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Title: A Maid and a Million Men - the candid confessions of Leona Canwick, censored - indiscreetly by James G. Dunton
Author: Dunton, James G
Language: English
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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.

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                        A Maid and a Million Men

                    The Candid Confessions of Leona
                   Canwick + Censored Indiscreetly by

                            JAMES G. DUNTON

                            GROSSET & DUNLAP
                         Publishers    New York

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                        A MAID AND A MILLION MEN

                          COPYRIGHT, 1928, BY
                    J. H. SEARS & CO., INCORPORATED

                    Second Printing, November, 1928
                    Third Printing, December, 1928
                    Fourth Printing, February, 1929
                    Fifth Printing, June, 1929
                    Sixth Printing, September, 1929

                        United States of America

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                   To

                       THE BULL OF THE BOULEVARDS

                                Because

              “There weren’t enough medals to go ’round!”

------------------------------------------------------------------------


                                CONTENTS

                    1 THE MAIDEN’S PRAYER
                    2 CORRESPONDENCE FROM HEAVEN
                    3 APPLE-SAUCE FOR THE GANDER
                    4 A MASK OF KHAKI
                    5 A MAIDEN SLEEPS WITH AN ARMY
                    6 A JOY HOLE
                    7 A DOG’S LIFE
                    8 NO PLACE FOR A LADY
                    9 A LOUSY LADY
                   10 THE BATTLE OF LE CHIEN ROUGE
                   11 FAIR ENOUGH IN LOVE AND WAR
                   12 MADEMOISELLE FROM GAY PAREE
                   13 BELOW THE BELT
                   14 IT TAKES A WOMAN TO CATCH A WOMAN
                   15 THE TWAIN MEET
                   16 BEAUCOUP ZIGZAG
                   17 THE DEATH SHIPS
                   18 THE BEST MAN WINS
                   19 THE COST OF CURIOSITY
                   20 THE TAIL OF THE TALE

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                        A MAID AND A MILLION MEN


                               CHAPTER 1

                          THE MAIDEN’S PRAYER

There was a party up in Heaven the night that I was born and my mother’s
Guardian Angel was playing one of those now-you-see-it-and-now-you-don’t
shell games with the Court Jester while the Head-Man so far forgot
himself, under the influence of the chorus of angelic yessers, as to do
sleight-of-hand tricks with the Vital Statistics and the Orders of the
Day. The whole court laughed to see such sport and even my mother’s
Guardian Angel must have thought it was a good joke on my father.

I heard the angels laughing as I came into the world and I cried out, as
soon as I could, that it certainly didn’t take much to entertain some
people. Angels have no sense of humor, anyway; I’ve since discovered
that you have to go in the other direction if you want to appreciate
good jokes. Why, up there in Heaven, the whole court thought this was a
wow, judging by the celestial thunder-peals of glee which accompanied
the parlor tricks, but if you can see anything funny in playing a trick
like that on an unsuspecting couple of innocent young lovers who thought
Birth Control was a pullman porter, then I hope you go to hell where
red-hot jokes are the devil’s own sport!

Furthermore, the joke was not only on my parents, but also on us—for,
you see, it happened that not only was I twins but also the other half
of the consignment was a boy who should have been a girl while I was a
girl who should have been a boy. The Head-Man certainly proved himself a
magician; he scrambled our souls and temperaments and everything else so
thoroughly that it would have required a better man than the Court
Physician to put us together again as the Creator intended us to be,
before that weak moment of kittenishness.

Even so, you’d think the Shipping Clerk would have hesitated at sending
out a boy in a girl’s body and vice versa. Of course, the two bodies did
look very much alike, but we were unashamedly naked at the time and
you’d think that even a government clerk would notice something funny in
such a parcel. Perhaps my Guardian Angel matched pennies or shot craps
with the Clerk, and the latter may have rolled a natural for my brother
and an even number for me. After seeing some of the other shipments that
went out on my birthday, I’ll believe anything’s possible. I recently
met a man, born on that same day, who sniffs like a rabbit, eats like a
pig, walks like a woman and brays like an ass; and I know a woman who
would be a cat if she had a tail. The Clerk must have been on the party,
too, and maybe had a little too much nectar besides. Anyway, the
Head-Man scrambled everything from frogs to elephants and nobody else
unscrambled them, so if your birthday was mine you probably decided long
ago that Heaven isn’t the most efficiently operated production plant
that can be imagined. Even on good days, the service is rotten: nine
times out of ten when you place an order for a boy you get a girl or
vice versa—no wonder a lot of the circus freaks were born on my
birthday!

My brother and I looked exactly alike. Indeed we were quite a biological
achievement, because we even had identical moles in identical positions
on our left cheeks. Father was actually quite proud of us and I think
the burden of having twins was really responsible for his economic
success, for he proceeded to accumulate more than enough money after we
made our début in 1899. In fact, he became so successful that he never
stayed long enough in any one city for us to become conspicuously
familiar to even our nearest neighbors. He was always on the move,
organizing new projects, developing new enterprises, rescuing his own
and others’ investments and turning everything to profit. He was a
hard-working man and he loved to keep busy, but I think that all that
hustling around year after year had a lot to do with mother’s untimely
death when we were only ten years old. She succumbed to typhoid fever,
but that was only the last straw, for she had never really had a chance
to get strong and healthy after we appeared on the scene.

After her death, the head of the house didn’t know what to do with us,
it being obvious that he could not give us any care or attention and
still keep up his program of industry; but he finally settled the
problem by arranging a plan with our Aunt Elinor Canwick, his spinster
sister, under the terms of which he provided liberally for us and for
her on condition that she take charge of us and supervise our education.
He gave Aunt Elinor carte blanche in all matters except one: he
stipulated that we must receive, aside from whatever cultural finish she
might provide, a thorough training in some practical occupation, in
order that we might be able to earn a respectable living should our
going to work become necessary through unfortunate circumstances. More
specifically, he strongly advised that “they be trained in secretarial
work, because such work will give them the best opportunities for
improving their positions and for keeping in touch with the better class
of people.”

So we went to live in Wakeham with Aunt Elinor and I had even less
chance to be as boyish as I felt because our dear Aunt had certain
rather definite ideas about the limits of a young lady’s sphere of
activity. Also she was a confirmed art enthusiast and just as soon as
she saw any signs of talent in either of us, she promptly did everything
in her power to encourage us in the direction of artistic careers. We
went to the best schools and had the best tutors obtainable; we traveled
abroad and absorbed culture in many lands; we developed a certain amount
of artistic creativeness and appreciativeness. And yet Aunt Elinor did
not neglect the kind of training which Dad advised: indeed, I think he
was rather proud of us, for we really did become quite proficient after
studying stenography, typewriting, business English, commercial law,
filing, and lots of other purely commercial subjects and had made them
still more valuable by having mastered three foreign languages; so that
at the age when most American boys and girls are completing high school
with a smattering knowledge of half a hundred subjects, we were both
capable of speaking and writing French, Italian or German, and taking
dictation in any of them or in English. Aunt Elinor was proud of us,
too. The last time I saw our father, before his accidental death in
1916, he and Aunt Elinor were indulging in mutual admiration exercises,
congratulating each other on the results obtained. And we twins were the
nicest, meekest, most harmless and un-regular kids that ever existed—at
least, so we must have seemed.

But from the day of Dad’s funeral, Aunt Elinor made a radical about-face
and bent all her energies toward cultivating our artistic talents. No
more commercial stuff now. She thought that Leon had distinctive poetic
ability, so she saw to it that he became acquainted with all the
literature and literary people that could possibly help him develop,
while Leona, the big “I,” being somewhat of a dancer and having been
remarked upon by some really competent theatrical people, was promptly
given over to the best dancing master available, after which my life was
just one pirouette and kick after another—which really wasn’t so bad
because it was physical work and that was what I needed to keep me
happy. We lived in Wakeham, one of the Big City’s most fashionable
suburbs, and moved in a very exclusive, art-loving and -fostering
circle.

Life rolled away in its customary monotony and gradually the curtains of
our horizon were drawn back to reveal new interests and new hopes. Leon
and I seemed to grow more similar in appearance and more dissimilar in
nature as we grew up. Aunt Elinor used to say that our sexes were all
mixed up, that our natures were diametrically opposite to our respective
physiques, and for once she was really near the truth, since I was very
much of a tomboy while Leon was an ethereal-spirited, effeminate, poetic
soul who cringed from all physical matters and even resented having to
be near my dog Esky, who worshiped the very ground I walked on and
evinced not uncertainly his suspicions of people who were too nasty nice
to play with a pup now and then. Leon wasted no love on Esky and once
declared that the pup’s mother must have been promiscuous. Well, Esky
was nothing but a mongrel, to be sure, although Aunt Elinor said his
mother was a thoroughbred Eskimo dog, but even thoroughbreds have been
known to have cuckold husbands; mongrel or not, a dog instinctively
attaches himself to the man of the house—but not so with Esky. He
hadn’t any use for Leon at all, probably because Leon high-hatted him,
whereas I liked nothing better than a chance to romp and wrestle with
him.

You can readily understand how I looked upon my sweet brother. He did
none of the things that regular boys do. Sports and games and any kind
of exercise that was the least bit rough did not appeal to him at all. I
even suspected that he was too damned nice to be interested in
girls—but on this point I was mistaken, for I discovered that Vyvy
Martin, one of Wakeham’s deep-eyed débutante beauties, was more or less
Leon’s soul mate. One was about as dizzy as the other, so they made a
perfect couple, entirely sufficient unto themselves—a condition which
must, I suppose, be called Love. But you can imagine how I looked upon
Leon when every impulse in me was toward the very kind of living which
he shunned. It seemed that not a day went by without my wishing I were
in his shoes so that I could chase off and enjoy myself as he should
enjoy himself. Truly in mental and emotional equipment, we were as
dissimilar as Tom Thumb and the Fat Lady.

The more fed up I became with our “cultured” friends and interests, the
more Leon became absorbed in them. He was a thorough-going æsthete and
the more æsthetic he grew, the more discontented I became, until it
seemed that life held absolutely nothing of interest for me. For days
and weeks at a time I carried a grouch and consoled myself by making the
aforementioned complaints to the Creator. Every time Aunt Elinor
entertained, I had to perform for the benefit of the guests, and
afterwards everyone would feed her a lot of slush about my “remarkable
talent for the dance.” You might have thought I was some kind of
thoroughbred dog, the way they studied me and passed comments on my body
and brains. My Aunt should have known long before that time that her
niece had a beautiful body and enough brains to know how to use it, but
she continued to gather in the same old line of flattery and flowery
compliments until you’d have thought it was her own body people were
talking about.

Of course, not all of her parties were utter bores. Now and then a few
genuine people appeared on the scene and once in a while someone
actually interesting would be present. It was at one of her soirées that
I met Jay-Jay Marfield, the rather attractively ebullient son of one of
Broadway’s most successful producers. Jay-Jay (from his initials, J. J.)
was about twenty-six when I first met him and rather handsome in a sort
of romantic fashion. My Aunt fell in love with him at first
sight—principally because she thought that if I cultivated his
friendship he could help me along in my career. My Aunt was not exactly
a hand-shaker; she just had rather continental ideas about matrimony:
marriage was a material affair to her. She would have been in ecstasies
if I had married Jay-Jay and she used to tell him the most awful lies
about my habits and disposition, et cetera. She tried all the
traditional tricks of the match-maker, but I had my doubts about
Jay-Jay’s falling for her ensnaring line. As for me, I was willing
enough to let him show me a good time—the which he certainly tried to
do, with everything from the Russian Ballet to opium dens thrown in. He
knew all the celebrities of the stage and was always on the verge of
introducing me to So-and-So sometime—while in the meantime he
introduced me to a crowd of artistic flat tires who indulged in attic
art and garret orgies which were more asinine than sinful.

Jay-Jay and I got along famously, but from the start of our friendship I
felt that I would never want to trust him very far. Perhaps I am
naturally suspicious, but this Jay-Jay was one of the kind that you
immediately suspect. Free and easy about everything, always immaculate,
always flush and always conniving something that was neither good for
himself nor good for me, he made me feel that I had always to be on
guard or he would promptly connive against me.

Yet I enjoyed myself in his company—as who wouldn’t if her only friends
were so sappy they could be guilty of thinking a cockade was a kind of
chicken broth! There are only two kinds of aristocratic boys: the
devil-may-care variety like Jay-Jay and the sweet God-fearing innocents
who make worms look like express trains. When the son sinks in the best
of regulated families, he’s usually reverting to the type of his pioneer
ancestors who had to take both life and love in their two fists. Most
blue blood was originally red of flaming hue, and when families begin to
forget that fact, you can lay odds that the deep old roots of the family
maple aren’t sending sap enough up to supply the high and mighty
branches of to-day. When family trees get too high they wither at the
top, and such dry sticks are only useful as fertilizer for younger
trees. That’s why the worst high-hats are invariably worn by people who
are really low-brow.

Naturally, I enjoyed Jay-Jay’s company at that time and not the least of
the reasons for this lay in the fact that he kept me on edge and on the
defensive most of the time. When a girl suspects that a man is about to
assault her on the least provocation, she naturally gets a thrill out of
the dare, and I was normal in that respect even though all the rigmarole
of infatuation and love were utterly foreign to my nature. Jay-Jay knew
I was a tomboy at heart and he played his cards accordingly. I fell
headlong into the trap by responding to his dare.

Please don’t imagine for a moment that anything melodramatic happened so
soon as this. Jay-Jay was a perfectly nice young man—for quite a while.
He could usually be depended upon to get intoxicated and he always took
advantage of every opportunity for making love to me, but all this was
direct and above the board—like romantic gestures, as it were. He
didn’t resort to underhand violence until quite some time later in our
affair.

A few incidents that I recall off-hand will serve to indicate how we
behaved ourselves during this more or less casual, but always
threatening, romance. On one occasion he took us—Leon, Vyvy and me—to
a masquerade in the Big Town, a huge affair that was given annually for
the benefit of indigent members of the theatrical profession. It was
Aunt Elinor’s suggestion that Leon and I dress in identical costumes,
therefore it was really her fault that Jay-Jay and Vyvy had a difficult
time distinguishing us from each other, because my hair was tucked up
and completely concealed under a grotesque hat so that Leon and I looked
exactly alike. When Aunt Elinor inspected us before we set off, she
exclaimed prophetically, “You’ll catch your escort courting your
brother!” And her laughter at this thought is sufficient evidence of her
atrocious sense of humor.

The party proved to be a riotous success from my point of view, in spite
of a few embarrassing moments, as when Vyvy saw Jay-Jay take possession
of one of us and immediately assumed that the one he chose was I. She
promptly pounced upon the other—and it really was I. Before I could
quite recover from the shock, she had swirled me into the crowd of
dancers and I decided I might as well play up to my rôle. It was really
funny, so funny that I dared not trust my voice. Anyway, she did enough
talking for the two of us.

And what things she said! It was a revelation to me—a revelation, I
mean, of my sweet and innocent brother’s poetic nature. She just poured
sweet nothings into my ear and clung to me as if she were hanging from
the gates of paradise and feared to let go for even a second. It was “O
Leon, love!” or “O Leon, darling!” or “You exquisite thing!” or
something equally romantic and foolishly sentimental, every step we
took. I was congenially amused at first, particularly because my mind
kept wandering to Jay-Jay and wondering how he, in his
semi-intoxication, was managing my dear twin.

Before the dance was half done, I began to feel acutely uncomfortable. I
began to realize that it’s one thing to have a man whispering sweet
nothings in your ear, but quite another to have another girl do the
whispering even though she doesn’t know you are a girl, too. However, I
fought a good fight and was carrying on like a good trooper when
suddenly the strain was broken by Jay-Jay pouncing unceremoniously upon
us, with Leon trailing in the rear. Both were rather fussed up over the
incident, although Leon appeared to feel that the joke was really on
Jay-Jay. We all laughed over it, but Jay-Jay didn’t think it was so
funny. At first he claimed that he knew it was Leon from the start, but
I could tell from the look on my brother’s face that this was not so—or
rather, that Jay-Jay hadn’t acted as if he knew his dancing partner was
a boy. And incidentally I never did learn just exactly how Jay-Jay
happened to discover his mistake; knowing that he was capable of doing
almost anything when half set, I neglected to ask for specific details
even from my twin brother.

Throughout the remainder of the evening, Jay-Jay took no chances of
being fooled again and even on the way home when there was nothing much
to do but be friendly, he continued to be safely cool and distant—which
suited me well enough, but didn’t have the same effect upon Vyvy and
Leon. I thought the two love birds had had a tiff about something, they
were so chilly, but I soon discovered that Vyvy wasn’t any more certain
than Jay-Jay as to which of us was which. The discovery came when
Jay-Jay suddenly declared, “If I pull off your hat and you’ve got short
hair, you’re not the one I think you are,” and he promptly jerked Leon’s
hat from his head.... That settled that. He turned to me and I couldn’t
very well object to his attentions, as long as they remained mild,
particularly since Leon and Vyvy immediately fell into a clinch that
must have made their hearts beat as one for a couple of seconds at
least.

By the time we reached Wakeham, Jay-Jay’s accumulation of liquor was
getting the better of his head and he ceased to remain mild in his
love-making. I remember distinctly that the change was a terrible shock
to me at the time and resulted in a wrestling match which assumed such
proportions that the chauffeur so far forgot himself as to imitate Lot’s
wife. We weren’t on speaking terms when we reached our house, and I
didn’t hear his apologies (nor any word from him at all) for a fortnight
or more. I was momentarily furious—I couldn’t imagine what the man
expected of a girl like me.

Parties of this sort were a regular feature of the program for a year or
more, but there were other features, also. We attended Bohemian studio
parties which were more usually than not complete washouts from my point
of view and led me to ask Jay-Jay why, with so many well-known and
interesting people on his list of acquaintances, he persisted in messing
himself up by associating with this deluded drivel of humanity. He just
laughed and replied that “variety is still the spice of life—there’s a
time and place for everything, including dizzy artists.”

After one of these garret endurance contests, I told him that he should
have brought Leon instead of me, “because Leon would have reveled in
this stuff.” I had heard so much utter blah about “expressing one’s
soul” that I contemplated resolving never to dance again except on a
ballroom floor. All this divine artistry stuff always has given me
anatomical discomfort and there never was anyone interesting in those
crowds of hairy-jawed winebibbers. They all talked and acted as if they
knew better but preferred to be asinine, and to increase my disgust
Jay-Jay invariably went to such places when he was in a drinking mood,
which meant that I was in for a scrap before we got home.

If there’s one thing I couldn’t relish it was a man forever putting on a
whisky flush, but I refrained from objecting too strenuously, because,
after all, I was only seventeen and I had an idea that perhaps that was
the way you were supposed to act when you’re twenty-seven. I know that I
frequently consoled myself with the thought that if I were a man, just
for a night, I’d go out and deliberately drink Jay-Jay under the table,
or even a chair. I used to imagine how enjoyable such a feat would be,
and also how much good it might have done my gay courtier. I knew it
would do my heart immense good.

You can see that there were at least nine out of ten traits of Jay-Jay’s
character of which I disapproved. He was everything that I didn’t desire
in a man. He was terribly vain. He acted as if, just because his father
was prominent in the show business, he himself was something very
special and deserved respect from everyone. He was neither brilliant nor
exceptional in any way and I doubt if he had ever done a single thing
worth mentioning, except play around with a telephone directory full of
girls. Still he thought the world was his private oyster and that every
girl was receptive.

Of course, you can easily see how he got that way. He was used to having
girls make a lot of him because they thought he could and would help
them to a stage career. However, that phase of the matter meant
absolutely nothing to me. I refused to make a hand-shaker of myself,
even for Art’s sake—which refusal prompted Aunt Elinor to observe, “I
sometimes wonder whether you and Art are really suited, Leona.” And I
replied that the wondering was mutual.

But in spite of all his faults and his damnable self-assurance in regard
to my capitulation (“eventually, why not now”) I continued to play
around with Jay-Jay. With all his shortcomings, he continued to be
ardent and attentive—and a virtue like that naturally takes precedence
in the mind of any girl in my position. As long as he wanted to keep up
the chase, I was willing to be chased. There was a very clear
distinction, according to my precocious maidenly philosophy, between
girls who let themselves be pursued and those who allowed themselves to
be apprehended: the same distinction, I have since learned, exists in
every young girl’s head, with certain slight concessions to individual
circumstances. I was at that age: the age when you think you have living
and loving figured out on a blue print.

My education went forward by leaps and bounds under the guidance of
Jay-Jay and his friends and I must have changed considerably in a very
short time, because Aunt Elinor soon got into the habit of remarking
upon the fact that my language wasn’t all that it should be and that I
used it to express ideas which I certainly never thought up under her
roof. I must admit that Jay-Jay had a broadening influence upon me: he
introduced me to risqué anecdotes and bedroom ballads; I heard all the
conventional off-color jokes that are in existence and a few that were
quite unconventionally original; I became sophisticated in a certain
way, after discovering that when some man tried to tell you that “every
bowlegged girl is pleasure bent” or some other such bit of drivel, he
was not necessarily insulting you by the very act of telling you such
things; I became so wise that I could listen unblushingly to even such a
story as the one about the good wife who assaulted the minister for
saying, “There is no balm in Gilead” and explained her resentment by
declaring, “’Tain’t Gil’s fault nohow. Nuther of us wants brats to
bother with!”

I was still a tomboy at heart but my outlook had changed considerably;
or rather, I had begun to be resigned to the fate of being a girl. I had
the feeling most of the time that I might as well make the best of
it—and Jay-Jay happened to be the best at the moment.

But to show what influence will do to a person: I even harbored hopes of
taking Aunt Elinor on one of our parties for the sole purpose of getting
her plastered—just for something to do that would be different. The
only thing that kept me from doing it was the certainty that if she ever
saw how disgustingly unsteady her “choice” could be, that would be the
end of my affair with Jay-Jay, because her Puritan prudishness would
override any momentary ambitions as a matchmaker.

So I contented myself by getting Jay-Jay to take Leon with us to one of
his studio jamborees. I hoped the twin would drink more than he could
handle. I wanted to see him completely piffed—I figured that if he once
got utterly pickled it might cure him of being so obnoxiously poetic. Of
the two—being pickled or being poetic—I much preferred the briny
state.

But the attic party was a fizzle for me. I didn’t have the pleasure of
seeing Leon take even one too many. Furthermore my disappointment was
increased by the fact that all those imitation artists actually went
wild over Leon’s poetry and the more they praised him the more he read
to them. He didn’t have time to take a drink. It was a terrible evening
for me. I wouldn’t have minded being proud of him, if the facts
warranted it; but how anyone could feel other than ashamed of a brother
who would read the stuff he read—and then boasted of writing—was
beyond me. The only good thing he read to them they immediately
squelched because they said it sounded too conventional, too formalized.
Just because it made sense and was almost rhythmic!... I think my
complete loss of hopes for my dear brother dated from that evening with
those asses of the arts.

Furthermore I was beginning to be depressed again, because Jay-Jay was
not the sort of fellow one could put up with forever. I mean, he was the
kind you either had to submit to or fight with; there could be no happy
medium of friendship for very long. I remember that we went to a
Christmas blow-out in town and the entire party was well ossified, so
naturally Jay-Jay was in his element, the more so because all the people
were of the theater and knew him as his father’s son. That one evening
convinced me that show people are worse handshakers than politicians and
my escort gave me acute shooting pains with his self-satisfied manner.
He simply exuded manly confidence. He looked and acted as if he could
take any girl he wanted, and then on the way home he was deeply grieved
and insulted, not to say dumfounded, because I wouldn’t let him
manhandle me. Said I, “It would take a better man than you, I’m sure.”
To which the simple fool merely said, “Keep on hoping, honey; I’m
improving all the time!”

A week later, at a New Year’s affair, he changed his tactics completely
and made really decent and ardent love to me, just like a movie hero. He
did everything except ask me to marry him. I was so surprised at his
change of attack that I almost forgot myself. But then I remembered that
you have to fight for anything you want to keep and it also occurred to
me to wonder why he never had asked me to marry him.... Thinking it over
afterwards, I concluded that it was his idea that one marries only as a
last resort, after all other attempts have failed.... And I concluded
also that the chief reason he was so eager in pursuit of me lay in the
fact that he was beginning to doubt that he would ever have me. You’d
have thought, with all the women in New York available for him, that he
wouldn’t have bothered with me. But I suspected then, and have since
confirmed my suspicions, that the old wheeze about denial engendering
desire may be a chestnut but at least its kernel is good....

As I said before, my education was going forward in spasms. Not long
after that New Year’s party, he threw caution to the winds, forgot his
new plan of attack and resorted to the well-known cave-man methods. It
was a veritable trial by combat. I wasn’t mad—I just simply knew that I
couldn’t possibly give up anything to him. I wanted to be chased, but
I’d be damned before I’d be caught. When I got home I looked as if I had
been through a wringer, and that devil actually laughed at me and had
the nerve to observe, “Now, I know you’re the real thing, Leona!”... I
stayed awake all night trying to figure out what he meant and I must
admit that it was a year or so before I realized the exact meaning.

However, I was disgusted with him and didn’t care if I never saw him
again. At least I felt that way for several days. Then when I happened
to overhear Leon and Vyvy discussing their future love nest, with Leon
saying that his idea of heaven would be to work hard all day thinking up
beautiful verses to read to a pajamaed Vyvy in bed at night, the whole
business of love and love-making struck me so funny that I could laugh
at my own little difficulties and regain some of my customary
indifference. A few days later when Jay-Jay called again, I let him
apologize—even let him get away with exclaiming, “My God, Leona, you
can’t expect a man to love you forever without any encouragement! Your
devilish coolness is exasperating!”... Well, little children love to
play with fire and no girl ever expects to burn her fingers. I agreed to
go with him once more, if he promised to behave himself.

This party turned out to be more or less interesting, although Jay-Jay
didn’t keep his promise and most of the crowd were washouts. But there
was a Canadian war veteran there who had just returned from France where
he served with an aviation unit. It was thrilling to listen to his
descriptions of the War. He couldn’t dance because of a game leg, so I
gladly did my bit by sitting out with him and letting him talk. He
positively stirred me all up inside and I think that if we had been
alone somewhere, I would have fallen into his arms. That’s how he
affected me—which was mighty strange, considering how I felt toward
other men. This chap seemed different somehow—like a real he-man in
comparison with such papier-mâché imitations as Jay-Jay and Leon and
others of my acquaintance. However, the impulse was but momentary and my
heart only pounded for a few minutes; during which I felt more panicky
than thrilled.

That man left an indelible impression on my mind. I went home that night
disgusted with Jay-Jay and disgusted with Leon. Jay-Jay said that if the
United States went into the War, he’d be glad he could help his father
run the show business (in which case there would have been a deluge of
rotten shows on Broadway) and Leon suffered the tortures of hell every
time the World War was mentioned. They both seemed like worms to me. I
couldn’t understand their attitude at all. And I once more cried out
against the fate which had made me a girl instead of a boy. I sent up
prayer after prayer and called on the Lord to do something about it all.
It seemed to me that if Leon were more of a man I would automatically
become more of a girl and I told the Lord as much, but I also suggested
that if he couldn’t do anything about Leon he could at least make
something happen that would give me a chance to break out and get a
little of the adventurous poison out of my system.

Well, all of a sudden it appeared that a couple of Yankees had finally
got into Heaven: my prayers were answered!



                               CHAPTER 2

                       CORRESPONDENCE FROM HEAVEN

It never rains but it pours. Here I had worried through seventeen years
without any answers at all to my prayers and now in a few short months
there were more answers than there were prayers—I mean, it was just
like having your mail lost somewhere and then getting it all in a bunch.
It seemed to me that the Lord must have just returned from a holiday
playing golf with the planets and found all my pleas and prayers
awaiting his attention, so he set about clearing his desk immediately
and thoroughly. Things came so thick that the year 1917 remains in my
mind a jumbled nightmare.

Not that everything happened as quickly at all that: the sequence was
spread over several months but I had become so accustomed to monotony
and so resigned to my fate, that so many things in even so many months
was a terrific shock to my nervous system.

The first thing that happened was not strictly my own private affair.
The United States went to war when Germany added insult to injury. I was
overjoyed, because it seemed to me that surely here was an opportunity
for excitement and adventure.... And again I was disappointed. Girls of
eighteen are good for only one thing in a war, and you don’t get medals
and service stripes for that kind of duty!

Jay-Jay went to work for his father, hoping to get out of going, and
then when he saw he would be caught in the draft he managed to secure a
soft job supervising the entertainment provisions of the eastern
training camps. My hero! A man’s man!

Then I went on the stage, because Jay-Jay offered to get me a place in a
new show that was being thrown together up in Connecticut, and because I
suspected that he was entertaining the hope that the atmosphere of the
show business would help to break down my Puritanical resistance to his
Satanic charms. I had to dance almost naked to get the job, but I made a
bull’s-eye from the start. The only trouble was that I had to keep
thinking that Jay-Jay had practically dared me to join this show and I
was so afraid I’d be contaminated by the traditional immorality of show
people that I scarcely drew a normal breath while the show lasted. And
every time I saw Jay-Jay the old battle was revived. He said he’d do
anything to get me—and I believed him implicitly. I wouldn’t have put
anything beyond him. He’d try any possible way of skinning the cat, and
my part in Love Lights was just another possibility. He was very
circumspect in his love-making at the time, probably trying to induce a
calm to precede the storm: as he said, “My love for you is so intensely
hot that even an iceberg would melt sooner or later!”

Love Lights lasted three months, but I was ready to quit long before
that. I had proved that I could stand the gaff and Jay-Jay had given up
hopes of skinning the cat by that method. Now he wanted to marry me!
Said he’d even marry me if that was the only way he could get me! Can
you imagine such a proposal?

But I couldn’t be bothered with it then, so he broached the subject to
Aunt Elinor and I found her putting bugs in my ears every time I got
near her. However, I stalled for time. I was in no mood to make any
entangling alliances.

Also there was something far more important to think about. A miracle
was happening before my very eyes! Vyvy contracted a severe case of
heroitis and fell in love with the color of khaki, with the logical
result that Leon was miserable. He actually lost weight trying to figure
out some way of satisfying her demands that he make a hero of himself.
The poor fellow hated the thought of war and fighting, loathed the idea
of being thrown in with an uncouth gang of comparatively indelicate men,
but he couldn’t stand the sight of Vyvy going out with men in uniform
and he suspected that a man with a Sam Browne belt could do most
anything with her. He talked with her, remonstrated and pleaded, called
her hysterical and a lot of worse things—but Vyvy was adamant. “I won’t
have a man I can’t be proud of!” she told him, at the height of their
last argument on the subject.

Something had to give. It was a real crisis to them. And the next thing
I knew Leon was making inquiries at recruiting stations as to the
various branches of the service in which he could enlist. It was all
very painful for him, but he was between the frying pan and a very hot
fire; he had to make a decision of some kind—and he did, although I
suspect that somebody dragged him in for examination and made him sign a
paper before he realized what he was doing. Anyway, he enlisted—which
proves something or other about girls like Vyvy. He came home actually
proud of himself over the fact that he had passed the initial physical
examination, but I noticed that he didn’t eat much for dinner that
evening. And Vyvy very promptly indicated that she would throw over all
her soldier friends, now that he had done the trick like a hero. She was
not dizzy, after all; she knew that jealousy is a woman’s best weapon.

But poor Leon! He was suffering the torments of hell just thinking about
being a soldier. I wished we could exchange places. I knew I would love
it all—the coarseness, the roughness, the absolute hellishness of being
a soldier appealed to me.... Instead of such a prospect, what I got was
another, more importunate proposal of marriage from my hound. I thought
this life was certainly a mixture of sweets and bitters, but I guess I
was happy enough over the streak of manhood showing in my previously
impossible twin.

I was so happy, indeed, that I agreed to dance for “the nice people”
whom Aunt Elinor invited for a farewell party to Leon. She was all upset
over her favorite relative’s impending departure for the War and she
wanted to send him away in an unforgettable blaze of glory, so she
planned this lavish entertainment at the house the night before he was
to leave. And to make certain that people would remember the occasion
she conceived the idea of my dancing in the nude behind a shadow screen
to the accompaniment of Leon’s readings from his own verses.... It is
apparent that I must have been happy over his enlistment to agree to any
such thing: not the nudity but the poetic accompaniment—that, I knew,
would be terrible!

And it was—so terrible that in the very midst of it poor Esky exploded
in a howl that made everyone jump and almost disrupted the performance;
and someone laughed rather equinely, which was still worse from my point
of view. But we finally got through with it and I rushed into the house
to dress and later to accept the usual bread-and-butter compliments from
the assembled guests. There was nothing to do but dance the evening away
and I proceeded to do this with whoever came my way, which was chiefly
Jay-Jay, until Aunt Elinor sneaked up behind me and said she had a young
man in tow who wanted to apologize to me. From that point on, life
became steadily more interesting and Jay-Jay didn’t get all the dances,
for the young man was the handsomest thing I had ever seen and his broad
grin was just broad enough and yet refined enough to be infectious. My
whole body underwent a quiver of excitement as soon as my eyes rested
upon him. I smiled inside as well as out and was unconscious of
everything except a mumbling from my aunt to the effect that “Captain
Winstead has had me pursuing you for ages....”

He didn’t say anything and I couldn’t, so we just danced away and I felt
as if I belonged nowhere else in the world so surely as there in his
arms. That dance was unforgettable, a marvelous experience which thrills
me even to this day. I was actually serenely blissfully ignorant of time
and surroundings. I know such a statement sounds foolish and affected,
but I certainly should know how I felt. Heaven knows, I never have felt
like that more than once, so I surely should remember it.

We even danced two numbers in silence before the spell was broken by his
making a belated apology for laughing so rudely during my dance. And he
ended it by saying, “Of course, it was utterly damn foolish on my part!”

The way he said “damn” was to other men’s damns as a soothing melody is
to a baby squawker’s music. From that point on, we were acquainted; it
was just as if we had known each other for ages; he said that my dancing
was just like a dream, that ... oh, I couldn’t begin to reproduce that
evening in print: he was just wonderful and he told me the most
enchanting things ... we went into the garden and I learned for the
first time how short a time it requires to become intimately acquainted
with a man, if you like him.... I never was the kind to believe in this
love-at-first-sight stuff, but I know that I felt at once that Captain
Clark Winstead meant all the world to me—and this in spite of the fact
that I hadn’t completely lost my head; I had a sneaking suspicion that
he might not mean all the wonderful things he said to me.... Yet even
with such suspicions, I simply reveled in his presence. Say what you
will about being made love to—it certainly is an indescribably
delicious experience if you have the right man, and I did.

But, of course, there had to be a joker, and it finally appeared when he
began to tell me how sorry he was that we had not met sooner, “For I’m
leaving for Washington in the morning and probably will be sent to
England immediately.”

Well, the best we could do was exchange addresses and since he didn’t
know where he would be, he wrote mine on a scrap of paper and stuck it
in his tunic, saying that I could write to him after I heard from him.
Then he kissed my hands and naturally he didn’t have to use force to get
me into his arms.... In fact, I was clinging to him fearfully when
everything went smash with the sudden appearance of Jay-Jay, looking
daggers and so mad that all he could do was stutter.

I remembered then that I had told Jay-Jay we’d dance together again
before the finale, so I escaped from the very embarrassing situation by
squeezing the Captain’s arm significantly and joining my pursuer, but
not before the Captain said, “I hope we can have another before I go.”

Jay-Jay danced as if this were a painful duty that had to be performed.
I mean, he danced ferociously and in a silence which was broken only by
a grunt now and then. Oh, but he was mad! And the madder he seemed, the
better I felt, because this was really the first time I had ever seen
him at all off guard or off poise and it does give a girl a thrill of
satisfaction to see a proud and self-assured man take a tumble into
jealousy.

When he finally did speak, he said the obvious things about cheating and
not playing fair and ended with a sarcastic, “You know how I’ve wanted
you, and all the time you’ve tried to make me believe that you loathed
having a man touch you, not to mention kissing and caressing you. And
now——”

“And now is there any law against a woman changing her mind?” I
demanded.

“But why treat me as if I were black, if you’ve changed your mind about
such things? That’s what I mean! Am I black?”

Well, since he had come down to earth, I relented and told him, “No, I
guess your ancestors were Caucasians. In fact, I was almost ready to
accept your proposal, but——”

“But this fly-by-night interloper comes along and you act like a grammar
school kid over him!” he exclaimed in disgust.

The argument continued through another dance and I gathered from his
remarks that he wanted me to consider his proposal as still intended. He
was, I think, really baffled: the incident had hurt his pride so that
now he was more determined than ever to win me at all costs. And so it
was that when Captain Winstead appeared to claim a last dance before he
left, Jay-Jay didn’t confine his voice to a polite whisper when he
observed, “Thank God, he’s going!”

The Captain and I said nothing at all while we danced. It was so divine
that words would merely have bothered and when it had ended we both
breathed a deep sigh of regret and somehow or other found ourselves on
the veranda. His friends were already in their car waiting for him, but
he didn’t hurry. We stood there, my hand in his; his other arm went
around my shoulders, and I tried to put into that last kiss all the
tremulous fearful affection, all the sickening despair and exalting
hope, all the really heart-breaking infatuation that was at once
smothering and exhilarating me. No other kiss could ever be like that. I
knew it and I think he did, because he didn’t linger for another—just
mumbled some sweet nothing and was gone.

Jay-Jay found me there staring out across the moonlit drive, feeling all
weak and sad and utterly miserable, trying to convince myself that this
knight of the night had really meant everything he said and that I
honestly did mean something more than a passing fancy to him. I couldn’t
banish the thought that perhaps I was just a foolish school kid, had
been just another night and another girl in the Captain’s crowded life.
It was such a feeling that makes anyone feel sad and understanding: when
you know you love someone and can’t tell whether your love is returned
or merely accepted—why, it’s a terrible feeling. It made me understand
how Jay-Jay must have felt all along, and I honestly tried to be nice to
him the rest of the evening.

Jay-Jay blustered and fussed at first, then indulged in sarcastic
remarks about the other man and prophesied that I would never hear from
him again. Then when he saw that I wouldn’t argue with him about
anything at all, he quieted down and returned to the attack with his
eternal proposals.

The fact was that I didn’t pay any attention to his arguments; I
couldn’t even spare the time to think up answers to them: all I could
think of was the Captain. I knew I should never experience such a
feeling again if I lived to be a thousand: there isn’t room in one
lifetime to feel like that twice. And I kept telling myself that no man
could have a woman thinking of him and dreaming of him every minute
without trying to do something about it—or if he would, he’d be an
awful fool. And I was sure that I had communicated to him some idea of
how he affected me—or again he’d be a fool. And I knew he wasn’t that.

However, the days passed and I heard just nothing at all from him.
Jay-Jay had a few more days of leave and he hung around like a carrion
crow with an I-told-you-so look in his eyes every time we met. And the
night before he left to return to Washington, he popped a novel proposal
that I could have an interesting job entertaining in the camps, if I
would marry him. “I’ll do anything for you,” he declared, “provided I
know you belong to me.”

“But why not get me that job anyway?” I asked.

He just laughed at that suggestion. “Do you think I’d be instrumental in
turning you loose like that?” he demanded. “Not unless you were
mine—then I’d know you’d behave!”

Just like that! Well, you had to admit that Mr. Marfield was persistent
and persevering and I had to take his proposal seriously, because I
hadn’t heard from the Captain, and that hurt tremendously, and after all
it occurred to me that I really might be quite happy as Mrs. Marfield,
even though I knew I could never love him as storybook heroines are
supposed to love their husbands. I guess my Aunt’s continental ideas had
begun to sink into my mind, for I was beginning to admit to myself that
marriages are seldom one long-drawn-out love affair and that I was
probably childishly optimistic when I thought that mine would be one of
the exceptional cases.

I told him I would think it over, and for the next few weeks I did
little else but that. All I did was think—about these two men: the one
who wanted me and the one I wanted, and whom I hadn’t seen or heard from
since the night we met. There didn’t seem to be any excuse for his
silence and yet I kept thinking up reasons for it and hoping against
hope that each next mail would bring at least a post card.

That’s what love does to you: makes you go crazy with hopes and wants
and at the same time makes you capable of callously letting another go
crazy wanting you. The whole triangular affair had me dizzy and I
couldn’t sleep nights for thinking about it.

So that’s what I mean when I say that it never rains but it pours, even
in the matter of having prayers answered. I prayed that the Lord would
do something to change conditions and what did he do but bring in a man
who made me change into a thoroughly girlish girl in one short evening!
My prayers were answered, even in the matter of making Leon more of a
man—but here I was more miserable than ever and I didn’t know whether
to thank the Almighty or send up another complaint.



                               CHAPTER 3

                       APPLE-SAUCE FOR THE GANDER

The only thing that kept me from going crazy or doing something rash
during this time was the problem of the would-be hero of the family, my
dear twin. From the first day in camp all he did was complain and not a
week passed without a long letter full of nothing but kicks and regrets
and weeping words. Even his letters to Vyvy, who was walking around with
her head in the clouds of pride, carried an obvious undercurrent of
pessimism and dejection, which he tried to explain away to her by saying
that it was caused by his being away from her “beautiful presence.”

For a kid of his nature, it must have been a terrible experience from
the beginning, which was a thorough physical examination in a roomful of
naked men, not one of whom would ever suffer from inability to perspire,
and during which poor Leon would have fainted dead away if the man next
to him hadn’t noticed his deathly pallor and pushed him to the one and
only window in the room. He didn’t actually pass out, but it seemed to
him that from that moment on he was a marked weakling in the camp and
there was none to give him a shred of sympathy.

When he went to get his uniform and equipment, the clerk took one look
at him and threw a complete assortment of everything from underwear to
blankets at him and when he came to array himself in these duds, he
couldn’t bear to look at himself, because the uniform billowed about him
like the costume of a Turkish dancer with the sleeves of the blouse
inches too short and the neckband two sizes too large. There must have
been tears lurking behind his gentle eyes when he approached his
sergeant and asked meekly, “Would it be possible to exchange these
things for others of my size?”

And imagine how he felt when that hard-boiled individual rapped back,
“Listen, Pretty Boy, who in hell do you think you are? In this man’s
army you take what they give ya and keep yer trap damn well shut! You
ain’t goin’ to no swell tea party at the Waldorf-Astoria, ya know—ya’re
goin’ to a first-class war, sweetie, so make up yer mind to it and don’t
bother me again with any damfool complaints about it. I ain’t runnin’
this war!” And he smiled sourly as if he had conferred a favor on the
cringing recruit. Everyone else in the barracks laughed with the
sergeant, as common soldiers naturally would do until the sergeant’s
back was turned, so Leon felt pretty small.... But he fooled them on the
suit. He discovered there was a tailor shop in the camp and he was the
first in his barracks to put himself in the tailor’s hands. He really
looked quite military when he finally got fitted correctly, but that
didn’t make him feel much better.

Then there was an obnoxious bunkmate by the name of Lowery who did his
bit toward making life miserable for Leon. The very first night, when
the twin was feeling blue anyway, this Lowery began to perform certain
exceedingly unpleasant operations upon his feet, and when he noticed the
look of anguish on Leon’s face, he said, “I’ve walked so damn far in my
time, buddy, that I got some kind o’ trench foot. I get a new crop o’
skin on my toes every bloody day and when it’s hot they damn near drive
me nuts.” And to one toe he gave a yank that looked vicious enough to
amputate it. “They itch like hell, believe me, fellow!”

Leon harbored thoughts of murder every time he saw Lowery start his
nightly ceremony of rubbing and pinching, and there wasn’t any way of
avoiding it, because the afflicted man never turned in until last call
and the sergeant would have blasted Leon’s soul to seven vari-colored
hells if he weren’t in his blankets when the lights went out. “It’s a
terrible thing, young feller!” Lowery informed him after they had slept
side by side for some days, but the information didn’t make Leon feel
any more sympathetic nor less sickened.

Yet Lowery’s toes were nothing in comparison with the sergeant, who
seemed from the first to have his evil eye on Leon. “Canwick,” he would
begin, as if he were about to confer a great honor, “somebody has got to
go an’ help take care o’ the bathhouse to-day, and seein’ the drillin’
wears ya out so, I guess you’d better take to-day off and report over
there. Ya see, we try to make everything as easy as possible fer
everybody and also we try to teach every man somethin’ worth while so
that when ya get out ya can get a decent livin’. Now this bathhouse
detail will teach ya so you can get a job in a Turkish bath when ya get
out o’ the army.... You’d go big in a Turkish bath fer women—ya know,
they gotta have somebody’s perfectly safe and harmless.”

Everyone laughed at the insinuation and Leon hurried away to the new
assignment, thinking that perhaps after all this work would be a little
easier, only to discover that his duties were anything but pleasant for
a tender-spirited person, what with having to scour pipes and scrub the
concrete, pick up dirty discarded towels and other unclean things,
distribute soap and collect slimy cakes, and watch the conglomerate mass
of male humanity perform its ablutions amid a veritable barrage of dirty
language and foul wit.... He was glad to be relieved and to let his legs
ache the next day when an apparently indefatigable officer drilled them
for hours and hours. His back and legs groaned in agony at every step
and when he went to bed at night he wasn’t at all sure he would be able
to get up in the morning.

He had another honor conferred on him when the humorous sergeant
extended a polite invitation to him to join the Kitchen Police for a few
days o’ rest. Leon told us that until that day he never had the least
conception of how many potatoes there were in the world. He peeled and
peeled and peeled until he felt certain there couldn’t be any more
potatoes in the country—but the next morning there was a brand-new
batch even larger than the one he had done. His fingers got so numb that
he couldn’t feel the thousand and one cuts and scratches, and his wrists
ached unmercifully while his back had a kink that seemed irremovable.
After two days of this he returned to his bunk to find Lowery working on
his toes and he prayed, not for Lowery’s toes, but that he might be
lucky enough to draw the dishwashing detail on the morrow.

He said he must have had a clear line to Heaven, for sure enough the
next morning he moved to the tubs and spent the day keeping the water
clean and washing out the serving pans. After looking at the refuse in
some thousands of mess kits three times a day, he was unable to eat
anything himself. That night he didn’t know what to pray for and before
he could make up his mind he went to sleep.

A few days later he was promoted to the garbage detail, the sergeant
telling him, “You’ll never make a real soldier anyway, so you might as
well get some kind of training and be earnin’ yer thirty bucks a month.”
On the garbage wagon he did less but more nauseating work, emptying huge
G.I. cans of vari-odored swill, cleaning the cans, and then riding to
the disposal plant on the cargo, where the wagon had to be swept and
washed with infinite care against possible inspections. He didn’t eat
much that day either, nor the day after; and when he was returned to the
mess hall, he was glad enough to tend the tubs. He managed to serve out
the week, but he swore he lost ten pounds during that time, just from
inability to eat.

The sergeant welcomed him back to the company and for two weeks appeared
to have forgotten his existence. Then one morning he delegated him a
special emissary to the latrines, and the poor kid, just recovering his
appetite, lost it in the course of a single day’s work with mop and
broom and disinfectant can. Nor could he see anything humorous in the
song which the other members of the detail persisted in singing to cheer
them at their tasks, for it was a very dirty ditty, an ode to Latrina,
the patron saint of that particular place. Leon said he knew the words
by heart but had never sung the song because the words wouldn’t pass his
lips. The Ode to Latrina must have been a ghastly thing—but I wanted to
hear it as soon as I heard it existed. Some such things are funny
because they are so foul; there is such a thing as “shocking” humor.

However, Leon thought he had endured about as much agony and misery as
was possible without passing out and he was just wondering if there
could be anything worse befall him when an opportunity to escape
presented itself. The sergeant called for volunteers who could
“parley-voo frog,” and Leon couldn’t report to him fast enough. About a
dozen others also declared they could speak French. Leon went them all
one better by adding, “I can read and write German and Italian, too.”

“Who in hell cares if ya can talk Wop?” demanded the sergeant. “Pretty
soon you’ll be tellin’ me you invented the laundry checks the Chinks
use. What I ask was, ‘Can ya parley the Frog’?”

“Yes—fluently,” replied Leon stubbornly.

The non-com laughed. “That’s a good word—maybe if ya pull that on them,
you’ll get the job, Grace. And it’s a damn sight better job than a
fly-weight like you deserves in this man’s army.” Whereupon he sallied
forth for regimental headquarters, with all who had answered
satisfactorily, in tow. Arrived there he reported to a Captain who took
the men in charge and after a lot of hemming and hawing and crazy
questioning, Leon found himself chosen for the job—whatever it might
prove to be.

He discovered that he now had the laugh on his former comrades, who had
made him the butt of their jokes, for while they were laboriously
attending to latrines, garbage cans, kitchen work and drilling, he was
in comparative comfort attending the clerical wants of a Colonel who was
farsighted enough to equip himself with a French-speaking clerk before
the necessity arose for one. When Lowery heard of the nature of the new
job, he frankly observed, “Dog-robbin’ is a hell of a good job fer an
ole woman like you.” But dog-robbing or not, Leon knew a good thing when
he saw it and he determined to make himself indispensable to his
Colonel.

It was just after his promotion that Aunt Elinor, Vyvy and I dropped in
for a week-end visit and made him show us everything in and about the
camp. He took us to his “office” and even pointed out the Colonel who
was getting into a car just as we came up, which made it possible for
Leon to take us in and show us all about his work. It really wasn’t very
intricate. I told him, afterwards, that as far as I could see, I could
do his work as well if not better than he, and he retorted, “You’d
probably make a better soldier than I am, anyway.”

But he didn’t feel so badly that day, what with Vyvy there and this new
work so comparatively easy. The only fly in his ointment was that he
feared this Colonel would be going overseas soon and that meant he’d go
along. Leon was seriously worried about this. As he said, “Colonels have
been known to get killed and anyone that’s with one might more easily
get hit. Now Generals hardly ever get up in the lines, so I’m looking
around for a convenient General to attach myself to.” His idea of
unadulterated bliss (if such were possible in the army) was to be
dog-robber to General Pershing. And he was so shameless about admitting
it! However, I was glad he was making some kind of progress because the
ordinary soldiers looked like a pretty dumb lot of cattle, not half so
intelligent as the officers. Yet I would have been glad to be even a
dumb private if I only could, which shows that my experience with
Captain Winstead hadn’t really changed me completely inside for I was
still interested in men’s affairs more than women’s.

I thought we had cheered the twin by our visit, but if we did its
effects disappeared as soon as we left him, for his letters continued to
be full of complaints and regrets. He wasn’t satisfied at all and his
letters betrayed a yellow streak the width of his back. Apparently every
moment he wasn’t busy, his mind was filled with gory imaginings and
horrible visions of shell-torn bodies, stinking carcasses, burning
flesh, blood, muck and god-awful corruption; and at night his dreams
contained more gruesome details of his fate than fancies about his Vyvy.
Each such night of mental anguish served to spur him on to work for
promotion. His one consuming desire at the time was to go up, because he
thought that safety lay in getting way up in the organization.... I was
acutely ashamed of him because I realized that his ambition was prompted
solely by cowardly fear. Such a man surely couldn’t get very far in the
army.

Another thing which disturbed him considerably was the dirty army songs
and rank stories. He thought it was incredible that officers who looked
like gentlemen could enjoy passing along a rotten joke or a shady
anecdote. He couldn’t possibly see that a little dirt now and then is
relished by the best of men. He thought it was all very unnecessary and
depressing, almost as bad as the foul ditties about the mademoiselles
and their odd ways of loving or the legend of the Alsatian maiden who
welcomed the invading Germans with the remark, “Well, officer, when do
the atrocities begin?”

I really began to hate the thought of his going overseas because no one
could tell what he might do in a pinch. He was scared to death already
and although he had to act interested when his Colonel talked about
going across, he actually was shivering in his boots and praying that
something would happen to delay them.

But weeks passed and in doing so rather induced a lull in my worries
about him because it seemed that they were never really going. Vyvy
planned a big party for Leon, to take place whenever he could get away,
and he made inquiries and told her to go ahead and plan on a certain
week-end, at which time he felt sure he could get a leave. So Vyvy sent
out invitations and had all her arrangements made—when on the Friday
before the day of the affair, a letter came from him carrying the awful
news that his outfit had received waiting orders and all leaves had been
canceled. What a monkey wrench that was! And I had a note from Jay-Jay
saying that he wasn’t sure whether or not he could be present but asking
me again if I would marry him on any condition at all. I answered
immediately to the effect that I wouldn’t even consider it unless he
made an effort to go overseas. Now that Leon was going, poor specimen
that he was, I had no patience with such a patriotic flat tire as
Jay-Jay, in his soft and easy berth supervising “entertainments for the
soldiers.”

By this time I had lost all hopes of hearing from the Captain. I often
thought of him and worried my poor brains trying to imagine what had
happened to him; I kicked myself for not telling him flatly that night
how much I loved him, because then I would have known by his silence
that he wasn’t interested at all. But this ignorant suspense was
bewildering and devastating and I escaped from it all by reverting to my
previous type—I projected myself into Leon’s place and revived my
never-dead tomboyish attitude and its interests.

That was the frame of mind I was nourishing when the news of Leon’s
confinement to camp arrived. I sympathized with Vyvy and tried to cheer
up Auntie, who thought that going to France meant going to certain
death, and my efforts were helped considerably that night when a second
letter came from Leon, saying that he couldn’t possibly get away because
“orders are orders in this damnable place, although we surely won’t go
for a good many days yet and I’ll be lying around here all the week-end
doing nothing at all when I could just as easily be enjoying myself in
Wakeham!”

You see, as soon as we learned that he probably wouldn’t be going
overseas yet, we all began to wonder how his getting away could possibly
be arranged, if only for a few hours. I felt sorry for the poor kid, and
for Vyvy, with her party all planned for the next night and both of them
so eager for this last farewell meeting. It didn’t seem reasonable to me
that he could be only a hundred miles away and still be unable to spend
just one evening in Wakeham with his Vyvy. She had got him into the War
and now he couldn’t even get away long enough to collect a farewell kiss
in reward. I decided that there had to be some way out.... Leon had to
get to that party, if someone had to die for it!

The next morning I drove down to the camp, carrying a suitcase
containing one of his suits of civies, with cap, socks, shoes, shirts
and everything. I planned to get there by noontime, find out what could
be done and if worst came to worst, put my brilliant “last resort” idea
into action, at the cost of my curly locks and perhaps my personal
freedom. I would have had the haircut in Wakeham, but I decided that it
would be bad luck: if I had it cut, Leon would manage to get a pass of
some kind just to make my sacrifice in vain, for that was my luck. Not
that I really wanted to carry out my great idea—I just entertained
sneaking hopes. And besides I had to work very circumspectly in order
that Aunt Elinor wouldn’t get suspicious, for I figured that although
she could be depended upon after the deed was done, she wouldn’t approve
of it beforehand. As it was, she thought I was insane to drive down
there in a snowstorm on what had every indication of being a wild-goose
chase.

I said prayers again as Esky and I sped along the snow-covered
roads—and the prayers had nothing to do with the snow, nor were they
exactly complaints this time. I prayed for a sporting chance, for just a
“break,” and I was in such excitement that I quite forgot about Captain
Winstead as well as Jay-Jay Marfield and his proposals, for I was on the
threshold of adventure—an adventure that would beat anything the
fiction writers could offer for a heroine.

I was confident that, if my sneaking hopes materialized, I would learn
to my own satisfaction that what was apple-sauce for the gander could
still be sauce for the goose.



                               CHAPTER 4

                            A MASK OF KHAKI

Esky and I left Wakeham at eight o’clock that morning and arrived at the
Camp at eleven thirty to find Leon in the slough of despond because he
couldn’t get a pass for love nor money. We talked over the situation and
every other remark of his had to do with how much he wanted to see Vyvy
“just once more.” Well, I got sick of hearing it, and, although the
sight of this vast military establishment had rather weakened my desire
to go through with my last resort plans, I did finally suggest it to
him.

“You’re insane!” was his first comment, and then he added, rather
huffily, too, “This is no time for jokes.”

“I’m not joking at all,” I told him. “I mean it. Isn’t it perfectly
possible? I’ve got a suit of your civies in the car; we can go outside
and exchange clothes; you take Esky and go home, and I’ll come in here
and make myself at home until you get back. What’s wrong with that? You
said yourself that there’s never anything to do on Saturday and Sunday,
and you can be back here to-morrow afternoon. So what’s wrong with that
picture?”

Still he didn’t seem to take me seriously. “I’d as leave go A.W.O.L.,”
he said.

“Yes? And maybe get caught and sent to Atlanta because you ducked out
when the outfit was expecting travel orders? And you wouldn’t want to
throw up a chance to go overseas anyway. God, I should think you’d be so
excited you couldn’t think straight.”

