of Nellie's
clothes upon the chair by the window, asked if he had deserved it.
Toward dawn he slept.
Cameron, after the way of the new man, kept some evening clothes
down town. It saved traveling. The next afternoon, about four
o'clock, there came, somewhere between the pit of his stomach and
his brain, an aching weight. Conscience! At six-thirty he hung
his dinner-jacket back in the closet and sent the directors word
that he had a headache. Then, as blind as a moth, he started for
home, for that lamp about which Nellie "Loved to buzz."
He let himself into the apartment, chuckling to think of Nellie's
surprise, at just the hour at which they were used to dining. The
place was shadowy, the table in its between-meals garb. The aching
weight came back. He tapped on the nursery door.
Miss Merritt, the nurse, was dining by the nursery window, Billy's
high chair drawn near by. Billy, drowsy and rosy, was waving a
soup-spoon about his head, dabbing at the lights upon the silver
with fat fingers that were better at clinging than at letting go.
"Good evening, Miss Merritt," said Cameron. "Hello, Bill! Where's
your mother?" His tone struck false, for through his mind was
booming the horrible question, "Can Nellie have gone out with that
ass Crane to dine?"
Miss Merritt's mousy face became all eyes.
"Why, sir, Mrs. Cameron has gone out to dinner, and after to a
concert. I guess you forgot, sir."
"Oh, yes," said Cameron, easily. "This is the night of the concert.
I had absolutely forgotten. I'd have got a bite down town if I'd
thought. Is the cook in?"
"Sure, sir. I'll call her."
She left Cameron alone with Billy, who, cannibal-wise, was chewing
his father's hand and crowing over the appetizing bumps and veins.
"If you'd jest 'ave 'phoned, sir," panted the cook, who was a large,
"Just anything, Katy. I have a headache. Some eggs and toast--poached
eggs, I think."
In another moment the maid passed the nursery door, with white
things over her arm, on her way to set the table.
Cameron, dazed as never in his life before, lifted Billy to his
shoulder and trotted up and down the room. "Nice little boy!" he
laughed, Billy's damp fists hitting at him in ecstasy. "I'll just
take him to the sitting-room while you finish your dinner." He did
his best to pretend that the situation was not unusual, to act as
if, in his own home, a man could be nothing but at home. All these
confounded hirelings, acting as if they owned the place, had the
cheek to be amazed over his dropping in!
Miss Merritt beamed.
"I always say, sir, that boys should know their fathers."
"Boys should know their fathers?" This was almost the last straw.
"Here!" said Miss Merritt, holding out a pink-edged blanket. "Jest
put in on your lap, sir." There was about her that utter peculiar
lack of decorum that is common to nurses and mothers and Cameron,
blushing furiously, grabbed the blanket and fled.
"Boys should know their father, hey?" Cameron was enraged.
"We'll see about that pretty quick!" Billy crowed with joy as the
blanket flapped about them, and, above the chasm of his doubts and
his conscience Cameron heard himself laugh, too. He got into his
arm-chair. Billy, so warm and solid and gay, so evidently liking
him, gave him, parent that he was, the thrill of adventure as his
hands held him and knew him for his own. The blanket spread upon
his knees, the door closed, Cameron expanded with the desire to
know his son, even as it was desirable that his son should know
him. He turned him over and around, he studied the vagaries of
scallops and pearl buttons; profoundly he pitied his small image for
all of his discomforts, and advised him to grow out of safety-pins
as fast as possible. He fell into a philosophical mood, spouting
away at Bill, and Bill responded with fists and delicious gurgles
and an imitative sense of investigation. Cameron reflected, with
illumination, upon the amusing sounds a baby makes when the world
is well. They were really having an awfully good time.
Billy was fuzzy and blond, one of those moist, very blue-eyed
babies that women appreciate. Cameron all at once saw why. Warmth
expanded his aching heart, and his arms circled his own mite of
boy. Billy yawned, agreed instantly with Cameron that a yawn from
a baby was funny, and with a chuckle pitched against Cameron, bumped
his nose on a waistcoat button, considered the button solemnly,
with his small mouth stuck out ridiculously, and then snuggled into
the hollow of his father's arms, and, closing his big eyes with a
confidence that made thrills creep over him, the man, and brought
something stinging to his eyes, Bill went to sleep.
After an unmeasured lapse of time, Miss Merritt came for the baby.
"Oh, the lambkin! Ain't he sweet, sir?"
Cameron ached in every joint, but he did not know it.
"Take care how you handle him!" he whispered. "It's awful to be
awakened out of one's first sleep!"
"I know better than to wake a sleepin' baby, believe me," said Miss
Merritt with a touch of spice.
The door closed. Cameron sat stretching his stiff arms and legs
and staring before him, and upon his usually tired and lined face
was the beam of full joy.
Then came dinner, a lonely, silent mockery of a meal. And back the
question came, booming over the soft tinkling of glass and silver.
He realized, with his salad, that four nights out of seven, Nellie
dined like this, alone. His lower lip protruded, and lines of
conscience fell in a curtain on his face.
