Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: General Bramble
Author: Maurois, André, 1885-1967
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "General Bramble" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



GENERAL BRAMBLE

_by_

ANDRÉ MAUROIS

_translated by_

JULES CASTIER and RONALD BOSWELL


JOHN LANE
THE BODLEY HEAD LTD


First Published                                           1921

First Published in The Week-End Library                   1931



MADE AND PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN BY

MORRISON AND GIBB LTD, LONDON AND EDINBURGH



CONTENTS

      I.  Portraits
     II.  Diplomacy
    III.  The Tower of Babel
     IV.  A Business Man in the Army
      V.  The Story of Private Biggs
     VI.  An Air Raid
    VII.  Love and the Infant Dundas
   VIII.  A Great Chef
     IX.  Prélude à la Soirée d'un Général
      X.  Private Brommit's Conversion
     XI.  Justice
    XII.  Variations
   XIII.  The Cure
    XIV.  The Beginning of the End
     XV.  Danse Macabre
    XVI.  The Glory of the Garden
   XVII.  Letter from Colonel Parker to Aurelle
  XVIII.  General Bramble's Return



GENERAL BRAMBLE



CHAPTER I

PORTRAITS

  "As to what the picture represents, that depends upon who looks
   at it."--Whistler.


The French Mission in its profound wisdom had sent as liaison officer
to the Scottish Division a captain of Dragoons whose name was
Beltara.

"Are you any relation to the painter, sir?" Aurelle, the interpreter,
asked him.

"What did you say?" said the dragoon. "Say that again, will you? You
_are_ in the army, aren't you? You are a soldier, for a little time
at any rate? and you claim to know that such people as painters
exist? You actually admit the existence of that God-forsaken species?"

And he related how he had visited the French War Office after he had
been wounded, and how an old colonel had made friends with him and
had tried to find him a congenial job.

"What's your profession in civilian life, _capitaine_?" the old man
had asked as he filled in a form.

"I am a painter, sir."

"A painter?" the colonel exclaimed, dumbfounded. "A painter? Why,
damn it all!"

And after thinking it over for a minute he added, with the kindly
wink of an accomplice in crime, "Well, let's put down _nil_, eh? It
won't look quite so silly."

  *  *  *  *  *

Captain Beltara and Aurelle soon became inseparable companions. They
had the same tastes and different professions, which is the
ideal recipe for friendship. Aurelle admired the sketches in
which the painter recorded the flexible lines of the Flemish
landscape; Beltara was a kindly critic of the young man's rather
feeble verses.

"You would perhaps be a poet," he said to him, "if you were not
burdened with a certain degree of culture. An artist must be an
idiot. The only perfect ones are the sculptors; then come the
landscape painters; then painters in general; after them the writers.
The critics are not at all stupid; and the really intelligent men
never do anything."

"Why shouldn't intelligence have an art of its own, as sensibility
has?"

"No, my friend, no. Art is a game; intelligence is a profession. Look
at me, for instance; now that I no longer touch my brushes, I
sometimes actually catch myself thinking; it's quite alarming."

"You ought to paint some portraits here, _mon capitaine_. Aren't
you tempted? These sunburnt British complexions----"

"Of course, my boy, it is tempting; but I haven't got my things with
me. Besides, would they consent to sit?"

"Of course they would, for as long as you like. To-morrow I'll bring
round young Dundas, the aide-de-camp. He's got nothing to do; he'll
be delighted."

  *  *  *  *  *

Next day Beltara made a three-crayon sketch of Lieutenant Dundas. The
young aide-de-camp turned out quite a good sitter; all he asked was
to be allowed to do something, which meant shouting his hunting
cries, cracking his favourite whip and talking to his dog.

"Ah," said Aurelle, at the end of the sitting, "I like that
immensely--really. It's so lightly touched--it's a mere nothing, and
yet the whole of England is there."

And, waving his hands with the ritual gestures of the infatuated
picture-lover, he praised the artlessness of the clear, wide eyes,
the delightful freshness of the complexion, and the charming candour
of the smile.

But the Cherub planted himself in front of his portrait, struck the
classical pose of the golfer, and, poising his arms and hitting at an
imaginary ball, pronounced judgment on the work of art with perfect
frankness.

"My God," he said, "what an awful thing! How the deuce did you see,
old man, that my breeches were laced at the side?"

"What on earth can that matter?" asked Aurelle, annoyed.

"Matter! Would _you_ like to be painted with your nose behind your
ear? My God! It's about as much like me as it is like Lloyd George."

"Likeness is quite a secondary quality," said Aurelle condescendingly.
"The interesting thing is not the individual; it is the type,
the synthesis of a whole race or class."

"In the days when I was starving in my native South," said the
painter, "I used to paint portraits of tradesmen's wives for a fiver.
When I had done, the family assembled for a private view. 'Well,'
said the husband, 'it's not so bad; but what about the likeness, eh?
You put it in afterwards, I suppose?' 'The likeness?' I indignantly
replied. 'The likeness? My dear sir, I am a painter of ideals; I
don't paint your wife as she is, I paint her as she ought to be. Your
wife? Why, you see her every day--she cannot interest you. But my
painting--ah, you never saw anything like my painting!' And the
tradesman was convinced, and went about repeating in every café on
the Cannebière, 'Beltara, _mon bon_, is the painter of ideals;
he does not paint my wife as she is, he paints her as she ought
to be.'"

"Well," interrupted young Lieutenant Dundas, "if you can make my
breeches lace in front, I should be most grateful. I look like a
damned fool as it is now!"

  *  *  *  *  *

The following week Beltara, who had managed to get hold of some
paints, made excellent studies in oil of Colonel Parker and Major
Knight. The major, who was stout, found his corporation somewhat
exaggerated.

"Yes," said the painter, "but with the varnish, you know----"

And with an expressive movement of his hands he made as if to restore
the figure to more normal dimensions.

The colonel, who was lean, wanted to be padded out.

"Yes," said Beltara, "but with the varnish, you know----"

And his hands, moving back again, gave promise of astonishing
expansions.

Having regained a taste for his profession, he tried his hand at some
of the finest types in the Division. His portraits met with various
verdicts; each model thought his own rotten and the others excellent.

The Divisional Squadron Commander found his boots badly polished. The
C.R.E. commented severely on the important mistakes in the order of
his ribbons; the Legion of Honour being a foreign order should not
have preceded the Bath, and the Japanese Rising Sun ought to have
followed the Italian Order for Valour.

The only unqualified praise came from the sergeant-major who acted as
chief clerk to General Bramble. He was a much-beribboned old warrior
with a head like a faun and three red hairs on top of it. He had the
respectful familiarity of the underling who knows he is indispensable,
and he used to come in at all times of the day and criticize the
captain's work.

"That's fine, sir," he would say, "that's fine."

After some time he asked Aurelle whether the captain would consent
"to take his photo." The request was accepted, for the old N.C.O.'s
beacon-like countenance tempted the painter, and he made a kindly
caricature.

"Well, sir," the old soldier said to him, "I've seen lots of
photographer chaps the likes of you--I've seen lots at fairs in
Scotland--but I've never seen one as gives you a portrait so quick."

He soon told General Bramble of the painter's prowess; and as he
exercised a respectful but all-powerful authority over the general,
he persuaded him to come and give the French liaison officer a
sitting.

The general proved an admirable model of discipline. Beltara, who was
very anxious to be successful in this attempt, demanded several
sittings. The general arrived punctually, took up his pose with
charming deliberation, and when the painter had done, said "Thank
you," with a smile, and went away without saying another word.

"Look here," Beltara said to Aurelle, "does this bore him or not? He
hasn't come one single time to look at what I have done. I can't
understand it."

"He'll look at it when you've finished," Aurelle replied. "I'm sure
he's delighted, and he'll let you see it when the time comes."

As a matter of fact after the last sitting, when the painter had said
"Thank you, sir, I think I could only spoil it now," the general
slowly descended from the platform, took a few solemn steps round
the easel, and stared at his portrait for some minutes.

"Humph!" he said at length, and left the room.

  *  *  *  *  *

Dr. O'Grady, who was a man of real artistic culture, seemed somehow
to understand that keeping decorations in their correct order is not
the only criterion of the beauty of a portrait. The grateful Beltara
proposed to make a sketch of him, and during the sitting was pleased
to find himself in agreement with the doctor upon many things.

"The main point," said the painter, "is to see simply--outlines,
general masses. The thing is not to copy nature with childish
minuteness."

"No, of course not," replied the doctor. "Besides, it can't be done."

"Of course it can't, because nature is so endlessly full of details
which can never all be considered. The thing is to suggest their
presence."

"Quite so," said the doctor.

But when he came to gaze upon the face he loved so well, and saw it
transformed into outlines and general masses, he seemed a little
surprised.

"Well, of course," he said, "it is excellent--oh, it's very, very
good--but don't you think you have made me a little too old? I have
no lines at the corner of my mouth, and my hair is not quite so
thin."

He appealed to the aide-de-camp who was just then passing by.

"Dundas, is this like me?"

"Certainly, Doc; but it's ten years younger."

The doctor's smile darkened, and he began rather insistently to
praise the Old Masters.

"Modern painting," he proclaimed, "is too brutal."

"Good heavens," said Aurelle, "a great artist cannot paint with a
powder-puff; you must be able to feel that the fellow with the pencil
was not a eunuch."

"Really," he went on, when the doctor had left in rather a bad
temper, "he's as ridiculous as the others. I think his portrait is
very vigorous, and not in the least a skit, whatever he may say."

"Just sit down there a minute, old man," said the painter. "I shall
be jolly glad to work from an intelligent model for once. They all
want to look like tailors' fashion-plates. Now, I can't change my
style; I don't paint in beauty paste, I render what I see--it's like
Diderot's old story about the amateur who asked a floral painter to
portray a lion. 'With pleasure,' said the artist, 'but you may expect
a lion that will be as like a rose as I can make him.'"

The conversation lasted a long time; it was friendly and technical.
Aurelle praised Beltara's painting; Beltara expressed his joy at
having found so penetrating and artistic a critic in the midst of
so many Philistines.

"I prefer your opinion to a painter's; it's certainly sincerer. Would
you mind turning your profile a bit more towards me? Some months
before the war I had two friends in my studio to whom I wished to
show a little picture I intended for the _Salon_. 'Yes,' said the
younger of them, 'it's all right, but there ought to be a light spot
in that corner; your lights are not well balanced.' 'Shut up, you
fool,' the other whispered to him, 'that'll make it _really_ good!'
Come on, old man, come and look; I think that sketch can be left as
it is."

Aurelle walked up to the painter, and, cocking his head on one side,
looked at the drawing.

"It's charming," he said at last with some reluctance. "It's charming.
There are some delightful touches--all that still life on the table,
it might be a Chardin--and I like the background very much indeed."

"Well, old man, I'm glad you like it. Take it back with you when you
go on leave and give it to your wife."

"Er--" sighed Aurelle, "thank you, _mon capitaine_; it's really very
kind of you. Only--you'll think me no end of a fool--you see, if it
is to be for my wife, I'd like you to touch up the profile just a
little. Of course you understand."

And Beltara, who was a decent fellow, adorned his friend's face with
the Grecian nose and the small mouth which the gods had denied him.



CHAPTER II

DIPLOMACY

  "We are not foreigners; we are English; it is _you_ that are
   foreigners."--An English Lady Abroad.


When Dr. O'Grady and Aurelle had succeeded, with some difficulty, in
obtaining a room from old Madame de Vauclère, Colonel Parker went
over to see them and was charmed with the château and the park.

France and England, he said, were the only two countries in which
fine gardens were to be found, and he told the story of the American
who asked the secret of those well-mown lawns and was answered,
"Nothing is simpler: water them for twelve hundred years."

Then he inquired timidly whether he also might not be quartered at
the château.

"It wouldn't do very well, sir; Madame is mortally afraid of
new-comers, and she has a right, being a widow, to refuse to billet
you."

"Aurelle, my boy, do be a good fellow, and go and arrange matters."

After much complaining, Madame de Vauclère consented to put the
colonel up: all her sons were officers, and she could not withstand
sentimental arguments for very long.

The next day Parker's orderly joined the doctor's in the château
kitchen, and together they annexed the fireplace. To make room for
their own utensils, they took down a lot of comical little French
articles, removed what they saw no use for, put the kettle on, and
whistled hymns as they filled the cupboards with tins of boot polish
in scientifically graded rows.

After adoring them on the first day, putting up with them on the
second, and cursing them on the third, the old cook came up to
Aurelle with many lamentations, and dwelt at some length on the sad
state of her saucepans; but she found the interpreter dealing with
far more serious problems.

Colonel Parker, suddenly realizing that it was inconvenient for the
general to be quartered away from his Staff, had decided to transfer
the whole H.Q. to the château of Vauclère.

"Explain to the old lady that I want a very good room for the
general, and the billiard-room for our clerks."

"Why, it's impossible, sir; she has no good room left."

"What about her own?" said Colonel Parker.

Madame de Vauclère, heart-broken, but vanquished by the magic word
"General," which Aurelle kept on repeating sixty times a minute,
tearfully abandoned her canopied bed and her red damask chairs,
and took refuge on the second floor.

Meanwhile the drawing-room with its ancient tapestries was filled
with an army of phlegmatic clerks occupied in heaping up innumerable
cases containing the history in triplicate of the Division, its men,
horses, arms and achievements.

"Maps" set up his drawing-board on a couple of arm-chairs;
"Intelligence" concealed their secrets in an Aubusson boudoir; and
the telephone men sauntered about in the dignified, slow, bantering
fashion of the British workman. They set up their wires in the park,
and cut branches off the oaks and lime trees; they bored holes in the
old walls, and, as they wished to sleep near their work they put up
tents on the lawns.

The Staff asked for their horses; and the animals were picketed in
the garden walks, as the stables were too small. In the garden
the Engineers made a dug-out in case of a possible bombardment.
The orderlies' football developed a distinct liking for the
window-panes of the summer-house. The park assumed the aspect
first of a building site and then of a training camp, and new-comers
said, "These French gardens _are_ badly kept!"

This methodical work of destruction had been going on for about a
week when "Intelligence" got going.

"Intelligence" was represented at the Division by Captain Forbes.

Forbes, who had never yet arrested a real spy, saw potential spies
everywhere, and as he was fond of the company of the great, he always
made his suspicions a pretext for going to see General Bramble or
Colonel Parker. One day he remained closeted for an hour with the
colonel, who summoned Aurelle as soon as he had left.

"Do you know," he said to him, "there are most dangerous things
going on here. Two old women are constantly being seen in this
château. What the deuce are they up to?"

"What do you mean?" gasped Aurelle. "This is their house, sir; it's
Madame de Vauclère and her maid."

"Well, you go and tell them from me to clear out as soon as possible.
The presence of civilians among a Staff cannot be tolerated; the
Intelligence people have complained about it, and they are perfectly
right."

"But where are they to go to, sir?"

"That's no concern of mine."

Aurelle turned round furiously and left the room. Coming across Dr.
O'Grady in the park, he asked his advice about the matter.

"Why, doctor, she had a perfect right to refuse to billet us, and
from a military point of view we should certainly be better off at
Nieppe. She was asked to do us a favour, she grants it, and her
kindness is taken as a reason for her expulsion! I can't 'evacuate
her to the rear,' as Forbes would say; she'd die of it!"

"I should have thought," said the doctor, "that after three years you
knew the British temperament better than this. Just go and tell the
colonel, politely and firmly, that you refuse to carry out his
orders. Then depict Madame de Vauclère's situation in your grandest
and most tragic manner. Tell him her family has been living in the
château for the last two thousand years, that one of her ancestors
came over to England with William the Conqueror, and that her
grandfather was a friend of Queen Victoria's. Then the colonel will
apologize and place a whole wing at the disposal of your
_protégée_."

Dr. O'Grady's prescription was carried out in detail by Aurelle with
most satisfactory results.

"You are right," said the colonel, "Forbes is a damned idiot. The old
lady can stay on, and if anybody annoys her, let her come to me."

"It's all these servants who are such a nuisance to her, sir," said
Aurelle. "It's very painful for her to see her own house turned
upside-down."