I could see that he was beginning to weaken, but he promptly thought of
another objection. “What about your hair? You don’t suppose anyone would
be foolish enough to think I had grown hair that long, do you?” He
thought that objection was insurmountable.

But I jumped it at once. “I’d just as leave have my hair cut boy
fashion,” I told him. “Can get it done somewhere in a few minutes’ time.
What do you say?”

Well, he didn’t know what to say. He always was a slower thinker than I
and it took him several minutes to digest the whole idea.

“There isn’t anything that might come up during your absence, is there?
I mean, anything that I couldn’t do?” I asked, before he had time to
answer.

He considered the possibilities for a moment and answered a rather dumb
“No—I guess not. I could show you where everything is anyway.”

“Well—” I said. “Then it’s all settled. Let’s start.”

“But your hair!” he objected again, as if he were reaching for straws of
argument for support, “Aunt Elinor will throw a fit when she sees you
minus your hair.”

“Pooh—what do I care for Aunt Elinor? And anyway, it’ll grow out again.
I can have typhoid fever or something for an excuse. Come on!”

“But, gosh, Leona—you don’t know what you’re getting into.” He was just
arguing for the sake of having something to say. “There’s an awful gang
in that headquarters barracks—swearing all the time, smoking and
chewing, telling dirty rotten stories that’ll make your stomach turn
somersaults. Really, we’d better not——”

“Oh—hush!” I exclaimed. “My stomach’s stronger than yours, old dear, so
if you can stand it, I guess I can for a couple of days anyway. Besides,
I think it will be kinda fun, hearing a lot of things a girl never has a
chance to hear when she’s in dresses.”

He capitulated. “Well, I would like to see Vyvy, and it does sound
fool-proof.”

“Come on, then!”

“Well, you’re making the bed, remember!”

So we set off for his barracks, where he showed me his bunk and
explained about the rules. Then we proceeded to his Colonel’s office
where he obtained a two-hour pass to leave the camp. It was while he was
getting this that I had my first worry. And I didn’t know just how to
ask about it, either, since it’s one of those things that even brother
and sister wouldn’t ordinarily discuss. Finally, however, I said,
“You’re sure there’s nothing that could embarrass me?”

“Not a thing, as long as you use your head and stay out of trouble.”

That didn’t satisfy my curiosity, so I had to blurt out exactly what I
meant. “How about those ‘inspections’ you have to go through every now
and then?”

“What inspections?” he wanted to know. Which convinced me that he is
dumber than I am.

“Why—don’t you have some kind of physical exam every few weeks?” I
insisted.

I was really surprised that he could laugh at such a thing, but he did.
He thought it was a huge joke and kept on smiling about it even after he
told me that there was nothing to worry about from that quarter as they
had just had one of those intimate inspections two days before. I was
very much relieved—and the idea is rather funny, at that, when you stop
to think of it: just imagine me standing in line with a bunch of men and
stepping up to let a doctor look me over! And imagine the look on the
doctor’s face when he saw before him a woman instead of a man! I guess
Leon has a sense of humor after all.

Anyway, we went out to the car then and left the camp, driving way over
to the other side of town to find a little barber shop where no one’s
suspicions might be aroused. I went in, and I admit that I felt rather
foolish for a moment. But there was only one barber there and he was an
Italian that could only understand English when it was accompanied by
very clear gestures. And I told him I had had typhoid fever and
therefore wanted my hair cut short like a boy’s.

He was dumfounded, and acted as if he wouldn’t believe me, so I plopped
into the chair and explained with my hands just how I wanted it cut, so
it would resemble Leon’s as much as possible. Leon, being poetic, never
had his hair cut awfully short anyway, so it really didn’t seem so
strange.

From there we went to a hotel, Leon driving while I tried to make my hat
and the collar of my coat combine to offset the odd effect of the
haircut. Just as we were getting out of the car, another hitch presented
itself to my mind, and I said to Leon, “We can’t change clothes in
there!”

“Why not?” he demanded, his voice sounding as if I had scared the life
out of him.

“Now, wouldn’t it look funny to anyone who noticed us going in—a man
and a girl—and then saw two men come out? If there happened to be
anyone about who recognizes you, he’d smell a mouse immediately.”

I can see now that my fears were practically groundless, but at the time
it seemed as if someone would appear at any moment to divine our
purpose, and Leon finally agreed that perhaps we’d better make our quick
change somewhere else. “But where?”

I had to think hard. We couldn’t go to a private house, for then whoever
saw us would naturally wonder how a man and woman could change to two
men all at once, and particularly a soldier and a girl to begin with. We
couldn’t go anywhere where there would be people. That was apparent at
once, so I finally suggested, “Let’s ride out into the country and find
a nice secluded forest.”

We did this, but didn’t find a woods that could be used for a dressing
room until we had driven more than fifteen miles from the camp. Finally
we spied one, a sort of brush-covered little hill, and Leon went in
first to change into his civies. When he returned, I took his clothes
and came back a few minutes later with my dress, undies, shoes, hat and
coat, in the suit case which I had used to bring down his clothes. We
looked each other over and decided that everything checked. I complained
about the army underwear—I must say that it isn’t any too comfortable
on a girl—but that was a small matter, in view of the fun it was to be.

Then back to camp and in to the Colonel’s office, so that Leon could
show me where all the different “forms” and papers are kept, and what
each was for. That took about half an hour, and just as we were coming
out of the building Leon gave a start of fear and whispered, “Here comes
the Sergeant Major!”

I began to shiver all over. I hadn’t the least idea what I was supposed
to do to a Sergeant Major. I started to salute but for once Leon thought
faster than I; when he jammed his elbow into my ribs, I managed a
foolish grin.

But the Sergeant Major was staring at us and before we had passed him,
he said, in a very friendly tone of voice, “Sorry as hell about the
pass, Canwick. I know you wanted it pretty badly.”

I waited for Leon to say something, then suddenly—realized that it was
I he was addressing, so I spoke up, saying with a grin of thanks,
“Oh—that’s all right, Sergeant. Guess I’ll live through it.” I stopped
and looked at Leon, who had turned his face away. “By the way,
Sergeant,” I offered, “I’d like to introduce you to my twin brother.”

“Surely—glad to meet you.” And he shook hands with Leon before the
other could realize what was going on. Then he added with a laugh, “I
thought you looked a lot alike.”

We all smiled then and I finally tore us away after remarking that my
twin had come down to drive me home, not knowing that I couldn’t get
away. The sergeant-major said “Sorry” again and we separated—I, with a
huge sigh of relief and not a little pride in my ability as a mime.

Well, we didn’t lose any more time, but hurried to the car and out of
the camp. About a quarter of a mile away, I got out, said good-by to
Esky, told Leon not to fail to get back by to-morrow evening, and waved
after them as they rolled away toward Wakeham. Esky acted as if he were
going crazy. He barked and squirmed and yapped, and I guess he had Leon
about crazy by the time they got home.

While walking back to the camp gate, I tried every kind of mental
exercise to make myself think and act like Private Canwick, U.S.A. By
the time I got to the man who took my pass, I was stepping along like a
regular soldier, although my heart skipped about a dozen beats when the
guard looked me up and down as he took my pass.

Once within, however, my self-confidence came back and I wandered
aimlessly around the camp for an hour or more, familiarizing myself with
the location of the main buildings. I visited the Camp Headquarters and
stopped at the Y.M.C.A. Hut, where I purchased some of the stationery
for a souvenir of this unusual adventure. I enjoyed my tour of
inspection immensely and took real delight in saluting every officer I
met. This was certainly a pleasure; every time I saluted, I looked
straight at the officer and said, under my breath, “O Mister, if you
only knew!” It was great fun.

The whole situation struck me as being exceedingly comical—and
exceedingly unique. I have heard and read of many kinds of disguises, of
royalty incognito, of masked heroes and heroines in many kinds of
romance and adventure. I’ve read somewhere, in French and Italian
literature, about lovers who carried on their amours in disguise, and
about men and women who figured prominently in war and politics under
assumed names and behind disguised faces. Medieval legends come to mind,
fanciful tales of heroism by knights in deceiving armor, and of fair
ladies who entertained paramours behind mysterious masks. Joan of Arc
slept with an army, but she was known as a girl by all her soldier
comrades. They say that there was a fighting outfit composed of Russian
women and known as The Battalion of Death, but these soldiers were known
as women also. There have been any number of modern stories and plays
with plots depending upon the use of masks, veils, disguises and
aliases; duels have been fought by women in men’s clothing; and there
was a famous duelist named Chevalier d’Eon, who dressed as a woman every
time he appeared in Paris—because the King had banished him from
Paris—and he had been the recipient of love favors from many courtiers,
who thought he really was a woman. There has from time immemorial been
something very alluring and intriguing about masks and disguises. They
have been used for every conceivable purpose.

Yet I can’t think of a single situation similar to the one in which I
found myself. It is one thing for a man to dress as a woman—nothing
very dangerous in that. It’s not unusual for women to join with men in
the army, as long as they remain women and are known as women. But it’s
quite another thing, a very different and very unusual thing for a girl
to be in the United States Army without anyone knowing about it. In this
particular case, of course, there wasn’t any real danger; but the
situation remained very intriguing. On the face of it, my position was
far more perilous than that of a woman soldier who is known as a
woman—but, at the same time, far more enjoyable, for to be a woman
among men without the men’s knowing it is decidedly interesting, and has
many intriguing possibilities. I thought this about the nearest I’d ever
come to being able to enjoy the liberties and privileges of men, and I
tried to exercise my mind appreciatively.

I had thought of all this during my walk around the camp and was still
smiling inwardly when I returned to the barracks. Several men were
lounging about the door; they offered a matter-of-fact greeting and I
returned their perfunctory hellos with a smile and a nod. I wasn’t quite
sure of my voice. But no one paid particular attention to me, so I
walked on down to my bunk and began a casual investigation of the
assortment of odds and ends that Leon had collected.

Hung at the rear end of the bunk, with his slicker, haversack and
embroidered ditty bag, I found his ukulele and, since I couldn’t think
of anything else to do, I flopped on the bed and began strumming the uke
as accompaniment to my idle dreams about the oddity of the situation. It
occurred to me that if anything should happen to cause my discovery, the
newspapers would make a front-page story of it. The “yellow sheets”
would pay almost any price for my story of the affair, giving all the
lurid details of what I heard and did during these two days of
soldiering. I could visualize the headlines, in big black letters,
carrying to all parts of the country the story of the daring girl who
took her brother’s place in the army so that he could attend a farewell
party with his beloved. After which, wouldn’t it be nice to have golden
offers from half a dozen theatrical producers; it’d be a marvelous way
to break into the lime-lit ranks. What a publicity stunt!

When my thoughts arrived at this point, my fingers were strumming the
uke rather excitedly—sort of muscular sympathy, I guess. Anyway, my
reverie was abruptly ended at this point, for I heard a voice behind me
call “Canwick!” And I rolled out with a start to stare dumbly at a
soldier who appeared to be no higher nor lower than myself. He didn’t
wait for me to say anything, just rattled out his message and
disappeared. He said—I recall it distinctly because I said it over and
over about a dozen times before I could decide what to do about
it—“Canwick, Colonel Davison is at Regimental Headquarters. You’re to
report to him there at once.”

Those words marked the end of my brief spell of dreamy pleasure. The
hitherto comic lark promptly developed into a very serious series of
disturbing developments. After digesting the orderly’s message, I
decided that there was nothing to do but report to Colonel Davison—the
which I proceeded to do, and came into his presence with my heart in my
throat and my knees feeling rather unstable. It was lucky that I knew
where the headquarters were and what the Colonel looked like; but I
wasn’t counting any blessings or naming them one by one at that moment
when I wavered into his presence, and offered a weak “Yes, sir,” after a
comic opera salute.

“Canwick,” the Colonel said abruptly, “I’ve praised you so much that now
I have to pay for the praise by losing your services.”

“Oh, no, sir!” I exclaimed, entirely at sea.

“Yes,” he insisted. “General Backett has decided that he needs your
services more than I do, so you and I must part. You’ve worked yourself
into an enviable place, and I’m sure you will like General Backett.” He
stopped, looked at me a moment then added, “Are you sorry?”

Well, he didn’t sound any more like a hard-boiled regular army officer
than nothing at all and when he asked me that question, I was still so
dumfounded that all I could manage was, “Uh-h—yes, sir, I am, sir.”

At that he laughed and continued, “Well, I’m sorry to lose you. You were
the ideal man for my work.... But then I wouldn’t want to hold you back
on that account. Doubtless General Backett will show his appreciation by
a promotion.”

“Is this—is this effective at once?” I inquired, hoping that he would
say “Monday.”

But he didn’t. He said, “Yes, to-day. It happens that General Backett’s
special clerk has been down with blood poisoning for a week and that
none of the men who have been tried as substitutes have satisfied the
General. It seems now that the special clerk will not be able to go
overseas with the organization and General Backett has taken my word for
the fact that you can fill the bill. So you report to him at once and
then come back to my office and straighten up the papers for your
successor.” He arose then and extended his hand, “And if I don’t see you
again, be assured of my best wishes, Canwick.”

I shook hands and stumbled out of the place. I was sorry to leave him. I
mean, it seemed a shame to leave such a nice officer on such short
notice.

Upon inquiry of an orderly I learned that General Backett’s office was
in the next building and I proceeded there at once, despite my chills
and shivers of apprehension. I didn’t know whether Leon was supposed to
have met this General man before or not, but since introductions don’t
count for much in the army anyway, I decided to act very stiff and
formal and see which way the wind bloweth. So I waltzed in and told the
orderly what I wanted and who I was and who sent me, and a few minutes
later I was escorted into the General’s sanctum sanctorum. I took one
good look at him and would have beat a retreat because he looked so
gruff and hard, but when he spoke his voice showed that he wasn’t that
way at all.

“You’re Canwick, eh?” he asked, in a tone that made me like him at once.

“Yes, sir,” said I, smiling a little, because at the moment I noticed
how big and awkward he seemed for a man who had spent his life in the
army.

“Well, Canwick, you’ve been invited to accompany me on a long hard
journey, and the work begins at once. My man is down with blood
poisoning and I must leave before he can get out of the hospital. I’ve
tried a dozen clerks, but none have satisfied me and I’m taking Colonel
Davison’s word for it that you will. So you see you have a reputation to
uphold.” He smiled encouragingly.

I was shaking inside but I managed to say, “I’ll do my best, sir.”

He smiled again and continued, “In taking you, I am looking to the
future, to a certain extent, because I believe I will need someone who
is able to interpret French and at the same time take dictation and help
in compiling reports. None of that will come now, of course, but will
probably come sometime after we arrive in France. For the time being
there are merely routine forms and letters to be done, and since there
are about a million of these to be cleaned up before we go, you’d better
do whatever you have to do and come back ready for work.”

Well, I didn’t have anything to do that I knew of, and I intimated as
much, whereupon he said, “Your transfer papers—get your personnel
officer to see to that. Also get your equipment and replace everything
that can’t stand inspection. By the time you return, I’ll have these
matters in order and we’ll go to work.”

So I said “Yes, sir” and left. It seemed to me he was in a terrible
hurry and I hadn’t the least idea who this “personnel officer” might be.
I started to think the thing out, but then I remembered that everyone
always said that a private wasn’t supposed to think, so I just proceeded
to do the only thing I could do—namely, find the Sergeant Major and
tell him what was what and ask how.

I found him in the Y.M.C.A. listening to a phonograph record of the
Marine Band, but when I told him what had happened, he promptly came
along with me to the headquarters, spoke to an officer about me and told
me he’d have the transfer fixed up at once. I asked him what I should do
next and he laughed and told me to pack up my junk and have it ready to
move to the Divisional Headquarters barracks when he came back. So I did
and he finally came back, and I then moved—wondering, as I did so, what
Leon would do if he returned to his old bunk before seeing me and
learning about the change.

Then I reported back to the Colonel and told him what the General had
told me. He was very nice about it—I guess all Colonels are always nice
about anything a General wants—and he told me not to bother about his
records, that he would get them straightened out without trouble. I
guess he, too, wanted this fellow Canwick for future rather than present
work.

Back to the General’s office. And when he said he had a million things
to do, he minimized matters by about that number, for he kept me going
for three hours, and left more to be done in the morning. He dictated at
least a million letters—and poor me just by luck seeing an old letter
with the form FROM: TO: SUBJECT: on it, which just saved me from
addressing the first letter to “My dear Secretary of War.” There was
another million of blank forms to be filled out and half the things I
didn’t know beans about, but he was awfully nice about everything and
seemed to think it was perfectly natural that I should be ignorant about
some of them. Anyway, I worked until I was dizzy. And the General smoked
the vilest cigars I ever smelled. I bought a package of cigarettes—I
just had to practice up smoking—in self-defense.

I wrote to Leon by Special Delivery. He’d have to get back by next
afternoon, because from the way this General man talked, they were
leaving that night, and I’d have to see Leon for long enough to explain
about some of those things. And he’d have to know this General on sight.

Well, he ought to be happy: he’d wanted to get in with a General.
Whew—if it were me, I’d rather be a real soldier, than have to work
this hard all the time. I was actually dizzy.

I hoped Leon didn’t tell Vyvy about me. I didn’t want her blabbing it
all over the place. It didn’t seem like such a grand experience just
now. And I hoped he was enjoying her party; if all this were in vain,
I’d swoon like an olden heroine. I knew Auntie was having all kinds of
fits about now!

Oho, for the life of a soldier!... I know I haven’t mentioned every
detail of interest in this adventure—and especially some of the
funniest ones, like the cave-manly form of the man in the next bunk and
the discussion of social diseases which was going on up in the other end
of the barracks, not to mention certain problems of nature which had to
be solved at the expense of distinct concessions on the part of a
maiden’s modesty. But then, I can remember these things, if I think hard
enough. I certainly had never experienced anything like this before, nor
probably ever would again. I only hoped nothing would happen to make me
regret this escapade, for it was fun to be in with a crowd of men and
have them think you’re a man, too. My education went forward by leaps
and bounds that day!

Never again would I pity myself for being tired: I was so all in by
night that I could giggle into hysterics without the slightest
provocation. For safety’s sake I turned in but you can rest assured that
I didn’t remove as much of my clothes as the man in the next bunk did.
This was a case of the proverbial shoe: it makes all the difference in
the world which foot it’s on.



                               CHAPTER 5

                      A MAIDEN SLEEPS WITH AN ARMY


                                  —1—

If there’s one kind of scenery I like more than anything, it’s a winter
landscape of rolling hills and evergreen trees laden with snow. Usually
the sight of a snowy outdoors is very comforting—but not so that day.
Every time I noticed the snow—and it had been falling thick and fast
since early Sunday morning—it reminded me that Leon had to get back
here that afternoon, and between Vyvy and the snowstorm, there was
absolutely no telling whether he’d show up or not. So there was nothing
very comfy about that snowstorm. Of course, it would do something like
this at just this time. My luck again!

I was on the go all morning. General Backett certainly did believe in
keeping busy. I discovered that morning that he was too old for regular
duty and no doubt that was why he worked so hard: he evidently wanted to
demonstrate his ability to stand the wear and tear, in the hope that he
would get some kind of an active command after we reached France. “We,”
did I say? Which just goes to prove how easy it is to lose one’s
identity: I kept thinking that I was going with the General, instead of
Leon. It seemed perfectly natural, as if I had been expecting it for
months.

Well, I wasn’t going, so what was the sense of these foolish visions?
And yet, it did seem perfectly natural for me to be chasing around
getting my equipment checked and replenished and then leaving it spread
out for inspection. Even that morning at first call, I rolled out as
pretty as you please, grabbed a towel and rushed for the water-trough,
scrubbed my teeth, washed my face in the cold water, emitted a few
curses just to keep up with the other fellows, rushed back, combed my
hair (that was rather awkward, I imagine) and ran out with the rest of
them to the mess hall. That much was good fun, even though I already had
noticed the snowstorm.

From breakfast on, however, my worries piled up just about as fast as
the snow heaped up outside. On the go every minute, doing a lot of
things that I knew nothing whatever about, chasing errands, reporting
this to that officer and that to this officer and running all over the
place like a chicken sans head. All of which I would have enjoyed, if it
weren’t for this doubt about Leon.

This doubt increased steadily, for some inexplicable reason. I could
just see him at home there with Vyvy, hating like the very devil to
think of going back. He probably watched that snowstorm with
fascination, and kept putting off and putting off the moment of his
departure. I could understand how he felt: he hated the camp and he
hated to leave his Vyvy, and I knew he spent all morning trying to
decide whether the outfit really would leave that night. I finally
decided to telephone him, if he hadn’t come by noon, but when noon came
I found that I couldn’t get out until later and had to put off that
project.

Meanwhile, I had the shock of my life, for who should appear but Jay-Jay
himself. I tried to duck—it was just my damned luck to bump into him
anyway, for he didn’t know where Leon was supposed to be in this
camp—but he spied me and called, so I had to face him. Believe me, I
did some tall trembling at that moment, although I realized that if
worse came to worst and he did recognize me, I could make him see the
joke of it and keep his mouth shut about me. I just waited to see what
he would do.

“How are you, Leon?” he asked, sticking out his hand to be shaken.
“Thought you would be in Wakeham this week-end.”

Well, what was I to say? I thought fast, believe me. I couldn’t say I
hadn’t gone, because then later he would go home and perhaps run into
Vyvy or Auntie or someone else who was at Vyvy’s party and then he’d
probably learn that Leon was there. While I pondered frantically, my eye
fell on his wrist watch and noted that it was just a little before two
o’clock.

“Why—,” I stammered, “I did go home—just got back about half an hour
ago.”

He looked at me kinda funny. “Your voice has changed, hasn’t it?” he
inquired abruptly.

I laughed. “God, yes—everything about me’s changed,” I declared. “This
damned army life changes you so you hardly recognize yourself.” I
grimaced as if disgusted with the whole business.

“You must have had a skiddy trip down,” he observed then. “Rather rotten
for driving, eh?”

“Don’t mention it!” I exclaimed. “It was one hell of a trip! Leona came
with me, in spite of Aunt Elinor’s objections, and she started right
back. God only knows when or how she’ll get there in this weather.”

“She did?” he repeated. “Dammit, I wish I had known that. I’d like to
have seen her. Don’t know when I’ll get to New York again. This is the
nearest I’ve been for several weeks.”

“Been transferred, or something?” I asked, and offered him a cigarette,
which he accepted before replying. “Got a match?” I certainly did try my
best to sound matter-of-fact, despite the fact that this was the first
time in my life I ever asked a man for a match.

“Sure—” And he produced a box, gave me a light, served himself, and
continued, “Why, no, no transfer—just a rearrangement of the work we’re
doing. Means a lot of jumping around for me. Been down South the past
three weeks, came over here from Washington yesterday and will be here
until the middle of the week, when I move again.”

“Interesting work?” I inquired.

“Not very—I’m getting fed up on it. I’m even considering applying for a
transfer so I can go over. After all, a man might as well be in the
middle of this business.”

I nodded, and smiled—this didn’t sound like Jay-Jay. I wondered if my
ultimatum to him had had this effect.

“I say,” he suddenly interrupted. “Why don’t we have dinner together
this evening, or to-morrow evening?”

I almost blurted out “I’d love to”—which was the natural thing to
say—but I caught myself and said instead, “Gosh, I’d like to, but it
can’t be done to-night because I’m so busy I don’t know when I’ll be
free, and it can’t be done to-morrow because we’re leaving, I think,
to-night. Thanks a lot, though.”

“You’re leaving? Really?” he seemed completely astounded at this, but he
came back quickly, “Well—” He extended his hand again, “Good luck,
Leon. Be careful what you do with those mademoiselles and don’t drink
too much cognac on an empty stomach!”

“Don’t worry about the mademoiselles!” I replied with a laugh. “And good
luck to you. Hope we’ll meet over there.”

We parted and I breathed a mile-long sigh of relief. But after I reached
the office, I could smile at the thought of this odd meeting, and
particularly at the idea of Jay-Jay’s being so utterly dumb. I was sure
that if I saw my Captain in dresses and black paint, I’d recognize him
without any trouble at all—and I only saw him once in my life. Jay-Jay
certainly must have been stupid.

About fifteen minutes after this meeting, luck came my way for once. The
General decided suddenly that I could do some purchasing for him in
town. “Get a pass for an hour and pick up these things for me,” he said,
handing me a list of half a dozen things. I needed no urging; got the
pass from the non-com in charge, and departed at once.

You can guess what the first thing I did was: hunt up a telephone booth
that was secluded enough to allow me to say all I wanted to say. I found
one in a lunch room and put in a rush call to Wakeham.

I spent fifteen hectic minutes waiting for the call to come through and
when it did, I almost died of shock, for who answered the phone but my
dear darling twin!

I was speechless for a moment. Adequate words for my feelings could not
be spoken over the telephone, but I did try to give him a general idea
of what I really thought of him for not leaving very early that morning.

“But your Special Delivery just came, about five minutes ago,” he
declared. “I’ll leave in another five minutes.... But how am I going to
get in there again? How are we going to change back?”

“How the devil do I know? You get here! The rest can wait. I’ll wait for
you at the headquarters building.”

Aunt Elinor got on the line long enough to hear my voice. She sounded
rather shaky when she said, “I feel better after hearing your voice,
Leona dear.”

“I’ll see you in the morning, Auntie. Don’t worry.” And that was the end
of that.

And this was the end of this. I’d been gone much more than an hour and
my General was having forty fits by this time.


                                  —2—

Several hours elapsed and my little adventure ceased to be interesting;
even though I talked to Auntie by phone again it didn’t make me feel any
brighter. Somehow or other, I felt damned pessimistic. I wished I had
kept my bright idea to myself, instead of getting into this
nerve-racking mess. Leon should have been there by this time, but he
wasn’t, and no one knew where he was. Auntie said he left before three
o’clock and had chains on the car, and he surely should be able to make
it in six hours, even in a snowstorm.

Auntie was on the verge of hysterics, I guess. “What can you do? What
can you do?” she kept asking.

“Why, I can’t do anything unless and until he gets here,” I told her.
“What do you expect me to do, go out hunting for him?” It struck me that
probably he had headed in the opposite direction. I suppose I really
shouldn’t say such rotten things about my brother, but I just couldn’t
help thinking things, knowing him as I did.

And then Auntie said something that gave me more to worry about. “Leon
couldn’t find Esky anywhere,” she declared weakly. “We haven’t seen him
since last night.”

I supposed the poor pup stayed out all night and would probably be down
with distemper when I got home. Of course, no one would think of looking
for him!

Auntie was enough to give anyone the willies when she got excited. “But,
Leona, you must do something! What if Leon has an accident and can’t get
there this evening? What will you do?”

As if there was anything I could do!

“You listen to me, Leona! If he doesn’t come pretty soon, you go right
up to that General and confess the whole business! I’m not going to be
worried like this!”

I had to laugh at that. She wasn’t going to be worried like this! And I
should tell the General! Why, they’d probably crucify me and send Leon
to Atlanta for life! I told her to sit tight and not to
worry—everything would straighten out sooner or later. “And I’m all
right, anyway,” I added for good measure. “Nothing to worry about.”

“Well—you call me the minute he arrives,” she insisted.

“Surely,” I agreed. “And if he doesn’t arrive—I mean if he calls you
and says he can’t get here, tell him to lie low until you hear from me.
If he doesn’t show up in time, I’ll send a letter to you for him. He’ll
have to stay out of sight if he doesn’t show up here.”

Well, I finally got away from that phone and back to my bunk. We were
going to Hoboken that night, as sure as my name was Leona Canwick. That
is, somebody was going—was it me?

But I couldn’t help wondering what I’d do if Leon didn’t arrive. I
couldn’t think of a thing to do except do what he would do if he were
here. I’d be in for one sweet time! If I got caught in this thing, thank
God I wouldn’t have to worry about one of those inspections for probably
a month. Perhaps I could figure out some way of evading it by that time.
But, oh, I did wish Leon would come! And I went back to the headquarters
building again to wait for him.

Something told me that he wasn’t anywhere near the camp! Any other man
would have got there, if he had to break both legs and a couple of ribs.
But not my dear sweet concaveman of a brother!

But as long as I was there, there was hope. When I left this camp,
sometime before midnight—or rather, if I had not left it before
that—the die would be cast, and there would certainly be hell to pay in
more ways than one.

What a wonderful adventure this had turned out to be!!!


                                  —3—

It was late Sunday night. Leon had not arrived. It was what you might
call the eleventh hour and the fifty-ninth minute of this affair, and I
was taking it for granted that I was in the soup up to my ears. The die
apparently was cast. The Canwick blood seemed to have turned a sour
yellow in at least one spot. I didn’t know where Leon was, but I should
have assumed hours ago that he would not be there. I don’t know what I
could have done about it anyway, except confess and get us both in a
stew, but it got my goat to think that I forced myself into this
martyrdom. But I was in it—and that’s all there was to it.

O Leon, thou personification of courage, thou dear brave considerate
brother, I really felt more sorry for you than for myself. A man as
yellow as you was a fit object for the world’s pity! I offered to help
you with no idea that such consequences could be possible and with, I
now realized, a mistaken conception of my brother’s love and gratitude.
This situation ceased to be funny a long time ago and if I did not pity
him more than I hated him, I’d have given the whole show away before
this. And the joke of it was that no doubt he felt confident that I
would never do that.

And he was quite right: I would go through with my end of this thing in
spite of him and his yellow streak. No future day in this man’s army
could be any worse than the one I had just put in—and which was not
ended yet, so I felt sure that, barring accidents and given any lucky
breaks at all, I’d be better able to stand what was coming than he
would. If things ever got too bad, I’d throw up my part and let him take
the consequences. After all, if I got caught in this, he was the one
that would suffer. I doubt if he realized that!

However, being a generous and loving sister, I continued to give him the
benefit of every possible doubt; I continued to hope that he hadn’t
deliberately deserted me in this predicament. And I took it for granted
that he would at least be willing to do everything he could to protect
me, and later get me out of it. If he did as I told him in my letter,
without regard to his petty prejudices and silly comforts, he probably
would save me from all sorts of embarrassment and himself from any
amount of trouble and worry—for I could get along safely, if I was at
all lucky. I’d made up my mind to get along—to lick this game if I had
to kill off the general staff man by man.

I didn’t know where he was now, but he’d surely get in touch with Auntie
sometime soon, no matter where he was, and then she’d tell him what he
must do—unless she passed out from the shock before that. Leon must
stay away from Wakeham; even Vyvy must think he’d gone overseas. In my
letter to him I promised to send her a few lines of love and kisses now
and then to keep her happy.

I told him I’d write to him at Booneville—that was far enough away from
home and far enough back in the woods to be a safe place for him to
rusticate and hide for a while, until he could do something about me. He
could lose himself in New York easily enough, but then he might get
picked up somehow and made to enlist or do something. I suggested that
he take the name of Leonard Lane, and stay at Booneville for a while.

Auntie would have to let it leak out that I was down South or out West,
doing war work of some kind, like entertaining in the camps. Anyone who
knew me would accept that story easily. My letters to her would, of
course, be censored—unless I could manage to get them okayed by the
General. If censored, I’d have to send instructions to Leon in onion
juice: write a letter and interline it with other sentences written in
onion juice, then when he or she held it near heat, the invisible
onion-juice letters would be made visible. I knew it worked: we used to
do it when we were kids.

So far so good: but how was I going to get out of this? There was the
big problem, and the only answer I could see from here was for Leon to
get a passport, if necessary, and get over to France by hook or crook,
even if he had to work on a cattle boat or an oil tanker—anyway to get
there. The rest would be easy: we would switch and I’d come back in his
place.... Sounds reasonable in theory; I only hoped it would work out in
practice. It depended, of course, upon how eager Leon was to get
there—but—oh, hell, when that factor entered in, I might as well give
up, for he never was eager to do anything that might be hard work or
uncomfortable.

As far as I could see now, with everyone all packed up and waiting for
the C. O. to appear with the final word, my fate was lying helpless in
the lap of the gods. Which reminds me that I just by grace of God
remembered what Mark Twain or somebody like him said about telling the
difference between a girl and a boy: the General tossed a packet of
papers to me and I instinctively spread my legs to catch it in my
lap—and there wasn’t any lap there; but I saved the day by catching it
with my hand instead. I don’t suppose the General would have noticed
such a thing anyway. No reason why he should—but then I couldn’t be too
careful. I certainly had to watch my step.

I tried all evening to get away long enough so I could step out to a
hotel and have a decent bath. Those army clothes were kinda itchy and
uncomfortable when you were not used to them, and a bath would feel
fine—but how could I take a bath in camp? Or on the boat. Or when I got
to France? This was getting serious! And there were certain other things
that were bound to happen in due time, and from time to time, and would
have to be taken care of, regardless of soldiers, sailors, marines,
nurses and generals and in spite of war and hell. I could see from here
that I was going to have some very unpleasant moments in this man’s
army. I was certainly in a no-maid’s land!

Well—such is war! For Leon’s sake, as well as my own, I sincerely hoped
that he wasn’t foolish enough to appear there in the morning looking for
me: that would certainly be fatal. However, I wasn’t going to worry
about that—there was little or no danger of him being near there even
to-morrow. I told Auntie to tell him to stay away from there if he
couldn’t make it that night. And also for him to send me some money,
addressed to Divisional Headquarters. I didn’t have much more than the
price of a bath, and there was a lot of things I’d got to have before
many days elapsed.

All packed up, from tooth brush to absorbent cotton. Bring on your
damned old war!

No sooner said than done: came the C.O. His voice was like the bell that
summoned me to heaven or to hell.

And, my God, what was this I saw before me?


                                  —4—

I had a moment of renewed hope when Esky appeared just as the C. O., a
pussyfooting lieutenant named Blaines, was giving the final
instructions. I thought for the moment that perhaps the pup’s presence
meant that Leon was about. But I recalled, next moment, that Auntie had
said the dog was nowhere to be found when Leon left, so apparently Esky
had padded along through all that snow and hadn’t seen Leon at all.

The poor pup was all in. He dragged himself up on the bunk and put his
head in my lap, perfectly happy to be there and have me rub his ears. I
tried to get him off the bunk before the Lieutenant saw him, but Esky
could be stubborn when he wanted to be, and refused to move, with the
result that a few moments later this Lieutenant Blaines came along and
spied him.

“Whose dog is that?” he demanded of me.

“Mine, sir,” I replied. The very tone of his voice grated on my nerves.
I had met him before: he was some kind of an aide to General Backett,
and he was in and out several times the day before. His full name was
Chilton Blaines, and I didn’t think the General had a great deal of use
for either his intelligence or his personality.

So I didn’t attempt any evasion about Esky, knowing at once what to
expect from this snippy little shave-tail. He fulfilled my expectations
at once. “Get rid of him, and immediately. You know as well as I,
Canwick, that no pets or mascots are to be taken aboard. This is no old
ladies’ home.” And he strode pompously down the line.

After he had disappeared and we settled down for another quarter hour
wait, a big homely man across the aisle spoke up in a voice that carried
to all corners of the shed. “Dat’s why dat bird don’t belong here—dis
ain’t no old ladies’ home.”

“You mean the dog?” I asked stupidly, fascinated by his booming voice
and his ugliness.

The big fellow grinned toothily. “Naw—dat Chilblaines, the God damn
little sawed-off piece of punk.”

Whew! What an earful! But I managed to laugh at his description of the
shrimp louie, and in a moment the big fellow and I became fast friends,
for he promptly offered his assistance in the matter of Esky’s disposal.
I gathered from his conversation that he not only liked dogs but that he
loathed the sight of this snoopy “Chilblaines” as he called him, and
that he would like nothing better than to slip one over on the aforesaid
Chilblaines.

“We’ll trim de little squirt!” he declared. “Say, buddy, ain’t you
workin’ fer de Gen?”

“General Backett,” I replied.

“Sure thing! Just the racket!” he exclaimed. “Nothin’ to it atall!” And
he proceeded to enlarge upon his brilliant idea. “I been waitin’ fer a
chance to get dat guy alone somewhere, and when I do, I’m gonna put his
knees in his face so fast they’ll have to blast to get ’em out!”

“Well—I wish you luck,” I told him, although I didn’t want to encourage
him too much because I figured this Chilblaines was just the sort of a
fellow who’d go out of his way to make life miserable for anyone he
suspected of being antagonistic to him. However, I hadn’t the least idea
as to what could be done with Esky and I did hate to leave him for
someone to ship home.

The big fellow, I later learned, knew some things that I didn’t, one
thing in particular: namely that, as clerical dog-robber to General
Backett, I could get away with a great many little sins of commission
and omission that no common soldier could dare contemplate with
impunity. This fellow had been in the army long enough to know the
necessity of humility on his part, and he therefore got that much more
pleasure from the idea of my slipping one over on his pet superior.
Indeed, he was all wrapped up in the idea of getting Esky through the
gangplank inspection and on board our transport.

“All we gotta do,” he repeated, “is get that pup into somethin’ ’at
looks official. The top-kicker’ll probably be the only man ’at can
suspect anything funny and he’s too damned scared of his job to say
anythin’ if you tell ’im it’s somethin’ of the Gen’s.”

“But what if someone should insist on investigating?” I objected,
hopeful but still in doubt as to the feasibility of the scheme.

“Aw hell, buddy!” he exclaimed impatiently. “Don’t you know there ain’t
no river so wide it can’t be crossed somehow or other? It’s a million to
one that we can walk right through without a hitch—why, there’s a whole
g—— damned army got to get on that boat and they ain’t gonna lose no
time over nobody.” His reasoning convinced himself but not me.

“And what happens after we’re on board? What if the dog gets loose? What
if we’re caught in an inspection on the ship?” I was convinced that it
was too risky. “I’d rather arrange to have someone here ship him home
to-morrow than take a chance on his being put out of the way in the
middle of the Atlantic Ocean.”

“Fergit it! Fergit it! Act yer age, buddy!” His booming voice was
certainly persuasive. He sounded as if the scheme were all worked out
and carried to successful conclusion. “Why, after we once get on that
old scow, we can’t get off, even if we want to. And nobody’s gonna say
anything anyway as long as we keep outa that dirty rotten little
stinker’s way.”

At this point he demonstrated that he was chewing tobacco. When he spit,
you expected the building to shake. It was really a fascinating sight: I
never had seen anything quite like it: he gave his face a twist, aimed
at a sawdust box about ten yards away, heaved a huge sigh and let fly in
a long arch that usually ended in the sawdust box. The feat fascinated
my sleepy mind so that I followed his argument in a sort of daze of
admiration.

“Why, buddy,” he continued, “there ain’t nothin’ to it atall! Not a
worry! Not a wrinkle! If we get caught, your Gen’ll fix it up—and
anyway, what can anyone do out in the middle of the ocean? If
Chilblaines threatened to throw de pup overboard, you know damn well the
Gen’d put a stop to that! So what’d they do? Huh? Turn round and come
back to let de dog off?... Why, buddy [Spit. Spit.] it’s a set-up!”

I was convinced, or rather I let him go ahead with his plans. He
procured a barracks bag and cut a little hole in the bottom of it. Then
we tried various ways of carrying Esky in it. The poor pup didn’t know
what it was all about but I patted his head and told him it was all
right, and the way he behaved proved to me that dogs have intelligence
just like human beings. First we put the dog in head first; then we
decided that he’d probably wriggle less if we put his head up so he
could see and smell me and thus know he was all right. We tried this and
I tried lifting it—it was no go. I couldn’t have lugged it any distance
at all.

“Let me have him,” ordered my co-conspirator. And he took the bag, put a
piece of board in it, stuck Esky in so his nose came at the drawstring,
and picked up the bundle to carry it under his arm instead of over his
shoulder as is the customary way of carrying a barracks bag. “You see,
buddy, you’ll be behind me and he can see ya and know it’s all right.
See?”

Just then the top-kicker’s whistle blew and I had to submit to the plan.
We started off, with the big fellow carrying Esky, besides all his own
kit. Thank God we didn’t have to walk far. We rode to the train in
trucks. Nobody molested us and Esky behaved admirably, aside from a
little stretching and wiggling which ceased as soon as I began to pet
him.

When we boarded the ship in the morning, the big boy stepped lively up
the gangplank with a smirking laugh, all prepared for Lieutenant
Blaines, in case he happened to be around. But that gentleman was
nowhere in sight. The officers at the rail gave my overloaded comrade a
matter-of-fact glance, the top-kicker accepted his mumbled “some o’
General Backett’s stuff” and waved us past, and we followed the stream
of traffic to the hole wherein we were supposed to spend the next
fortnight or more.

The compartment assigned to our company proved to be too small by three
bunks and the top-kicker finally assigned the big fellow and another odd
number to join me in a little cubby-hole that used to be a paint shop
and was now a hole just big enough for three bunks. Here we rested.

I found that the big boy’s name was Ben Garlotz and that he used to be a
prizefighter, under the ring name of Big Ben Bailey. He certainly had
all the attributes of a rough, tough, genuine he-man. I liked him
immensely and so did Esky, who was doomed to spend the duration of the
trip under my bunk. The other bunkmate’s name was Maurice Getterlow, and
I believe he was some kind of a Semitic. We certainly made up a strange
trio of bed-fellows—and Esky made an even stranger fourth member of the
squad.

Dawn saw us in the lower harbor—and Private Canwick was en route to
France. God help Leon and preserve Aunt Elinor from hysterics! I hoped
they were both praying for me and that for once they might stand in with
Mr. John Q. Headman!



                               CHAPTER 6

                               A JOY HOLE


                                  —1—

I have never forgotten the first days on board that boat. “Well,” I said
to myself, “if I am off to the war: to the war I must go!” And how! That
tub we were on must have been a poor relation to a river steamer before
it was commandeered for transport purposes. I don’t see how we kept up
with the other ships that made up that squadron—I thought the
destroyers or torpedo boats or whatever they were that we saw way off in
the distance, hopping around like snake feeders, would lose us in the
night. We were just chugging along—and a more monotonous voyage I never
could imagine.

We sailed down into the lower harbor just after dawn, joined four other
transports and set out to sea. Next day we picked up three more ships
and a flock of these wasp-like naval boats, and now there were ships all
around us as far as we could see. It was rather a pretty sight: sort of
majestic, all these ships loaded with fighting men, plugging along sort
of irresistibly; I mean, it made you feel so strong and invulnerable, or
something like that. I know what I mean, so it’s all right.

As a matter of fact, I didn’t have much time to admire the scenery,
because General Backett continued mercilessly to find things for me to
do. Of course, in a way I was glad, because being busy kept me from
worrying about my predicament and from getting into trouble. Anyway, the
General never seemed to have a single moment when there wasn’t something
on his mind, and anything that was on his mind automatically fell upon
mine, for he depended upon little Leona unreservedly. That clerk that
got blood poison must have spoiled him: he expected his dog-robber to be
clerk, adviser, encyclopedia, file cabinet, errand boy, confidant, valet
and information service, all in one and at once. He said the powers that
be played a dirty trick on him, in that the officers who had been
assigned to attend him were a collection of nitwits who were of no
earthly good to him except for “show purposes.” “A staff’s a staff, even
if for no other reason than that it exists and can be seen and counted,”
he said.

Well, as far as I could see, he was about right. At least this
Chilblaines was a total loss: he was a worse dog-robber than I. He and
the others were just a bunch of errand boys and I often wondered if they
were heroes in the eyes of their respective friends and families. I
suppose they were truly heroic to some people: they say that every man
is a hero to someone somewhere, but if that is so I don’t see how the
Bible crack about great men being without honor in their own country can
also be true. I guess there’s no man living who isn’t great in the eyes
of somebody. I could even imagine how this Chilblaines was looked up to
and admired in his home town. Well, he might be Lieutenant Blaines in
his home town, but he was just plain “Chilblaines” around the ship. Ben
said, “That snotty little runt could be dropped overboard and nobody’d
miss him atall!”

And so, since his staff was sort of null and void for all practical
purposes, General Backett relied upon little Private Canwick as his
right-hand man. I certainly did feel important. I wanted to make myself
indispensable to him, for in his protection lay my hope of safety. As
Leon said, “One feels much safer with a general!”


                                  —2—

Now I knew what traveling steerage was like, and I must admit that I
didn’t care much for it. I was beginning to feel a little unstable and
Ben was likely to boil over at any time. Getterlow apparently had a
cast-iron stomach—maybe he had traveled like this before.

As Ben said, “If war is hell, there must be some place worse’n hell, and
we’re there!” And I heartily concurred in that opinion. Our little
cubbyhole opened off of Troop Compartment D-13, and we were extreme aft
and on the water line, which made it necessary to keep the portholes
closed all the time. Being so far aft put us in an enviable position
just over the propellers and beside the pumping engines that sent the
drinking water throughout the ship and the hot salt water to the
enlisted men’s showers.

Did I say “enviable?” Where Esky might exist in solitary comfort, in so
far as space was concerned, there were three of us, two grown men and
me, and Esky to boot, all packed in like the proverbial sardines—except
that those poor fish are only two-deep whereas we were stacked
three-deep, with the bottom bunk resting almost on the floor deck and
the man on top, Getterlow, unable to turn over because of the low-lying
deck above. Esky could just squirm under my bunk. Ben had the middle
berth, and probably an ordinary-sized man could be comfortable in it,
but not Ben.

Beside this tier of bunks was less than three feet of space—the
dressing room for all three of us. A small ventilator came into the
middle of the ceiling, and sent down a little breeze of cold air which
was just refreshing enough to keep us alive and aggravate our misery by
reminding us how cool and nice it was on deck. Of course, if you held
your head under the ventilator for any length of time you might begin to
feel that living was worth while, but the moment you removed your
breathing apparatus from that one spot, your brains went reeling around
in dizzy contortions and every breath seemed like a gasp.

Such a place would be almost untenable at best, with the portholes open,
but they had to stay closed and the place was as dark as a potato
cellar, unlighted except for the thin irritating rays which strayed in
from a solitary blue lamp in the middle of the main troop
compartment.... Truly there couldn’t be any more hell in war than there
was in this! The close, stifling, itch-producing atmosphere of the place
defied description. Damp, heavy heat seemed to close about our heads and
lungs, taking away all power of resistance, dissipating every desire to
resist.

Those water-pumps next door, instead of alleviating the hot, sweaty air,
augmented it by pouring forth merciless waves of saturated matter which
conquered and depressed almost without a struggle. We could only get out
through the main compartment, and the only way into or out of that
equally uninhabitable hole was by a narrow ladder at whose upper end a
hatch opened into a paint and carpentry shop—a veritable factory of
fumes and odors that would be sickening enough anyway; if you felt kinda
sick and started for the open air, you would have to go through this
final chamber of destruction, and when a man’s sick he don’t feel well
enough to endure that.

If you weren’t sick when you started, you’d be sick by the time you got
on deck, so you might just as well stay there and suffer.... It sure was
one hell of a place. The only consolation I found in the situation lay
in the realization that it would be so much more terrible if the
occupants of this hell-hole were women instead of men: if a hundred
women were jammed into a sweaty, stuffy place like that, there’d be no
living there at all.

And yet we were not so bad off as some others. Indeed we were rather
lucky, because, whereas each troop unit was allowed on deck only during
certain hours of the day and never after dusk, we were able to grab off
a little air now and then in the course of our travels about our duties,
for Ben was an orderly and Getterlow managed somehow to disappear
whenever it came time for drills or other routine company rules. He was
a wagoner—in other words, a chauffeur, so I didn’t see what excuse he
could have for being absent from the company get-togethers. There
couldn’t be much chauffeuring aboard a ship. However, leave it to a Jew
to get away with murder. You have to hand it to them, as Ben said.

I don’t mean to say that we didn’t suffer. Just one night was a lifetime
of suffering, believe me. And during most of the day, this little
hot-air pot was our chief domain and, except for our stolen and
in-line-of-duty liberties, we remained there and suffered the trip as
best we could—which was not very well, in the case of Esky, who found
it rather close quarters for a healthy he-man of a dog. He was satisfied
to stay put for a couple of days; that snowy journey to Camp about
finished him; but soon he was full of pep and would have been on deck
pronto if he hadn’t been so well trained that he didn’t know how to
disobey my orders that he stay where he was.

He sure was one fine pup. Everybody liked him and anyone who couldn’t
finish his eats brought whatever he could carry back to Esky. Ben took a
very paternal interest in him and a fiendish delight in hoodwinking the
inspecting officers during the morning tour. As I was usually out at the
time, Ben had to do the dirty work and take the risks. He would tuck
Esky under my blanket roll when he heard the officers coming down the
ladder into the compartment, and Esky stayed there without a wiggle, no
matter how long he had to hold this uncomfortable position. It was so
dark in there that the inspectors had to carry flash lights, and after
the second morning, they didn’t bother to do more than look in the door,
so Esky was safe. It would have been safe enough now to leave him under
the bunk, but Ben said that as sure as we did, Chilblaines would come
along on inspecting detail and “Dat rat’ll want to look in yer ears
even!” So far, Chilblaines had failed to appear.

Ben was lying in his bunk trying to decide whether to make an effort to
join the crap game outside, Esky was panting so hard underneath me that
the head of my bunk was quivering, and I was about wilted. I’d have
given my right eye for a bath—even considered surrendering my honor for
one. I tried Christian Science to see if I could make my imagination
control my body: if faith can move mountains, it certainly ought to be
good for a little spell of comfort even in this god-awful sweatshop.
Oho, for the life of a soldier in this man’s war! What a dumb-bell I was
to imagine there was anything glorious or exciting about this business!


                                  —3—

One morning I came back to the bunk hole, found Ben there and told him,
“The General says Chilblaines is sicker’n a dog and has lost everything
he ever ate in his life. Isn’t that good news?”

Ben just took one look at me and made a dive for the G.I. can that was
set, for this very purpose, in the middle of the compartment. He was
engaged there for some little time and the sounds he emitted could be
heard above the monotonous hum of pumps and engines. When he finally
stumbled back to his berth, he looked as if he had lost twenty pounds,
but he managed a hollow-eyed grin and observed, “I hope he’s unconscious
the rest o’ the trip! Might o’ known somethin’ was wrong when he didn’t
come snoopin’ around all this time. Serves him damn well right.” And he
flopped into his bunk—or rather, his huge frame flopped, his legs
hanging awry over the edge. He didn’t have strength enough to lift them
up, too.

I said that I thought Chilblaines’ attack of seasickness was an act of
Providence intended to safeguard Esky’s passage. “Or maybe the vengeance
of the Lord,” I added.

“Ugh—” he groaned. “What the hell did I ever do to be treated like
this?” He opened his eyes and stared at me. “Leony—be a good kid and
get me a wet towel or somethin’.”

So I got him a wet towel and a couple of lemons, and just as I was
leaving, I discovered the remains of a plug of chewing tobacco on the
deck. “Here’s your tobacco, Ben,” I said, laying it on his berth in
front of his face.

“Aw, my God!” he cried out. “Don’t ya know I’m sick! Christ, I think I’m
gonna die!”

I had to laugh. “That’s what everyone thinks, Ben, when they get
seasick. I know what it is.”

He just moaned and began sucking one of the lemons. I got out—looking
at him made me feel unsteady, too, and both of us couldn’t be sick at
once.

I spent that day running back and forth between Ben and the General, and
I must say that being with the General was like recreation compared to
what I had to endure there. Ben wasn’t the only one that was sick. About
half the compartment was on the trot to the G.I. can and up on deck
every other man was sucking a lemon. The mess hall was doing a very,
very dull business: you didn’t have to stand in line very long now to
get your chow.

And what an education I was receiving! Every man around me had a
different way of swearing and it seemed that each one was trying to
outdo every other one in the matter of thinking up the dirtiest, vilest,
rottenest expressions. And since Ben was no slouch when it came to
cussing, I got more than my share of earfuls.

If Auntie could only see her “Leona dear” now! I knew I was in the army.
“Gangway for a bucket o’ slop!”


                                  —4—

Well, in spite of the salt-water soap that don’t soap worth a damn, in
spite of my tummy playing funny tricks that threatened seasickness, in
spite of Esky having joined Ben in le mal de mer, in spite of the fact
that we couldn’t see our convoy any longer and that we were in the
middle of the Atlantic and fair game for submarines, and in spite of
hell itself, I felt pretty good that night! And that’s saying a mouthful
without a single promise for the morrow—for to-morrow I was planning to
get a bath, in fresh water! I’d itched and squirmed and sweated and
suffered as long as I could: to-morrow I was going to take the leap—if
I got caught, I’d just have to get caught, that’s all. I had to have a
bath.

But that night I was happy anyway, because that afternoon I received a
nice little surprise from the General.

He had sent me out with some papers for the Divisional Adjutant and when
I reported back to his stateroom, I found him reading a paper-covered
French novel which a colonel had given him the day before. I knew he
could read French and I was surprised, not to say a little suspicious,
when he asked me to translate several lines of the text for him.

“I can fuddle through the ordinary stuff and manage to get the general
sense of a passage,” he explained, “but now and then I find something
that is too idiomatic for my limited knowledge and just don’t make sense
at all.”

He handed the book to me and I glanced hurriedly at the title and the
page which he indicated. Apparently the story was just another piece of
French frankness: the French adore risqué situations and subtly dirty
dénouements, but most of their novels and stories are false alarms. I
mean, you expect something very exceptionally shocking, and it isn’t at
all. Well, that’s the kind of a story my General was reading—with
enjoyment.

I read the passage that had stumped him and we both smiled at the subtle
suggestions in it. “Stuff like this,” he remarked, as I returned the
book to him, “is not good literary diet, but I find it refreshing if
used sparingly.”

“Harmless, I guess, sir,” I observed.

He nodded in agreement, then continued, “By the way, Canwick, I’ve
requested the personnel officer to find a vacant sergeancy for you—I
believe in rewarding ability and industry.”

I hesitated for a moment, then said very sincerely, “I appreciate your
good opinion very much, sir. And thank you for the promotion, sir.”

I was ready to depart then and there, but he made no gesture or remark
of dismissal, so I shifted uneasily to the other foot and waited.
Finally he spoke. “It just occurs to me, Canwick, that perhaps you might
like to make application for appointment as a field clerk. Better pay
and more conveniences and privileges, of course, but you wouldn’t be in
the army. Would a white-collar job suit your ambitions?”

“Why—” I commanded the sun of my thoughts to stand still, but it kept
right on racing around. What should I say? I knew what a field clerk was
and before I could be one I’d have to be discharged from the army; being
a field clerk would insure my safe progress and let me out of all my
prospective embarrassments, BUT they don’t give a man a discharge
without giving him a thorough medical examination at the same time!

“You suit your own likes,” declared the General. “If you want a
commission as field clerk, I’ll see that you get it. If you don’t, I’ll
try to keep you happy as long as you’re with me.”

“I think, sir,” I replied, sure enough of the choice now, “that I’d
rather serve my enlistment and take my chances on promotions. I would
rather remain in the army. Thank you just the same, sir.”

He laughed. “Oh—don’t mention it. Just occurred to me, that’s all. I
want to see you go as far as possible, because I think your training and
ability deserve it.... Thanks for the help with the French, and I
believe that’s all for the present.”

I eased out of his stateroom and hurried back to Ben. I found him
stretched out on his bunk. He emitted a moan when he saw me, but when I
told him the good news he raised himself on an elbow and exclaimed,
almost heartily, “Sergeant Canwick! Well, I’ll be g—— d——!”

This certainly was a funny war. Big Ben Bailey was a fighter; he could
whip a dozen men my size; and he didn’t know what fear meant—yet a
little shrimp like me gets to be a sergeant and he remains a private. It
wasn’t as if we were going to do battle with our minds: we were going to
war, to fight other men, and yet little me was worth more pay as a
soldier than Big Ben was. It seems funny when you stop to think of it.

But Ben made a crack that also made me think. He said, “You enlisted in
the Medical Corps, but you ain’t gonna see the world through the same
hole the rest o’ the pill-rollers see it through.” He seemed to think
that was a joke, so I laughed with him, but damned if I could see
anything funny in it. Some of the things I heard were utterly
unintelligible to me—I was not up on the terminology of vulgarity yet.


                                  —5—

The seventh day being Sunday I had to put off my bath—for various
reasons. I swore to get it to-morrow, though, or die in the attempt. I
was feeling fine, if it weren’t for being so dirty and uncomfortable. I
mean, my tummy had decided to be good and the cold sea air gave me all
the life necessary to make one feel good.

I saw Ben take a chew of tobacco, so I guessed he was feeling better. In
fact, I knew he was, for he spent the morning teaching me how to shoot
craps. He insisted that I learn. I said I didn’t have any money to
gamble with, but he says, “Don’t worry about that: you’ll gamble with my
money and I’ll split the profits with you. You can’t lose!”