"Mrs. Cameron hates eatin' 'lone, too," said the maid. "She generally
eats early, so 's t' have Billy in his high chair 'longside. If
he sleeps, she reads a book, sir."
He was alone in the sitting-room with his coffee, and the place had
sunk into fathomless silence. It was only half after eight! He
stuck his head out of the window. Soft flakes touched and soothed
his feverish head. "Damn money!" he whispered suddenly, then stood
back in the room, startled, staring his blasphemy in the face.
He'd go out in the snow, and get rid of himself. This was awful!
Bundled in a greatcoat, collar high, trousers rolled up, he ducked
out of the great marble and iron vestibule into the night. There
was no wind, and the snow was falling softly, steadily. The drive
was deserted, and he made his way across to the walk along the wall.
By the light of the lamp, blurred by the flakes till it looked like
a tall-stemmed thistle-ball, he looked at his watch. No matter
where Nellie had dined, she was a the concert by now, and a great
sigh of relief fluttered the flakes about his mouth.
He turned north, glad of the rise in the ground to walk against.
"By jinks!" he smiled grudgingly, "it's not so bad out here. We
city idiots, we--NEW MEN, with all our motors and subways, we are
forgetting how to prowl."
The world fell of to shadow a little beyond the shore-line, a mere
space of air and flakes. Ice swirled by its way to the sea, for
the tide was going out. He peered; he began to hear all sorts
of fine snow-muffled sounds; and suddenly, away out on the river,
something was going on--boats whistling and signaling, chatting
in their scientific persiflage, out in the dark and cold of the
night. "Lonesome, too!" Cameron laughed, and, boyishly, he tossed
a snow-ball into the space, as if he'd have something to say out
there, too! "I'm soft!" he groaned, clutching his arm. And suddenly
he smiled to think how one of these days he and Bill would come
out here and play together. He looked about, and a sudden pride
filled him. He was actually the only creature enjoying this splendid
snow! He had passed one old gentleman in a fur-lined coat, with
a cap upon his white hair, walking slowly, a white bulldog playing
after him in the scarcely trodden snow.
Cameron turned home, a new and inexplicable glow upon him, cares
dropped away. He marched; he laughed aloud once with a sudden
thought of Bill. "Little corker!" He let himself in, and went
straight to the bedroom to change his shoes. "I must get some
water-tight things to prowl in," he thought, and he whistled a line
of "Tipperary." Blurred in a pleasant fatigue he sat on the edge
of his bed, staring at his wet socks, when the telephone jingled,
and he hurried out to answer.
"Yep, this is Cameron. Oh, hello, old girl! Thought I'd just come
up for a quiet home dinner, you know." A grin like the setting
sun for warmth spread over his face as he listened, as he felt the
tables turning under his wet feet.
"Nope. Just bored down-town. Felt like bein' cozy and--buzzin'
round the lamp in something comfy. Fine! Had a regular banquet!
Bill's all right, little devil! I tucked him in so he shouldn't
"Me? I've been out walkin'. Been throwin' snow-balls at the
street-lamps. My feet are soakin', but I don't care, I don't care.
Heard a concert myself, thanks. Whistles and things tootin' out
in the snow on the river to beat the band! Don't think of it! I'm
fine. Enjoy yourself. What's life for? Good night, old girl.
Don't lose your key!"
Cameron got as far as the cedar chest in the hall, but there, in
his wet socks, he sat down and he laughed until he ached all over.
Suddenly he stiffened, and his heels banged against the chest.
Miss Merritt, mouth and eyes wide open, stood absorbing him, as
crimson as was Cameron himself.
"I heard the 'phone," she faltered. "Miss. Cameron always calls
up to know if Billy's all right--"
"I know that she does," said Cameron, stiffly, and, rising, he
stocking-footed it past her and shut himself in his bedroom.
"yes, sir; good night, sir." Miss Merritt stared at his door. "Good
Lord!" she whispered in the nursery, "how awful for Billy and her
if he takes to drink!"
Nellie came out of the telephone booth, her face white with horror.
"Willoughby," she gasped, "get me a taxi quick!"
"No, no, NO! It's Joe!"
"Oh," she wailed, "I've gone too far! Joe is--drunk!"
Willoughby's face went to pieces.
"Don't look like that, Nell! Don't! What of it? Just what we've
been up to, isn't it?"
"How can you say that? Get my wraps. I am going home."
"Your car isn't ordered till eleven--"
"What do I care what I go in? Oh, I have been such a fool!"
"Don't mention it," grinned Crane as he wrapped her coat about her.
Gaily Crane waved his white-gloved hand to her, her face gleaming
back pearl-like for an instant in the shadowy taxi; then she was
whirled northward and lost in the snowy night. Back in his place
next to Nellie's empty chair, he mused tenderly over the vagaries
of a mere bachelor till the incomparable Austrian carried his mind
off to where tone is reality, where there is neither marriage nor
giving in marriage.
Nellie fitted the key into the lock. Her fingers shook. The
apartment was dark except for a light in the hall, and as still
as if it were empty. If only Joe would STAY asleep till he'd had
time to sleep this horrible state of affairs away!
She switched off the light and carefully let herself into their
room, and stood a moment, huddled, breathless, against the door.