"Upside-down?" gasped the colonel. "Why, the house is far better kept
than it was in her time. I have had the water in the cisterns
analysed; I have had sweet-peas planted and the tennis lawn rolled.
What can she complain of?"

In the well-appointed kitchen garden, where stout-limbed pear trees
bordered square beds of sprouting lettuce, Aurelle joined O'Grady.

"Doctor, you're a great man, and my old lady is saved. But it appears
she ought to thank her lucky stars for having placed her under the
British Protectorate, which, in exchange for her freedom, provides
her with a faultless tennis lawn and microbeless water."

"There is nothing," said the doctor gravely, "that the British
Government is not ready to do for the good of the natives."



CHAPTER III

THE TOWER OF BABEL

  "Des barques romaines, disais-je.--Non, disais-tu,
   portugaises."--Jean Giraudoux.


"Wot you require, sir," interrupted Private Brommit, "is a glass o'
boilin' 'ot milk an' whisky, with lots o' cinnamon."

Aurelle, who was suffering from an attack of influenza, was at
Estrées, under the care of Dr. O'Grady, who tirelessly prescribed
ammoniated quinine.

"I say, doctor," said the young Frenchman, "this is a drug that's
utterly unknown in France. It seems strange that medicines should
have a nationality."

"Why shouldn't they?" said the doctor. "Many diseases are national.
If a Frenchman has a bathe after a meal, he is stricken with
congestion of the stomach and is drowned. An Englishman never
has congestion of the stomach."

"No," said Aurelle; "he is drowned all the same, but his friends say
he had cramp, and the honour of Britain is saved."

Private Brommit knocked at the door and showed in Colonel Parker, who
sat down by the bed and asked Aurelle how he was getting on.

"He is much better," said the doctor; "a few more doses of
quinine----"

"I am glad to hear that," replied the colonel, "because I shall want
you, Aurelle. G.H.Q. is sending me on a mission for a fortnight to
one of your Brittany ports; I am to organize the training of the
Portuguese Division. I have orders to take an interpreter with me. I
thought of you for the job."

"But," Aurelle put in, "I don't know a word of Portuguese."

"What does that matter?" said the colonel. "You're an interpreter,
aren't you? Isn't that enough?"

  *  *  *  *  *

The following day Aurelle told his servant to try and find a
Portuguese in the little town of Estrées.

"Brommit is an admirable fellow," said Colonel Parker, "he found
whisky for me in the middle of the bush, and quite drinkable beer in
France. If I say to him, 'Don't come back without a Portuguese,' he
is sure to bring one with him, dead or alive."

As a matter of fact, that very evening he brought back with him a
nervous, talkative little man.

"Ze Poortooguez in fifteen days," exclaimed the little man,
gesticulating freely with his small plump hands "A language so rich,
so flexible, in fifteen days! Ah, you have ze luck, young man, to
'ave found in zis town Juan Garretos, of Portalègre, Master of Arts of
ze University of Coimbra, and positivist philosopher. Ze Poortooguez
in fifteen days! Do you know at least ze Low Latin? ze Greek?
ze Hebrew? ze Arabic? ze Chinese? If not, it is useless to
go furzer."

Aurelle confessed his ignorance.

"Never mind," said Juan Garretos indulgently; "ze shape of your 'ead
inspire me wiz confidence: for ten francs ze hour I accept you. Only,
mind, no chattering; ze Latins always talk too much. Not a single
word of ze English between us now. _Faz favor d'fallar Portuguez_--do
me ze favour of speaking ze Poortooguez. Know first zat, in ze
Poortooguez, one speak in ze zird person. You must call your speaker
Excellency.'"

"What's that?" Aurelle interrupted. "I thought you had just had a
democratic revolution."

"Precisely," said the positivist philosopher, wringing his little
hands, "precisely. In France you made ze revoluçaoung in order zat
every man should be called 'citizen.' What a waste of energy! In
Poortugal we made ze revoluçaoung in order zat every man should be
called 'His Highness.' Instead of levelling down we levelled up. It
is better. Under ze old order ze children of ze poor were _rapachos_,
and zose of ze aristocracy were _meninos_: now zey are all _meninos_.
Zat is a revoluçaoung! _Faz favor d'fallar Portuguez._ Ze Latins
always talk too much."

Having thus earned his ten francs by an hour's unceasing eloquence,
he made a fairer proposal to Aurelle next day.

"I will arrange with you for a fixed sum," he said. "If I teach you
two souzand words, you give me fifty francs."

"Very well," replied Aurelle, "two thousand words will be a
sufficient vocabulary to begin with."

"All right," said Juan Garretos; "now listen to me. All ze words
which in ze English end with 'tion' are ze same in ze Poortooguez
wiz ze ending 'çaoung.' Revolution--_revoluçaoung_;
constitution--_constituçaoung_; inquisition--_inquisiçaoung_. Now
zere are in ze English two souzand words ending in 'tion.' Your
Excellency owes me fifty francs. _Faz favor d'fallar Portuguez._"

  *  *  *  *  *

A fortnight later Colonel Parker and Aurelle stepped on to the
platform at B----, where they were met by Major Baraquin, the officer
commanding the garrison, and Captain Pereira, the Portuguese liaison
officer.

Major Baraquin was a very old soldier. He had seen service--in the
1870 campaign. All strangers, Allies included, inspired him with a
distrust which even his respect for his superiors failed to remove.
When the French War Office ordered him to place his barracks at
the disposal of a British colonel, discipline required him to obey,
but hostile memories inspired him with savage resistance.

"After all, sir," said Aurelle to Parker, "his grandfather was at
Waterloo."

"Are you quite sure," asked the colonel, "that he was not there
himself?"

Above all things, Major Baraquin would never admit that the armies of
other nations might have different habits from his own. That the
British soldier should eat jam and drink tea filled him with generous
indignation.

"The colonel," Aurelle translated, "requests me to ask you ..."

"No, no, _no_," replied Major Baraquin in stentorian tones,
without troubling to listen any further.

"But it will be necessary, sir, for the Portuguese who are going to
land...."

"No, no, _no_, I tell you," Major Baraquin repeated,
resolved upon ignoring demands which he considered subversive
and childish. This refrain was as far as he ever got in his
conversations with Aurelle.

  *  *  *  *  *

Next day several large British transports arrived, and disgorged upon
the quay thousands of small, black-haired men who gazed mournfully
upon the alien soil. It was snowing, and most of them were seeing
snow for the first time in their lives. They wandered about in the
mud, shivering in their spotted blue cotton uniforms and dreaming, no
doubt, of sunny Alemtejo.

"They'll fight well," said Captain Pereira, "they'll fight well.
Wellington called them his fighting cocks, and Napoleon said his
Portuguese legion made the best troops in the world. But can you
wonder they are sad?"

Each of them had brought with him a pink handkerchief containing his
collection of souvenirs--little reminders of his village, his
people, or his best girl--and when they were told that they could
not take their pink parcels with them to the front, there was a
heart-breaking outcry.

Major Baraquin, with unconscious and sinister humour, had quartered
them in the shambles.

"It would be better----" began Colonel Parker.

"Il vaudrait peut-être mieux----" Aurelle attempted to translate.

"Vossa Excellencia----" began Captain Pereira.

"No, no, _no_," said the old warrior passionately.

The Portuguese went to the shambles.



CHAPTER IV

A BUSINESS MAN IN THE ARMY

  "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable
   one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore
   all progress depends on the unreasonable man."--G. B. Shaw (in
   _A Revolutionist's Handbook_).


Colonel Musgrave of the R.A.S.C. had been instructed to
superintend the supply and transport arrangements of the Portuguese
Division, and Lieutenant Barefoot, in charge of a Labour Company, had
been detailed to assist him.

"These men," he explained to Colonel Musgrave, "are all Southampton
dockers. In peace time I am their employer, and Sergeant Scott over
there is their foreman. They tell me your Labour Companies have often
shown rather poor discipline. There's no fear of anything like that
with my men; they have been chosen with care, and look up to me as if
I were a king. Scott, my sergeant, can do anything; neither he nor my
men ever drink a drop. As for me, I am a real business man, and I
intend to introduce new methods into the army."

Barefoot was fifty years old; he had a bald head shaped like an egg.
He had just enlisted to serve his King and country, and was
overflowing with goodwill.

The next morning twenty of his men were dead-drunk, two were absent
at roll-call, and Sergeant Scott had a scar on his nose which seemed
to be the result of a somewhat sudden encounter with mother earth.

"No matter," said the worthy N.C.O., "Barefoot is an ass, and never
notices anything."

Next day the first batch of Portuguese troops arrived. British tugs
towed the huge transports round the tiny harbour with graceful ease,
and the decks seethed with masses of troops. The harbour captain and
the _Ponts et Chaussées_ engineer were loud in protest against these
wonders, as being "contrary to the ideas of the Service." The wharves
were filled with motor lorries, mountains of pressed hay, sacks of
oats and boxes of biscuits.

Colonel Musgrave, who was to take charge of this treasure-store,
began to make his plan of campaign.

"To-morrow, Friday," he said, "there will be a parade on the wharf at
7 a.m. I shall hold an inspection myself before work is begun."

On Friday morning at seven, Barefoot, his labourers and the lorries
were all paraded on the wharf in excellent order. At eight the
colonel got up, had his bath and shaved. Then he partook of eggs and
bacon, bread and jam, and drank two cups of tea. Towards nine o'clock
his car took him to the wharf. When he saw the men standing
motionless, the officer saluting and the lorries all in a row,
his face went as red as a brick, and he stood up in his car and
addressed them angrily:

"So you are incapable of the slightest initiative! If I am absent for
an hour, detained by more important work, everything comes to a
standstill! I see I cannot rely on anyone here except myself!"

The same evening he called the officers together.

"To-morrow, Saturday," he said, "there will be a parade at 7 a.
m.--and this time I shall be there."

The next morning Barefoot with his men and lorries paraded once more
on the wharf, with a sea-wind sweeping an icy rain into their faces.
At half-past seven the lieutenant took action.

"We will start work," he said. "The colonel was quite right yesterday
and spoke like a real business man. In our respect for narrow
formalism, we stupidly wasted a whole morning's work."

So his men began to pile up the cases, the lorries started to move
the sacks of oats, and the day's work was pretty well advanced when
Colonel Musgrave appeared. Having had his bath and shaved, and
absorbed poached eggs on toast, bread, marmalade and three cups of
tea, he had not been able to be ready before ten. Suddenly coming
upon all this healthy bustle, he leaped out of his car, and angrily
addressed the eager Barefoot, who was approaching him with a modest
smile.

"Who has had the impudence to call the men off parade before my
arrival?" he said. "So if I happen to be detained elsewhere by more
important work, my orders are simply disregarded! I see again that I
cannot rely on anyone here except myself!"

Meanwhile the crestfallen Barefoot was meditating upon the mysterious
ways of the army. Musgrave inspected the work and decided that
everything was to be done all over again. The biscuits were to be
put in the shed where the oats had been piled, and the oats were to
be put out in the open where the biscuits had been. The meat was to
change places with the jam, and the mustard with the bacon. The
lorries were to take away again everything they had just brought up.
So that when lunch-time arrived, everything was in exactly the same
state as it had been at dawn. The Admiralty announced the arrival of
a transport at two o'clock; the men were supposed to find their
rations ready for them upon landing.

Musgrave very pluckily decided that the Labour Company were to have
no rest, and were just to be content with nibbling a light lunch
while they went on with their work.

Barefoot, who had got up at six and was very hungry, approached the
colonel in fear and trembling.

"May I leave my sergeant in charge for half an hour, sir?" he asked.
"He can do everything as well as I can. I should like just to run
along to the nearest café and have something warm to eat."

Musgrave gazed at him in mournful astonishment.

"Really," he said, "you young fellows don't seem to realize that
there's a war on." Whereupon he stepped into his car and drove off to
the hotel.

  *  *  *  *  *

Barefoot, somewhat downcast, buttonholed the interpreter, who was
father-confessor to all Englishmen in distress. Aurelle begged him
not to get excited.

"You are always talking about introducing your business methods into
the army. As if that were possible! Why, the objects of the two
things are entirely different. A business man is always looking
for work; an officer is always trying to avoid it. If you neglect
these principles, I can foresee an ignominious end in store for you,
Barefoot, and Colonel Musgrave will trample on your corpse."

Now the thirty thousand Portuguese had been fed during their long
voyage on tinned food; and as the transports' holds were being
cleared, innumerable empty tins began to accumulate on the wharves.
Barefoot and his men were ordered to gather these tins together into
regular heaps. These grew so rapidly that the Mayor of the town was
exceedingly concerned to see such a waste of space in a harbour
already filled to bursting-point, and sent a pointed letter to
Colonel Musgrave, asking him to find some other place for his empty
tins.

Colonel Musgrave ordered his interpreter to write an equally pointed
letter, reminding the Mayor of B---- that the removal of refuse was a
municipal concern, and that the British Army was therefore waiting
for the Town to hand over a plot of ground for the purpose.

Barefoot happened to speak of this difficulty one day to the business
man at whose house he was billeted; and the latter told him that a
process had recently been discovered by which old tins could be
melted down and used again, and that a company had been floated to
work out the scheme; they would be sure to purchase Colonel
Musgrave's tins.

The enthusiastic Barefoot began to see visions of profitable and
glorious enterprises. Not only would he rid his chief and the Mayor
of B---- of a lot of cumbersome salvage, but this modest contract for
some tens of tons might well serve as a model to those responsible
for the sale of the millions of empty tins scattered daily by the
British Army over the plains of Flanders and Artois. And the
Commander-in-Chief would call the attention of the War Office to the
fact that "Lieutenant E. W. Barefoot, by his bold and intelligent
initiative, had enabled salvage to be carried out to the extent of
several million pounds."

"Aurelle," he said to the interpreter, "let's write to this company
immediately; we'll speak about it to the colonel when we get their
reply."

The answer came by return; they were offered twenty francs per ton,
carriage at the company's cost.

Barefoot explained his scheme to Colonel Musgrave with assumed
modesty, adding that it would be a good thing to flatten out the tins
before dispatching them, and that Sergeant Scott, who was a handy
man, could easily undertake the job.

"First of all," said the colonel, "why can't you mind your own
business? Don't you know you are forbidden to correspond with
strangers upon matters pertaining to the service without consulting
your superior officers? And who told you _I_'ve not been thinking
for quite a long time of selling your damned tins? Do you think
things are as simple as all that in the army? Fetch Aurelle; I'm
going to see the superintendent of the French Customs."

Three years' experience had taught Colonel Musgrave that the French
Customs Service were always to be relied on.

"Kindly ask this gentleman whether the British Army, having imported
tins with their contents without paying any duty, has the right to
sell these tins empty in France?"

"No," answered the official, when the colonel's question had been
translated to him, "there is an order from our headquarters about the
matter. The British Army must not carry on any sale of metal on
French soil."

"Thank him very much," said the colonel, satisfied.

"Now just look here," he said to Barefoot on returning, "what a nice
mess you would have made if I hadn't known my business. Let this be a
lesson to you. In future it will be better if you look after your men
and leave the rest to me. As for the tins, I have thought of a
solution which will satisfy everyone concerned."

Next day Barefoot received orders to have the tins packed on lorries,
and carried in several loads to the end of the pier, whence they were
neatly cast into the sea. In this way the Mayor was spared the
trouble of finding a dumping-ground, the British Government paid for
the petrol consumed by the lorries, the _Ponts et Chaussées_ bore
the expense of the dredging, and, as Colonel Musgrave said, every one
was satisfied.

  *  *  *  *  *

Colonel Parker, before rejoining the Division, wrote out a report,
as usual, about the operations at B----.

"I beg to draw attention," the document ran, "to the excellent
organization of the Supply arrangements. Thirty thousand men have
been provided with rations in a harbour where no British base
existed. This result is due especially to the organizing abilities
displayed by Colonel A. C. Musgrave, C.M.G., D.S.O. (R.A.S.C.).
Although this officer has only recently been promoted, I consider it
my duty to recommend him ..."

"What about Barefoot?" said Aurelle. "Couldn't he be made a captain?"

"Barefoot? That damned shopkeeper fellow whom Musgrave told me about?
The man who wanted to introduce his methods into the army? He's a
public danger, my boy! But I can propose your friend Major Baraquin
for a C.M.G., if you like."