“Why not? Why don’t you shoot, if it’s as easy as all that?”

“Gawd, Leony, but you’re dumb!” he declared impatiently. “Don’t you know
what Beginners’ Luck is? You never shot crap, therefore you’ll win.
See?”

So I learned how to shake ’em up and roll ’em out; how to bet, how not
to bet; how to “talk to ’em” and what to do when they obeyed my orders.
We were all set for the game which was sure to begin just after noon
mess.

Well, I don’t know just how to describe what happened. I was all aquiver
with excitement: it was just as if I were going into a battle. We joined
the game at the start and we were there at the finish. Between these two
extremes was much of interest.

Several of the ship’s crew came down to join in the game: sailors are
supposed to be deadly crap shooters, I gathered from what I’d heard, and
Ben insisted on betting against the dice for several rounds, “just to
see what goes on here.” We just about broke even in this kind of play.

The fourth time the dice came to me, Ben throws out a two-dollar bill
and declares, “Canwick’ll shoot this time. Two bones.”

Nobody swooped down on it at first, but finally a sailor flips out two
one-dollar bills, saying, “Two dollar bills must be lucky for you guys.”

Well, I shook up the dice very nonchalantly and let ’em fly across the
money. The sailor laughed. It was a crap: a one and a one.

“There’s your two, big boy,” said the sailor, pointing to the dice with
the two up and gathering in the four dollars.

A five spot fluttered by my face and Ben said, “Try a five and see if a
five comes for us.”

The sailor took two dollars of it and another soldier took the remaining
three. I shook them up and rolled again. A four! Everybody started
making side-bets on whether I’d seven or four or “on the next roll.” I
rolled those damned dice until I was blue in the face. Roll ’em and go
after ’em; roll ’em and go after ’em; over and over and over again,
until I was sweating like a stuck pig. Side-bets were won and lost and
everybody seemed to be making or losing or doing something one way or
the other, except me. Ben placed bets, won and lost on the rolls. And
then at last I rolled out a beautiful seven.

Our five dollars were gone. Seven dollars in all. I felt rather hectic
and turned to Ben, ready to quit. “Get back there!” he commanded. “Don’t
you know it’s never good luck to win right off?”

So I returned to the game and followed his instructions. On my next
roll, we lost three dollars. Ben won a little against the dice. Then I
lost five dollars more on my roll, and Ben won one against. Then Ben got
mad and slapped down all we had; thirteen dollars. “Shoot the works!” he
declared. And I was promptly covered.

That time I rolled a ten, and it required just three rolls to get from
that number down to seven.

I looked at Ben. He growled and turned away. I followed him up the
ladder and out on deck. When I caught up with him, I asked, “Where you
going now?”

“To borrow ten bucks from a guy I know,” he replied. “You wait here for
me.”

So I waited and while I hung around the door to the carpentry shop I
heard the voice of a chaplain preaching to a crowd on the deck right
over our compartment. It struck me as awfully funny: a preacher upstairs
giving a sermon and a gang downstairs gambling!

Pretty soon Ben came back, with a grin on his ugly face. “Come on!” he
called. “We’ll trim dese guys yet.”

When I got back in my old place in the circle, I noticed that the voice
of that chaplain upstairs was audible even down here, and I mentioned
the fact to the man next to me.

“That’s Doc Lumber,” he informed me. “He has about as much business in
the army as I have in a lady’s seminary.”

“What’s the matter with him?” I asked.

“Oh—nothing. He’s all right, you know. Good preacher, but old-fashioned
and too damned serious and literal-minded for an army chaplain. Nobody
pays any attention to his preaching, anyway.”

So I turned my attention to the game. Ben had made a bet against the
dice and lost a dollar. On the next man’s roll, he won a dollar. The
dice came to me.

“We shoot one buck,” announced Ben, throwing out the dollar.

It was no sooner covered than I rolled out a nine and repeated promptly.
“Shoot the two,” said Ben.

It was covered and out rolled an eleven.

“Four bet,” announced Ben, restraining me from picking up part of the
four dollars.

“Let’s play safe,” I argued.

“You’re hot, Leony—let it ride!”

So I did and we proceeded to run wild, until Ben advised that we could
now play safe.

After a while my mind began to wander around and my ears caught up the
sound of the chaplain’s voice again. I looked up and discovered that a
ventilator shaft opened almost directly over my head, which explained
how the chaplain’s voice came down to us so clearly. Then it struck me
as probable that our noise could be heard up on deck.

But up to this point the crap shooters had managed to keep their voices
more or less subdued. Gambling was prohibited, of course, and most of
these games were very quiet affairs.

Now, however, the game became rather exciting, due to several wild runs
of luck to the profit of a corporal and a sailor. The voices began to
sound a little higher and louder, as the men forgot to be careful. I
decided that Sergeant Canwick would be better off up on deck listening
to the sermon.

Ben didn’t mind, now that he had a surplus to work with. I told him I’d
be upstairs if he wanted me, and he slid down into my place in the
circle. I scurried up the ladder and ambled around within hearing
distance of the Chaplain.

He appeared to be very much annoyed at something and I guessed at once
that the noise from below had penetrated to him.

“It is beyond me, how such people can expect to attain any happiness in
life! No self-respecting man would indulge in these wasteful pastimes.
How could he, and expect to get anywhere?” Apparently he was talking
about the game and the gamblers.

Almost immediately came an answer to his question, wafted up through the
ventilator whose mouth was just behind him. “BOX CAR, papa! BOX CAR!”
was what the Chaplain and everyone near the ventilator heard.

Someone smothered a laugh and there were many wide grins in the
congregation, but the good man continued his exhortations, in such a
loud tone that he almost succeeded in drowning out the cries of “Crap
him! Crap him!” which followed in explanation of the strange statement
previously rendered from the depths below.

The sermon proceeded undisturbed for some minutes then, but a little
later when the trend of his talk led into the subject of guarding one’s
moral well-being in the face of such temptations as would likely be
faced in France, the reverend gentleman was again rewarded by another,
even louder and better antiphonal chant from below. This time he cried
out ardently, “Who is there that can afford to risk the whole future
happiness of his life for the sake of these momentary pleasures of the
flesh?”

I’m sure the voice that rumbled out the answer was Ben’s, for that
“LITTLE JOE!” sounded as only my bunkmate could make it sound.

Several laughs greeted this phenomenon and the Chaplain was showing
signs of losing his temper, but he resolutely continued on the subject
of lust and the wages of sin. “How would I feel,” he demanded, “if the
woman I wanted to marry should come to me with a sinful, immoral past?”

And Ben’s voice boomed out, as if it were timed for precisely that
moment, “NATURAL, papa! NATURAL AGAIN, papa!”

That proved to be the last straw. The Chaplain sent a man after the
Officer of the Day and I hurried down to warn the gang. The game broke
up pronto and Ben came with me into our bunk hole, where he counted out
the total receipts and figured out our profit. “Fifty bucks apiece ain’t
a bad day’s pay, Leony!” he declared, handing me my fifty.

A few moments later the Officer of the Day appeared in our compartment
and cast a curious eye around. No one knew anything about any crap game
around there! Hadn’t seen a pair of dice for months! No, sir, not in
here! The officer smiled knowingly and let it go at that. Some officers
are like that—they have sense enough to know when to act like regular
fellows.

As he departed up the ladder, a Limey who slept just outside our door
spoke up and said, “Aw, the Chaplain’s a blowey bloke hany’ow an’ oo in
’ell ’ankers hafter ’earin’ habout ’eaven ’ere?” He was positively
disgusted and I assumed that he had lost money in the game.

Personally I was glad the Chaplain did break up the game, because
otherwise, Ben probably would have stuck around there until he’d lost
all our winnings—and fifty dollars felt pretty good to me just then.

So, as Ben said, I had become a crap-shooting fool! Lord, if Auntie
could see me now! I was wringing wet that minute from living in this
hole of agony. That bath couldn’t be put off another day. ’Twas better
to have laved and lost all than never to have laved at all. That’s how I
looked at this matter, and barring a sub-scare or a torpedo, I’d be a
clean woman to-morrow. Thank God!



                               CHAPTER 7

                              A DOG’S LIFE


                                  —1—

We had been eight days on this deep blue sea and our convoy hadn’t
appeared yet. The General said we’d probably pick them up to-morrow or
next day and in another couple days we’d be wherever we were going.
Nobody knew where that would be, not even the Captain, but probably
either Brest, St. Nazaire or Bordeaux, since those were the three ports
that were taken over by the American Expeditionary Forces. No one could
be sure, though: we might end at Le Havre or in England. This was a hell
of a war: we were just like a shipload of freight: we don’t know where
we’re going but we’re on our way!

However, I felt much better now, regardless of the monotony and the
suspense, for at last I did the impossible and escaped without being
suspected. It was an experience!

Just around the corner from the General’s stateroom was a lavatory and
bath with a sign on the door reading FOR OFFICERS ONLY. (Which was
rather brazenly ironic, because there was an old sign on the door,
reading GENTLEMEN, and this hadn’t been removed, the black letters had
only been painted over: anyone might observe that Officers weren’t
gentlemen or the old sign would have been good enough for present
purposes.) Even the General smiled at it.

However, I had decided several days previous to investigate this special
domain of the favored, and I found it much more to my liking than the
enlisted men’s “head.” There were only two or three enlisted men who
were very much around that section of the deck, so no one objected to my
going in there, since the officers who used the place knew that I was
General Backett’s dog-robber. Thus I was able to avoid visiting the more
embarrassingly un-private “heads” which the enlisted men were supposed
to use: the nearest one to General Backett’s stateroom was on the deck
below—very inconvenient for a busy individual like me. And besides,
there were doors on the boxes: which helped a lot in the matter of
privacy, I must say.

Besides all these advantages, this place had two showers—and private
ones at that. I mean, with doors that latch and everything! Ideal!

So this day I waltzed in with a towel and soap tucked under my blouse.
There was a Captain in there at the time, so I made believe I had come
for another purpose and beat a hasty retreat.

A little later, I tried again and, not seeing anyone around, concluded
that the time was ripe. So I started to undress. You see, there’s no
place to undress—I mean, no privacy. And I was just about to pull my
blouse off when in comes Chilblaines. Well, I about fell over, because
he was the one man on this ship whom I hoped never to meet in that
bathroom.

I saluted him and began to button up my blouse, as if I had just been
washing my face or something. He looked at me a moment after returning
the salute, then stepped into one of the boxes and snapped the latch. I
tucked my towel away again and departed.

About an hour later I got away from the General again and made a third
attempt. This time I determined to take no chances. I locked myself in
the shower and stripped for action.

Then I couldn’t decide what to do with my clothes. If I left them
inside, they’d get all wet. If I put them outside, it would arouse
suspicion, because the officers who use these showers leave their
clothes in their staterooms and come down in slickers or overcoats.
Finally I decided that the only place my clothes could go was up on top
of the pipes at the back of the box, and there I put them. I didn’t know
for sure whether anyone outside could see them there or not, but I
couldn’t waste time trying to find out. I just turned on that wonderful
warm water and proceeded to revel in its downpour.

Just as I got myself nicely lathered up, someone rattles the door and
gives me the scare of my young life. A gruff old voice says, “Who’s
there?” And I looked through the crack under the door and saw two
enormous bare feet.

What in the devil was I supposed to do? Let him come in and share the
bath?

The feet padded around into the next box and I expected any moment to
see a head stick up over the partition. But instead I heard him swear at
something and then he said, “How long will you be in there?”

I had to say something, so I dropped my voice to as low a pitch as I
could manage and still make my words carry. “About ten minutes—” I
almost said “sir” from force of habit.

“This other shower’s out of order,” he grumbled and padded away.

I continued my bath. Rinsed thoroughly. Lathered all over again. Rinsed
again. Turned off the water and made a hurry job of drying myself.

Believe me, I could pass a fireman’s dressing test after getting into my
clothes as fast as I did this afternoon. I was proud of myself.

And I was clean! Thank God I was pure again, within and without—and
another difficulty had been surmounted, with credit and satisfaction.

When I closed that bathroom door and noticed that sign again, I had to
laugh. All one needed in this man’s army in order to get along was a
little intelligence.


                                  —2—

The day after my bath, we had trouble. I guess it was my own fault, for
I should have told Ben about meeting Chilblaines in the bath, then he’d
have been prepared for his visit the next morning.

The result of my negligence was that Esky was resting comfortably under
the head of my bunk when the inspecting officers appeared, and when Ben
saw Chilblaines it was too late to do anything about the pup. The snooty
little lieut just had to poke his head in our place and look under the
bunk. As Ben says, he would have looked under there if he didn’t look
anywhere else all day. And when he saw what was there, he exploded like
a bomb.

“Is this the way you men were taught to obey orders?” he demanded of
Ben, who glowered at him, although he must have been scared stiff. “How
did that dog get aboard after I explicitly told Canwick to get rid of
it?”

Ben shrugged his shoulders but didn’t answer.

“Answer me! Are you dumb?”

“No, sir,” declared Ben promptly. “First I know that dog was here—he
musta followed us.”

Such a brazen, impossible falsehood must have given the lieut chills and
fever. “Followed you, eh!” he stormed. “That’s mighty reasonable, isn’t
it, when officers were watching everything that came aboard!”

“Well—” Ben tried to help his explanation by details.

But the officer impatiently waved his words away. “Keep still! I don’t
want to hear any more of your prevarications. That dog must be got rid
of at once. Tell Canwick he will hear from this without delay.” And the
puffy little runt stamped away to finish his tour of inspection.

As soon as he left the compartment, Ben hurried out to find me, and a
few minutes later I discovered him parked for patient waiting in front
of the General’s door. He lost no time in recounting what had happened
and ended his recital with, “So you just beat this guy to it and tell
the Gen. all about the works!”

Well, I couldn’t decide what to do, but finally came to the conclusion
that I could do nothing else but put it up to the General, although I
wasn’t as confident of his judgment as Ben seemed to be. I don’t know
how Ben knew so much about my boss, but he seemed to have implicit faith
in him. Maybe it was as my partner says, “A man can’t get to be a
General unless he’s a real human being!”

So I interrupted the General’s home work in French and proceeded to tell
him how my pet dog had followed me to camp, had been sent home and
chained, had broken out and come a hundred miles through a snowstorm to
rejoin me the night we left for Hoboken. “And now the Lieutenant has
discovered him under my bunk and threatens to get rid of him.”

“Well, sergeant, you did disobey orders, didn’t you?” he observed, but
not unkindly. Just sort of a paternal reproof.

“Yes, sir.” I replied frankly. “But I’m willing to do anything,
sir—anything at all, to get the dog home safely. I’ll ship him back the
day we land. Or—” I hated to say the rest, but he kept looking at me as
if waiting for me to finish so I had to go on. “Or, if you say to get
rid of him,—why—well—I’ll do whatever you say, sir.” My voice must’ve
sounded rather jerky for a hard-boiled soldier.

My heart skipped several beats before he answered, but when he said, “He
must be a pretty good dog to behave himself under such circumstances.” I
immediately felt relieved, for I knew then that he wouldn’t uphold
Chilblaines.

“I should say, ‘Just forget about this matter, sergeant,’” he advised
finally, and turned his attention to his book.

“And keep the dog, sir?” I asked, just to make certain.

“Yes. Yes, of course, you must keep the dog.” He sounded rather
impatient, as if he didn’t like to seem too lenient, and I took the
hint, thanked him and started to go, just as the door opened and
Chilblaines himself reported. I decided to stay until I was sent
out—which was immediately, for the General said, “You may go,
sergeant,” as soon as he saw who his visitor was. I closed the door
behind me, but lingered for a few moments in front of it, using an
unwrapped puttee as a pretext.

Sure enough, Chilblaines promptly reported my dastardly insubordination.
I stopped breathing in order to hear what the General had to say on the
matter, but his speech was so long that I almost choked. “Chilton,” I
heard him say, as if he were talking to a little boy, “I don’t know
whether you will ever go to a higher rank than your present one, but I’m
quite certain that you never will until you’ve altered your attitude
toward your environment, and particularly your subordinates. You must
learn to look forward instead of backward, upward instead of down, and
to value morale more than discipline. A martinet seldom if ever makes
any real success in wartime. Discipline that doesn’t embrace common
sense will not make a powerful leader. Success is not won by wasting
time on past defeats, but by working toward the victories of the
future.... Now this dog matter is a case in point, something in the
past. It makes no difference how he came aboard. The point is that he is
here and, regardless of all the regulations, which are intended in this
case to prevent what might develop into a general nuisance, he is doing
no one any harm whatsoever. If there were a thousand howling, yapping,
hungry dogs, it would be a different matter entirely—and would come
under the ban of regulations. But one single little animal that bothers
no one and makes practically no impression on the ship’s rations—why,
can’t you see, man, how foolish it is to make a mountain of such a
molehill?”

Chilblaines didn’t answer, so the General continued, “There is nothing
to be gained either for you or for the United States Army by breeding
ill feeling from an incident like this, so let’s just forget about it.”

When I heard that, I beat a hasty retreat. A moment later Chilblaines
appeared, very flushed in the face and looking rather uncomfortable. I
chalked up a great big mark to the General’s credit, believe me.

He surely was one fine man. Ben said he was a “damn good guy!” And Esky
seemed to know something had happened, for he made no bones about
romping all over the compartment, since Ben ceased to restrain him. He
made friends for us all over the place, and I felt pretty good.


                                  —3—

Nothing much happened the next day, except a darned good time down in
our hole, singing barrack-room ballads and telling dirty stories. I
didn’t tell any, but I did a good job at listening.

Oh, yes, something else did happen. Ben was fully recovered, eating like
a horse and buying chewing tobacco again—and this last got him into
trouble.

He was lying on his bunk, having a beautiful spree with his cud when the
top-kicker called “attention” for inspection. But the top-kicker was a
little late, and the result was that the inspecting officer had reached
the bottom of the ladder by the time Ben rolled out. But Ben didn’t stop
to see how far down the officer was: he just screwed up his face and
sent a torrent of tobacco juice in the direction of the G.I. can at the
foot of the ladder. It was a beautiful shot and made a bull’s-eye—after
passing within an inch of the officer’s nose.

The officer—he’s a captain—stumbled backwards and sat down on the
bottom of the ladder. He couldn’t see Ben and Ben couldn’t see him, and
so when the captain arose to his feet he was favored with another narrow
escape, this time from a hurtling ball of chewing tobacco. This missile
didn’t come quite so close to the captain’s nose, but it made a
bull’s-eye in the G.I. can just as Ben became aware of the error of his
ways.

The officer came to him directly. “Chewing tobacco during an inspection,
eh? Didn’t you hear the sergeant call you to attention?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Didn’t you see me coming down that ladder?”

“No, sir—I don’t see how you got there so quick.”

“Don’t talk back. I don’t need any of your opinions or thoughts.”

“Yes, sir,” Ben clamped his jaws together and kept his mouth shut
throughout the merciless bawling out which the captain felt it his duty
to give.

And then he noticed Esky. “Whose dog is that?” he demanded, as if he
were glad to find something else to kick about.

But Ben fooled him. “General Backett’s dog, sir,” he declared. “Sergeant
Canwick just takes care of him, sir.”

The captain wheeled about and continued his tour, but Ben was shivering
for days for fear the top-kicker would favor him with a detail on
Kitchen Police or “head orderly,” neither of which were very easy on the
stomach. Ben said, “This war is just one g—— d—— thing after another
and I ain’t had a whole hour o’ rest since it started!”

Personally, I thought we were getting along beautifully. If God would
just stick with us—that’s all I asked!


                                  —4—

At last! On the eleventh day, and a damned rough one at that, we picked
up the destroyers and subchasers that were to escort us through the
danger zone and into port. It began to look as if we were getting
somewhere at last. I certainly was relieved. I mean, enough is enough of
this kind of traveling. If a cattle boat is anything like this, I really
couldn’t blame Leon much if he didn’t hop on the next one to come to my
rescue. Probably the animals on a cattle boat occupy a place just about
like our compartment; if so, being valet to the cows and horses can’t be
a very pleasant occupation.

We were talking about cattle boats and Ben said he knew a fellow once
who took a job on one of them. “And he made a mistake and tried to treat
a bull the same way you do a cow and the bull went mad and raised hell
with him.”

“What did he do?” I asked. “Kill him?”

Ben just laughed. “Well,” he said, “he ain’t dead. He can walk and eat
and do lots o’ other uninteresting things, but he might’s well be dead
as be the way he is.”

Well, I couldn’t figure out just what the bull did to his friend.
Apparently it must have been something pretty awful—and I hadn’t nerve
enough to ask for more particulars. Curiosity wasn’t going to kill this
kitty.

Anyway, working on a cattle boat can’t be much fun. And I couldn’t
imagine Leon in such a place. Funnier still was the idea of me doing
that kind of work! However, if Leon came over that way, I’d probably
have to go back the same way. I couldn’t decide which would be worse:
being in my present situation or in that one.


                                  —5—

One hell of a lot of trouble next day! This young lady’s army days
seemed numbered—and a damned small number, too.

Of all the unexpected, damn-fool, crazy things that ever happened! It
was, for once, my luck to be out when the blow fell, but my absence just
delayed the agony. I couldn’t possibly escape being discovered—and just
when I thought everything was going along so nicely. Just my rotten
luck!

Just after I left for the General’s the top-kicker announced that the
C.O. had ordered one of those damnably intimate “inspections” before we
landed, and he proceeded to call the roll. When he came to me, he asked
Ben where I was and Ben said, “With General Backett.”

“Tell him about this when he comes in, Garlotz, and tell him to report
to me.” And the top-kicker lined them all up and led the way to the
sick-bay, where they were duly looked over by a captain in the Medical
Corps.

I came in after noon mess and Ben told me about it. “They caught one
bird,” he informed me. “Wonder what they’ll do with him?”

“What do you mean?” I demanded, suppressing my excitement as much as
possible.

“Was you born this morning?” inquires Ben sarcastically.

“But how in the devil could a man get anything on this ship. Don’t you
get things like that from women?”

Ben just laughed then. “Don’t you know, Leony, that sometimes it takes
nine or ten days for it to show up? That’s why they waited until now to
have this thing, because they figure that if a guy ain’t got nothin’
wrong with him now, he won’t have unless he gets something from one o’
these passionate mademoiselles.”

I must have looked pretty scared, for he asked, “What the hell’s the
matter with you?”

“Oh, nothing,” I replied, catching up my slipping nerves. “That stuff
doesn’t worry me any. I just haven’t got time to chase up there to the
sick-bay.”

“Well, you might’s well go and get it over with,” he advised.

But I didn’t. I beat it right back to the General’s and believe me I
managed to keep myself busy there all afternoon and part of the evening.
But I didn’t know what was going to happen. The top-kicker later came
around and said, “I’ve been looking all over for you, Canwick. You’re
the only one the Doc hasn’t seen, so to-morrow morning, I’ll take you
up.”

Well, I was racking my brains, but if the morrow didn’t bring forth any
more than my brains had so far, then somebody was in line for a
scandalous surprise to-morrow morning.

God, why did I ever get into such a mess! If I wasn’t sure that they’d
pull me out, I’d have gone over the side straight. The way I felt then,
I’d rather have died than be discovered. It was awful!


                                  —6—

I found it necessary to hide out the following day: when I wasn’t with
the General I managed to find other places to go—any place except the
hole. And of course I was worried sick all day, and even then I wasn’t
sure whether I’d escaped or just delayed again the inevitable moment of
detection. This suspense certainly was hard on a girl’s nerves.

When I came in at night, Ben welcomed me with, “Well, Leony, you can
thank me fer savin’ yer stars this time.”

“Why?” I inquired, at a loss to know what he was talking about.

“The top-kick’s been in here a dozen times lookin’ fer you, and every
time I said you were busy as hell with the Gen.”

“Well—I have been,” I agreed.

“And I suppose you forgot all about that doctor that’s been waitin’
specially to meet ya?” he suggested with a smile.

“No—I didn’t,” I declared. “But I just haven’t had time to chase after
any doctors. I don’t need a doctor for anything anyway!”

“You don’t, eh?” He laughed. “Don’t kid me any more, buddy. I’m yer
friend anyway.”

I began to wonder just what this big galoot had in his head. Did he
suspect that I was avoiding the doctor. Apparently he did. What did he
think my reason for this? Had he somehow become suspicious of my sex?
All at once I felt panicky—actually like running away.

He continued to chew and spit, while I looked at him stupidly, trying to
divine his thoughts. Finally he said, “You’re the last man in the world
I’d think it of.”

“Think what of? What the hell are you talking about?”

“You know what I’m talkin’ about all right. And so do I. And I’m tellin’
ya to thank me fer savin’ yer goose.”

“How?”

“Well, I told the sergeant the last time he came lookin’ fer ya that he
ought to be ashamed of himself thinkin’ that a pure sweet boy like you
would ever have anything like that!”

“And what did he say to that?” I asked, relieved at last.

“Said he’s gettin’ sick o’ huntin’ you.” Ben indulged in an
expectorational feat and smiled at me knowingly. “An’ so I says, ‘Y’er
wastin’ yer time, sergeant. Why’n’t ya just check him off and call it
square?’”

“What did he say to that?”

“Said, ‘How the hell do I know but what he’s got seven varieties of
venereal disease?’”

“Well—come on! What did you tell him then? I don’t see how you’ve saved
me anything.” I was beginning to have fears again.

“Ya know what I said?” Ben demanded rhetorically. “I says, ‘Why,
sergeant, that kid ain’t never been with a woman in his life! There
ain’t no more chance o’ his havin’ one o’ them diseases than there is o’
me bein’ captain o’ this ship!’ And he says, ‘Is that a fact?’ And I
says, ‘Absolutely—he don’t even know what a woman looks like
underneath! He’s the dumbest greenhorn ya ever saw!’ And so the sergeant
looks at me a minute and then he says, ‘Well, I haven’t time to chase
after him any more anyway. We’re going to dock to-night and land in the
morning, and as far as the C. O. knows Canwick’s been examined just like
the rest of us.’”

I almost fell on the big galoot’s neck, but he had not yet finished his
recital. “I says, ‘Ye’re just savin’ yourself work, sergeant—needless
work. I give ya my word o’ honor Canwick ain’t been near a woman an’ he
ain’t got nothin’ the matter with him.’ An’ he says, ‘All right, to hell
with him then.’ And that’s the end o’ that, see!”

I laughed at his seriousness and told him, “I’m glad you have such faith
in me, Ben. Thanks a whole lot.”

“Faith in ya!” he exclaimed, as if I had insulted his intelligence.
“Say, ya don’t suppose I’m dumb enough to believe that myself, do ya? I
just lied for ya, that’s all. I don’t wanta see ya get in trouble and
lose yer stripes.”

“But there’s nothing the matter with me, you big goof!” I retorted.

He just laughed at me. “I don’t care whether ya have or not—but you see
that ya use yer own towel after this!”

So we just sat there for a while, neither of us saying anything. I was
sorry he had that idea in his head, but I was mighty glad to know that
the inspection terror was at least temporarily alleviated. Finally I
thanked him for troubling to lie for me, “although it really wasn’t
necessary, as you think it was.”

He apparently had been thinking it over during our silence, for he now
came out with this:      “I can’t see how you could be so dumb about
everything and still be on layin’ terms with any women! You just don’t
know nothin’ at all about that kind o’ stuff—so I guess you must be
tellin’ the truth.” He pondered for a moment, then asked, as if to
clinch the matter, “Honest—ain’t you ever been with a woman in yer
life?”

I looked straight into his eyes and said, “No, sir, I’ve never done
anything like that with a woman!” Which was, after all, entirely true.

“Gawd—what’s the matter with ya?” he demanded.

“Oh—I just haven’t any use for them, that’s all. They just get you into
trouble, don’t they?”

And that ended that rather heated discussion, for he just laughed at me,
and he laughed so hard I almost became worried again for fear he’d
suspect me of being myself instead of my brother.... Well, anyway, I had
escaped the eyes of that doctor. If he wanted to meet me, and if I had
anything to say about it, he’d have to come back to the United States
and be introduced to me. Huh—I wasn’t showing all my private property
to every Tom, Dick and Harry in the Medical Corps of the United States
Army!

That night we were in the harbor at Brest and everyone was busy getting
packed up ready to disembark in the morning. Also everyone, or about
ninety per cent of us, were hit all of a sudden with dysentery: it was
something they’d been feeding us on this ship, because almost everyone
had it. It was damned inconvenient for me, I know that.

Well, I was sure ’nough in the army now!



                               CHAPTER 8

                          NO PLACE FOR A LADY


                                  —1—

And so—This was Brest, France! Two more weeks almost disappeared into
history. I was getting inured to this army life, for it was getting so
that I didn’t notice how fast the days flew by. There was something
doing every day and I was busy—which probably accounts for the speedy
passage of time.

I’d been thinking it over and decided when I got back home I’d write to
the Secretary of War and suggest that they put a huge sign up in front
of the entrance to this man’s war and put on the sign these words: FOR
MEN ONLY. This business certainly was for men only. It was no place for
a woman—at least, not a nice woman, I mean a decent girl like me. Of
all the rough-necks—I never imagined there were so many in the Land of
the Free and Home of the Brave. I was meeting them here, though. I was
thrown in with people that I’d never meet in the course of a lifetime at
home: I mean, some of these men were specimens such as I would never
have an opportunity of knowing in the United States. I guess one never
knows how the other half lives nor how they think, but I was beginning
to get a pretty good conception.

However, to get back to the story:—We came ashore on a dirty old
lighter that must have been a coal barge before the war. The day we
landed was one of the three hundred and fifty days of rain in the
customary French year. Up around that part of Brittany, the natives must
be thankful that Leap Year doesn’t come every year, because the chances
are it would be just another rainy day. The usual quota of sunshiny days
there is one-per-month. I always recalled France as a land of sunshine
and sparkle, but the first ten days in Brest sadly disillusioned me. We
had only one day that didn’t show a rainfall!

And imagine poor little me tramping through the mud and water in a cold,
drizzling downpour—me, who was experiencing the first “hike” of this
kind in my life! Everyone except the high officers had to march from the
docks out to the Pontanezan Barracks, a walled camp that was built by
Napoleon more than a hundred years ago. This place is four miles out of
Brest, and it wouldn’t have been such a bad walk if there hadn’t been so
much mud and other contributing causes for discomfort. We never had any
adequate drill on board the transport, most of us were suffering from
the effects of that awful dysentery, all of us were weak of legs and
weaker in the stomach. It was certainly one tough stretch, and I hope I
don’t have to go to war like that any more. I’d prefer to ride to my
death in a G.M.C. or a flivver ambulance.

When we were just getting started, Ben let Esky out of his barracks bag
and observed very sourly, “If this ain’t a hell of a fine way to welcome
a bunch o’ real heroes, my old man was a priest!”

A priest by the name of Garlotz! “Was he a priest, Ben?” the man on the
other side of him inquired, probably for the sake of hearing Ben’s
profanity.

“Priest hell!” declared the big boy. “I don’t think he knew what a
priest looks like. My old man helped build the subway with a pick and
shovel!” And he proceeded, between curses anent the weather, the frogs,
the officers, the Government, the President, and General Pershing’s
progeny even unto the fourth and fifth generations, to tell us about his
“old man” who, it seems, was a remarkably able man who never got a
nickel for fighting but could beat the daylights out of his
prize-fighting son any time he became drunk enough to so desire. Anyone
would have to read between the lines of that speech to discern the fact
that Ben must really have thought a lot of his father. Personally, it
never before occurred to me that he had a father: a man like Ben is so
eye-filling that you just don’t think of him as having a family
somewhere, and a father and mother just like ordinary people.

Well, anyway, the column moved slowly forward, the under-officers
feeling the strain every bit as much as the enlisted men and allowing us
to break ranks and “fall out” with unexpected frequency. I guess we fell
out at least five times before we reached the gate to the barracks, and
when we arrived there we stood around for more than half an hour waiting
to be assigned to quarters, while rumors of all kinds were running
around and considerable confusion arose as a result of someone’s remark
that we’d probably have to sleep in pup tents outside the walls because
the barracks within were all filled. This rumor threw Ben into a fit of
profanity that could not be stopped until orders came to move along. Ben
had no use whatever for pup tents. He said, “I can’t get my feet under
cover in one of those damned pillow cases!” Like most rumors in the
army, this one proved false and we finally found ourselves located in a
wooden shed just off the parade ground of the camp. We were soaked to
the skin, but mighty glad to be there.

Everybody ditched his luggage and made a line for the little corrugated
iron building around the corner. The dysentery was still operative....
Nobody was very hungry that noon, but by nighttime we were all ready for
chow.

One reason for this was that we had no sooner begun to take life easy in
our new quarters than Chilblaines appeared on the scene without any
warning and told the top-kicker he had come over to see that the men got
a work-out. “They might catch cold if they remain idle now, sergeant.
Get them out and we’ll warm them up for a half hour or so. Can’t afford
to leave any of them in the hospital here.”

Well, everybody was sore. You could see that the top-kicker didn’t like
the idea at all, and the rest of us couldn’t begin to express our
thoughts. Whoever expected a headquarters company to go out and drill
like a crew of infantrymen? Some of these fellows couldn’t do much
better than I did, and I had some tall and quick thinking to do to keep
in line as we marched up and down and back and forth the length and
breadth of that parade ground. Chilblaines kept us at it for an hour and
some of us almost sat down in our tracks when he finally dismissed us.
It was then that someone offered the information that “Chilblaines rode
out with the General—that’s why he felt so fresh and strong.”

The chorus of curses and other kindred expressions that greeted this
announcement almost made me deaf. Ben’s opinion sounded literary and
mild compared to the others, and he said, “Chilblaines musta been born
in dog days, cause he’s a son-of-a-b—— as sure as hell!”

I said that I thought he had an overdeveloped sense of his own
importance in this army and that he probably figured this was a way to
prove his leadership.

“Leadership hell!” growls Ben. “That guy couldn’t lead me nowhere. I
wouldn’t even let him lead me to a drink of good rye whisky right this
minute. If we was in the front lines and he told me to go forward I’d
turn around and knock his teeth down his throat so he couldn’t give
orders.” The thought of such a golden pleasure, however remote as a
possibility, was a never failing source of enjoyment for Ben. His idea
of heaven would be to have Chilblaines and himself locked in a room
together.... Well, my opinion of Chilblaines is unprintable, too.

That drilling in the rain was a tea party, compared to what happened the
following morning. At four A.M. we were called up by the top-kick, who
was very apparently pretty mad about something. He ordered us all out in
our slickers—which could mean just one thing: a bath.

As soon as Ben heard what was coming, he divined at once the fine
Italian hand of Chilblaines. “That b——! There ain’t a drop of white
man’s blood in that whorehound’s veins!” He cursed him, between shivers,
for all he had around his huge frame was the far too small slicker which
the Q.M.C. clerk said was the largest size they had. “Jesus Maria!
Gettin’ a guy up at this hour, before daybreak, to take a bath!”

“Pipe down there!” ordered the top-kicker from the front of the shed.
“There’s only one bath and this is the only hour we could get. Come
along!”

But Ben was not to be so quickly calmed. “God Almighty!” he exclaimed.
“You’d think we was criminals in a prison, instead of volunteers in an
army!”

Meantime I was thinking in double time, for this call to the showers
presented an unexpected problem that had to be solved at once. The
top-kick was exhorting them to snap into it and I had to suppose that he
would wait at the door to see that everyone went. I waited until Ben
started for the door, then when he was directly between me and the
sergeant, I ducked under my bunk and pulled Esky down beside me so that,
with the blankets hanging down and Esky covering the front, I hoped to
escape the top-kick’s inquisitive eye.

Sure enough, he came down the line to see that everyone had gone. For a
breathless moment I was convinced that he was inspecting my bunk with
suspicion. Then suddenly he turned and went away, closing the door
behind him. But I waited several minutes, to make sure that he had gone.

Then I pushed Esky out of the way and threw off the slicker. Down at the
end of the shed were two fire buckets, and to these I ran. I dowsed my
head in one of them and poured the other over my legs. Then I ran back
to my bunk and pulled off my shirt, and back to the buckets again. I was
shivering all over, but I made sure that I was wet enough to look it,
then I returned to the bunk and got ready for the crucial moment.

I had to stand there with the towel in my hand for several minutes
before the first of the bathers returned, but as soon as the door opened
I started a vigorous rubbing, and slipped into my clean shirt. I heard
one of the men swear and another said, “I never saw such cold water in
my life!”

When the top-kick appeared I was frantically rubbing my head and neck.
He was shivering himself but he made a trip down the aisle and stopped
rather suspiciously near me. I thought he was going to say something,
but I exclaimed, “God, but that water was cold, sergeant!” And I was
shivering so genuinely that he was impressed. He looked around our end
of the shack and went back to his own bunk to dress.

Ben had come in during the inspection and when the sergeant had
retreated, he leaned across the bunk and said, very confidentially, “He
asked me where you was and I said ‘He’s been here and gone back
already.’ It was colder’n a ninety-year-old witch an’ I don’t blame ya a
bit fer duckin’ it!”

Good old Ben! He sure was a simple and good-hearted friend to me. He was
so omnisciently clever about some things, so clever he readily accepted
the simplest and plainest explanation and let it go at that. And he took
pleasure in helping to slip anything over on anyone in authority. I
thanked him sincerely for telling the top-kicker that lie and we
proceeded to get dressed for what turned out to be a very dismal,
dreary, hopeless day, the first of a series that were distinguished by
their similarity in the matter of dreariness.

There was nothing much for any of us to do these days. Now and then the
General had something to get out, but he had simply been marking time
for the most part and when he marked time I exhibited my ability as a
lock-stepper. Marking time was the one part of the manual of drill that
I did best.

Ben and I listened to all the current rumors. We heard that we were
going south from here to train for immediate action; that the Germans
were raising hell and we’d be in the trenches in two weeks; that we were
going to Italy to help the wops lick the Austrians; that ... that ...
that ... and so on almost ad infinitum. And I knew that all of them were
entirely false and without foundation. I don’t understand how rumors
traveled so well in the army, but they certainly did spring up and cover
the camp overnight. The whole army seemed to be just one vast buzz all
the time. Every man you met had some inside news to impart. None of this
bothered me, however, for the General had told me that the division
would go to a training area for at least a month before being used for
anything.

I went into Brest several times, but there was no particular excitement
or entertainment to be found down there, because part of the city was
under quarantine for cholera and the authorities had restricted all
places of amusement that might interest me. Ben said he hadn’t seen a
single one of these mademoiselles that looked clean enough to be of
interest to a man of his tastes, and I quite agreed with him. Most of
them were disappointing—nothing like before the war. Now they all
looked so hard and worn, and the ones that American soldiers met were
the same ones that the English, Australians, Italians, Portuguese and
French Colonials had met before us. An American soldier must be
conceited indeed if he thinks he could teach these girls anything in the
way of love and its devices.

It seemed to me that the French people were of two minds about us. The
lower classes seemed to welcome us with open arms, call benedictions
upon our heads, but they looked upon us as wild specimens of humanity
from the outskirts of civilization. And in this view the upper-class
Frenchmen concurred, I imagine, for the major portion of all France had
had little or no acquaintance with Americans, not even the tourist class
which has always been distinguished traditionally for its ignorance,
lack of taste and vulgar displayism. As far as I could make out, the
better-class French people were not quite certain whether we were savage
barbarians or civilized Indians. They thought that they had nothing in
common with us except this little matter of a war and the fact that we
both belonged to the same species of the animal kingdom. They were glad
of our help—just as they had been glad to use their own varicolored
colonials, those half-savages who used knives instead of guns and
refused to go into action without bayonets.

It struck me that they felt toward us much the same as we would feel
toward an army of Russians or Japanese in America: we would rejoice over
their coming to our aid, but we would feel rather condescending toward
them and surely would not relish the thought of our daughters mingling
with them as social equals. Nice French girls would not have anything to
do with American soldiers: any more than nice American girls would
accept Japanese soldiers without reservations.... From some of the
first-person narratives I’d heard in this camp, I should say that some
of these Americans were sadly deluded on this point. Their “conquests”
weren’t much to rave about, if they only knew the truth.

It was the lower classes that took us to their hearts. They discovered
that Americans were jolly good fellows with pockets full of francs and a
tremendous fancy for wine, women and excitement. Naturally they weren’t
so finicky. They weren’t used to being finicky anyway. From the stories
I heard, it seemed that they were even open-hearted enough to accept our
colored soldiers as genuine American Indians: they thought the darkies
were real cavemen, noble specimens of virile nature, who looked every
inch the part and apparently, with a mademoiselle, more than established
the fact of their virility. In some camp towns, the street girls didn’t
have anything to do with the white soldiers. Obviously they were as
deluded as our soldiers were in other places.... Indeed, that was my
view of the whole works just now: everyone misunderstood everyone else,
and the result was a sort of not unpleasant but not very congenial
confusion.... Of course, the mademoiselle end didn’t interest me, but
Ben said he just found out about a place where he could get a girl for a
cake of American soap. I told him he’d better swipe a carton from the
canteen and start a harem. He said that when the regulars first appeared
in France it was possible to get the prettiest and most adept girl in
town for a tobacco coupon, and he was bemoaning the fact that he had a
whole box full of coupons at home that he was too late to use now. It
certainly was tough: he should have enlisted a year earlier: he would
have had children scattered all over France by now! I’ll bet he was a
son-of-a-gun with the women: sometimes he reminded me of nothing so much
as a great animal, a sort of Bull of the Camps, as it were. Of course, I
knew that he was more than an animal: the things he said very often
showed unmistakable signs of intelligence, and he certainly was a good
friend to have.

We had to drill several times, and every morning we had calisthenics.
The setting-up stuff didn’t bother me but the drilling was a little too
much—I guess I wasn’t built for that kind of stuff. My back got a kink
in it and the muscles of my legs seemed to knot right up after a mile or
so of walking under the strain of drill. Every morning when I heard the
call to “fall in” my mind would start to sing that army ballad about the
sergeants “who are the worst of all,” because

        “He gets you up in the morning before the bugle call;
        And it’s Squads Right! Squads Left!
        Right Front Into Line!
        Then the dirty son-of-a-b——, he gives you double time!”

Of course it really wasn’t the top-kicker’s fault. He didn’t like to
drill any more than we, but orders is orders. Even Esky didn’t care for
this kind of exercise. He came out with us the first couple of mornings,
but very quickly decided that this was not his kind of play. Now he
didn’t pay any attention to “fall in” but as soon as he heard “fall out”
he was right in the middle of things, begging the fellows to play with
him. He got enough exercise. He was the mascot of this Headquarters
Company.

I wrote home twice during the fortnight. Nothing much to tell them
except the events of our last four weeks, and to send my new address
with A.P.O. number.

At last we received our first mail from the States and I didn’t know
just what to make of it. There was a gushing letter from
Vyvy—apparently Leon carried out my instructions and told her that he
was coming over at once. But the letter from Aunt Elinor was not so
reassuring, particularly the following parts:

    “Leonard Lane is at Booneville.... Has a broken arm to show for
    his wild ride in that snowstorm.... Was lucky to be rescued less
    than an hour after the accident, but it was in the country and
    he did not reach me by phone until midnight.... He has not been
    home since that time.... Left the hospital and went direct to
    Booneville. But he will not stay here long. As soon as his arm
    is safely mended he will do something.... Poor boy ... just a
    bunch of nerves.... And I am very near a breakdown. If anything
    happens to you I shall never forgive myself.... Why did you have
    to be so foolish!

    “Vyvy has called several times. She expects to hear from you as
    soon as you land. She also informs me that your Jay-Jay has been
    transferred and expects to go to France very soon. I intend to
    get in touch with him and ask him to look you up.”

Well, the last man in the world I wanted to meet was Jay-Jay. I’m quite
sure that I couldn’t be with him very much before he would become
suspicious. In fact I thought he suspected something already, because in
the other letter which I received from Aunt Elinor, there was this
disquieting information:

    “Jay-Jay called, expecting to find you here. I was really sorry
    to tell him that you had suddenly decided to go out West as a
    camp entertainer. I don’t think he believed it: he seemed very
    surprised and said he couldn’t understand that at all. ‘Why
    didn’t she let me get her a place?’ he asked, but of course I
    told him that there was no telling what you might do. He asked
    about Leon and I gave him your address and asked him to see you
    and let me know how you are getting along. I’m so worried about
    you—but then you probably are better able to take care of
    yourself than your brother. I hope so.

    “Vyvy met Jay-Jay in town. He said he had seen Leon in camp the
    day after her party, and Vyvy told him he must be mistaken
    because Leon did not leave here until three o’clock in the
    afternoon. I don’t know what he thinks, but he must have some
    ideas of his own.... I think you would do well to tell him the
    truth and let him help you. He has influence, you know, and
    might be able to make things easier for you.

    “Another week or so and Leonard’s arm will be out of the sling.
    He is determined to act at once. I don’t know what he will do
    but will let you know as soon as I hear from him....”

Auntie was foolish. The idea of my confessing to Jay-Jay and being under
obligation to him for his silence! I knew him well enough to know that
he would be delighted to have something like that on me. He was just the
kind that would take advantage and I was in no position to defend myself
under the circumstances. No, sir—I didn’t want to see Mr. Marfield at
all, and if I did see him, I didn’t know what I’d say or do. He was
suspicious already. If God was really with me, he’d keep us from
meeting. I didn’t like his type of officer anyway—and the more I
thought about him, the less I liked him. I always said there was
something about him I didn’t like: it was that suspiciousness, I guess.
You didn’t feel that you could trust him at all, and I certainly did not
want to take any chances on a man like that in a time like this!

My troubles seemed to be beginning. I hadn’t had a good bath since that
one on board ship and I couldn’t see how I could get one until we moved
from this place: there wasn’t a single public bath in the unrestricted
area in Brest. And to add to all this my tummy was feeling not so good
and my back was aching sort of ominously. If it wasn’t one damned thing
it was another. Armies and war certainly are For Men Only. This was no
place for one woman, and I can’t imagine what it would be like if this
camp were full of women instead of men. Anyways it would be worse than
now. Women just can’t be bunched and crowded in together.

It occurred to me that I might try Christian Science. They claim that if
you have enough faith and wish hard enough, you can do anything—even
grow a new limb where one has been amputated. I guess it would take more
than Christian Science to change me into a man now: perhaps if my mother
and father had used Christian Science, the change could have been made,
or rather the necessity of change prevented. However, I doubt very much
if those devilish little ova and those other jiggers, gametes or
spermatozoa or whatever they call them, pay much attention to what their
owners think and wish. I guess we are God’s children, after all—more
than our parents’ probably.

Anyway, I wished I were Leonard Lane. I didn’t feel so good. Maybe
“fightin’ is a lot of fun” but I just didn’t feel kittenish enough to
enjoy this prelude to battle.

And with that Jay-Jay to think about besides!


                                  —2—

Unexciting days passed until a day came when we learned that we were
leaving for Le Mans in the morning. Didn’t know how long we’d be there,
but from all I could learn Le Mans was a training area and the division
might be there for a month or six weeks. The General seemed to think
that we would be used as a replacement division. I didn’t know where he
got the idea but that was the dope.

Nothing new happened, except that I heard from home again and Aunt
Elinor said Vyvy heard that Jay-Jay had left the United States: if that
was the case, he was liable to blow in any time and if he should
discover that my outfit was still here, I didn’t see how I could avoid
being found by him. Naturally I was glad we were moving out in the
morning. He wouldn’t be free to hop all over the A.E.F. looking for me
and it might be a long time before he got to Le Mans, by which time I
shouldn’t be there. There was still hope.

Ben and I attended a song-fest in the afternoon—one of those affairs
where a professional pep-guy gets up on a platform and leads the
drunk-driven cattle in singing and cheering. Well, there was some excuse
for cheering, as to-day the sun let us have a glimpse of himself, and
that was cause for celebrating around this neck of the land of the franc
and the plumbingless house. The songs, however, were really not much to
write home about. Ben had learned already that “Pack Up Your Troubles”
and “Madelon” were not army songs at all: they were for dress parade, he
said. The real army songs were too dirty filthy rotten to sing at any
sanctioned get-together. The real barrack-room ballads were fit only for
barrooms and bedrooms and bathrooms—that is, if you sing in your
bath.... To-day we waited patiently to see if they would sing something
interesting, but the best they had to offer was “Keep the Home Fires
Burning”—and Ben almost choked on his tobacco-quid when they started
that. If there was one song that should never have been written, it was
that! I quite agreed with Ben on that point. Ben said, “That song’s a
lotta bull an’ what a man wants in a time like this is more calves and
less bull!” Ben was certainly droll: he stood beside the “Y” window,
waiting for the song leader to pass—I swear he only missed the poor
devil’s nose by an inch. When my boy friend hurled the saliva, fond
mothers shooed their loved ones off the street. A veritable Hawkeye!



                               CHAPTER 9

                              A LOUSY LADY


                                  —1—

We’d been in Le Mans a month and nothing very exciting had happened. We
came down from Brest in those French box cars that are marked “8 chevaux
40 hommes” and it took me a week to recover from the ride, after which I
went out and found myself a bath—thank God again!

I was really forced into it, though. The General had been making trips
all over the surrounding country and Chilblaines and I had usually gone
along. We went to Alençon to see the place they were fixing up there to
take care of horses that were shipped over for the cavalry and
artillery—although the cavalry didn’t have much to do in a war of this
kind. We also visited Blois and its hospital center, and Tours, which
was the headquarters of the Service of Supply. And we’d seen Orléans and
Angers and I hoped to see Paris soon.

However, to get back to the bath:—We were on our way back from Tours
when we had two flat tires in a row and Getterlow had to fix the second
one, because we only had one spare. While we were standing around—I was
trying to help him—the General noticed that I was doing quite a lot of
fidgeting and scratching and finally asked me about it. “What’s the
matter, Sergeant?” he inquired. “Received your allotment of cooties
already?”

Chilblaines laughed and I laughed, too. It wasn’t news to me: I knew I
had acquired a family, but I had put off doing anything about it until I
could get a bath and a new change of clothes. But when Chilblaines
laughed, I determined to do something without further delay.

The General didn’t wait for me to reply; he just suggested, “If you
have, Sergeant, for God’s sake get rid of them at once.”

“I will, sir,” I said then.

But Chilblaines had to pipe up and say, “No use trying to clean them out
of your clothes. I advise burning them and getting a new outfit—that
is, if you can afford it.”

Now, imagine an officer making a crack like that! As if I couldn’t
afford clothes just as well as he could! The way he said things gave me
the willies anyway, and I just looked hard at him and said, “That’s what
I’ll do this very afternoon, if I have time.”

“Take time,” said the General.

So when we were back in camp I proceeded to take time. I went into the
city in search of a public bath where one could get a private bath. I
carried with me a complete change of clothes and two kinds of medicine
and a bluish ointment that was recommended by Ben and every other man
whose advice I sought. I finally found a bath establishment and went in.

A woman who had the appearance of age but the manner of girlish youth
welcomed me at the door and ushered me into the rear of the building,
where there were several little rooms just large enough for a bathtub.
The woman chattered glibly as she wiped out the tub I chose and drew the
water, and when she brought the towels and soap she made no move toward
leaving me to take care of myself.

I started to undress, beginning with my shoes and blouse. She hung up
the blouse and pushed the door shut. I didn’t take off anything else,
but just sat there on the stool and looked at her. Finally, when she
didn’t move, I said, “That’s all for now, thank you.”

All I got for my pains was a stream of French, telling me how nice it
was to meet a fine young American boy who could speak such good French.

“But I want to bathe,” I told her. “I don’t need you now.”

“Ah—mais non! non! non!” she exclaimed. “I will help you.” She laid her
hands on my shoulders.

This was too much. “No, thank you!” I told her. “I can get along very
well. I wish to be alone.”

But she didn’t make a move until I got up and actually pushed her
through the door. I pulled the latch across and proceeded to undress.
Everything was quiet for several minutes and I was just on the point of
removing my cootie-laden underwear—regulation issue, by the way—when I
happened to look at the door and noticed a cracked panel through which I
could see the old woman’s eye peering in intently. I grabbed my breeches
and hung them over the peep-hole. Just as I was getting into the tub, a
knock sounded. “What do you want?” I asked.

“M’sieur desires a cognac for after the bath?” she sounded very eager.

She made me mad. “M’sieur wishes you to get the hell outa there! I don’t
want anything!” How does a woman get like that: if she were young, I
could understand it—but a woman as old as she was made it a mystery to
me. Apparently my education wasn’t complete yet.

Anyway, I went on with my bath, and believe me, I scrubbed as I never
scrubbed before. Then I drained the tub and filled it up again, and as
soon as the water started to run, the old woman came back to the door
with her jabbering, wanting to know what I was trying to do. I told her
I’d pay for two baths and for her to shut up and go away. She kept
talking but I wouldn’t be bothered answering her.

After I was washed and dry again I applied my lotions and ointment in
generous quantities—too generous, I later discovered, for my skin was
so sore in some spots that I couldn’t touch it. However, I got rid of
the cooties. I dressed and opened the door.

The madame was right there waiting for me. She started right off telling
me what a wonderful American soldat I was, how young and clean, and she
finally attempted to taunt me into friendliness by saying that she’d bet
I was still a virgin.

I had to laugh, as I told her, “You’re right, for once.” And, giving her
ten francs, I hurried out of the place. I carried my clothes back to
camp and burned them, cooties and all, in the incinerator. Then I felt
clean again—until the ointment started to burn me up.

Several days later I made another visit to the baths and almost had to
fight my way out. That woman seemed to be obsessed with the idea of
making love to me. I guess I was not very curious. My next bath would be
somewhere else, if there were any other place in town.


                                  —2—

Having received another letter from Vyvy, I sent her a post card with
the following endearing lines:

    “Excitement all the time. Cooties but no war as yet.
    Mademoiselles aplenty but all ugly. All my love—all my
    kisses—and I wish you could be with us.

                                                              LEON.”

A couple of days later I sent a note to Aunt Elinor. It was written on
Y.M.C.A. paper, after I had spent some time visiting post card vendors
in search of appropriate cards to send home. As all the vendors had
nothing but photographs suitable only for private collections—some of
them actually revolting in the scenes they depicted—I decided that they
couldn’t possibly get through the United States Mail. I did buy about a
dozen of the rarest ones—for no better reason than that the legless
veteran who had them seemed to take it for granted that an American
soldier was interested in such pictures. My education was proceeding
again. I wrote to Aunt Elinor:

    “I bought a wonderful collection of rare prints to-day. Too
    valuable to send by mail, so I’ll bring them home with me. Every
    time I look at them I realize that Home was Never like This!”

And it certainly wasn’t!

A few days later everyone was required to go to the movies in the
Casino. I had no idea what was coming or I might have tried to escape
the ordeal. I fell in with the rest of the outfit and sat in the midst
of a crowd that was anything but ladylike. The picture was supposed to
be educational, was entitled FIT TO FIGHT or something like that, and by
the time it was over, I must confess that I wasn’t fit to do anything.
Whew! And the comments the fellows made anent various familiar details.
Every new sequence in the picture recalled some personal experience or
story to somebody near me, and between the picture and the stories, I
was blushing from my hair to my toes. After we came back, Ben said,
resentfully, “They can’t kid me on that stuff! Seein’ a thousand
pictures like that wouldn’t make me lose interest in a good-lookin’
shank!” I decided that Ben had a cast-iron system.

I wondered what had become of Leon. Aunt Elinor wrote that his arm was
practically well again and that he had left Booneville. I wondered what
he intended to do. I might have known that he wouldn’t stay there,
although it would be a wonderful place for him to commune with nature
and let his muse run wild in poetic ecstasies. It just goes to show that
you never can tell about anyone. Anyway, I rather wanted to know what to
expect of him.

Jay-Jay should have been in France by now. It seemed rather funny that I
didn’t hear from him. Perhaps that meant that he didn’t really think I
was here. He never did have much liking for Leon, so naturally would not
break his neck to see him. But Jay-Jay was foxy: you couldn’t tell what
he thought or was planning. It wouldn’t make me peeved if I never saw
him. That’s how much I loved that gentleman.


                                  —3—

Another short note came from Aunt Elinor to inform me that she had come
across an old post card from Lisa Mantour, the darling of a maid who was
with us at St. Malo years and years ago. Auntie wrote as soon as she
found it, because she thought I must look up Lisa at once and thus be
able to fall back upon her in case of discovery or trouble of any kind.
It was awfully funny, too, because the post card was sent from this very
city of Le Mans, and I’d be leaving in another day or so. So I made up
my mind to find her, if she was still in the city. I’d have to manage to
get away without Ben, because I didn’t want to risk his overhearing
anything about twins that might stir his imagination. He had enough
foundation for suspicions as it was.