The room was ghostly. The vague, snow-veiled light filtered in
from the street-lamp below, making of Cameron an incoherent lump,
wrapped to his eyes in the covers of their chintz-hung bed.
Her hands clasped tight, she peered at him through the shadows.
He did not move. He was sleeping heavily, curiously, irregularly,
his breath coming in jerky little snorts. "Oh," she wailed in her
guilt heart, "he is, he is! Poor dear old Joey, drunk! And it's
all, all my fault!" Swiftly she undressed in the dark. If he were
to awaken, to begin saying awful maudlin things---
Her heart pounding, she lifted the covers and crept into martyrdom
on the hard edge of the bed. Cameron slept on. Once he seemed
to be strangling in a bad dream, and she fought with her sense of
duty to awaken him, then, miserably, let him strangle!
Gravely Nellie's tired eyes traveled from familiar shadow to shadow,
to rest at last upon the dangling heap of clothes upon a chair by
the window that symbolized Joe Cameron by the sane light of day.
Fatigue tossed her off to sleep now and then; terror snatched her
back and made her cry. In the first faint dawn she awakened with
a start to find that in her sleep her tired body had slipped back
to its place, and her head was resting deliciously upon her pillow.
And, with the growing dawn, humor came creeping back, and try
as she would, her mouth twitched. Of all people, dear old Joey!
Carefully she turned her head and peered at him. His face was turned
toward her, what light there was fell full upon him. Wonder took
away her smile. His face was fresh, the lines of care and worry
softened away as if he were at the end of a two weeks' vacation.
She rested her chin on her arm, amazed, puzzled. And suddenly
a grin like the sunrise spread over Joe's face, and he opened his
[signed] Alice Woods
By courtesy of "The Century."
To Those Who Go
In a sense the hundreds of thousands of American soldiers who go
to France are modern crusaders. Like the valiant men of the Middle
Ages who traveled far to fight in strange lands for the ideal that
possessed their souls, these twentieth-century knights-errant go
to defend the ideals of liberty and right and honor which are the
issues of this war and which our Allies have successfully upheld
for more than three years.
In that chivalric spirit General Pershing stood at the tomb
of LaFayette and said, "LaFayette, we are here." As a young man
only twenty years old LaFayette went out to a new land to fight
for liberty, and now after nearly a century and a half the same
inspiration that sent him forth is taking our young men back to
fight in the land o his birth the old fight for right. The great
romance of international history which the relations of France and
America have afforded from the birth of this republic has entered
a new chapter with the pilgrimage of our fighting men to Europe,
and the inestimable service of LaFayette and his comrades to our
infant republic is now to be in part repaid by the nation that
France helped to establish.
But though it is a chivalric mission on which our soldiers go,
they should not enter France in the attitude of saviors. It must
be remembered that the United States came very late into this war,
and while our troops and even more our money and material resources
may have decisive weight toward victory, yet it is France, England,
Italy, Russia against whom the enemy has spent his strength. Our
Allies have brought the war already to its turning point, and we can
at best only add completeness to their achievement. Furthermore,
while we aid France and her Allies, we are defending ourselves
also. We went to war because Germany was killing our citizens,
was plotting against the peace and security of our nation, because
her restless ambition and lust for power were choking not only
Europe but the world.
Our American soldiers will find in France a people who have endured
with wonderful courage and devotion through more than three years
of terrific strain against odds which must often have seemed
hopeless. The French are the heroes of this war. They have been
in the fight from the beginning and will be there until the end.
Their armies were fully engaged when England had not a hundred
thousand men under arms and Italy was a neutral; they fought on
when Russia lost her grip; and they will not quit until their land
is cleared of invaders and the Prussian shadow that has darkened
France for more than forty years is lifted. More than any other
country except Belgium, France has felt the horror and hardships
of the war which we are spared because she has paid the price of
American soldiers who go to France are to be envied because they
are getting what comes to few men,--opportunity to be of direct,
vital service to that country. To be young, to be fit, to have a
part however small in the great events that are making the world
over into a safer and happier place for our children to live in,
is something for a man to be proud of now and to remember with
satisfaction to his last day.
The war may last much longer than we now anticipate, but there can
be no doubt of the ultimate victory of the cause to which we are
committed. The world never turns back, it moves always forward,
always upward. Our soldiers may go out, as the Crusaders went of
old, with absolute faith that their service will not be given in
vain, that their effort and daring will not be unavailing.
[signed] Myron Herrick
The Hero's Peace
There is a peace that springs where battles thunder,
Unknown to those who walk the ways of peace
Drowsy with safety, praising soft release
From pain and strife and the discomfortable wonder
Of life lived vehemently to its last, wild flame:
This peace thinks not of safety, is not bound
To the wincing flesh, nor to the piteous round
Of human hopes and memories, nor to Fame.
Immutable and immortal it is born
Within the spirit that has looked on fear
Till fear has looked askance; on death has gazed
As on an equal, and with noble scorn,
Spurning the self that held the self too dear,
To the height of being mounts calm and unamazed.
[signed] Amelie Rives (Princess Troubetzkoy)
Castle Hill, Virginia