"Baraquin?" Aurelle exclaimed in turn. "Why, he always refused
everything you asked him for."

"Yes," said the colonel; "he's not very easy to get on with; he
doesn't understand things; but he's a soldier, every inch of him! I
like old Baraquin!"



CHAPTER V

THE STORY OF PRIVATE BIGGS

  "La Nature fait peu de gens vaillants; c'est la bonne institution
   et la discipline."--Charron.


The new padre was a stout, artless man with a kind face. He was only
just out from England, and delighted the general with his air of
innocent surprise.

"What's making all that noise?" he asked.

"Our guns," said Colonel Parker.

"Really?" replied the padre, in mild astonishment. As he walked into
the camp, he was stopped by a sentry.

"Who goes there?"

"Friend," he answered. Then he went up to the man and added
anxiously, "I suppose that was the right thing to answer, wasn't
it?"

The general was delighted at these stories, and asked the Rev. Mr.
Jeffries to take his meals at his own table.

"Padre," he said, "don't you think our mess is a happy family?"

"Padre," chimed in the doctor approvingly, "don't you think that this
mess has all the characteristics of a family? It is just a group of
people thrown together by chance, who never understand each other in
the least, who criticize one another severely, and are compelled by
circumstances to put up with each other."

"There's nothing to joke about," said Colonel Parker. "It's these
compulsory associations that often give rise to the finest devotion."

And being in a lively mood that evening, he related the story of
Private Biggs:

"You remember Biggs, who used to be my orderly? He was a shy,
refined little fellow, who used to sell neckties in peace-time. He
loathed war, shells, blood and danger.

"Well, at the end of 1916, the powers that be sent the battalion to
Gamaches training camp. A training camp, padre, is a plot of ground
traversed by imitation trenches, where officers who have never been
near the line teach war-worn veterans their business.

"The officers in charge of these camps, having a _clientèle_ to
satisfy, start some new fashion every season. This spring I
understand that 'open file' is to be the order of the day; last
autumn 'massed formation' was the watchword of the best firms.
There's a lot of talk been going on for some time, too, about 'firing
from the hip'; that's one of my friend Lamb's absolutely original
creations--a clever fellow that; he ought to do very well.

"At Gamaches the officer in command was Major Macleod, a bloodthirsty
Scot whose hobby was bayonet work. He was very successful at showing
that, when all's said and done, it's the bayonet that wins battles.
Others before him have sworn that it is only hand-grenades, heavy
guns, or even cavalry that can give a decisive victory. But Macleod's
doctrine was original in one respect: he favoured moral suggestion
rather than actual practice for the manufacture of his soldiers. For
the somewhat repulsive slaughter of bayonet fighting he found it
necessary to inspire the men with a fierce hatred of the enemy.

"For this purpose he had bags of straw stuffed to the shape of German
soldiers, adorned with a sort of German helmet and painted
field-grey, and these were given as targets to our Highlanders.

"'Blood is flowing,' he used to repeat as the training proceeded,
'blood is flowing, and you must rejoice at the sight of it. Don't
get tender-hearted; just think only of stabbing in the right place.
To withdraw the bayonet from the corpse, place your foot on the
stomach.'

"You can imagine how Biggs's soul revolted at these speeches. In vain
did Sergeant-Major Fairbanks of the Guards deliver himself of his
most bloodthirsty _repertoire_; Biggs's tender heart was
horror-struck at the idea of bowels and brains exposed, and it was
always owing to him that the most carefully-prepared charges were
deprived of the warlike frenzy demanded by Major Macleod.

"'_As_ you were!' Sergeant-Major Fairbanks used to yell. '_As_ you
were! Now then, Private Biggs.' And after twenty attempts had failed,
he would conclude sadly, 'Well, boys, mark my words, come Judgment
Day, when we're all p'radin' for the final review an' the Lord comes
along, no sooner will the Archangel give the order, "'Tention!" than
'e'll 'ave to shout, "As you were! Now then, Private Biggs!"'

"When the period of training was over, Macleod assembled all our men
in a large shed and gave 'em his celebrated lecture on 'hatred of the
enemy.'

"I was really curious to hear him, because people at G.H.Q. were
always talking about the extraordinary influence he had over the
troops' _moral_. 'One of Macleod's speeches,' said the Chief of
Staff, 'does the Huns as much harm as ten batteries of heavy
howitzers.'

"The lecturer began with a ghastly description of the shooting of
prisoners, and went on to a nauseating account of the effects of gas
and a terrible story about the crucifixion of a Canadian sergeant;
and then, when our flesh was creeping and our throats were dry, came
a really eloquent hymn of hate, ending with an appeal to the avenging
bayonet.

"Macleod was silent for a few minutes, enjoying the sight of our
haggard faces; then, considering we were sufficiently worked up, he
went on:

"'Now, if there is any one of you who wants anything explained, let
him speak up; I'm ready to answer any questions.'

"Out of the silence came the still, small voice of Private Biggs.

"'Please, sir?'

"'Yes, my man,' said Major Macleod kindly.

"'Please, sir, can you tell me how I can transfer to the Army Service
Corps?'

"That evening, in the kitchen, our orderlies discussed the incident,
and discovered in course of conversation that Biggs had never killed
a man. All the others were tough old warriors, and they were much
astonished.

"Kemble, the general's orderly, a giant with a dozen or so to his
account, was full of pity for the poor little Cockney. 'Mon, mon,'
he said, 'I can hardly believe ye. Why, never a single one? Not
even wounded?'

"'No,' said Biggs, 'honest Injun. I run so slowly, I'm always the
last to get there--I never get a chance.'

"Well, a few days later, the battalion was up in the line again, and
was sent into a little stunt opposite Fleurbaix, to straighten out a
salient. You remember, sir? It's one of the best things the Division
has ever done.

"Artillery preparation, low barrage, cutting
communications--everything came off like clockwork, and we caught the
Boches in their holes like rabbits.

"While the men were busy with their rifles, grenades and bayonets,
cleaning up the conquered trenches, suddenly a voice was heard
shouting:

"'Harry, Harry, where are you?... Just send Biggs along here, will
you?... Pass the word along to Private Biggs.'

"It was the voice of the Highlander, Kemble. Some giant grasped Biggs
by the seat of his trousers and swung him and his rifle up to the
parapet. Then two strong hands seized the little man, and he was
swung in mid-air from man to man right up the file till he was
finally handed over to Kemble, who seized him affectionately with his
left hand, and, full of joy at the dainty treat he had in store for
his friend, cried, 'Mon, mon, look in this wee hole: I've got twa of
'em at the end of my rifle, but I've kept 'em for you.'

"This is a true story," added Colonel Parker, "and it shows once more
that the British soldier has a kind heart."

The Rev. Mr. Jeffries had turned very pale.



CHAPTER VI

AN AIR RAID

  "I do not like seriousness. I think it is irreligious."--Chesterton.


"They'll be here soon," said Dr. O'Grady. "The moon is low, and the
shadows are long, and these oblique lights will suit them very well."

The division was in rest on the hills overlooking Abbeville, and the
doctor was walking to and fro with Colonel Parker and Aurelle along
the lime-bordered terrace, from which they could see the town that
was going to be attacked. From the wet grassy lawns near by groups of
anxious women were scanning the horizon.

"Yesterday evening, in a suburb," said Aurelle, "they killed a
baker's three children."

"I am sorry," put in the doctor, "they should be favoured with this
fine weather. The law of the storm seems to be exactly the same for
these barbarians as it is for innocent birds. It's absolutely
contradictory to the notion of a just Divinity."

"Doctor," said Aurelle, "you are an unbeliever."

"No," replied the doctor, "I am an Irishman, and I respect the bitter
wisdom of the Catholic faith. But this universe of ours, I confess,
strikes me as completely non-moral. Shells and decorations fall
haphazard from above on the just and the unjust alike; M. Poincaré's
carburettor gets out of order just as often as the Kaiser's. The Gods
have thrown up their job, and handed it over to the Fates. It is true
that Apollo, who is a well-behaved person, takes out his chariot
every morning; that may satisfy the poets and the astronomers, but it
distresses the moralist. How satisfactory it would be if the
resistance of the air were relative to the virtues of the airman, and
if Archimedes' principle did not apply to pirates!"

"O'Grady," observed Colonel Parker, "you know the words of the psalm:
'As for the ungodly, it is not so with them; but they are like the
chaff which the wind scattereth away from the face of the earth.'"

"Yes, colonel; but supposing you, a good man, and I, a sinner, were
suddenly hit by a bomb----"

"But, doctor," Aurelle interrupted, "this science of yours is after
all only an act of faith."

"How so, my boy? It is obvious that there are laws in this world. If
I press the trigger of this revolver, the bullet will fly out, and
if General Webb is given an Army Corps, General Bramble will have a
bilious attack."

"Quite so, doctor; you observe a few series linked together, and you
conclude that the world is governed by laws. But the most important
facts--life, thought, love--elude your observations. You may perhaps
be sure that the sun is going to rise to-morrow morning, but you
don't know what Colonel Parker is going to say next minute. Yet you
assert that the colonel is a machine; that is because your religion
tells you to."

"So does every one else's religion," said the doctor. "Only yesterday
I read in the Bishop of Broadfield's message: 'The prayers for rain
cannot take place this week, as the barometer is too high.'"

Far away over the plain, in the direction of Amiens, the
star-sprinkled sky began to flicker with tiny, flashing points of
light.

"Here they come," said Aurelle.

"They'll be ten minutes yet," said the doctor. They resumed their
walk.

"O'Grady," Colonel Parker put in, "you're getting more crazy every
day. You claim, if I comprehend your foolish ideas aright, that a
scientist can foretell rain better than an Anglican bishop. What a
magnificent paradox! Meteorology and medicine are far less solid
sciences than theology. _You_ say that the universe is governed by
laws, don't you? Nothing is less certain. It is true that chance
seems to have established a relative balance in the tiny corner of
the universe which we inhabit, but there is nothing to show that this
balance is going to last. If you were to press the trigger of this
revolver to-morrow, it is just possible that it would not go off. It
is also possible that the German aeroplanes will cease to fly, and
that General Bramble will take a dislike to the gramophone. _I_
should not be surprised at any of these things; I should simply
recognize that supernatural forces had come into our lives."

"Doctor," said Aurelle, "you know the clock which my orderly Brommit
winds up every evening? Let us suppose that on one of the molecules
that go to make up the minute-hand of that clock there live a race of
beings who are infinitely small, and yet as intelligent as we are.
These little creatures have measured their world, and have noticed
that the speed of its motion is constant; they have discovered that
their planet covers a fixed distance in a fixed period of time, which
for us is a minute and for them a century. Amongst their people there
are two schools of thought. The scientists claim that the laws of the
universe are immutable, and that no supernatural power can intervene
to change them. The believers admit the existence of these laws, but
they also assert that there is a divine being who can interfere with
their course; and to that being they address prayers. In that tiny
world, which of them is right? The believers, of course; for there is
such a being as Private Brommit, and if he forgets one evening to
wind up the clock, the scientists and all their proud theories will
vanish away like smoke in a cataclysm which will bring whole worlds
to their doom."

"That's so," said the doctor; "but if they had prayed----"

"Listen," interrupted Aurelle.

The park had become strangely silent; and though there was no wind,
they could hear the gentle rustling of the leaves, the barking of a
dog in the valley, the crackling of a twig under a bird's weight. Up
above, in the clear sky, there was a feeling of some hostile
presence, and a disagreeable little buzzing sound, as though there
were some invisible mosquito up among the stars.

"They're here now," said the doctor.

The noise increased: a buzzing swarm of giant bees seemed to be
approaching the hill.

Suddenly there was a long hiss, and a ray of light leaped forth from
the valley and began to search the sky with a sort of superhuman
thoroughness. The women on the lawn ran away to the shelter of the
trees. The short, sharp barking of the guns, the deeper rumble of the
bombs that were beginning to fall on the town, and the earth-shaking
explosions terrified them beyond endurance.

"I'm going to shut my eyes," said one, "it's easier like that."

"My God," exclaimed another, "I can't move my legs an inch!"

"Fear," said the doctor, "shows itself in hereditary reflexes. Man,
when in danger, seeks the pack, and fright makes his flesh creep,
because his furred ancestors bristled all over when in combat, in
order to appear enormous and terrible."

A terrific explosion shook the hill, and flames arose over the town.

"They're aiming at the station," said the colonel. "Those
searchlights do more harm than good. They simply frame the target and
show it up."

"When I was at Havre," Aurelle remarked, "a gunner went to ask the
Engineers for some searchlights that were rotting away in some store
or other. 'Quite impossible,' said the engineer; 'they're the war
reserve; we're forbidden to touch them.' He could never be brought to
understand that the war we were carrying on over here was the one
that was specified in his schedule."

The great panting and throbbing of an aeroplane was coming nearer,
and the whole sky was quivering with the noise of machinery like a
huge factory.

"My God," exclaimed the doctor, "we're in for it this time!"

But the stars twinkled gently on, and above the din they heard the
clear, delicate notes of a bird's song--just as though the throbbing
motors, the whizzing shells and the frightened wailing of the women
were nothing but the harmonies devised by the divine composer of some
military-pastoral symphony to sustain the slender melody of a bird.

"Listen," whispered Colonel Parker, "listen--a nightingale!"



CHAPTER VII

LOVE AND THE INFANT DUNDAS

  "... Of which, if thou be a severe sour-complexion'd man, then I
   hereby disallow thee to be a competent judge."--_The Compleat
   Angler._


The Infant Dundas struck up a rag-time on the sergeant-major's
typewriter, did a juggling turn with the army list, and let forth a
few hunting yells; then, seeing that the interpreter had reached the
required state of exasperation, he said:

"Aurelle, why should we stay in this camp? Let's go into the town;
I'll get hold of the Intelligence car, and we'll go and see
Germaine."

Germaine was a pretty, friendly girl who sold novels, chocolates and
electric lamps at Abbeville. Dundas, who was not interested in
women, pretended to have a discreet passion for her; in his mind
France was associated with the idea of love-affairs, and he thought
it the right thing to have a girl-friend there, just as he would have
thought it correct to hunt in Ireland, or to ski at St. Moritz.

But when Germaine, with feigned timidity, directed on him the slowly
dwindling fire of her gaze, Dundas was afraid to put his arm round
her waist; this rosy-cheeked giant, who was a champion boxer and had
been wounded five times, was as bashful and shy as a child.

"Good morning," he would say with a blush.

"Good morning," Germaine would answer, adding in a lower voice for
Aurelle's benefit, "Tell him to buy something."

In vain did Aurelle endeavour to find books for the Infant. French
novels bored him; only the elder Dumas and Alphonse Daudet found
favour in his eyes. Dundas would buy his seventeenth electric lamp,
stop a few minutes on the doorstep to play with Germaine's black dog
Dick, and then say good-bye, giving her hand a long squeeze and going
away perfectly happy in the thought that he had done his duty and
gone on the spree in France in the correct manner.

"A nice boy, your friend--but he is rather shy," she used to say.

On Sundays she went for walks along the river with an enormous mother
and ungainly sisters, escorted gravely by Dundas. The mess did not
approve of these rustic idylls.

"I saw him sitting beside her in a field," said Colonel Parker, "and
his horse was tied to a tree. I think it's disgusting."

"It's shameful," said the padre.

"I'll speak to him about it," said the general, "it's a disgrace to
the mess."

Aurelle tried to speak up for his friend.

"Maybe," said the doctor, "pleasure is a right in France, but in
England it's a crime. With you, Aurelle, when girls see you taking a
lady-friend out, their opinion of you goes up. In London, on the
other hand----"

"Do you mean to say, doctor, that the English never flirt?"

"They flirt more than you do, my boy; that's why they say less about
it. Austerity of doctrine bears a direct proportion to strength of
instinct. You like to discuss these matters, because you think
lightly of them, and in that we Irish resemble you. Our great
writers, such as Bernard Shaw, write thousands of paradoxes about
marriage, because their thoughts are chaste. The English are far more
prudish because their passions are stronger."

"What's all this you're saying, doctor?" interrupted the general. "I
seem to be hearing very strange doctrines."

"We're talking about French morals, sir."