I had my second hair-cut for this rôle. I was a pretty clean-cut young
fella, believe me.


                                  —4—

The next day I discovered to my horror that I did the dizziest thing! I
burned up that letter from Auntie without copying the name of the man
Lisa married. I knew her maiden name but I had one hell of a time trying
to remember that other name just from reading it once in that letter.

So I ditched Ben and went in town to see if I couldn’t see some name
that would recall Lisa’s. I walked all over the downtown section,
looking at window signs and cards, and repeating over and over all the
possibilities that came to my mind. I knew the name started with “L” and
I tried every possible combination of letters beginning with that
letter, but nothing clicked.

It began to rain and I stepped into a corner doorway to escape the
downpour. Two Frenchmen under umbrellas were standing in front of me,
gesticulating so wildly that their hands were all wet, and one of them
kept referring to some name that finally began to sound familiar. I
listened more closely and, sure enough, that was the very name I had
been trying to remember. I grabbed the man’s arm and demanded very
excitedly, “Did you say ‘Lenotier,’ m’sieur?”

“But yes,” admitted the startled man. “Pierre Lenotier, our friend.
Pourquoi?”

“That’s it! Exactly it!” I exclaimed. “And where does one find this
Pierre Lenotier, m’sieur?”

The two natives stared at each other a moment, then stared at me;
finally the one who had not spoken yet stepped from beneath his little
roof long enough to point to the sign over the doorway in which I was
standing. “You do not read, m’sieur?” he asked, with that gentleness
which one affects in humoring a lunatic.

I stepped out and looked at the old sign over the door. It read

                             LE CHIEN ROUGE
                          PIERRE LENOTIER, PR.

“Merci, merci, m’sieur.” I laughed at him as I ran beneath the sign and
into the café. Then I stopped, for there behind the bar was Lisa
herself: a little older looking, fatter and perhaps harder faced, but I
knew her at once. I started to yell across the room to her, but noticed
that there were a few French and American soldiers at the tables, so I
walked smilingly up to the bar.

I stopped in front of her and waited for her to say something. But she
just stared at me, as if I were any other soldier wanting a drink.

“Lisa,” I cried out finally. “Don’t you know me?”

Apparently she didn’t. She had seen too many American soldiers to take
much stock in any of them. I removed my cap and leaned across the bar.
“Lisa, don’t you remember Leon Canwick?”

Her eyes gleamed at that and she smiled, but you could see that she
couldn’t believe me, coming upon her so unexpectedly. Finally her grin
broadened and she said, “C’est impossible! Mon petit diable! Leon! Non,
non....”

But a good survey seemed to persuade her, for she led me then, amid a
continual stream of happy chattering, into a back room which opened off
the main room at the end of the little bar. Then she looked me over
again, as if she couldn’t possibly believe what she was seeing. “Non ...
non ... impossible!”

I laughed and told her that she was right. “It is not Leon at all.”

This was too much for her. She had to sit down—while she grumbled and
gave out little explosive phrases of disparagement of these foolish
Americans who play tricks on hard-working people. She spluttered and
fussed and stared at me until I added, “This is Leona Canwick.” Then she
just stared open-mouthed at me as if I were some kind of specter.

“What foolishness!” she finally managed to exclaim. “This is more worse
yet! You joke: you are Leon!... You should not joke an old woman,
M’sieur Leon.”

“But I’m not Leon,” I insisted. “I am Leona.”

Well, she refused to be convinced. We argued and I laughed until the
tears came in my eyes. I’d never had so much real fun since I’d been in
the army. She was just too funny, running out to wait on her customers
and coming back to declare again and again that she had no time for any
jokes. When I was too weak from laughter to argue further, I proved to
her my identity in the only way in which it could be proved. She was too
dumfounded to speak, so while she sat silently gaping at me, I tried to
explain how I had come here. Finally she understood and believed me. Not
until then did she really welcome me, with an abundance of hugs and
kisses and much jolly laughter. We talked over the happy days at St.
Malo and I told her about Leon and Aunt Elinor. Altogether, I must have
spent an hour there, with her running in and out from the bar to
entertain me.

When I left, she threw her arms around my neck and kissed me smack on
the cheek—just as a short, stocky, bald-headed and walrus-mustached man
appeared in the doorway and glared daggers at us. I knew at once that
this was Pierre, but something told me to keep going—and I went, before
Lisa could introduce us.

I imagined he would raise Cain before Lisa had a chance to explain to
him that I was really a girl. I hoped I wouldn’t have to prove my sex to
him in order to avoid his jealous scowl!


                                  —5—

I stopped in to see Lisa again, the day following, and her husband was
there. She welcomed me with a smile but, if looks could kill, I’d be a
dead rabbit right now from the effects of old Pierre’s glances. He was
madder than the devil himself.

I asked Lisa why she didn’t tell him the truth and save herself any
trouble. She just laughed at me. “It is too funny, chère,” she
explained. “He thinks you are a man—and he is so jealous—ou la la!”

“But why not tell him I am a girl?” I insisted.

“Because,” she said, “Pierre, he gets too much of the cognac and talks
off his head. He speaks everything he knows when he gets beaucoup
zigzag. Non, chère, I will not tell him. And he is so funny, anyway. It
will do him good.”

Well, I wished she had told him. He threw a dirty wet rag at Esky and
wouldn’t let him come in at all. He was liable to throw something worse
than that at me.


                                  —6—

Another day at Le Mans and I thanked heaven it would be the last. I
suppose we had the Germans to thank, because they started their “big
push” about three weeks before and threatened the whole Allied system of
defenses by breaking through the British in Flanders. General Backett
heard reports that didn’t sound very good: apparently the Fritzies were
putting everything they’d got into this offensive, because they figured
that it was now or never. If they couldn’t win now, before the United
States poured in another million men, they might as well run up the
white flag. However, everyone on this side seemed to be optimistic over
the eventual preponderance of man power and the early end of the war.

How all this affected us, I didn’t know, except that American troops
were seeing action and the need for replacements was increasing, with
the result that our division was designated as a replacement division
and was soon to join the First Army Corps, the headquarters of which
were at Neufchâteau.

But the General wasn’t going with them. He wanted to in the worst way,
but had to give way before younger and more physically robust officers.
He was rather upset about it, I guess, but he was too old a soldier to
kick. He said, “There’s too much to be done, for any one man to complain
about the disposition of his ability.”

In a way I was sorry not to be going with the outfit, for then I might
see some real action; but real action would be dangerous for me, and I
liked working for the General so well and I got along so easily, that I
was glad he was taking me with him. I mean, common sense told me I’d
have less to worry about if I stuck with him. This headquarters company
might be all broken up before long anyway and I might find myself a cook
or pick-and-shovel expert—which wouldn’t be so good.

Chilblaines would be with him, too—he was promoted to a captaincy, so
he could act as General Backett’s personal aide. And Getterlow was
assigned to drive for him. Getterlow was a good chauffeur, when he was
sober—which was seldom.

I surely did hate to leave Ben. When I told him the news, he was almost
heart-broken. “Can’t ya get me a job drivin’ er doin’ somethin’?” he
wanted to know. “I’d give my shirt to get into somethin’ different. This
orderlyin’ an’ doin’ nothing in particular is a hell of a life fer an
able-bodied soljer like me.”

“Maybe Getterlow will get the can before long,” I encouraged him.

“How in hell did that guy get that job?” he demanded. “He ain’t no
chauffeur. He told me hisself he used to work in a jewelry store!”

I explained that Getterlow had a wagoner’s rating and was assigned to
this job by the officer who had charge of such duties.

“Well, I can’t see it!” Ben maintained. “I used to work in a garage an’
I know more about wagons than that kike will ever know. But I can’t get
close enough to even touch an automobile in this man’s army.”

I told him I’d do anything I could to get him transferred if anything
should happen to Getterlow—“In fact, I’ll do my best to help something
happen to him. I’ll even buy a few drinks for him, if that will help
any.”

“I hope he gets the D.T.’s!” Ben meant exactly that, too. “He’s nothin’
but a handshaker! This is a hell of a war an’ a hell of an army: if
you’re a good cook, they make a machine gunner outa ya; if ya can run an
airplane, they put ya to work in a canteen sellin’ cigarettes. I
suppose, havin’ been a boxer, I’ll end up as a bugler! I know it ain’t
yer fault, Leony—but ya do what ya can, will ya?”

And I surely wanted to, for I hated to leave him, more than I would if
he were my brother Leon. He certainly was one damned fine egg!

That evening I went down to say good-by to Lisa. I didn’t stay long. Her
husband was about and he didn’t take his eye off us all the time I was
there. I guess Lisa didn’t think the jealousy joke was so funny now. She
said he had accused her of everything from adultery to incest and that
he told her he supposed he’d come home sometime and find her in the arms
of a “big black American Indian.”

That was awful—I mean, for a man to talk that way to his wife. And Lisa
must have been a good wife, too. But she wouldn’t tell him the truth.
Said she’d manage him all right.

Old Pierre stopped me as I was leaving and he didn’t mince words at all.
From what he said, I gathered that it was just as well for me that I was
leaving Le Mans. M. Lenotier didn’t care to sell me any wine and didn’t
want me in his café at all.... Well, I did hope Lisa could manage him.
I’d hate to think that I had been responsible for making her miserable.


                                  —7—

I went to Chaumont, for the General to report to G.H.Q., which was
there. I saw more generals and colonels around there than I ever knew
existed. A poor enlisted man might as well have his arm hitched up to
his cap: you had to salute every time you turned around, and half the
officers didn’t bother to return the compliment. I didn’t much care for
a place that was so lousy with officers and it wasn’t going to make me
mad to go wherever we were headed.

The General informed me in the afternoon as to the nature of our new
work. “If this war had happened ten years earlier,” he said, “I would be
taking my command into a zone of action—but that’s the price we pay for
growing old. Now we’ll just work—and mostly far from the Front.”

“What kind of work, sir?” I inquired.

“Inspector General’s Department,” he replied. “General B—— is
Inspector General of the A.E.F. and I am to operate as a representative
of his office, although the major portion of our actual work will be in
the S.O.S. and under the Headquarters at Tours.... Oh, it will be more
or less interesting, and besides, somebody has to do it: someone has to
keep an eye on these young officers who aren’t dry behind the ears yet,
and see that some enterprising salesman doesn’t sell the Quartermaster
Depot to the Spaniards.”

Well, I never had heard of the Inspector General’s Department, and I
frankly admitted my ignorance.

“It isn’t the Intelligence Division,” he hastened to inform me. “We’re
not secret service operatives or anything like that. We’re inspectors
and reporters. We will inspect organizations and administrations and
investigate cases of criminal misconduct and evidences of poor
coördination between branches of the service. We merely report our
findings and suggest corrections or improvements. That’s our job from
now on.”

So now I supposed we’d go out and inspect something or investigate
somebody. Well, it suited me, as long as we got out of Chaumont.


                                  —8—

We arrived in Tours the next day after a rather hectic trip from
Chaumont via Paris. I didn’t care much for wartime France. Every house
shut up tight at dusk. No street lights. Military Police every two feet
asking you where you were going and why and who told you you could go.
Not so pleasant.

New work too, although I hadn’t done much yet, except just enough
routine stuff to serve as an introduction to this kind of stuff.
Entirely different from Divisional paper work, but I’d get it in time.

Just then I was all excited about something else: and I knew it was
absolutely inane, utterly foolish of me, too. However, the fact remained
that I did see Captain Winstead in Paris! Just the sight of him was
enough to make me dizzy.

I assumed he had something to do with the Intelligence, for it was there
that I saw him. He was talking with some officers in the entrance to the
building, and Getterlow and I were sitting in the General’s car, out of
the rain. I had my slicker turned up around my ears and I just couldn’t
make my hands pull it down—I couldn’t decide whether I wanted him to
see me or not. In the first place, if he had a memory for faces, he
might recognize me at once; and I didn’t know whether he’d met Leon in
Wakeham or not—if not, he would be suspicious at once. Besides I didn’t
think I could face him without giving myself away: he was handsomer than
ever and I could have climbed right on his neck the minute I saw him
again.

Anyway, he finally walked right past us and I saluted him. He didn’t
even stop to look at me—just saluted and went on his way. I suppose I
was foolish to be so excited: probably nobody would be suspicious of
me—I mean, after all, Captain Winstead would not have any reason to
suspect that a girl was in France disguised as a soldier. I wished I had
spoken to him.... This damned old war: he might not be in Paris the next
time we got there!


                                  —9—

My mail caught up with me in Bourges and brought letters from home and
from Ben.

Poor Ben: he said he broke out with some kind of rash or measles or
something equally childish and they sent him to the infirmary at Le
Mans. “I’m ashamed of myself for having anything like this, but I’ll
stay here now until you poison Getterlow and get me out.” I was
surprised to find that he could actually write English that you could
read. He must have gone to school at some time in his lurid past. I
wrote and told him that Getterlow was coming to the end of his rope.

The letter from home inclosed some American Express checks, which would
come in handy, and told me that Leon gave up trying to get across any
other way and finally enlisted in a hospital unit that expected to come
over very soon. Also someone had heard from Jay-Jay—and he was
stationed in Paris!

Wasn’t that just my luck! To have the man you love and the man that
loves you in the same city. After all, Paris was a pretty small place,
in so far as American soldiers were concerned: there were only half a
dozen places where they congregated, and if I got to Paris again, I
couldn’t try to see Captain Winstead without running the risk of meeting
Jay-Jay.

And pretty soon Leon would be showing up over here, and it’d just be my
luck to run into him—and further complicate matters. If Jay-Jay ever
saw the two of us, he’d know at once there was something wrong.... Well,
anyway, I had to retract all those horrid things I thought of my fair
brother. Of course, he could have started sooner for camp, but then,
after all, he started and did try to get there, and now he’d proved his
mettle by enlisting again. Only I couldn’t for the life of me see where
I was going to end up. What if he should get killed over here, or lose a
leg or an arm or something like that? I could never get out of this
mess! It seemed like everything was going wrong all at once.

The General looked over the administration of the organization at
Bourges and kept me busy for two days making out a detailed report of
the place, giving reams and reams of statistics on every conceivable
detail of the American establishment there. I was afraid the General was
so full of regulations and knowledge of how organizations should
function that my life from now on was going to be very hectic indeed. A
couple of reports like this one and I’d be bleary.

We traveled in a big touring car. I had a field desk and a portable
typewriter that wasn’t worth two whoops, and which I didn’t use unless I
couldn’t find a better one wherever we happened to be. Chilblaines was
the boss’s errand boy and Getterlow drove. I guess the General kept
Chilblaines with him for the latter’s protection: the lieutenant’s
father or mother or uncle or somebody was a close friend of the
General’s and I guess he figured the best turn he could do Chilblaines
was to keep him away from any outfit that might go near the Front:
Chilblaines wouldn’t last a week up there. Someone would let the sky
fall on him, probably.

I saved Getterlow from the consequences of his sins several times, just
to avoid a scene. I hated to see a fellow get bawled out. But he was
getting worse. He got drunk every time we stopped and he thought every
mademoiselle in France had been waiting for him to arrive. The end was
near.

The General discussed the possibility of getting rid of Getterlow. I
wrote to Ben, but didn’t hear from him, so didn’t know where I’d find
him when the time came.


                                  —10—

We were in Tours five days but I was too tired to do anything but work
with the General. We had a busy trip from Dijon on, jumping all over
this section of France, visiting aviation fields, all kinds of training
schools, hospitals, ordnance depots, quartermaster depots, motor
transport parks, and God only knows what else. We were in all kinds of
crazy places, including Cosne, Issoudun, Romorantin, Orléans and Blois,
and now we were back in the headquarters of the S.O.S.

Found two letters here. One from Ben informed me that they finally threw
him out of the infirmary and put him in a Casuals company. I’d have to
move fast now or he’d be getting sent up to some replacement outfit, and
once a man got up in that neck of the woods it took a lot of officerial
influence to get him out.

I also had a letter from Jay-Jay, which gave me something to think
about. He said he was asked by Aunt Elinor to look me up and see how I
was getting along. Said he hadn’t heard from my sister for months—“Do
you know where she is now?” Wanted me to let him know if I ever got near
Paris or Tours or Chaumont, because he was still in the entertainment
business and those were the centers of activity. Said he’d be glad to
see me any time I could get away.

Let us laugh! Wasn’t he condescending! A sweet chance he had of getting
a letter from this soldier! Why, he’d know my writing at once.

I suppose he had written to me at home and wondered why I hadn’t
answered. But Aunt Elinor hadn’t said anything about a letter from him.
Well, anyway, he needn’t think he could make me put my foot in it: I
would write a letter to him and send it to Aunt Elinor to remail. That’d
take over a month but it would throw him off the track. I’d make the
letter very general and if the censor took the trouble to look at it
he’d think it was a letter I’d received from a girl in the States. That
for you, Mr. Wise Guy!

I heard we were going back to Paris soon. I couldn’t decide whether to
be glad or sorry, for the Lord only knew what’d happen there. I wanted
like the devil to see the Captain, but I’d have hated like hell to meet
Jay-Jay.

Wished I knew where Leon was. He was either here or on his way
over—wherever he was I didn’t want to be. No one town could be large
enough for both of us: not in this man’s army.


                                  —11—

Wagoner Getterlow ceased to be a wagoner. The General finally decided
that our chauffeur couldn’t stand too much freedom.

Of course, as soon as I knew a change had been decided upon and that a
new driver had to be got at once, I suggested Ben.

Naturally, Chilblaines had to be present at the moment to pipe up, “Has
he ever done any driving over here?”

“Oh, yes!” I lied glibly. “Driven a lot, but now he’s just out of the
infirmary and is with a Casuals company at Le Mans. He knows all about
cars.”

“I don’t think he is a fit—” Chilblaines began.

But the General interrupted to say, “If you are sure he will prove
satisfactory, Sergeant, make out a request for his transfer and speak to
the personnel officer about it at once. We mustn’t be bothered too much
with a matter of this kind.”

So I made out a request and spoke to the officer who had charge of that
line of stuff—I mean, of personnel and transfers. Private Benjamin
Garlotz would burst in any time now.

Esky acted as if he knew something was up. He’d eat Ben alive when he
saw him. I thought I could almost kiss the big galoot myself—but
unfortunately kissing wasn’t in the manual of arms and it wouldn’t be
very soldierly. Anyway I knew I’d feel better with him around.



                               CHAPTER 10

                      THE BATTLE OF LE CHIEN ROUGE


                                  —1—

Can you beat it? After my going to all that trouble to get Ben
transferred, we were informed that the big ape was in the jug at Le
Mans!

God alone knew what he’d been up to. I thought of everything, from
drunkenness and disorderly conduct to assault upon an officer. When the
personnel clerk told me about it, I couldn’t say a word, just vanished
in order to digest this information. I couldn’t decide whether to tell
the General and ask his help or what to do. Finally I marched back to
the clerk and told him that the General said that unless Garlotz was
being held on a manslaughter charge, he should be released and
transferred here at once. “Will that be much trouble?” I asked
disarmingly.

“I’ll see what can be done,” he said. And that was all I knew about Ben
for a while.

The General said, “That new man ought to be here to-day, shouldn’t he,
Sergeant?”

All I could say was “Yes, sir” and let it go at that.


                                  —2—

The personnel chap told me they had arranged for Ben’s transfer at once
and that he was on prison detail, serving out a sentence on which there
were several days to go yet.

“Did they say what he had done?” I asked.

The clerk laughed. “It appears that he ran wild one night not long ago
and wrecked a café or something—nothing serious.”

So Ben was on the way.


                                  —3—

He arrived in the morning and was put to work immediately driving us
around Tours. I think the General wanted to try him out before we
started off on any journeys. Anyway, the result was that I didn’t have
two minutes alone with the new arrival until evening, and I was dying to
ask him for an explanation of his fall from grace. So as soon as we were
out of earshot of any listeners, I put the question to him: “What the
devil have you been up to, Big Boy? What’s the sad story about prison
bars and fines?”

He gave me kind of a nasty look and said, “Don’t kid me, Leony. Don’t
kid me.”

“What do you mean ‘kid you’?” I insisted. “It’s right on your record in
plain writing!”

“Listen—” he ordered, with a wave of his hand, “is that any way to
thank a guy fer savin’ yer life?”

“Whose life? When? Where? How?” I demanded, at a loss to divine what he
was driving at.

“Say—don’t ya s’pose I know who I see? What I wanta know is why the
frog was lammin’ hell outa ya. What the hell you been doin’ to his wife?
I gave you credit fer better taste than that—but now I wouldn’t put
nothin’ past ya!”

I didn’t know what he was talking about at all, and promptly said so.

“Gee, that’s rich, ain’t it, now?” He laughed kinda sourly. “And here I
been picturing you gettin’ down on yer knees to thank me fer rescuin’
ya! Instead o’ which you got the guts to try an tell me ya don’t know
what I’m talkin’ about. Gee, Leony, you’re terrible!”

“And you’re crazy as hell!” I retorted.

“Yeh—but I ain’t so crazy but what I know why ya got me this transfer,
an’ I’ll accept it as yer thanks.” He laughed again, that same unhealthy
ha-ha. “All I gotta say is ya musta been pretty hard up to be sidlin’
after that greasy bartender’s wife! You, of all people!... Ha-ha—I
guess appearances is deceivin’, eh?”

“Oh!” I gasped. So that was it! But I still couldn’t understand the
connection. I didn’t see how Ben had got mixed into Pierre’s jealousy.
He had never been in the place with me and there was no reason for
Pierre to connect us.

“I should say OH, too, if I was you,” he observed dryly.

“But I still don’t understand, Ben,” I told him seriously. “What
bartender and where did this happen?”

At first he refused to take me seriously, but I finally goaded him into
explaining.

“Just to put the details fresh in yer mind—which seems to be purty
fergetful all of a sudden—” he began with grave condescension. “I eased
into a buvette in Le Mans one evenin’ an’ saw before me nobody but my
old bunkee, Sergeant Leon Canwick himself, an’ he was bein’ mauled all
over the floor by a little runt of a frog wid a bartender’s apern on
’im. I suppose you don’t remember him at all, eh?”

“Go on with your story,” I replied, beginning now to suspect the secret
of the mess.

“He was doin’ such a ferocious job on my old friend, Mister Canwick,
that I thought I oughta take a hand myself. And while I was hangin’ that
frog on the chandyleer and givin’ him back-stretchin’ exercises over a
cognac keg, my old friend picks himself up and departs toute suite,
leavin’ me there alone to face about a million gendarmes and twice that
many M.P.’s. Nice fella, wasn’t he?”

“Then what happened.” I insisted, ignoring his query.

“Well—what could I do? It wasn’t my fight anyhow an’ I didn’t know what
I was fightin’ for besides, so I just told the boys I’d go along
quietly. They threw me in the jug fer being drunk an’ disorderly.”

“And is that all that happened?”

“No—not quite. I figured my friend, Sergeant Canwick, bein’ such a good
friend an’ on accounta my savin’ him an’ all that—I figgered he’d be
only too glad to come around and explain the argument and get me outa
the jug, but instead o’ that I stays there and has to listen to some
frog interpreter tellin’ that bartender’s tale o’ woe, an’ in the end
they decided, without my consent, that I had to pay fer the damage done
to his damn old buvette by givin’ up most o’ my pay for four months.
Course that struck me as one o’ the funniest things that ever
happened.... Besides which I discovered that I was supposed to spend ten
days in one o’ them prison gangs, one o’ them heavy labor outfits....
An’ it was so funny that I just laughed and laughed every time I thought
of my good friend, Mister Canwick, an’ how easy he got outa a bad
lickin’.”

“I don’t understand it at all,” I declared.

“Huh—maybe not, buddy, but I do—an’ if you didn’t have them stripes on
ya and if you was a little bigger than the shrimp ya are, I’d give ya a
lacin’ right now to make up fer the one you missed.”

He looked so grim and serious that I was really scared for a minute, but
I insisted over and over again that I didn’t know anything about the jam
at all. “Honest to God, Ben—I haven’t been in Le Mans for a couple of
months—not since I left there with the General! That’s the God’s truth
and I can prove it by the General! We haven’t been near Le Mans!”

He looked at me then and I could see that he was beginning to have
doubts. He wanted to believe me, I guess, but it didn’t seem possible
that he could be wrong. “If it wasn’t you, who was it then?” he finally
demanded. “I’d swear it was you—looked just like you right this
minute.”

Well, I knew who it was. My darling brother had, I thus learned, arrived
in this land of the fleur-de-lis. But I couldn’t tell Ben that. I
couldn’t tell him about Leon, for if we should ever bump into him, Ben
would be sure to wonder why his name was Leonard Lane. There was only
one thing for me to say and I said it: “I can’t imagine who the devil it
was, Ben. I must have a double running loose over here—did he have a
sergeant’s chevron on his sleeve?”

That stumped him for a moment. “Damned if I know,” he admitted. “I
didn’t stop to look. But he looked exactly like you—an’ I still think
it was you.”

“Well, you’re wrong. I give you my word of honor and I can prove that I
haven’t been in Le Mans since I saw you last.” I insisted, and was
gratified to see that he was impressed. “Anyway, I’m much obliged to you
for saving what you thought was me, and I’ll make up the money end of it
to show you my heart’s in the right place.”

“What the hell’s the idea?” he demanded. “If it wasn’t you, why should
you wanta pay the bill?”

But I didn’t want to argue about it any longer and so I told him,
“You’ve got me wrong, Ben. You may never believe it was not me at Le
Mans, but that’s the truth and can be proved. However, I do insist upon
making up to you for the pay you’re losing, merely because I appreciate
your trying to help me when you thought I needed help. And that’s all
there is to it!”

“Well, it looks kinda fishy to me,” he contended.

But I refused to argue with him. I made him take twenty dollars on
account and I determined he’d take the balance as soon as I could get a
check cashed.

I knew he didn’t know whether to believe me or not, but I just couldn’t
explain the thing to him. Lord knows, there were enough loose ends to
this affair already. I didn’t know where Leon was or when I was liable
to meet him. And Jay-Jay was liable to breeze into Tours any day. What
if he should see Leon and me together? Might the good Lord stick with me
yet a while!

I wished I could have seen that scrap in Le Chien Rouge! Poor old
Pierre—Ben must have done an awful job on him. And to think that it was
all my fault.... I wondered if Lisa saw Leon. Maybe it had been
explained to Pierre by now: if so, we had something else to worry about.
Oh, sweet existence!


                                  —4—

God, but I worked those next two weeks! Believe me, there was a big
battle being fought in this S.O.S, regardless of all the current jokes
about non-combatants. About twelve hundred years ago a strong-arm
Frankish hero by the name of Charles Martel turned back the invading
hordes of Arab Moors that had swept up through Spain and was threatening
all Western Europe. That Battle of Tours was one of the decisive battles
of history, and this 1918 Battle of Tours was going to be a decisive
one, too, for this was the very heart and lungs of the American army.

We’d just about covered all the nooks and crannies of this vast
organization, from the base sections at Brest, St. Nazaire and Bordeaux,
to the great depots of Nevers and the zone of action that began above
Chaumont, but always we had to come back to the headquarters at Tours,
and the center of this tremendous S.O.S. which constituted in itself one
of the most expansive battles of the war—for it required three men to
keep one man at the Front, and thousands times that three were warriors
of the S.O.S. It was amazing—like a nation within a nation, a huge
octopus of an organization embracing everything from hospitals and rest
camps and leave areas to quartermaster and ordnance depots. It was all a
gigantic business, a military government which owned and operated all
its machinery, materials and human constituents.

Every day that passed impressed this realization the more plainly upon
us. Troops were pouring in from the States. Supplies and equipment were
being rushed along in tremendous quantities. And every ship that landed
meant that much more work for us, because as the camps grew larger and
the workings of this great government became more and more involved and
far-reaching, there was just that much more need of supervision and
watchfulness. And that was our job.

The system grew from day to day. It developed to such an incredible
extent that it seemed impossible for any one man, or little group of
men, to comprehend its far-flung reaches. Even General Backett, who had
a genuine talent for organization, confessed that he was amazed and
bewildered by the stupendous sweep of it all. On one occasion he
observed that, “Perhaps there is someone somewhere who knows what all is
happening in this organization, but there are moments when I seriously
question the existence of any such person.... At times it presents a
perfect picture of chaos and confusion, but a single word from Tours
brings instant response, and undeniable order appears suddenly from the
confounding confusion. It is simply amazing! A glorious example of the
efficiency and coördination which are inherent in Americans!”

It was a gargantuan enterprise and I had long since ceased trying to
envision the whole works. Napoleon or Cæsar or somebody once said that
an army travels on its stomach and if that is the case G.H.Q. must have
been planning on going a long, long way—and the food supply was but one
branch of this enormous business of supply.

The General said that when this war was won, the combat commands would
get the credit—“but it will be these laboring devils in the service of
supply that will have won the war.”

And he thought that this war couldn’t go on without him. He managed to
find more business to attend to than any other five general officers
that I’d seen. He worked like a nigger day in and day out—and he was
really not any too young any more. I feared that he might break under
the strain. He said that there was no limit to a man’s capacity for
endurance during a time of tension, but I had my doubts about anyone’s
being able to go on and on under an uninterrupted strain. I knew I was
beginning to feel kinda dizzy at times, as if everything was in a
terrible jumble. I was due for a leave af absence, but couldn’t very
well take one until the rush was over. There were big things in the wind
up toward Germany and business was sure picking up.


                                  —5—

Well, of course it was bound to happen sooner or later. I met the enemy
and for the time being, at least, he was mine, although I had my doubts
about his attitude. I refer, of course, to Jay-Jay.

I ran into him coming out of the headquarters building at Tours. Esky
was at my heels and Ben was beside me. When I saw him I was
panic-stricken and wanted to turn and run—but I couldn’t do that
because we were going out to the car and the General would be along any
minute.

He started to come toward me just as I realized that Esky’s presence
might look very suspicious to him. I grabbed Ben’s arm and told him to
chase along and get Esky into the car, and then I stepped back and
waited.

“How are you, Leon?” Jay-Jay greeted me, while his eyes made a quick
survey of my person.

I told him I was getting along all right and asked about his own
progress. We managed to talk about this and that for several minutes. He
asked me why I hadn’t answered his letter and I told him I lost it
without copying the address. Said he hadn’t heard from my sister since
he came over here and I said I hadn’t either, but that I thought she was
still out West somewhere.

“Wasn’t that her dog I just saw here with you?” he demanded suddenly.

“Dog?” I asked dumbly. “When?”

“Wasn’t that dog and the big fellow with you a moment ago?” he insisted.
“Looked just like Leona’s Esky.”

I managed to laugh. “Oh—that!” I said. “That’s my boss’s pup. The big
fellow’s the chauffeur and I’m the General’s special clerk, so the pup
sticks with us most of the time. He does look like Esky, at that.”

“You didn’t care much for Esky, did you?” he inquired with a smile.

“No—” I admitted. “He’s Leona’s and I don’t like dogs anyway.”

Conversation went on then, with ups and downs of critical moments.
Finally he told me about meeting Vyvy and that she had said I didn’t
leave Wakeham until three o’clock on the Sunday before I sailed.

“Oh—Vyvy,” I exclaimed. “She was so excited, you know. So glad to see
me go. She forgot what day it was, I guess.... Anyway, you ought to
know, for I’m damned sure I didn’t dream of seeing you at Camp that
day.”

“No—” he admitted. “You didn’t dream that. You did see me. I just
wondered, though, when Vyvy insisted that you were in Wakeham that
noon.”

I laughed at him. “Don’t let that worry you,” I told him. “And you can
report to my aunt that I’m doing very nicely—miles and miles from any
danger!”

We both laughed at that simple crack and he said something about
“fighting the battle of Cognac Hill and the Siege of the S.O.S.”

But the General appeared at that moment and I was only too glad to use
the excuse to break away. Not, however, before he had informed me that
he was going from Tours to Le Mans. Wasn’t that sweet fortune for you!

He would probably go to Le Mans, bump into Leon, and the beans would be
spilled for fair. If there were a million men in Le Mans that he could
see without hurting me at all, the chances would still be a million to
one he’d meet Leon. That’s the kind of a gink he was—could be depended
upon to do whatever you least wanted him to do.

I didn’t like him in the least any more. An able bodied man like him
masquerading and dodging danger by supervising the people who entertain
in the camps and rest areas. He was less of a hero than Leon: the
latter, at least had finally come through with a vengeance—though
without regard for my safety. Well, I could only pray that they did not
meet. I hadn’t the least idea how to reach Leon. I cussed him for not
writing to me. You see, blaming and cussing him was a habit of long
standing.



                               CHAPTER 11

                      FAIR ENOUGH IN LOVE AND WAR


                                  —1—

American casualties were beginning to come down from the sector around
Château Thierry. There had been a bloody battle in progress up there.
Reports had it that the Americans were advancing on Soissons, pushing
the enemy back from Paris. At last it began to sound as if we were
actually doing something.

It’s funny how jokes came with wounded men: you’d think of anything but
a joke when you saw one of them, but it’s true that the more the
casualties the more jokes about them. Once, I recall, I heard two
fellows talking in a hospital and one of them was telling about a louie
asking him questions, and it really was funny.

The louie asked him where he was hit at the Front and the doughboy
replied that he wasn’t hit at the front at all. The louie thought he was
trying to be funny, but the man insisted that he was “hit in the rear,
sir.”

“What do you mean?” demanded the officer. “An accident? Then you aren’t
wounded—just injured. Here in the S.O.S.”

“No, sir,” replied the man, “I turned around to see where my lieutenant
was and the next thing I knew I was in a first aid station.”

The officer was puzzled, but thought he saw the light. “Cold feet, eh?
Your commanding officer had to stop you from running away, eh?”

“Say—” says the man, insulted, “we was at the Front goin’ across, I
tell ya—an’ I hear somebody yell something behind me. I thought it was
the lieutenant an’ I turned around to see. Just then something hit me in
the rear and here I am.”

“Oh—” says the louie. “You mean in the back, which was to the front!”

“Sure—in the rear,” repeated the other doggedly.

“Oh!” says the louie and walks away, while the man cursed after him for
being so dumb.

That isn’t so funny in print, but it surely did sound funny the way that
fellow told it.

I guess the joke that was best known and had the most variations in the
whole army was the old one about the man in the hospital being
interrogated by a kindly woman visitor who insisted upon knowing where
he was wounded. I heard about a hundred variations of this story: every
man you met had a new twist to it, so I guess it qualifies as the A.E.F.
joke. Of all the endings, however, I think the best one is that in which
the wounded man finally replies, “Madame, if you was hit where I was
hit, you wouldn’t a’ been hit at all!” Maybe it seemed so funny to me
because I’m a girl myself, but it’s a good story anyway and is
representative of the brand of Rabelaisian humor that bloomed in this
man’s army. And the wounded men were the worst ones for telling stories.
I heard a verse of “Parley Vous” from one, about a Mademoiselle from
Bar-le-Duc, which was positively putrid—it was so utterly vile that it
took me two days to figure out just what it meant. I couldn’t even write
it in shorthand!


                                  —2—

There was not much humor in my personal situation at this time. The
suspense was awful! Complications were setting in.

One day, Chilblaines came in the office and stared at me as if he had
seen a ghost. “Sergeant,” he demanded, “didn’t I just meet you on the
street a moment ago?”

“Me?” I exclaimed. “No, sir—I haven’t been out of the office for an
hour or more.”

He was plainly worried. “I would swear that I saw you getting out of a
side car down the street, not more than two minutes ago,” he insisted.

“Well,” I replied, with a laugh, “you must have seen my double, sir,
because I’ve been right here all the time.”

He wasn’t convinced, but of course he couldn’t argue the point any
further. Finally he observed, “I never knew two people could look so
much alike. There was a mole on his cheek, exactly the same.”

“Gee—that’s funny,” I admitted.

“Very odd,” he concluded. “Strange and remark- able coincidence, I
should say.” And he dropped the subject, although he kept looking at me
rather annoyingly all day. I hated to think of that dizzy pomme-de-terre
getting any funny ideas in his head. He was bad enough as it was—God
knows what he’d do if he thought I was in any way irregular. It would
have been just like him to think I was some kind of a spy or something.
I mean, if he thought I lied to him about being in that side car, he’d
be liable to suspect almost anything.

All of which didn’t make me feel very comfortable—with Ben hardly
pacified yet and Jay-Jay looking for trouble, and Leon doing God only
knew what to make matters worse.


                                  —3—

Everybody seemed to run across that brother of mine except me. Ben saw
him once and almost caught him. When he came back and told me about it,
after asking if I had been out, I wondered why he wanted to catch him.

“Because,” says Ben, “if that wasn’t you, it was the guy that got me in
that jam up in Le Mans, and I just wanted to speak to him a minute—just
long enough to crown him a coupla times.”

I couldn’t see what good that would do him but he seemed to think it
would do a lot of good. He said he noticed there weren’t any chevrons on
the fellow’s sleeve and he made a bee line for him, but Leon apparently
was some kind of a dispatch carrier, for he hopped into a motor cycle
side car and left Ben with a cloud of dust for his pains.

I wished I could get hold of Leon before he got us both into trouble.


                                  —4—

If you dream of the devil long enough he’s bound to appear.

Who should I bump square into one day but my handsome Captain! I saluted
and started to move on, for I had decided that he probably didn’t know
Leon—I mean, that Leon probably didn’t know him. But he caught my arm
and stared into my face very studiously.

“Excuse me, Sergeant,” he explained, looking straight at me. “I know
your name but I can’t think of it. I met your sister one night last
year—she danced and you read some poetry.”

I didn’t know what to say and when I didn’t say anything, he continued,
as if he were trying to make me remember the party or him. “Your aunt or
cousin or somebody told me how much alike you and your sister were and I
remember seeing you—just a glimpse—now what in the dickens is that
name?”

Well, you can imagine how I felt! Here I had been dreaming about him all
this time and he didn’t even remember my name! I had a good notion not
to tell him what my name was, but I couldn’t very well avoid it, so I
finally helped him out.

“Canwick! That’s it!” he exclaimed. “Of course. Why can’t I remember
names? Well, anyway, I’m certainly glad to see you.”

“You’ll pardon me, sir,” I interrupted. “But I still haven’t the
faintest idea as to who you are.” I had to call up all my resources to
keep my voice in its assumed naturalness.

“My name is Winstead,” he hurriedly explained. “And your sister made a
tremendous impression upon me—tremendous!” He hesitated a moment. “So
tremendous, I must confess, that I forgot whether I had heard her last
name or not. You see, I only saw her that one night and all I could
remember was her first name. It’s Leona, isn’t it?”

I nodded, and suddenly I began to feel good again. I couldn’t keep from
smiling and I had to tell him that I seemed to recall hearing something
about him from my sister. “But why didn’t you write down her name and
her address?” I inquired, as disinterestedly as I could.

“I did,” he replied. “Wrote it down and stuck it in the pocket of my
blouse—and that’s the last I saw of it. Must have been thrown out by
the tailor or someone, because when I tried to find it, it was nowhere
to be found. And I was genuinely sorry, for I had told your sister I
would write just as soon as I learned where I would be stationed. I
suppose she thought I was having a good time with her, eh?”

“Well—” I tried to say something, but just couldn’t. So that was why he
had never written. And he did remember, after all. I did mean something
to him, judging by the way he acted now.

“Tell me about her,” he pleaded earnestly but with that same engaging
smile that made my heart flutter in the garden back home.

I told him that my sister was very busy, entertaining in the camps.

“Over here?” he asked eagerly.

“No—over in the States,” I told him. “She tried everything imaginable,
you know. She wanted so badly to feel that she was doing something in
the War.”

“But tell me,” he interrupted, “what happened to the young chap, what’s
his name? Marfield? I had the idea that he and your sister were more or
less engaged.”

“Oh—Marfield’s over here now. Has something to do with providing
entertainment for the men in camps.”

“I see.” He seemed very disappointed. “And he helped her get in over
there, I suppose. Are they married?”

I had to laugh. “Of course not,” I told him. “He didn’t have anything to
do with her getting into that work. And they’ll never be married as long
as she has anything to say about it.”

“Aha—” he laughed. “That’s better. But doesn’t she like him? I’m
interested, you see.”

“Well—” I replied with some hesitation, “I have a hunch that she thinks
she would like someone else a lot more. You know how girls are!”

“Um—yes—surely.” He pulled out a package of cigarettes and I took one.
We lit up from one of his matches and I waited for him to ask more
questions.

But he seemed to have learned what he wished to know about my sister and
changed the subject to me: wanted to know what I was doing, if he could
help me along in any way, when I would be in Paris again, and whether
I’d care to look him up the next time I got there. “We can find
something to do, no doubt, and I’ll enjoy hearing more about that sister
of yours.”

I told him I’d like very much to meet him in Paris, “but it would look
rather odd for an enlisted man to be with an officer in a social way.”

“Oh—just forget that part of it,” he reassured me. “It happens that I
am in a position to do just about as I please in anything of that sort,
and besides I’ll have a good excuse for us: it just occurs to me that
you are the very man I’ve been looking for. I’ll put you to work when
you come to Paris.” He seemed to think this was an inspiration.

It didn’t strike me that way, however, and I told him so. I had enough
work already without contracting for any on the side.

“But this won’t be work,” he argued. “Indeed, most fellows would
consider it a pleasure—for there’s a very lovely lady involved in the
affair and your work would be to make love to her or let her make love
to you, if she so desired. Really, it would be a pleasure I’d reserve
for myself, if it weren’t for the fact that the lady would be suspicious
of any attentions I might lavish upon her.... I’ll explain when I see
you in Paris. You’re just the type for the job—she plays around with
middle-aged officers so much that a boyish chap like you will just about
take her in tow without any effort. By George, this will be good!”

Well, I didn’t like the sound of it. In the first place he said he’d
like to make love to her himself: that was no way for a man to talk, if
he really loved somebody else! And the idea of me making love to another
woman didn’t arouse any enthusiastic eagerness in my young breast.
However, what could I say, except that I’d be glad to look him up in
Paris.

Before we separated, he asked where he could write to Leona and I told
him to send it to Wakeham, care of Aunt Elinor, who would forward the
letter. I said I really couldn’t say just where Leona was now. But just
after leaving him I sat myself down and wrote to Auntie, telling her to
forward at once any letters that came for me.

That Captain certainly did get me all excited. I hardly knew what I was
doing all day after seeing him. That “tremendous impression” he
mentioned was mutual.


                                  —5—

Next appeared a surprise in the person of Jay-Jay. He didn’t know where
to find me, so he parked himself around headquarters and waited.
Naturally I had to walk right into his arms!

I divined at once that he had something rotten up his sleeve and as soon
as he spoke I knew the cat had busted the bag and was out.

He didn’t give me time to say anything. Just smiled wisely at me and
started in making sarcastic cracks.

But I was in a hurry and told him so. “The General is waiting for me
this minute and I can’t stop to talk now.” I said, drawing away from
him.

“I’ll be here to-night,” he replied. “And you’d better see me! I want to
talk to you.”

Well, what could I say? If I could be sure that he didn’t really know
anything, I’d hide in the cellar all night to avoid seeing him. But that
I couldn’t know, so I said I’d be at the entrance to the headquarters
building at seven o’clock.

“Good enough. That’s the baby!” he declared, grabbing my hand and giving
it a squeeze to emphasize his meaning.

And just at that moment Ben appeared. He didn’t say anything right away,
but a little later when we were alone he observed suddenly, “You seem to
be purty popular with the boys, Leony!... Was that guy tryin’ to make
ya?”

I laughed at the idea of Jay-Jay being like that. Ben does think of the
funniest things—but of course he couldn’t know, and it must have
sounded funny to him for a man to be calling me “baby.” Well, anyway, I
explained to him that this lieutenant was in the Entertainment Corps and
had known me as an amateur performer back in the States. “So now he
wants me to help him work up some stuff for an entertainment—a banquet
some General’s giving,” I added for good measure. “Don’t get foolish
about that ‘baby’ stuff—that guy calls everyone ‘baby’ or ‘sweetheart’
or something equally inappropriate.”

He grinned and said, “Well—it sounded kinda peculiar!” But I could see
that he believed me, so I stopped worrying about him. Which didn’t mean
that I wasn’t worrying about Jay-Jay and trying to dope out some way of
stalling him off.

I didn’t want to make him mad, for then he might get nasty. On the other
hand, I didn’t want to be so friendly with him that he could begin
getting familiar. I wouldn’t put anything past him—and I knew he’d lost
all desire to marry me. What he wanted now was just what he always
wanted, and he’d do anything under the sun to get it. That was Jay-Jay
all over!

Well, I hadn’t determined upon any course of action when I started out
to meet him that evening. Ben said he was going out and take a walk and
I told him I might run into him later. “Watch yer step!” he admonished,
with a laugh.

When I arrived at the appointed place, Jay-Jay was waiting. I saluted
him, but instead of returning the salute he just laughed and told me to
“Forget it.”

“Well—what’s on your mind?” I inquired casually.

He laughed again before saying, “I’ll give you three guesses!”

“Well—you want to borrow some money?” I suggested.

“Don’t be absurd,” he retorted. “You know as well as I why I’m here!”

“No—I’m afraid you have the advantage in that respect. I can’t imagine
why you were so anxious to see me. I’m not my sister, you know.”

He seemed to think that was a huge joke, too, but he calmed down too
quickly to let me think his laughter was genuine. “Why, Sergeant, I came
all the way from Paris just to tell you that I have written to your Aunt
to inform her how well you are getting along.”

“That was good of you, I’m sure.”

“But, of course, I didn’t tell her that both of you are getting along
all right—although I could have said as much, I suppose.”

“Then you’ve heard from Leona?” I suggested with feigned eagerness.

“Yes—heard from her, saw her, and also saw Leon.”

I managed to laugh at that. “That’s not very hard,” I said. “It’s still
light and he’s right in front of you.”

“Yeh?” he inquired sarcastically. “Well, well—it all certainly is
interesting. Almost like a piece of fiction or a melodramatic play. If I
weren’t so sure, I’d say it was impossible—if I didn’t know you so
well....”

“I don’t get you at all,” I declared.

He lit a cigarette, then offered me one. “You didn’t smoke when I last
saw you,” he observed.

I took one of his cigarettes and lit it, not bothering to answer him.

“Let’s take a walk down by the river front,” he suggested.

I didn’t want to walk anywhere out of the way. Night was coming on and I
made up my mind that we two were not going to be together anywhere in
the dark. But I couldn’t object to taking a walk, so we started out.

He did practically all the talking as we stepped along toward the river,
along its bank for a short distance, and turned back toward the
barracks. It was dark by the time we reached the entrance and I was
trying to make up my mind whether he really did have anything on me or
was just acting on suspicion. He had talked so much and really said so
little of actual fact that I was becoming more confident of my position.

“Now, Leona,” he began finally, as we were standing in the dark beside
the doorway into the barracks. “There’s no sense in your trying to bluff
me on this. I know it’s you and I don’t see any reason for your being so
high and mighty about it. Why not take me into the secret and not have
so much to worry about?”

“You’re crazy as hell!” I exclaimed impulsively, although while he had
been talking I had been trying to decide whether or not it would be wise
to take him into my confidence, as Aunt Elinor suggested. My impulsive
answer settled the matter, and I continued on that line. “I don’t know
where you got this foolish idea, but I certainly don’t relish the
situation in the least. Your suggestion is positively absurd! You must
be insane to think of such a thing!”

“You won’t admit it then?” he demanded.

“Admit something that isn’t true?” I exclaimed, with indignation.
“Honestly, are you crazy?” I put as much contempt into this last
question as I could muster. I knew it would make him furious.

And it did. “I suppose it was you I saw in Le Mans a couple of days
after I saw you here!” he declared with a sarcastic pitch of his voice.

“Why, I suppose it was,” I replied evenly. “I was in Le Mans not long
ago, and it is very possible that you saw me there.” Oh, what a lie!

He laughed. “Yeh—but it just happens that I noticed there were no
chevrons on Leon’s sleeve—and you’re a sergeant.” He laid his hand on
my arm. “Laugh that off now!” he invited.

And I did try to laugh it off, ending with another little lie, to the
effect that on the day referred to I happened to have on a new blouse
which I had to take before the tailor got through with it.

“Say—do I look that dumb?” he demanded.

“No—you don’t look very dumb,” I admitted, “but you sure do talk dumb
as hell.”

Just then I caught the sound of a whistle—a familiar whistle, and sure
enough, a moment later Esky bounded into view, followed by Ben.

I was scared stiff lest my tormentor say something so loud that Ben
would hear it, but while I was entertaining this worry I felt myself
seized in Jay-Jay’s arms and I knew at once that the fight was on. I
scratched and bit and kicked and did everything possible to prevent him
from putting his hands where he wanted to put them: at the moment it
seemed to me that the whole world depended upon my keeping him from
satisfying himself that his suspicions were correct. He was terribly mad
and some of his curses weren’t very nice, but I was mad, too, and hated
him from the bottom of my heart. I was so mad I could have burst into
tears—but before that could happen, my assailant was suddenly removed
from my vicinity and the next thing I heard was a dull thud as he hit
the sidewalk some six or eight feet distant. Ben stood glowering beside
me and Esky was dancing around as if he were having the time of his
life.

Jay-Jay picked himself up and started to come back, but Ben told him to
be on his way and “shut up.”

Jay-Jay stopped, brushed himself off, and called Ben a vile name,
adding, “You know what happens to men who assault an officer!”

“Holy Christ!” exclaimed Ben to me, but to Jay-Jay he kept up the bold
front, saying, “I just showed ya what happens to officers who assault
men, too. Guess there ain’t much danger of a ladybird like you makin’
any complaint fer gettin’ what you deserve. Now, beat it!” And he
stepped out as if he would crown him again.

Jay-Jay moved away then, but not before he sent an ominous speech to me.
He said: “Sergeant Canwick will pay a good price for this—and that’s a
promise!”

If Ben hadn’t been there I’d have told him that there’s only one thing I
could pay and I’d be damned in hell before I’d ever pay it to him!

But Ben was there, saying, “Christ’s sake, Leony, didn’t I tell ya not
to have anythin’ to do with them guys! I knew he was a lily the minute I
laid eyes on him.”

I started to tell him that his ideas were all wrong this time, but then
I realized that it didn’t make any difference what he thought of
Jay-Jay: and I could laugh at the idea anyway!

What worried me was what Jay-Jay would do: he could tell on me, if he
was sure I was Leona—but he couldn’t be sure, for apparently he didn’t
talk to Leon in Le Mans, and he didn’t succeed in finding out anything
to-night. I had a hunch, based upon my knowledge of his make-up, that
Jay-Jay would not say anything to anyone. He’d rather try again. He was
mad now and he knew that I knew what to expect if he did get wise to the
secret. No—Jay-Jay wouldn’t squeal. What I had to worry about now was
keeping out of his way—if he found out the truth and I still refused to
play with him: then, and not until then, would he squeal.... I’d have
let him squeal before I’d give in to him. I always knew he was like
that: nothing but a beast.

In a way I was relieved. Better be war between us than a long drawn out
friendship that would be a constant strain on my ability to keep on good
terms with him to prevent his telling. The more I thought of him, the
better I liked Esky. And Ben was a veritable saint and jewel in
comparison with him.


                                  —6—

Jay-Jay didn’t show up next day, so I concluded that he was only in town
for that night. Or Ben may have given him a black eye which required
nursing. Anyway, I was free again for the time being, and we were going
to Paris next day, with stops at Blois and Orléans, and even if Jay-Jay
was back in Paris, I might be lucky enough to miss him. I was glad in
spite of the danger: for the first thing I wanted was to hunt up Captain
Winstead.



                               CHAPTER 12

                      MADEMOISELLE FROM GAY PAREE


                                  —1—

For several days I couldn’t seem to keep from thinking about poor old
Lisa and her jealous husband and wondering whether or not they had made
peace yet. It was a shame for them to have hard feelings, just because I
happened to stop in to see my old nurse. I hoped Lisa told him the
truth—if she hadn’t before I got to Le Mans again, he’d hear it from
me.

I was hoping that the General might change his plans and go to Le Mans
this trip—much as I wanted to see the Captain—because I had to see
Leon soon and find out what kind of a game he thought he was playing. If
he had left Le Mans, there would be no other way of proving to Pierre
that I was not a regular soldier except by, well, some kind of a vulgar
display: if Leon was still there when I got there, then it shouldn’t be
very difficult to make the old buzzard believe our story.

Now, however, we were en route to Paris and I didn’t know what was going
to happen. The General was very irritable and jumpy and complained of
headaches and nervousness. I thought he was about ready to cave in—and
if so, what would become of us?


                                  —2—

A few days in Paris and I knew very well that General Backett was
weakening under the strain. The doctors told him he ought to take a rest
trip down to the South or over to England, but he positively refused. He
finally had to give up work for a while and went to the hospital way
over on the other side of the city from where Ben and I had to stay. I
didn’t know what we would do with ourselves. He’d probably be there a
couple of weeks anyway and there was nothing I could do, outside of a
few routine things that didn’t amount to anything. Ben and I had to
report to the Intelligence every day, just to satisfy some crazy
regulation, but outside of that we had the time to ourselves. And it was
just my luck that Captain Winstead was out of the city and wouldn’t
return for two or three days yet.

The General didn’t have any more faith in Chilblaines, for he had him
assigned to temporary duty at Intelligence. Of course, he couldn’t be of
any help over there—no more help there than he was to the General—but
the General wouldn’t think of intrusting any, even very routine,
inspections to him and he had to do something with him. It was the same
as a leave of absence.

Maybe we’d have the laugh on Chilblaines, though, for they were liable
to put him to work over there, not because he was a good man, but
because, when good officers are scarce, any officer at all must do. And
good officers were scarce just now, due to the heavy activity all over
the A.E.F.


                                  —3—

I arranged to have flowers sent out to the General every day during his
stay at the hospital. I didn’t tell Ben a word about the flowers, but
next morning when we visited the General to pay our respects and see if
there was anything we could do to make him more comfortable, the nurse
told Ben the flowers had come from a florist’s and that the card had an
enlisted man’s name on it. I might have known it.

As soon as we were outside again, he began. “Who in hell ever heard of
enlisted men takin’ flowers to a General?” he demanded in disgust.
“’Course we want the Gen. to be comfortable and happy—but let him stay
there! We don’t want him to get well too fast—the longer he stays the
more time we have for enjoyin’ the sights of this beautiful city!”

“Oh, we’ll have plenty of time,” I reassured him.

“Don’t make no difference,” he insisted. “Nobody ever heard of an
enlisted man sendin’ flowers to a General! You must be crazy.... But
what the hell do I care—it’s your funeral!”

I had to laugh.

“Now what the hell are ya laughin’ at?” he demanded. “’Course I gotta
admit that some o’ the things you do sure are funny! Funny as hell!
Sometimes ya act just like a woman!”

I continued to laugh at him, and it got his goat.

“What the hell are ya laughin’ at, ya little shrimp?” he exploded. “I’m
the one that oughta laugh—I oughta laugh at you fer bein’ such a damn
fool as to send flowers to a General! The joke’s on you, ya poor toad!”
And he started to laugh.

Well, when he laughed, I had to laugh some more, and the more I laughed
the harder he laughed. It developed into a contest and I was gasping for
breath.

Finally he stopped long enough to say, “By Gosh, Leony, ya must have a
good sense o’ humor to be able to laugh at a joke on yerself!” And he
burst into a guffaw again.

I was doubled up by this time, but I managed to gasp out, “I’m not
laughing at that, you big goof! I’m laughing because I put on all the
cards to go with those flowers,

                  “‘From Private Garlotz and Sergeant
              Canwick, with hopes for a speedy recovery.’

Now laugh that off!”

“What!” he demanded.

I repeated the text of the cards and added, “And I ordered flowers to be
delivered every morning for the next ten days!”

“O God Almighty!” he groaned.

He couldn’t see anything to laugh at now.


                                  —4—

War-time Paris was supposed to be rather a wild place, but so far we
hadn’t struck anything very terrible. Perhaps we didn’t know where to
look. Anyway, I got quite a kick out of taking Ben around and showing
him the historic sights of the city. Nothing exciting about such things
as famous “rues” and boulevards, cathedrals, theaters, parks and
monuments, and Ben was obviously bored. We even went to see the railroad
stations—that’s how hard up we were for something to do.

Ben’s idea of a good time would be to visit all the dives up Montmarte
way, the House of Nations and peep-hole palaces that we’d heard so much
about. When I got my courage screwed up, I intended to go with him on a
tour of those joints. For the time being, though, stuff like that didn’t
interest me: my education had gone along pretty fast and I wanted to
save something for later. Not that seeing those things would hurt
me—Lord knows, just looking at dirty things won’t soil anyone’s soul. I
just didn’t see anything very interesting in the sights we’d probably
see in those places.

Ben had heard all kinds of stories about some of these places. He told
me some things that I just couldn’t believe. Ugh! I didn’t think they
really did such things anywhere—and if I went to one of those joints
it’d probably be out of curiosity, just to find out for sure whether
they did or not. I was tired of hearing about impossible things and not
knowing whether to believe or not. However, curiosity wouldn’t kill the
kitty.


                                  —5—

One day Ben and I were standing on the comer of two avenues, which Ben
said no white man could name, wondering what we could do to kill a
couple of hours, when a pretty little drably clad mademoiselle parked
herself beside me and remained there until I paid attention to her.

I nudged Ben and said, “Here’s a chance for you, Ben.”

He looked her over and decided that she would suit his taste. “But she
picked you out,” he objected. “Go ahead, Leony—she’s a cutie. I’ll
mooch along and see you later.”

He started to do this very thing, but I caught his arm before he could
take a step. “As you were, Gibraltar!” I commanded. “I don’t want
it—you take it.”

Well, he thought it over, gave the little lady another scrutiny, decided
to stay. “Well, if you ain’t specially interested, maybe she’d like to
push along with a good man.” So we switched places and he addressed
himself to the girl. “A-hem ... er ... bon jour, mam’selle.”

Very engaging and cheerful, I thought, very much astonished at the
vibrant timbre of Ben’s love-making voice. I decided not to run away
yet. This sounded interesting, and I wanted to hear just how one goes
about making a trade with one of these wild women of the boulevards.

“B’jour, m’sieu.” She sounded very sweet and tender. I was really
surprised, for I had expected to hear a tough voice that would shame a
foghorn.

“Parley-vous Anglais?” inquired Ben.

“Une petite peu.”

“Huh?”

No answer.

“I said ‘Comment?’” insisted Ben.

She turned to him then and said, while she looked at me, “I said I speak
Anglaish juste a little.”

“Now, ain’t that grand!” exclaimed Ben, expanding with relief. The
mademoiselle smiled at him. “What’s on yer mind? Whatta ya got on fer
to-night, this evening, this afternoon, right now?” he inquired, leaning
on one foot very nonchalantly—about as nonchalantly as a cow would look
leaning on one foot.

“Me? For you?” The mademoiselle laughed. “Ou la la!”

Ben laughed, too, but retorted, “Sure! Who’d you think I’m tryin’ to fix
up—General Pershing?”

“Ou la la!” she exclaimed. “You want to keel me?”

Ben was getting uneasy. In an aside to me he said something about a
horse collar and then returned to the attack with a forceful “Ferget it!
Don’t make me burst into hysterics laughin’. What’s the dope? How about
it?”

“O non, non, non,” she told him sweetly. “C’est impossible! Such a beeg
strong man! Ou la la ... non, non!... But your frien’, is he int’rest?”

“Naw, he don’t like women—he’s a cherry tree,” says my sidekicker
deprecatingly.

“Nevaire wis a woman? Nevaire?... Ou la la!” She stared at me as if I
were some kind of a strange animal that she had heard stories about but
had never seen. “Oh—I sink he ees grand.... I like heem trés bon.”

“He won’t go,” declared Ben, beginning to get insulted. “Ferget it now!
Don’t be annoyin’ my friend. What about me?”

“Nevaire ... nevaire ...” she told him. “But I have zis frien’ ... she
will like you.”

“Where is she?” demanded Ben. “Is she as good lookin’ as you?”

“Yes ... trés chic.... But your frien’?”

“Whatta ya say, Leony? This looks pretty good to me.”

“Nothing doing here,” I replied with a laugh.

“Aw, come on an’ oblige the young lady, won’t ya?” he pleaded.

I wished then that I had left when this intercourse began, but it was
too late now. “No,” I repeated. “I don’t want to go, Ben. Can’t spare
the money now anyway.”

“Aw, maybe they won’t want anything but a coupla drinks o’ vin rouge,”
he argued. Then he turned to her. “Combien?”

“Oo ... vingt-cinq francs ... fine, yes?”

Ben exploded. “Twenty-five francs! Fine, hell! Say, do ya think we look
like generals?”

I thought this was my way out, so I joined in the protest. “We haven’t
seen that many francs for a month. You’re too high-priced for us,
mam’selle.”

But the mademoiselle had allowed for a possible reduction and
immediately disclosed that fact when she faced me to say, “Well, for you
may-be, I make special price. Ten francs?”

“No—no—and again no!” I told her. “It’s not worth that much to me. I
wouldn’t give ten francs for the best woman in the world!” I thought
this was a pretty convincing bit of hard-boiledness.

“No?” she expressed her disbelief, and looked almost hungrily into my
eyes. “Ah, but you do not know!... It ees worth plenty more than
that!... You see ... you do not like, I geeve you ten francs, yes?”

“Holy Jemima!” exclaimed Ben. “Where the hell are we? Am I hearin’
things?”

“Ten francs,” repeated the sister of the streets.

“Now ye’re talking, baby,” Ben burst in again. “I wouldn’t give
twenty-five francs to the Queen of Sheba, but ten francs ain’t so bad
fer a queen like you.”

“Too much money for me,” I reiterated. “What do you do with all your
money, mam’selle?”

“Oo la la ... must pay my room ... must eat, buy clothes.”

“Huh—” observed Ben, “chargin’ prices like that you must sleep in the
Tuileries, eat all the time an’ not wear nothing but diamond studded
gold pants.”

The mademoiselle didn’t like the sarcasm. “You make jokes wis me!” she
told him. “You make jokes wis my business!” I think she began to suspect
that she hadn’t made a trade.

Anyway, Ben piped up promptly and told her, “Business? Say, you ain’t no
business—you’re a whole damned industry!... Now, if ya got any business
sense atall, which maybe you ain’t, you’ll take my small contribution to
the cause and let the next man pay the rent.”

“What zis?”

“I said, why not take me and be satisfied for once in your life. You
can’t go wrong, sister: fifty thousand women can’t be wrong!”

She didn’t get him, but I did. What a boast!

All she said was, “I don’t like beeg men! I like your frien’.”

“Will ya take five francs and be happy?” Ben again.

She looked at me. “Ooo la la—I like heem ... yes.”

Ben was discouraged. “Go ahead, Leony. I’ll see you later.”

“But, my frien’ weel like you ... she likes beeg mans!”

“Combien?”

“Cinq francs ... if I esplain to her.”

Ben beamed again. “She better be good lookin’ an’ young, mam’selle, or
I’ll take it outa yer hide!” Gee, the abuse these women stand! He was
all ready to accompany the solicitous young thing, but I was
panic-stricken and wouldn’t budge.

“Come, Leony. That’s fair enough fer a good lookin’ girl like her.”

“Naw—you go ahead, Ben. I wouldn’t spend even five francs for that!” I
had to say something strong.

That did the trick. She was really insulted now. “You piker!” she spit
at me. “What you want ... I should pay you anyway?... Nevaire wis a
woman in your life! Bah!”

And she turned away, shook her head emphatically when Ben asked again,
“How about me?” and flounced around the corner out of sight.

Ben looked after her for a moment, shook his head sadly. Then he
remembered what had happened and turned to glare and growl at me. “What
the hell’s the matter with you, Leony? God almighty, ya can’t expect to
get anythin’ decent fer nothin’ in a place like this!”

“Aw, Ben, I don’t care anything about going with a woman like that,” I
told him.

“Well, I don’t know what kind of a woman you would go with, if you don’t
like that!”

“I don’t either,” I admitted frankly.

“And she liked you, too.... Gosh, but you’re an awful damn fool
sometimes!”

I didn’t say anything so he continued to meditate and think aloud,
ending with a huge sigh and a fatalistic, “Well, we know what this
Mademoiselle from Gay Paree is anyway! After hearin’ so much about her,
it’s a surprise to find her livin’ up to expectations. She was a red hot
cutie, alright alright.”

We spent an uncomfortable afternoon. Ben’s appetite had been aroused and
he wanted to chase after every woman we met. Two or three accosted us
openly, and Ben would try half-heartedly to make a trade, but knowing
that I wouldn’t go with him, he didn’t work up much zeal over any of
them. None were as pretty as the first, anyway.

Ben was disgusted with me. Hardly spoke to me that night. Said he didn’t
know what to think of me: “Takin’ flowers to the General an’ refusin’ to
go with the prettiest mademoiselle in Paris even when she offered to
return your money if ya wasn’t satisfied! Holy cripes! You act just like
a woman—damned if ya don’t.”

So that’s how matters stood between us.... To-morrow I expected to see
the Captain. Ben would have a little freedom to chase the elusive
chickens about the boulevards, and perhaps he’d calm down a little if he
had any success.



                               CHAPTER 13

                             BELOW THE BELT


                                  —1—

After stopping at the Captain’s rooms next afternoon and not finding
him, I was beginning to feel sort of depressed, because I couldn’t be
running in there every hour or so and his man didn’t know just what time
he would be back; but that evening, just as Ben and I were trying to
decide what to do for excitement, there comes a call for me and I go
downstairs to find the Captain himself, in civilian clothes, waiting for
me. I was surprised, of course: why the civilian clothes and why should
he take the trouble to find me? For a moment I thought he must be wise
to the game.

But he wasn’t, for he explained his coming quickly enough.

“If you are free this evening,” he told me, without wasting many words,
“everything will be perfect. There’s a party at Madame Gedouin’s and it
will be the ideal time to introduce you casually and unsuspiciously. All
right?”

I said “surely” and added that we were free all the time for the
present, because the General was in the hospital.

“Fine!” he exclaimed. “I don’t mean about the General: he’s a great
fellow, only he works too hard, I hear. But if you can just give your
time to this matter for a few days, I feel confident that we can get
some worth-while results.”

He sounded too darned enthusiastic over this project. I immediately
began to wonder just what he expected me to do with this Madame Gedouin
who “might like to be loved a little now and then.” Then, too, I
wondered about Ben—it suddenly occurred to me that it might be a good
thing to have Ben along: he had proved his ability to disrupt
threatening dénouements several times previously, and probably could be
depended upon in a pinch again. But how could I explain the necessity to
the Captain. I couldn’t, so I merely asked if I could bring my
sidekicker along.

“The General’s chauffeur?” he asked, and when I nodded, he promptly
negatived the suggestion, explaining, “You see, this is more or less a
delicate matter and we will need to be very good actors to avoid
arousing any suspicions. The lady in question knows that I am connected
with the Intelligence: that’s one reason why she keeps on good terms
with me, and the same reason for my not trying to play her myself....
But I believe we can introduce you perfectly, easily, naturally, in
fact, because I shall say frankly that you are the brother of the young
lady to whom I am engaged.... If I say that, your presence will seem
perfectly natural, but to make matters better, I’ll let it be known that
you are very close to a prominent general: that will help, I’m sure....
So you run along up and make some excuses to your friend. I’ve a car
outside and will wait for you.”

I returned to our room and told Ben that my sister’s beau wanted me to
go somewhere with him, so I wouldn’t be able to go out looking for
excitement. Ben didn’t seem to mind. In fact, he frankly stated that at
last he was going to have an opportunity to pick up a woman without
stopping to ask me whether I’d go or not. I wished him luck and left.

During the ride across the city with the Captain—for this woman lived
in the Avenue Cartier, across the river—I was further informed as to
what I might expect and what I was expected to do. “This Ada Gedouin,”
he told me, just as a taxicab missed us by inches, “is a very clever
woman.... Nothing ordinary about her at all.... Pretty, vivacious,
altogether charming ... about thirty ... originally an American but she
married a Captain in the French army and has been a resident of Paris
ever since.”

“Where’s the Captain?” I inquired suspiciously.

“Dead,” he continued. “Killed in action two years ago. No question about
the Captain, you understand. In fact, the woman may be all right,
too—but I don’t think so. She’s too gay, too hospitable and generous
for the benefit of officers who may possess valuable military or naval
information!... However, our theory is that this woman, whose maiden
name was Smith (which might have come from Schmidt) has been an
operative of the German intelligence service for a long period of
years—I mean, that she may have married Captain Gedouin for the very
definite purpose of establishing herself safely here in the event of
war, and of making the necessary connections for the obtaining of
desired information about troop movements and concentrations and large
scale operations plans.... You see, Canwick, her position is perfect for
the purpose. Through Captain Gedouin she has friends scattered all
through the backbone of the French Army and being an American it is
reasonable for her to enjoy the company of American officers in and
about Paris. She can pick up information without the least trouble or
effort, and we are powerless to stop her unless we can find out how she
disposes of this information. We’ve made inquiries among officers who
have been friendly with her, but you can’t find any man who will admit
discussing important military matters in the presence of unmilitary
people. No man would admit that he had just happened to mention this
fact or that fact, by way of conversation, and entirely without
suspicion.... We can’t isolate her and forbid her friends to see her.
What we must do is connect her, if there is a connection, with some
avenue which we know leads to German information.”

“I understand that,” I remarked, when he stopped for breath.

“Well, I’m taking you completely into my confidence,” he went on,
“because I’m sure you will keep the information strictly to yourself.
You must act the part of an unsuspecting, more or less unsophisticated
and uninformed enlisted man. You needn’t drop any hints about General
Backett—it will be enough that she knows of the connection. In fact,
the less you say the better, because your reticence may lead her to
believe that you are worth cultivating. You understand, I’m sure.”

We rode some distance in silence, but my mind was laboring hard and I
finally managed to ask the question that had been bothering me all the
time. “Just what am I supposed to do—how far should I go with this
woman?”

He laughed. “Go the limit, if the opportunity presents itself.... When
you see her, you’ll agree that no good soldier would be reluctant....
She’s a beauty, and if she decides to cultivate your friendship, you can
depend upon having a beautiful time.... But don’t get it into your head
that you have made a conquest, because ten chances to one she’ll just be
playing you for some ulterior purpose. Just keep your head and let your
ears pick up as much as they can.... If things go as I hope they will,
she’ll try to make you feel perfectly at home in her apartment ...
probably let you sleep there now and then ... she seems to think it’s an
honor to get fellows drunk and have them put to bed in her home: which
is, of course, suspicious, because when a man’s drunk he’s liable to say
anything and after he’s asleep he can’t know who goes through his
clothes or reads his pocket notebooks.... Oh, it’s all jolly and cheery
and appears natural enough, but it’s up to you to see if it is so
natural as it seems.... It’s a wonderful opportunity: she can’t have any
knowledge of you, since you’ve never been connected with the
Intelligence, and you’re just young enough and clean looking enough to
appeal to her—at least, that’s the way I dope it out. We’ll see how
close I come to the truth.... And here we are.”

The house was a dark stone edifice, in appearance somewhat like an
American apartment house except that this looked too old to be like any
American dwelling house. I guessed at once that it had been a studio
building before the war: this side of the Seine is full of old houses
like that, used by art students because of the low rents and other
advantages. American visitors in Paris used to use such places, too,
because of their inexpensiveness and privacy.

Madame Gedouin’s apartment, though, surprised me, for it was spacious
and well decorated—not at all what one would expect from seeing the
outside of the building. Very obviously the Madame didn’t live here just
to save money, for the furnishings and decorations and bric-a-brac were
all obviously expensive. The whole atmosphere of the place spoke of
plenty of money and hospitality.

There were a dozen or more people there when we arrived and I noted at
once that the men were all officers above the rank of Captain. And the
women did not include a single one without beauty or charm in one way or
another.

Madame Gedouin came forward to welcome us and I would have said that she
was genuinely happy to see my companion. Taking his hand, she exclaimed,
in a vibrant, thrilling voice, “I’m so happy that you could come,
Captain Winstead! You are such a busy man that I feel highly honored
whenever you spare a few moments to us care-free creatures.”

The Captain smiled that engaging smile of his and told her that he
sincerely appreciated her flattering opinion. Then he turned to me and
said, “I hope you won’t mind my bringing this chap with me, Mrs.
Gedouin.... He happens to be my best girl’s brother and is dependent
upon me to show him a good time during his short stay in Paris....
Sergeant Canwick ... Madame Gedouin.” And he stepped back to permit us
to acknowledge the introduction, then observed pleasantly, “I felt that
I couldn’t go wrong in bringing him here, ... you always have such
perfectly delightful times here, you know.”

“Now—” she indulged in a little silvery laugh, like the sound of
Chinese bells. “No flattery, Captain.... Just enjoy yourselves.... We’ve
any amount of excellent champagne, there’s wine in abundance, and I
shouldn’t wonder if there were a sip of cognac for you, if you wished
it....”

And that’s how I met Madame Gedouin. We made ourselves at home. The
Captain introduced me to the officers and women whom he knew and the
hostess made me acquainted with the others. I said frankly that I felt
rather uncomfortable in the presence of so many bars, maple leaves and
stars, and a hard-boiled-looking colonel stepped up and shook hands with
me and said, “There’s no war on in here, Sergeant. Just imagine we
haven’t any clothes on—we’re all human beings, you know.”

A major who apparently had been imbibing too freely burst out with a
loud laugh that made everyone else warm up to me, and very soon I found
myself being plied with champagne—far more than I would ever dare
touch.... Altogether it was a good party and I enjoyed myself.

But the Captain’s fond hopes didn’t seem to be coming true, for the lady
of the house spent more time with that hard-boiled colonel and a young
captain than she did with me—in fact, she was just nice to me
throughout the evening of drinking, dancing and telling risqué
anecdotes. The party broke up into couples and I found myself paired off
with a pretty woman by the name of Fernande Something-or-other. The
Captain—and I could have pulled his hair out when I saw him—very early
engaged the attention of a very dark, very seductively attractive girl
and disappeared with her into another part of the apartment. I could
hardly talk straight during their absence—but I guess it wasn’t as bad
as it looked for they kept running in and out during the rest of the
entertainment.... Anyway, in so far as the Captain’s plans were
concerned, the evening was a total loss—or perhaps not quite, for
Madame Gedouin did invite the Captain and me to join a foursome for
déjeuner on the morrow. But I suspected she liked the Captain himself.
Couldn’t blame her: he was a handsome devil, and what a man with the
women! There wasn’t anything he couldn’t discuss in a nice way with
anyone: and he could talk to generals as easily and as convincingly as
with the women. I must say that I think I had good taste when it comes
to men.

When I rolled in at an ungodly hour in the morning, Ben was nowhere to
be seen. Past breakfast and there was only one thing that could keep him
away from his meals: well, maybe he’d quiet down for a while now. I
hoped he wouldn’t come back before I got away to-day: I hated to make
excuses for running out without him. However, there was no book of
etiquette when it came to war.


                                  —2—

The luncheon engagement went off on schedule and there was a lot of
drinking and talking, but I didn’t drink much and there wasn’t a great
deal that I could talk about, so I just played the bashful boy and let
the Captain do the vocal work.

Our hostess did ask me if I was enjoying my stay in Paris, to which I
replied, as sincerely as possible, “I’ve really enjoyed meeting you and
your friends far more than anything else.”

“Isn’t that sweet of you?” she said. “You do say the nicest things. I’m
afraid you are understudying that gallant gentleman across from me,”
indicating the Captain. “Is that not so, Captain?”

“Not a very good example,” laughed the Captain.

“Well—” she went on, smiling at us in turn, “I feel it my duty to say
that if he follows in your footsteps in this city, he won’t for long be
the sweet innocent boy that he is now.... You know, Sergeant, the
Captain is really notorious.... He’s responsible for more than half the
female suicides in the Seine!”

“Barking dogs seldom bite,” I observed, with a smile, although I didn’t
feel like smiling. “Perhaps the Captain doesn’t do as much damage as it
seems he should.... Some of the greatest swordsmen very seldom really
fight, you know.”

“Bravo!” exclaimed the Madame. “I guess you’re not as innocent as you
look. Perhaps we’d better wait until you have demonstrated before we
reach any conclusions. Yes, Captain?”

“It’s these quiet little devils who are the real devils,” declared my
companion, winking at me. “I can think of any number of men who are
perfectly devastating in a drawing-room but——”

“Yes...?” she encouraged him, laughing that tinkling silver laugh that
was so delightful.

“Why—in a boudoir, it’s a different matter,” the Captain finished
lamely.

“I think you need another little stimulant,” declared the Madame
promptly. “Your conversational courage is not up to scratch....” She
procured another bottle of something and set it at his elbow. Then while
he opened it, she remarked, “What you meant to say, I believe, Captain,
was the same as General Bargrave said the other evening: that you can’t
judge a man’s bed manners by his table manners.”

We all laughed at that frank bon mot and the Captain replied in kind,
“I’ve known lovely ladies to prove false alarms, too.”

“Touché!” cried the lady—and I fell to wondering whether she meant that
he meant her or was just acknowledging a good thrust at women in
general. From what he told me, he had never investigated this woman
personally; she couldn’t be much of a false alarm, if he still would
like to gain her favor.

Well, anyway, that’s the kind of a party it was: harmless and pleasant
and, so far as I could see, marking no progress toward our goal.
However, the Captain didn’t seem to be very downhearted about it. He
said for me to keep at it—and we’d call again day after to-morrow.

Ben returned to the land of the living that day and we went out to see
the General in the afternoon. He said he had a wonderful time:   “When
you ain’t around to cramp my style, I just bowl over the mademoiselles
like tin soldiers! There’s about ten thousand women in this burg that
have been just waitin’ fer me to appear!”

“Gosh—you’ll have to work pretty fast, won’t you?” I observed.

“Boy,” he retorted, “I’m built for it! It’ll be hard work, but I ain’t
the kind to disappoint the ladies. I can stand it, don’t worry.”

That man certainly had confidence in himself. I told him I guessed he
was the “bull” in boulevard.

He said, “No wise cracks! I’m God’s answer to these mademoiselles’
prayers.”

What an answer! “Special delivery,” as it were! Not the message, but the
messenger that counts ... but Ben couldn’t see any joke in that crack.


                                  —3—

I didn’t have to make excuses to Ben on the third day of the chase; he
just ambled away to begin his efforts toward making the demand for women
meet the supply, and I joined Captain Winstead at a corner about two
blocks away—as he suggested.

He was in civilian clothes and I was glad, because, after all, an
enlisted man doesn’t feel entirely comfortable with an officer,
regardless of how congenial the officer may try to be. He suggested that
we try to find a little vulgar entertainment, and I suspected
immediately that he meant go looking for women. But I was wrong: he
meant that he wanted to show me some of the “show places.” “There’s a
couple of more or less ribald dives we might visit, just to get away
from what we are accustomed to,” he explained.

So I followed him and we came at last to a cellar café, dimly lit and
apparently very popular with American soldiers and their women. We found
a table, not too conspicuous, and ordered some sweet drinks, because I
said I preferred grenadine to anything else. We didn’t talk much while
these lasted, but spent our time looking over the crowd in the place. A
gaudily clad woman, with one breast threatening any moment to pop out,
was singing a French version of a popular American song and some
half-drunk Americans were trying to sing with her. The place reeked with
stale tobacco smoke and the smell of cheap perfume, but the grenadine
tasted good.

“Let’s try a cognac citron now,” suggested my companion, when the
grenadine had disappeared and the garçon stood again at our side.

So we had cognac citron and the Captain began to talk, in a low voice
and with quick apprehensive glances here and there at our neighbors.
“We’ve got to hurry matters a little,” he informed me. “To-morrow I will
not go with you to the Madame’s. I will telephone her and beg off, but
I’ll ask her if she would mind entertaining you while I am engaged
elsewhere. She knows you are close to General Backett and she knows
enough about him to know that he’s the kind of hard-working devil that
would keep track of everything that’s going on—so I haven’t any doubt
about her willingness to entertain you.”

“But she doesn’t seem to be very crazy about me,” I objected. “She likes
you.”

“Oh—don’t let her mislead you. She’s nice to me because it’s part of
her job—if she’s what I think she is. And as far as you’re concerned,
just take it easy and let her entertain you. Just wait for the breaks.
Play with her if she wants to play, stay with her if she wants you to
stay, sleep with her, do anything at all that will give you an
opportunity of seeing or hearing something.”

He offered me a cigarette and I accepted as I nodded understanding. This
job didn’t appeal to me at all, but I couldn’t very well get out of it
now. I mean, I hadn’t any excuse that I could give.

I accepted a light and he continued, “If you can, try to get an idea of
where her money comes from. She has a bank account down town, but her
deposits are very erratic and the checks she gets from the States very
seldom tally with the amounts deposited. We have traced the checks to a
harmless-looking lawyer in New York, but we haven’t questioned him
because we don’t want to give away our hand. We figure that she gets
funds from someone here in Paris also, and if we can discover who that
party is, we’ll be on the track of real evidence.”

“Don’t you suppose some of these officers tickle the kitty?” I asked,
adopting the slang phrase for contributing.

He laughed at that and gave me his reasons for believing that she was
not that wanton. “She’s too high brow, too much the social woman, to let
herself be under obligations to any man. It would cramp her style and
sooner or later ruin her. Anyway, if she were selling it, she’d
concentrate on one at a time for better results: but you see she is on
good terms with dozens of men all at once.... No, that’s not the
explanation. There’s some other source of income. And that source of
income is doubtless the outlet for her information, so if you get any
hint of a connection of any kind, we’ll play our hunch and follow it to
the end. Beginning to-morrow, it’s up to you. You can tell her how busy
I am and so forth, just to keep the story straight. And I’ll get in
touch with you around noontime each day.”

“All right,” I agreed, and we turned our attention to a group of
soldiers at a near-by table who were beginning to warm up for a song.
They were singing verses from the famous “Parley Vous” song. I can only
repeat a few—but then, you probably know the rest, anyway:

           “Mademoiselle from Aix-la-bains,
           Parley-vous?
           Mademoiselle from Aix-la-bains,
           Parley-vous?
           Mademoiselle from Aix-la-bains,
           She gave the Yankees shootin’ pains!
           Hinky dinky parley-vous?

           “Mademoiselle from Neufchâteau,
           Parley-vous?
           Mademoiselle from Neufchâteau,
           Parley-vous?
           Mademoiselle from Neufchâteau,
           Would kiss you thus and so and so ...
           Hinky dinky parley-vous?

           “Mademoiselle from Biarritz,
           Parley-vous?
           Mademoiselle from Biarritz,
           Parley-vous?
           Mademoiselle from Biarritz,
           If you loved her too much, it made her have fits!
           Hinky dinky parley-vous?

           “Mademoiselle from Bar-le-duc,
           Parley-vous?
           Mademoiselle from Bar-le-duc,
           Parley-vous?
           Mademoiselle from Bar-le-duc,
           The names of her lovers would fill a big book.
           Hinky dinky parley-vous?”

The way they sang this song was for one man to solo the verse part and
everyone join in the “parley-vous” part. When it once got going, it went
on forever, the crowd joined in to swell the chanting “parley-vous” and
as soon as one soloist ran out of verses, someone else took over the
lead, and on it went. There was something about it that got you: you
couldn’t help but hum along with the melody, and if it continued long
enough you found your eyes closing and your senses slipping off into a
lull of sleep.

So it was this evening. The Captain broke in once to remark that he had
heard at least a hundred verses to that song and I replied that I
guessed there was a verse for every town in France and a few extra; then
we just had another drink and were content to listen to this Song of the
Cities of France.

I couldn’t begin to remember all the variations that we heard that
night, but here are some of them:

            “Mademoiselle from the city of Vichy,
            Just like the liquor that makes you feel itchy!”

            “Mademoiselle from the Côte d’Or—
            The Old Gray Mare ain’t the same no more!”

            “Mademoiselle from Châteauroux—
            Enough for her is too much for you!”

            “Mademoiselle from Chamonix,
            An Alpine maid with a bag full of tricks.”

            “Mademoiselle from Armentières,
            She hadn’t been loved for fifteen years.”

            “Mademoiselle from Neufchâtel
            A chest like a barn, a leg like a bell.”

            “Mademoiselle from S.O.S.
            A bottle of wine and she says ‘Yes.’”

            “Mademoiselle from Monte Carlo—
            Out the window you must go!”

            “Mademoiselle from old Toulouse,
            A beautiful lady, but O how loose!”

            “Mademoiselle from old Bordeaux
            Takes your francs and growls ‘Let’s go!’”

            “Mademoiselle from the city of Toul—
            It ain’t no place for an innocent fool!”

            “Mademoiselle from the city of Blois—
            She took one look and said ‘Ou la la!’”

            “Mademoiselle from St. Nazaire,
            A virgin, she claims, till we got there.”

            “Mademoiselle from Romorantin
            Took your breath and left ya pantin’.”

I had heard some of these before, and a lot of others, but I never heard
so many verses all at one time. They bade fair to continue all night,
for as soon as one singer lost his wits or his voice, another popped up
to carry on. Someone started the series, relating the sad story of one
young mademoiselle, which starts with

              “Farmer, have you a daughter fine,
              Fit for a soldier just out of the line?

              “Yes, I have a daughter fine
              But she’s too damned young for your design!

And this tragic tale ends with telling how the mademoiselle’s son—

                 “The little devil he grew and he grew,
                 He’ll grow up to be a soldier, too!”

It was just at this point that I suddenly became aware of someone’s
presence at my shoulder and I looked up to find Jay-Jay Marfield
studying me rather contemptuously. I decided, as soon as I recovered
from the shock, to take desperate measures at once, obeying the military
rule that the best defense is a good offense. I stuck out my hand and
exclaimed, “Hello, Jay-Jay, you old hellion—how the hell are you?”

The look on his face changed as much as it would if I had hit him. And
before he could recover, I continued with a half-drunken effort to
introduce him to my table companion. “Lieutenant Marfield, shake hands
with an officer and a gentleman and a judge of good liquor—Captain
Winstead!”

The Captain smiled and extended his hand, which Jay-Jay mechanically
accepted and shook as the Captain said pleasantly, “Won’t you join us,
Lieutenant?”

Jay-Jay hesitated, mumbling something about “a party down the line,” but
he finally sat down and explained his presence by saying, “I thought I
recognized ... er ... the Sergeant here.”

Captain Winstead saved me from speaking by observing, “Yes—he looks so
much like his sister, I imagine it makes you homesick just to look at
him.”

“I beg pardon!” Jay-Jay was flustered.

But the Captain was either deliberately malicious, or else the drinks
had really affected him, for he proceeded very unconcernedly, “She’s
such a beautiful girl and he looks so much like her—and you were so
fond of her, you know—or were you——?”

“But—” Jay-Jay was stumped. For the first time since I’d known him he
couldn’t talk. I couldn’t decide whether he was mad or just flustered:
his appearance indicated both or either. Finally he managed to ask, “How
do you happen to know so much about me, Captain?”

“It’s my business,” laughed the Captain. “I remember meeting you, or
rather seeing you, in a garden, and later indoors, with this charming
young lady who is Canwick’s sister.”

“O-o-h!” says Jay-Jay, beginning to see the light. “I remember you
now—you had me going for a moment.” And he managed to smile more
congenially, now that he knew whom he faced. “Ever hear from Leona,
Captain?” he inquired suddenly, and I could feel his mind’s eye
twinkling sardonically at me.

All I could do was stare helplessly at the Captain, wondering what in
the devil he would say—not that there should have been any doubt, for
of course he hadn’t heard from Leona. Nevertheless, it was just one of
those moments when you hope against hope for something unreasonable.

There must be something in mental telepathy. Anyway, I thought I was
drunk when I heard that chuckling voice of the Captain’s saying, “Oh,
surely—now and then. Of course, she’s rather busy now and having the
time of her life out there. You knew she has been helping the boys keep
up their morale in the training camps, didn’t you—or did that come off
since you left the States?”

You could have felled me with a feather. Just what was the idea anyway?
Why should the Captain be talking like that and twinkling his eyes so
amusedly. My God, did he suspect me, too?

But I wasn’t the only one who was dumfounded and shivery. I noticed that
Jay-Jay gave me a surprised look and fumbled rather awkwardly with the
glass which the garçon had just served him.

And the crazy Captain continued his unconcerned monologue about my
clever and bewitching sister, telling the most impossible lies and
describing incidents and letters and everything in such convincing
detail that I was beginning to be sure he was having a good time at my
expense.

Anyway, he got rid of Jay-Jay very shortly and turned his amused glance
at me. The more I stared at him the more amused he became, until finally
he indulged in outright laughter.

“Really,” I demanded, somewhat falteringly, “have you heard from Leona?”

“Of course not,” he replied promptly. “But you didn’t suppose I was
going to let that fellow get away with any uncomfortable remarks, did
you?... When you welcomed him so hilariously, I assumed something was
up.... And, besides I don’t like the fellow: he’s one of those
possessive, proprietary imps, and, remembering your remark about your
sister not wanting to marry him, I just indulged in a little embroidery
of the truth for my own enjoyment.... You really don’t mind, do you,
Canwick?” he asked solicitously. “You know, of course, that I meant no
reflection of any sort upon Leona.”

A great sigh of relief came up from the bottommost depths of my lungs.
Whew! I burst out laughing and told him he “did it so perfectly, it even
convinced me.”

He laughed with me—but I think, rather I hoped, we were laughing at
different things.

We had another grenadine apiece and decided to call it an evening, but
just before we arose to go, I saw Jay-Jay starting up the stairs to the
street. He had a girl with him but he looked across at me very
perplexedly. When I caught his eye I burst out laughing and held up my
hand “thumb down.” He slapped his cap on the side of his head and pushed
his baby roughly up the stairs and out of sight. Even a brave man can’t
stand ridicule: Jay-Jay would think twice about being laughed at before
he tried any more tricks with me. This mademoiselle was too far away to
even think about having to pay: hinky dinky parley-vous? Vive le Cognac!



                               CHAPTER 14

                   IT TAKES A WOMAN TO CATCH A WOMAN


                                  —1—

One day Ben was singing and an intellectual sort of chap in the next
room piped up to tell him that his voice sounded “like two skeletons
dancing on a tin roof and a pregnant bullfrog singing jazz.”

I was reminded of this the next night when I got home and found him
there. He wasn’t singing, yet; he was just dying to explode about his
adventure of the day.

“I been out with the sweetest little woman ya ever saw! An’ she talks
English!” he declared enthusiastically.

“No lovin’ party to-night?” I inquired.

“Sure!” he exclaimed as if I had insulted him. “I’m tellin’ ya: this
captain knew all the tricks an’ she didn’t skip any on my account! Boy,
that captain made me forget home, mother, religion and all the wars that
ever was fought! Why, Leony, that captain....”

“Hey! Hey! Just a minute!” I cried. “What were you telling me about
staying clear of men like that?”

“Huh?”

“What’s this captain stuff. How the devil could you have a lovin’ party
with a captain?... You’re drunk!”

“The hell I am!... I was in bed with the prettiest little captain you
ever saw, not more’n two hours ago! Whatta ya think o’ that?”

“I think you’re drunk!” And he was slightly so.

“It’s a fact,” he insisted.

I had to laugh. The big blister preaching sermons to me about letting
ladybirds get fresh and then he turns around and boasts about being in
bed with a captain!

“I met her in a gin mill,” he continued, after a moment, “an’ she looked
at me an’ gave me just one look—that was all this baby needed. I had
her number pronto and in fifteen minutes’ time and three drinks we was
on our way to heaven! She told me she came from Salisbury and I says I
hail from New York—and she said she liked big men—and, well, I did the
rest.”

“She?” I stopped in my undressing long enough to ask. “Where do you get
that ‘she’ stuff? I thought your playmate was a captain.”

“She is!” he insisted. “She’s a captain in the Women’s Auxiliary Army
Corps, and she comes from Salisbury—wherever the hell that
is—somewhere in England.”

The light fell upon me and I exclaimed, “Oh—she’s a W.A.A.C. captain?”

“Say!” he bawls out. “What’d ya think I mean—an artillery captain? Ya
dumb little runt!”

But I laughed at him. The idea of a buck private making love to a
captain just struck me funny. He didn’t mind, though, and the first
thing I knew he was launching into song—and what a song! Except for the
first verse, it was the dirtiest, rottenest thing I’d heard yet. It was
so bad I couldn’t even think it in shorthand!

“Where in the name of God did you pick that up?” I inquired between
about the fifth and sixth verses.

“Captain taught me,” he replied glibly. “That’s called The Salisbury
Maiden, an’ it’s a damned fine song, if I do say so myself.”

I let him finish it, but managed to get him undressed enough to roll
into bed by the time he had ended that rotten ballad: and it was a
wonder to me the man next door didn’t pipe up with another wise crack
about my partner’s voice. When he sang, your stomach turned over and
your heart played leap frog with your throat and you saw little purple
stars in the pink firmament about you. The two skeletons and the
pregnant frog didn’t begin to parallel the noise Ben made when he felt
the lyric urge.

He picked up a couple of other dirty ditties that I refused to have
anything to do with. One of them was that Cafusalem—The Harlot of
Jerusalem: he said he learned it from an Australian in a house of ill
fame. The other was a Limey marching song that starts off “Eyes right!
Legs up tight!” My shorthand won’t stand those, either.


                                  —2—

Ben’s singing occurred after my return from a large evening at Madame
Gedouin’s, with whom I had made slight progress: Ada was beginning to
act interested. She said I was such a nice boy and so attentive and
gallant to her that she really would have to be nice to me and see that
I had a good time.

I was not sure what she meant but she was the kind of a woman who means
about umpsteen times what she says: I mean that the things she said
always suggested a lot more: she didn’t denote an awful lot in her
speech, but she sure did connote a mouthful.

Next day I was going shopping with her. But before I met her, I decided
to play safe and buy myself a couple of cast-iron brassières: made out
of canvas or flannel or something. I was glad I had sort of a boyish
figure and was kinda flat chested. It’d be rather funny for a wild woman
to start going over you and bump into anything like that.... I heard two
soldiers talking about some kind of a contrivance that was used by women
perverts. Now a woman like that wouldn’t feel worried at all in my
predicament. However, I preferred to be myself. Nothing like that for
me!

Ben was talking in his sleep. He was courting that captain again. I
wished he were going into the lioness’ den instead of me.


                                  —3—

Well, I went shopping in the afternoon with Madame Ada Gedouin, and I
must say that that woman knew how to spend money. She didn’t curb her
tastes and fancies at all, and unless she got darned big checks from New
York, the Captain was right.... She was a gay companion, though. Men
turned around to look at her and I’ll bet more than one of them envied
me. And me nothing but a poor enlisted man! Why, it was almost a crime
for a gink like me to promenade down the boulevards with a woman that
was as pretty and richly dressed as the Madame! I wanted to run every
time we passed an M.P.

Apparently business went on here in spite of the war. It was only at
night that you could see the difference, for then there were no lights
and the houses were all boarded up and shuttered to prevent any light
from escaping. In the daytime the shops were open and doing a lively
business, too, with all those Americans there ready and willing to buy
this and that to send home to the “little woman.”

This afternoon, after we finished our tour of the stores, I felt it my
duty to take my companion somewhere to eat and when I suggested it, she
admitted that she was about famished. “You’re a dear sweet boy,” she
told me. “And I’ll let you take me to Cuvier’s.”

Not knowing where this guy Cuvier tended bar, I had to ask for
directions, which she gave, with that silvery little laugh, much as if I
were some child whose innocence and ignorance were in inverse proportion
to its age.

Well, Cuvier’s proved to be something more or less special, but the
major-domo, or whatever he was, very quickly found a secluded table for
us and I extended myself in trying to please milady’s palate. And
everything I’d do or say, she’d come out with that “dear sweet boy”
stuff and I felt like two cents. Enough of anything like that is too
much to begin with.

Before the repast was finished we had consumed several shallow glasses
of very stimulating wine, and the Madame had reached the point where she
punctuated her flatteries by caresses and chummy little pats and finger
kisses. If I hadn’t had the wine, I’d have felt uncomfortable.

Anyway, as we were coming out of the place, I spied a familiar figure
about ten yards away and promptly had shivers of apprehension—for the
sight of Jay-Jay didn’t make me feel very calm, even after the other
night.

At just that moment the Madame breathed another one of those little
ecstasies and gave my cheek not only a pat but also a very sweet
kiss.... The shock was so great that I had all I could do to keep from
stumbling. I managed somehow to bear up—even clutched her hand more
tightly and stamped a vigorous kiss upon it by way of my other hand.
Then I looked up, as if I had not seen Jay-Jay before—and the
son-of-a-gun was right in our way, cap off, as if he expected me to stop
and introduce him to this stunning creature. Perhaps if he hadn’t been
so damned nervy about it, I might have taken the trouble, but I didn’t.
I just saluted sharply and said “Hello, Lieutenant.” The Madame favored
him with a disdainful glance and we marched past him and into a cab,
from the depths of which I peeked out to see him still standing stupidly
in the middle of the pavement, looking as if he expected the world to
fall on him in just a minute.

He apparently didn’t know whether he was going or coming!... Now, if
Leon would just keep himself out of sight, perhaps I’d have peace for a
while.

Back at Madame’s apartment, she busied herself about the place, telling
the maid to do this and that and about a million other things, while I
just plumped myself down and almost went to sleep.

About eight o’clock a frock-coated Frenchman with a kaiserish mustache
and a two-point beard dropped in, and I was introduced to him. He was
some kind of minister or other in the French government. He spoke to me
in English and I answered in my own language. The Madame brought in some
champagne and Whiskers had several. They began to chatter away in
French, only now and then turning a few commonplace remarks in English
upon me.

Since they didn’t expect me to understand or talk French, I just kept
quiet and listened. As far as I could make out, they didn’t really have
much to say to each other: they just talked a hell of a lot, but in the
end it seemed to be agreed that the Madame would be delighted to meet
him somewhere in Fontainebleau at eleven. I didn’t know whether she
meant eleven that night or next day, but I decided to stick around as
long as she let me.

The Frenchman finally left and she returned to me. “O—I am so tired!”
she exclaimed, arranging the pillows on the divan and motioning to me to
come over. “Shopping invariably wears me to a frazzle.... Now, you sit
right there like a nice boy and let your grandmother lie across your lap
... like this.”

Which was a very nice position—at least, it must have been comfortable
for her, with a whole stack of pillows under her head. She closed her
eyes and threw her arm over my shoulder.... Then she began to play her
fingers about the back of my neck and in my hair.... I thought turn
about ought to be fair play, so I tickled her neck and ran my fingers
lightly up and down her spine—or at least, where her spine ought to
be.... She surely was a marvelously constructed piece of anatomy!

Now and then she crooned some damned fool thing to me.... I rubbed her
temples.... She kissed the palms of my hands and called me a “little
jewel.”

After a while she began asking questions, in a sort of lazy, unconcerned
manner, about my work, about General Backett, my sister, Captain
Winstead....

“You rather like the Captain, n’est-ce pas?” I said.

“I think he is too dear to be true,” she said, and it sounded very
genuine to me. “He is very charming, and very clever.... Your sister
never need envy anyone else.”

“I think he’s a peach of a fellow,” I said, trying to sound sort of
fraternal about it. “He’s been very good to me since I came to Paris ...
and I certainly owe him something for introducing me to you and your
circle of jolly friends.”

“Oh—you dear kid.” And she laid herself snugly against me, then pulled
my face down to be kissed. “You’re the most comfortable and attentive
thing to have about.... Do come often and stay late.”

... Yet, somehow or other she succeeded in separating me from that divan
a half hour before eleven!

I found myself at home, waiting for Ben to come—probably with all
sheets in the wind.


                                  —4—

Saw my Captain next day at noon and told him about the Frenchman. He
knew about him already. “She’s been playing around with him for several
weeks,” he told me. “However, keep your eyes open—you may hear her pass
on some remark that old Poiquerre makes.”

So I called up the Madame that evening and asked if she minded my
dropping in. “The Captain is still busy and I’m at a loss to know what
to do with myself.”

“Didn’t I tell you to come any time and stay late,” she replied
laughingly. “Do come over—by all means, you charming baby.”

I hung up without much respect for the telephone. All this sweet
flattery and cooing condescension wasn’t getting me anywhere.... But I
went over and there was a little crowd there, dancing and talking about
everything from military tactics to the Legion of Honor and funerals.

I found myself paired off with a little blond girl by the name of
Germaine. She was jolly and talkative and not quite so beaucoup pashe as
most of Madame’s friends. We had a pleasant time of it, and she
complimented me upon my dancing and even went so far as to tell Madame
she “really should dance with him. He’s marvelous, Ada!”

So Ada and I danced—very nicely, too, and afterwards she pressed my arm
and told me it was “divine!—I’m afraid the captain was right in what he
said about ‘these quiet little devils.’... Some woman will love you to
shreds if you aren’t careful.” And she laughed that enchanting silvery
chuckle that I’d been simply fascinated by time and again.

When the party broke up, I contrived to hang around for a little while.
She came back to me tucking a piece of paper into her bosom with a
laughing deprecation anent “these lovesick boys who insist upon writing
what they fear to say!” But I had my doubts about the contents of that
note, although my doubts arose from no actual reasons except suspicion.

I made a list of all the people who were there that night to show to the
Captain. I had decided to keep my eyes open whenever any one of them was
present again.

Next day the Captain would be back on duty by special invitation. Madame
Gedouin was taking a party down in the country for bathing.

Which got a laugh out of one little lady. We couldn’t use the old
familiar excuse this time—but it’d take more than a team of horses and
a couple of tanks to get this chicken into any bathing suit! What a
farce that would be!... I hoped the Captain didn’t begin entertaining
any funny ideas—but this was one case where it couldn’t be helped. As
Ben would say, “Here’s one poor fish that don’t like the water.”


                                  —5—

If the Captain hadn’t been so insistent, I would have found some excuse
for staying away from that bathing party, but he refused to listen to
any excuses and kept repeating his demand that I do everything possible
to pick up the information that was so desired. So I went.

I dropped into the Madame’s and had lunch with her before the other
members of the party arrived. While she was getting ready to depart I
wandered around the apartment, ostensibly surveying the many trick
decorations and objets d’art, but actually studying every wall and floor
for possible evidences of something secret or suspicious. But there was
nothing of the kind and I finally accepted her invitation to come into
her boudoir, where her maid was helping her put the finishing touches to
her toilette.... I began to suspect that the Madame was trying to
torment or tempt me, and there was a bare possibility that my reluctance
to make any real kind of love to her had aroused her interest. Sometimes
it must be true that lack of evidence of desire engenders desire: I mean
if a woman thinks a man doesn’t want her, very often she will go out of
her way to make him want her.... At least, so I gathered from personal
experiences that I had heard.

Anyway, I sat there beside her dressing table and watched the dressing
proceed, the while she chattered gayly about this and that and every
other thing of little or much importance.... Finally, before she had
quite finished, the first of the visitors arrived and I adjourned to the
reception room, where I found my friend Germaine and a bespectacled
American major who very apparently didn’t relish the idea of being
introduced to an enlisted man.... Then Captain Winstead breezed in and
smoothed the air a little by his friendliness to me.... In the space of
fifteen minutes the entire party was assembled, ten in all, and we set
off for the country in two cars, one an American service car and the
other of French make and belonging to one of the ladies.

Madame Gedouin promised that we should see a most charming place and
that we all would have a delightful evening, and I had to admit that I
was glad I came, because this country estate, about twenty-five miles
from the center of the city, was really the most comfortable and
inviting place I’d seen in France. The Madame told us about its owner,
an official in the French government.... If it hadn’t been for the
prospect of the bathing, I should have enjoyed myself immensely.

As soon as we had been served with refreshments, the Madame suggested
that everyone find a place to change clothes. “And let’s be off while
the sun shines.”

“Everyone going in?” I asked.

“All but Marie,” she replied. “She’s too French. I think that swimming
is more appreciated by Americans than by any other race the world over.
Every healthy American loves swimming.”

“Here’s one that don’t,” I told her.

“You little prevaricator!” she exclaimed. “Run right along and slip into
your suit.”

“I didn’t bring one,” I confessed.

“You didn’t?” She sounded as if she really felt bad about it. “Well,
we’ll see if we can’t find one that will fit you. You’re so petit, I
imagine you could wear a girl’s suit.”

“Absolutely not!” I declared. “My mother didn’t raise me to be laughed
at.”

“Why, you dear sweet kid,” she laughed, “I have to laugh at you all the
time: you’re so terribly unique!”

“Virtue in all things,” I told her, smiling. “But swimming isn’t one of
my points of virtue—I regret to say. I never liked the water and I was
actually uneasy on the trip coming over, because I really can’t swim a
stroke.”

“I’d love to teach you—I think that would be just loads of fun.... And
it isn’t every man I’d bother that much about, you know.”

I laughed and let her kiss me, but remained firm in my stand. “You chase
along and have your fun,” I insisted. “I’ll toddle about and feast my
eyes upon the sights.”

She finally gave up trying and flew upstairs to change. But I had no
sooner ducked her than the Captain appeared and I had to go through it
all again.

“Mrs. Gedouin might not like it if you don’t go in after coming on the
party,” he argued.

“Can’t help that,” I replied. “I’ve explained it to her and I don’t
think she minds terribly.... Anyway, if Marie can do her swimming on the
bank, I guess I can, too.”

“Well—of course—a woman might have a legitimate excuse, you know.”

I laughed at that and told him, “I haven’t any excuse like that, but
I’ve got one that’s just as good: I just don’t swim, that’s all!...
Don’t worry about me—I’ll square myself with the Madame.”

“Oh—it’s not a matter of life and death,” he reassured me laughingly.
“Just seems sort of odd for a healthy little devil like you to hate the
water.”

“I guess so,” I agreed smilingly. “But then the Madame says that’s what
she likes about me: I’m so ‘terribly unique’!”

“Cut yourself a piece of cake!” he retorted cheerfully and emphasized
his jolliness by slapping me on the back with such force that I coughed
and spluttered and almost fell over.... I watched him depart: he was
handsome, even in a bathing suit. My God, wasn’t there anything wrong
with that man? No man could be as perfect as he seemed to be—and if he
could, he surely wouldn’t fall in love with a little insignificant thing
like me. Maybe that was the flaw—if he were perfect, he wouldn’t do it.
Also maybe he hadn’t done it. Maybe I was kidding myself.

When the party went down over the hill to the pool, I wandered along and
dropped easily into a conversation with the other noncombatant, Marie.
We didn’t have much to say to each other, but we managed to pass the
time in comments upon the dexterity of this one or the diving of that,
and an interesting discussion of the surroundings which ended in Marie’s
informing me that it had cost M. Dagnier a pretty fortune to keep this
estate intact during the war, because there were so many purposes to
which it could be turned due to its nearness to Paris and its many other
obvious advantages.

It was at this point that someone asked me for a cigarette and I
discovered that I had left mine in my tunic, in the house. “But I’ll go
get them,” I offered.

“Oh—don’t bother,” said the young lady. “Ada has gone to the house and
doubtless she will bring some back with her.”

Nevertheless, I went to get my own and when I had gone but a few steps
the Captain called out, “I don’t like your cheap cigarettes, Canwick.
Bring down the pack that’s in my pocket, will you?”

I proceeded to the house and entered as quietly as possible, found my
blouse and extracted my cigarettes, then continued upstairs to get the
Captain’s. I had no idea which room he had used and while I stood
silently debating with myself at the top of the stairs, I became
conscious of a very rapid and strange dialogue going on somewhere near
at hand. My ears caught words that were unmistakably German and I
distinguished one of the voices by its silvery tinkle. I tried to place
the sounds, but could not and, fearing to make a noise if I tried to get
nearer, I satisfied myself by attempting to catch the content of their
conversation. I caught such words as “papers,” “numbers,” “army corps,”
“aviation” and “money,” but the rest was an indistinguishable blur of
sounds. Then I heard what sounded like someone moving and I ducked
quickly into the first door I came to.

I held my breath and listened again. The voices were even plainer here
and I guessed that they must be in the very next room to the one I was
in. I heard the Madame tell her companion that “the money will be safe
in the apartment” and then something about “a chaplain on Tuesday.”

Their voices became inaudible then. A motor started up somewhere outside
and I decided that the best thing I could do was take advantage of the
noise to make my exit. I got downstairs and out of the house without
anyone seeing me, and when I appeared again at Marie’s side, with a
cigarette hanging from the corner of my mouth, the Captain piped up to
ask if I had brought his smokes.

“How the devil did I know where your clothes were!” I retorted. “You’ll
have to get along with one of my cheap fags.”

He came up to get one and, although he continued the joke of bawling me
out, I knew that he understood the slight wink that I gave him. He lit
his cigarette from mine and observed to Marie, “Don’t ever have anything
to do with these enlisted men, Mam’selle.... If this fellow didn’t have
a perfectly marvelous sister I wouldn’t even smoke one of his
cigarettes.” With which he returned to his place near the diving board
to continue his engaging chatter with the others, and a moment later the
Madame reappeared, with cigarettes, matches, and a huge cocktail shaker,
the top of which contained four small cups which were promptly
appropriated. “I thought something like this would help the gayety of
nations,” she remarked cheerily, as the Captain took the shaker and
began a Pipes-of-Pan dance with it.

When he came back to her, he observed lightly, “The perfect hostess
always does the right thing at the right moment!... If this continues, I
shall fall under the spell and propose to you myself!”

“Ou la la!” cried the Madame. “After all these years of yearning, I am
to be rewarded?” She laughed with him as she filled his cup.

“May I never feel worse!” offered the Captain, raising the cup to his
lips.

“Which might mean either of two very different things,” laughed his
companion. “Don’t commit yourself, even in jest.”

“But I do!” he insisted. “I mean that if I never feel worse than I do
now, I shall have an exceedingly happy life.”

The Madame turned to me to say, “You see what you are coming to, my
young gallant?”

I forced a smile and replied that “after all, he does intrigue you....
I’m willing to come to that myself.”

She glanced questioningly at me, as if she could not decide whether I
was jealous of the Captain or just indulging in a flirtatious remark for
her benefit. She dropped a hand upon my head and rumpled my hair as she
said, with a light little laugh, “You need not envy him in that respect,
mon enfant.”

“Encore?” inquired the Captain, holding out the cup again and remarking
further, as she filled it, “I might have known he would succumb to your
enchantments, Circe.”

“The truth has eluded you again, my dear Captain,” she replied. “The
pleasure of succumbing seems to be all mine.”

“So?” exclaimed my friend in mock surprise. “Well, I will confess,
Madame: I warned him to beware—and besides he is naturally bashful....
Why, do you know, Madame, they had to tie his grandfather in bed on his
wedding night!... You see, it is inherent.”

“You sinner!” the Madame called after his departing laughter.

“It’s nice to hear yourself so frankly dissected,” I observed, when she
turned her attention again to me and my hair.

“Mon enfant,” she said, leaning over to place a kiss in my ear, and
handing me the cocktail shaker, “hold this while grandma takes one more
dip, then she’ll find something more interesting for you to hold.”...
Another tinkling laugh and away she went, leaving me to pour out a drink
for Marie, and a moment later several for the Major and Germaine.

The Madame didn’t stay in very long and when she came back, dripping and
shivering, she took my hand and said, “Come along, little one... We must
find something for your idle hands to do.”

“The devil’s supposed to do that,” I said, but I arose and followed her
to the house, where she led the way upstairs and into the very room
whence I had heard the conversation in German.

“Just one more minute and I’ll be with you,” she told me as she took a
towel and a kimono and stepped into a dressing closet.... And she wasn’t
gone more than a minute, either. I don’t see how she could remove her
bathing suit and dry herself in such a short time. However, there she
was—and no bones about it. She gave me a fervent kiss in passing and
then asked me to hand her the chemise which lay on the chair beside me.
She put it on, without getting up from the seat on which she had
settled. “Now that long affair, please, baby,” she went on, and I passed
her the brassière. “You might assist me, honey,” she suggested; so I
went over and hooked the brassière—but when that was done she threw her
arms up and around my neck and pulled my head over her shoulder so she
could kiss me.... I began to get a different view of things right then,
for that one embrace was so mad, so fervent, that I understood
immediately that she meant business.... I felt rather panicky, but I
stubbornly stuck it out, and when she released me, I offered to help
with her hose and shoes.... Between the operations there had to be a
certain amount of caresses, but I managed to keep busy, even going so
far as to help with her hair, for which I was rewarded by a terrific
kiss and the following testimony as to my character: “You’re the
dearest, sweetest, darlingest man I’ve ever known!”

“Rather a large order,” I reminded her.

“But you are, honey!” She busied her gaze with the mirror as she
continued, “You see, I get so sick of being nice to old men and
middle-aged men and men who have lost all the touches of youth!...
Sometimes I feel as if I had never had any youth myself ... as if I had
always been grown-up and in the company of grown-ups.... You can
understand, can’t you? You understand everything, I believe.”

“The Captain isn’t an old man,” I observed maliciously.