"Is it true, Messiou," inquired Colonel Parker, "that it is the
custom in France for a man to take his wife and his mistress to the
theatre together to the same box?"

"You needn't try to convince Aurelle of your virtue, colonel," said
the doctor; "he's been living with you for four years, and he knows
you."

  *  *  *  *  *

Meanwhile Dundas continued to go down into Abbeville every day and
meet his friend. The shelling had got very bad, and the inhabitants
began to leave the town. Germaine, however, remained calm. One day a
shell hit the shop next door to hers, and shattered the whole of
the whitewashed front of the house, and the plaster crumbling away
revealed a fine wooden building which for the last two centuries
had been concealing its splendid carved beams beneath a wretched
coat of whitewash. So also did Germaine, divested by danger of her
superficial vulgarity, suddenly show her mettle and prove herself
the daughter of a race of soldiers.

Accordingly Dundas had conceived a warm and respectful friendship for
her. But he went no further until one day when the alarm caught them
together just as he was bidding her good-bye; then only did the
darkness and the pleasant excitement of danger cause him to forget
ceremony and convention for a few minutes.

Next day Germaine presented the Infant with a fat yellow book; it was
Madame de Staëls _Corinne_. The rosy-cheeked one looked askance at
the small closely printed pages.

"Aurelle," he implored, "be a good chap and tell me what it's all
about--I'm not going to read the damned thing!"

"It's the story of a young Scotch laird," replied Aurelle, "who wants
to marry a foreign girl against his family's wish."

"My God!" exclaimed Dundas. "Do you think she expects me to marry
her? My cousin Lord Bamford married a dancer and he's very happy;
he's the gentleman and she has the brains. But in this case it's the
mother--she's a terrible creature!"

"The Zulus," put in the doctor, who was listening, "have a religious
custom which forbids the bridegroom-elect to see his mother-in-law.
Should he happen but to see her footprints in the sand, he must turn
and flee. Nothing could be wiser; for love implies an absurd and
boundless admiration for the loved one, and her mother, appearing to
the lover in the very image of his beloved without the charm and
liveliness of youth, will deter him from that brief spell of folly
which is so necessary for the propagation of the species."

"Some mothers are charming," argued Aurelle.

"That's another danger," said the doctor, "for as the mother always
tends to live her daughter's emotional life, there is a constant risk
of her falling in love with her son-in-law."

"My God!" cried Dundas, horror-struck.

However, the German airmen set his fears at rest that very evening by
destroying half the town. The statue of Admiral Courbet in the middle
of the square near the bookseller's shop was hit by a bomb. The
admiral continued to point an outstretched finger towards the
station, but the bookseller cleared out. Germaine followed him
regretfully.

As she was unable to take her dog Dick--a horrid mongrel, half-poodle
and half-spaniel--Dundas gravely consented to look after him. He
loved dogs with a sentimental warmth which he denied to men. Their
ideas interested him, their philosophy was the same as his, and he
used to talk to them for hours at a time like a nurse to her
children.

The general and Colonel Parker were not a bit astonished when he
introduced Dick into the mess. They had found fault with him for
falling in love, but they approved of his adopting a dog.

Dick, an Abbeville guttersnipe, was therefore admitted to the
refinements of the general's table. He remained, however, a rough son
of the people, and barked when Private Brommit appeared with the
meat.

"Behave yourself, sir," Dundas said to him, genuinely shocked,
"behave yourself. A well-brought-up dog never, never does that. A
good dog never barks indoors, never, never, never."

Germaine's pet was offended and disappeared for three days. The
orderlies reported he had been seen in the country in doubtful
company. At last he returned, cheerful and unkempt, with one ear torn
and one eye bleeding, and asked to be let in by barking merrily.

"You're a very naughty dog, sir," said Dundas as he nursed him
adroitly, "a very, very bad little dog indeed."

Whereupon he turned towards the general.

"I'm very much afraid, sir," he said, "that this fellow Dick is not
quite a gentleman."

"He's a French dog," replied General Bramble with sorrowful
forbearance.



CHAPTER VIII

A GREAT CHEF

  "Le roi ordonnait le matin petit souper ou très petit souper;
   mais ce dernier était abondant et de trois services sans le
   fruit."--Saint-Simon.


In the month of February 1918, Aurelle was ordered by the French
mission at British G.H.Q. to report at the _sous-préfecture_ at
Abbeville and to hold himself for one day at the disposal of M.
Lucas, who would call for him in due course.

Aurelle waited for some time for M. Lucas, who eventually appeared
escorted by an English chauffeur. He was a rather stout, clean-shaven
little man, and wore a well-made blue suit and a yachting cap. With
his hands in his pockets, his curt speech and the authority of his
demeanour, he looked every inch a man accustomed to command.

"You are the interpreter from G.H.Q.?" he asked. "Have you a written
order?"

Aurelle was obliged to admit he had only received an order by
telephone.

"I can't understand it!" said M. Lucas. "The most necessary
precautions are neglected. Have you at least been told who I am? No?
Well, listen to me, my friend, and kindly hold your tongue for a
minute."

He went and shut the door of the _sous-préfet's_ office, and came
back to the interpreter. "I am----" he began.

He looked nervously about him, closed a window, and whispered very
softly, "I am His Majesty the King of England's chef."

"Chef?" Aurelle repeated, not grasping his meaning.

"His Majesty the King of England's chef," the great man deigned to
repeat, smiling kindly at the astonishment the young man showed at
this revelation.

"You must know, my friend, that to-morrow the President of the
Republic is to be His Majesty's guest in this town. The activity of
the German airmen obliges us to keep the programme secret till the
last moment. However, I have been sent out in advance with Sir
Charles to inspect the British Officers' Club, where the lunch is to
take place. You are to accompany me there."

So they set off for the former Château de Vauclère, now transformed
by British genius for comfort into an officers' club, Aurelle
escorting the royal cook and the equerry, who was an old English
gentleman with a pink face, white whiskers and grey spats. Above
their heads circled the squadron of aeroplanes which had been ordered
to protect the favoured city.

During the drive, M. Lucas condescended to say a few words of
explanation.

"Our lunch is to be quite informal; the menu very simple--ever since
the beginning of the war His Majesty has expressed a wish to be
rationed like his people--river trout, _tournedos aux pommes,_ some
fruit, and cider to drink."

"But, Monsieur Lucas," interrupted Sir Charles timidly, "you know Her
Majesty prefers to drink milk."

"The Queen will drink cider like every one else," replied the chef
curtly.

Sir Charles was charmed with the paved courtyard of the château, the
brick and stone façade with its carved escutcheons, the simple
curves of the dining-room panelling, and the picture over the door,
which he attributed, not without reason, to Nattier.

"It's very, very small," murmured M. Lucas pensively. "However, as
it's war-time----"

Then he inquired about the kitchen. It was a vast and well-lighted
place; the red and white tiles on the polished floor shone brightly
in the sunshine; magnificent but useless copper saucepans hung upon
the walls.

In front of the oven a cook in a white cap was at work with a few
assistants. Surprised by the noise, he turned round, and, suddenly
recognizing the man in the blue suit, went as white as his cap, and
dropped the pan he was holding in his hand.

"You?" he exclaimed.

"Yes, my friend," replied the august visitor quite simply. "What a
surprise to find you here! What a pleasure also," he added kindly.
"Ah, now I feel relieved! An alfresco meal, a strange kitchen like
this, made me very anxious, I must confess. But with such a
lieutenant as you, my dear friend, the battle is already half won."

"Yes," he continued, turning towards Aurelle, who was gazing with
emotion upon the encounter and thinking of Napoleon entrusting his
cavalry to Ney on the eve of Waterloo, "it is a curious coincidence
to find Jean Paillard here. At the age of fifteen we made our
_début_ together under the great Escoffier. When I was appointed
chef to the Ritz, Paillard took charge of the Carlton; when I took
Westminster, he accepted Norfolk."

Having thus unconsciously delivered himself of this romantic
couplet--which goes to prove once again that poetry is the ancient
and natural expression of all true feeling--M. Lucas paused for a
moment, and, lowering his gaze, added in an infinitely expressive
undertone:

"And here I am now with the King. What about you?"

"I?" replied the other with a touch of shame. "It's only two months
since I was released; till then I was in the trenches."

"What!" exclaimed M. Lucas, scandalized. "In the trenches? A chef
like you!"

"Yes," answered Jean Paillard with dignity. "I was cook at G.H.Q."

With a shrug of resignation the two artists deplored the waste of
talent for which armed democracies are responsible; and M. Lucas
began in resolute tones to announce his plan of campaign. He had the
curt precision which all great captains possess.

"Since the war broke out, His Majesty has expressed a wish to be
rationed like his people. Therefore the menu is to be very simple:
_truite à la Bellevue, tournedos aux pommes_, some fruit.--Of course
there will have to be an entrée and some dessert for the Staff. The
drink will be cider."

"May I remind you, Monsieur Lucas," Sir Charles put in anxiously,
"that Her Majesty prefers to drink milk?"

"I have already told you," said the chef, annoyed, "that the Queen
will drink cider like everybody else.... Nevertheless, Paillard, you
will kindly show me the contents of your cellar; there will, of
course, have to be wine for the Staff. The _tournedos_, I need hardly
say, are to be grilled over a charcoal fire, and larded, of course.
As to salad--seasoning, tomatoes and walnuts----"

As he gave his orders, he illustrated their execution with gestures
of the utmost solemnity, and his hands moved busily amongst imaginary
saucepans.

"The menu is short," he said, "but it must be perfect. The great cook
is better recognized by the perfection of a piece of beef--or let me
say rather by the seasoning of a salad--than by the richness of his
sweets. One of the finest successes in my career--the one I enjoy
recalling above all others--is that of having initiated the English
aristocracy into the mysteries of Camembert. The choice of fruit--now
I come to think of it, Paillard, have you any peaches?"

"I should think we had!" said the latter, breaking open the lid of a
crate which revealed a number of delicately shaded ripe peaches
glowing in their beds of straw and cotton-wool.

The chef took one and stroked it gently.

"Paillard, Paillard," he said sadly, "do you call _these_ peaches? I
can see you have been a soldier, poor fellow. Never mind, I can send
the car to Montreuil."

He remained a few minutes longer in meditation; then, satisfied at
last, he decided to leave the château. In the street, he took
Aurelle's arm very kindly.

"My friend," he said, "I think that will do, thank you. And if you
ever have the opportunity of seeing Their Majesties, don't let it
slip by. In France, you have very wrong ideas, I assure you; since
the Revolution, you have a prejudice against Royal Families. It is
childish; you can take my word for it. I have been living with this
one for more than five years, and I assure you they are quite
respectable people."



CHAPTER IX

PRÉLUDE À LA SOIRÉE D'UN GÉNÉRAL

  "... of cabbages and kings."--Lewis Carroll.


A blue forage-cap appeared under the flap of the camouflaged tent.

"Messiou," cried the general, "we were beginning to despair of ever
seeing you again."

"Yo-ho! Hello--o!" shouted the Infant Dundas. "I _am_ glad! Come and
have some lunch, old man."

Aurelle, happy to find his friends again, fell to heartily on the
mutton, boiled potatoes and mint sauce. When they reached the cheese,
General Bramble questioned him about his journey.

"Well, Messiou, what about your leave? What is Paris looking like
nowadays, and why did your mother the French Mission tell us she was
keeping you two days at Abbeville?"

Aurelle told then the story of M. Lucas and of the King's visit.

"What's that, Messiou?" said General Bramble. "You've seen our King?
Does he look well?"

"Very well indeed, sir."

"Good old George!" muttered the general tenderly. "Yes, he looked
quite well when he came here. Tell us that story of the cook over
again, Messiou; it's a jolly good story."

Aurelle complied, and when he had done, he bent over towards Colonel
Parker and asked him why the general spoke of the King like an
affectionate nurse.

"The King," said the colonel, "is much more to us than you might
imagine. To the general, who is an Etonian, he is a kind of
neighbour. To Dundas, he's the colonel of his regiment. To the padre,
he's the head of the Church. To an old Tory like me, he's the living
embodiment of England's traditions and prejudices, and the pledge of
her loyalty to them in the future. As for the paternal tone, that's
because for half a century the King was a Queen. Loyalism became an
attitude of protective chivalry; nothing could have consolidated the
dynasty more firmly. Royalty is beloved not only by the aristocracy
but by all classes. It's a great asset to a people without
imagination like ours to be able to see in one man the embodiment of
the nation."

"Messiou," interposed the general, "didn't they give you an M.V.O.
for your services?"

"What is that, sir--a new ribbon?"

"My God!" exclaimed Dundas, much scandalized. "You've never heard of
the Victorian Order?"

"When King Edward played bridge," said the general, "and his partner
left it to him at the right moment, the King used to declare with
great satisfaction, 'No trumps, and you're an M.V.O.!'"

"The idea that a word from the sovereign's lips or the contact of his
person is sufficient to cure his subjects, is a very ancient and
beautiful one," said the colonel. "Before he started distributing
ribbons, the King used to cure scrofula. That excellent custom,
however, came to an end with William of Orange, who used to say to
the patient while he was operating, 'God give you better health and
more sense!'"

"The King's taboo has also disappeared," said the doctor.

"I can assure you," said Aurelle, "that his taboo is still effective.
On the platform before he arrived there were three A.P.M.'s bustling
about and chasing away the few spectators. As the train came into
the station one of them ran up to me and said, 'Are you the
interpreter on duty? Well, there's a seedy-looking chap over
there, who seems up to no good. Go and tell him from me that if he
doesn't clear out immediately I'll have him arrested.' I did so.
'Arrest me!' said the man. 'Why, I'm the special _commissaire de
police_ entrusted with the King's safety.'"

  *  *  *  *  *

"Well, Messiou," inquired the general, "have you brought me back any
new records from Paris for my gramophone?"

Aurelle unstrapped his kit and proceeded, not without some anxiety,
to unpack "Le Prélude à l'Après-midi d'un Faune."

"I don't know whether you'll like it, sir; it's modern French music."

"I'm sure it's very fine, Messiou," said the general confidently. And
in the interest of international courtesy he immediately assumed
the beatific expression he usually kept for Caruso.

After the first few notes, an air of bewilderment appeared upon his
kindly face. He looked at Aurelle, whom he was surprised to find
quite unmoved; at Colonel Parker, who was hard at work; at the
doctor, who was inclining his head and listening devoutly; and,
resigning himself to his fate, he waited for the end of the
acidulated and discordant noises.

"Well, Messiou," he said when it was over, "it's very nice of you not
to have forgotten us--but----"

"Yes," put in Colonel Parker, looking up, "but I'm damned if it's
music!"

"What?" shouted the doctor, scandalized. "A masterpiece like that?
Not music?"

"Come, come," said the general soothingly, "maybe it wasn't written
for the gramophone. But, doctor, I should like you to explain."

"Have you seen the Russian Ballet, sir? The faun, lying on a rock, is
watching for the nymphs and playing in a monotonous key on his flute.
At last they appear, half dressed; he pursues them, but they fly
away, and one of them drops a sash, which is all he gets."

"This is very interesting," said the general, much excited. "Wind up
the gramophone, Messiou, and give us the disc over again; I want to
see the half-dressed nymphs. Make a sign to me at the right moment."

Once again the instrument filled the rustic dug-out with the wistful
grace of the Prelude. Aurelle murmured in a low voice:

  "Ce nymphes, je les veux perpétuer, si clair
  Leur incarnat léger qu'il voltige dans l'air
  Assoupi de sommeils touffus...."

"Bravo, Messiou!" said the general, when the last notes rang out. "I
like it better already than I did the first time. I'm sure I'll get
used to it in the end."

"I shan't," said Colonel Parker. "I shall always prefer 'God Save the
King.'"

"Yes," replied the doctor; "but your children will hum 'Pelléas,'
and your grandchildren will say, 'Do you know that old tune that used
to be the rage in grandfather's time?' What you never can get used
to, colonel, is finding yourself in the presence of a somewhat more
complex work of art than the childish productions to which you are
accustomed. Nature is not simple; she takes the theme of a fox-trot
and makes a funeral march out of it; and it is just these
incongruities that are the essence of all poetry. I appeal to you for
an opinion, Aurelle, as a citizen of the country which has produced
Debussy and Mallarmé."