“Captain Winstead?” she exclaimed with a laugh. “No—he’s not so old,
but loving him would be just like loving a matinée idol. He’s clever,
dashing, fascinating, everything desirable—and that’s just why I am not
interested in him. You can’t trust a man who is too perfect.... But, you
are just ideal, you darling boy!... And you’ve been so nice, so
attentive, so deferential and considerate ... well, it’s a relief, to
say the least.”

It seemed to me that her ardor had cooled. Perhaps she thought she had
said too much. At any rate, the dressing was finished without any
amorous threats that I could fear, and by the time the others began
drifting in from the pool, we were ready to appear below. She was
putting the finishing touches on her face when the sounds of their
coming reached us, and she hurriedly completed the task while I jumped
to obey her “Find me a cigarette, like a good boy.”

Well, that was just the beginning of an interesting evening. Madame was,
I guessed, a special friend of this M. Dagnier, for she seemed to have
carte blanche possession of the place. There were only two servants in
the house, and only one of these was a house servant, but we had a very
complete dinner, minus the service. And M. Dagnier’s wine cellar
certainly suffered from the repeated assaults made upon it....
Altogether it was a very jolly time and everyone enjoyed it to the
extent of their capacity.

Off and on during the evening, I found myself alone with the hostess and
I did my duty—in so far as it was possible to do it. I suppose she
wondered why I made no serious advances to her: I’m sure she thought I
was infatuated, and the combination of the two things had obviously
aroused her interest, for she made no bones about liking me.... It
seemed awfully funny. Now and then I felt like some kind of an unworthy
thing: I mean, she really was so nice, so generous and so utterly
sincere to me, that it didn’t seem honest or right for me to deceive her
this way. I think she was telling the truth when she said I was a
tremendous relief from the men she had had to play with. But she was an
enemy and her operations might be taking the lives of countless
thousands of American boys and men, so, of course, when I remembered
this point, I had no compunction about deceiving her.

We got back to Paris about midnight. Everyone was feeling happy and I
expected the Madame to invite them all in for a few good night drinks,
but she didn’t.... I was dropped at the barracks door, without having
had a chance to report my discovery to the Captain.


                                  —6—

Captain Winstead sent an orderly over in the morning to tell me that he
would meet me at one o’clock and take me out to see General Backett, so
I told Ben I had to take an officer out to see the General and that he
did not need bother about going out unless he wanted to.

“I guess the Gen’ll get along just as well without my good wishes,” was
his reply, so at one I met the Captain and we talked as we rode along
across the city.

He listened intently to my account of the conversation which I overheard
yesterday afternoon, and when I had finished he said, “I don’t recall
ever seeing any chaplain with her, but he might very easily see her
every week or every few days without arousing any suspicions. However,
we’ll manage somehow to keep track of the Madame all day Tuesday and see
if any chaplain shows up.... As far as that German goes, it only serves
to strengthen our suspicions: we can’t take her on suspicion, because
that would definitely sacrifice the chance of getting the other party
and tracing the line of information—and, after all, that’s what we
want. The Madame is just one cog in a machine, and we want to wreck the
machine itself....”

“I’ll keep at it,” I assured him.

“By all means,” he continued. “She’s interested in you now and I think
you can get away with murder because she has put you down as being
perfectly harmless and very innocent. You play your part to perfection.”
He drove on in silence until we were almost at the gates of the
hospital, then he remarked, quite suddenly, “Why didn’t you tell me you
can speak and read German?”

“How should I know you’d be interested?”

“Quite right,” he admitted quickly. “Only it just occurs to me that
you’re wasting your time working for General Backett. We could use you
in our line very well. Speaking both French and German as fluently as
you do is no mean accomplishment, I can tell you.”

“Oh—I use both of them now and then,” I told him. “Not long ago we
inspected a prison camp and I talked with several Deutschers for the
General, and we’re always bumping into Frenchmen who can’t speak English
worth a nickel.”

“Yes, but we could use you,” he insisted. “After we see how this affair
turns out, I’ll see about getting you shifted to Paris Intelligence. I’d
like to have you around, anyway. And besides, the work would be easy and
interesting.”

I didn’t say anything: what could be sweeter than having to work with
him all the time?... But it would take a very influential Captain to
persuade the General that such a transfer would be for the best
interests of the service.

When we were shown into the General’s room, the Captain introduced
himself at once and said, “I just wanted to meet you, General, and say
that I hope you will not consider this Paris stay as a leave-of-absence
for Sergeant Canwick, because I have put him to work in a very important
case and it would hardly be fair to him to have it count as a leave.”

“He’ll get a vacation some day,” replied the General.

“I’m sure he will earn it,” declared the Captain. “I hope you don’t mind
my making use of his services while you are resting up.”

The General chuckled good-naturedly. “Perhaps you are doing him a good
turn, Captain. A busy man doesn’t get into trouble, you know.” He looked
at me then and added, “It wouldn’t do any harm to put Garlotz to work,
too. He’s looking a little the worse for wear. I should have known
enough not to turn a man like him loose in Paris.”

“He’s having the time of his life, sir,” I hastened to assure him, for
Ben’s sake. “He won’t get into any trouble, I’m sure.”

“All right,” he assented. “I’ll be out of here before long now, so you
will all do best to make hay while the sun shines.” He looked at me
again, and asked, “Where’s our mascot to-day?”

I told him Esky was at home with Ben.

“By George, I never thought I’d get so used to a dog that I’d really
miss him when he fails to appear.”

Thus the talk drifted away from anything very interesting and the two
officers discussed various subjects of common interest to them, while I
just sat and waited for the Captain to disengage himself.... When we
finally got back to our barracks, it was after four o’clock. We arranged
to meet next day and I promised to do my damnedest with the Madame.

So that night I went up there and found the Madame alone. She suggested
that we take a long walk for our health and this we did—so long in fact
that when we returned, she almost immediately declared her intention of
retiring and added, “But I don’t mind if you stay and keep me company
for a while.”

I stayed. She went to bed and I went in and lay on the bed beside
her.... Finally she dozed off, only to awaken a few minutes later with a
start.... “You can just as well stay here to-night, cher enfant—if
you’ll be good.”

But I didn’t want to stay there, and I told her, as I kissed her good
night, that “I might be good if I stayed here, but I’ll probably be
better if I go home.”

She laughed and made me kiss her again.... She wanted me to stay.... But
Leona wasn’t going to stay with any woman unless she had to—and there
was nothing to be gained by staying that night: there was no one else
there except the maid.... I finally got away, but not without an
argument which ended abruptly when she suddenly exclaimed that she was
ashamed for making such a fool of herself over a mere boy. When she
thought of that, she regained control of herself and of the situation,
for she dismissed me with a laugh and kiss and told me to “let me see
you again to-morrow.”

So I went home and found Ben trying to read a French newspaper upside
down.... He did look kinda peaked, now that the General mentioned it.
Perhaps ten thousand women were too much for the bull of the boulevards
after all!


                                  —7—

I stayed almost all the next night at Madame’s, because she had a party
on, and two of the guests passed out and had to be put to bed. One of
them was a Major from Chaumont and the other a Captain who was liaison
officer between the French and American commands north of Paris. There
was much discussion of military affairs during the evening and there
seemed to be no question about big things scheduled for the first week
of September. The Allies had something big under way, and I caught the
Madame paying close attention to some of the information that was being
thrown about so freely.

So I stayed, on the pretext of helping take care of the indisposed
officers, and even went so far as to plead sleepiness myself. But
nothing untoward happened, so far as I could see, although the Madame
and the maid were up and around until very late and I’m quite sure that
I heard the maid go into the room where the Major was sleeping, while
the Madame was playing with me on the divan in the reception room.

But you can’t hang anyone on suspicion.


                                  —8—

Another night at Madame’s and I had my first glimpse of her when she was
under the influence of liquor. She got mad at me for some reason or
other—I guess it was because I wouldn’t manifest any evidences of a
desire to love her. So she proceeded to drink up everything in sight,
and she had a remarkable capacity, I must say, although she finally
began to show the effects. She didn’t pass out, but she did go to sleep
for a little while and when she awoke, she must have thought I had gone
for she burst into some of the choicest German profanity I ever hope to
hear, but the maid came running in at once and contrived to let her see
that I was still there.

She just laughed, however, and declared, “I wouldn’t exchange my baby
sergeant for ten generals!”

But before she could begin “loving me to shreds” as she had promised
earlier in the evening, I hastened to tell her I was feeling kinda
unstable and wanted to go home.

She really thought I was the funniest young kid she ever met: no doubt I
was, but not in the way she thought.


                                  —9—

The next day was a busy one. I mean, quite a lot had happened in the
matter of France and America versus Madame Ada Gedouin.

In the first place, I went over to her apartment just after noon and
parked myself for the day. About two o’clock she decided that we’d
better go out for a stroll and a peep in some of the shops, so we set
off, after she told the maid she might go out also.

We went to a dozen places and were gone altogether about two hours. When
we returned the maid was there, but I wandered into the boudoir with the
Madame and made myself useful. She sat down before her dressing table
and I stood behind her, playing with the curls at the nape of her neck
and talking of this and that.... I saw a long envelope on the corner of
the table and I knew at once that it had been put there since we left
the apartment, for I had been in there before we went out and there had
been no envelope there then.... I didn’t show, by even so much as a
second glance at it, that I had noticed the envelope especially, but the
Madame finally picked it up and said something about the maid collecting
a loan for her. Whereupon she opened the packet and removed its
contents. All I could see was that it was paper money of large
denominations; she folded them quickly and tucked the batch into her
hand bag, handing me the envelope and saying, “Be a good boy and put
that in the fireplace in the other room.”

I went into the other room and called back, “Shall I burn it up? There’s
nothing else here to burn.”

“You may as well,” she replied and I drew a piece of note paper from my
pocket, crumpled it in my hand and touched a match to it. The envelope
went into my breeches, inside, because I didn’t have time to fold it and
put it in one of the buttoned pockets.

When I went back to the boudoir I asked her why she burned everything
up, even in hot weather. “Why don’t you have a wastebasket instead of a
fireplace?” I asked.

“I’ve always loathed the sight of a wastebasket,” she replied. “Besides
the fireplace is handy and the ashes are so much less for the maid to
carry out than papers would be....”

“You’re very considerate of others, aren’t you?” I observed, placing my
hands on her shoulders and leaning over for a kiss.

“I’m too considerate sometimes,” she murmured into my ear. And she made
that kiss speak worlds and worlds. Then she pushed me away and laughed,
not too pleasantly, as she said, “Dammit, young one, you’re making me
perfectly miserable!... Sometimes I wish Captain Winstead had wished you
upon someone else.”

“Would you rather I didn’t come?” I asked quickly, trying to sound very
hurt.

“God, no, honey!” she answered, and her voice was thrillingly vibrant.
“I wish you would come and stay—and I mustn’t be wishing such things!”

“Why not?” I inquired ingeniously. “They say if you wish hard enough,
anything will come true.”

She turned to me then and took my hand, saying, “Such wishing isn’t good
for me.... And what I would wish could never possibly come true.” She
turned back to the dressing table with a flourish and raised her voice
to say, “Don’t bother me, now, little one. You know you get me all
upset.... I think you derive some diabolical delight from tormenting
me.”

I laughed and let it go at that, and the rest of the afternoon and
evening passed without anything further of great interest, although
during the evening, when several of her friends dropped in to talk and
drink, I caught her more than once studying me in an interested but
detached sort of way. I really felt a little uncomfortable and began to
wonder if she suspected anything, or if the maid had seen me stick that
envelope down my breeches.

Later, when I was about to leave, she asked me if I were never going to
please her by staying there instead of traveling the long distance
across the river to my barracks. “You’ll be leaving Paris some day soon,
my dear, and perhaps we might never meet again—who can tell?”

All I could do was squeeze her hand and blink my eyes. For the life of
me, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. She was really so sincere,
and her position must have been anything but comfortable there in an
enemy city. She was a spy, of course, but one couldn’t help but admire a
woman as remarkable as she was. Nor could you blame her for being so
brazen about a pleasure which she thought would be genuine—she dealt in
counterfeit interest and love and passion so much that it seemed a shame
that she could not consummate just once at least her desire for
something she really wanted.

I knew it wasn’t a very nice thing to think about, but if Leon showed
his face in Paris while I was there, his dear sweet sister would do
something that seemed utterly impossible for her or anyone else like her
to do.... I guess this job was getting under my skin. I wasn’t built for
being hard-boiled.


                                  —10—

The Captain got the envelope and examined it carefully under a
microscope. There were faint finger imprints on it and it would be
photographed and the prints compared with those in the police archives.
He said, “If they aren’t the Madame’s—and I doubt if they are, since
she hardly touched the envelope—then they may check with someone whom
the police already know.”

“How about the chaplain?” I asked him, remembering that I had been with
the Madame practically all day and that his operatives were supposed to
keep an eye on the place every minute of the day and night.

“Business picks up,” he replied cryptically.

“What do you mean?”

“Well—the maid was shadowed. She met an army chaplain whose name is
Keith and who comes from Louisville, Kentucky. We don’t know what passed
between them, but it is possible that the money came from that
chaplain.... I wasn’t going to tell you the whole story until we finish,
but you may as well know it, I suppose.”

I couldn’t help feeling an aching hurt, but I didn’t say anything.

He noticed my change, however, and promptly explained it all away by
saying, “We just wanted you to go ahead with the Madame as if nothing
had happened and we thought you could do it better if you had no idea of
what had happened. However, now that you know it, you’ve just got to act
your part in spite of the knowledge. We can’t close in on her yet: we
can’t take this chaplain in for questioning just yet, because we want to
keep our eyes on him and see what he does with his days and nights. And
meantime, you’ve got to go through with your part. You’re doing
fine—better than anyone could have done with a woman like her. And
sooner or later, we’ll nab her. It’s only a question of time now. So
keep up the good work, and don’t let her get suspicious, for that would
spoil the whole plan.”

So back to the Madame’s that night. Ben and I went to see the General
late in the afternoon and then he dropped me at the Madame’s.

“Want me to call fer ya, General?” he mocked as I stepped out.

“After all, why not?” I replied. “Say, about ten o’clock to-night?”

Ben was surprised but he went through with it gamely. “All right,
General, sir—only if I get in trouble fer runnin’ around in this car,
you’ll have to take the blame, General, sir!”

I never expected him to show up, but he did just that and in typical
Ben-like fashion, opening the door without knocking and walking right
into one of the most mixed up lovin’ scenes that ever happened. The
Madame and I had finally come to a show-down and I was having the time
of my life trying to keep her away from the secret sections of my
anatomy. God, how that woman could make love! I learned about women from
her all right—but I couldn’t see any fun in it at all and was just
about ready to start throwing things when Ben appeared. I mean, I had
gone as far as I could, and I couldn’t go any further because if I had
the Madame would have found out the truth and then she’d have been
suspicious of my motives immediately—and then the Captain’s plans for a
coup would be all ruined. And anyone who thinks it isn’t a delicate
problem to keep a woman from finding out that you’re a woman and at the
same time keep her from getting mad at you—well, a trial will
illustrate how I felt.

She didn’t see Ben at first and he was treated to a choice line of
endearing terms and brazen invitations. He stood dumfounded for a
moment, as if he couldn’t quite get the drift of the situation, but when
he started to tiptoe out again I yelled and the Madame saw him. And
maybe she wasn’t mad!

She pulled herself together in just one movement and lit on him in a
veritable fit of denunciations and deprecatory explosions. She didn’t
give him a chance to explain his presence, and when she acted like that
I couldn’t say anything because I was afraid she was near the limit as
it was.

So I just let Ben take it while I slipped into my slicker and found my
cap. When she pushed him out the door, I was right behind her, ready to
hop after him.

She calmed down quickly and asked me again if I wouldn’t please her
“just this once!”

But I hugged her and rubbed her neck and caressed her and kissed her and
told her we’d better make it some other night. By that time I had
managed to get around her and as soon as she let me go, I slid through
the door and ran down the stairs, where I found Ben waiting in a
dilapidated old taxi.

“General,” he saluted me, “your car.” But after we were seated and on
our way, he turned to me in disgust. “Now, Leony, I’m gonna break yer
head fer ya if ya don’t perk up and act like a man!” he declared
earnestly. “What’ya suppose the Lord built ya that way for?... If I ever
hear of ya throwin’ away a lovin’ party like that one again, I’m gonna
step right in an’ take it away from ya!... Why, she’s the best lookin’
woman I’ve ever seen in my whole damned life! Are ya crazy?... I’d give
ten years o’ my life to put my shoes under her bed just once!”

I got mad. “All right,” I told him. “To-morrow I’ll take you over there
and you can help yourself. You’re welcome to all of her lovin’ you can
get!”

He was quiet for a while then, but he finally burst out with “Here I am
workin’ myself skinny tryin’ to satisfy these Parisian women, an’ you,
ya little shrimp, actually run away from the best lookin’ and most
deservin’ one in the whole pack! Ain’t ya ashamed of yourself?”

“I’ll take you over there to-morrow,” I promised.

All he would say after that was “Seems damned funny to me ... damned
funny....”

Which was just two damns funnier than it seemed to me.


                                  —11—

Well, I took Ben to the Madame’s on the pretext that he wanted to
apologize for breaking in so unceremoniously last night. She accepted
the apology graciously and I think she expected him to leave.

But Ben had no intention of leaving and, as I had told him I would leave
them alone, I began to wonder how I could manage to get out without
taking him with me. As a starter I turned on the phonograph and put on a
peppy record. As the Madame likes to dance, I was not surprised when she
submitted to Ben’s invitation to dance with him.

However, Ben wasn’t much when it came to tripping the light fantastic
and the Madame could not be blamed for suggesting that they call it
enough after but a few steps.

“What’s the matter?” inquired Ben, naturally suspicious and belligerent.

The Madame laughed and told him that she “never could dance very well
with big men.... I don’t like such tremendously big men half as much as
I do little fellows like the sergeant.”

If she had said anything but that, the evening might have gone along
without any exceptional disturbances, but the declaration of preference
was to Ben like the proverbial red flag to the bull, and he arose to the
occasion promptly to demand, “What the devil’s the matter with these
Parisian dames?... Don’t like beeg men!... Huh! When a woman says that
to me I just make up my mind that if she an’ I ever get alone together,
I’ll make her like me or mangle her!”

“Ou la la!” laughed the Madame. “A genuine cave man, eh?... Such a droll
friend for Sergeant Canwick!” And she laughed again.

Well, I knew Ben was going to get rough, regardless of my presence, and
I was wondering how in the devil I could get him out of there, because
I’d be in a pretty pickle if the Madame got all torn up, and with me
standing right there. I mean, she’d naturally expect me to act like a
man and crown Ben or something—but I could just see myself trying to
crown that big blister.

Ben was starting to amble across to the divan on which she was sitting
when we were all startled and relieved by a knock on the door.

“Berta!” the Madame called, and the maid promptly appeared, answered the
knock and announced that Major Fergus and a friend were there.

Just the mention of a major was enough to quiet my bulldozing friend. He
retired to a secluded corner where he would not have to face the officer
and I took advantage of the moment to tell the Madame I had to step out
for ten or fifteen minutes.

“Is your battling friend staying?” she inquired with a very wise smile.

“Oh—he’ll be all right,” I told her. “And I’ll be right back anyway.”
She laughed and I hurried past the major and his mademoiselle and went
out for the air.

I thought I walked around for at least a half hour, but when I came back
to the house I realized that I hadn’t been gone more than fifteen or
twenty minutes. I made as little noise as possible ascending the stairs
and when I stopped in front of her door, unmistakable sounds of a
struggle and argument came to my ears. It sounded desperate and I was on
the point of knocking, when I heard the Madame suddenly laugh. Then she
said, “All right, you wild man—but let’s have a little champagne first
to help matters along.”

Well, if that’s the way she felt about it, it was none of my business,
so I removed myself to the air again. I don’t know why, but I actually
felt disappointed. I never really believed the Madame would give in like
that to just any man who fought hard enough to overpower her. I was
disgusted with her, I guess.

Fifteen minutes later I returned again—and all was so very quiet that I
concluded my presence would be rather superfluous. So out to the air
again.

When I returned the next time, about twenty minutes later, I walked
boldly up to the door and knocked. The Madame herself let me in. She
smiled queerly at me, and I could not meet her eyes. I glanced around
the room and spotted Ben stretched out on the divan, apparently sleeping
the sleep of the righteous.... I couldn’t figure it out.

When she noted my bewilderment, she laughed lightly and said, “Your
friend, the giant, is like all giants, little one: he met his Jack.”

“Meaning?”

“He can’t stand his liquor.”

That seemed funny, but I didn’t say anything and when she said, “Come in
the other room and we’ll have some wine,” I followed her dumbly and
drank the wine she offered me.

Aside from the fact that her hair was somewhat mussed and her neck
showed several red streaks and unnatural marks, she didn’t look as if
she had undergone any titanic struggle—or anything else titanic. I was
beginning to wonder just what the devil had happened. I mean, I couldn’t
quite figure out what Ben had taken while I was taking the air.

But the Madame interrupted my wonderings to suggest that I take my
friend out for a little walk and come back later. “He’s in a stupor now
and I don’t feel comfortable with a man like that around. He’ll be all
right in a little while.”

So I roused Ben as best I could—which was not very much. He didn’t pay
any attention to my shaking and pulling and commanding. But when the
Madame began slapping his face and jerking his head back and forth, he
opened his eyes and began to come to life. The Madame dropped out of
sight and I had no difficulty in getting him out of the place. We walked
around for ten or fifteen minutes, Ben’s head clearing a little with
every step, and I finally decided that he was presentable again, so we
returned to the apartment ... and found the door locked, and there was
no answer to my knocking. Ben was all for breaking down the heavy old
door, but I dissuaded him and finally got him out and into a rat-trap of
a taxi that must have been one of those that helped save Paris a couple
of years before.

As we bounced away toward the barracks, I asked him what had happened
and “Are you satisfied now?”

For answer he called me seven different kinds of an unmentionable
progeny.

So I asked him again, and added, “What became of the major and where did
the maid go to?”

“The maple leaf only stayed a few minutes, him an’ his broad.”

“And the maid?”

“She came in and said she was supposed to meet some guy named Keith an’
the boss told her to bring us some champagne before she went.”

“And then what happened?” For an innocent girl my curiosity about such
situations was unspeakable.

“Why—she gave me a big goblet o’ champagne an’ I downs it at a gulp....
It tasted damn funny but she had me all worked up so I couldn’t think
straight anyway, the little b——!”

“What you kicking about?” I asked in surprise. It didn’t seem to me that
a man should talk that way about a woman after she’s been good to him.

“Kickin’ about?” he demanded. “An’ you bouncin’ in about two minutes
later! That’s what I’m kickin’ about!”

“You’re crazy,” I told him. “I stayed away almost an hour. What were you
doing all that time?”

“Oh—fer Christ’s sake!” He was mad—at me, I assumed, but I was wrong.
“What a dumb b—— I am!”

So I didn’t know yet what had happened.


                                  —12—

This affair was ended, in so far as I was concerned. The General came
out of the hospital finally, full of pep and ambition and said he wanted
to leave Paris next morning. “We’ve had a good rest and now we’ll get
back to the business of winning the war,” he told me. “There’s much to
do right around here, but I want to get away from the city for a while,
so we’ll drop down to Le Mans and Orléans and then come back here in a
week or so.”

I reported this to the Captain at once. He was keenly disappointed. Also
confessed about taking Ben over, and about the maid and the man named
Keith. He blamed me for taking Ben, and also for not hanging around so I
could follow the maid when she went out to meet the chaplain....
“However,” he said, “you’ve helped a lot, and I’m going to see about
having you transferred, after the General has cleaned up some of his
work.” He made me promise to look him up as soon as I got back to Paris.

Upon his suggestion I called upon the Madame to say good-by. She
welcomed me as usual but rebuked me for bringing “that woman-eating
animal to see me.”

I told her I was sorry. That I didn’t think he would act like that.

“Don’t worry, youngster,” she informed me. “Ada doesn’t give in to any
man unless she wants to—and, to be frank with you, there’s only one man
in Paris whom I would favor in that way....”

“Yes?”

“... and he is here at this minute,” she finished, ending with that
funny little laugh.

“You’re a good joker,” I replied with a smile.

“No, I’m not joking, little one,” she insisted. “I know what you
think—or, at least, I assume I know. But you have the wrong conception
entirely.... I believe in being free and generous and in having a good
time with my friends ... but of all the men whom you have met here,
there’s not one who can boast of a real conquest here.... You see ...
oh, there are many things you can’t understand, youngster.... And now
you’re leaving.” She caressed my cheeks with her lips and fingers, and
continued, pleasantly and sincerely, “I’ll miss you, cher enfant....
It’s been so nice, having you around.... Promise grandma you’ll be a
good boy and stay away from the mademoiselles until you come back to
me?”

“I promise faithfully,” I told her.

She kissed me with a smothering fervor, and as she closed the door
behind me, murmured, “Hurry back, youngster, like a good boy!”

I forgot to ask her why she wouldn’t let us in last night, when we came
back; but I assumed it was on account of Ben.... Well, I did feel sorry
for her. She was perfectly able to take care of herself, but sooner or
later she’d be caught and then—well, they shot Mata Hari. It didn’t
seem that any good could come from killing a woman who was as game, as
clever, as altogether interesting as she was.... You see, I loathed
having to put up with her caresses and her kisses, but I could
understand how a man must feel, if she liked him ... and I couldn’t help
liking her and feeling sorry for her.... However, there was a war on: at
least, so I’d heard, and to-morrow it was back to the grind for us.



                               CHAPTER 15

                             THE TWAIN MEET


                                  —1—

On Saturday afternoon a few days later, the mail from Paris brought me a
short note from Captain Winstead to tell me that:

    “Your friend Marfield found me at the office this afternoon and
    I gathered that he is hunting for you. I took the liberty of
    telling him you had already left Paris for parts
    unknown—although, of course, I knew you planned to leave
    to-morrow morning. He wanted to know where you were going from
    here, but I professed a colossal ignorance of your plans....
    Just wanted to let you know about him, in case you should want
    to see him or get in touch with him. He didn’t say what was on
    his mind.”

Lord only knew what was on his mind. Knowing him, I knew that it was
impossible to predict anything in regard to him. All I hoped was that he
hadn’t been investigating my whereabouts at home, and that Leon hadn’t
bumped into him.... Why did a man have to be like that? He could just as
easily forget about me and mind his own business—but I knew he wouldn’t
be satisfied until he’d either got me where he wanted me or forced me to
a showdown, with all its embarrassments.

However, I was not worrying so much about him just now as I was about
Leon. I mean, if I could find my brother and put him wise to what had
happened, perhaps he could be on guard against Jay-Jay and do his part
toward insuring my safety. Also, I wanted to straighten out the tangle
in which my visit involved Lisa. I was determined to risk any
consequence at all to make up for what trouble I’d caused her, and her
husband had to be informed of the truth. It would help matters a lot if
Leon were with me when I called there.... I hadn’t the least idea where
to look for him, but I decided to go on a hunt which I hoped would
result in finding him.

The mail from Tours brought a letter from Aunt Elinor and one from Vyvy.
Aunt Elinor’s note was brief but she inclosed something else that was an
entirely different matter: a letter from Captain Winstead which began
with explaining his loss of my address and begging for my forgiveness
and ended with veiled but sincere protestations of love. He said he
wanted me to believe that that night in the garden “was not just another
night and nothing more.” I was perfectly willing to believe him, after
the way he’d talked to me about my sister—but I didn’t much care for
the way he fell in love with all these pretty mademoiselles he met. This
letter was apparently written just after he met me in Tours. I had to
answer it toute de suite and send it to Auntie.... Poor Auntie: I
guessed she was about distracted by this old war.

The most interesting part of Vyvy’s letter follows, because it is worth
preserving and I saved it to give to Leon when I saw him:

    “Your attitude, my dear Leon, is beyond me. I can only surmise
    as to what has happened to you and to the burning world-moving
    passion which you once professed so eloquently, but I am
    convinced at last that you have succumbed to the vulgar charms
    of some petite mademoiselle and that the love-loving creature
    has estranged you completely from me.

    “Please tell me frankly if this is true. Your matter-of-fact
    ‘duty’ cards do not begin to appease the hunger of my heart, but
    rather would I go without their incredible meagerness and empty
    promise than feel continually, insistently, day after day, that
    you are—the real you that I loved—no longer wholly mine....
    You must know what you mean to me: why do you act this way? I
    want to understand, so please explain and try to remember how
    much you once said you loved

                                                                 Your
                                                                 “VYVY.”

I didn’t realize, until I read this, that I had not written to the poor
girl for over a month. She had a right to be wild by this time. I could
hear her calling Leon every bad name she knew, and she was not ignorant
by any means. So I supposed I’d have to sit down and pen her a long and
worshipful epistle, telling her all about it.

No, on second thought, I wouldn’t. I was sick of writing love letters to
a girl. Why couldn’t Leon write his own love letters? I’d wait until I
saw if he was still in Le Mans and if he was, he could just sit right
down and do his stuff for the sake of his velvety Vyvy. And he could
just keep on writing to her.... That’s one thing that would be off my
mind.... Then I had a haircut: that was another thing off my mind.
Pretty soon there wouldn’t be anything on it except my own business.
God, but that would be a beautiful day for me!


                                  —2—

Ben and I were promenading with Esky the following afternoon when we
bumped smack into Leon, just about a block from Le Chien Rouge. If I had
seen him first, I would have managed somehow to divert Ben’s attention
so that I could see Leon without Ben’s knowing about it, but the way it
happened, Ben noticed Esky was acting funny and when he looked across
the street he saw something that made him roar out impulsively, “Hey,
you!... You’re the guy that got me in the jug! Come over here!”

That was the first I knew of Leon’s proximity and I turned to see him
stepping across the thoroughfare in compliance with Ben’s command.

Before I thought, I cried out, “Hello, Leon. Lord, but I’ve been wanting
to see you!”

Ben turned about and faced me, but before I could say anything to him,
Leon was with us, greeting me with a rather doubtful “Hello.” He kept
eying my companion suspiciously, as if he expected to see him draw back
for a lusty swing any minute. And I was trying to think fast: Ben had
heard me call him by my own name, and some explanation would have to be
given for that. Also, he’d wonder why I said I couldn’t imagine who this
double of mine was. Yes, Mr. Ben was bound to get some explanations, but
not just now.

“Ben,” I said, taking his arm and giving him a push, “do me a big favor
and take a drink for yourself somewhere, will you?... I’ll explain
everything to you later, but just now I’ve got to talk turkey to this
man.” I waited until he agreed with a grunt and started away with Esky
at his heels, then I called after him, “That’s a good sport, Big Boy.”

Then I turned to my brother. He just smiled at me and said, “I suppose
you’re happy now, eh?”

“Say!” I exclaimed. “If you don’t want to be killed on the spot, don’t
talk to me about being happy.... There have been times since I last saw
you when I could have murdered you in cold blood! Where in the name of
God have you been and why didn’t you get in touch with me?”

“Well—” he began, placatingly. “For a long time, I couldn’t see any
advantage in writing to you. In the first place, it isn’t good for us to
be seen together. In the second place, I don’t see how I can help you
any. I tried every way possible to get across here without enlisting,
but there wasn’t a prayer, so I finally got mad and enlisted and here I
am.”

“But what do you expect me to do?” I demanded. “How am I going to get
out of this man’s army?”

“I’ve doped it all out,” he replied easily. “If worse comes to worst,
I’ll desert and take your place. You resume your proper attire, no one
will be the wiser.”

“You’re as brilliant as ever, aren’t you?” I observed after a momentary
digestion of this idea. “I suppose you aren’t aware that Jay-Jay
Marfield is over here and is dogging me for a show-down already. Also,
what would I do in dresses over here? How could I get a passport to get
out of France when I couldn’t show any record of having legitimately
entered the country?... Perhaps the scheme might work after the war is
over, but that may be a couple of years yet—and I’m sure I can’t stand
even one more year of it. I’ve got one service stripe already and I
don’t crave for any more.”

“Well—we’ll have to dope out something,” he admitted. “However, for the
time being, what’s on your mind?”

“Plenty!” I exclaimed. “For one thing I’m in a jamb with Lisa Mantour’s
husband—you know, Lisa, at St. Malo? Her husband runs this café on the
next corner, Le Chien Rouge, and he threatened to shoot me for coming to
see his wife. Lisa wouldn’t tell him that I’m a girl because she’s
afraid he’ll talk when he’s drunk, and I guess he’s been raising Cain
with her on my account. So now I’m going to tell him the truth and in
order that he’ll believe it more readily, you’ve got to come along and
face him, too.”

“I don’t want to face that man again!” he declared stubbornly. “I
wandered in there about two months ago and he lit on me with a
bung-stopper. I didn’t know he had a wife, much less that she was Lisa,
and I didn’t know what he was jabbering about until that big fellow
there came along and flew into the scrap—and then I ducked.”

“Yes, I know about that. He thought it was me—in fact, he’s had his
doubts about it up until just recently. Now he knows it wasn’t me, but
I’ve got to explain us to him some way.”

“Tell him we’re twin brothers,” he suggested.

“I guess I’ll have to,” I agreed. “But I told him before that I couldn’t
imagine who you were. And calling you ‘Leon’—that will call for an
explanation, too. But I’ll settle him. He can wait. The important thing
is to get old Pierre fixed up. How about it?”

He started to smile as he replied, “But his place isn’t open to-day and
I’m going on leave to Paris in the morning. I don’t see how we can make
it now.”

“When you coming back?”

“Ten days—but my outfit will be moving out of here then, if not sooner.
We’re going up to take over a hospital near Toul.”

“Then we’re going to see Lisa and Pierre before you go. What time you
going in the morning?”

“Too early to get down here first.”

“Then come on.... We’ll find them somewhere.” And I took his arm and
marched him up the street to the corner where Le Chien Rouge is located.
I tried the front door and found it locked and barred, but around the
corner there was another door which I assumed led to their living
quarters and on which I knocked loudly and long.

Finally the door was opened a crack and Lisa looked out. When she saw
who it was, she threw the door open and welcomed us both with open arms
and many kisses, and to Leon she said, “I would not beleeve she was not
you onteel she prove it!”

Leon laughed in embarrassment, but just at that moment I spied Ben and
Esky coming around the corner, so I pushed Leon in and called to Ben
that I’d be with him in a few minutes.

Inside I quickly told Lisa that she had to explain everything to her
husband. “It makes no difference about his talking. We must risk that.”

“Do not fret, chère!” she argued. “It is but words that open his mouth.
I weel feex him.”

We argued back and forth until she finally consented, and I suggested
that she call her husband so that we could prove everything to him at
once.

“But he is not here,” declared Lisa.

“Then to-night?” I asked. She nodded. “Can you meet me here at eight,
Leon?” He reluctantly agreed to come.

“He will be here sure at that hour,” Lisa told us as we departed.

Leon walked past Ben’s glaring eyes without a blink of recognition, but
I came along a moment later and promptly began explaining the mystery to
him. “You see, Ben,” I told him, “I’ve got to trust you to keep this to
yourself—I know you will, because it means a devil of a lot to me....
The truth is that the fellow you just saw is my twin brother. His name
is Leonard, but we always called each other either Leon or Leonard—you
know, just a kid trick we never got over.... I didn’t say anything about
him before because I didn’t know he was in France. You see, he got into
a scrape back home and disappeared; now he’s serving under a different
name. That’s why we can’t be together much, because we look so much
alike that anyone would notice the difference in names and be
suspicious.... You see how it is, Ben. I suspected, when you told me
about that fight, that it was my brother, but I could not quite bring
myself to tell you the secret then. However, now it’s all right and I
know you’ll keep it to yourself, won’t you?”

He was grinning good-naturedly. “Aw, hell, yes!” he replied. “I knew
there was somethin’ cockeyed goin’ on, but I wouldn’t ’a’ said nothing
about it, anyway.”... So that was that.

We wandered around then and finally had dinner and wine in a little
place that stayed open on Sunday, but you had to enter by the back door.
I paid for the grub and the wine. Indeed I bought plenty of wine and let
Ben drink his fill, for I was anxious to get rid of him before eight
o’clock. I suppose I could have asked him to chase along alone, but I
didn’t, and the result was that he came back to Le Chien Rouge with me,
although he was feeling so sleepy that I doubt if he knew exactly where
he was at first.

Leon didn’t appear on the dot, so we had to hang around the corner for
some few minutes. Ben sat down on the doorstep and Esky went prowling
around looking for something to interest him—or maybe he recognized the
place because of the bar rag that was thrown at him when we were there
last.... Just as Leon appeared, Ben grabbed my leg and said, “Leony,
that bald-headed pirate in there is givin’ Esky a chunk o’ meat.” I
looked down, and there was Ben, leaning against the side of the doorway,
peering into the darkened barroom through a crack beneath the shutters.

“I guess he knows it’s all right now,” I said, thinking at once that
Lisa had explained to her husband and that now he was trying to make up
with the pup. “You wait here for me, Ben,” I told him, as I went around
the corner with Leon.

Lisa welcomed us happily and exclaimed, “I have just tell him and he do
not beleeve it!” Then she turned and called, “Pierre! Venez ici!”

The old man came, saw, and was convinced. “Which is ze jeune fille?” he
asked, grinning cheerfully.

He looked me over for a moment and muttered, “Trés bien ... trés bien
... I t’ought you make cooked-up lie before zis.” He admitted that he
believed us now, but still he did not seem to be entirely happy over the
discovery of his error. He left us with Lisa and I heard him moving
around, first in the barroom and then outdoors, as if he were looking
for something.

We had been there perhaps ten minutes when Ben appeared in the door,
asking stupidly if we had seen the pup. “He ain’t outside,” he declared,
as if that were news. “He ain’t outside.”

I whistled and called and finally Esky appeared from within, lapping his
jaws from the feast he had just had. Old Pierre tried to get him to come
to him, but he wouldn’t have anything to do with him, just got behind
Ben’s legs and looked at Pierre sort of queerly, so much as to say,
“I’ll eat your meat, but I don’t want to have anything to do with you.”

Ben took him out. A moment later we bade good-by to the Lenotiers and
joined Ben at the corner. As it was early yet, I suggested that we take
a walk to the park and give Ben a chance to get some air. So we walked
away and found a bench, whereon Ben flopped down and promptly began to
doze off, with the result that Leon and I had an opportunity to talk
about ourselves to a certain extent.

I gathered a lot from what Leon told me and now I could better
understand the change that had come over him: for he certainly was a
different man altogether. It seems that the mood in which he went to
Booneville passed away as soon as his arm began to heal, and he had
nothing to do but think about how rotten he was. The solitude—of whose
virtues and beauties he had sung so often—closed about him depressingly
and even the sounds of his own voice came back at him with echoes and
reëchoes from the hills. He had never been sociable nor friendly, and
the natives of Booneville cast suspicious glances at him upon the
infrequent occasions of his visits to the post office. He discovered
that the torments of loneliness, of strange-noised nights and uneventful
days, were far worse than any of the fancied or real horrors of war. I
guess he made up his mind then that the army was a better place for him
than Booneville, and I don’t think he cared a great deal whether he
succeeded in getting across to rescue me: his idea was simply to go out
and do something that would revive his self-respect and prove to himself
that he was no weakling or coward.

It may be that he feared my being detected, in which case he would have
been found and sent up for desertion, no doubt. He may have figured that
he was safer in the army than he would be out of it—should anything
happen to me. And after he was in again, he found it was just as easy to
make the best of army life as it was to make the worst of it. He was
thrown into a company that showed in its personnel an exceptional cross
section of American citizenry, and he stuck out his chin, determined to
take what was given him, made no effort to shirk his duties, however
unpleasant they happened to be. He discovered that the noncoms thought
him a clever and promising man, and his comrades called him a good
fellow. It must have seemed awfully easy to him now that he didn’t fight
against it.

He served his soldier’s apprenticeship over again, with all the
unpleasantness of kitchen police, garbage detail, latrine duty, grounds
police; took the unpolite commands of the drill and training field with
actual zest; learned to wash his clothes and sew on buttons and do any
number of other things which he once thought were utterly, unspeakably,
impossible for a person of his æsthetic plane. And he filled out in the
chest, so that he looked as big across the front as I did.

I told him about Vyvy’s letters and showed him the one I just received.
He laughed as he read it and said, “The nearest thing to a mademoiselle
I’ve touched is a dirty smelly old G.I. can.”

I looked at him in surprise. That sounded like a dirty crack to me—and
dirty cracks were the last thing I would expect from my brother....
There was no question about his being a changed man.

Well, I guess he had learned a lot, and it had done him a world of good.
He found that the army was not made up entirely of fools, cowards,
roughnecks and knaves, and that there was something to the business
besides quarreling, getting drunk, swearing inordinately, indulging
indiscriminately in sexual pursuits, plotting against superiors,
hand-shaking and pulling political strings, and going A.W.O.L.

He said his outfit contained men of all types and kinds. Men from
colleges who could discuss literature and the fine arts as well as the
arts of war. Men who looked upon the adventure at hand with an
optimistic philosophy that reassured all who knew them. Men from the
slums who swore and cursed disgustingly but would give the shirts from
their backs if you happened to need them more than they. Men who told
dirty stories and sang rotten songs about unmentionable obscenities one
minute, and the next conversed in language that would do justice to a
Ladies’ Aid meeting. Men who read books and wrote many letters, who
showed you pictures of their best girls at home and told you stories
about their families and their friends and their former occupations. Men
who could work in muck and mud all day, and were able at night to talk
intelligently and sincerely of the finer things of life. He even had
some buddies who liked poetry as much as he did, but they had adapted
themselves to the rimeless rhythm of the life about them.

He had found that the noncoms were not all bullies to their subordinates
and kotowing toadies to their superiors. Some were like this, but more
often they were hard-working, serious-minded fellows, eager to carry on,
get the ugly business finished as soon as possible, and return home.

To men and officers alike this war was the great adventure. Its
discomforts and sufferings and dangers were just things to be taken as
part of the day’s work. A man put up with anything to be able to say
some day, “I was there.”

He had found, as I had found, that all this business of being at war was
not a mess of corruption, beastliness and brutality. There were other
features to this life than those that are so cried about and proclaimed.
It was a glorious adventure! I don’t mean to pollyanna the grimy
business, this drab and dreary affair in which men walked blindly into
almost certain death or injury—what I mean is that there unquestionably
was a fine, an ideal, a truly noble side to the thing. Like beautiful
flowers growing out of a bed of filth and rot. Like the lovely poppies
that they say grew on the graves filled with the rotting bodies of men
in the battlefields.... That isn’t exactly what I mean, but the idea is
there, and I was glad to learn that Leon had come to feel toward it all
much as I was feeling. It seemed to me that through coming to an
understanding of and sympathy for other men, Leon had himself become a
man. I doubted if Vyvy could realize the change, even if he wrote to
her, but she had nevertheless been the real maker of this man whose name
she didn’t know.

I told Leon he could write his own love letters now, but he said “The
man who censors my mail would wonder what the idea was if I signed my
real name, and Vyvy would be wondering if I signed my alias.... You’d
better keep on as you are.”

“I don’t want to,” I told him. “I can’t do justice to the subject and
Vyvy is entitled to hear from you herself.... I’ll tell you: you put
your name and rank and everything at the top of the first page, don’t
you?”

“Surely.”

“Well, you write to Auntie and inclose a letter to Vyvy. I’ll write to
Auntie and tell her to cut the top from the first page of your letter,
then forward the rest to Vyvy. My mail isn’t inspected half the time and
no one would think anything anyway.”

“Nope,” he insisted. “Vyvy’d wonder why the letter didn’t come direct.”

“Well—then—you can write to me without having your letters censored.
Send your letters to Vyvy via me. What’s wrong with that?”

“Nothing, I guess. I’ll do it.”

So now that was off my hands and my head felt a little easier on all
scores, for I told Leon all about the Captain and Jay-Jay and the Madame
and everything and he was prepared for whatever might happen now. I
almost told him to look up the Madame—but I just couldn’t do it: it
didn’t seem decent to fix up a loving party for your own brother.... He
would write to me from Paris, and we’d meet again as soon as possible.

Ben and I didn’t get back to our barracks till ten and it was twelve
before we turned in. Esky was sick. We didn’t know what was the matter
with him, so didn’t know what to do for him. Probably be all right by
morning, but I hated to see him sick. He looked and acted too pitiful: I
couldn’t sleep all night if he was going to be prowling around and
sticking his nose into my ear every few minutes. But that was just what
he did when he felt funny.

Ben was asleep. Esky stuck his nose into his ear and Ben must have been
dreaming, for he mumbled something about “you know my weak spot, honey.”
Maybe he thought it was that Captain of W.A.A.C.’s.


                                  —3—

Monday was a terrible day. The General worked me like a nigger. Esky was
sick and Ben said he’d been poisoned by that meat Pierre gave him
yesterday. When I told the General about it, he told Ben to take the pup
and cart him out to a veterinary in the car. Pretty special for a dog to
ride to a veterinary in a General’s car. Ben came back to report that
the vet didn’t know whether he could pull him through or not, said he
was probably poisoned, that he might go blind.... I felt too terrible to
think about it. We got some medicine and Ben and I took turns all night
getting up to give it to him. The poor pup! He just lay around and
looked miserable and threw up everything he ate and a lot of blood, too.


                                  —4—

The next day it looked as if Esky couldn’t possibly get well again. He
didn’t walk around at all—just lay there on his side and breathed so
awfully hard that it made me want to cry just to watch him. When I
patted his head he opened his eyes lazily and gave his tail a couple of
feeble wags.

In the night he kept coming to my bunk and sticking his nose up to me.
He’d always been taken care of before this and I suppose he couldn’t
understand why I didn’t help him when he felt so awful. It was terrible
to have a dumb animal depend upon you like that—and you not knowing
anything to do to help him.

The medicine was getting the poison out of him, but it had weakened him
so that he was nothing but bones already. I was patting his head that
afternoon and I just couldn’t keep from crying when I realized that he
would probably die. I was crying and sniffling like a little kid when
Ben came in and saw me there acting like that. He didn’t feel very well
himself, but of course he wouldn’t cry about anything. But I couldn’t
stop, and everything he said made me cry harder and harder, because I
kept recalling things Esky had done in his short life and everything
like that just made me think my heart would break open any minute.

Ben said, “Aw, hell, Leony, don’t do that!” He put his arm around my
shoulder and patted my back roughly, trying to make me feel better, and
when I kept on crying, he said, “If I didn’t know what a good pup he is,
I’d swear you was a woman by the way ya act.... Come on, now, Leony....
Cut it out!”

I finally regained control of myself but I must have looked pretty
miserable, for Ben suddenly got up and went out without saying anything.
I thought he had gone because he couldn’t stand any more of my foolish
crying.

But that was not the whole reason. He came back about an hour later and
said he’d been to see the veterinary again. “An’ I told him what was in
that meat an’ he gave me this stuff.” He lifted Esky’s head and almost
emptied the bottle down his throat.

“How’d you know what was in that meat?” I asked him, suddenly realizing
that he must be keeping something back.

“Oh—I found out,” he evaded.

“How?”

“Well—I went down to The Red Dog and wrapped my fist around the old
man’s neck an’ wouldn’t let go until he confessed.”

“Oh, God, Ben—you didn’t!” I exclaimed, thinking at once of the
possible trouble that might come, if Pierre got mad.

“Yes, I did,” he insisted. “And I gave him a punch in the jaw for good
measure, the dirty b——!”

Well, Esky was still alive, but he hadn’t showed any signs of
improvement.... I was just sick all over.... Probably Esky would die and
Pierre would be mad and tell on us, and everything would be ruined....
And poor Ben couldn’t understand why I was sorry he punched Pierre’s
head.


                                  —5—

At last the vet said Esky was going to pull through, with any luck at
all, and Ben and the General, and even Chilblaines, were all happy as
kids. So was I.

But I stopped at Lisa’s in the evening and Pierre lit into me for all
his troubles. He had a black eye and he was mad through at all of us....
Lisa said she wished we hadn’t told him the truth yet, and I suppose it
would have been better if we had stayed away from the place altogether.

Well, everything seemed to go wrong at once.... I was working like a
nigger. My head ached from taking dictation and my fingers ached from
punching the typewriter. But thank heavens, we were about done here....
We’d move over to Orléans in an other day or so.

And then back to Paris—to Captain Winstead—to Jay-Jay—to God knows
what else.


                                  —6—

At Orléans a letter came from Leon. The contents tell the story as well
as I could:

    “Why didn’t you give me the low-down on this wild woman of
    Paris? I wasn’t at all prepared for the shock. She is too
    beautiful for words: but the language she uses!

    “I was walking along in front of the Louvre yesterday when a cab
    stopped beside me and a woman commanded me to get in. Not having
    anything better to do, I hastened to comply, but as soon as I
    got in, she threw her arms around my neck and kissed me as I
    have never been kissed before. And she kept at me to explain why
    I hadn’t let her know I was in Paris again. She kept calling me
    ‘youngster’ and ‘my little home companion’ and ‘baby face,’ but
    I didn’t mind that as long as she did the other things she did.
    Why, if Vyvy ever imagined that I had been with a woman that
    beautiful and that love-loving, she’d never speak to me again.

    “I didn’t know what to tell her, so I just didn’t say anything,
    but kept her busy doing other and more interesting things than
    talking. I assure you, we had a delightful ride, across the
    river and up to a studio building.

    “But as we entered the building, three men who apparently were
    officers of the Parisian police, stepped out from their
    concealment behind the ornamental doorway and seized my
    beautiful companion very unceremoniously and none too gently.

    “She was furious and highly insulted, but one of the men said
    something to her about ‘Keith’ and ‘Berta’ and then she turned
    on me. She started to swear in German and the officers laughed
    at her, so she turned her tongue upon them.

    “The officers apparently thought I was the one who had brought
    about her arrest, for they grabbed me in turn and kissed me
    hither and yon while deluging me with congratulations on all
    sorts of impossible achievements. I backed away in confusion,
    and the last I heard of or from the lady came as they led her up
    the steps to go to her apartment. Then she turned and actually
    smiled at me and said, ‘When the heart ignores the head,
    youngster—I admit you deceived me.’

    “‘I’m sorry—,’ I said, because I couldn’t help it. I hated to
    see her go like that.

    “But the point is: what in the name of heavens have you been
    doing to get a woman like that?”

And I’m sure I couldn’t answer that question, for I didn’t know myself.
It just came about, that’s all.... And so the Madame, the charming,
beautiful Ada Gedouin, had gone. I couldn’t say that I was glad—I just
couldn’t.



                               CHAPTER 16

                            BEAUCOUP ZIGZAG


                                  —1—

In Tours another letter came from Leon. That man was likely to have us
both hung before another month was out! What did he do now but run right
into Jay-Jay, and the latter welcomed him with open arms:—

    “I told him he must have the wrong man, because I had never seen
    him before in my life, but that didn’t impress him at all. He
    insisted that I show him my pass and then that I accompany him.
    I didn’t know where he was going—I thought at first he was
    taking me to an M.P., but we walked past a million M.P.’s and
    finally ended in a dirty flat in a dirty building, and he told
    me to make myself at home.

    “We had a smoke and then he said, ‘Now, listen to me.... I know
    there’s a pair of twins by the name of Canwick running around
    loose through the A.E.F. and I’m going to find out which of them
    is which. One of them’s a girl, and that’s the one I want—get
    me?’

    “I just laughed at him and repeated that ‘My name isn’t
    Canwick—it’s Lane.’

    “‘I don’t care a damn what you say your name is: I know you two
    are twins and one of you is a girl.... Now, which one is it?’

    “‘Pardon me, sir,’ I said, ‘but you haven’t been around where
    the big guns go off, have you?... I mean, is it the kind of
    shell-shock that makes them violent?’

    “Oh, but he was mad, and the madder he got the more I laughed at
    him, the prime egg!

    “He said a lot of nasty things and finally went into another
    room and came out with a gun in his hand. ‘Now,’ he commands.
    ‘You strip!’

    “I naturally indulged in laughter. This impossible affair
    sounded like some kind of a comic opera.

    “But he meant business and said so. I honestly think he’s a
    little bit off in the cockloft.

    “Fearing that he might get really careless with the firearm, I
    decided to humor him—so I stripped, but by the time I had
    removed my blouse and shirt, he was beginning to lose his
    confidence. I asked him if that was enough, but he insisted that
    I should strip.

    “Well, you can imagine how I felt—although it really struck me
    as a huge joke on him.

    “Instead of being disappointed, however, he seemed to be
    reassured for he said, ‘I knew it! I knew that sergeant was
    her.... I should have known as soon as I saw her with that
    Captain....’

    “I stopped in my dressing to laugh at him—which made him mad
    again. ‘Your sister will laugh, too!’ he stormed at me. ‘She
    thinks she’s pretty wise, but she’s not fooling me again!... And
    I can make it rather pleasant for that Captain, too!’ The
    son-of-a-gun actually smiled. He surely thinks he’s going to do
    something wonderful for somebody—and I don’t think it’s you.

    “So it appears that we are in a fix. He’s obviously a little
    cracked, but we can’t take advantage of that fact without giving
    ourselves away. I don’t know what we can do—do you? I told him
    I was leaving Paris to-morrow and going to Toul—which, of
    course, is not true. I’ll be here almost a week, and I only hope
    we don’t meet again.

    “But what will we do? If he finds you again, the jig will surely
    be up.... I’ll do anything I can to help: I’m even considering
    the desirability of bashing him over the head with a bottle—but
    then he’d doubtless recover.... So what’ll I do?

                                                   “I’m at your service,
                                                   “LEONARD.”

Well, what in the devil could be done? It seemed that sooner or later
someone was bound to find out about me. Old Pierre had probably told
someone about me already—although there was just a chance that no one
would believe him anyway. Jay-Jay, however, could do anything he liked.
If we met and I did not talk turkey to him, he’d probably go straight to
the General or somebody in authority and have me dragged up on the
carpet. And if there was anything that would look funny, it would be me,
posing in the nude before the General.... Once more—I wished to Gawd
I’d stayed at home and let this damned old war take care of itself. I
was dizzy from thinking about it.... And I knew exactly what that
evil-minded devil thought: that the Captain was in on the secret and
that it naturally followed that we were having a good time by ourselves.
The dirty envious skunk!

Well, anyway, we were off to Paris again next day—and nature and fate
would just have to take their courses. I was about ready to give up.


                                  —2—

I didn’t have a chance to find Leon, but Ben and I bumped into Captain
Winstead outside the Intelligence office, while we were waiting for the
General.

You could have knocked Ben over with a feather when the Captain rushed
up to me and gave me a real warm greeting. I introduced my companion and
the Captain laughed, “Yes, I’ve heard about you, I believe.... You
haven’t tried ravishing any more beautiful Parisians, have you?” The
Captain smiled at him sympathetically.

Ben grimaced, but admitted that “That woman sure did set me on fire!”

“She set them all on fire,” declared the Captain. “It was a cinch. These
American officers just toppled over like stalks of grain before a mowing
machine.... But she won’t cut down any more of them for a while.”

“Why not?” demanded Ben. “Somebody beat her up?”

“No—no—” And the Captain explained about the Madame then. “She had
been operating here in Paris for more than three years and the French
had been unable to get a thing on her.... We tried and found enough to
arouse our suspicions, but she was too clever to fall for any of our
decoys. She ruined one of our best men: we set him on her trail and
damned if he didn’t come back ten days later to report that he was
convinced she was on the level and that he intended to marry her! We
sent him away for a rest.... Then we set up the sergeant here, hoping
that his boyishness would intrigue her—and it did.... On the basis of
information the sergeant obtained, we built up a case against her,
located and identified her accomplice who was masquerading as an army
chaplain, even to taking the name of a chaplain from Kentucky who has
never been in Paris at all but is on the books as being in France....
And we gave the facts to the French and let them put her away.... She is
not an American, although she must have spent a good many years there.
She’s a German by birth and her maid is probably German. The chaplain is
known to the French service and was identified by the finger prints on
an envelope which the sergeant managed to acquire. The money was coming
to this chaplain from England and Holland and being turned over to the
Madame through the maid, who was supposed to be in love with this
chaplain.... A very pretty mess altogether, and we’re obliged to this
young fellow for our success in catching them.”

“What will happen to them?” I asked. “Will they shoot the Madame?”

“Nobody knows,” he replied. “But I doubt if they do. The Allies are on
the go now. We’ve a preponderance of man power and equipment. It’s just
a matter of time before Hindenburg and Ludendorff will be beaten
under.... So perhaps our friend, the Madame, will be spared. If she had
been caught a year ago, there’d be no question about her end. It makes
all the difference in the world who’s winning the war, you know.”

Just then the General appeared and the Captain said, “What’s on for
to-night? Why don’t the two of you come along over to my place and we’ll
hunt up some excitement. I’ve been working hard and need a little
relaxation—and besides, you haven’t told me anything about your
sister.”

I said, “All right—at seven, then,” and he saluted and left us, just as
the General got in the car.

Chilblaines wanted to know if that was the man who was supposed to be so
clever and the General told him it was. “One of the best men we’ve got
in France,” explained the General. “And a good looking, upstanding
officer at that.”

When we were alone, Ben wanted to know how come: “What’s the idea of a
Captain wantin’ to go on a party with two common bums like us?”

“He’s a friend of my sister’s,” I explained. “And a darned good
sport.... He’ll be in civies probably, so we won’t feel
uncomfortable.... And he knows all the dives in Paris, Ben.”

That of course was good news to Ben, and he was all shaved and brushed
up, ready to go long before I was.

The Captain liked his wine and his women—and I can’t say that I
appreciated the latter. He wanted to make love to every good looking
woman that came along—and I could dig their eyes out!... To-night we
were sitting in a buvette, just starting the evening, and after he and
Ben had consumed about a dozen drinks, they got really friendly and the
Captain began to rave to him about me.

“Have you ever seen Canwick’s sister, Ben?” he asked. “Boy, she’s a
whole art museum! Perfectly beautiful, Ben—perfectly beautiful!... And
she looks enough like Canwick to let anyone know they’re twins.... Why,
anyone that didn’t know them couldn’t tell the difference between
them.... How about that, Sergeant: I’ll wager your nurse used to have to
lift your dresses to make sure which was which.”

Ben looked kinda funny for a moment, but he was feeling too good to be
very suspicious about anything, and when I laughed at the Captain’s
crazy remarks, he joined in and socked me on the back so hard I almost
swallowed my teeth.... I was thinking fast, however, because I knew Ben
would have to be told something sometime soon, and as soon as I had an
opportunity I explained him to hurriedly, “We’re not twins at all,
Ben—we’re triplets: Leonard and I and the girl he’s been raving about,
but he doesn’t know anything about Leonard, so please don’t say anything
about him.”... He winked understandingly and I told myself that I had
successfully crossed another bridge.

After this when the Captain got going on his favorite subject, I just
winked at Ben and didn’t worry.... God, I hoped nothing else happened:
pretty soon we’d be a sextet!


                                  —3—

Another party with the Captain. He thought Ben’s the best entertainment
he’d had in a long time, and Ben just lapped up appreciation. The two of
them got plastered to the eyes and thought they owned the city.

This night we went to what was supposed to be the wildest show in Paris
and I was forced to sit between those two and listen to Ben’s barbaric
comments being echoed and approved by the Captain, who approved not only
because of Ben’s funny cracks, but also because he liked some of those
sensuous looking creatures who paraded across the stage in their
birthday suits.

When a big-tummied blonde made her appearance, Ben piped up, “Pull in
yer belt there, Blondy!” and everyone laughed at him, so he added, “This
is a burlesque show, not a baby farm!”

People all over the house heard him and applauded, and the Captain said,
“You tell ’em, Ben.... We want to see a few little ones.”

“Look at the hips on ’at one with the black hair—the second one from
the end!” Ben observed a little later. “Looks just like a lollypop to
me, Captain!”

“Built for comfort and speed,” laughed the Captain. “How much you bid
for it, Ben?”

“If ye’re sure she’s in first class runnin’ order, Captain, I’d ’low
about ten sous fer that on a good night!”

“How much on the one in the middle of the second row?”

“Aw, I wouldn’t give her standin’ room in a bed!” declared Ben.
“Breastworks like the defenses of Verdun ... too big fer this boy. I
don’t like beeg women!... Eh, Leony?”

“I’ve never seen one yet you wouldn’t take!” I told him dryly.

But he missed the crack and continued his raving. He spied a little
red-headed pony and went into ecstasies, ending with, “Home was never
like this!”

I had to laugh with them. Home surely never was like this. Why, you
could be arrested in America for just thinking about seeing a show like
this.

It all got my goat. Captain Winstead was too darned adaptable: he could
make himself at home in the rottenest places, just as easily as he did
in the best of society.

We ended the evening at a cabaret where the cigarette girls wore nothing
but loin cloths and the entertainers wore nothing at all and came right
down beside our table to dance and make eyes at my companions and me....
I hadn’t any liking for that kind of stuff. If the women were beautiful
it would be different. But they weren’t: most of them were homely as
sin, with breasts that could whack on their knees or tummies that hung
down like big bags of meal. They all looked the worse for wear—I guess
it was too much to expect anything different from women who’d had to
entertain a half dozen different visiting armies since this war started.
I didn’t see how they could have any shape or kick or anything else
left.

The Captain said Ben was too drunk to think about women when they
finally got around to dating up any, so I got them out and took them
home. The Captain said I was a good man to have around, just for that
purpose.

He must have been working terribly hard, for he hadn’t relaxed enough
yet. For the next night we planned going on an apartment party with some
half-decent mademoiselles. I wasn’t very crazy about it, but I thought
I’d better go to look after them. So far the Captain had just
talked—maybe if I was around he’d manage to stay inside the line. I
hoped so.... It would utterly disgust me to find him really going with
any of those dirty women. Those mademoiselles were community property,
and I should think a man would feel about as happy over using one of
them as he would over using a toothbrush that had been used by a
thousand other men. I could understand Ben: he was just an animal when
it came to that. But I should think a man like the Captain would be
interested only in exclusive, more or less virginal women.


                                  —4—

Well, we had a fiasco that evening, and bad news next morning, for
Jay-Jay called upon Captain Winstead and made a lot of insinuations when
the Captain told him he didn’t know where I was or would be. The Captain
asked me why “that fellow Marfield is so anxious to find you,” but I got
out of it by saying that my sister had thrown him over and he was mad
“because she won’t write to him.”

Then at night that crazy devil suggested a strip poker game and the
women who were there readily agreed to go through with it—much to the
delight of Ben. There were five girls there, and just us three to
entertain them, so the Captain thought strip poker was as good a way of
doing it as any other—or that’s what he said.

I didn’t have any difficulty making bets, for two of the women promptly
decided to make me their prey and every time they had a chance to bet,
they insisted upon betting with me. Maybe there isn’t any such thing as
love at first sight, but I know for sure that there is such a thing as
love-loving women loving to love at first sight. They didn’t make any
bones about it at all, and before the game had progressed far these two
were actually scrapping about which one was to have me.

And I couldn’t seem to keep out of that game.... I did win several
times, and had one of the women down to her chemise, but all the time I
was losing, too, first my shoes, then my blouse (when I thanked God for
having put on my cast-iron brassière) and then my puttees.

At this point I tried to escape. I told them I didn’t like the game and
wouldn’t play any more. But the two birds of prey got a strangle hold on
me and I couldn’t get away.

At the very next hand, I lost my breeches, and the two of them sprang to
collect their winnings. But I was frantic now and I made a mad lunge
through them, grabbed up my shoes and blouse and dashed into the next
room, snapping the door lock behind me.

When I was dressed again I listened to their arguments and pleas, but I
wouldn’t come out until they promised to count me out of the game. I
thought I was all set then.

But such was not the case, for apparently my boyish modesty had just
served to arouse some longing in the hearts of these thrill-hardened
women. I was taken possession of at once and thereafter throughout the
evening I didn’t have a moment to myself: always there was at least one
pair of arms around my neck and I was being kissed and caressed until I
could have yelled out in an agony of disgust. The party broke up finally
when I had to resort to physical force to extricate myself from the very
unladylike and intimate embrace of one of my passion-ridden females. I
had to do it. If I hadn’t hit her, she’d have known as much about me as
I do myself.

Ben gave me hell on the way home. “What’n ’ell’s a matter ’th ya?...
Them was all good girls.... What th’ell ya wanta fight for?”

“I don’t like that kind of parties,” I explained.

“Damfidontave my doubts about ya sometimes, Leony,” he declared thickly.
“Ya act just like a woman sometimes.”

I didn’t argue with him because I knew he was drunk enough and had had
such a good time that he would not let my sad case bother him for long.


                                  —5—

Saw Leon for a few minutes next day and talked over our predicament.
Neither of us had anything to offer, so we didn’t come to any decision.
He was leaving Paris in a couple of days, but I’d see him again before
he went.

In view of what happened later, I was glad I was going to see him again,
because we simply had to do something. I ran into Jay-Jay and had to
duck down an alley and through a haberdashery in order to elude him. He
was just like a bad tooth: you forgot about him until he began to hurt
again.... Now that he knew I was in Paris he’d be on the watch for
me.... I didn’t know what to do. The only thing that I could do, as far
as I could see, was tell my troubles to Captain Winstead and let him
devise some means of getting rid of Jay-Jay. I was sure the Captain
would not try to take advantage of my predicament—but of course I hated
to tell him the truth.

However, I made up my mind to do it the first chance I had, so that
evening before Ben joined us I tried to lead up to the subject by asking
the Captain if he thought it was possible for a woman to disguise
herself as a man and get away with it for very long.

He said promptly that it would be exceedingly difficult. “A man can
disguise as a woman and go on forever, or until he reaches the morgues,
but a woman ... why, you can tell a woman every time. With any
cleverness at all, a man can take a wig and a few rags and practice with
his voice a while and come out a woman that can pass in any crowd. But a
woman is entirely different. You never heard of a great male
impersonator, did you? I mean, a woman who became famous because she
could make up as a man? No—because, well, you can spot a woman every
time, in spite of the most masculine of clothes and manners.”

I had to laugh. This was the man whom General Backett said was one of
the “cleverest in France.” But I didn’t forget what I was aiming at,
although I couldn’t, for the life of me, see how I could tell him. I
just continued the conversation by asking, “What sense would you rely
upon to detect a woman in disguise?... Sight, hearing, taste, smell, or
touch?”

We both laughed. I guess we were thinking of the same thing. Anyway, he
answered me. “Well, of course, I wouldn’t recommend the use of the sense
of taste or smell, although doubtless either would prove effective means
of discovery. You could not depend upon the sound of the voice. No doubt
the sense of touch could be relied upon as the surest method, but then
it would be rather a delicate problem to bring about a situation in
which you could try out the sense of touch. I mean, if a woman were in
disguise she certainly would be careful not to let anyone feel around
looking for evidence that would promptly give her away.... I guess the
best way—well, you can usually tell a woman by looking at her. I guess
the sense of sight is the one we’d have to use.”

“But you couldn’t be sure, just from looking at a woman, could you?”

“Well—it’s a case of the little things counting,” he replied, with a
smile. “Sooner or later she would give herself away. We’d just keep our
eyes open and see what we would see.”

We didn’t have a chance to continue the discussion nearer the real
subject that was on my mind, for at this point Ben appeared and we set
off to visit a woman named Fernande, whom the Captain described as
second only to Ada Gedouin when it came to “that sensuous loveliness.”

He told Ben to be on his good conduct to-night, “because we can’t tell
who is liable to be there. She has some very hoity-toity friends.”

Ben behaved for a while—until the drinks began to function in his
anatomy and his brain. I tried all evening to get a few minutes alone
with the Captain, but between his fervent attentions to the rather
beautiful Fernande and Ben’s disorderly conduct about the place, I
didn’t have a chance until we were on our way home, by which time he was
the container of such a variety of wines and beverages that he dozed off
before I could even begin to talk to him.

Ben finally decided that some sparkling water would revive all of us, so
he stopped the cab and went in search of a bottle.... I found the
Captain’s head slipping onto my shoulder, and I momentarily forgot what
an unpleasant evening I had had. His hair brushed against my cheek and
it seemed so natural, such a little thing, that I just couldn’t resist
the impulse to brush my lips ever so lightly across his mouth.

“Ah, Fernande!” sighed the Captain, and I could have choked him.

“LEONY!”

I almost fainted dead away from the shock, for there was Ben, back again
and with a bottle. He had certainly seen me kiss the Captain.

He climbed into the cab and growled thickly, “Good thing we’re goin’
home. You’re drunker’n a cow’s tail!”

The Captain opened his eyes stupidly and said, “I thought that Fernande
was making love to me.”

“Fernande, hell, Cap!” exclaimed Ben. “That was Leony tryin’ to wake ya
up.... He’s drunk, an’ ye’re drunk ... an’ I guess I’m the only sober
man in the party.”

I saw my way out then, so I began to laugh uproariously, trying to sound
as cockeyed drunk as I could. I laughed at Ben when he told the Captain
“Leony’s drunker’n a soupbean!” And I laughed when the Captain surveyed
me, mockly critical, and voiced his opinion of people “that get drunk
all of a sudden without giving any warning.” And I laughed again when
Ben bawled me out, saying, “I’m ashamed of ya, Leony. Damfyever thought
I’d live to see you in this condishun.”

I laughed so much that the Captain told Ben, as the former was leaving
us at his door, “We can’t stand that laugh, Ben. Have to leave him at
home after this, I guess.”

On the way home then Ben told me “A man ’t can’t carry his likker like a
gentleman ain’t got no business in the comp’ny o’ gentlemen.”

But I didn’t bother to answer him. My throat was dry from the strain of
so much laughter and I had had a miserable evening. Ben fell asleep in
the cab and I had to slap his face to wake him up when we reached the
enlisted men’s hotel where we were stopping.

And now I couldn’t decide whether to tell the Captain or not.... Maybe
he’d not love me at all if he knew it was me in these drab O.D. breeches
and with the haircut. If I told him, it might spoil everything between
us.... And if I didn’t tell him, Jay-Jay would probably spoil me....


                                  —6—

The next had certainly been an exciting day, although nothing exciting
happened prior to five o’clock, at which hour the General dismissed me
for the day. Ben had to wait for the boss, so I set off on foot to go
home—and I didn’t get there until eleven at night. What happened
between the hours of five and eleven is a story in itself.

It all started with Jay-Jay appearing from nowhere and catching up with
me before I even knew he was anywhere around. I couldn’t get away, so I
made the best of it and greeted him matter-of-factly.

“I knew I would meet you again, L-e-o-n-a,” he said pleasantly.

“For God’s sake!” I exclaimed. “Are you still out of your head on that
subject?”

“Not at all,” he replied cheerfully. “In fact, I’m sure I never was
wrong about it. So now, sweetness, what do you intend to do about it?”

“I don’t intend to do anything, you simpleton.” I tried to walk away,
but he stuck to me like a leech.

“You may as well stop and talk to me,” he said, “because this time
you’re not going to get away.”

I stopped and faced him. “What do you want?” I demanded. “Haven’t you
any conscience or shame or anything that normal men have?”

He just smiled superiorly. “My conscience doesn’t bother me in the
least, simply because you lied to me and wouldn’t let me in on the
secret—for reasons that are now obvious to me.... If you had played
square with me, I would have done the same with you, but you preferred
to play your game with that tin soldier captain, so now my conscience
doesn’t give even a twinge.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I insisted. “What do you
expect me to do? What do you want?”

“Oh—nothing much,” he replied with that wise smile that I hated.
“Little enough to ask in return for my silence.”

“You’re crazy, Jay-Jay. Honestly, are you shell-shocked or something?”

“Not crazy at all.... I just don’t like these French women, that’s
all.... And since you are obliging the Captain you may as well oblige
me: do your duty by your country, you know....”

I was furious. I was so mad my mouth chattered and I couldn’t speak at
all. If I knew how to hit a man real hard, I’d have killed him on the
spot.... The dirty rotten bum!

He knew I was mad, and he, too, lost his temper. “No more evasions or
beating around the bush!” he declared. “Are you or are you not coming
with me?”

I saw a taxi coming slowly along the street, apparently looking for a
fare. I decided to make a break.

“I’ll call an M.P. and have you taken in, if you don’t come,” he was
saying.

There was an M.P. not more than a hundred yards away. I couldn’t wait
any longer. I drew back and spit in his face as an answer and ducked
into the street just in time to get on the running board of the taxi as
Jay-Jay called to the M.P. and they started in pursuit.

A few minutes later I landed at the Captain’s and rushed into his
room.... And what happened after that can best be told from another
point of view.

                  *       *       *       *       *

About five minutes later Jay-Jay appeared at the Captain’s door with an
M.P. behind him.

“What’s on your mind?” inquired the Captain pleasantly, looking up from
the table on which he was playing rummy with Sergeant Canwick.

“That girl is under arrest,” spluttered Jay-Jay, marching up to the
sergeant and seizing his shoulder.

“What girl?” demanded the Captain, in surprise.

“This girl!” retorted Jay-Jay. “We saw her come up here. She’s the one
we’re after.”

“Just a minute.... Just a minute, Lieutenant,” the Captain crooned,
getting up from his chair and walking around the table. He grasped the
hand that held Sergeant Canwick’s shoulder and the hand was removed
instantly. “Now ... if you will explain this intrusion in some sensible
manner, I will listen. The sergeant happens to be a friend of mine and I
feel certain that he has not broken any rules or regulations.... Now,
what’s on your mind?”

“Don’t make me laugh, Captain,” replied Jay-Jay with a snarl. “I hate to
spoil your little fun.... I believe I could mention a few violations on
your own part, if it becomes necessary.”

The Captain laughed. “I pay for the wine I drink, Lieutenant.” Then he
turned to the M.P. and asked, in a pleasant voice, “Can you tell me what
you’re looking for?”

“Don’t know anything about it, sir,” replied the M.P. “The Lieutenant
called me to help chase a man who hopped a taxi and came here. That’s
all I know about it, sir.”

“Is this the man?” asked the Captain, indicating the sergeant.

“Can’t prove it by me, sir,” replied the M.P. “All I saw was his back.”

“Of course it’s the man!” Jay-Jay broke in impatiently. “I ought to
know. It won’t do any good to equivocate, Captain! You know as well as I
what the situation is, and I’m going to see the end of it.”

“Just what is the situation that so needs to be put to an end?” inquired
the Captain. “That is, I’d like to know, if you think you can tell me
without indulging in any more unpleasant insinuations.... You know,
Lieutenant, there’s no court-martial for hitting a man who insults you.”
He smiled meaningly at the Lieutenant. “Now, the situation is what?”

“Don’t talk to me about insults and courts-martial, Captain.... You know
as well as I—better, no doubt!—that Sergeant Canwick, your very dear
friend, is a girl!”

The Captain seemed surprised as he turned his attention to the sergeant
and asked, very seriously, “Sergeant, have you been deceiving me all
these years?”

“Enough of this!” stammered Jay-Jay. “I didn’t come here to fool around
like this. The sergeant is under arrest.”

“What for?” inquired the Captain. “For being a girl?”

“For enough!” retorted Jay-Jay, apparently at a loss to know just what
the sergeant could be accused of. “Anyway, he’s under arrest. Take him
along, Corporal. I’ll be responsible.”

The M.P. stepped hesitatingly into the center then, but before he could
touch Canwick, the Captain spoke up again, and this time his voice had
none of that mellow sarcasm that had marked it before. “We’ve had enough
of this!” he stated incisively. “What kind of damned fool nonsense is
this?... You burst into my room and try to tell me that a boy I knew in
America and have known intimately over here is not a boy at all, but a
girl. What kind of damned nonsense is that?”

The M.P. stopped. Jay-Jay was momentarily taken back by the obvious
sincerity in the Captain’s words, but he quickly recovered his pose of
domination. “I suppose you want me to believe that you are not aware of
the sergeant’s sex, Captain?”

“I don’t give two damns in hell what you believe, Lieutenant!” replied
the Captain. “What you think or conceive in your stumbling stupidity
doesn’t concern me in the least. But you have seen fit to crash into my
rooms without any invitation from me, and I demand an explanation at
once ... and a sensible one.”

“Don’t you believe that that is Leona Canwick sitting there?” Jay-Jay’s
voice was almost screaming.

The Captain laughed. “Is this a joke, Lieutenant?”

“Dammit all, Captain, that is Leona Canwick!”

“I’m afraid you have been sleeping in a distillery, Lieutenant.... Of
course that isn’t Leona ... why, I had a letter from Leona just this
morning, mailed in New York two weeks ago, and this chap has been over
here for seven or eight months at least.”

“Let’s see the letter, Captain.”

“I have half a mind to pitch you through the window for your
impertinence, Lieutenant.... You are an insufferable pup!...
Nevertheless, to show you how foolish, how utterly foolish your
suggestions are, I will let you see that letter.”

He went to his trunk and returned quickly with a letter, addressed to
him in handwriting that looked very much like Leona Canwick’s and
postmarked New York. “Would you like to see the signature also,
Lieutenant?” he asked, flipping over the page to show the end of the
letter. “Are you convinced now? Do you believe me?”

Jay-Jay didn’t reply at once, but finally he said boldly, “There’s only
one way you can convince me: let the sergeant strip right here and now.”

“You are insulting,” declared the Captain. “That’s a hell of a thing to
ask any man to do—regardless of what you think.”

“There you are!” taunted the other. “If he has nothing to fear, why
should he mind undressing?... He’ll undress here or come to police
headquarters and do it—I can promise you that!”

“You aren’t making any threats, are you, Lieutenant?” the Captain
inquired mildly.

“I’m making nothing!” stormed Jay-Jay. “This nonsense has gone far
enough, sir.... I insist that Sergeant Canwick strip, either here and
now or at police headquarters. Which will it be?”

“Sergeant,” said the Captain, “do you mind humoring this lunatic?” But
before the sergeant could answer, he continued, “No—as you say,
Lieutenant, this nonsense has gone far—so far, indeed, that I insist
that we go further, go the limit.... We will go to police headquarters
at once.”

While he put on his tunic, Jay-Jay walked around the room and even
contrived to steal a glance into the adjoining bedroom. “Would you like
to see if I have anything concealed up my sleeves, Lieutenant?” inquired
the Captain humorously. He took off his cap shook it violently. “You
see, nothing in the hat.... Shall I empty my pockets for your scrutiny?”

He was not very gentle in shoving the visitors through the door—and the
party set off for police headquarters.

Arrived there, Captain Winstead insisted upon seeing the Provost
Marshal, and when that officer appeared, shook hands with him and
briefly explained the purpose of the visit. The provost smiled and led
them into his office, where he asked Jay-Jay for an explanation of his
attitude and his reasons for wanting the sergeant arrested. The whole
matter was threshed over again and finally the provost turned to the
sergeant and asked him if he had anything to say on the matter.

“Not a thing, sir,” replied the sergeant, “except that this man has been
hounding me at every opportunity, even going so far as to try to tear my
clothes off me.”

“Where was that?” inquired the provost.

“In Tours.”

“And does General Backett know about this?”

“No, sir—I didn’t need to tell him. The General’s chauffeur came along
and knocked the Lieutenant into the street.”

Jay-Jay flushed to the roots of his hair.

The provost said, “Well, we will settle this matter for once and all. If
the Lieutenant’s charges are true, it will be a case outside my
jurisdiction but you will be in a difficult position at best. If what he
says is proved untrue, then that is an end to it and any further
molestations from him will call for severe action.... I’ll ask you to
remove your clothes, sergeant, without leaving the room.”

The sergeant went over into the corner and while he removed his clothes,
piece by piece, and with his back to the officers, the Captain observed
to the Lieutenant, “If what you say is proved untrue, Lieutenant, I
shall expect you never to bother me again with any foolish insinuations.
Do you understand?”

But the provost interrupted to say, “You needn’t worry about that,
Captain Winstead, if the sergeant is really a man.”

At that moment Sergeant Canwick stood up and turned to face the
assembled inspectors.

The M.P. who had accompanied the Lieutenant to the Captain’s rooms was
the first to laugh—for which the provost promptly rewarded him with a
scowl.

Then the Captain began to chuckle.

And then the provost himself had to laugh—for the look on Jay-Jay’s
face was enough to make even the General Staff burst into guffaws.

“You may go, Lieutenant,” suggested the provost.

Sergeant Canwick stood with his breeches in one hand and his shirt in
the other, laughing so hard that he couldn’t begin to get into either.

It was fifteen minutes before he managed to get dressed and he and the
Captain saluted the provost, thanked him, and returned to the Captain’s
rooms.

When the door had shut, the sergeant began to remove the blouse with the
sergeant’s chevrons on it, as he observed smilingly, “That’s the
funniest thing I ever went through!... You sure are a brick, Captain.”

The Captain was still laughing when he went into the bedroom and opened
the closet door to permit its occupant to come out.

“Lordy lord!” I exclaimed. “I’m almost suffocated!”

“Well, get your breath,” said the Captain, “and then explain how come
this masquerade, young lady—now you are saved from the villain’s
clutches.”

“If you don’t mind,” interrupted Leon, getting into the blouse which I
gave him, “I’ve got a lot to do and not much time in which to do it, so
I’d better run along. I’m leaving Paris in the morning.”

“You be sure to write to me!” I told him. “And for heaven’s sake, stay
out of trouble and don’t get yourself killed, or I’ll never get out of
this army.”

He laughed. “Stay out of trouble yourself, sweetie. You’re the one that
causes all the difficulties.... I’ll leave her in your hands, Captain,
and if anything comes up that requires my help, I’ll go A.W.O.L. any
time to oblige.... So long....” And out the door he went, with us
smiling after him.

“Well, I’ll be damned,” declared the Captain, after he had gone. “This
beats anything I ever heard of.... And you and I have been on some funny
parties together ... some very funny parties....” And he burst into
laughter that kept up so long I had to laugh, too, for after all the
memory of such things as that strip poker game, and the Madame Gedouin
affair were enough to make anyone laugh.

“No wonder the Madame complained about your being so cold to her!”
exclaimed my friend. “Oh—oh—oh—this is rich!”

“Well, what do you intend to do about it?” I asked.

He sobered up long enough to say, “Apparently I’ve demonstrated what I
will do, haven’t I?”

We just sat there and looked at each other then. He couldn’t seem to get
used to me as a girl and I couldn’t seem to feel like a girl, except
that I felt happy and safe for the first time in months. Just before Ben
arrived, he came over as if he would take me in his arms, but he stopped
and said, very frankly, “Gosh, I can’t even kiss you—it doesn’t seem
right at all.”

“You’d better not be kissing me,” I told him. “You’d forget yourself
sometime and then Ben would be sure we were crazy. Ben doesn’t know
anything about the secret except that my twin brother is in the army
under an assumed name.”

“Don’t worry about that ten-minute egg,” he told me. “We’ll negotiate
some way of keeping you safe and worryless.... I’ll try to get a
transfer. Get you in with me!”

“Well—I don’t know,” I admitted doubtfully. “It would be lots of fun,
but ... well, I don’t know.”

Then Ben arrived and we started out on a party that turned out to be
loads of fun because the Captain could not make love to any of the women
and none of the women could make love to me—because whenever anyone
tried it, he just burst out laughing so hard that I had to laugh, too.
We were just like a couple of kids, and Ben thought we were crazy.

Maybe we were, but the Captain seemed to be very happy. And I’m damned
sure I was!


                                  —7—

Although the Captain hadn’t had any chance to make love to me, we became
better acquainted and everything was going along smoothly. He didn’t pay
any attention to the pretty mam’selles any more and he didn’t drink but
only a little now and then, and Ben said, “Damfidont believe you guys is
what they calls satiated! Grog shops and ladies parlors don’t appeal to
ya atall any more.... Well, it takes a strong he-man to stand the gaff
in this burg—which bein’ so, I’ll see ya later!”

We were glad to be alone for a while—and if another Intelligence man
hadn’t come in, I think we both might have forgotten that I was in a
man’s uniform.... Oh, I loved that man so terribly much: so much it
almost hurt sometimes!

He was a wild man! He wanted us to be married just as soon as possible!

But we were leaving Paris next day for a trip down the coast, to look
over the bases at Brest, St. Nazaire and Bordeaux, so I wouldn’t become
the secret bride of Captain Clark Winstead for at least a few more
weeks—all I hoped was that nothing happened now to ruin everything.
But, of course, it would be my luck.... Well, we couldn’t cross a river
until we got to it, and then maybe we’d find a bridge. I hadn’t fully
recovered from the shock of the last good luck I had: I mean about
Jay-Jay, for it was just luck and nothing else that the Captain ran into
Leon and mistaking him for me insisted upon taking him to his rooms. It
was just dumb luck: if it had happened the day before, or the day after
or an hour later, it wouldn’t have done me the least bit of good, and I
don’t know what the Captain would have done under the circumstances, if
Leon hadn’t been there to take my place in the ordeal.... As I say, I
couldn’t expect too much luck—but I did hope that Jay-Jay was finished,
once and for all.... As for marrying Captain Winstead, well, that was
something we’d just have to worry about for a while.

Upon his suggestion I sent a hundred francs to Pierre Lenotier to square
up for the black eye Ben gave him, so perhaps that worry was off my mind
at last, too.... It’s remarkable what a few nights in Paris can do for
one, if you happen to be lucky!

The Captain said he was going to try to get me transferred to his
office. We could be together almost all the time ... and then what would
happen? Frankly I didn’t trust myself very far! Even with the best
morale, army life was demoralizing!



                               CHAPTER 17

                            THE DEATH SHIPS


                                  —1—

We had to go down to Brest by train because our wagon broke down just
outside of Paris and when the General heard that it would take perhaps
two days to fix it, he told Ben to stay there and bring it down, and the
rest of us took a train.

It was sure one long tiresome journey even in a half-decent French
train—which corresponds to a third-rate American railroad bus.

And then to cap it all, when we arrived in the station, a sergeant
rushed up and took our baggage, threw it on a truck and drove away
before we could even begin to wonder at such actions. The General had
wired for a reservation at the Hôtel Continentale, so we proceeded
thither at once. The maître bowed us in and told the General that his
bags had already arrived and were in his suite.

We went up and almost immediately the General thought of something he
wanted from his trunk. I went over to get it, the trunk opened easily
enough, but there on the very top of the contents was a pair of very
fancy garters, a pair of silk bloomers, a shimmy and a pair of silk
hose, all more or less mussed, as if they had been worn. I took so long
getting what he wanted that the General finally came over, and when he
saw the assortment of ladies’ wear he exploded like an H.E.

“What in the devil is this?” he demanded. “Is this a joke Sergeant?”

I said that I didn’t know anything about it.

He was dumfounded. Chilblaines was smiling behind his hand and I was
having a hard time controlling myself, for the very idea of the General
taking such souvenirs from a woman was utterly ludicrous.

Then he took a look at the end of the trunk and he, too, began to laugh.
“Huh—that’s not my trunk!” he declared, reaching down to read the tag
on it. “Colonel Everard Clark, Base Headquarters, Brest, Finistere....
Well, Colonel, this is very illuminating, indeed!” He stopped and looked
at me, saying with a broad smile, “The Colonel must be running a
laundry.”

Well, I thought the General was a good sport to take it like that. Even
when I suggested that it was all probably due to a mistake on the part
of the non-com who brought up the luggage, he just smiled and said,
“We’ll just leave it open like that and wait for the Colonel to come for
it.”

Sure enough, not many minutes elapsed before the Colonel appeared, very
much winded, to ask if we had his luggage. “That fool sergeant brought
your kits to my room.”

“Is this your trunk?” inquired the General, indicating the open trunk
with the underthings gleaming from the top.

The Colonel was very much embarrassed but he admitted that it was his,
explaining hastily, “Some things I bought to send home.”

“Oh—” exclaimed the General. “Bought them from a living model, eh?...
Or did you just try them on to see if they would fit?”

“I—er—that is—you see,” the Colonel tried to explain. “I bought
them——”

“I don’t doubt it at all, Colonel,” declared the General, laughing, “and
I’ll wager you paid a high price for them, too!”

“Rather expensive,” admitted the Colonel lamely.

“I’m sure your wife will be glad to get them,” the General observed
cheerfully. “Wives always appreciate such things, I believe.”

The Colonel was very embarrassed. He tried to smile but couldn’t. He
tried to speak, but couldn’t. Finally he just slammed down the lid and
seized the handle of the trunk. On his way to the door he saluted and
said, “I’ll send your things right down, sir.”

After he had gone the General shook his head and smiled broadly, saying
again, “I’m sure his wife would be glad to get her hands on those
things!”

It was all very funny and it made me think of a verse of Parley-Vous
that I had heard many times, about

                  The Colonel got the Croix de Guerre
                  And nobody knows what he got it for!
                    Hinky dinky parley-vous?


                                  —2—

Ben finally arrived in Brest, about four days late. Said the roads were
terrible—but I knew Benny had a pretty good time along the route.
Anyway, we went on down to St. Nazaire and went traveling around after
we got here, looking over everything from wharfs to warehouses and
hospitals.

Naturally, if there was anything going on anywhere, we would be just in
time to get in on it: and that’s what happened at St. Nazaire, about the
third day we were there, for the “flu” hit the place and just naturally
knocked all the red tape and organization into a cocked hat. That whole
area was a huge madhouse for more than a week, and I doubt if anyone
knew really whether he was going or coming. I felt sick just from
thinking about it.

The terrible plague swept into St. Nazaire on the ships that came from
the States and swept its way across the whole area within two days’
time. It was awful. Death must have grinned in glee as he counted the
thousands of strong young bodies turned purple and black, falling into
his lap.... Coming with the suddenness of a Brittany storm, the epidemic
spread its net of conquest, virtually unopposed, and it seemed as if the
grinning skeleton behind it knew that the victims were helpless, stupid
as dumb beasts, bewildered and terrified but utterly helpless to cope
with this onrush of sickening death.

The worst of it came with the arrival of two great transports, loaded
with thousands of cases, dead and alive, of this mystifying plague. As
soon as General Backett heard of the seriousness of the situation and
learned how inadequate were the facilities for handling this burden, he
promptly insisted that he be allowed to go to work and that his car and
his assistants be used wherever necessary. He himself undertook duties
from which he graduated thirty years before, and Chilblaines, made
useful in various capacities by the General and other superiors, very
soon felt that he had done his bit for one war.

Ben and I worked like niggers, after converting the car into an
ambulance. We made so many trips between the docks and the hospitals
that it seemed impossible that the ships could carry any cargo besides
this one of dead and dying.

“They ought to be flying black flags,” I told Ben, as we helped an
ambulance driver slide a stretcher bearing a dying man into his car.

“Shut up!” he retorted. “Ya gotta laugh at ’em an’ tell ’em they’ll be
all well in a coupla days.... Don’t kill ’em with talkin’ if they ain’t
dead already.”

But cheer was out of the question. We arrived at the hospital just after
the ambulance and the man we had helped to lift in was dead and turned
purple. “He died sometime on the road,” whispered the driver. “Damned
near scared me pink when I opened the door an’ saw that in front o’
me!... He didn’t look so bad when we put him in here, did he?”

“Boy,” muttered Ben, “ya can’t tell anything by looks in this stuff!...
They look all right—ya turn yer back a minute—and when ya look again
they’re deader’n hell an’ turnin’ all colors o’ the rainbow.”


                                  —3—

Once, some days later, while helping to unload a hospital train, Ben was
carrying the forward end of a stretcher and in stepping down from the
train onto the platform he gave the burden a twist in an effort to avoid
slipping. He turned around and smiled at the poor chap whose
never-to-be-worn shoes hung over the bar of the stretcher, but the smile
didn’t get a smile in return. Instead, the man launched into a stream of
vile invectives that made my listening ears burn with shame.

“Don’t be grinnin’ at me, ya big slop-eared bastard!” he cried out. “I
don’t want any o’ your God damn smiles!... An’ handle that careful, ya
leather headed cow! Whatta ya tryin’ to do, ya thickhead!... Tryin’ ta
dump me outa here?... Just try an’ shake me up! Any lip from anyone o’
ya an’ I’ll get up an’ knock the brains outa yer head!”

Ben tried at first to smile away the legless man’s curses, but I could
see that he was having a hard job of it. I don’t think Ben ever took
that kind of talk from any man in his life, so I expected him to drop
his end at any minute or at least turn around and blast hell out of the
fellow in terms as good as he gave. But Ben plodded on, while the man
continued his profane yelling.

“What the hell ya doin’ in France anyway? You dirty slackers with yer
yella bellies.... Why don’t ya go up an’ fight instead o’ layin around
here, three hundred miles from the front!... Why? Cause yer a bunch o’
God damn cowards!... Don’t laugh at me, ya big pill-roller!... Put me
down!... Put me down, ya God damn slacker....”

But Ben went on while I followed in more or less fear lest the
shell-shock case suddenly heave himself out of the stretcher. We reached
the ambulance in safety, however, and after the canvassed poles and
their burden had been deposited in the racks, Ben bawls out, “There
ya’re, big boy! Sorry I can’t stay an’ talk to ya.” I closed the doors
and the car bounced away over the cobblestones.

“Gee, couldn’t that guy cuss!” exclaimed my comrade as we walked back
for the next cripple. “I never was talked to like that since I was a kid
an’ dropped a hammer on the old man’s head.... If that guy’d had two
feet, I’d a socked him galleywest right there!”

Some of the men standing around were smiling, as if the incident had
been a good joke on the big fellow. What utter damn fools some people
are! I gripped Ben’s arm and told him “I’m glad you controlled yourself,
Ben.... It would have made a fine fool out of you if you had told him
where to get off.”

He just laughed. “What the hell could a guy do with a bird like that?...
The poor bastard’s had enough trouble to make any man cuss.”

“Yes—he’s entitled to be called a hero, I suppose.”

“Well, he sure sounded like the genuine article alright,” he agreed.

I told the General about the incident the next day and he surprised me
by saying, “We’ll give him a surprise, Sergeant.... Garlotz has been a
good man all the way through, and anyway we shouldn’t be riding around
behind an ordinary private: I think we can find a little extra pay for
him before long.”

So I didn’t say anything to Ben about the matter, but soon after the
General broke the news to him and told him it was a reward for good
behavior and especially for his decency to the legless man.

Ben thanked him and I expected him to thank me when we were alone, but
when that moment came he appeared to be genuinely distressed over the
business. “If I fight I get throwed in the jug and stay a private,” he
argued. “If I don’t fight, I get congratulations and stripes. What the
hell kind of a war is this, anyway?”

Well, there was no explaining such things to a man like that, so I just
let him argue.



                               CHAPTER 18

                           THE BEST MAN WINS


                                  —1—

Well, we got to Paris again and now I was Sergeant Major Canwick and the
promotion came about as a result of Captain Winstead’s trying to get me
a transfer. He discovered that he would have to talk to General Backett
about it and the General promptly and irrevocably declared that he
couldn’t get along without me. “Isn’t an old soldier entitled to any
consideration in this army?” he asked the Captain. “If I didn’t have
Canwick, I wouldn’t have any staff at all.”

And the upshot of it was that I received a boost, in appreciation of my
services. The General told me, “I had forgot about you, Sergeant, until
that Captain came around suggesting that I could get along without you.”

So I suppose I had to thank the Captain for it.... Besides, I didn’t
know whether I would be any safer with him anyway. No doubt I wouldn’t
get caught up by any inspections or anything like that, but when you’re
with a man all the time, and you love him as terribly much as I loved
the Captain, and there isn’t much to do except love him and let him love
you—well, I didn’t think it would be the safest thing in the world.

The best thing for us was to get married: but we hadn’t been able to
figure out a means of doing it. There were all sorts of obstacles: the
army regulations required a lot of information about the girl and the
French had a lot of red tape that you had to go through. It looked
rather out of the question at present, but the Captain said he’d dope
out some way—and I hoped he would, for he was “mon homme” or I was
crazy as a bedbug.

Big things were in the wind. Everyone there in Paris had the spirit of
victory now. No more pessimism. No more kicks and complaints and passing
the buck. Allied hopes were running strong at last and it looked as if
the Germans were on the run. The Allied armies were driving ahead
relentlessly from the Rhine to the sea. It was just as if the
proverbially slow grinding mills of the gods were at last beginning to
grind into the promised and inevitable dust the selfish ambitions of
that predatory Prussian gang.... All about us was activity and renewed
enthusiasm. A new spirit seemed to permeate the atmosphere of the French
capital, and even the General was moved to comment upon it.

“It looks as if the fireworks would end without our getting even a
glimpse of them!” he said regretfully. “God knows I want the business
over, but I’m going to get up there where the action is just once, for
at least one glimpse, if I die in the attempt!”

I didn’t know what we could be doing up there, but I was just as curious
to see it at first-hand as the General was. It wouldn’t make me mad if
he managed to go up.... Which reminded me that Leon was up there
somewhere. I hadn’t heard from him. Didn’t know where he was. Wouldn’t
know if he were dead. If anything happened to him, I’d be in a beautiful
mess, to be sure!

Yet, somehow, for some unaccountable reason, I just couldn’t picture
Leon getting himself killed. I couldn’t imagine him in any field of
danger, regardless of the great change that had come over him. My memory
of the old Leon was too keen to permit me to worry much about him
throwing his life away. So I wasn’t reading the casualty lists very
anxiously. I did wonder sometimes if he was in danger and if he’d found
it possible to obey the admonition that was the motif of that marching
song he so hated: I mean the one about “Keep Your Britches Dry.”

I’d ceased to worry about him, though. What I wanted now was to get
married—and how! The Captain was a changed man: honestly, I hardly knew
him, he was so different. No more wild parties. No more women. No more
anything, but me. He had managed to get the soldier part out of his head
and now he thought of me only as a girl. He called me Canwick when Ben
or anyone else was around, but the minute we were alone it was “Leona”
this and “Leona” that. If he had called me Canwick or Sergeant then, I’d
have passed out from the shock: I mean, if nobody was around. We sure
were a funny Damon-Pythias combination, and I’ll bet there was more than
one man in this man’s army making dirty cracks about us behind our
backs.

My rôle now was in many respects more difficult than it was before the
Captain learned of my identity. Then I was a man all the time and to
everyone. Now I was a man one minute and a woman the next. I had to
change character so quickly sometimes and with such little warning that
it was a wonder I hadn’t given myself away before this. It was really
very trying on the nerves to be feeling nice and comfy with the man you
love and then have to effect a sudden transformation into a
semihard-boiled egg of a sergeant just because somebody else blew in.
And I could see that it was trying on the Captain’s nerves, too.


                                  —2—

Well, part of the difficulties were solved. The Captain hit upon the
idea of calling me by the same name “Leony” under all circumstances, in
order not to keep him on the jump all the time. Well, I didn’t mind, but
I couldn’t retaliate: I mean, I couldn’t call him Clark all the time. I
had to hop around between Clark one minute and Captain Winstead the
next. However, we were progressing.

Ben was kinda shocked the first time he heard the Captain call me Leony
instead of Sergeant or Canwick, but the Captain said, “What the hell’s
the matter with you? Haven’t I as much right to call him Leony as you
have?... And I call you Ben, don’t I?”

“Sure—sure,” agreed Ben. “It just seems funny to hear an officer
callin’ the kid here Leony, that’s all.”

“Aw—go take a drink for yourself, Ben,” the Captain told him
laughingly.

So I guess Ben didn’t suspect anything funny. He was so used to being
called Ben that it seemed perfectly natural for anyone to call him that.
If General Pershing ever happened to mention the name in his hearing,
Ben would have assumed at once that the Commander in Chief meant Ben
Garlotz, and would have promptly reported to the General.... Ben was a
good guy all right, but he didn’t need to get funny ideas just because
people used my nickname as well as his. My nickname was as good as his,
even if it did sound sort of effeminate and odd. But then there was a
lot of odder things in the world than that.

We were in the army yet: but nobody would know it to judge by the way I
felt most of the time. “In the clouds” would be more appropriate as a
descriptive phrase.


                                  —3—

Well, we were working pretty hard those days and the General was pulling
strings in an effort to take a trip up to the active sectors.

Ben was determined we should all go out for a celebration one night and
the Captain had a devil of a time convincing him that he was “off the
wine and women.” We finally did get rid of him, however, and we spent
the rest of the evening trying to dope out some way of getting married.

It certainly was a problem. In the first place, the very idea of two
soldiers getting married, to each other, was enough to make anyone
laugh. How could we explain to any priest, minister or chaplain that one
of us was a woman? Who could say which was the bride and which the
groom? And who would be crazy enough to perform a ceremony for such a
pair of obvious jokers?... The end of the evening found us exactly where
we started: I didn’t see how we were ever going to get married until
after this war was over. But Clark insisted that we do it, somehow.
Well, I wasn’t going to worry any more about it. If he could think up
some means of getting us married without me getting into trouble, all
well and good. Otherwise—well, I did want to marry him as soon as
possible.

When Ben came home that night he was lit to the ears and insisted upon
singing. I gathered that he had just mastered the words to that
Franco-American ditty that runs like this:

                “Bon soir, ma chère!
                Comment allez-vous?
                Voulez-vous jig-a-jig avec moi ce soir?
                ’Oui oui—Mais où?’
                Donnez moi, chère, ici
                Une baiser toute de suite!
                Et si vous jig-a-jig avec moi ce soir—
                Ou la la, chère!”

And when Ben bellowed in French, he slid over or mispronounced all the
words he didn’t know and emphasized with a roar such unmistakable things
as “jig-a-jig” and “toute de suite.” His music was atrocious!

He had picked up another ballad that’s crude but rather cute:

               Sacré nom de nom de nom!
               La mademoiselle she wouldn’t come—
               He offered her francs, he offered her rum—
               But mademoiselle she wouldn’t come.
               Her grandmère cried “O nom de nom!”
               He said “She’s pretty but beaucoup dumb!”
               O sacré nom de nom de nom
                 de nom de nom de nom de nom!—
               La, mademoiselle’s too dumb to come!
               Sacré nom de nom de nom de nom
                 de nom de nom de nom!

Indeed, my bunkmate was so busy learning additions to his repertoire
that he really couldn’t have much time left to get suspicious of me....
He was mumbling that “nom de nom” thing even after he got in bed, and I
think he must have sung himself to sleep: at least he was still crooning
it when I dropped off to keep my date with Morpheus.


                                  —4—

A few nights later we had a close call. It was such a close call that I
had the shivers. That dumb-bell Ben comes tramping into the Captain’s,
opening the door even as he knocked, and for about five seconds I was
paralyzed, for I didn’t have enough time to think, let alone extricate
myself from Clark’s arms.

Just by grace of God the only light in the place was what came in from
the bedroom, so Ben really couldn’t tell exactly what he was seeing. He
stood there stupidly staring at us for a minute or so, then the Captain
says, “Where’s your sidekicker, Ben?” And Ben was so flustered, he just
said “’Scuse me, Captain—I’ll go find him.” And out he went, closing
the door behind him.

He didn’t find me, however, and when he came back an hour later, I was
still there. He looked rather funny at me but started in to kid the
Captain about his “lovin’ party” saying, “Ya oughta lock yer door when
ya’re plannin’ anything like that, Captain! The broad’s husband might
walk in on ya, ya know.”

I guess the Captain thought we’d better treat him well, under the
circumstances, for he hauled out a bottle and three glasses and we had
several shots of refreshment.

Finally Ben recalled that he had been looking for me. “Where the hell
you been, Leony?” he demanded.

“I had some errands to do,” I replied. “And I figured I’d meet you here
anyway.”

“Did ya see the mam’selle the Captain had?” he winked at me behind his
hand.

“No—guess she left before I showed up,” I said.

“She usually does,” said the Captain, with a laugh.

Well, after a couple of drinks, Ben asked the Captain if he wanted to
hear the new songs he’d just learned, and when nobody offered any
objections he entertained us for half an hour bellowing out those
barbaric ballads, while the Captain kept time for him by clicking a
silver pocket-piece against a wine bottle.... There was no getting rid
of the big boy that night.... And we were no nearer getting married!


                                  —5—

Three days later the General connected and we were going on a jaunt to
see the sights. I asked him where we would go and what we would have to
do.

“We’re going up through Château Thierry and Epernay and right along
until we reach Toul and Nancy.... Just a little tour of observation ...
look over some hospitals and their subsidiary organizations ... see how
this war is being fought ... may even get a glimpse of fireworks and
hear a few boches groan!”

“When do we go?”

“Oh—not for several days yet.”

So I reported this news to Clark as soon as I could get in touch with
him, and we both just walked the floor and racked our brains for a
scheme that would enable us to get married.

“Dammit all, Leona!” he said, over and over again, “Something must be
done! You’re the first girl I ever wanted to marry, and here you are
chasing away off to the woods. God only knows when you’ll get back!”

“Well—I’ll be back sometime,” I reminded him, trying to make us both
feel better about it.

“Sometime isn’t as good as now!” he declared. “You’re the first girl I
ever wanted to marry, and by the lord chief justice, I’m going to marry
you, somehow, somewhere——!”

“Sometime!” I added, with a kiss for good measure.

“Not sometime: now!” he insisted. “I want you more than it’s right for
any man to want a girl without getting her.... And what if something
should happen to you? My God, I’d never forgive myself!... I ought to
get you transferred in spite of General Backett.... I’ll get you a
commission.... Or have you made a Field Clerk ... I’ll do something to
keep you from going up there!”

“Don’t be foolish, sweetheart,” I told him. “I really want to go, for
one thing; and also if you made any great effort to get me out of it,
you might just get me into trouble.... Better to let well enough alone
... I’ll be back, safe and sound.... Let’s enjoy what little time we
have now....”

But he was not to be calmed. He kept pacing back and forth, talking
impossible things and swearing politely over the way things were going,
when he suddenly stopped and burst into smiles.

“Comment?” I inquired.

“I’ve got it!” he cried gleefully. “Just the thing! My God, but we’re
dumb not to think of such a simple way!” He danced a jig of jubilation.

“What is it?” I asked. “Have you gone crazy?”

“We’ve got to get a license before we do anything else,” he finally
explained. “We’ll go to a shop to-morrow and get you outfitted from pate
to pied in the chicest apparel a mademoiselle can wear. Then we’ll trip
along and visit a mairie somewhere outside of Paris.... Trés bien!”

“But how can I use my own name?” I objected, trying to find loopholes in
his scheme.

“That’s just the reason for going outside the city, chère,” he
explained. “We’ll drift out to some little burg and nobody will be the
wiser about Miss Leona Canwick, born in Wakeham.”

“I wasn’t born in Wakeham.”

“Well, wherever you were born—it makes no difference.... And in a few
short days from now, we’ll get us hitched tightly together pour la vie!”

“Well—” I tried to think of some other objection, but I couldn’t, so we
finally agreed to try his plan next day.

In the morning I got away long enough to purchase a frock and everything
to go with it, from hat to shoes, and had it all sent to the Captain’s
rooms, in his name. Then in the afternoon I got away early and met
Clark. We had a bite to eat and went to his place, where I made a quick
change to the new clothes. He had to run out to get me some rouge and
lipstick and face powder, but eventually I looked decent enough to
appear on the street. Clark held me at arm’s length and surveyed me
critically; then, when he was satisfied, he insisted upon mussing me all
up by kissing me and almost crushing me in his arms, so I had to waste
more time on my toilette.

Finally we set off, but we no more than got out of the door before we
bumped into Ben himself, and the look on his face was enough to make a
wooden soldier laugh. “Uh—uh—uh—” he tried to speak but succeeded
only in gulping and staring the harder at me.

I didn’t know what to do. It occurred to me to laugh and tell him that
we were playing a joke on one of the Captain’s friends, but I didn’t
have time to carry this inspiration into action, for the Captain spoke
up, almost without any hesitation at all. “Glad to see you, Ben.... Also
glad to have you meet Leony’s twin sister.... You’ve heard me speak of
her, haven’t you?” He turned to me and said, “Miss Canwick, this is your
brother’s best friend and dearest enemy, Sergeant Garlotz.”

“How do you do, Sergeant Garlotz,” I said, smiling brightly. “I’m
awfully glad to meet you ... I’ve heard of you through Leon.”

“Glad to meet you, Miss Canwick,” he mumbled awkwardly, continuing to
stare at me. “You’re the livin’ image of your brother ... only nicer
lookin’, o’ course!” He managed to smile as he gave this final
observation.

“Don’t be flattering my fiancée,” interrupted the Captain. “Were you
looking for Leon, Ben?”

“Yeh—I thought he’d be here with you, Captain.”

“He’s supposed to be, sometime this evening,” my companion informed him.
“He hasn’t seen his sister yet.... I saw him, perhaps half an hour ago,
and he said he had an errand to do.... Let’s see, where was he going?”

“Maybe I could find him,” Ben observed, willing to say anything that
would necessitate his staying a few minutes longer.

“I’ll tell you what you do, Ben,” said the Captain. “He was going over
to see M’sieur ... what the devil was that name?... Oh, yes: M’sieur
Taureau. You can get him on the phone at Les Abattoirs de la Rive
Gauche, on the ... let’s see ... on the Rue des Morillons.”

“Huh?” Ben grinned his ignorance. “If you’ll just write that down,
Captain, I’ll try an’ get him.... He’s an awful guy to keep track of,
ain’t he?”

We smiled our agreement while the Captain wrote down the address on a
slip of paper. “There you are, Ben.... And if you find that rascal, tell
him to get over here as soon as possible.”

“Yes, sir,” says Ben, moving away, but turning to tell me that “I’m glad
to’ve met ya, Miss Canwick.”

“The pleasure is mutual, Sergeant Garlotz,” I said, as he disappeared
into the stairway.

We waited a few minutes then. Time for a few kisses and caresses. Then
we set off once more, found a taxi, rode for an hour or more and arrived
in Corbeil just in time to transact our little business. It was no
trouble at all. A few questions. Captain Winstead showed papers to
identify himself. We signed some book, and the trick was done. Another
ride and we were back at the Captain’s and I was getting out of that
outfit and into my O.D.’s. While I dressed I ran over in my mind the
various scenes of this little play and when I came into the other room
to rejoin Clark, the first thing I said was, “You’ve got me into a fine
mess with your jokes? What if Ben tried to phone that address you gave
him? He’ll be tearing mad and will suspect right away that I am not what
you said I was. Then what will I say?”

“Oh, he probably didn’t even try to phone M’sieur Taureau,” he replied,
with a laugh. “And if he did, we’ll just say it was a joke, that’s
all.... Of course, you’ll have to tell him your sister’s in town ...
tell him she just arrived in Paris from Spain.”

“But he’ll want to see us together as sure as I’m standing here,” I
objected.

He didn’t have any suggestions to make in this regard, until after he
had thought it all over again. Then he said, “Well, you’ll have to tell
him that your sister is leaving town to-night. Then he won’t wonder why
he doesn’t see the two of you together, because you can’t be together if
she isn’t here.” He reached for his cap and blouse. “Just the thing! And
I’ll run over to the hotel now, before you go home. I’ll tell him we’ve
been waiting hours for you to show up and say good-by to your sister
before she leaves ... that you had to go because you’re with a party of
friends.... And for him to give you holy hell for not keeping your
appointment with her.... How’s that for a foolproof story?”

“Sounds all right,” I admitted. “But what reason have I for not keeping
the appointment?”

“Just say you couldn’t get here and couldn’t get us on the phone.... You
can blame anything on the Paris telephone service, you know.”

So his plan was carried out. He found Ben at home and told him his story
before Ben had a chance to ask about the joke. Then when he returned to
the rooms, I left and went home to receive a verbal trouncing from my
roommate. He had finished two bottles of wine and was feeling rather
cocky, so told me in great detail about meeting my sister with the
Captain and about the Captain coming to find me “because your sister had
to go on without sayin’ good-by to ya!... Ain’t you a fine specimen of
Amer’can manhood, with a nice li’l sister like that, an’ you oft
somewhere gettin’ cockeyed? Ya oughta be ashamed o’ yourself!”

I told him I was and tried to act and sound very sorry because I had
missed my sister. But as soon as I had him calmed down on that score, he
changed to the subject of the telephone address the Captain gave him.

“What the hell’s that guy think I am anyway?” he wanted to know. “I ask
him where you was an’ he wrote down this address an’ told me to call ya
up there. So I went out an’ found a telephone an’ asked a frog to get
the number for me, an’ he wouldn’t do it: just stood there and laffed at
me.”

“What for?” I asked innocently.

“That’s what I wanted to know, an’ he says, ‘You cannot have those
number.’... I says, ‘How do you know this Monsoor Taureau ain’t got no
phone?’... He says ‘Your friend have play joke with you. M’sieur Taureau
is M’sieur le Bull, comprenez-vous?’... ‘Whatayamean Bull?’ says I....
‘Eet is—what you say? a place where peegs is killed? what you call
him?’... ‘Slaughterhouse?’ I says.... ‘Oui—that ees it, M’sieur....
Your frien’s ’ave tole you to call M’sieur le Bull at the slaughterhouse
on the Left Bank ... a joke, non?’... An’ I says it’s a hell of a joke!”

“Did the Captain do that?” I asked incredulously.

“Course he did!... An’ what if I’d gone way the hell and gone over there
to find ya?... Say, I’d ’a’ busted somebody’s head!”

“Aw, don’t get sore about a little joke,” I told him. “You know the
Captain. He knew you wouldn’t go over there....’ Be a sport and laugh at
a joke on yourself!”