"Have you ever heard the excellent saying of Renoir, the old French
painter: 'Don't ask _me_,' he said, 'whether painting ought to be
subjective or objective; I confess I don't care a rap.'"

"Ah, Messiou," sighed the general, "the confounded fellow was quite
right too!"



CHAPTER X

PRIVATE BROMMIT'S CONVERSION

  "Paris vaut bien une messe."--Henri IV.


Aurelle was wakened every morning by Colonel Parker's orderly, a
tough, thick-set, astute old soldier, who expounded the unwritten
laws of the army for the benefit of the young Frenchman as he
dexterously folded his clothes.

"You know, sir," he said, "'as 'ow the British Tommy 'as to go to
church in peace-time every blessed Sunday. When the time for p'rade
comes along, the orficer on dooty gives the order to fall in
accordin' to religions, an' the Church of England men, an' the
Presbyterians an' the Cath'lics is marched up to their services,
rifles an' all.

"The orficer takes charge of one of the detachments, an' in the
others the senior N.C.O. for each religion marches at the head.
Wotever dodge you try on, there's no gettin' out of it.

"When once you've gone an' accepted the King's shillin', it stands to
reason you've got to put up with lots o' things, but Church P'rade's
_the_ very limit. Don't you take me for a 'eathen, sir; I'm much more
of a believer than 'eaps of others. I don't mind singin' 'ymns, an'
when the preacher can talk a bit, I don't objeck to sermons. But what
used to get on my nerves was the cleanin' up Sunday mornin's. You've
only seen us in khaki; you don't know our peace-time church togs.
Some blasted togs they were too, an' no mistake--all glitterin' with
blinkin' red an' gold, an' covered with white beltin'. An' the
inspection before you start wasn't no joke, I can tell you. Many's
the weeks' pay I've 'ad stopped, all on account of Sunday mornin's.
I'm a pretty good soldier on active service, sir--why, you seen me at
Loos, didn't you?--but what I can't stick is all them barricks an'
fatigues an' cleanin' ups.

"F'r a long time I used to say to myself, 'Brommit, my boy, you're a
blasted idiot--I can understand a young rookie with only two or three
years' service not managin' to get out of Church P'rade, but a
soldier of fifteen years' standin' ought to know the tricks of the
trade by this time. If _you_ can't manage to stop quietly in bed on
Sunday mornin's, you ain't worth yer service stripes,' I says.

"But the more I thought about it the more 'opeless it seemed. Our
colonel was old W. J. Reid--Slippery Bill we used to call 'im, 'cos
'e was as slippery as a soapy plank! 'E _was_ an old monkey-face,
an' no mistake.

"One day I was called up to the orderly-room to sign somethin' or
other, an' I sees a poster on the wall: 'Classification according to
religions'--neat little chart it was: 'Church of England, so
many--Presbyterians, so many--Catholics, so many.' You bet I didn't
pay much attention to the numbers. Wot caught my eye was a column
sayin', 'Wesleyans, None.' An' all of a sudden I saw my game.

"'Wesleyans, None.' So there wasn't even a bloomin' Wesleyan N.C.O.
to take what Wesleyans there might be to chapel! Probably there
wasn't even one bloomin' Wesleyan minister in the little Irish town
where we was billeted. I saw myself at last stayin' in bed every
blessed Sunday mornin'. At the very worst, if that there little
religion 'ad a chapel, I'd be sent there on my own, and a detachment
of one can always be trusted to find its way about. Wesleyan--that
was the winner.

"Still, I 'ad one anxiety to 'old me back: I didn't for the life of
me know what that there fancy religion might be. I'm not exackly a
pious bloke, but I'm a good Christian, an' I didn't want to make a
damned idiot o' myself. Besides, it would probably be a serious
matter, I thought, to change your religion in the army. P'r'aps I'd
'ave to see old Bill 'imself about it, an' Bill wasn't exactly one of
them fellers you can take in with some 'arf-baked tale.

"It was no good trying to get to know anythink in barricks. I'd only
'ave attracted notice at an awkward moment. But I knew a girl in the
town as knew people 'oo knowed, so I asked 'er to make inquiries.

"She gave me an A1 character. An' blowed if I 'adn't been an' found
quite a decent religion; it suited me down to the ground. O' course
you know 'oo Wesley was, sir? 'E was a feller as thought that bishops
an' chaplains in 'is time didn't act accordin' to Scripture. 'E
preached the return to poverty an' 'umbleness an' love of one's
neighbour. You bet the Church of England couldn't swallow that! On
the 'ole it was an 'onest kind of religion, an' a decent chap like me
might very well 'ave gone in for it without its appearin' too out o'
the way.

"Well, when I'd got myself well primed up about old Wesley, I felt as
'ow a little interview with Bill wasn't such a terrible thing after
all. So I goes to see the sergeant-major, and tells 'im I wants to
speak to the colonel.

"'Wot about?' 'e asks.

"'Strickly privit,' I says.

"'E'd 'ave liked to 'ave got my story out o' me then an' there, 'e
would, but I knew my only chance was to take Bill off 'is guard, so
I kep' the secret of my plan of attack.

"'Well, Brommit,' says the old man quite pleasant like, 'have you got
any complaint to make?'

"'No complaints, sir,' says I; 'everything's O.K. But I've asked
leave to speak to you, 'cos I wanted to tell you, sir, as 'ow I
intend to change my religion.'

"I saw I'd got old Bill set for once, an' no mistake.

"'Change your religion?' 'e says. 'Stuff and nonsense! Have you ever
heard of such a thing, sergeant-major? What's your religion at
present?'

"'Church of England, sir; but I wish to be put down in future as
Wesleyan.'

"'Well, I'm----! Who on earth put that notion into your head, my man?
Has the padre offended you, or what?'

"'Oh no, sir, not at all; on the contrary, Mr. Morrison's always
been very kind to me. No, it ain't that at all, sir; but I don't
believe in the Church of England no more, that's all.'

"'You don't believe any more...? What don't you believe? What do
_you_ know about beliefs and dogmas?'

"'Why, sir, lots o' things,' I says. 'F'r instance, there's the
bishops; I don't 'old with their way of livin', sir.'

"'By Jove, sergeant-major, do you hear this damned idiot? He doesn't
hold with the bishops' way of living! May I ask, Brommit, where you
have had occasion to observe the ways of bishops?'

"'Well, sir, Wesley was a splendid fellow ...' An' off I starts to
spit out everythink my girl 'ad managed to get 'old of, without
lettin' 'im put in a word. You bet 'e'd 'ad enough of it after five
minutes. 'E'd 'ave liked to shut me up, but 'e couldn't do that
without grantin' me wot I was askin' for. There was no flies on
_my_ conversion, I can tell you; I 'ad real live scruples; I'd
been thinkin' too much. You can't punish a chap becos 'e thinks
too much.

"The old man knew 'is job as well as I knew mine. 'E saw at once 'e
only 'ad one thing to do.

"'All right,' 'e said. 'After all, it's your own affair, my man.
Sergeant-major, put him down as a Wesleyan. Brommit, you will come
back to my room on Friday evening, and meanwhile I will arrange
matters with the Wesleyan minister so that you can attend the
services. You know where he lives, of course?'

"'No, sir, I don't know 'im.'

"'That's rather strange. Well, never mind, I'll find him. Come back
on Friday, Brommit.'

"Slippery old Bill! 'E knew a thing or two, 'e did! Next Friday
evenin', when I went up to 'im, 'e says:

"'Ah! I've settled everything,' says 'e. 'I've seen the Wesleyan
minister, the Rev. Mr. Short. A charming man, Mr. Short. It's settled
with him that you're to go to chapel on Sunday mornings at nine and
on Sunday evenings at six. Yes, there are two services; Wesleyans are
very strict. Of course if by any chance you miss a service, Mr. Short
is sure to let me know, and I would take the necessary steps. But
there's no need to think of that, is there? A man who takes the
trouble to change his religion at the age of thirty is hardly likely
to miss a service. So that's all right, Brommit.'

"Oh, damn cute 'e was, was Slippery Bill! Next Sunday off I goes to
the Reverend Short's chapel. Tall, lean chap 'e was, with a real
wicked face. 'E gave us an awful sermon all about 'ow we were to
reform our lives, an' about all the things we was to renounce in this
world, an' about the 'orrible fire as was awaitin' us in the next if
we didn't follow 'is advice. After the service Mr. Short comes up to
me an' asks me to stay on after the others. Blowed if 'e didn't keep
me till twelve o'clock jawin' me about the dooties my noo faith
brought me an' about wot I read an' 'oo I talked to. By the time I
got away from 'im I was 'arf stunned; an' I 'ad to go again in the
evenin'!

"Every blinkin' Sunday the same thing 'appened. I used to spend the
'ole week swearin' and sendin' Short an' Wesley to the 'ottest place
in the world. Once I tried on not goin' to chapel; but the miserable
old 'ound split on me to the colonel, an' I 'ad a week's pay stopped.
Then that there blessed Congregation invented Friday evenin'
lectures; and the converted soldier, sent by kind permission of the
colonel, was the finest ornament they 'ad.

"Well, wot put an end to my patience was a month later, when Short
'ad the cheek to jaw me personally about the girl I was walkin' out
with. I went clean mad then, an' was ready for anythink, even for
'avin' it out again with Bill, rather than put up with that maniac's
talk.

"'Please, sir,' I tells the colonel, 'I'm sorry to trouble you again
with my religion, but this 'ere Wesleyanism don't satisfy me at all.
It ain't a bit wot I'd 'oped for.'

"I expected to get jolly well strafed, but I didn't. Bill just looked
at me with a smile.

"'That's all right, Brommit,' 'e said; 'the Government pays me for
looking after the moral health of my men. And may I inquire what
religion is at present enjoying the favour of your approval?'

"'Well, sir, I don't see none at all. I've made myself a sort o'
religion o' my own--if you'll allow it, of course.'

"'I? Why, it's none of _my_ business, Brommit. On the contrary, I
admire the vitality of your mind. You've evidently got beliefs of
your own; that's a very good sign indeed. It's just that they will
not admit the obligation of going to a place of public worship on a
Sunday, that's all. I presume I am taking you correctly?'

"'Yes, sir, quite correctly.'

"'What an admirable coincidence, Brommit! For a long time I've been
looking for somebody to scrub the stairs thoroughly on Sundays, while
the men are at church. Sergeant-major, put Brommit down as an
Agnostic--on permanent fatigue for scrubbing the stairs on Sunday
mornings.'"



CHAPTER XI

JUSTICE


The D.M.S. had sent round a note to all A.D.M.S.'s reminding them
that all officers and men were to be inoculated against typhoid
fever. So the A.D.M.S. of the Scottish Division ordered the different
units to send in a nominal roll of all those who had not been
inoculated. Most of the negligent confessed their sin; many of them
were believers, and those who were not, respected the customs of
their times and piously submitted to the ceremony.

Only the 113th Battery, R.F.A., sent in the following roll:

  |     Names.       |    Condition.        |  Reason given for   |
  |                  |                      |     exemption.      |
  |                  |                      |                     |
  | Capt. Cockell    |                      |  Do not believe in  |
  | Lieut. Little    |  Not yet inoculated. |    the efficacy of  |
  | Lieut. M'Cracken |  Refuse inoculation. |    the operation.   |
  |                  |                      |                     |

The A.D.M.S. in high dudgeon complained to the Staff and requested
the temporal powers to deliver the heretics over to the lancet. The
temporal powers, while paying due reverence to medical infallibility,
requested the A.D.M.S. to attempt a conversion.

The 113th Battery was famous for its courage and its daring deeds.
Dr. O'Grady was entrusted with the mission of visiting Captain
Cockell and bringing that erring soul back to the fold.

The gunners gave the doctor a warm welcome. Their dug-out was
comfortable, their arm-chairs, made by the men out of the branches of
fir-trees, were luxuriously low and deep. O'Grady dropped into one,
and looked about him anxiously.

"It is a remarkable fact," he said, "that thirst and hunger should
make themselves felt by sensations in the mouth and stomach only,
and not in the rest of the body. At this very moment, when all my
organs are quite dry for lack of decent whisky, I am only warned
by the mucous membrane in my mouth----"

"Orderly! The whisky! Quick!" shouted Captain Cockell.

Whereupon the doctor, his mind set at rest, was able to explain the
object of his mission.

"Doctor," answered Captain Cockell, "there is nothing I would not do
for you. But I consider anti-typhoid inoculation, next to poison-gas,
to be the most dangerous practice in this war."

The doctor, who was a skilful reader of character, saw at once that
only liberal doctrines would help him to success.

"Oh," he exclaimed genially, "you needn't think I share the usual
medical superstitions. But I do believe that inoculation has
practically done away with deaths caused by typhoid. Statistics
show----"

"Doctor, you know as well as I do that statistics may be made to say
anything one likes. There are fewer cases of typhoid in this war than
in former wars simply because the general sanitary conditions are
much better. Besides, when a fellow who has been inoculated is silly
enough to be ill--and that _has_ been known to occur--you simply say,
'It isn't typhoid--it's para-typhoid.'"

"Which is perfectly true," said the doctor; "the pseudo-bacillus----"

"Oh, that stunt about the pseudo-bacillus! Next time you're wounded,
doctor, I'll say it was by a pseudo-shell!"

"Very well, very well," said the doctor, somewhat nettled. "I'll just
wait till next time you're ill. Then we'll see whether you despise
doctors or not."

"That's a poor argument, doctor, very poor indeed. I'm quite ready to
acknowledge that a sick man is in need of moral support and requires
the illusion of a remedy, just like a woman in love. Therefore
doctors are necessary, just like thought-readers. I simply submit it
should be recognized that both professions are of a similar order."

The energetic Cockell had inspired his two young lieutenants with
respectful admiration. They remained as firm as he in their refusal;
and after an excellent lunch Dr. O'Grady returned to H.Q. and
informed his chief of the cynicism of the 113th Battery and the
obstinacy of the heretical sect in those parts.

The A.D.M.S. sent the names of the three officers up to H.Q., and
demanded the general's authority to put a stop to this scandal; and
Colonel Parker promised to let the Corps know of the matter.

  *  *  *  *  *

Some time before this, the French Government had placed at
the disposal of the British authorities a certain number of
"Legion of Honour" decorations--to wit, two Grand Officer's
badges, twelve Commander's cravats, twenty-four Officer's
rosettes, and a considerable number of Knight's crosses.

The two Governments were in the habit of exchanging armfuls of
ribbons at regular intervals in this way, and the apportioning of
these trifles created a useful occupation for the numerous members of
all staffs and their still more numerous clerks.

The distribution was performed according to wisely appointed rules.
Of each batch of decorations G.H.Q. took one half for its own
members, and passed on the other half to the Army Staffs. The Army
Staffs kept half of what they received, and passed on the remainder
to the Corps Staffs. The same method was applied right down to the
Battalion Staffs, and it will readily be observed (with the help of
an elementary arithmetical calculation) that the likelihood of the
men in the line ever receiving a foreign decoration was practically
nonexistent.

The Scottish Division received as its share on this occasion three
crosses. Colonel Parker and the other demi-gods of the divisional
Olympus being already provided for, these were allotted to
dignitaries of minor importance. It was decided that one should be
given to Dr. O'Grady, who had done great service to the French
population (he had assisted a Belgian refugee in childbirth and she
had survived his ministrations). The second was marked down for the
D.A.D.O.S., and the third for the A.D.V.S., a genial fellow
who was very popular in the mess.

The names of the three lucky men were handed by a Staff officer to an
intelligent clerk with orders to draw up immediately a set of nominal
rolls for the Corps.

Unfortunately the clerk happened to be the very same man to whom
Colonel Parker had given the list of the three heretics of the 113th
Battery the day before. But who can blame him for having confused two
groups of three names? And who can blame the officer on duty for
having signed two nominal rolls without reading them?

A month later, the Division was surprised to hear that Captain
Cockell and Lieutenants Little and M'Cracken had been made Knights of
the Legion of Honour. As they really deserved it, the choice caused
considerable astonishment and general rejoicing; and the three
warriors, happy to see three decorations reach them intact after
having passed through so many covetous hands, were loud in praise of
their superior officers' discrimination.



CHAPTER XII

VARIATIONS

  "I have no illusions left but the Archbishop of
   Canterbury."--Sydney Smith.


"When I was attached to a field ambulance," said the doctor, "we had
three padres with us in the mess."

"That was rather a large order," said the Rev. Mr. Jeffries.

"It _was_ a large order," agreed the doctor, "but one of them anyway
was quite harmless. The R.C. padre spoke very little, ate an
enormous amount, and listened with infinite contempt to the
discussions of his colleagues.

"I don't want to hurt your feelings, padre, but Catholicism is _the_
only religion. A faith is only justified if it carries conviction.
What's the use of a creed or a dogma which is as transient as a
philosophy? Being condemned by my profession to study beings whose
moral balance is unstable, I am in a position to assert that the
Roman Church has a complete understanding of human nature. As a
psychologist and a doctor, I admire the uncompromising attitude of
the Councils. So much weakness and stupidity requires the firm
support of an authority without the slightest tolerance. The curative
value of a doctrine lies not in its logical truth, but in its
permanency."

"It is quite true," said Colonel Parker, "that nothing short of the
rigid dictates of Catholicism could have prevented the Irish from
going completely mad. But don't judge every one from your own case,
O'Grady; the Saxons possess a solid, Protestant intelligence."

"Well," the doctor continued, "our other two padres spent their
evenings trying to swallow each other up. One of them was Church of
England and the other Presbyterian; and they employed the most modern
commercial methods in their competition. Church of England found an
old gipsy cart which he set up at Dickebusch and from which he sold
chocolate to the Jocks; whereupon Church of Scotland installed a
telescope at Kruystraete to show them the stars. If the one formed a
cigar-trust, the other made a corner in cigarettes. If one of them
introduced a magic lantern, the other chartered a cinema. But the
permanent threat to the peace of the mess was undoubtedly the Baptist
question.

"As we had no Baptist padre, the unfortunate soldiers of that
persuasion (of whom there were seven in the Division) could attend no
service. The astonishing thing was that they never seemed to realize
the extent of their misfortune.

"On one point at any rate our two padres agreed: men could not be
left, in the dangerous zone in which we were then living, without the
consolations of religion. But both Church of England and Church of
Scotland each claimed the right to annex this tiny neutral
congregation.

"'Excuse me,' said Church of Scotland; 'the Baptist, it is true, only
performs the immersion ceremony when the adult's faith is confirmed,
but on all other points he resembles the Presbyterian. His Church is
a democratic one and is opposed to episcopacy, like ours.'

"'Pardon me,' said Church of England; 'the Baptist, in demanding a
return to the primitive form of the Sacrament, proves himself to be
the most conservative of all British Christians. Now every
one--including yourself--admits that the Church of England is the
most conservative of all the Reformed Churches. Besides----'

"For hours at a time they used to go on like this, and the futile
discussion became even more annoying as I got to know the different
arguments as well as either of them.

"One day I was sent up to the ambulance's advance post at Maple
Copse--you know, that little wood in front of Ypres."

"Unhealthy spot that," said the general.

"So unhealthy, sir, that while I was there a whizz-bang hit my
dug-out and blew my sergeant into small pieces, which remained
hanging on the branches of the trees. It was a pity, for he was the
best forward in the brigade football team. I put all I could find of
him into a cloth, announced the burial for the next day, and then, as
it was my turn to be relieved, I went back to the ambulance
headquarters.

"My return was distinctly lively. On leaving the splendid trench
which is called Zillebeke Road, I was silly enough to cross the
exposed ground near the railway embankment. A machine gun thought it
rather amusing to have a pot at me from Hill 60----"

"All right, doctor," said General Bramble, "spare us the details."

"Well, just as I left Ypres, I came across a Ford car which took me
back to camp. In the mess I found Church of England and Church of
Scotland arguing away as usual, while Roman Church was reading his
breviary in a corner.

"'Satan, whence comest thou?' one of them asked me.

"'Well, gentlemen,' I replied, 'you ought to be glad to see me,
because I really am back from hell this time.'

"And I told them my adventures, putting in a lot of local colour
about cannonades, explosions, whistling bullets and hailstorm
barrages, in a style worthy of our best war correspondents."

"You old humbug!" grunted the colonel.

"'By the way,' I concluded, 'I've got a job for one of you!
Freshwater, my sergeant, has been blown to bits, and what I could
collect of him is to be buried to-morrow morning. I'll give you the
route--Messines gate, Zillebeke----'

"I saw the two padres' faces fall swiftly.

"'What religion?' they both asked simultaneously.

"'Baptist,' I replied carelessly. 'Have a cigarette, padre?'

"The two enemies gazed attentively at the ceiling; Roman Church kept
his nose in his breviary and his ears well pricked up.

"'Well,' said Church of England at length, 'I wouldn't mind going up
to Zillebeke. I've been in worse places to bury a man of my own
Church. But for a Baptist it strikes me, O'Grady----'

"'Excuse me,' interrupted Church of Scotland. 'Baptism is the most
conservative form of British Christianity, and the Anglican Church
itself boasts----'

"'I dare say, I dare say,' said the other, 'but is not the Baptist
Church a democratic one, like the Presbyterian?'

"They might have gone on in this strain till the poor beggar was in
his grave, had not Roman Church suddenly interrupted in a mild voice,
without taking his nose out of his little book:

"'I'll go, if you like.'

"Hatred of Popery is the beginning of union, and they both went up
the line together."



CHAPTER XIII

THE CURE

  "Le _Schein_ et le _Wesen_ sont, pour l'esprit allemand, une seule
   et même chose."--Jacques Rivière.


"The only decent whisky," said the doctor, "is Irish whisky."
Whereupon he helped himself to a generous allowance of Scotch
whisky, and as they had just been talking about Ludendorff's coming
offensive, he began to discourse upon the Germans.

"One of the most astounding things about German psychology," he said,
"is their passion for suggesting the appearance of results which they
know they are powerless to attain. A German general who is not in a
position to undertake a real offensive deludes himself into believing
that he will strike terror into his opponent by describing an absurd
and appalling attack in his reports; and a Solingen cutler, if he
cannot manufacture really sharp blades at the required price, will
endeavour to invoke a sort of metaphysical blade which can give its
owner the illusion of a useful instrument.

"When once this trait of the national character is properly
understood, all the German shoddy which is so much talked about seems
no longer the swindling practice of dishonest tradesmen, but is
simply the material expression of their ingrained Kantianism, and
their congenital inability to distinguish Appearance from Reality.

"At the sanatorium at Wiesdorf, where I was working when the war
broke out, this method was practised with quite unusual rigour.

"Doctor Professor Baron von Göteburg was a second-rate scientist,
and he knew it. He had made a lifelong study of the expression,
clothes and manners which would most successfully impress his clients
with the idea that he was the great physician he knew he could never
be.

"After innumerable careful experiments, which do him the greatest
credit, he had decided on a pointed beard, a military expression, a
frock coat and a baron's title.

"Everything in his admirable establishment bore the impress of the
kind of scientific precision which is the most striking hall-mark of
ignorance. The Wiesdorf sanatorium extracted from the human carcase
the maximum amount of formulæ, scientific jargon and professional
fees which it could possibly yield. The patients felt themselves
surrounded by a pleasant and luxurious apparatus of diagnoses,
figures and diagrams.

"Each patient had a suite of rooms furnished, in spite of a rather
obvious Munich atmosphere, with a sense of real comfort and order.
Each floor was under the supervision of a doctor, a lean, athletic
Swedish _masseur_ and a qualified nurse in a white apron. The nurses
were nearly all daughters of the nobility, whose happiness had been
sacrificed to the extravagance of their brothers, who were generally
captains in the Guards. The one attached to the floor I was in charge
of was a French Alsatian with an innocent, obstinate face, whom the
Germans called 'Schwester Therese,' and who asked me to call her
'Soeur Thérèse.'

"The place was only opened in the spring of 1914, and from the very
first season its success had testified to the excellence of the
system. Photographs were published in all the fashionable papers, and
wealthy clients rushed in with alarming and automatic rapidity.

"On my floor I had an old American, one James P. Griffith, an English
lady, the Duchess of Broadfield, and a Russian, Princess Uriassof.
None of these three patients displayed symptoms of any illness
whatsoever; they just complained of depression--nothing could amuse
them--and of an appetite which no dish could tempt. When the American
arrived, I considered it my duty to inform the professor of the
excellent health in which I found him.

"'O'Grady,' he said, staring hard at me with his brilliant,
commanding eyes, 'kindly give yourself less trouble. Your patient is
suffering from congestion of the purse, and I think we shall be able
to give him some relief.'

"The Duchess of Broadfield longed to put on flesh, and wept all day
long. 'Madam,' Sister Therese said to her, 'if you want to get
stouter, you ought to try and enjoy yourself.' That caused a nice
scene! I was obliged to explain to the nurse that the Duchess was on
no account to be spoken to before eleven in the morning, and that it
was improper to address her without calling her 'Your Grace!'

"As to Princess Uriassof, she had been preceded by a courier, who had
burst into indignant exclamations at the sight of the Munich
furniture and had demanded genuine antiques. The professor smiled,
and summoned a furniture dealer and his cashier. Followed the
princess with twenty-three boxes and six servants. She was enormously
stout, cried the whole day long, and yearned to reduce her figure.

"When the lift that was to take her down to the bathroom was not in
front of her door at the very second when she left her room, she used
to stamp her foot in anger, pull her maid's hair and shout:

"'What? _I_ have to wait; _I_, Princess Uriassof?'

"That was the kind of patient we had. Only once there came to my
floor a young fellow from the Argentine who really had something
wrong with his liver. I said to him, 'You are not well; you would do
better to go and see a doctor.'

"Towards the 24th of July the newspapers seemed to cause the noble
clients of Wiesdorf sanatorium considerable anxiety. The note to
Servia, the letters they received from their homes, the clatter of
arms which was beginning to be heard throughout Europe, all began to
point to a vague danger which could not, of course, affect their
sacred persons, but might possibly hinder them from peacefully
cultivating the sufferings which were so dear to them.

"The Duchess of Broadfield telegraphed to her nephew at the Foreign
Office and got no answer. Princess Uriassof began to hold mysterious
confabulations with her courier.

"The German doctors soon restored every one's confidence; '_Unser
Friedens-Kaiser_ ... our peace-loving Emperor ... he is cruising on
his yacht ... he has not the slightest thought of war.'

"The barometers of refreshment vendors are always at 'set-fair,' and
Professor von Göteburg temporized with such authority and diplomacy
that he managed to keep his international _clientèle_ for another
six days.

"However, the peace-loving Emperor returned only to send threatening
telegrams, and on the 27th the danger became evident even to our
guests' bird-like intellects.

"Princess Uriassof announced her departure, and sent her courier to
the bank to cash an enormous cheque. He came back with the message
that the bank no longer cashed foreign cheques; whereupon he
disappeared, and was never heard of again. The Princess was beside
herself with rage, and cried that she would have him knouted. She
summoned her German valet, but he was busy buckling on his
_Feldwebel_ uniform. She ordered her French chauffeur to be ready to
start instantly; I went down to the garage with the message myself so
as to get away from her, and discovered that the fellow was a
reservist from Saint-Mihiel, and had left with Her Highness' car to
join his regiment.

"That morning for the first time, the Duchess and the Princess
condescended to notice the presence of James P. He had a magnificent
100 H.P. American car, and represented their only hope of getting
across the frontier. But James P. had no more petrol, and the Germans
refused to supply him with any, because his car had already been
earmarked for General von Schmack's Staff.

"The same evening these first three victims of the war sat and
childishly discussed the situation in an untidy room on a bed which
nobody came to make. Their telegrams were no longer forwarded, their
money was worthless, and the German servants in the sanatorium
treated them more as prisoners than as patients. It seemed as though
their fortune and their greatness had suddenly abandoned them at the
first breath of war, like a slender veil torn by the wind from a
woman's shoulders.

"James P. went to interview Dr. von Göteburg, who answered him with
ironical politeness, and depicted the pitiable plight of a Germany
surrounded and attacked by a world of enemies. If, however, they were
willing to leave him the princess's pearl necklace as security, he
would consent to lend them the few marks they needed to cross the
frontier.

"Towards midnight I entered the room where this Twilight of the Gods
was drawing to an end, and saw an astounding spectacle. The Duchess
of Broadfield and Princess Uriassof were attempting to pack their own
trunks. Their lack of experience was only too conspicuous. In every
corner there lay hats which had been crushed by their clumsy
attempts; the badly folded dresses swelled awkwardly and refused with
disgraceful obstinacy to allow the Princess to lock her trunks.
Vanquished at last by the stress of events against which she was
contending for the first time in her life, she sat down on a
portmanteau and burst into tears. The Duchess, who came of a less
fatalistic race, was still struggling, aided by James P., with two
rebellious valises.

"I went and called Sister Therese, and with her made ready for their
departure. Hoping that England would declare war, I informed the
professor of my intention to accompany my patients.

"The little Alsatian girl went and asked the German servants to
carry the luggage to the station for the last civilian train, which
was to leave at six in the morning.

"I don't mind carrying anything for you, _Schwester_," said the hall
porter, "but I won't do a thing for those dogs of Russians and
English."

"The Sister came back and said timidly, 'If the doctor and Your Grace
don't mind helping me, we might perhaps take at least some of these
things together.'

"So Wiesdorf station beheld the extraordinary sight of the Duchess
pulling an enormous portmanteau and perspiring freely, and behind her
Princess Uriassof, James P., and myself, each pushing a wheelbarrow.
The station was already thronged with soldiers in _Feldgrau_. We were
ravenously hungry. I asked the young Alsatian girl to accompany me to
the refreshment-room, and she was able, thanks to her nurse's
bonnet, to obtain two pieces of extremely dry bread from the military
canteen.

"I found my patients ensconced in a fourth-class carriage. Their eyes
were shut, they were leaning against the duty wooden back of the
seat, and on their faces was a smile of indescribable bliss.

"The Princess greedily seized the piece of bread I handed her, took
an enormous bite out of it, and said to the Duchess:

"'What nice bread!'

"'What nice seats!' replied Her Grace, leaning voluptuously against
the hard, greasy boards."



CHAPTER XIV

THE BEGINNING OF THE END

  "All the way talking of Russia, which, he says, is a
   sad place."--Pepys (Sept. 16th, 1664).


For three days our soldiers had been advancing over the devastated
plain of the Somme. The crests of the innumerable shell-holes gave
the country the appearance of a sort of frozen angry sea. The
victors were advancing light-heartedly, as though preceded by
invisible drums.

It was just at the time when the German army was swaying and
tottering like a spent boxer awaiting the inevitable knock-out.

The Division had suffered heavily. All along the roads they had seen
for the second time the sinister spectacle of villagers in flight
and furniture-laden carts drawn by bowed women.

General Bramble had looked at the map with painful astonishment. He
had been ordered to resist at all costs along the trenches on the
green line; but when he reached the green line he had found no
trenches; the Chinamen who were to dig them were still at sea
somewhere near Suez.

Then, in a corner of a ruined village, they had come across a green
felt hat and a fearsome moustache, which turned out reassuringly to
belong to a rocking, tottering old man; and the Tommies--who are a
primitive and adventurous race--were glad of the protection of this
wild old totem of the Frankish tribe.

Then came motor-lorries to take the whole Division to the North,
and through all the bustle and disorder they were conscious of
a giant hand trying with prudent and skilful movements to
rebuild the line.

"What can a general do?" the doctor had asked. "This war is too vast
to be affected by human volition. Victory will come through tiny,
decisive forces that have been at work since the beginning of the
world. Tolstoy's Kutusoff used to go to sleep in Council--yet he beat
Napoleon."

"However vast the scale of circumstance may be," said the colonel, "a
man can change everything. A child cannot push a railway engine; yet
he can start it if he opens the right throttle. A man has only to
apply his will at the right place, and he will be master of the
world. Your determinism is nothing more than a paradox. You build a
cage round yourself and then are astonished you are a prisoner."

They were going forward rapidly. Aurelle, mounted on his old white
Arab, trotted between the doctor and Colonel Parker.

"Don't hold your horse in so tightly, Messiou; give him the rein."

"But the road's full of holes, sir."

"My dear chap, when a man is on a horse, the horse is always the more
intelligent of the pair."