He was finally pacified and we turned in for the night.... My head was
going round in circles from the strain of the marriage business....


                                  —6—

We had a marriage license, or its French equivalent, but we were not
married yet, and two days had gone by. The General was working like a
madman, trying to clean up everything around there before we went,
because he said we would probably not get to Paris again for six weeks
or more. I was sweating gumdrops.

Next evening I expected to be married. I had no trousseau, except a new
pair of breeches. No wedding gown, except the street dress I bought the
other day, and which was still at Clark’s. I hadn’t even a bridal
nightie—not even a pair of pajamas: I had had to sleep in my underwear
and with my shirt on for so long that I’d probably pile in the same way
on my bridal night, just from force of habit. What an unromantic affair
this was! No friends to witness the ceremony. No bridal reception. No
wedding veil. No flowers. No perfumed bed of alluring softness. No
honeymoon. No nothing, except the man I loved which was more than a lot
of women have when they get married.


                                  —7—

I shall never forget any of the details of that last hectic night in
Paris! Trouble began with Ben, as usual, for he showed up at Clark’s and
refused to leave. “This is our last night in Gay Paree, an’ we gotta
celebrate to-night if we never do again!” he declared, while Clark and I
swore under our breaths at the big galoot.

We were in a hurry anyway, because we didn’t know how long we had to get
this wedding over with and every minute wasted might be a fatal loss. I
was just about to change my clothes, when Ben came in, and of course
then I had to postpone any changing until we could get rid of him.

Finally the Captain took him out for a few drinks, thinking I could
change while they were out, but I refused to take a chance, because I
figured Ben would be suspicious for sure then and would naturally demand
to know what had become of Sergeant Canwick, now that his sister was
here. Clark was surprised when they came back and found me still there
and in uniform, but I managed to explain my attitude without Ben getting
wise, so we fell to devising ways and means of getting rid of him.

But Ben was determined to be a monkey wrench that night. He wouldn’t
budge for love nor money. Clark wanted him to carry a note to a woman
over on the other side of the city, but Ben just laughed and waved the
suggestion aside, saying, “No, sir, Captain, you don’t think I let guys
fool me twice in one week, do you?... No, sir! Benny ain’t chasin’ no
errands or carryin’ any messages anywhere this fine night!... Where you
guys go to-night I go also!”

Well, after about half an hour of this, the Captain said, “Let’s go find
a few drinks for ourselves, since Ben’s so anxious to inflame himself
to-night.”

So we went out and parked in a café the Captain knew. There were two
sections to the place and we were in the side where the bar wasn’t.
After several drinks, gladly paid for by Clark, he told Ben to go up to
the bar and pick out what he thought was the best stuff they had on the
shelves. Ben fell for it, and as soon as he disappeared around the
partition of the place, we ran out the other door and started away down
the side street.

We hurried as much as possible, hoping to make the rooms before Ben
could get there, but, sure enough, when we turned into the Captain’s
street, Ben lumbered up beside us and demanded to know what the big idea
was.

“For God’s sake!” exclaimed Clark. “We’re coming right back! What did
you think—that we’re trying to give you the slip?... Don’t be
foolish—I just happened to remember some papers I left layin’ around my
room and we’re going back to get them.... Why don’t you go back and get
those drinks ready? We’ll be with you in a few minutes.”

But Ben said he’d wait for us to come with him, so we plodded back to
the rooms and Ben and I waited downstairs while he made a show of
getting those papers he had mentioned.

We then went back to the café and Ben made a garçon of himself running
back and forth between our table and the bar. Between times, Clark and I
tried to talk over the possible escapes.

“The big ape!” muttered my man, behind Ben’s back. “He’s bound to stick
with us.... You can’t wear that rig now, that’s certain. And it’s
getting later all the time. We’ve got to ride to Corbeil.... Damn that
man anyway!”

“The General says we may not be in Paris again for six weeks or more,” I
said, just to make us both feel worse.

“O God!” exclaimed Clark. “Isn’t there any way we can fool that cussed
Ben?”

Ben came back just then so I didn’t have to answer, but by the time he
left us again I had an inspiration, and promptly told Clark of it. “It
sounds crazy, of course, but Ben expects crazy things of us.... Why
don’t you go back to the rooms, rig yourself up in skirts, powder up,
and come along?”

“My God, Leona—are you joking?”

“No—really—we can tell Ben you want to play a joke on one of your
friends later in the evening.”

“But how does that help us any?”

“Well—maybe we can get him so drunk he’ll go home and go to bed, and
then we can slip away to Corbeil and get married.”

Clark smiled doubtfully. “I’ll try anything when it’s necessary,” he
said. “We’ll have to work pretty fast and we’ll probably go broke buying
drinks enough to put that tanker under the table.... But I can do that
in these clothes—why the masquerade?”

“Because then, wherever we are, we can go right along and get married
without having to go back for me to change.”

“You mean I’ll be the bride and you the man?” he demanded incredulously.

“Surely.... You give me the papers and your belt and bars, and I’ll be
Captain Winstead for the evening.”

“It’s a go!” he agreed. “But I’ll keep my uniform on underneath, in case
there should be any trouble. We can fix you up in the taxi on the way
out to Corbeil.”

So he left us and I set about pouring drinks into Ben while I explained
about the Captain’s impending joke on his friends. Ben thought it an
excellent joke. Said he’d much rather have a woman on the party than an
officer, “because bars and badges give me the willies.”

Note after note came out of my pocket never to return again. Clark came
back, looking very modish in the outfit he had procured somewhere. We
set out to let Ben drink the city dry, and I knew from the beginning
that it was going to be a long drawn out process, because his capacity
was really something to wonder at. I mean, it was just like a bottomless
well, and a dozen drinks more or less didn’t make much difference in the
total depth or effect.

After we had visited four places, he began to get suspicious because we
weren’t drinking with him, so Clark had to join him a few times.... We
went on, from one wine shop to another, from café to buvette, from dive
to cabaret, on and on through a never ending series of stops for things
to dull the spirit and anæsthetize the mind of this persistent “best
man.”

I was beginning to wonder if we hadn’t better tell him the truth and let
him be the “best man,” but when I stopped to think it over carefully, I
concluded that this would be most inadvisable. I had to travel with him
for months yet and besides when he got drunk he might tell anything he
happened to remember.... The game went on.

But no results, nor indications of success, rewarded our efforts. We
plied him with drinks, and it seemed that the more we gave him the more
sober he grew: it was just one of those nights in his life when he could
have drunk every variety and vintage of wine, champagne, cognac, rum and
gin, and still have stayed on his feet with an air of mastery. He simply
defied our dreams of wedded bliss, and as the hours moved slowly by us,
my dreams began to tumble into nothingness.

At one place he decided that I was entirely too sober for the party and
insisted that I join them in at least one good drink “just to please the
nice lady”—meaning Clark. I couldn’t escape it, so I drank.

Now, I’d never tasted cognac straight except down there at St. Nazaire,
when I did succeed in downing a few glasses of it, so it wasn’t any
wonder to me that I choked and coughed and sputtered when that red hot
bolt of liquid lightning hit my throat.... Ben socked me on the back so
hard that I sprawled right across the table—but it did cure the
choking, because it knocked the wind completely out of me.

Clark put his arm around me, dried my eyes with his handkerchief and
caressed me until I regained my breath.

Ben looked on in dumb wonder and finally exclaimed. “That’s a fine way
fer an officer to be treatin’ an inferior!... Why don’t ya give her yer
smellin salts?”

“You big dumb-bell!” Clark told him. “You knocked the wind out of
him!... And no more of your wise cracks.”

But Ben was beginning to feel unconquerable. “You two soul-mates!” he
bawled at us. “’Sgood thing yer in those women’s dud er somebody’d think
the both of ya’re queer!”

“Shut up and have another drink,” suggested Clark. “Will ya join me,
Leony?” he asked.

“No, thanks—I can’t stand that stuff.”

He turned around and called to the waiter. “Garçon! A bottle of that
pink water ya got on the shelf up there!” And when the garçon did not at
once obey, he arose majestically, muttering, “Slowest damn butler we
ever had!... I’ll get ya a bottle o’ somethin ya can drink, Leony!...
You ain’t got hair ’nough on yer chest yet to drink cognac!”

I looked quickly at the Captain: the devil was actually laughing at that
crack! But he straightened up to say, “If we don’t ditch him pretty
soon, we may as well kiss our honeymoon good-by, chère.”

When Ben returned with the bottle of wine, we renewed the attack with a
vengeance. I drank several glasses of wine to get him to drink a dozen
of other things. Clark had to drink with him half the time, and I could
see his eyes getting drowsy. I felt rather sleepy myself, and miserable.
Clark began to get hilarious—and looked too comical for words in that
woman’s raiment.

Suddenly he said, “Benny, I’ll wager you can’t down a bottle of rum and
a bottle of wine in quick succession without stopping!”

“The hell I can’t!” retorted Ben. “What’s bet?” “Twenty francs and the
charges.”

“You must be drunk, Captain,” opined Ben. “But I always say, ‘Never turn
down a bargain’ and ‘Never count a gift horse’s teeth.’ ... Ya’re on!...
Garçon! Garçon! Vit! A bottle o’ that Jamaica Niggerhead and another one
o’ that pink ink!... Vit!”

As soon as the bottles appeared, the Captain laid twenty francs on the
table and told the garçon to wait a moment. Ben ups with the rum and
drains the bottle, grabs the wine with the other hand and drinks the
whole quart as a chaser, while the garçon stared at him with a sickly
grin. “B-a-a-a-a-a-a-a” bellows Ben, smacking his lips so loudly that
people all over the place turned to look at us.

The Captain paid for the drinks and Ben pocketed the twenty francs, only
to pull it out again immediately to order something else. “And say, you
guys!” he says, while the garçon is serving us. “Did ya ever see me
stick pins and needles through my jaws?” Whereupon he pulls a sewing kit
from his pocket, takes half a dozen pins and jams them through his
cheek. Then he stuck three needles through the other cheek. And he
opened his mouth and let out a roar that shook the house. He looked
fantastic, with his cheeks puffed out and the gleaming pins and needles
sticking out from them.... At last, I said to myself, he’s getting
drunk!

It was almost closing time now and I decided to make a last break for
freedom from the big monkey wrench. I sent him to the bar for a bottle
of wine, then I seized Clark’s hand and literally dragged him off his
seat and out the door.

But it was no go. Ben saw us and followed, bellowing like a million
giants. On the pavement he caught up with us and demanded, “Where ya
goin’? What’s the rush?... Christ A’mighty, anybody’d think you two had
somethin’ to do ’sides paint this ole burg red, white and blue!... Now I
suggest that we go visitin’ in some nice ladies’ parlors, mes amis!” And
then he started to sing: “Bon soir, ma chère,” etc., in that rattling,
growling, devastating howl of his.

Then he wanted us to have a drink of his own private concoction, a
bottle of which he produced from his pocket. The Captain had to drink
with him. Once more. Again. Clark was acting rather dizzy on his feet,
but he managed to inquire, “My God, Ben, what is that—liquid dynamite?”

“Tha’s a Devil’s Dream,” Ben informed us. “In- vented by your own true
an reliable frien’, Benny Garlotz, now making his last personal
appearance in this city.... Captain, that stuff’s got everything in it
that can be put in bottles, and two drinks of it makes ya a bona fide
life member of the Anti-Saloon League!... It’s got a kick like a Mack
truck and is guaranteed to make twins turn into quadruplets before yer
eyes. Three drinks of it will make a buck private a General, and four
drinks has been known to make a ninety-year-old woman have a litter o’
pups!... Step up, folks—roll up, tumble up, any way to get yer money
up!... Money back guarantee goes with every bottle! Good for coughs,
colds, burns, chills, fever, fallen arches, floatin’ kidneys, exhaust
troubles of all kinds. One of the finest lubricants your transmission
will ever have! The best oil in God’s world for petcocks, game cocks,
haycocks, and all kinds of diseases, by jeeses, by jeeses!... It’s
stronger’n garlic, onions, dead fish, or a decayed soldier! Used by the
natives in South America to make reptiles eat their tails.... Good for
anything, folks! God’s gift to man! Cures fits an’ kills cockroaches!
Five drinks’ll make a mademoiselle rape her grandfather!... I’ve used it
for years, and to it, ladies and gentlemen, I attribute my virility and
fertility! Babies cry for it! Virgins die for it! Women lie for it!...
And all for the small cost of one small nickel, half a dime, fifth of a
quarter.... Hey, you guys, where the hell ya runnin’ off to?”

“For God’s sake, Ben, you’ll get us all pinched!” I told him, when he
caught up with us.

“All right,” he agreed. “I’m drunk and proud of it! You’re drunk an’
ashamed of it! Captain’s drunk an’ don’t know whether he’s shamed or
not!... Les go home while we can still get there!”

And he linked arms with us and started away. I gave up. What was the use
of fighting a man like that? Besides, Clark was obviously too drunk to
even think about getting married. A fine man to marry—couldn’t even
stay sober on his wedding night! Ben began to sing:

             “Sacré nom de nom de nom,
             La mademoiselle she wouldn’t come,
             He offered her francs, he offered her rum,
             But the damned little fool she wouldn’t come!
             Her grandmère cried ‘O nom de nom!’
             I said ‘She’s pretty but g—— d—— dumb!’

             “O sacré nom de nom de nom
             de nom de nom de nom de nom,
               La mademoiselle’s too dumb to come!
             Sacré nom de nom de nom
               de nom de nom de nom de nom!”

And we marched away in the general direction of home, to the rhythm of
that inane ditty that Ben picked up in that terrible city. We must have
been a fantastic spectacle!

We finally reached the door that led up to the Captain’s rooms and I
looked around for a cab, found one and bundled Ben into it. Then I
returned to the doorway to see if Clark was all right. He pulled me into
the shadows and asked, “Has he passed out? Is it too late?”

“Are you drunk or sober?” I demanded, wondering if I had misjudged him.

“Sober as a judge,” he replied. “But he doesn’t know it. How about that
marriage ceremony?”

I held out my watch for him to see the time, as I said, discouragedly,
“I guess Fate’s against us!... We’ll have to put it off, that’s all.”

“That damn big boozer!” he grumbled. “I’d like to smash his head for
him!”

“Oh—he’s blissfully ignorant of our intentions,” I said.

“Damn him just the same!” And he swept me into his arms and held me
there, crushed against him, while he kissed me and kissed me and kissed
me.... Oh, but I wished then that we were married!

We heard Ben stirring so I had to run—and that was the nearest I came
to being married that night, and the best farewell we could manage. I
took Ben home and set him on his bunk. I sat down beside him, undecided
whether to undress him or let him sleep with his clothes on; but while I
was deciding, he began to undress himself, starting at the bottom.

My legs hung down beside his, and every time he made a lunge to capture
one of his own, he caught one of mine instead. But that didn’t make any
difference. The first one he got a good grip on was one of mine, and he
unrolled the puttee, unlaced the shoe, blissfully ignorant of the fact
that it wasn’t his own foot at all. Then he dropped it to the floor to
rest from the exertion.

A moment later he continued his work, intending to remove the shoe this
time, but when he reached for it, he missed and brought up one of his
own instead. He proceeded calmly to undress that one, but he lost it
before he could pull the shoe off and had to go hunting for it again.

But again he got the wrong one: this time the one of mine which was
already prepared. He pulled the shoe off and dropped the leg down in its
place, heaving a big sigh of satisfaction as he did so.

One more to go! He reached down to get it, caught the other one of mine
and removed the leggings and untied the string, but again he lost it
before he could pull off the shoe. When he tried to get it again, he got
his own other one instead. He pulled and pulled and grunted and grunted,
but in vain, because, of course, the shoe wasn’t even untied yet. He
swore then, and dropped the foot to the floor. Then he leaned over and
looked down upon the four feet that were dangling there. “Benny,” he
mumbled with a chuckle, “ya’re drunker’n a cow’s tail in flytime!”

He reached once more for the foot that appeared to have an untied shoe
on it, but he couldn’t pull it off, so gave up, unwrapped the legging,
unlaced the shoe, but lost the foot before he could complete the job.

He was sweating gumdrops now as he took another long look at the four
feet. Making a great effort, he lunged after one of them and brought up
the one of mine that he had worked on first. The shoe was untied, so he
pulled it off and solemnly planked it on the floor. He began to chuckle.
“Guess ya ain’t so drunk, Benny, when ya can take ya’re shoes off!” And
then, although neither of his own shoes were off, he fell back across
the bunk with a lusty grunt of satisfaction. The poor devil had taken
off two shoes, and he knew he only had two feet, so his conscience was
perfectly clear in the matter.... No, he wasn’t drunk!

Well, I could have laughed or cried. I just felt like being
hysterical—doing anything crazy! I looked at him, pulled him around so
his feet and head were on the bed, looked at him again and said, “Why in
the name of God, didn’t you do that three hours ago, you big
roughneck!”... Then I crawled into bed and cried myself to sleep,
because I knew he’d never hear me crying, and a girl just has to cry
once in a while.

By the time we got ready to pull out in the morning, my nerves had
quieted down and I felt more like myself. After all, why should we worry
and fret about it—we’d get married later. I told Clark as much when he
came down to see us off, but he still felt sore about it and he said,
“The next time, we’ll get rid of him if we have to have him arrested!”

Ben appeared just then, and greeted the Captain with a hangover grin.
“Well, Captain, your honor, sir, I certainly did hate to have to show
you to your home, last night, but I was afraid o’ gettin’ pinched for
bein’ with a disorderly lady.”

I thought Clark would take a poke at him then, but he didn’t and after a
minute or so he actually smiled at Ben and said, “You’re still drunk,
but I hope you can sober up before you get up where there’s any
danger.... And Ben, Leony’s sister made me promise to take care of him,
so I’ll have to leave him in your charge. See that he comes back safe
and sound, will you? His sister’d be off me for life if anything
happened to him.”

“Captain, sir,” replied Ben, taking his hand so solemnly that I knew at
once he was still drunk, “I like you, I like Leony, and I liked his
sister, and I can tell you that unless Leony begins gettin’ too familiar
with me, I’ll bring him back as you mention.... Don’t worry about us,
Captain!” He laughed. “There ain’t no boche got my number! No, sir!”

And just then the General and Chilblaines appeared. Clark saluted them
and us and walked away.... A few minutes later and we were off to Meaux
and Château Thierry. I guess I was just as happy now that we didn’t get
married, for it occurred to me that it would be just my luck to start
raising a family the very first thing. I remember that I once said

                        “When I get to be a lady
                        I’m going to have a baby
                        If I can
                        Just to prove I can.”

But I was no lady just now and having a baby under the circumstances
would have been nothing short of burlesque. Just imagine the headlines
in The Stars and Stripes, the newspaper of the A.E.F.:

                     A.E.F. SERGEANT MAJOR A MOTHER

                      HE GIVES BIRTH TO 10-LB. BOY

                      Mother and Child Doing Well

    Phenomenon complete surprise to even closest friends. General
    Pershing sends congratulations, but says he does not believe
    report. Sergeant-mother says boy’s father a secret-service
    worker. No one can deny it. Authorities promise thorough
    investigation. Very Special Delivery blamed on stork. General
    Harbord wonders if Sergeant can produce pigeon from silk
    handkerchief. Adjutant General threatens court martial of
    Sergeant for conduct unbecoming a noncommissioned officer....
    Scandal spreads. Certain ominously rotund general officers under
    suspicion.... General Staff considering the issuance of manual
    on Care and Feeding of Infants as part of regular equipment....
    France offers bounty for children regardless of their source.
    Doughboys say they can meet the demand. Bull market expected....

It wouldn’t sound nice at all, and I’d not only get into trouble with
the army authorities, but I’d also be kidded to death about the
matter.... Of course I hadn’t had any experience, but I was willing to
bet that I wouldn’t go very long without starting something; and I was
content to believe that I’d started enough already, without starting any
babies!

Which just goes to show that there is a bright side to everything. I was
turning into a regular pollyanna: getting so I could always find
something to be thankful for. And as an expression of my appreciation of
his unwitting efforts to save me from an embarrassing fate, I bought Ben
a couple of good solid drinks at our next stop. No one could call me an
ingrate!



                               CHAPTER 19

                         THE COST OF CURIOSITY


                                  —1—

In order to set down in proper order the incidents which we experienced
between the night of October 31, and November 4 up at the Front, I have
tried to reconstruct, from the memory of what others have told me as
well as what I felt and saw and heard myself, the terrible experience
through which we had come. Some of the scenes I did not witness myself,
but I feel now, years later, that I know exactly what happened and what
each man said at the time. Just thinking of it makes me want to cry.

On the 31st of October we stopped at an evacuation hospital and spent
the afternoon there, because the General wanted to look around a bit and
see just how a medical unit of this kind functions within firing
distance of the front lines. It was about dusk when we left the
hospital, with a borrowed pill-roller as a guide, to show us the more or
less circuitous route to the next station of centralization, about
twelve kilometers to the east.

I had no idea we were in any danger and I don’t think any of us had any
feeling of apprehension as we traveled along in silence over the muddy,
rutted road, on which other cars were moving in the same direction. But
the guide explained to us that this road was a bending connection of
highways which dipped close to the lines at its northern bend, and as we
got farther and farther along toward that apex, we did begin to feel a
kind of strain, although all was as quiet as it had been.

We had passed several guard posts on the way, each of them waving us on
after a perfunctory glance at us and a word of explanation from the
guide. In between these points, I had been dozing off, due to the
rhythmic whirr of the engine and the fact that nobody had much to say.
Even Esky thought it safe enough for him to lie curled up in the tonneau
at the General’s feet.

Ben was watching the unlit road with squinted eyes, his jaws set as if
in defiance of the difficult going, his mouth opening only when
necessary to acknowledge the directions which the guide, sitting between
us, gave.

We had passed the halfway mark of our journey when suddenly the lulling
stillness was broken by Ben’s exclamation, “They’re shootin’ fireworks
for us! Suppose they got the band out to welcome us, too?”

Before he had spoken, we all saw the sudden change in the sky ahead of
us. We could see the splurging illumination spread across the skyline a
few miles to the front of our position, and in the next moment the
terrible stillness became a chaos of noises, the booming ear-splitting
thunder from big guns not far distant punctuated by the rattle-tat-tat
and z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z of small arms. The road was plain to see now, but
Ben turned for instructions before proceeding. “General, sir, seems like
we’re headin’ square into that celebration.... Do we go on?”

“What do you think, young man?” the General demanded of the guide.
“Where are we and is the road safely distant all the way?”

“Safe as anywhere,” replied the guide. “That probably isn’t much of
anything, anyway, but the advance going up another hitch.... And even if
it’s a boche movement, their fire wouldn’t reach this road: our
artillery will push them back in a jiffy if they’re too close for
comfort.... It’s just as safe here as anywhere around this section.”

“All right, Sergeant. Go on.”

But a few moments later, after the bursting of shells and flare of
explosions had become suddenly closer, the Captain said, “This looks
more like a counterattack to me!... It’s coming this way or I’m a fool!”

“Sounds rather interesting,” observed the General, peering out into the
spasmodic darkness. “Seems to be a general movement for miles around....
Also getting more intense.”

Then we heard a different kind of noise, a whirring, droning, singing,
mechanical music, that aroused the guide to observe, “An airplane
buzzing up there somewhere, too.” He shrugged his shoulders as if it
didn’t bother him at all, but I suspected that his leathery
nervelessness was only an affectation, a pose for the benefit of us
tenderfeet from the rear who had never seen any action before. He had
told us that he had been in this sector for months, and I imagine it did
his heart good to feel that these other men were suffering as he had
once suffered himself. “Those airmen aren’t much good any more, anyway,”
he added. “They never do any damage around here.”

But even as he finished speaking, Ben jammed on the brakes so hard that
we all plunged forward out of the seats. “Godamighty!” declared the big
boy. “A piece o’ somethin’ went right by us!”

He started forward again, but hadn’t shifted into high before the road
in front erupted into a giant geyser of mud and stones and darts of
flame. “Holy knock-kneed bishop!” Ben exclaimed, jamming on the brakes
again and coming to a stop within a few yards of the new formed crater.
“This is war sure ’nough!... Go on, General?”

The General peered out and around again. “Apparently we’re in the middle
of things here. It’s as bad back there as it is up ahead.”

“Sure,” said the guide. “Drive right around that hole and we’ll probably
duck right through it all without a scratch.... We can’t go back now.”

“All right,” said Ben, and he proceeded to navigate the tour around the
hole. “Gad, but that was a whopper, huh?... Leony, ya better put yer
prayin’ cap on.”

We went slowly on, Ben swerving unconsciously here and there as the
bursting of shells struck on his nerves. The General was studying the
surroundings from one side of the car and Chilblaines peered silently
from the other. I could only sit stiff and rigid, waiting for something
to happen.

Suddenly Ben began to chuckle.

“What’s the joke?” inquired the guide.

“Leony,” said Ben, ignoring the guide’s question. “Remember that song
they used to sing in Paris?” He began to mumble:

                “Sacré nom de nom de nom,
                La mademoiselle was pretty but dumb
                Many are called but few can come
                O sacré nom de nom de nom!
                She refused his francs, refused his rum,
                Because she said she couldn’t come.
                Her grandmère cried, ‘O nom de nom!’
                ‘Where does she get such dumbness from?’
                O sacré nom de nom de nom!
                O sacré nom de nom!

“That damn thing keeps running through my mind all the time!” he told
us. “Every step I take, every move I make—it’s ‘sacre nom de nom de
nom, the mademoiselle she couldn’t come.’ ’Nough to give a guy the
willies!”

“Did you ever hear the one about the Spanish Gentilio?” asked the guide.

But before he could sing it, the car was shaken by a tremendous boom
that came from an explosion so near it rocked the earth. We came to a
sudden groaning stop, with the left front corner of the car apparently
in a hole.

“What happened then?” demanded the General.

Ben got out and investigated. “Musta hit somethin’, General, sir. That
wheel’s busted all to hell!”

“Can’t we go on?”

“’Fraid not, sir; it’s ruined.” Ben turned and stared in the direction
of Germany. “The g—— d—— Dutch b——! Probably just waitin’ fer a
General to appear on this road!”

“No,” said the guide, “I’d bet a dollar to a doughnut that the Dutch are
acting on some misinformation.... I’ll bet they think there’s
reënforcements or supplies comin’ up this road to-night.... That’s the
dope exactly!”

“Why didn’t you say something about it sooner?” demanded the General
irritably.

“Yeh!” Ben bawls at him. “This is a fine g—— d—— place fer us to be
if them Dutch c—— s—— are gonna shell hell outa this road the rest
o’ the night!... A hell of a lot of help you been to us, guy! We oughta
put you up in front of a couple speedy bullets, just to teach ya a
lesson.”

“How the hell did I know what those birds were planning to do?” retorted
the guide. “I haven’t any way of knowin’ what those Deutschers think is
goin’ on this road!”

“Shut up, you two!” commanded the big boss. “Where do we go from here,
young man? Can you get us out of here without us getting killed?”

“Sure,” the pill-roller replied. “We can take the next road to the left
and get back toward where we came from.”

“Road!” exclaimed Chilblaines. “We don’t want to get on any more roads!
Look at the one we’re on!”

“Yeh—that’s this road,” explained our guide. “But the other road is
probably nice and quiet. You see, this is a loop road, the main
thoroughfare through this section, feeds the forward stations from both
sides.”

“How far are we from the bend?” asked the General. “And does this other
road turn off before we get there?”

“We’re almost there now,” replied the other. “There’s a lot of
paraphernalia up there and a regimental headquarters and aid station.
Now this other road turns off just before we get there and runs off to
the left for about a mile and then turns south again.”

“Well, let’s go somewhere,” said the old man. “We can’t do ourselves or
anyone else any good by staying here.... And it’s starting to rain,
too!”

So we set off, the rain coming down in a cold drizzle that served to
make more colorful the flaring illumination, but in the intervals it
rendered the darkness more opaque. Shells were bursting along the road
with increasing frequency, and now and then one came very close to us.
The heavens above were full of sounds of guns and planes. Between the
flashes of the flares you couldn’t see your hand before you. The going
was exceedingly difficult, through fields and paths of deserted farms
that had recently been peopled by shells and soldiers.

It seemed that the further we went, the more active things became.
Shrapnel bursts came perilously near and in the darkness between the
flares we stumbled into holes and picked ourselves up from muddy
sprawls. Ben cursed the boches and the guide continuously, but the rest
of us had enough to do to keep on our feet as much as possible.

At last we came to the road and the guide said “Here we are!” as if he
had done something heroic in leading us there.

The General looked around and pondered. “How far are we from that
regimental headquarters now?” he asked, wiping the water from his face.

“Oh—not much of a walk,” answered the guide. “But I’ll bet it’s
hotter’n hell out there right now.”

“Which way is it?”

“Straight along the main road there.”

The old man again looked down the two roads. Then he turned to the guide
and said, “Young man, you are free to take that side road if you want
to. So also are the rest of you men. But I’m going to keep on until I
come to that regimental station. I’d rather take a chance of getting hit
where there’s a crowd than out on some dark cowpath that’s blooming with
shrapnel.”

The pill-roller hesitated a moment, then said, “All right, sir. I would
rather take the side road, but you can find the station without me easy
enough.”

“Any of you men want to go that way?” He looked inquiringly at his wet
and sorry looking retinue.

“I’ll stick with you, General, sir, if ya don’t mind,” Ben piped up.
“I’d rather get killed with a General than get drunk with a guy like
that pill-roller.... And I’m sure Esky prefers to stick with you,
General.”

“Here, too,” I said, and Chilblaines, who must have wanted to go with
the guide, found himself plodding along behind the gray-haired
old-timer. A queer outfit to be turned loosed in a place like that: four
tenderfeet and a scared pup, plowing along in mud that sometimes came up
to your knees!

We had not gone very far before it became apparent that the pill-roller
was right about the heat of the fray increasing toward the station. The
air was full of flying bits of metal, rocks, dirt, gases, and blinding
flashes of light. The rain dropped on us and was not noticed in the
excitement of picking our way along a few yards at a time. Injury and
possible death scraped us close at almost every step.

Yet we probably would have succeeded in reaching the station in safety,
if we hadn’t become separated as the result of a series of shells
bursting so near that we had to scatter, and we scattered so wide that
we couldn’t get together again because of the shells dropping between
us.

I found myself with the General and we figured Chilblaines, Ben and Esky
must be about two hundred yards across from us, toward the main road
again.

I found out later that Ben was yelling my name at the top of his voice,
but I never heard him at all, and after we waited several minutes in a
vain hope of rejoining them, we finally set off toward the station with
the idea that they had probably gone on also.... We stumbled on and on,
but it was a long time before we reached that station, and by that time,
Ben and his party had been there and gone again.

We very quickly learned the exact nature of the situation: this station
was the apex of a triangle, the connecting point in the rear of two
wide-flung flanks. So far the enemy fire had been missing the station
because it was concentrated on the front and rear, particularly the
rear, to prevent any reënforcements or assistance from coming up. The
whole business was a useless, promiseless dogfight that had done nothing
but stir up a lot of trouble, although the left flank of the American
position had been forced back some little distance. Officers in the
station told us we were lucky to come through that shelling alive.

And they also told us about Ben and Chilblaines and Esky. It seems that
they managed to go straight through to the station, where they promptly
inquired about us. But none had seen us, so Ben set off again with Esky
at his heels in an effort to find us.... A little later he came back
lugging a smallish figure, which he planked on a cot and talked to for a
few minutes. Then he found Chilblaines and said, “Captain, you gotta
come along! The General’s out there an’ Leony’s out there an’ I can’t
carry them both, if they’re hurt!”

But Chilblaines refused to budge.

“Captain,” cried Ben, so loud that everyone in the place heard him, “are
ya comin’ or do I have to drag ya?”

“Since when do we take orders from you, Garlotz?” demanded the Captain,
with a sneer.

“Yere beginnin’ right now, you yella bellied stick!” And Ben seized his
arm and gave it such a wrench that the officer had to follow. “Now, ya
come along er I’ll brain ya!”

It was just after their departure that we showed up and heard the news
of them. The General fumed and fretted and talked of going out after
them, but before we could get anyone who knew the section to go with us,
Chilblaines came running in, one cheek bloody and an eye starting to
swell shut. He rushed up to the General and cried out, “Garlotz has gone
mad! Stark staring mad!... We were out there looking for you ... he
rushed at me and tried to choke me to death!”

“Where is he?” demanded the old man.

“Out there ... he collapsed or I’d be dead now.”

“Dammit, man!” exclaimed the General, shaking him roughly. “He must be
found! Where were you when this happened?”

But Chilblaines could only tell us in a general way where he had been.
The General grabbed the first stretcher-bearer that passed and we
started off, but when we had gone a few steps, I turned to him and said,
“You don’t need to come, sir. We can find him.”

Before he could answer, something touched his hand and he looked down to
find Esky there, looking up at us with worried eyes and without wagging
his tail.

“You’d better not come, sir,” said the man with the stretcher. “We’ll
follow the dog.”

So the General went back, and we went on, letting Esky’s trotting lead
show us the way.

We found him about a quarter of a mile away. He was unconscious when we
picked him up, and we hurried as fast as we could in getting him back.

The General had a cot waiting for him and instead of sending for an
attendant he rushed off himself to get one.... Ben opened his eyes and
stared at me. “Leony, damn yer soul!... Where ya been?... I hunted all
over hell fer ya.”

The General and the attendant came up then and Ben groaned from the
man’s rough examination of his back. But he continued to talk to me.

“I had a fight, too, Leony,” he said, mumbling some of the words
indistinctly. “Did ya hear about that yella skunk hittin’ me in the back
with a rock when I wasn’t watchin’ him?... The dirty yella bum!... Ya
should ’a’ seen it, Leony!... I just whaled hell outa him ... then I got
dizzy.”

“You weren’t hit by a rock, big boy,” the pill-roller said, with a
laugh. “You’ve got a piece of shrapnel the size of your fist in your
back.”

“Huh?” Ben’s eyes opened in wonder and disbelief. “Felt like a rock when
it hit.”

His breath was coming in short gasps now. His face was a dirty white,
the rough texture of his skin standing out like the contour lines on a
topographic map.

“Chilblaines didn’t hit me?” he asked after a moment.

I told him, “No—a piece of shrapnel. Now lie still and take it easy.
You should have stayed in here instead of wandering around all over
France.”

“How’d I know ... you were ... safe?” he mumbled. “The Captain tole me
to take care of ya.... Say....” He glanced up to see if the General had
gone. “I found yer twin brother out there, too... Leony ... dog-gone ya
... why in hell didn’t ya ... tell me the secret before?...”

“Be quiet, Ben,” I told him, wondering about Leon and about what the
General might hear.

But a surgeon came then, and a nurse. They examined him again, tried
various things, shook their heads and tried other things ... something
else ... a shot in the arm when Ben began to moan....

He began to talk again, rambling from one thing to another, his speech a
mumbling almost unintelligible, although I could understand the trend of
it. “All that fight for nothin’ ... I’d ’ve killed Chilblaines ... like
to get hold o’ the Dutchman that sent that shell over ... God, I’d like
to fight somebody ... just fight ... fight.... Gonna fight again when I
get back home, Leony....”

The attendant heard this last and said, with a funny smile on his face,
“Big boy, there won’t be any fightin’ where you’re goin’.” And he turned
on his heel and went away, the General following him and demanding that
something be done.

“What’d he say, Leony?” Ben asked, and, because I couldn’t answer him, I
dropped down to my knees and buried my face in his arm. I couldn’t keep
from crying, but I guess Ben was the only one who heard the sobs and
knew that I was shaking like a leaf in the wind.

He tried to lift his hand to pat my shoulder, but he couldn’t.
“Leony ...” he mumbled. “Damn yer soul ... don’t do that!... Don’t do
it, I tell ya! Yer brother said you was a girl ... now I know it....
Don’t do that!... Ya’d be a damned good soljer if ya didn’t cry,
Leony.... Don’t do it, Leony!... I can hear yer heartbeats.... Member
that song.... Sacré nom de nom de nom ... just like heartbeats,
Leony.... O-o-oh ... don’t ... don’t do that....” He gave a gasp. I felt
his muscles twitch. “Funny damned thing ... Leony ... I’ll tell ya bout
it ... later ... Leony ... the lights ... the lights ... Leony! ... the
lights ... they’re goin’ out ... O-o-o-o-h, God!” A gasp like a great
sigh of relief. The arm against my head dropped away.... And Big Ben had
gone west.

I drew back and stared dumbly at him. The attendant came back, looked
closer, felt the pulse, the heart, pulled the blanket over the strong
homely face. I stumbled away, passed the General without a word, and
went out into the rainy night. I thought I should burst into tears and I
wanted to find a secluded dark corner that would let me cry fearlessly.
But when I found a place, my grief-ridden eyes stared up into the
flashing sky, and no tears came. If I could have died that moment, I
would have been happy. Esky came to me and snuggled under my arms. He
knew what had happened, and Ben had been a good friend to him.

My mind was dazed, my senses numbed by this awful unexpected,
unnecessary loss. I could not weep, nor could I speak with any degree of
certainty that what I tried to say would be said, but I finally went
back into the hut, where the General met me.

I tried to say something. My lips must have quivered, for the General
put his arm around my shoulders and I heard him telling me, “I know how
you feel, boy.... Terrible to lose your best friend like that ...
terrible!... Did he have any folks, do you know?”

I shook my head. Ben had told me once that he didn’t have anyone who
cared whether he lived or died.

“But surely there must be someone somewhere in this world to mourn for a
man who would do a thing like that!” argued the General. “Why, he went
out there to get us, Sergeant!”

“I’ll miss him,” I managed to say, my lips trembling.

“So will we all, Sergeant.... I’m sorry ... very sorry!” And he walked
away from me. I knew what he meant: it was his curiosity that took us up
there, that cost us Ben’s life. I knew what he meant, and I knew he
meant it when he said he was sorry. I knew by the way he talked and
acted that he was really damned sorry. That’s what made it worse: a man
like the General feeling that he was responsible for a fellow’s death!
If it were some officer you could swear at and hate for it, you could
get rid of your pent-up feelings by swearing at him and hating him. But,
God—you couldn’t hate a man like the General.... Ben wasn’t
here—that’s all there was to it—and nobody was to blame for a thing
like that. All you could do was feel terrible and keep it to yourself.

After a while, when I had calmed down a little, I went in search of my
brother and found him resting comfortably in an adjoining shed. He was
very weak and couldn’t talk much. He had lost a lot of blood, but the
wound was only a leg wound and would heal all right in time. I asked him
how he happened to be out there and learned that he had been on his way
back to the Evacuation Hospital to get medical supplies for the aid
station, was forced to abandon the road and his motorcycle, got lost in
the darkness and walked into a piece of shrapnel.

I told him about Ben and that the General might get a medal for him.
“Good!” he exclaimed weakly. “He was a brick. But you’d never take him
for a hero.”

“I guess heroes are born, not made,” I said. “They only show up by
accident, when heroism is least expected of them or anyone else.”

I couldn’t talk to him any more. I told him to get in touch with me
after he landed in a base hospital. He promised he would. I went outside
again; Esky and I sat there watching the fireworks.... After a while
they ceased.... Ambulances appeared.... The General called me and we
piled into a car.... And all I could hear was that “Sacré nom de nom de
nom ... de nom de nom de nom de nom....” Every sound, every noise, every
movement, sang it over and over as if all the things about me were
determined to imprint it indelibly upon my consciousness and my memory.

Perhaps it was lucky for us that we got out that night, for the next
morning at 5:30 the American and French artillery began to lay down a
barrage to cover the advance of troops all along the line. The Germans
counterattacked in spots to cover their retreat. The battle was on to
what looked like the end, for two days had seen the steady retreat of
the Germans and the capture of enormous quantities of men and supplies.

We got our car back, with a new wheel, and a new driver. We stopped at
St. Mihiel and then at Bar-le-Duc. Next day we’d go on to Toul.

I could hardly think. My brain was in a dizzy whirl. I wished my Captain
were there. I wanted so much to talk to someone—anyone that could
understand.... I missed Ben so damned much. I didn’t know anything about
death. What is it? Can it be that a man dies and that is the end of him?
I didn’t believe it. There is such a thing as immortality. Ben was dead,
but he lived on in my memory, he’d never be really dead to me. I even
caught myself looking around sometimes, expecting to see him standing
there at my shoulder, swearing his beautiful profanity, dreaming of
unconquered women and unvisited cafés, offering to give you the shirt
from his back if you needed it. A real honest-to-God man like that could
not be gone forever: I think he’ll always be with me. The best part of
him will always live in my memory: and if the best part of you means
your soul, then it’s true that the soul never dies.


                                  —2—

At Nancy we heard that the Rainbow Division had occupied Sedan and the
Germans were suing for peace.

A letter from Clark caught up with me here. He had been promoted. It was
Major Clark Winstead now. But he was worried lest he be sent away on
some mission of some kind that would keep us from meeting again over
here.... That would be the last straw. Leon in the hospital and Clark
away off somewhere, and Ben not here to stick by me.... I was sick of it
all: just sick and discouraged and homesick and lovesick and just sick.
And I couldn’t get rid of that crazy tune Ben used to sing: Sacré nom de
nom de nom. I couldn’t walk around the block without my head ringing
from it. It had a rhythm that wouldn’t be stilled.



                               CHAPTER 20

                          THE TAIL OF THE TALE


                                  —1—

The War was over, and I was glad. There was no fun in this army game now
that Ben was not here. I didn’t know what to do with myself. The new man
was a good fellow, I guess, but it didn’t seem natural for him to be in
Ben’s place, and I just couldn’t be more than casually friendly to him.
I’d be glad to go home and get away from all this. I had had enough.
More than enough.

We were at Nancy when the Armistice was announced. We stood at the
window in the General’s hotel room, overlooking one of the main public
squares, and watched the milling crowds stumble around in confusion, as
if they wanted to celebrate but didn’t know how. At first nobody would
believe that this four-years’ struggle had really ended. Men and women
just stood about and stared dumbly at one another, wondering if it could
be true.

Later, however, they did begin to celebrate. The cafés put the contents
of their shelves upon the bars, every house door was opened and had
“Welcome” written all over it, mademoiselles threw their arms around
every man they met, strong men drank and wept for pure joy and women
wept tears of gladness and sorrow all mixed in together. It was a gala
day by mid-afternoon and I imagine every little village felt the
exhilaration of the long-hoped-for moment quite as much as did Paris and
Tours, Lyons and Marseilles.

That afternoon the General watched the surging mob of men and women of
various nationalities welcoming the news in the square. People were
beginning to get hilarious and drunken soldiers were being caressed by
every woman that passed. I was feeling aglow with some kind of happiness
that I couldn’t quite define: there was a lump in my throat most of the
day. Chilblaines was obviously tickled to death with the prospect of an
early return to his home.... And then the General observed slowly, “Let
them celebrate and enjoy themselves while they can! The poor creatures
do not realize that the part of this business that’s to come will be
worse in some ways than what has gone before. It will be years and years
of toil and confusion and misunderstanding and suspicion and squabbling
before the peace and happiness and security which they are celebrating
will be actually in their possession.... After a war like this, the
peace is usually harder to stand than the war was.... Let them rejoice
when they are assured that there will be no more wars! This war may be
just the beginning....”

This declaration coming from the General served to dampen our spirits a
little, but before the evening had come I slipped away and tried to join
in the celebrating.... But there was no fun in it for me. I just
couldn’t be gay, no matter how hard I tried. I drank wine and even a sip
of cognac, but the something inside that controls your feelings just
refused to click. The more revelry I witnessed and the more hilarity
that surged about me, the more poignant came my memories of Ben. How he
would have loved this! He would have been in his glory in this mad
multitude!

It was funny I should feel this way. I didn’t love Ben, in the sense
that I loved Clark. My feeling for him was something entirely different
altogether. Yet I felt the loss of him every minute of the day. I guess
it was like one of those wonderful friendships between men: I mean, I
didn’t look upon Ben from a girl’s point of view at all—he was just my
pal, my buddy, my chum. And I guess it’s as bad to lose your chum as it
would be to lose your lover.


                                  —2—

I was back in Tours again on the 1st of December after wandering all
over that rainy country. Received a letter from Leon saying that he was
at St. Nazaire in a hospital and expected to be sent home on the next
ship out. He was going to write to me as soon as he arrived, and as soon
as he was discharged he’d have to do something about getting me out of
this army. This was a devil of a predicament to be in: I couldn’t say
that I wanted to go home, because I couldn’t be sure I could get out
when I got there. We’d simply got to wait until Leon’s leg was all
healed up, otherwise I’d be nabbed when I went up for discharge. I was
beginning to get worried about it. The General was talking about asking
to be sent back to the States. He said there were too many officers over
there now and some younger man could do his work just as well as not. He
asked me why I didn’t get a discharge over here and travel around a
little.... How in the devil could I get a discharge! If I could get one,
I’d get married.

I spent Christmas with Clark in Paris, and we managed to have a good
time. He told me, for the first time, how sorry he was to hear about
Ben. “The big galoot was a good man in all the ways that count,” he
said, after I told him the details of the misfortune. “I’ll always be
thankful to him for his effort in your behalf—it was wonderful!”

He wanted us to get married, but I absolutely refused. “If I were out of
the army, I’d marry you in a minute,” I told him. “But I simply can’t
now.... Besides, it just doesn’t seem right or decent, or anything.... I
want to be married like all decent people are married. I don’t want to
be dodging M.P.s and worrying about babies and having to play two rôles
all the time day in and day out. Can’t you understand, dear?”

He did understand, but we couldn’t either of us think of any way to
speed matters along. And the worst of it was that he expected to be sent
back to the States within a few weeks on some mission or other. I
probably wouldn’t get back over there for months.... But what could we
do?


                                  —3—

Our worst fears were realized. Early in January Clark told me that he
was going back to Washington, leaving in three days.... And he was mad
because I wouldn’t marry him before he went. But I wouldn’t—that was
all there was to it. I’d got enough to worry about already without
taking on any more worries.

A letter from Leon carried pleasant news. They took you from the ship
when you landed in U.S.A. and made you take off all your clothes and
take a steam bath while your clothes were being deloused. He said he
hadn’t figured out any way of getting around the delousing plant, and
I’m sure I didn’t know what I could do when that moment came. It began
to look as if I was stuck in France for the rest of my life: couldn’t go
home for fear of a delousing plant!

Well, I could stick it out, I suppose, until Leon got well and could
come over here to take my place.

God, but I hated to see Clark go! I’d be all alone in this man’s army
after he left. C’est la guerre, I guess.


                                  —4—

At the end of January I received some letters from home which told me
that Leon had his discharge and was hanging around New York trying to
figure out some way of getting back over. He couldn’t get a passport
under his own name, because I was using it, and he couldn’t get one
under his alias, because he couldn’t show any birth record. I thought
that in a pinch he could dress in my clothes and get one in my name—but
after the wear and tear of army life he wouldn’t make a very good
looking girl, and it would have to be an extremity to make him do it.
But what could be done about it? It would certainly be a shame to get
this far with the impersonation and get caught—and in a delousing
plant, at that! Would be like winning medals and then dying of the
measles, as Ben said. Well, I’d got his address in New York and had got
to tell him to do something pretty soon, because I couldn’t stay over
there forever! I was getting sick of it all. I didn’t have any fun or
excitement like I used to have with Ben. I never realized before what an
awful difference a friend’s presence or absence could make in anyone’s
daily life. The General said I looked as if he were working me too hard,
but actually we weren’t working any harder than before the Armistice.
The only difference was that now we spent most of our time making
investigations of thefts and property losses and damage suits brought by
French citizens against the army and its members, whereas before we had
a much wider and more varied program of work.


                                  —5—

Just as I feared. I was doomed. The General got himself relieved and
ordered back to the States and he thought he was doing me a good turn by
arranging that I be sent back immediately also, so here we were, ready
to embark, and I was just chilled through with expectations of what was
in store for me. I hadn’t the least idea what I was going to do, but
just to be doing something I sent a cable to Leon to park himself
wherever this ship docked and be ready for any kind of an emergency. I
had to word the message very cryptically and in good terms, but unless
he was too dumb to live he’d understand and be there.

What would happen next—God alone knew!... Also I hadn’t heard from
Clark lately. He was kinda peeved when he left Paris and I was wondering
whether our little affair weren’t just a brief romance after all. I’d
certainly feel terrible if he decided to change his mind about me: he
was the only one who knew about us, and if he went back on me now I’d
feel ashamed the rest of my life. I mean, if I did get through
safely—and I didn’t see how I could!—I really ought to marry him to
keep his mouth shut about my ever having been in this man’s army. But I
couldn’t make him marry me—after all, I was not a ruined woman or
anything like that, and I really hadn’t any claim on him, except that I
loved him a dreadful lot. That ought to be enough—provided he loved me.

However, a fig for that till this mess was cleared up!

                  *       *       *       *       *

Homeward bound, on board the U.S.S. M——!—and I knew every hour that
passed brought me nearer to my doom. I liked sea voyages, but I’d be
damned if I could enjoy this one. Just like riding to the guillotine.

I had a funny experience coming over. Happened to pass the sick bay and
a fellow was lying there near the door so that I couldn’t miss seeing
him. I caught him staring at me, and then he smiled. I couldn’t place
him at first, but finally I did. It was that Lowery, the fellow with the
toes that used to get Leon’s goat back in camp. I went in and spoke to
him then. “What’s the matter with you?” I asked.

“Got my foot smashed in a cave-in and they had to take it off,” he
replied, much as if the whole thing were a matter of no importance.

“You don’t look very sick over it,” I said with a smile.

“Why the hell should I be sick over that?” he demanded with a laugh.
“I’ve only got one set o’ toes to mind now!” And he reached down toward
his good foot. “Honest to God, buddy, they itch like hell all the time!”

I had to laugh. I was a regular pollyanna now. “There are advantages to
all things, eh?” I observed, and I reached over and gave the disabled
one’s toes a dozen or so violent rubbings, while he just lay back and
stared at me in amazement.

“My God!” he exclaimed. “I must be beaucoup zigzag!... Boy, war may be
hell on some fellows, but it sure did you a hell of a lot of good!”

I pinched his big toe and left him with a laugh.

The big day was due to-morrow. I was desperate, and I evolved a
desperate scheme. If it worked, I was saved. If it flopped, I was a
stripped chicken.... Once again I started saying my prayers. There had
to be some Omnipotent Power above who could spare a few moments in which
to help me safely by that damned delousing plant! Might he take the
time—I was a maiden in distress if there ever was one!


                                  —6—

Leon was on hand at the docks in New York, although I don’t know how he
managed to get so close to the works. He followed me with his eyes and
saw which truck I got in, then he hopped in a car, which he must have
just purchased, and followed closely along.

We reached a camp somewhere or other over in Jersey and piled out of the
truck.... Well, what happened was that I had five ten dollar bills in my
hand and it takes a good man to withstand the lure of cold cash. I never
went through that damned delouser after all, for I bought my way out on
the promise that I’d return in ten minutes—and as far as that bozo
knows, I returned. However, Sergeant Major Leon Canwick was himself in
person this time, and he didn’t mind undressing before anyone now: in
fact he said he’d just as leave undress before the Queen of England if
she asked him to. That’s what the army did to him.

Well, I went into New York in his clothes, waited to hear from him. As
soon as I knew that he was safe, I’d buy some clothes and hop for
Wakeham. “Home, boys, Home, boys, ’tis home across the sea! Home, boys,
Home, to the land of Liberty! We’ll hang Old Glory to the top of the
pole, and we’ll all of us reënlist—!” But not this chicken.

I was still shivering from the nerve strain.... And, I wondered where my
lover was to-night?


                                  —7—

Speedy work on Sergeant Major Canwick: he painted his scar with some
kind of grease paint, took his physical exam without a shiver, and was
home again. Vyvy loved him more than ever and actually made me blush
telling him about his wonderful letters!

I wrote to Clark as soon as I got home, but I hadn’t heard anything from
him and didn’t know whether he was still in Washington or back in
France—or anything else about him. Frankly, I didn’t feel so good about
it now. I wanted that man when I wanted him. And I was all dressed up
now with no place to go. Auntie said my language was disgraceful but she
didn’t mind, so I spent most of my time with her. And poor Esky hadn’t
got used to me in dresses yet. He acted really funny: didn’t know half
the time whether it was Leon or me that was in front of him.

One afternoon Leon was getting ready to go out, when the doorbell rang
and he was handy, so he answered it. A man in uniform rushed in and
wrapped his arms around my dear sweet brother and was going to kiss him
right on the mouth!

But Leon hauled off and pasted him one in the jaw, and there was such
force in the blow that the visitor promptly desisted.

“What’s the big idea?” demanded Leon, without batting an eye.

“Why—uh—er——”

But just then I appeared and fluttered prettily into view. My hair was
curled just the least bit at the ends and I was all made up to look my
prettiest.... I almost fell down the stairs and into his arms, and all I
could say was “Clark—you darling!”

“Oh ... Leony, you little devil!”

We forgot all about Leon. I thought he had gone out, but a few minutes
later—about the end of kiss No. 11—the bell rings again and in pops
Vyvy with a book under her arm.

“Look at it! Look what I’ve got!” she exclaimed. “It’s the very first
copy, too!”

Well, Clark had never met Vyvy, but before we made any introductions, we
both looked over her shoulder to see what kind of a wild animal she had
captured. On the back of the book were the following illuminating lines:

                            KOCKEYED RHYMES
                             OF A KHAKI KID

                                   By
                              Leon Canwick

My dear sweet love of a brother was a real genuine honest-to-God poet
after all! Vive la muck of war!

What Clark and I did the rest of the evening defies description in mere
cold words. Any remarks on my part would be superfluous.... Really
truly, if any girl ever loved a man more than I did him, she belonged in
a nut conservatoire!

A week later Clark received his new assignment sending him back to
Europe within a month.... Naturally we were very rushed: one just can’t
pick up one’s hankies and have a wedding!

                  *       *       *       *       *

There must be disappointments even in paradise. I mean, everything can’t
be just sunshine and roses.... All of which is apropos of a letter I
received from the Bureau of War-Risk Insurance, informing me that
Sergeant Benjamin Garlotz had changed the beneficiary of his compulsory
insurance policy on October 20, 1918, and that I was the beneficiary.
General Backett was the secondary beneficiary. I didn’t know how to feel
about it. The letter came to Leon, of course, and when he passed it over
to me, I just had to cry; good old Ben ... must have changed his policy
just after that dreadful experience at St. Nazaire and his unexpected
promotion. And I thought at the time that he didn’t appreciate the
promotion!... The money would go back to France where Ben’s body was. We
would give it decent burial ... put a stone above it that would catch
the eye of whosoever should pass ... and all who saw it would read there
of a hard-boiled guy who had no one at home to mourn his heroic
death.... As General Backett said, in telling me about the medal for
Ben: “There weren’t enough medals to go round—but he needs no medal to
make me proud of him!”

The most wonderful things never happen. It would have been so good to
have Ben be our best man after all....

                  *       *       *       *       *

There was a wedding in Wakeham’s largest church. There were ushers in
quantity, bridesmaids and flower girls, all the traditional pomp and
splendor of a beautiful wedding service ... but there was no best man!
My Clark could never in all his life do anything that would make me
honor him and love him more than I did because he suggested this fine
way of honoring the man who was the best of pals to both of us.... A man
that could think of a thing like that and do it was almost too fine to
be true. It injected a sad note into what would ordinarily have been a
festive occasion and we had to explain it by referring to Ben as a dear
friend of Major Winstead’s—but we were both glad that we did it. I
mean, a thing like that makes you feel so warm and good—and it made us
love each other all the more ... it was as if Ben’s death bound us the
closer and faster together. This was not really so odd, since we owed
Ben such a lot: he was my friend, faithful and good to me; he was my
tutor in the vulgar arts that make life interesting; to him I was
indebted for much of a liberal education—an education which was
blissfully completed during that honeymoon in the very land and among
the very scenes of my adventure.

Back to France on the great adventure, the one and only adventure which
a woman can’t have without a man’s assistance!— Back to the theater
that had been “for men only”—but now the play was ended, the mask was
off, the Canwick tomboy was a blushing bride: for I have to report that
I still could blush!

                  *       *       *       *       *

And that is the Tail of the Tale, for since that first night beyond the
altar I have conscientiously rendered unto Caesar the things that are
Caesar’s, and unto the Headman all that’s left—for, after all, my
prayers were answered. And HOW!

The rest is silence.

                                THE END

------------------------------------------------------------------------


                        There’s More to Follow!

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It is a selected list; every book in it has achieved a certain measure
of success.

The Grosset & Dunlap list is not only the greatest Index of Good Fiction
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                 Look on the Other Side of the Wrapper.

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