He slackened his mare's rein to pass by a huge shell-hole, and began
to talk of the peace that was at hand.

"The most difficult thing of all," he said, "will be to preserve in
our victory the virtues that won it for us. Germany and Russia will
do their best to corrupt us. A dishonoured nation always tries to
bury its shame under the ruins of the victor's civilization. It's the
device of Samson; it's as old as history itself. Rome, surrounded by
vanquished and humbled nations, witnessed the lightning speed of
Judaic preaching, which was so much like the Bolshevism of our day.
The Russian ghettos of our capitals had their counterpart then in
the Syrian dens that swarmed in the large ports; that is where the
apostles of mystical communism preached most successfully. And
Juvenal and Tacitus, who were gentlemen, had good reason to detest
those anarchists, who condemned Roman civilization with the fanatical
fury of a Trotsky."

"Yes," said the doctor, "the danger of these prolonged wars is that
they end by making the most unusual habits generally acceptable. They
require courage; and courage is a dangerous virtue, the mother of
revolutions. And it is not easy to accustom a nation of warriors to
render due obedience once more to second-rate politicians and
profiteers. The oligarchy of _parvenus_ which arose after the Punic
wars could not be respected as the Roman senate had been. They
possessed neither its hardihood nor its heroic parsimony. Bent only
on beautiful slaves, perfumes and luxuries, they sacrificed their
nascent influence to their passion for pleasure. They did not last
long."

"It is quite certain," the colonel continued, "that in order to
survive, an aristocracy must be hard upon itself. Moral discipline is
indispensable to any class that wants to govern. If the industrial
middle class is to take our place, it will have to be austere and
hard. What sealed once and for all the doom of the Roman Senators was
the decadent Greek culture of their sons. Those young noblemen
affected an elegant dilettantism and toyed pleasantly with cultured
demagogy. Cæsar in his youth, Aurelle, was rather like one of your
comfortable cultured French middle-class Socialists. His lifelong
dream was to lead a moderate reform party, but he was embittered by
the attacks of the Roman patricians. He is a type against whom our
Public Schools protect us pretty well. We also have our decadent
young lords, but the contempt of their own generation keeps them from
doing much harm."

He stopped in order to salute a magpie--for he was very
superstitious--pointed with his cane to a tank that lay buried on its
back in the sand like a defeated tortoise, and went on:

"Do you think you will have a revolution in France after the war? If
you do, I shall be very much surprised. Up till now the remembrance
of 1793 has kept us looking with apprehension towards France as the
danger-spot of Europe. To-day we realize our mistake.

"1793 made your country more conservative than any other, by giving
your peasants the possession of the soil. It will probably be seen
some years hence that the Russian Revolution has also had the same
effect. The revolution will end when the Red armies return to Moscow
and some unemployed Bonapartsky has the Soviets dispersed by his
grenadiers. Then the _moujiks_ who have acquired the national
property will form the first layer of a respectable liberal bourgeois
republic."

"Unless," said Aurelle, "Bonapartsky, having tasted the sweets of
victory, sets out to conquer Europe with the help of his trusty
grenadiers. Between the Terror and 'the respectable republic' there
were twenty years of war, sir."

"The most terrible of all revolutions," began the doctor, "will be
the English one. In France the intellectual is popular; the tribune
of the people is a bearded professor with the kindest of hearts. In
England the people's commissary will be a hard, clean-shaven, silent,
cruel man."

"That may be," said the colonel; "but he will find more silent and
still harder men up against him. If you think we are going to lie
down and submit like the fatalist nobles of Petrograd, you are
mistaken."

"You, sir? And why the devil should _you_ defend business men and
profiteers whom you are never tired of sending to perdition?"

"I shall not be defending profiteers, but a form of society which I
hold to be necessary. The institutions which our ancestors have
adopted after six thousand years' experience are worth ten times more
than the systems of foolish and boastful hotheads. I stand always for
what is."

With a sweeping gesture the doctor pointed to the twisted, rusty
wire, the shattered walls, the mangled trees and the dense harvest of
wooden crosses that rose from the barren soil.

"Allow me," he said, "to express the heartfelt admiration I feel
for this venerable civilization of yours, and let me contemplate the
fruits of these wise institutions which six thousand years have
consecrated for you. Six thousand years of war, six thousand years of
murder, six thousand years of misery, six thousand years of
prostitution; one half of mankind busy asphyxiating the other half;
famine in Europe, slavery in Asia, women sold in the streets of Paris
or London like matches or boot-laces--there is the glorious
achievement of our ancestors. It is well worth dying to defend, I
must confess!"

"Yes, doctor," replied Aurelle; "but there are two sides to the
question: six thousand years of reform, six thousand years of revolt,
six thousand years of science, six thousand years of philosophy----"

"Now don't you run away with the idea that I'm a revolutionary. As
far as I am concerned, the movements of men interest me no more than
those of the spiders or the dogs I am so fond of observing. I know
that all the speeches in the world will not prevent men from being
jealous monkeys always greedy for food, females and bright stones. It
is true that they know how to deck out their desires with a somewhat
brilliant and delusive ideology, but it is easy for an expert to
recognize the instinct beneath the thought. Every doctrine is an
autobiography. Every philosophy demands a diagnosis. Tell me the
state of your digestion, and I shall tell you the state of your
mind."

"Oh, doctor, if that is so, life is not worth living."

"That, my boy, depends entirely upon the liver, as they say."

Young Dundas, who had just reined up level with them, interposed:

"My God, my God," he said, "how you chaps do love talking! Why, I
once had a discussion myself at Oxford with one of those johnnies in
a bowler hat and ready-made tie who go round and make speeches in
public squares on Saturday afternoons. I had stopped to listen to him
on my way back from a bathe. He was cursing the aristocracy, the
universities, and the world in general. Well, after about five
minutes' talking, I went right up to him and said, 'Off with your
coat, my friend; let's go into the matter thoroughly.'"

"And did you convince him, Dundas?"

"It wasn't very difficult, Messiou, because, honestly, I could use
my left better than he could."



CHAPTER XV

DANSE MACABRE

  "Magical dancing still goes on in Europe to-day."--Sir James Fraser.


"Doctor," said General Bramble, "this morning I received from London
two new fox-trots for my gramophone."

Ever since the Armistice sent the Scottish Division into rest on the
Norman coast, the Infant Dundas had been running a course of
dancing-lessons at the mess, which were patronized by the most
distinguished "red-hats."

Aurelle emerged from behind an unfolded copy of the _Times_.

"Things look very rotten," he said. "The Germans are taking heart
again; you are demobbing; the Americans are sailing away; and soon
only we and the Italians will be left alone to face the European
chaos----"

"Aurelle," said Colonel Parker, "take off your coat and come and
learn the one-step--that'll be a jolly sight better than sitting
moping there all the evening."

"You know I don't dance, sir."

"You're very silly," said Parker. "A man who doesn't dance is an
enemy of mankind. The dancer, like the bridge-player, cannot exist
without a partner, so he can't help being sociable. But you--why, a
book is all the company you want. You're a bad citizen."

The doctor emptied his glass of brandy at one gulp, removed his coat,
and joined the colonel in his attack upon the young Frenchman.

"A distinguished Irish naturalist, Mr. James Stephens," he said, "has
noticed that love of dancing varies according to innocence of
heart. Thus children, lambs and dogs like dancing. Policemen, lawyers
and fish dance very little because they are hard-hearted. Worms and
Members of Parliament, who, besides their remarkable all-round
culture, have many points in common, dance but rarely owing to the
thickness of the atmosphere in which they live. Frogs and high hills,
if we are to believe the Bible----"

"Doctor," interrupted the general, "I put you in charge of the
gramophone; top speed, please."

The orderlies pushed the table into a corner, and the aide-de-camp,
holding his general in a close embrace, piloted him respectfully but
rhythmically round the room.

"One, two ... one, two. It's a simple walk, sir, but a sort of glide.
Your feet mustn't leave the ground."

"Why not?" asked the general.

"It's the rule. Now twinkle."

"Twinkle? What's that?" asked the general.

"It's a sort of hesitation, sir; you put out your left foot, then you
bring it sharply back against the right, and start again with the
right foot. Left, back again, and quickly right. Splendid, sir."

The general, who was a man of precision, asked how many steps he was
to count before twinkling again. The rosy-cheeked one explained that
it didn't matter, you could change steps whenever you liked.

"But look here," said General Bramble, "how is my partner to know
when I'm going to twinkle?"

"Oh," said the aide-de-camp, "you must hold her near enough for her
to feel the slightest movement of your body."

"Humph!" grunted the general. And after a moment's thought he added,
"Couldn't you get up some mixed dances here?"

From the depths of the arm-chair came Aurelle's joyful approval.

"I've never been able to make out," he said, "what pleasure you men
can find in dancing together. Dancing is a sentimental pantomime, a
kind of language of the body which allows it to express an
understanding which the soul dare not confess. What was dancing for
primitive man? Nothing but a barbaric form of love."

"What a really French idea!" exclaimed Colonel Parker. "I should say
rather that love is a barbaric form of dancing. Love is animal;
dancing is human. It's more than an art; it's a sport."

"Quite right," said Aurelle. "Since the British nation deems worthy
of the name of sport any exercise which is at once useless, tiring
and dangerous, I am quite ready to admit that dancing answers this
definition in every way. Nevertheless, among savages----"

"Aurelle, my boy, don't talk to me about savages!" said Parker.
"You've never been out of your beloved Europe. Now I have lived among
the natives of Australia and Malay; and their dances were not
sentimental pantomimes, as you call them, at all, but warlike
exercises for their young soldiers, that took the place of our
Swedish drill and bayonet practice. Besides, it is not so very long
since these close embraces were adopted in our own countries. Your
minuets and pavanes were respecters of persons, and the ancients, who
liked looking at dancing girls, never stooped to twirling them
round."

"That's quite easy to understand," put in the doctor. "What did they
want with dancing? The directness of their customs made such
artificial devices for personal contact quite unnecessary. It's only
our Victorian austerity which makes these rhythmical embraces so
attractive. Puritan America loves to waggle her hips, and----"

"Doctor," said the general, "turn the record over, will you, and put
on speed eighty; it's a jazz."

"What's worrying me," began Aurelle, who had returned once more to
his paper, "is that our oracles are taking the theory of nationality
so seriously. A nation is a living organism, but a nationality is
nothing. Take the Jugo-Slavs, for instance----"

At that moment the doctor produced such an ear-splitting racket from
the gramophone that the interpreter let his _Times_ fall to the
ground.

"By Jove!" he exclaimed; "have you broken it, doctor?"

"Broken it?" repeated the doctor in mild surprise.

"You don't mean to tell me that all that noise of broken crockery and
foghorns was deliberately put together by a human brain?"

"You know nothing about it," said the doctor. "This negro music is
excellent stuff. Negroes are much finer artists than we are; they
alone can still feel the holy delirium which ranked the first singers
among the gods...."

His voice was drowned by the sinister racket of the jazz, which made
a noise like a barrage of 4.2 howitzers in a thunderstorm.

"Jazz!" shouted the general to his aide-de-camp, bostoning
majestically the while. "Jazz--Dundas, what _is_ jazz?"

"Anything you like, sir," replied the rosy-cheeked one. "You've just
got to follow the music."

"Humph!" said the general, much astonished.

"Doctor," said Aurelle gravely, "we may now be witnessing the last
days of a civilization which with all its faults was not without a
certain grace. Don't you think that under the circumstances there
might be something better for us to do than tango awkwardly to this
ear-splitting din?"

"My dear boy," said the doctor, "what would you do if some one stuck
a pin into your leg? Well, war and peace have driven more than one
spike into the hide of humanity; and of course she howls and dances
with the pain. It's just a natural reflex action. Why, they had a
fox-trot epidemic just like this after the Black Death in the
fourteenth century; only then they called it St. Vitus's dance."



CHAPTER XVI

THE GLORY OF THE GARDEN

 "But the Glory of the Garden
  Lies in more than meets the eye."
              R. Kipling.


A farewell dinner was being given to Aurelle by the officers of
the Scottish Division, with whom he had spent four years of danger
and hardship.

Before they sat down, they made him drink a cocktail and a glass of
sherry, and then an Italian vermouth tuned up with a drop of gin.
Their eager affection, and this curiously un-British mixing of
drinks, made him feel that on this last evening he was no longer a
member of the mess, but its guest.

"I hope," said Colonel Parker, "that you will be a credit to the
education we have given you, and that you will at last manage to
empty your bottle of champagne without assistance."

"I'll try," said Aurelle, "but the war has ended too soon, and I've
still a lot to learn."

"That's a fact," grumbled the colonel. "This damned peace has come at
a most unfortunate moment. Everything was just beginning to get into
shape. I had just bought a cinema for the men; our gunners were
working better every day; there was a chance of my becoming a
general, and Dundas was teaching me jazz. And then the politicians
poke their noses in and go and make peace, and Clemenceau demobs
Aurelle! Life's just one damned thing after another!"

"_Wee, Messiou_," sighed General Bramble, "it's a pity to see you
leaving us. Can't you stay another week?"

"I'm sorry, sir, but I'm to be demobbed with the third batch, and
I've got my warrant in my pocket. I'm to report to-morrow at
Montreuil-sur-Mer; from there I shall be sent to Arras, and then
dispatched to Versailles, after which, if I survive the journey, I
shall be at liberty to return to Paris. I should be delighted to stay
a few days, but I suppose I must obey the pompous military maxim and
'share the fortunes of my comrades.'"

"Why," said Colonel Parker, "are people so idiotic as to discharge
soldiers whose return is dreaded by civilians and whose presence is
necessary to the comfort of the Staff? We English adopted a much more
intelligent plan for _our_ demobilization. The men were to be
classified according to their professions, and were only to be
released when workmen of their occupation were required in England.
In this way we were to avoid unemployment trouble. All the details
were most clearly explained in a bulky volume; it was really an
excellent plan. Well, when it came to be actually worked, everything
went as badly as could be. Every one complained; there were small
riots which were dramatized in the newspapers; and after some weeks'
trial we returned to your system of classes, Aurelle, which makes for
equality and is idiotic."

"It was easy to foresee," said the doctor, "that any regulation which
neglected human nature was bound to fail. Man, that absurd and
passionate animal, cannot thrive under an intelligent system. To be
acceptable to the majority a law must be unjust. The French
demobilization system is inane, and that is why it is so good."

"Doctor," said the general, "I cannot allow you to say that the
French method is inane; this is the last evening Messiou is spending
with us, and I will not have him annoyed."

"It doesn't matter a bit," said Aurelle; "neither of them knows what
he's talking about. It is quite true that things are going rather
better in France than elsewhere, in spite of absurd decrees and
orders. But that's not because our laws are unjust; it's because no
one takes them seriously. In England your weakness is that if you are
ordered to demobilize men by classes, you'll do it. We _say_ we're
doing it, but by means of all sorts of reprieves, small
irregularities and reasonable injustices, we manage _not_ to do it.
Some barbarous bureaucrat has decreed that the interpreter Aurelle
should, in order to be demobilized, accomplish the circuit
Montreuil-Arras-Versailles in a cattle-truck. It is futile and
vexatious; but do you suppose I shall do it? Never in your life!
Tomorrow morning I shall calmly proceed to Paris by the express. I
shall exhibit a paper covered with seals to a scribe at the G.M.P.,
who will utter a few lamentations as a matter of form, and demobilize
me with much grumbling. With us the great principle of public justice
is that no one is supposed to respect the laws; this is what has
enabled us to beat Germany."

"Humph!" muttered the general, much taken aback.

"Doctor," said Colonel Parker, "help Messiou Aurelle to some
champagne; his mind is far too clear."

Corks began to pop with the rapidity of machine guns. Colonel Parker
began a speech about the charming, kind and affectionate disposition
of the women of Burma; the doctor preferred Japanese women for
technical reasons.

"French women are also very beautiful," said General Bramble
politely; for he could not forget this was Aurelle's farewell dinner.

When the orderlies had brought the port, he struck the table twice
sharply with the handle of his knife, and said, with a pleasant
mixture of solemnity and geniality:

"Now, gentlemen, as our friend is leaving us after having so
excellently represented his country amongst us for the last four
years, I propose that we drink his health with musical honours."

All the officers stood up, glass in hand. Aurelle was about to follow
their example, when Colonel Parker crushed him with a whispered,
"_Assee, Messiou, poor l'amoor de Dee-er!_" And the Staff of the
Scottish Division proceeded to sing with the utmost solemnity,
keeping their eyes fixed upon the young Frenchman:

  "For he's a jolly good fellow,
  And so say all of us...."

Aurelle was deeply moved as he gazed at the friendly faces round him,
and reflected sadly that he was about to leave for ever the little
world in which he had been so happy. General Bramble was standing
gravely at attention, and singing as solemnly as if he were in his
pew in church:

  "For he's a jolly good fellow,
  And so say all of us...."

Then came much cheering, glasses were drained at a gulp, and young,
rosy-cheeked Dundas shouted, "Speech, Messiou, speech!"

"Come, Aurelle," said Colonel Parker, "don't you believe you're going
to get out of it as easily as all that! You must get on your hind
legs, my boy, and do your bit."

  *  *  *  *  *

"Ah, Messiou," said the general when the ceremony was over and the
brandy had followed the port, "I hope our two nations will remain
friends after this war."

"How could it possibly be otherwise, sir? We cannot forget----"

"The duration of our friendship," Colonel Parker put in, "depends
neither on you, Aurelle, nor on us. The Englishman as an individual
is sentimental and loyal, but he can only afford the luxury of these
noble sentiments because the British nation is imbued with a holy
selfishness. Albion is not perfidious, in spite of what your
countrymen used to say; but she cannot tolerate the existence of a
dominant power on the Continent. We love you dearly and sincerely,
but if you were to discover another Napoleon...."

"Humph!" grunted the general, greatly shocked. "Have some more
brandy, Messiou?"

"Everything will be all right," said the doctor cynically. "Your
cotton goods will always cost more than ours, and that is the surest
guarantee of friendship."

"Why should they cost more?" carelessly asked Aurelle, in whose brain
the brandy was beginning to produce a pleasant misty feeling.

"My boy," said the doctor, "your Napoleon, of whom Parker is so
afraid, said we were a nation of shopkeepers. We accept the
compliment, and our only regret is that we are unable to return it.
You have three national failings which will always prevent you from
being dangerous commercial competitors: you are economical, you are
simple and you are hard-working. That is what makes you a great
military people; the French soldiers got accustomed to the hardship
of trench life far more readily than ours. But in peace-time your
very virtues betray you. In that famous woollen stocking of yours you
hoard not only your francs but your initiative; and your upper
classes, being content with bathrooms which our farmers would
disdain, feel no call to go out and cultivate Indo-China. We never
invest a penny; so our children have no alternative but to go out
Empire-building. We must have comfort, which compels us to be
audacious; and we are extremely lazy, which makes us ingenious."

At this point General Bramble began to emit the series of grunting
noises which invariably preceded his favourite anecdotes.

"It is quite true," he said proudly, "that we are lazy. One day, just
after we had made an advance near Cambrai, and the position was still
uncertain, I sent out an aviator to fly over a little wood and report
whether the troops that occupied it were French, British or German. I
watched him executing my order, and when he came back he told me the
troops were British. 'Are you quite certain?' I asked, 'you didn't go
very low.' 'It was not necessary, sir. I knew if those men had been
busy digging trenches, I should have been uncertain whether they
were French or German; but as they were sitting on the grass, I'm
sure they are British.'"

It was ten o'clock. The aide-de-camp poured out a whisky and soda for
his general. A silence ensued, and in the kitchen close by the
orderlies were heard singing the old war ditties, from "Tipperary" to
"The Yanks are coming," as was their nightly custom. They made a fine
bass chorus, in which the officers joined unconsciously.

The singing excited Dundas, who began to yell "view-halloos" and
smack a whip he took down from the wall. The doctor found a Swiss
cowbell on the mantelpiece and rang it wildly. Colonel Parker took up
the tongs and began rapping out a furious fox-trot on the
mantelshelf, which the general accompanied from his armchair with a
beatific whistle.

Of the end of the evening Aurelle had but a blurred remembrance.
Towards one o'clock in the morning he found himself squatting on the
floor drinking stout beside a little major, who was explaining to him
that he had never met more respectable women than at Port Said.

Meanwhile Dundas started to chant a ditty about the virtues of one
notorious Molly O'Morgan; Colonel Parker repeated several times,
"Aurelle, my boy, don't forget that if Englishmen can afford to make
fools of themselves, it is only because England is such a devilishly
serious nation;" and Dr. O'Grady, who was getting to the sentimental
stage, sang many songs of his native land in a voice that was full of
tears.



CHAPTER XVII

LETTER FROM COLONEL PARKER TO AURELLE

  "Tout homme de courage est homme de parole."--Corneille


  Stapleton Hall, Stapleton, Kent.
  _April --, 1920._

My Dear Aurelle,--Much water has passed beneath the bridges since
your last letter. For one thing, I have become a farmer. When I left
my staff job I thought of rejoining my old regiment; but it wasn't
easy, as the battalion is crammed full of former generals who are
only subalterns.

They are treating the army very unfairly here. Our damned Parliament
refuses to vote it any money; very little is required of it, it's
true--it has merely to maintain order in Ireland and to guard the
Rhine, Mesopotamia, India, Egypt, Turkey, Palestine, Silesia, the
Caucasus and a few other countries the names of which I can't
remember! All I can say is, God help England!

We farmers also can do with His help. April is the month for sowing,
and fine weather is necessary. As far as I am concerned, I had a
hundred acres of potatoes to sow, and I had made detailed
preparations for my spring offensive. But, as always happens when the
poor British start attacking, rain began falling in bucketfuls the
very first day of operations. The advance had to be stopped after a
few acres, and public opinion is really much exercised about the
matter.

Now I want to answer your letter. You say, "Some of you in England
seem astonished that we refuse to trust the Germans. We are accused
of a lack of generosity. What a splendid piece of unconscious
humour! I'd like to see you in our shoes--suppose there were no sea
between those chaps and yourselves!"

My dear Aurelle, I have often asked you not to confuse the English
people with their cursed Puritans. There have always been in this
country a large number of men who have done their best to destroy the
strength and reputation of our Empire. Up to the time of good Queen
Bess, these scoundrels were kept in their place, and I often regret I
was not born in those times. Since then the Puritan element has on
every occasion displayed its narrow-mindedness and its hatred of
patriotism and of everything beautiful and joyous. The Puritans
prefer their opinions to their country, which is an abominable
heresy. They brought the civil wars upon us at the time of the
Stuarts; they helped the rebels during the American War of
Independence and the French during their Revolution. They were
pro-Boers in the South African War, conscientious objectors in this
one, and now they are supporting the republican murderers in Ireland,
trying to undermine the British workman's faith in his King and
county cricket, and doing their best to encourage the Germans by
creating difficulties between France and ourselves.

But you must not forget that the magnificent indifference and
ignorance of our race makes these pedants quite harmless.

You ask me what the average British citizen thinks about it all.
Well, I'm going to tell you.

What interests the average British citizen beyond everything is the
match between England and Scotland, which is to be played next
Saturday at Twickenham, the Grand National, which is to be run next
week at Liverpool, and Mrs. Bamberger's divorce, which fills the
newspapers just now.

What does the British citizen think? Well, he went to the war without
knowing what it was all about, and he has come back from it without
having gathered any further information. As a matter of fact, he is
beginning to wonder who won it. You say it was Foch, and we are quite
ready to believe you; still, it seems to us that our army had a
little to do with it. The Italians say _they_ struck the decisive
blow; so do the Serbians and the Portuguese, of course. The Americans
go about wearing little badges in their buttonholes which proclaim,
"_We_ did it." Ludendorff claims that the German army won the war.
I am beginning to ask myself whether _I_ was not the victor. As a
matter of fact, I'm inclined to think it was you. You kept the Infant
Dundas quiet; if you hadn't repressed him, he would have kept
General Bramble from working; the general would have been nervous
at the time of the attack in April '18, and all would have been lost.

As to international politics I have very little to tell you. I am
observing the bucolic mind, and am noticing with some anxiety that
the brain of the countryman is very much like the turnip he grows
with such perseverance. I am hoping I shall not also develop any
vegetable characteristics.

You ask whether we are forgetting France. I don't think we are. Do
you know that we were ready to remit your war debts if America had
agreed? Not so bad for a nation of shopkeepers, is it? We don't brag
about our devotion, but we will be with you if anything goes wrong. I
trust you know us well enough to be quite assured of that.

I am very busy this morning with my favourite sow, who has just
borne a litter of twelve. She immediately squashed one of them; King
Solomon was not such a clever judge as he looked, after all. Au
revoir.



CHAPTER XVIII

GENERAL BRAMBLE'S RETURN

  "The English have a mild aspect and a ringing, cheerful
   voice."--Emerson.


"By Jove," said the Infant Dundas, "this Paris of yours _is_ a jolly
town."

Beltara the painter had invited Aurelle to spend an evening in his
studio to meet General Bramble, who was passing through Paris on his
way to Constantinople, accompanied by Dundas and Dr. O'Grady.

The general was sitting on a divan piled high with many-coloured
cushions, and gazing with emotion upon the sketch of a nude figure.
The Greek heads, Etruscan warriors and Egyptian scribes about him
had the rare and spiritual beauty of mutilated things. Aurelle gazed
at his old chief as he sat motionless among the statues, and
consecrated the brief moment of silence to the memory of his virtues.

"A fine woman," exclaimed the general, "a very fine woman indeed!
What a pity I can't show you a few Soudan negresses, Beltara!"

Beltara interrupted him to introduce one of his friends, Lieutenant
Vincent, a gunner with a frank, open face. The general, fixing his
clear gaze on Aurelle, tried to speak of France and England.

"I'm glad, Messiou, that we've come to an understanding at last. I'm
not very well up in all this business, but I can't stand all these
bickering politicians."

Aurelle was suddenly conscious of the general's real sincerity and
anxiety about the future. Lieutenant Vincent came up to them. He
had the rather wild, attractive grace of the present-day youth. As he
sat listening to General Bramble's words about English friendship,
his lips parted as though he was burning to break in.

"Will you allow me, sir," he suddenly interrupted, "to tell you how
we look at it. Frankly speaking, you English were marvellous during
the war, but since the Armistice you have been on the wrong tack
entirely. You are on the wrong tack because you don't know the
Germans. Now I've just come back from Germany, and it is absolutely
clear that as soon as those fellows have enough to eat they'll fall
on us again. _You_ want to get their forgiveness for your victory.
But why should they accept their defeat? Would you accept it in their
place?"

"The sense of shame after victory," said the doctor gently, "is a
sentiment quite natural to barbarous peoples. After employing the
utmost cruelty during the fight, they come and implore their
slaughtered enemies' pardon. 'Don't bear us a grudge for having cut
off your heads,' they say; 'if we had been less lucky you would have
cut off ours.' The English always go in for this kind of posthumous
politeness. They call it behaving like sportsmen. It's really a
survival of the 'enemy's taboo.'"

"It would be quite all right," put in Lieutenant Vincent
breathlessly, "if you waited to appease the shades of your enemies
till you were quite certain they were really dead. But the Germans
are very much alive. Please understand, sir, that I'm speaking
absolutely without hate. What I mean is that we must destroy
Carthage--that is German military power--so completely that the very
idea of revenge will appear absurd to any German with an ounce of
common sense. As long as there exists at any time the barest chance
of an enterprise, they will attempt it. I don't blame them in the
least for it; in fact I admire them for not despairing of their
country; but our duty--and yours too--is to make such an enterprise
impossible."

"Yes," said the general in rather feeble French; "but you can't hit a
man when he's down, can you?"

"It's not a question of being down, sir. Do you know that the three
big gunpowder factories in Germany pay a dividend of fifteen per
cent.? Do you know that Krupp is building a factory in Finland in
order to escape our supervision? Do you realize that in ten years, if
we don't keep an eye on their chemical factories, the Germans will be
able to wage a frightful war against us, and use methods of which we
haven't the slightest inkling? Now why should we run this risk when
we are clearly in a position to take all precautions for some years
to come? Carthage _must_ be destroyed, sir. Why, just look at
Silesia...."

"Every one's talking about Silesia," said the Infant Dundas. "What
_is_ it, really?"

Vincent, waving his arms despairingly, went to the piano and played a
long, sad phrase of Borodin, the one which is sung by the recumbent
woman just before Prince Igor's dances. Before Aurelle's eyes floated
Northern landscapes, muddy fields and bleeding faces, mingling with
the women's bare shoulders and the silk embroideries in the studio.
He was suddenly seized by a healthy emotion, like a breath of fresh
air, which made him want to ride across the wide world beside General
Bramble.

"Doctor, can't we remain 'musketeers'?" he said.

"Can't be done," said the doctor sarcastically, "till this damned
peace ends."

"You hateful person!" said Beltara. "Will you have a whisky and
soda?"

"What!" exclaimed the general joyfully, "you've got whisky in the
house, here, in France?"

"It is pleasant to notice," said the doctor, "that the war has been
of some use after all. Your whisky, Beltara, quite reassures me about
the League of Nations. As the Entente is necessary to the safety of
our two countries, the responsibility of preserving good relations
ought to be given to doctors and psychologists. Such experts would
make it their business to cultivate those sentiments which tend to
unite two countries into one. They would remind people, by means of
noise and military ceremonies, of the great things they had achieved
together. England would be represented at these functions, as she is
in the minds of most Frenchmen, by Scotchmen and Australians.
Bagpipes, kilts, bugles and tam-o'-shanters are far better
diplomatists than ambassadors are. Pageants, dances, a few
sentimental anecdotes, exchanges of song, common sports, common
drinks--these are the essence of a good international policy. The
Church, which is always so wise and so human, attaches as much
importance to works as to faith. The outward signs of friendship are
much more important than friendship itself, because they are
sufficient to support it."

"Beltara," said the general, "will you ask your friend to play the
'Destiny Waltz' for Messiou?"

Once more the familiar strains rang out, and brought to mind the
years of stress and happy comradeship.

"Aurelle, do you remember Marguerite at Amiens--oh, and those two
little singers at Poperinghe whom I used to call Vaseline and
Glycerine? They sang English songs without understanding a word, with
the funniest accent in the world."

"And the Outersteene innkeeper's pretty daughters, Aurelle? Did you
ever see them again?"

"Goodness knows where they've got to, sir; Outersteene isn't rebuilt
yet."

"You never got to Salonica, did you? We had Mirka there; a fine pair
of legs she had too!"

Meanwhile the Infant Dundas had discovered that Lieutenant Vincent
played tennis, and had struck up a firm friendship. Taking hold of a
palette, he began to explain a few strokes. "Look here, old man, if
you cut your service towards the right, your ball will spin from
right to left, won't it?"

Vincent, who had been somewhat reserved at first, was melting, like
so many others, before the youthful charm of the Happy Nation.

Soon echoes of the hunt were heard in the studio, and Aurelle
received full upon his person an orange that spun from right to left.

General Bramble took out his watch and reminded Aurelle he was taking
the Orient Express. Beltara escorted him to the door, and Aurelle,
Vincent and the Infant followed behind.

"I like the Vincent boy," said the general to his host. "He's a
splendid fellow, really splendid! When he came in, I thought he was
English."

Aurelle wished them a pleasant journey.

"Well, good-bye, Dundas. It was nice seeing you again. I suppose
you're jolly glad you're going to Constantinople? I rather envy you."

"Yes," said the Infant, "I'm quite bucked about it, because the
general who was there before us is leaving us a house that's got up
in absolutely British style; there's a bathroom and a tennis-court.
So I'll be able to go on practising my overhead service. Splendid,
isn't it?"

They exchanged greetings and good wishes. The stars were shining in a
moonless sky. On the pavement in the avenue they heard the
aide-de-camp changing his step to fit his general's. The door closed
upon them.

In the gallery, in front of the green bronze warriors with their
large, staring eyes, the three Frenchmen looked at one another, and
the corners of their mouths twitched with the same friendly smile.



Transcriber's Notes

Minor typographical errors in the original have been silently
corrected. Page numbers have been removed from the table of contents
and page boundaries have been recorded in comments in the html
markup.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "General Bramble" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home